CEBU

Almirante: Unexpired term of overseas Filipino worker’s contract

Labor Case Digest

PETITIONER Julita Aldovino and six others were hired as sewers for Dipper Semi-Conductor Company Ltd., a Taiwan-based company, through respondent Gold and Green Manpower Management and Development Services Inc., a local manning agency whose foreign principal is Sage International Development Company Ltd.

When they returned to the Philippines, they filed before the Labor Arbiter a case for illegal termination, underpayment, human trafficking, illegal signing of papers and other money claims such as overtime pay, return of placement fees and moral and exemplary damages.

When the case reached the Court of Appeals (CA) it ordered respondents to pay petitioners among others, their salaries for the unexpired portion of their respective employment contracts or for three months for every year of the unexpired term whichever is less.

Does the CA err in putting a three-month cap to the unexpired portion of petitioners’ employment?

Ruling: Yes.

In Serrano, this Court ruled that the clause “or for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less” under section 10 of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act is unconstitutional for violating the equal protection and substantive due process clauses.

Later, however, this clause was kept when the law was amended by Republic Act 10022 in 2010. Section 7 of the new law mirrors the same clause:

In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, or any unauthorized deductions from the migrant worker’s salary, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee and the deductions made with interest at 12 percent per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less.

In Sameer Overseas Placement Agency Inc. v. Cabiles, 740 Phil. 403 (2014), this Court was confronted with the question of the constitutionality of the reinstated clause in Republic Act 10022.

Reiterating our finding in Serrano, we ruled that “limiting wages that should be recovered by an illegally dismissed overseas worker to three months is both a violation of due process and the equal protection clauses of the Constitution.” This case should be no different from Serrano and Sameer.

A statute declared unconstitutional “confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is inoperative as if it has not been passed at all.” Incorporating a similarly worded provision in a subsequent legislation does not cure its unconstitutionality. Without any discernable change in the circumstances warranting a reversal, this Court will not hesitate to strike down the same provision.

As such, we reiterate our ruling in Sameer that the reinstated clause in Section 7 of Republic Act 10022 has no force and effect of law. It is unconstitutional.

Hence, petitioners are entitled to the award of salaries based on the actual unexpired portion of their employment contracts. The award of petitioners’ salaries, in relation to the three-month cap, must be modified accordingly. (Julita M. Aldovino, et al. vs. Gold and Green Manpower Management and Development Services Inc., G.R.200811, June 19, 2019).


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