ERNESTO G. YMBONG,
G.R. No. 184885
- versus -
VILLARAMA, JR., and
ABS-CBN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, VENERANDA SY AND
March 7, 2012
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VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a Rule 45 Petition seeking to set aside the August 22, 2007 Decision and September 18, 2008 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 86206 declaring petitioner to have resigned from work and not illegally dismissed.
The antecedent facts follow:
Petitioner Ernesto G. Ymbong started
working for ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation (ABS-CBN) in 1993 at its regional
Like Ymbong, Leandro Patalinghug also worked for ABS-CBN Cebu. Starting 1995, he worked as talent, director and scriptwriter for various radio programs aired over DYAB.
1. Any employee who intends to run for any public office position, must file his/her letter of resignation, at least thirty (30) days prior to the official filing of the certificate of candidacy either for national or local election.
x x x x
3. Further, any employee who intends to join a political group/party or even with no political affiliation but who intends to openly and aggressively campaign for a candidate or group of candidates (e.g. publicly speaking/endorsing candidate, recruiting campaign workers, etc.) must file a request for leave of absence subject to managements approval. For this particular reason, the employee should file the leave request at least thirty (30) days prior to the start of the planned leave period.
x x x x [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]
Because of the impending May 1998 elections and based on his immediate recollection of the policy at that time, Dante Luzon, Assistant Station Manager of DYAB issued the following memorandum:
TO : ALL CONCERNED
FROM : DANTE LUZON
SUBJECT : AS STATED
Please be informed that per company policy, any employee/talent who wants to run for any position in the coming election will have to file a leave of absence the moment he/she files his/her certificate of candidacy.
The services rendered by the concerned employee/talent to this company will then be temporarily suspended for the entire campaign/election period.
For strict compliance. [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]
Luzon, however, admitted that upon double-checking of the exact text of the policy and subsequent confirmation with the ABS-CBN Head Office, he saw that the policy actually required suspension for those who intend to campaign for a political party or candidate and resignation for those who will actually run in the elections.
After the issuance of the
As regards Patalinghug, Patalinghug
Dear Mr. Luzon,
submitting to you my letter of resignation as your Drama Production Chief and
Talent due to your companys policy that every person connected to ABS-CBN that
should seek an elected position in the government will be forced to resigned
(sic) from his position. So herewith Im
submitting my resignation with a hard heart. But Im still hoping to be connected again
with your prestigious company after the election[s] should you feel that Im
still an asset to your drama production department. Im looking forward to that day and Im very
happy and proud that I have served for two and a half years the most stable and
the most prestigious Radio and TV Network in the
As a friend[,] wish me luck and Pray for me. Thank you.
Very Truly Yours,
Leandro Boy Patalinghug
Unfortunately, both Ymbong and Patalinghug lost in the May 1998 elections.
Later, Ymbong and Patalinghug both tried
to come back to ABS-CBN Cebu. According to
TO : NESTOR YMBONG
FROM : DANTE LUZON
SUBJECT : AS STATED
DATE : 14 SEPT. 1998
Please be reminded that your services as drama talent had already been automatically terminated when you ran for a local government position last election.
The Management however gave you more than enough time to end your drama participation and other involvement with the drama department.
It has been decided therefore that all your drama participation shall be terminated effective immediately. However, your involvement as drama spinner/narrator of the drama NAGBA[BA]GANG LANGIT continues until its writer/director Mr. Leandro Patalinghug wraps it up one week upon receipt of a separate memo issued to him.
Ymbong in contrast contended that
after the expiration of his leave of absence, he reported back to work as a regular
talent and in fact continued to receive his salary. On
Patalinghug likewise filed an illegal dismissal complaint against ABS-CBN.
ABS-CBN prayed for the dismissal of the complaints arguing that there is no employer-employee relationship between the company and Ymbong and Patalinghug. ABS-CBN contended that they are not employees but talents as evidenced by their talent contracts. However, notwithstanding their status, ABS-CBN has a standing policy on persons connected with the company whenever they will run for public office.
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, judgment is rendered finding the dismissal of the two complainants illegal. An order is issued directing respondent ABS[-]CBN to immediately reinstate complainants to their former positions without loss of seniority rights plus the payment of backwages in the amount of P200,000.00 to each complainant.
All other claims are dismissed.
The Labor Arbiter found that there exists an employer-employee relationship between ABS-CBN and Ymbong and Patalinghug considering the stipulations in their appointment letters/talent contracts. The Labor Arbiter noted particularly that the appointment letters/talent contracts imposed conditions in the performance of their work, specifically on attendance and punctuality, which effectively placed them under the control of ABS-CBN. The Labor Arbiter likewise ruled that although the subject company policy is reasonable and not contrary to law, the same was not made known to Ymbong and Patalinghug and in fact was superseded by another one embodied in the March 25, 1998 Memorandum issued by Luzon. Thus, there is no valid or authorized cause in terminating Ymbong and Patalinghug from their employment.
