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We ought to be reminded of the plight and sacrifices of our OFWs. In Olarte v.

Nayona, that:

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this Court held

Our overseas workers belong to a disadvantaged class. Most of them come from the poorest sector of our society. Their profile shows they live in suffocating slums, trapped in an environment of crimes. Hardly literate and in ill health, their only hope lies in jobs they find with difficulty in our country. Their unfortunate circumstance makes them easy prey to avaricious employers. They will climb mountains, cross the seas, endure slave treatment in foreign lands just to survive. Out of despondence, they will work under subhuman conditions and accept salaries below the minimum. The least we can do is to protect them with our laws. REPUBLIC ACT No. 10022 AN ACT AMENDING REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8042, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE MIGRANT WORKERS AND OVERSEAS FILIPINOS ACT OF 1995, AS AMENDED, FURTHER IMPROVING THE STANDARD OF PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF THE WELFARE OF MIGRANT WORKERS, THEIR FAMILIES AND OVERSEAS FILIPINOS IN DISTRESS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Section 7. Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042, as amended, is hereby amended to read as follows: "SEC. 10. Money Claims. - Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the Labor Arbiters of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) shall have the original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the complaint, the claims arising out of an employer-employee relationship or by virtue of any law or contract involving Filipino workers for overseas deployment including claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damage. Consistent with this mandate, the NLRC shall endeavor to update and keep abreast with the developments in the global services industry. "The liability of the principal/employer and the recruitment/placement agency for any and all claims under this section shall be joint and several. This provision shall be incorporated in the contract for overseas employment and shall be a condition precedent for its approval. The performance bond to de filed by the recruitment/placement agency, as provided by law, shall be answerable for all money claims or damages that may be awarded to the workers. If the recruitment/placement agency is a juridical being, the corporate officers and directors and partners as the case may be, shall themselves be jointly and solidarily liable with the corporation or partnership for the aforesaid claims and damages. "Such liabilities shall continue during the entire period or duration of the employment contract and shall not be affected by any substitution, amendment or modification made locally or in a foreign country of the said contract. "Any compromise/amicable settlement or voluntary agreement on money claims inclusive of damages under this section shall be paid within thirty (30) days from approval of the settlement by the appropriate authority. "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 if his placement fee and the deductions made with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. "In case of a final and executory judgement against a foreign employer/principal, it shall be automatically disqualified, without further proceedings, from participating in the Philippine Overseas Employment Program and from recruiting and hiring Filipino workers until and unless it fully satisfies the judgement award. "Noncompliance with the mandatory periods for resolutions of case provided under this section shall subject the responsible officials to any or all of the following penalties: "(a) The salary of any such official who fails to render his decision or resolution within the prescribed period shall be, or caused to be, withheld until the said official complies therewith; "(b) Suspension for not more than ninety (90) days; or

