Quebral, et al. vs. Angbus Construction, Inc.
G.R. No. 221897, November 7, 2016


Petitioners Quebral, et al., alleged that Angbus employed them as construction workers on various dates from 2008 to 2011. They claimed to be regular employees since they were engaged to perform tasks which are necessary and desirable to the usual business of Angbus, and that they have rendered services to the latter’s construction business for several years already.

They were, however, summarily dismissed from work on June 28, 2012 and July 14, 2012 without any just or authorized cause and due process. Thus, they filed consolidated cases for illegal dismissal with money claims.

For their part, respondents maintained that petitioners were first employed by Angelfe Management and Consultancy (Angelfe) for a one-time project only. Two or three years after the completion of the Angelfe project, they were then hired by Angbus, which is a separate and distinct business entity from the former.

Thus, petitioners were hired only for two project employment contracts -one each with Angelfe and Angbus. Respondents further stated that a long period of time between the first project employment and the other intervened, which meant that petitioners were not re-hired repeatedly and continuously.

However, respondents failed to present petitioners’ employment contracts, payrolls, and job application documents either at Angelfe or Angbus. They averred that these documents were completely damaged by the flood caused by the “habagat” on August 6 to 12, 2012, as evidenced by a Certification issued by the Chairman of Barangay Rosario, Pasig City, (Brgy. Rosario Certification) where Angelfe and later, Angbus purportedly held offices.

Thus, an illegal dismissal case.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) found that petitioners were not illegally dismissed. The LA observed that despite the non-submission of the project employment contracts between the parties (which were completely damaged by flood as stated in the Brgy. Rosario Certification), there was still sufficient basis to support respondents’ claim that petitioners were hired for specific projects with specific durations by two different companies, i.e., Angbus and Angelfe. In this relation, the LA gave credence to the Establishment Employment Reports submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE Reports) which showed that the cause for petitioners’ termination was project completion. Finally, the LA pointed out that the hiring of petitioners for a definite period for a certain phase of a project was an industry practice in the construction business.

Aggrieved, petitioners appealed to the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC reversed the LA’s ruling and declared that petitioners were regular employees who were illegally dismissed. The NLRC stressed that respondents had control over the company records but failed to present the project employment contracts signed by the workers to rebut petitioners’ claim that they were regular employees. The Brgy. Rosario Certification attempting to justify the contracts’ non-submission was not given credence as respondents’ business address was in Quezon City and not in Rosario, Pasig. Instead, the NLRC observed that a certification from the barangay captain of the place where their business address is located should have been presented.

Moreover, the NLRC noted that Angbus hired all the petitioners almost at the same time in 2012, giving the impression that these workers were continuously hired in one project after another and that their employment, first with Angelfe and then with Angbus, was uninterrupted. The NLRC did not give any credence to the allegation that Angbus and Angelfe were separate and distinct companies considering that they maintained the same business address, are owned by the same owner, and are engaged in the same construction business, where petitioners were continuously employed. Neither did the NLRC give merit to the DOLE Reports as these were not submitted within 30 days prior to the displacement of the workers. In a Resolution, the NLRC denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Angbus and Bustamante.

On the allegation that petitioners’ appeal was filed out of time, the NLRC pointed out that the dates appearing on the mailing envelope on record and on the registry receipt show that the appeal memorandum was mailed on May 20, 2013, which was the last day of the reglementary period. It gave credence to the certification of Postmaster (Laureta’s certification) that confirmed the said mailing date. On the merits, the NLRC still refused to give weight to the Brgy. Rosario Certification.

It added that although the project site is in Pasig City, the employer is required to keep employment records in its main office, not in the temporary project site or extension office. It also upheld the finding that petitioners were regular employees in view of Angbus’ failure to substantiate its claim that they were project employees. In examining the entries in the DOLE Reports, the NLRC deduced that the real reason for petitioners’ termination from work is retrenchment and not project completion. Thus, Angbus should have filed a notice of retrenchment to the DOLE thirty (30) days prior to the employees’ actual termination in observance of procedural due process, failing in which amounted to illegal dismissal. Dissatisfied, respondents elevated their case to the CA on certiorari.