In its memorandum of appeal before the
National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), ABS-CBN contended that the Labor Arbiter
has no jurisdiction over the case because there is no employer-employee
relationship between the company and Ymbong
and Patalinghug, and that Sy and Luzon mistakenly assumed that Ymbong
and Patalinghug could just file a leave of absence since they are only talents
and not employees. In its Supplemental
Appeal, ABS-CBN insisted that
Ymbong and Patalinghug were engaged as radio talents for DYAB dramas and
personality programs and their contract is one between a self-employed
contractor and the hiring party which is a standard practice in the
broadcasting industry. It also argued
that the Labor Arbiter should not have made much of the provisions on Ymbongs
attendance and punctuality since such requirement is a dictate of the
programming of the station, the slating of shows at regular time slots, and
availability of recording studios not an attempt to exercise control over the
manner of his performance of the contracted anchor work within his scheduled
spot on air. As for the pronouncement
that the company policy has already been superseded by the
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision
of Labor Arbiter Nicasio C. Aninon dated
Ordering respondent ABS-CBN to reinstate
complainant Ernesto G. Ymbong and to pay his full backwages computed from
The NLRC dismissed ABS-CBNs Supplemental Appeal for being filed out of time. The NLRC ruled that to entertain the same would be to allow the parties to submit their appeal on piecemeal basis, which is contrary to the agencys duty to facilitate speedy disposition of cases. The NLRC also held that ABS-CBN wielded the power of control over Ymbong and Patalinghug, thereby proving the existence of an employer-employee relationship between them.
As to the issue of whether they were illegally dismissed, the
NLRC treated their cases differently. In
the case of Patalinghug, it found that he voluntarily resigned from employment
ABS-CBN moved to reconsider the NLRC
decision, but the same was denied in a Resolution dated
Imputing grave abuse of discretion on the NLRC, ABS-CBN filed a petition for certiorari before the CA alleging that:
RESPONDENT NLRC COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND SERIOUSLY MISAPPRECIATED THE FACTS IN NOT HOLDING THAT RESPONDENT YMBONG IS A FREELANCE RADIO TALENT AND MEDIA PRACTITIONERNOT A REGULAR EMPLOYEE OF PETITIONERTO WHOM CERTAIN PRODUCTION WORK HAD BEEN OUTSOURCED BY ABS-CBN CEBU UNDER AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORSHIP SITUATION, THUS RENDERING THE LABOR COURTS WITHOUT JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE IN THE ABSENCE OF EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS BETWEEN THE PARTIES.
RESPONDENT NLRC COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN DECLARING RESPONDENT YMBONG TO BE A REGULAR EMPLOYEE OF PETITIONER AS TO CREATE A CONTRACTUAL EMPLOYMENT RELATION BETWEEN THEM WHEN NONE EXISTS OR HAD BEEN AGREED UPON OR OTHERWISE INTENDED BY THE PARTIES.
ASSUMING THE ALLEGED EMPLOYMENT RELATION TO EXIST FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT,
RESPONDENT NLRC IN ANY CASE COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN NOT
SIMILARLY UPHOLDING AND APPLYING COMPANY POLICY NO. HR-ER-
RESPONDENT NLRC COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AND DENIED DUE PROCESS TO PETITIONER IN REFUSING TO CONSIDER ITS SUPPLEMENTAL APPEAL, DATED OCTOBER 18, 1999, FOR BEING FILED OUT OF TIME CONSIDERING THAT THE FILING OF SUCH A PLEADING IS NOT IN ANY CASE PROSCRIBED AND RESPONDENT NLRC IS AUTHORIZED TO CONSIDER ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE ON APPEAL; MOREOVER, TECHNICAL RULES OF EVIDENCE DO NOT APPLY IN LABOR CASES.
RESPONDENT NLRC COMMITTED A GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN GRANTING THE RELIEF OF REINSTATEMENT AND BACKWAGES TO RESPONDENT YMBONG SINCE HE NEVER OCCUPIED ANY REGULAR POSITION IN PETITIONER FROM WHICH HE COULD HAVE BEEN ILLEGALLY DISMISSED, NOR ARE ANY OF THE RADIO PRODUCTIONS IN WHICH HE HAD DONE TALENT WORK FOR PETITIONER STILL EXISTING. INDEED, THERE IS NO BASIS WHATSOEVER FOR THE AWARD OF BACKWAGES TO RESPONDENT YMBONG IN THE AMOUNT OF P200,000.00 CONSIDERING THAT, AS SHOWN BY THE UNCONTROVERTED EVIDENCE, HE WAS NOT EARNING A MONTHLY SALARY OF P20,000.00, AS HE FALSELY CLAIMS, BUT WAS PAID TALENT FEES ON A PER PRODUCTION/PER SCRIPT BASIS WHICH AVERAGED LESS THAN P10,000.00 PER MONTH IN TALENT FEES ALL IN ALL.
