Employment contracts govern the relations of the employer and the employee.

However, there are times that they are obliquely crafted to avoid the findings of employer-employee relationship and contrary to the actual circumstances between the parties.

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Faced with the same issue, the Supreme Court held in the following case that:

Nelson V. Begino, Gener Del Valle, Monina Avila-Llorin and Ma. Cristina Sumayao vs. ABS-CBN Corporation and Amalia Villafuerte
G.R. No. 199166, April 20, 2015


Respondent ABS-CBN Corporation (formerly ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation) employed, for its Regional Network Group in Naga City, Begino, et al. Nelson Begino (Begino) and Gener Del Valle (Del Valle) sometime in 1996 as Cameramen/Editors for TV Broadcasting.   Begino, et al. Ma. Cristina Sumayao (Sumayao) and Monina Avila-Llorin (Llorin) were likewise similarly engaged as reporters sometime in 1996 and 2002, respectively.

With their services engaged by ABS CBN, et al. thru Talent Contracts which, though regularly renewed over the years, provided terms ranging from three (3) months to one (1) year, Begino, et al. were given Project Assignment Forms which detailed, among other matters, the duration of a particular project as well as the budget and the daily technical requirements thereof. In the aforesaid capacities, Begino, et al. were tasked with coverage of news items for subsequent daily airings in ABS CBN, et al.’ TV Patrol Bicol Program.

Claiming that they were regular employees of ABS-CBN, Begino, et al. filed against ABS CBN, et al. before the NLRC. In support of their claims for regularization, monetary benefits, damages and attorney’s fees, they alleged that they performed functions necessary and desirable in ABS-CBN’s business.

Mandated to wear company IDs and provided all the equipment they needed, Begino, et al. averred that they worked under the direct control and supervision of Manager Villafuerte and, at the end of each day, were informed about the news to be covered the following day, the routes they were to take and, whenever the subject of their news coverage is quite distant, even the start of their workday. Due to the importance of the news items they covered and the necessity of their completion for the success of the program, Begino, et al. claimed that, under pain of immediate termination, they were bound by the company’s policy on, among others, attendance and punctuality.

ABS CBN, et al. insisted that, pursuant to their Talent Contracts and/or Project Assignment Forms, Begino, et al. were hired as talents, to act as reporters and/or cameramen for TV Patrol Bicol for designated periods and rates. Fully aware that they were not considered or to consider themselves as employees of a particular production or film outfit, Begino, et al. were supposedly engaged on the basis of the skills, knowledge or expertise they already possessed and, for said reason, required no further training from ABS-CBN.

Although Begino, et al. were inevitably subjected to some degree of control, the same was allegedly limited to the imposition of general guidelines on conduct and performance, simply for the purpose of upholding the standards of the company and the strictures of the industry. Never subjected to any control or restrictions over the means and methods by which they performed or discharged the tasks for which their services were engaged, Begino, et al. were, at most, briefed whenever necessary regarding the general requirements of the project to be executed.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter disposed of the case holding that Begino, et al. were regular employees.

Aggrieved by the foregoing decision, ABS CBN, et al. elevated the case on appeal before the NLRC,

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC rendered a Decision affirming said Labor Arbiter’s appealed decision.

Undeterred by the NLRC’s denial of their motion for reconsideration, ABS CBN, et al. filed the Rule 65 petition for certiorari docketed before the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA rendered the herein assailed decision, reversing the findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Ruling out the existence of forum shopping on the ground that Begino, et al.’ second and third complaints were primarily anchored on their termination from employment after the filing of their first complaint, the CA nevertheless discounted the existence of an employer-employee relation between the parties upon the following findings and conclusions:

(a) Begino, et al., were engaged by ABS CBN, et al. as talents for periods, work and the program specified in the Talent Contracts and/or Project Assignment Forms concluded between them;

(b) instead of fixed salaries, Begino, et al. were paid talent fees depending on the budget allocated for the program to which they were assigned;

(c) being mainly concerned with the result, ABS CBN, et al. did not exercise control over the manner and method by which petitioner accomplished their work and, at most, ensured that they complied with the standards of the company, the KBP and the industry; and,

(d) the existence of an employer-employee relationship is not necessarily established by the exclusivity clause and prohibitions which are but terms and conditions on which the parties are allowed to freely stipulate.

Begino, et al.’ motion for reconsideration of the foregoing decision was denied. Hence, the petition before the SC.


Whether or not individuals in broadcasting company engaged as talents can be deemed as having employer-employee relationship.

Whether or not repeated engagement and directly related activities can result in regular employment

SC Ruling:

The SC found the petition meritorious.

The SC held that to determine the existence of said relation, case law has consistently applied the four-fold test, to wit: (a) the selection and engagement of the employee; (b) the payment of wages; (c) the power of dismissal; and (d) the employer’s power to control the employee on the means and methods by which the work is accomplished.