"(c) Dismissal from the service with disqualification to hold any appointive public office for five (5) years. "Provided, however, That the penalties herein provided shall be without prejudice to any liability which any such official may have incured under other existing laws or rules and regulations as a consequence of violating the provisions of this paragraph." Section 23. A new Section 37-A. of Replublic Act No. 8042, as amended, is hereby added to read as follows: "SEC. 37-A. Compulsory Insurance Coverage for Agency-Hired Workers. - In addition to the performance bond to be filed by the recruitment/manning agency under Section 10, each migrant worker deployed by a recruitment/manning agency shall be covered by a compulsory insurance policy which shall be secured at no cost to the said worker. Such insurance policy shall be effective for the duration of the migrant worker's employment and shall cover, at the minimum: "(a) Accidental death, with at least Fifteen thousand United States dollars (US$10,000.00) survivor's benefit payable to the migrant worker's beneficiaries; "(c) Permanent total disablement, with at least Seven thousand five hundred United States dollars (US$7,500.00) disability benefit payable to the migrant worker. The following disabilities shall be deemed permanent: total, complete loss of sight of both eyes; loss of two(2) limbs at or above the ankles or wrists; permanent complete paralysis of two (2) limbs; brain injury resulting to incurable imbecility or insanity; "(d) Repatriation cost of the worker when his/her employment is terminated without any valid cause, including the transport of his or her personal belongings. In case of death, the insurance provider shall arrange and pay for the repatriation or return of the worker's remains. The insurance provider shall also render any assistance necessary in the transport including, but not limited to, locating a local licensed funeral home, mortuary or direct disposition facility to prepare the body for transport, completing all documentation, obtaining legal clearances, procuring consular services, providing necessary casket or air transport container, as well as transporting the remains including retrieval from site of death and delivery to the receiving funeral home; "(e) Subsistence allowance benefit, with at least One hundred United States dollars (US$100.00) Per month for a maximum of six (6) months for a migrant worker who is involved in a case or litigation for the protection of his/her rights in the receiving country; "(f) Money claims arising from employer's liability which may be awarded or given to the worker in a judgment or settlement of his or her case in the NLRC. The insurance coverage for money claims shall be equivalent to at least three (3) months for every year of the migrant worker's employment contract; "In addition to the above coverage, the insurance policy shall also include: "(g) Compassionate visit. When a migrant worker is hospitalized and has been confined for at least seven (7) consecutive days, he shall be entitled to a compassionate visit by one (1) family member or a requested individual. The insurance company shall pay for the transportation cost of the family member or requested individual to the major airport closest to the place of hospitalization of the worker. It is, however, the responsibility of the family member or requested individual to meet all visa and travel document requirements; "(h) Medical evacuation. When an adequate medical facility is not available proximate to the migrant worker, as determined by the insurance company's physician and/or a consulting physician, evacuation under appropriate medical supervision by the mode of transport necessary shall be undertaken by the insurance provider; and "(i) Medical repatriation. When medically necessary as determined by the attending physician, repatriation under medical supervision to the migrant worker's residence shall be undertaken by the insurance provider at such time that the migrant worker is medically cleared for travel by commercial carrier. If the period to receive medical clearance to travel exceeds fourteen (14) days from the date of discharge from the hospital, an alternative appropriate mode of transportation, such as air ambulance, may be arranged. Medical and non-medical escorts may be provided when necessary.

"Only reputable private insurance companies duly registered with the Insurance Commission (IC) , which are in existence and operational for at least Five hundred million pesos (P500,000,000.00) to be determined by the IC, and with a current year certificate of authority shall be qualified to provide for the worker's insurance coverage. Insurance companies who have directors, partners, officers, employees or agents with relatives, within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, who work or have interest in any of the licensed recruitment/manning agencies or in any of the government agencies involved in the overseas employment program shall be disqualified from providing this workers' insurance coverage. "The recruitment/manning agency shall have the right to choose from any of the qualified insurance providers the company that will insure the migrant worker it will deploy. After procuring such insurance policy, the recruitment/manning agency shall provide an authenticated copy thereof to the migrant worker. It shall then submit the certificate of insurance coverage of the migrant worker to POEA as a requirement for the issuance of an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) to the migrant worker. In the case of seafarers who are insured under policies issued by foreign insurance companies, the POEA shall accept certificates or other proofs of cover from recruitment/manning agencies: Provided, That the minimum coverage under sub-paragraphs (a) to (i) are included therein. "Any person having a claim upon the policy issued pursuant to subparagraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of this section shall present to the insurance company concerned a written notice of claim together with pertinent supporting documents. The insurance company shall forthwith ascertain the truth and extent of the claim and make payment within ten (10) days from the filing of the notice of claim. "Any claim arising from accidental death, natural death or disablement under this section shall be paid by the insurance company without any contest and without the necessity of providing fault or negligence of any kind on the part of the insured migrant worker: Provided, That the following documents, duly authenticated by the Philippine foreign posts, shall be sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim: "(1) Death Certificate - In case of natural or accidental death; "(2) Police or Accident Report - In case of accidental death; and "(3) Medical Certificate - In case of permanent disablement; "For repatriation under subparagraph (d) hereof, a certification which states the reason/s for the termination of the migrant worker's employment and the need for his or her repatriation shall be issued by the Philippine foreign post or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) located in the receiving country. "For subsistence allowance benefit under subparagraph (e), the concerned labor attach or, in his absence, the embassy or consular official shall issue a certification which states the name of the case, the names of the parties and the nature of the cause of action of the migrant worker. "For the payment of money claims under subparagraph (f), the following rules shall govern: "(1) After a decision has become final and executor or a settlement/compromise agreement has been reached between the parties at the NLRC, an order shall be released mandating the respondent recruitment/manning agency to pay the amount adjudged or agreed upon within thirty (30) days; "(2) The recruitment/manning agency shall then immediately file a notice of claim with its insurance provider for the amount of liability insured, attaching therewith a copy of the decision or compromise agreement; "(3) Within ten (10) days from the filing of notice of claim, the insurance company shall make payment to the recruitment/manning agency the amount adjudged or agreed upon, or the amount of liability insured, whichever is lower. After receiving the insurance payment, the recruitment/manning agency shall immediately pay the migrant worker's claim in full, taking into account that in case the amount of insurance coverage is insufficient to satisfy the amount adjudged or agreed upon, it is liable to pay the balance thereof; "(4) In case the insurance company fails to make payment within ten (10) days from the filing of the claim, the recruitment/ manning agency shall pay the amount adjudged or agreed upon within the remaining days of the thirty (30)-day period, as provided in the first subparagraph hereof;