The CA ruled that ABS-CBN is estopped from claiming that Ymbong was not its employee after applying the provisions of Policy No. HR-ER-016 to him. It noted that said policy is entitled Policy on Employees Seeking Public Office and the guidelines contained therein specifically pertain to employees and did not even mention talents or independent contractors. It held that it is a complete turnaround on ABS-CBNs part to later argue that Ymbong is only a radio talent or independent contractor and not its employee. By applying the subject company policy on Ymbong, ABS-CBN had explicitly recognized him to be an employee and not merely an independent contractor.
The CA likewise held that the subject
company policy is the controlling guideline and therefore, Ymbong should be considered
resigned from ABS-CBN. While
Hence, this petition.
Petitioner argues that the CA gravely erred: (1) in upholding Policy No. HR-ER-016; (2) in upholding the validity of the termination of Ymbongs services; and (3) when it reversed the decision of the NLRC 4th Division of Cebu City which affirmed the decision of Labor Arbiter Nicasio C. Anion.
Ymbong argues that the subject company
policy is a clear interference and a gross violation of an employees right to
suffrage. He is surprised why it was
easy for the CA to rule that
As to the validity of his dismissal, Ymbong contends that the ground relied upon by ABS-CBN is not among the just and authorized causes provided in the Labor Code, as amended. And even assuming the subject company policy passes the test of validity under the pretext of the right of the management to discipline and terminate its employees, the exercise of such right is not without bounds. Ymbong avers that his automatic termination was a blatant disregard of his right to due process. He was never asked to explain why he did not tender his resignation before he ran for public office as mandated by the subject company policy.
Ymbong likewise asseverates that both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC were consistent in their findings that he was illegally dismissed. It is settled that factual findings of labor administrative officials, if supported by substantial evidence, are accorded not only great respect but even finality.
ABS-CBN, for its part, counters that the validity of policies such as Policy No. HR-ER-016 has long been upheld by this Court which has ruled that a media company has a right to impose a policy providing that employees who file their certificates of candidacy in any election shall be considered resigned. Moreover, case law has upheld the validity of the exercise of management prerogatives even if they appear to limit the rights of employees as long as there is no showing that management prerogatives were exercised in a manner contrary to law. ABS-CBN contends that being the largest media and entertainment company in the country, its reputation stems not only from its ability to deliver quality entertainment programs but also because of neutrality and impartiality in delivering news.
ABS-CBN further argues that nothing in the company policy prohibits its employees from either accepting a public appointive position or from running for public office. Thus, it cannot be considered as violative of the constitutional right of suffrage. Moreover, the Supreme Court has recognized the employers right to enforce occupational qualifications as long as the employer is able to show the existence of a reasonable business necessity in imposing the questioned policy. Here, Policy No. HR-ER-016 itself states that it was issued to protect the company from any public misconceptions and [t]o preserve its objectivity, neutrality and credibility. Thus, it cannot be denied that it is reasonable under the circumstances.
ABS-CBN likewise opposes Ymbongs
claim that he was terminated. ABS-CBN argues that on the contrary, Ymbongs unilateral
act of filing his certificate of candidacy is an overt act tantamount to
voluntary resignation on his part by virtue of the clear mandate found in
Policy No. HR-ER-016. Ymbong, however, failed to file his resignation and in
fact misled his superiors by making them believe that he was going on leave to
campaign for the administration candidates but in fact, he actually ran for
councilor. He also claims to have fully apprised
As to Ymbongs argument that the CA should not have reversed the findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, ABS-CBN asseverates that the CA is not precluded from making its own findings most especially if upon its own review of the case, it has been revealed that the NLRC, in affirming the findings of the Labor Arbiter, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it failed to apply the subject company policy in Ymbongs case when it readily applied the same to Patalinghug.
Essentially, the issues to be resolved
in the instant petition are: (1) whether Policy No. HR-ER-016 is valid; (2)
whether the March 25, 1998 Memorandum issued by
Policy No. HR-ER-016 is valid.
This is not the first time that this Court has dealt with a policy similar to Policy No. HR-ER-016. In the case of Manila Broadcasting Company v. NLRC, this Court ruled:
What is involved in this case is an unwritten company policy considering any employee who files a certificate of candidacy for any elective or local office as resigned from the company. Although 11(b) of R.A. No. 6646 does not require mass media commentators and announcers such as private respondent to resign from their radio or TV stations but only to go on leave for the duration of the campaign period, we think that the company may nevertheless validly require them to resign as a matter of policy. In this case, the policy is justified on the following grounds:
Working for the government and the company at the same time is clearly disadvantageous and prejudicial to the rights and interest not only of the company but the public as well. In the event an employee wins in an election, he cannot fully serve, as he is expected to do, the interest of his employer. The employee has to serve two (2) employers, obviously detrimental to the interest of both the government and the private employer.
