(Author’s note: This is a sequel to last Saturday’s “Power Of Selection As An Element To Employer-Employee Relationship”)
In 1999, respondent Ricardo R. Villaflor Jr. became a missionary sponsored by Bishop Shinji Amari of the Abiko Baptist Church (BSAABC). He was appointed as an instructor at the Shinji Amari & Missionary Baptist Institute and Seminary (MBIS; petitioner) effective June 1999.
In a letter dated Nov. 24, 2011, respondent was informed of his removal as a missionary of the Abiko Baptist Church, cancellation of his American Baptist Association (ABA) recommendation as a national missionary, and exclusion of his membership in the Abiko Baptist Church in Japan. Thus, he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against petitioners.
Petitioners alleged that there was no illegal dismissal as respondent was not their employee. On the other hand, respondent argued that he already established the presence of selection of employee and that the elements of payment of wages and the power to dismiss are likewise present to establish employer-employee relationship between petitioners and him.
Is there merit to this argument?
Second, we do not find in the records concrete evidence of the alleged monthly compensation of respondent amounting to US$550. Respondent is not even consistent in claiming the exact amount of his supposed salary as he claims he was receiving $650 in his Motion for Reconsideration with the National Labor Relations Commission and Petition before the Court of Appeals (CA). Although petitioners do not deny that respondent was receiving “love gifts” in the amount of $550, they aver that these came from ABA and Abiko Baptist Church in Japan. Respondent also admitted that the “main bulk of the fund came from donor American Baptist Association.” Thus, there may be merit in petitioners’ claim that funds given to missionaries like respondent come from the ABA, not BSAABC or MBIS. In fact, the document from which the CA based its conclusion that there was payment of wages and the recipient thereof called a “salaried missionary” is the Mission Policy as contained in the ABA yearbook. In addition, the designation of “salaried missionary” is not determinative of the existence of an employer-employee relationship. “Salary” is a general term defined as remuneration for services given, but the term does not establish a certain kind of relationship.
Absent any clear indication that the amount respondent was allegedly receiving came from BSAABC or MBIS, or at the very least that ABA, Abiko Baptist Church of Japan and BSAABC and MBIS are one and the same, we cannot concretely establish payment of wages.
As to the third element, we find that dismissal is inherent in religious congregations as they have the power to discipline their members. Admittedly, the nature of respondent’s position as a missionary calls on the exercise of supervision by the church of which he is a member considering that the basis of the relationship between a religious corporation and its members is the latter’s absolute adherence to a common religious or spiritual belief. Although respondent’s removal is clear from the Nov. 24, 2011 Letter, this alone cannot establish an employer-employee relationship. (Bishop Shinji Amari of Abiko Baptist Church, et al. vs. Ricardo R. Villaflor, Jr., G.R. 224521, Feb. 17, 2020).