"(5) If the worker's claim was not settled within the aforesaid thirty (30)-day period, the recruitment/manning agency's performance bond or escrow deposit shall be forthwith garnished to satisfy the migrant worker's claim; "(6) The provision of compulsory worker's insurance under this section shall not affect the joint and solidary liability of the foreign employer and the recruitment/manning agency under Section 10; "(7) Lawyers for the insurance companies, unless the latter is impleaded, shall be prohibited to appear before the NLRC in money claims cases under this section. "Any question or dispute in the enforcement of any insurance policy issued under this section shall be brought before the IC for mediation or adjudication. "In case it is shown by substantial evidence before the POEA that the migrant worker who was deployed by a licensed recruitment/manning agency has paid for the premium or the cost of the insurance coverage or that the said insurance coverage was used as basis by the recruitment/manning agency to claim any additional fee from the migrant worker, the said licensed recruitment/manning agency shall lose its license and all its directors, partners, proprietors, officers and employees shall be perpetually disqualified from engaging in the business of recruitment of overseas workers. Such penalty is without prejudice to any other liability which such persons may have incurred under existing laws, rules or regulations. "For migrant workers recruited by the POEA on a government-to-government arrangement, the POEA shall establish a foreign employers guarantee fund which shall be answerable to the workers' monetary claims arising from breach of contractual obligations. For migrant workers classified as rehires, name hires or direct hires, they may opt to be covered by this insurance coverage by requesting their foreign employers to pay for the cost of the insurance coverage or they may pay for the premium themselves. To protect the rights of these workers, the POEA shall provide them adequate legal assistance, including conciliation and mediation services, whether at home or abroad. "At the end of every year, the Department of Labor and Employment and the IC shall jointly make an assessment of the performance of all insurance providers, based upon the report of the NLRC and the POEA on their respective interactions and experiences with the insurance companies, and they shall have the authority to ban or blacklist such insurance companies which are known to be evasive or not responsive to the legitimate claims of migrant workers. The Department of Labor and Employment shall include such assessment in its year-end report to Congress. "For purposes of this section, the Department of Labor and Employment, IC, NLRC and the POEA, in consultation with the recruitment/manning agencies and legitimate non-government organizations advocating the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, shall formulate the necessary implementing rules and regulations. "The foregoing provisions on compulsory insurance coverage shall be subject to automatic review through the Congressional Oversight Committee immediately after three (3) years from the effectivity of this Act in order to determine its efficacy in favor of the covered overseas Filipino workers and the compliance by recruitment/manning agencies and insurance companies, without prejudice to an earlier review if necessary and warranted for the purpose of modifying, amending and/or repealing these subject provisions.