In the event the employee loses in the election, the impartiality and cold neutrality of an employee as broadcast personality is suspect, thus readily eroding and adversely affecting the confidence and trust of the listening public to employers station.
ABS-CBN, like Manila Broadcasting Company, also had a valid justification for Policy No. HR-ER-016. Its rationale is embodied in the policy itself, to wit:
ABS-CBN BROADCASTING CORPORATION strongly believes that it is to the best interest of the company to continuously remain apolitical. While it encourages and supports its employees to have greater political awareness and for them to exercise their right to suffrage, the company, however, prefers to remain politically independent and unattached to any political individual or entity.
Therefore, employees who [intend] to run for public office or accept political appointment should resign from their positions, in order to protect the company from any public misconceptions. To preserve its objectivity, neutrality and credibility, the company reiterates the following policy guidelines for strict implementation.
x x x x [Emphasis supplied.]
We have consistently held that so long as a companys management prerogatives are exercised in good faith for the advancement of the employers interest and not for the purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of the employees under special laws or under valid agreements, this Court will uphold them. In the instant case, ABS-CBN validly justified the implementation of Policy No. HR-ER-016. It is well within its rights to ensure that it maintains its objectivity and credibility and freeing itself from any appearance of impartiality so that the confidence of the viewing and listening public in it will not be in any way eroded. Even as the law is solicitous of the welfare of the employees, it must also protect the right of an employer to exercise what are clearly management prerogatives. The free will of management to conduct its own business affairs to achieve its purpose cannot be denied.
It is worth noting that such exercise
of management prerogative has earned a stamp of approval from no less than our
Congress itself when on
6.6. Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period: Provided, That any media practitioner who is an official of a political party or a member of the campaign staff of a candidate or political party shall not use his/her time or space to favor any candidate or political party. [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]
Policy No. HR-ER-016 was not superseded by the March 25, 1998 Memorandum
The CA correctly ruled that though
Also worth noting is that Luzon in his Sworn Statement admitted the inaccuracy of his recollection of the company policy when he issued the March 25, 1998 Memorandum and stated therein that upon double-checking of the exact text of the policy statement and subsequent confirmation with the ABS-CBN Head Office in Manila, he learned that the policy required resignation for those who will actually run in elections because the company wanted to maintain its independence. Since the officer who himself issued the subject memorandum acknowledged that it is not in harmony with the Policy issued by the upper management, there is no reason for it to be a source of right for Ymbong.
Ymbong is deemed resigned when he ran for councilor.
As Policy No. HR-ER-016 is the
subsisting company policy and not
We find no merit in Ymbongs argument
that [his] automatic termination x x x was a blatant [disregard] of [his]
right to due process as he was never asked to explain why he did not tender
his resignation before he ran for public office as mandated by [the subject
company policy]. Ymbongs overt
act of running for councilor of
In addition, we do not subscribe to
Ymbongs claim that he was not in a position to know which of the two issuances
was correct. Ymbong most likely than
not, is fully aware that the subsisting policy is Policy No. HR-ER-016 and not
the March 25, 1998 Memorandum and it was for this reason that, as stated by
Luzon in his Sworn Statement, he only told the latter that he will only
campaign for the administration ticket and not actually run for an elective
post. Ymbong claims he had fully
Moreover, as pointed out by ABS-CBN,
had Ymbong been truthful to his superiors, they would have been able to clarify
to him the prevailing company policy and inform him of the consequences of his
decision in case he decides to run, as
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED for lack of merit.
With costs against petitioner.
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
RENATO C. CORONA
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
additional member per Special Order No. 1207 dated
 Rollo, pp. 150-161. Penned by Associate Justice Agustin S. Dizon with Associate Justices Francisco P. Acosta and Stephen C. Cruz concurring.
 CA rollo, p. 168.
 Rollo, pp. 268-272.
 CA rollo, pp. 101-146.
 Rollo, pp. 74-82.
 CA rollo, pp. 61-62.
 Rollo, p. 19.
 G.R. No. 121975,
 Rollo, p. 54.
Miguel Brewery Sales Force Union (PTGWO) v. Ople, G.R. No. 53515,
 Abbot Laboratories (Phils.) Inc. v. NLRC, No. L-76959, October 12, 1987, 154 SCRA 713, 717, citing Dangan v. National Labor Relations Commission, Nos. 63127-28, February 20, 1984, 127 SCRA 706.
 Rollo, pp. 31-32.