CA Ruling:

The CA held that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion when it: (a) gave due course to petitioners’ appeal even though it was filed out of time; and (b) ruled that petitioners were regular employees of Angbus. On the timeliness of the appeal’s filing, the CA ascribed no evidentiary value to Registry Receipt No. 2468 (registry receipt) due to the lack of an authenticating affidavit by the person who mailed it. Petitioners presented the registry receipt to prove that they filed their memorandum of appeal together with the appeal fee on the last day of the reglementary period on May 20, 2013.

The CA refused to give weight to Laureta’s certification that the document covered by the registry return was indeed mailed at the POEA Post Office on the said date. In so ruling, the CA explained that Laureta’s certification was issued without authority because it was issued only on February 17, 2014 when Laureta was no longer assigned at the POEA Office. Thus, the NLRC erred in considering the registry receipt as conclusive proof of petitioners’ timely filing of their appeal.

On the substantive aspect, the CA reinstated the LA’s finding that petitioners were project employees, noting that the absence of a project employment contract does not automatically confer regular status to the employees. It also observed that the Brgy. Rosario Certification adequately explained the non-submission of the employment contracts, and that the DOLE Reports showed petitioners’ status as project employees.

Likewise, the CA pointed out that the NLRC erred in treating Angelfe and Angbus as one and the same entity just because the two companies have the same business address, the same owner, and were engaged in the same construction business. Consequently, it ordered respondents to return to petitioners whatever amount the former has received by virtue of the NLRC Decision. Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, which was, however, denied; hence, the petition.


  1. Whether or not petitioners were project employees. Whether or not establishment termination report can prove project employment.
  2. Whether or not non-presentation of project contract can be justified by the damage caused to respondents’ office.
  3. Whether or not the appeal was filed out of time.

SC Ruling:

The SC found the petition meritorious.

When no other evidence is offered, the absence of employment contracts raises a serious question of whether the employees were sufficiently apprised at the start of their employment of their status as project employees. Absent such proof, it is presumed that they are regular employees, thus, can only be dismissed for just or authorized causes upon compliance with procedural due process.

The submission of the termination report to the DOLE “may be considered” only as an indicator of project employment. By the provision’s tenor, the submission of this report, by and of itself, is therefore not conclusive to confirm the status of the terminated employees as project employees, especially in this case where there is a glaring absence of evidence to prove that petitioners were assigned to carry out a specific project or undertaking, and that they were informed of the duration and scope of their supposed project engagement, which are, in fact, attendant to the first two (2) indicators of project employment in the same DOLE issuance above-cited.

Learn How to Prepare a Valid Project Employment Contract

hr-forms-vol-1Section 11, Rule X, Book III of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code (Rules) requires the employer to keep all employment records in the main or branch office where the employees are assigned. The extension office in the project site in Brgy. Rosario, Pasig City is not a branch office contemplated by the Rules where employees’ records may be kept but merely a temporary office. Hence,the Brgy. Rosario Certification, stating that petitioners’ employment records were destroyed by flood, does not justify the non-presentation of the employment contracts.

Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court provides that where pleadings are filed by registered mail, the date of mailing as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope or the registry receipt shall be considered as the date of filing. Based on this provision, the date of filing is determinable from two sources: (1) from the post office stamp on the envelope or (2) from the registry receipt, either of which may suffice to prove the timeliness of the filing of the pleadings.

If the date stamped on the envelope by the post office is earlier than the registry receipt, the former may be accepted as the date of filing. This presupposes, however, that the envelope or registry receipt and the dates appearing thereon are duly authenticated before the tribunal where they are presented. When the photocopy of a registry receipt bears an earlier date but is not authenticated, the Court held that the later date stamped on the envelope shall be considered as the date of filing.

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