CASE BRIEF NO. 2019-0073


“While it is true that entries in the payrolls enjoy the presumption of regularity, it is merely a disputable presumption that may be overthrown by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.


CASE: Ramiro Lim & Sons Agricultural Co., Inc., Sima Real Estate Development, Inc., and Ramiro Lim vs. Armando Guilaran, et. al. [G.R. No. 221967, February 06, 2019]

PONENTE: Justice Antonio T. Carpio

SUBJECT:
A.       LABOR LAW:
          a.   Backwages
                    i.   Computation of backwages of pakyaw workers

B.       REMEDIAL LAW; LAW ON EVIDENCE
          a.   Prima facie evidence, definition
          b.   Disputable presumption

FACTS:       
Respondents filed complaints for illegal dismissal against petitioners. They alleged that they were agricultural workers of the petitioners, employed to work in all the agricultural stages of work on its 84-hectare hacienda. Respondents also alleged that they were paid on a mixed pakyaw and daily basis.

The Labor Arbiter and the NLRC dismissed the complaints. In the petition for certiorari filed before the CA, it ruled that since the respondents have been performing services necessary and desirable to the business which are badges of regular employment, even though they did not work throughout the year and the employment depended on a specific season, the CA granted the reinstatement and payment of full backwages based on the latest Wage Order. The case was remanded to the Labor Arbiter for the computation of back wages.

Meanwhile, petitioners filed a petition for review on certiorari to the Supreme Court (this Court), but was denied for failure to sufficiently show any reversible error to warrant the exercise of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction. The Resolution of this Court denying the petition attained finality on 17 November 2009.

In an Order dated 29 March 2010, the Labor Arbiter adopted the computation of the Fiscal Examiner who awarded to respondents their backwages. The award was based on the mandated rates provided by law for the period from 2000 until December 2009, and was limited to six months of work per year, considering that sugarcane farming is not continuous the whole year round.

Petitioners filed a Memorandum of Appeal to the NLRC. They claimed that respondents barely worked, and thus, are not entitled to the computation of six months pay per year.

The NLRC annulled and set aside the Order of the Labor Arbiter finding that the computation used was erroneous. The NLRC upheld the validity of the payrolls submitted by petitioners, which showed that as pakyaw workers, respondents did not observe the regular eight hour work daily for the tasks given to them. Based on the voluminous records submitted by the petitioners, the NLRC found that not all of the respondents worked for at least six months in the last six years prior to their dismissal.

The Motion for Reconsiderationfiled by respondents was denied by the NLRC. Thereafter, respondents filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 before the CA.

The CA reversed and set aside the Decision of the NLRC and reinstated the Order of the Labor Arbiter. The CA disregarded the payrolls presented by petitioners as these payrolls were self-serving, unreliable, and unsubstantial evidence. The inconsistencies in the signatures of respondents were so questionable to the naked eye that the CA found that its genuineness is doubtful.

In a Resolution, the CA denied the Motion for Partial Reconsiderationfiled by petitioners


ISSUES:
A.       Whether or not the CA erred in disregarding the payroll submitted by the petitioner in computing the backwages of the respondents.
         a.       Whether the entries in the payrolls enjoy the presumption of regularity.
         b.       Define prima facie evidence.

B.       Whether or not the Labor Arbiter and CA are correct in limiting the computation of the amount of backwages due to a period of six months of work per year.
a.      What are the factors to consider in determining the amount of backwages for piece-rate or pakyaw workers.  


RULING:
A.      
While it is true that entries in the payrolls enjoy the presumption of regularity, it is merely a disputable presumption that may be overthrown by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

Section 43 of Rule 143 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 43. Entries in the course of business. — Entries made at, or near the time of transactions to which they refer, by a person deceased, or unable to testify, who was in a position to know the facts therein stated, may be received as prima facie evidence, if such person made the entries in his professional capacity or in the performance of duty and in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty.

A presumption is merely an assumption of fact that the law requires to be made based on another fact or group of facts. It is an inference as to the existence of a fact that is not actually known, but arises from its usual connection with another fact, or a conjecture based on past experience as to what the ordinary human affairs take. Moreover, prima facie evidence is defined as evidence which, if unexplained or uncontradicted, is sufficient to sustain a judgment in favor of the issue it supports, but which may be contradicted by other evidence.Thus, prima facie evidence is not conclusive or absolute­ evidence to the contrary may be presented by the party disputing the assumption of fact made by inference of law and the court may validly consider such.

In this case, we find that the CA did not err when it found that the inconsistencies in the signatures of respondents are so questionable to the naked eye that there exists doubt on their genuineness. After a painstaking scrutiny of the voluminous records, it found inconsistencies in the signatures.

Thus, while the payrolls in question enjoyed the presumption of regularity as entries made in the course of business, this presumption of regularity was effectively overthrown by evidence to the contrary.


B.      
The status of all the respondents as seasonal workers has been settled with finality and this Court will no longer review the character of their employment. The only issue to be determined, therefore, was the amount of backwages to be paid to respondents.

A distinguishing characteristic of a task basis engagement or pakyaw, as opposed to straight-hour wage payment, is the non-consideration of the time spent in working. In a payment by pakyaw basis, the emphasis is on the task itself, in the sense that payment is reckoned in terms of completion of the work, not in terms of the number of hours spent in the completion of the work [David v. Macasio, 738 Phil. 293 (2014)].

