SC junks Mel Tiangco’s appeal vs ABS-CBN over 1996 ‘illegal dismissal, suspension’ case

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court dismissed veteran broadcaster Mel Tiangco's appeal against ABS-CBN on the illegal dismissal and suspension claims on Friday, June 3.

Mel Tiangco’s illegal suspension and dismissal complaints vs ABS-CBN
Mel Tiangco’s illegal suspension and dismissal complaints junked by Supreme Court | Photo Courtesy: ABS-CBN, GMA

In a 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda, they affirmed the 2012 Court of Appeals ruling which granted a 2011 partial settlement agreement between Tiangco and ABS-CBN.

Tiangco claimed she was illegally dismissed and suspended after she appeared in a TV commercial in 1995. She was placed on a 3-month suspension without pay after violating a memorandum from ABS-CBN stating that all employees must refrain from appearing in TV commercials.

Tiangco sought back wages, separation pay, 13th-month pay, travel, vacation benefits of P150,000, shares of stock, damages, and attorney’s fees.

The Labor Arbiter earlier favored Tiangco and declared her suspension and dismissal illegal. However, the triumph was short-lived as the decision was reversed by the National Labor Relations Commission. The decision stated that Tiangco is not an employee of ABS-CBN but an independent contractor.

Tiangco elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. The decision ended with a settlement agreement between her and ABS-CBN where she agreed that the network fully pays her salaries, 13th-month pay, travel allowance, and employee stock refund.

Because the decision ended with a settlement, the CA didn’t confirm Tiangco’s employment status. Tiangco raised her complaint with the Supreme Court.

In the recent Supreme Court ruling, the court sided with the earlier decision that Tiangco is not an employee of ABS-CBN but an independent contractor. Therefore, Tiangco wasn’t entitled to the benefits she was claiming.

According to the SC, Tiangco’s salary being part of the company payroll was “not a conclusive proof of employer-employee relationship, as such an arrangement is often agreed upon only for purposes of convenience.”

The ruling also highlighted that Tiangco was not like any “ordinary employees, who are usually in a position of weakness, petitioner had a say on the terms of her engagement.” On the contrary, Tiangco was paid with an “extraordinarily high rate” and worked according to her own will and manner.

“Possession of unique skills, expertise, or talent is a persuasive element of an independent contractor. It becomes conclusive if it is established that the worker performed the work according to their own manner and method and free from the principal’s control except to the result,” it said.

The ruling confirmed that ABS-CBN’s suspension is “incorrect” and should have terminated her contract instead. However, the ruling stated that has already been rectified with the settlement.

The SC decision was concurred in by SC Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and justices Rosmari Carandang, Ricardo Rosario, and Jose Midas Marquez.

Tiangco was one of the original co-anchors of TV Patrol before she got suspended for 3 months and eventually moved to GMA-7.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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