G.R. No. 145587

October 26, 2007

EDI-STAFFBUILDERS INTERNATIONAL, INC., petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and ELEAZAR S. GRAN, respondents. Second and Third Issues: Whether Gran's dismissal is justifiable by reason of incompetence, insubordination, and disobedience In cases involving OFWs, the rights and obligations among and between the OFW, the local recruiter/agent, and the foreign employer/principal are governed by the employment contract. A contract freely entered into is considered law between the parties; and hence, should be respected. In formulating

the contract, the parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem 34 convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. In the present case, the employment contract signed by Gran specifically states that Saudi Labor Laws will govern matters not provided for in the contract (e.g. specific causes for termination, termination procedures, etc.). Being the law intended by the parties (lex loci intentiones) to apply to the contract, Saudi Labor Laws should govern all matters relating to the termination of the employment of Gran. In international law, the party who wants to have a foreign law applied to a dispute or case has the burden of proving the foreign law. The foreign law is treated as a question of fact to be properly pleaded and proved as the judge or labor arbiter cannot take judicial notice of a foreign law. He is presumed to know 35 only domestic or forum law. Unfortunately for petitioner, it did not prove the pertinent Saudi laws on the matter; thus, the International 36 Law doctrine ofpresumed-identity approach or processual presumption comes into play. Where a foreign law is not pleaded or, even if pleaded, is not proved, the presumption is that foreign law is the 37 same as ours. Thus, we apply Philippine labor laws in determining the issues presented before us. Petitioner EDI claims that it had proven that Gran was legally dismissed due to incompetence and insubordination or disobedience. This claim has no merit. In illegal dismissal cases, it has been established by Philippine law and jurisprudence that the employer should prove that the dismissal of employees or personnel is legal and just. Section 33 of Article 277 of the Labor Code
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states that:

ART. 277. MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

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(b) Subject to the constitutional right of workers to security of tenure and their right to be protected against dismissal except for a just and authorized cause and without prejudice to the requirement of notice under Article 283 of this Code, the employer shall furnish the worker whose employment is sought to be terminated a written notice containing a statement of the causes for termination and shall afford the latter ample opportunity to be heard and to defend himself with the assistance of his representative if he so desires in accordance with company rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to guidelines set by the Department of Labor and Employment. Any decision taken by the employer shall be without prejudice to the right of the workers to contest the validity or legality of his dismissal by filing a complaint with the regional branch of the National Labor Relations Commission. The burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause shall rest on the employer. x x x In many cases, it has been held that in termination disputes or illegal dismissal cases, the employer has the burden of proving that the dismissal is for just and valid causes; and failure to do so would necessarily 40 mean that the dismissal was not justified and therefore illegal. Taking into account the character of the charges and the penalty meted to an employee, the employer is bound to adduce clear, accurate, 41 consistent, and convincing evidence to prove that the dismissal is valid and legal. This is consistent with the principle of security of tenure as guaranteed by the Constitution and reinforced by Article 277 (b) of 42 the Labor Code of the Philippines. In the instant case, petitioner claims that private respondent Gran was validly dismissed for just cause, due to incompetence and insubordination or disobedience. To prove its allegations, EDI submitted two 43 letters as evidence. The first is the July 9, 1994 termination letter, addressed to Gran, from Andrea E. 44 Nicolaou, Managing Director of OAB. The second is an unsigned April 11, 1995 letter from OAB addressed to EDI and ESI, which outlined the reasons why OAB had terminated Gran's employment. Petitioner claims that Gran was incompetent for the Computer Specialist position because he had 45 "insufficient knowledge in programming and zero knowledge of [the] ACAD system." Petitioner also claims that Gran was justifiably dismissed due to insubordination or disobedience because he continually 46 failed to submit the required "Daily Activity Reports." However, other than the abovementioned letters, no other evidence was presented to show how and why Gran was considered incompetent, insubordinate, or disobedient. Petitioner EDI had clearly failed to overcome the burden of proving that Gran was validly dismissed.

