Almirante: Truck driver paid per trip is an employee

PETITIONER Mario N. Felicilda was hired last Oct. 29, 2010 by respondent Manchesteve H. Uy as a truck driver for his trucking service under the business name Gold Pillars Trucking (GPT). He was issued a company identification card, assigned in one of GPT’s branches in Manila, and paid on percentage basis.

Last Dec. 9, 2011, he took a nap at the work station while waiting for his truck to be loaded with cargoes to be delivered to the respondent’s client on schedule. The next day, the respondent’s helper told him that his employment was already terminated due to his act of sleeping while on the job. Claiming he was dismissed without just cause and due process, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against respondent.

In his defense, respondent denied the existence of an employer-employee relationship between him and petitioner, considering that petitioner was: (a) paid merely on per trip “percentage” basis and was not required to regularly report for work; (b) free to offer his services to other companies; and (c) not under respondent’s control with respect to the means and methods by which he performed his job.

Does this defense find merit?

Ruling: No.

Contrary to respondent’s submission, which the Court of Appeals (CA) upheld, the Supreme Court agrees with the labor tribunals that all the four elements are present in this case:

First: It is undisputed that respondent hired petitioner to work as a truck driver for his private enterprise, GPT.

Second: Petitioner received compensation from respondent for the services he rendered. Contrary to the findings of the CA, while the wages paid were determined on a “per trip” or commission basis, it has been constantly ruled that such does not negate employment relationship. Article 97 (f) of the Labor Code broadly defines the term “wage” as “the remuneration or earnings, however designated, capable of being expressed in terms of money, whether fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis, or other method of calculating the same, which is payable by an employer to an employee under a written or unwritten contract of employment for work done or to be done, or for services rendered or to be rendered x x x.” That petitioner was paid on a “per trip” or commission basis is insignificant as this is merely a method of computing compensation and not a basis for determining the existence of an employer­-employee relationship.

Third: Respondent’s power to dismiss was inherent in the selection and engagement of petitioner as truck driver.

Fourth: The presence of the element of control, which is the most important element to determine the existence or absence of employment relationship, can be safely deduced from the fact that: (a) respondent owned the trucks that were assigned to petitioner; (b) the cargoes loaded in the said trucks were exclusively for respondent’s clients; and (c) the schedule and route to be followed by petitioner were exclusively determined by respondent.

The latter’s claim that petitioner was permitted to render service to other companies was not substantiated. While petitioner was free to carry out his duties as truck driver, it cannot be pretended that respondent, nonetheless, exercised control over the means and methods by which the former was to accomplish his work. The power of control refers merely to the existence of the power. It is not essential for the employer to actually supervise the performance of duties of the employee, as it is sufficient that the former has a right to wield the power, as in this case. (Perlas-Bernabe, J., SC, 1st Div., Mario N. Felicilda vs. Manchesteve H. Uy, G.R. No. 221241, Sept. 14, 2016).
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