Insular Life Assurance v. NLRC and Pantaleon De Los Reyes (G.R. No. 119930)

Facts:

Petitioner Insular Life entered into an agency contract with respondent Pantaleon de los Reyes authorizing the latter to solicit applications for life insurance for which he would be paid compensation in the form of commissions. Sometime after, the parties entered into another contract where Pantaleon was appointed as Acting Unit Manager responsible for recruitment, training, organization, development and furtherance of the agency’s goals. He was prohibited from working for other life insurance companies or with the government. Pantaleon worked concurrently as agent and Acting Unit Manager until he was notified of his termination. He thus filed a complaint for illegal dismissal before the Labor Arbiter. The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint but on appeal was reversed by the NLRC tribunal ruling that Pantaleon was an employee of petitioner. Petitioner contends that nature of the work has already been resolved by the Court in the earlier case of Insular Life v. Basiao where Basiao is declared an independent contractor and not an employee of petitioner.

Issue:

Whether or not there exists employer-employee relationship between petitioner and Pantaleon.

Ruling: YES.

As to the matter involving the power of dismissal and control by the employer, the latter of which is the most important of the test, unlike Basiao, herein respondent De los Reyes was appointed Acting Unit Manager, not agency manager. Petitioner in fact has admitted that it provided De los Reyes a place and a table at its office where he reported for and worked whenever he was not out in the field.

Under the managership contract, De los Reyes was obliged to work exclusively for petitioner in life insurance solicitation and was imposed premium production quotas. He was proscribed from accepting a managerial or supervisory position in any other office including the government without the written consent of petitioner. De los Reyes could only be promoted to permanent unit manager if he met certain requirements and his promotion was recommended by the petitioner’s District Manager and Regional Manager and approved by its Division Manager. As Acting Unit Manager, De los Reyes performed functions beyond mere solicitation of insurance business for petitioner. As found by the NLRC, he exercised administrative functions which were necessary and beneficial to the business of INSULAR LIFE.

Exclusivity of service, control of assignments and removal of agents under private respondent’s unit, collection of premiums, furnishing of company facilities and materials as well as capital described as Unit Development Fund are but hallmarks of the management system in which herein private respondent worked. This obtaining, there is no escaping the conclusion that private respondent Pantaleon de los Reyes was an employee of herein petitioner.

*In contrast to the case decided by the Court 10 years earlier, Insular Life Assurance v. NLRC and Basiao, as quoted:

Petitioner would have us apply our ruling in Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. v. NLRC and Basiao to the instant case under the doctrine of stare decisis, postulating that both cases involve parties similarly situated and facts which are almost identical. But we are not convinced that the cited case is on all fours with the case at bar. In Basiao, the agent was appointed Agency Manager under an Agency Manager Contract. To implement his end of the agreement, Melecio Basiao organized an agency office to which he gave the name M. Basiao and Associates. The Agency Manager Contract practically contained the same terms and conditions as the Agency Contract earlier entered into, and the Court observed that, “drawn from the terms of the contract they had entered into, (which) either expressly or by necessary implication, Basiao (was) made the master of his own time and selling methods, left to his own judgment the time, place and means of soliciting insurance, set no accomplishment quotas and compensated him on the bases of results obtained. He was not bound to observe any schedule of working hours or report to any regular station; he could seek and work on his prospects anywhere and at anytime he chose to and was free to adopt the selling methods he deemed most effective.” Upon these premises, Basiao was considered as agent an independent contractor of petitioner INSULAR LIFE.

Click here for the Basiao case

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