Petitioner's imputation of incompetence on private respondent due to his "insufficient knowledge in programming and zero knowledge of the ACAD system" based only on the above mentioned letters, without any other evidence, cannot be given credence. An allegation of incompetence should have a factual foundation. Incompetence may be shown by weighing it against a standard, benchmark, or criterion. However, EDI failed to establish any such bases to show how petitioner found Gran incompetent. In addition, the elements that must concur for the charge of insubordination or willful disobedience to prosper were not present. In Micro Sales Operation Network v. NLRC, we held that: For willful disobedience to be a valid cause for dismissal, the following twin elements must concur: (1) the employee's assailed conduct must have been willful, that is, characterized by a wrongful and perverse attitude; and (2) the order violated must have been reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee and must pertain to the duties which he had been engaged to 47 discharge. EDI failed to discharge the burden of proving Gran's insubordination or willful disobedience. As indicated by the second requirement provided for in Micro Sales Operation Network, in order to justify willful disobedience, we must determine whether the order violated by the employee is reasonable, lawful, made known to the employee, and pertains to the duties which he had been engaged to discharge. In the case at bar, petitioner failed to show that the order of the company which was violated the submission of "Daily Activity Reports"was part of Gran's duties as a Computer Specialist. Before the Labor Arbiter, EDI should have provided a copy of the company policy, Gran's job description, or any other document that would show that the "Daily Activity Reports" were required for submission by the employees, more particularly by a Computer Specialist. Even though EDI and/or ESI were merely the local employment or recruitment agencies and not the foreign employer, they should have adduced additional evidence to convincingly show that Gran's employment was validly and legally terminated. The burden devolves not only upon the foreign-based employer but also on the employment or recruitment agency for the latter is not only an agent of the former, but is also solidarily liable with the foreign principal for any claims or liabilities arising from the 48 dismissal of the worker. Thus, petitioner failed to prove that Gran was justifiably dismissed due to incompetence, insubordination, or willful disobedience. Petitioner also raised the issue that Prieto v. NLRC, to the present case.
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as used by the CA in its Decision, is not applicable

In Prieto, this Court ruled that "[i]t is presumed that before their deployment, the petitioners were subjected to trade tests required by law to be conducted by the recruiting agency to insure employment of 50 only technically qualified workers for the foreign principal." The CA, using the ruling in the said case, ruled that Gran must have passed the test; otherwise, he would not have been hired. Therefore, EDI was at fault when it deployed Gran who was allegedly "incompetent" for the job. According to petitioner, the Prieto ruling is not applicable because in the case at hand, Gran misrepresented himself in hiscurriculum vitae as a Computer Specialist; thus, he was not qualified for the job for which he was hired. We disagree. The CA is correct in applying Prieto. The purpose of the required trade test is to weed out incompetent applicants from the pool of available workers. It is supposed to reveal applicants with false educational backgrounds, and expose bogus qualifications. Since EDI deployed Gran to Riyadh, it can be presumed that Gran had passed the required trade test and that Gran is qualified for the job. Even if there was no objective trade test done by EDI, it was still EDI's responsibility to subject Gran to a trade test; and its failure to do so only weakened its position but should not in any way prejudice Gran. In any case, the issue is rendered moot and academic because Gran's incompetency is unproved. Fourth Issue: Gran was not Afforded Due Process

As discussed earlier, in the absence of proof of Saudi laws, Philippine Labor laws and regulations shall govern the relationship between Gran and EDI. Thus, our laws and rules on the requisites of due process relating to termination of employment shall apply. Petitioner EDI claims that private respondent Gran was afforded due process, since he was allowed to 51 work and improve his capabilities for five months prior to his termination. EDI also claims that the 52 requirements of due process, as enunciated in Santos, Jr. v. NLRC, and Malaya Shipping Services, Inc. 53 v. NLRC, cited by the CA in its Decision, were properly observed in the present case. This position is untenable. In Agabon v. NLRC,
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this Court held that:

