Kapunan, Sr. an 82 year old retired teacher, was struck by a jeepney owned by Filamer Christian Institute and driven by its alleged employee, Funtecha. Kapunan was hospitalized for 20 days. He thus instituted a criminal case against Funtecha alone, who was convicted for serious physical injuries through reckless imprudence.
Thereafter, pursuant to his reservation, Kapunan instituted a civil case for damages against Funtecha and Filamer and its president. The RTC and the CA found Filamer, the school, liable for damages. Hence, this petition.
Filamer contends that it is not civilly liable because Funtecha was not its employee, as he was only a working scholar assigned to clean the school premises for only two (2) hours in the morning of each school day. Filamer anchors its contention on Section 14, Rule X of Book III of the Labor Code,, which excludes working scholars from the employment coverage as far as substantive labor provisions on working conditions, rest periods, and wages is concerned.
Is Funtecha an employee of Filamer?
YES. It is undisputed that Funtecha was a working student, being a part-time janitor and a scholar of petitioner Filamer. He was, in relation to the school, an employee even if he was assigned to clean the school premises for only two (2) hours in the morning of each school day.
In learning how to drive while taking the vehicle home in the direction of Allan’s house, Funtecha definitely was not having a joy ride. Funtecha was not driving for the purpose of his enjoyment or for a “frolic of his own” but ultimately, for the service for which the jeep was intended by the petitioner school. Therefore, the Court is constrained to conclude that the act of Funtecha in taking over the steering wheel was one done for and in behalf of his employer for which act the petitioner-school cannot deny any responsibility by arguing that it was done beyond the scope of his janitorial duties.
Section 14, Rule X, Book III of the Rules implementing the Labor Code, on which the petitioner anchors its defense, was promulgated by the Secretary of Labor and Employment only for the purpose of administering and enforcing the provisions of the Labor Code on conditions of employment. Particularly, Rule X of Book III provides guidelines on the manner by which the powers of the Labor Secretary shall be exercised; on what records should be kept; maintained and preserved; on payroll; and on the exclusion of working scholars from, and inclusion of resident physicians in the employment coverage as far as compliance with the substantive labor provisions on working conditions, rest periods, and wages, is concerned.
In other words, Rule X is merely a guide to the enforcement of the substantive law on labor. The Court, thus, makes the distinction and so holds that Section 14, Rule X, Book III of the Rules is not the decisive law in a civil suit for damages instituted by an injured person during a vehicular accident against a working student of a school and against the school itself.
The present case does not deal with a labor dispute on conditions of employment between an alleged employee and an alleged employer. It invokes a claim brought by one for damages for injury caused by the patently negligent acts of a person, against both doer-employee and his employer. Hence, the reliance on the implementing rule on labor to disregard the primary liability of an employer under Article 2180 of the Civil Code is misplaced. An implementing rule on labor cannot be used by an employer as a shield to avoid liability under the substantive provisions of the Civil Code. Terrence Anton T. Callao