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SC: ABS-CBN lensmen’s dismissal illegal

The CA found the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that no employer-employee relationship existed between the network and the cameramen

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The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that the dismissal of four cameramen by ABS-CBN Corporation in 2003 was illegal.

In a 22-page decision released Monday, the SC First Division denied a petition for review filed by the now-shuttered ABS-CBN against a 2011 CA decision in favor of the cameramen.

The CA reversed and set aside the resolutions issued by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) junking the complaints of lensmen Kessler Tajanlangit, Vladimir Martin, Herbie Medina and Juan Paulo.

Said complainants charged ABS-CBN before NLRC with illegal dismissal and unfair labor practices.

In its ruling backed by the SC, the CA ordered ABS-CBN to immediately reinstate the four to their former positions without loss of seniority rights, with payment of back wages and all other statutory monetary benefits from the time they were dismissed to the date of their reinstatement.

However, ABS-CBN has been denied a new franchise by Congress in 2020 which may have left the complainants with no previous positions to be reinstated into.

ABS-CBN claimed the complainants were independent contractors engaged to render service only for specific programs by their respective producers. They were allegedly co-terminus with the programs for which they were engaged, it added.

The CA held that the company failed to present proof that they were indeed contracted only from 2003 to 2005 up to the filing of their complaint before the NLRC in 2010.

ABS-CBN tried to have the complainants sign employment contracts in 2011, but they refused to sign the same because of the already pending labor dispute.

The appellate court also noted that ABS-CBN presented only its Article of Incorporation, legislative franchise, payslips, and, belatedly, affidavits executed by other workers.

The CA declared them to be insufficient to establish the status of respondents as independent contractors nor rebut the evidence submitted by respondents to prove their employment.

The SC ruled that the CA correctly considered the evidence presented by the cameramen before the NLRC such as identification cards, income tax returns, payslips, memoranda issued to discipline similarly situated employees, work schedules issued by petitioner, and documents from the Social Security Service, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG to prove the existence of an employer-employee relationship with petitioner.

The CA found the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that no employer-employee relationship existed, totally disregarding substantial evidence presented to indubitably show that respondents are truly employees of the company.

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