Procedurally, (1) if the dismissal is based on a just cause under Article 282, the employer must give the employee two written notices and a hearing or opportunity to be heard if requested by the employee before terminating the employment: a notice specifying the grounds for which dismissal is sought a hearing or an opportunity to be heard and after hearing or opportunity to be heard, a notice of the decision to dismiss; and (2) if the dismissal is based on authorized causes under Articles 283 and 284, the employer must give the employee and the Department of Labor and Employment written notices 30 days prior to the effectivity of his separation. Under the twin notice requirement, the employees must be given two (2) notices before their employment could be terminated: (1) a first notice to apprise the employees of their fault, and (2) a second notice to communicate to the employees that their employment is being terminated. In between the first and second notice, the employees should be given a hearing or opportunity to defend themselves personally 55 or by counsel of their choice. A careful examination of the records revealed that, indeed, OAB's manner of dismissing Gran fell short of the two notice requirement. While it furnished Gran the written notice informing him of his dismissal, it failed to furnish Gran the written notice apprising him of the charges against him, as prescribed by the 56 Labor Code. Consequently, he was denied the opportunity to respond to said notice. In addition, OAB did not schedule a hearing or conference with Gran to defend himself and adduce evidence in support of his defenses. Moreover, the July 9, 1994 termination letter was effective on the same day. This shows that OAB had already condemned Gran to dismissal, even before Gran was furnished the termination letter. It should also be pointed out that OAB failed to give Gran the chance to be heard and to defend himself with the assistance of a representative in accordance with Article 277 of the Labor Code. Clearly, there was no intention to provide Gran with due process. Summing up, Gran was notified and his employment arbitrarily terminated on the same day, through the same letter, and for unjustified grounds. Obviously, Gran was not afforded due process. Pursuant to the doctrine laid down in Agabon, an employer is liable to pay nominal damages as indemnity for violating the employee's right to statutory due process. Since OAB was in breach of the due process requirements under the Labor Code and its regulations, OAB, ESI, and EDI, jointly and solidarily, are liable to Gran in the amount of PhP 30,000.00 as indemnity. Fifth and Last Issue: Gran is Entitled to Backwages We reiterate the rule that with regard to employees hired for a fixed period of employment, in cases 58 arising before the effectivity of R.A. No. 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act) on August 25, 1995, that when the contract is for a fixed term and the employees are dismissed without just cause, they are entitled to the payment of their salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of their 59 contract. On the other hand, for cases arising after the effectivity of R.A. No. 8042, when the termination of employment is without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every 60 year of the unexpired term whichever is less. In the present case, the employment contract provides that the employment contract shall be valid for a 61 period of two (2) years from the date the employee starts to work with the employer. Gran arrived in 62 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and started to work on February 7, 1994; hence, his employment contract is until February 7, 1996. Since he was illegally dismissed on July 9, 1994, before the effectivity of R.A. No. 8042, he is therefore entitled to backwages corresponding to the unexpired portion of his contract, which was equivalent to USD 16,150.
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Petitioner EDI questions the legality of the award of backwages and mainly relies on the Declaration which is claimed to have been freely and voluntarily executed by Gran. The relevant portions of the Declaration are as follows: I, ELEAZAR GRAN (COMPUTER SPECIALIST) AFTER RECEIVING MY FINAL SETTLEMENT ON THIS DATE THE AMOUNT OF: S.R. 2,948.00 (SAUDI RIYALS TWO THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FORTY EIGHT ONLY) REPRESENTING COMPLETE PAYMENT (COMPENSATION) FOR THE SERVICES I RENDERED TO OAB ESTABLISHMENT. I HEREBY DECLARE THAT OAB EST. HAS NO FINANCIAL OBLIGATION IN MY FAVOUR AFTER RECEIVING THE ABOVE MENTIONED AMOUNT IN CASH. I STATE FURTHER THAT OAB EST. HAS NO OBLIGATION TOWARDS ME IN WHATEVER FORM. I ATTEST TO THE TRUTHFULNESS OF THIS STATEMENT BY AFFIXING MY SIGNATURE VOLUNTARILY. SIGNED. ELEAZAR GRAN Courts must undertake a meticulous and rigorous review of quitclaims or waivers, more particularly those executed by employees. This requirement was clearly articulated by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban in Land and Housing Development Corporation v. Esquillo: Quitclaims, releases and other waivers of benefits granted by laws or contracts in favor of workers should be strictly scrutinized to protect the weak and the disadvantaged . The waivers should be carefully examined, in regard not only to the words and terms used, but also the 63 factual circumstances under which they have been executed. (Emphasis supplied.) This Court had also outlined in Land and Housing Development Corporation, citing Periquet v. 64 NLRC, the parameters for valid compromise agreements, waivers, and quitclaims: Not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and represents a reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned simply because of a change of mind. It is only where there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person, or the terms of settlement are unconscionable on its face, that the law will step in to annul the questionable transaction. But where it is shown that the person making the waiver did so voluntarily, with full understanding of what he was doing, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking. (Emphasis supplied.) Is the waiver and quitclaim labeled a Declaration valid? It is not. The Court finds the waiver and quitclaim null and void for the following reasons: 1. The salary paid to Gran upon his termination, in the amount of SR 2,948.00, is unreasonably low. As correctly pointed out by the court a quo, the payment of SR 2,948.00 is even lower than his monthly salary of SR 3,190.00 (USD 850.00). In addition, it is also very much less than the USD 16,150.00 which is the amount Gran is legally entitled to get from petitioner EDI as backwages. 2. The Declaration reveals that the payment of SR 2,948.00 is actually the payment for Gran's salary for the services he rendered to OAB as Computer Specialist. If the Declaration is a quitclaim, then the consideration should be much much more than the monthly salary of SR 3,190.00 (USD 850.00) although possibly less than the estimated Gran's salaries for the remaining duration of his contract and other benefits as employee of OAB. A quitclaim will understandably be lower than the sum total of the amounts and benefits that can possibly be awarded to employees or to be earned for the remainder of the contract period since it is a compromise where the employees will have to forfeit a certain portion of the amounts they are claiming in exchange for the early payment of a compromise amount. The court may