Of these criteria, the so-called “control test” is generally regarded as the most crucial and determinative indicator of the presence or absence of an employer-employee relationship. Under this test, an employer-employee relationship is said to exist where the person for whom the services are performed reserves the right to control not only the end result but also the manner and means utilized to achieve the same.

Because they are imbued with public interest, it cannot be gainsaid, however, that labor contracts are subject to the police power of the state and are placed on a higher plane than ordinary contracts. The recognized supremacy of the law over the nomenclature of the contract and the stipulations contained therein is aimed at bringing life to the policy enshrined in the Constitution to afford protection to labor.

Insofar as the nature of one’s employment is concerned, Article 280 of the Labor Code of the Philippines provides the rules. This provision contemplates four kinds of employees, namely:

(a) regular employees or those who have been engaged to perform activities which are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer;

(b) project employees or those whose employment has been fixed for a specific project or undertaking, the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of the engagement of the employee;

(c) seasonal employees or those who work or perform services which are seasonal in nature, and the employment is for the duration of the season; and

(d) casual employees or those who are not regular, project, or seasonal employees.

To the foregoing classification of employee, jurisprudence has added that of contractual or fixed term employee which, if not for the fixed term, would fall under the category of regular employment in view of the nature of the employee’s engagement, which is to perform activity usually necessary or desirable in the employer’s business.

The SC found that notwithstanding the nomenclature of their Talent Contracts and/or Project Assignment Forms and the terms and condition embodied therein, Begino, et al. are regular employees of ABS-CBN. Time and again, it has been ruled that the test to determine whether employment is regular or not is the reasonable connection between the activity performed by the employee in relation to the business or trade of the employer.

As cameramen/editors and reporters, Begino, et al. were undoubtedly performing functions necessary and essential to ABS-CBN’s business of broadcasting television and radio content. It matters little that Begino, et al.’ services were engaged for specified periods for TV Patrol Bicol and that they were paid according to the budget allocated therefor. Aside from the fact that said program is a regular weekday fare of the ABS-CBN’s Regional Network Group in Naga City, the record shows that, from their initial engagement in the aforesaid capacities, Begino, et al. were continuously re-hired by ABS CBN, et al. over the years. To the mind of the Court, ABS CBN, et al.’ repeated hiring of Begino, et al. for its long-running news program positively indicates that the latter were ABS-CBN’s regular employees.

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If the employee has been performing the job for at least one year, even if the performance is not continuous or merely intermittent, the law deems the repeated or continuing performance as sufficient evidence of the necessity, if not indispensability of that activity in the business. Indeed, an employment stops being co-terminous with specific projects where the employee is continuously re-hired due to the demands of the employer’s business. When circumstances show, moreover, that contractually stipulated periods of employment have been imposed to preclude the acquisition of tenurial security by the employee, this Court has not hesitated in striking down such arrangements as contrary to public policy, morals, good customs or public order.

The nature of the employment depends, after all, on the nature of the activities to be performed by the employee, considering the nature of the employer’s business, the duration and scope to be done, and, in some cases, even the length of time of the performance and its continued existence. In the same manner that the practice of having fixed-term contracts in the industry does not automatically make all talent contracts valid and compliant with labor law, it has, consequently, been ruled that the assertion that a talent contract exists does not necessarily prevent a regular employment status.

As cameramen/editors and reporters, it also appears that Begino, et al. were subject to the control and supervision of ABS CBN, et al. which, first and foremost, provided them with the equipments essential for the discharge of their functions.   Prepared at the instance of ABS CBN, et al., Begino, et al.’ Talent Contracts tellingly provided that ABS-CBN retained “all creative, administrative, financial and legal control” of the program to which they were assigned. Aside from having the right to require Begino, et al. “to attend and participate in all promotional or merchandising campaigns, activities or events for the Program,” ABS-CBN required the former to perform their functions “at such locations and Performance/Exhibition Schedules” it provided or, subject to prior notice, as it chose determine, modify or change. Even if they were unable to comply with said schedule, Begino, et al. were required to give advance notice, subject to ABS CBN, et al.’ approval.

However obliquely worded, the Court finds the foregoing terms and conditions demonstrative of the control ABS CBN, et al. exercised not only over the results of Begino, et al.’ work but also the means employed to achieve the same.

Rather than the project and/or independent contractors ABS CBN, et al. claim them to be, it is evident from the foregoing disquisition that Begino, et al. are regular employees of ABS-CBN. This conclusion is borne out by the ineluctable showing that Begino, et al. perform functions necessary and essential to the business of ABS-CBN which repeatedly employed them for a long-running news program of its Regional Network Group in Naga City. In the course of said employment, Begino, et al. were provided the equipments they needed, were required to comply with the Company’s policies which entailed prior approval and evaluation of their performance.

Viewed from the prism of said considerations, the SC found that the CA reversibly erred when it overturned the NLRC’s affirmance of the Labor Arbiter’s finding that an employer-employee relationship existed between the parties.

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