To determine the amount of backwages for piece-rate or pakyaw workers, there is a need to determine the varying degrees of production and days worked by each worker. In Velasco v. NLRC [525 Phil. 749 (2006)], the Court held that since the workers were paid on a piece-rate basis, there was a need for the NLRC to determine the varying degrees of production and the number of days worked by each worker:

However, the Court recognizes that there may be some difficulty in ascertaining the proper amount of backwages, considering that the Tayags were apparently paid on a piece-rate basis. In Labor Congress of the Philippines v. NLRC, the Court was confronted with a situation wherein several workers paid on a piece-rate basis were entitled to back wages by reason of illegal dismissal. However, the Court noted that as the piece-rate workers had been paid by the piece, “there [was] a need to determine the varying degrees of production and days worked by each worker,” and that “this issue is best left to the [NLRC].” We believe the same result should obtain in this case, and the NLRC be tasked to conduct the proper determination of the appropriate amount of backwages due to each of the Tayags.

In the present case, this Court agreed with the CA and Labor Arbiter in ruling that respondents have been working for at least six months. It has been recognized by jurisprudence that the season of sugar cane industries lasts for periods of six to eight months [Custodio v. The Workmen’s Compensation Commission, 176 Phil. 450 (1978)]. The payrolls submitted by the petitioners show that respondents rendered service for less than one month per year. As earlier discussed, the submitted payrolls lacked credibility and their genuineness was doubtful. Moreover, as the presumption is that the season of sugar cane industries lasts for six to eight months, the burden was on the petitioners to prove otherwise. The evidence submitted by the petitioners failed to discharge this presumption.

Thus, when the CA adopted the method used by the Labor Arbiter which granted respondents’ backwages based on the mandated rates provided by law for the period from 2000 to December 2009, and limited the computation of the amount to a period of six months of work per year, it was not baseless and arbitrary. This was based on applicable law and jurisprudence. Article 124 of the Labor Code of the Philippines provides, in part:

Art. 124. Standards/Criteria for minimum wage fixing. Xxxx

All workers paid by result, including those who are paid on piecework, takay, pakyaw or task basis, shall receive not less than the prescribed wage rates per eight (8) hours of work a day, or a proportion thereof for working less than eight (8) hours. x x x x

Moreover, in Pulp and Paper, Inc. v. NLRC [344 Phil. 821 (1997)],  the Court held that in the absence of wage rates approved by the Secretary of Labor in accordance with the appropriate time and motion studies, the ordinary minimum wage rates are applicable to piece-rate workers. The Court held:

In the absence of wage rates based on time and motion studies determined by the labor secretary or submitted by the employer to the labor secretary for his approval, wage rates of piece-rate workers must be based on the applicable daily minimum wage determined by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Commission. To ensure the payment of fair and reasonable wage rates, Article 101 of the Labor Code provides that “the Secretary of Labor shall regulate the payment of wages by results, including pakya[w], piecework and other non-time work. The same statutory provision also states that the wage rates should be based, preferably, on time and motion studies, or those arrived at in consultation with representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations. In the absence of such prescribed wage rates for piece-rate workers, the ordinary minimum wage rates prescribed by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards should apply.

Similarly, petitioners herein failed to adduce any evidence on the agreed amount of payment for work based on pakyaw basis, and whether such amount was determined and approved by the Secretary of Labor. Thus, the Labor Arbiter was correct in applying the minimum wage rates based on the applicable Wage Orders to determine the amount of backwages due to respondents.

Related Case Briefs:
a.       David v. Macasio, 738 Phil. 293 (2014)
b.       Velasco v. NLRC [525 Phil. 749 (2006)]
c.       Custodio v. The Workmen’s Compensation Commission, 176 Phil. 450 (1978)
d.       Pulp and Paper, Inc. v. NLRC [344 Phil. 821 (1997)]
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THINGS DECIDED:

A.       A presumption is merely an assumption of fact that the law requires to be made based on another fact or group of facts. It is an inference as to the existence of a fact that is not actually known, but arises from its usual connection with another fact, or a conjecture based on past experience as to what the ordinary human affairs take.

B.       Prima facie evidence is defined as evidence which, if unexplained or uncontradicted, is sufficient to sustain a judgment in favor of the issue it supports, but which may be contradicted by other evidence. Thus, prima facie evidence is not conclusive or absolute¬ evidence to the contrary may be presented by the party disputing the assumption of fact made by inference of law and the court may validly consider such.

C.       A distinguishing characteristic of a task basis engagement or pakyaw, as opposed to straight-hour wage payment, is the non-consideration of the time spent in working. In a payment by pakyaw basis, the emphasis is on the task itself, in the sense that payment is reckoned in terms of completion of the work, not in terms of the number of hours spent in the completion of the work [David v. Macasio, 738 Phil. 293 (2014)].

D.      To determine the amount of backwages for piece-rate or pakyaw workers, there is a need to determine the varying degrees of production and days worked by each worker.

E.       It has been recognized by jurisprudence that the season of sugar cane industries lasts for periods of six to eight months [Custodio v. The Workmen’s Compensation Commission, 176 Phil. 450 (1978)].


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