however step in when such amount is unconscionably low or unreasonable although the employee voluntarily agreed to it. In the case of the Declaration, the amount is unreasonably small compared to the future wages of Gran. 3. The factual circumstances surrounding the execution of the Declaration would show that Gran did not voluntarily and freely execute the document. Consider the following chronology of events: a. On July 9, 1994, Gran received a copy of his letter of termination; b. On July 10, 1994, Gran was instructed to depart Saudi Arabia and required to pay his plane 65 ticket; c. On July 11, 1994, he signed the Declaration; d. On July 12, 1994, Gran departed from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and e. On July 21, 1994, Gran filed the Complaint before the NLRC. The foregoing events readily reveal that Gran was "forced" to sign the Declaration and constrained to receive the amount of SR 2,948.00 even if it was against his will since he was told on July 10, 1994 to leave Riyadh on July 12, 1994. He had no other choice but to sign the Declaration as he needed the amount of SR 2,948.00 for the payment of his ticket. He could have entertained some apprehensions as to the status of his stay or safety in Saudi Arabia if he would not sign the quitclaim. 4. The court a quo is correct in its finding that the Declaration is a contract of adhesion which should be construed against the employer, OAB. An adhesion contract is contrary to public policy as it leaves the weaker partythe employeein a "take-it-or-leave-it" situation. Certainly, the employer is being unjust to the employee as there is no meaningful choice on the part of the employee while the terms are 66 unreasonably favorable to the employer. Thus, the Declaration purporting to be a quitclaim and waiver is unenforceable under Philippine laws in the absence of proof of the applicable law of Saudi Arabia. In order to prevent disputes on the validity and enforceability of quitclaims and waivers of employees under Philippine laws, said agreements should contain the following: 1. A fixed amount as full and final compromise settlement; 2. The benefits of the employees if possible with the corresponding amounts, which the employees are giving up in consideration of the fixed compromise amount; 3. A statement that the employer has clearly explained to the employee in English, Filipino, or in the dialect known to the employeesthat by signing the waiver or quitclaim, they are forfeiting or relinquishing their right to receive the benefits which are due them under the law; and 4. A statement that the employees signed and executed the document voluntarily, and had fully understood the contents of the document and that their consent was freely given without any threat, violence, duress, intimidation, or undue influence exerted on their person. It is advisable that the stipulations be made in English and Tagalog or in the dialect known to the employee. There should be two (2) witnesses to the execution of the quitclaim who must also sign the quitclaim. The document should be subscribed and sworn to under oath preferably before any administering official of the Department of Labor and Employment or its regional office, the Bureau of Labor Relations, the NLRC or a labor attach in a foreign country. Such official shall assist the parties 67 regarding the execution of the quitclaim and waiver. This compromise settlement becomes final and binding under Article 227 of the Labor Code which provides that: [A]ny compromise settlement voluntarily agreed upon with the assistance of the Bureau of Labor Relations or the regional office of the DOLE, shall be final and binding upon the parties and the NLRC or any court "shall not assume jurisdiction over issues involved therein except in case of non-compliance thereof or if there is prima facieevidence that the settlement was obtained through fraud, misrepresentation, or coercion.

It is made clear that the foregoing rules on quitclaim or waiver shall apply only to labor contracts of OFWs in the absence of proof of the laws of the foreign country agreed upon to govern said contracts. Otherwise, the foreign laws shall apply. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The October 18, 2000 Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 56120 of the Court of Appeals affirming the January 15, 1999 Decision and September 30, 1999 Resolution of the NLRC is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner EDI-Staffbuilders International, Inc. shall pay the amount of PhP 30,000.00 to respondent Gran as nominal damages for non-compliance with statutory due process. No costs.

G.R. No. 144786

April 15, 2004

PHIL. EMPLOY SERVICES and RESOURCES, INC., petitioner, vs. JOSEPH PARAMIO, RONALD NAVARRA, ROMEL SARMIENTO, RECTO GUILLERMO, FERDINAND BAUTISTA and APOLINARIO CURAMENG, JR., respondents.

The issues for resolution are the following: (a) whether or not the respondents were illegally dismissed; and (b) whether or not the deed of release and quitclaim executed by respondent Navarra was valid. Ordinarily, factual findings of labor officials who are deemed to have acquired expertise in matters within their respective jurisdictions are generally accorded not only respect but even finality, and are binding 52 upon this Court. However, when the findings of the labor arbiter and the NLRC are inconsistent, there is a need to review the records to determine which of them should be preferred as more conformable to the 53 evidentiary facts. Considering that the CAs findings of fact clash with those of the NLRC, this Court is 54 compelled to go over the records of the case, as well as the submissions of the parties. Anent the first issue, the petitioner insists that the dismissal of the respondents was based on valid and legal grounds. Consequently, the award of salaries for the unexpired portion of their respective contracts, and the refund of placement fee and airfare was barren of factual and legal basis. We rule that the respondents dismissal was not based on just, valid and legal grounds. Preliminarily, it bears stressing that the respondents who filed complaints for illegal dismissal against the petitioner were overseas Filipino workers whose employment contracts were approved by the Philippine and Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and were entered into and perfected here in the Philippines. As such, the rulelex loci contractus (the law of the place where the contract is made) governs. Therefore, the Labor Code, its implementing rules and regulations, and other laws affecting labor, apply in 55 this case. In order to effect a valid dismissal of an employee, the law requires that there be just and valid cause as 56 provided in Article 282 and that the employee was afforded an opportunity to be heard and to defend 57 himself. Dismissal may also be based on any of the authorized causes provided for in Articles 283 and 58 284 of the Labor Code. The petitioner contends that the termination of respondent Paramios employment was sanctioned by paragraph 8.2, Nos. 5 and 6, Article VIII of the employment contract. The aforesaid provisions are herein reproduced: 8.2 In the event the Employee is found offend (sic) one of the following prohibitions during his/her employment, Employer may terminate this Employment contract and repatriate him/her to his/her country of origin. Employee shall comply immediately without objection and assume the cost of round-trip transportation by air to and from R.O.C. unconditionally. In the event Employer or any other person pay the airfare for the Employee, Employee shall reimburse the fare to the person who paid it.

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(5) During the period of employment, being found out suffering HIV positive anti-body or other disease, heavily wounded or stool parasite, which cannot be cured within one month. (6) Being found losing ability to work. The foregoing provision is akin to Article 284 of the Labor Code, which provides: Art. 284. Disease as a ground for termination An employer may terminate the services of an employee who has been found to be suffering from any disease and whose continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health as well as the health of his coemployees: Furthermore, Section 8, Rule 1, Book VI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code provides, thus: Sec. 8. Disease as a ground for dismissal - Where the employee suffers from a disease and his continued employment is prohibited by law or prejudicial to his health or to the health of his coemployees, the employer shall not terminate his employment unless there is a certification by competent public authority that the disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months with proper medical treatment. If the disease or ailment can be cured within the period, the employer shall not terminate the employee but shall ask the employee to take a leave. The employer shall reinstate such employee to his former position immediately upon the restoration of his normal health. Applying the law and the rule, the employer is burdened to prove that the employee was suffering from a disease which prevented his continued employment, or that the employees wound prevented his continued employment. Section 8, Rule 1, Book VI of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code 59 requires a certification from competent public authority that the employee was heavily wounded and had lost the ability to work. In the case at bar, the petitioner did not adduce in evidence a certification from a public authority to the effect that respondent Paramio had been heavily wounded. It also failed to show that by reason of his thumb injury, he lost the ability to work. Respondent Paramio was not, for a time, able to perform the backbreaking tasks required by his manager. However, despite his injury, he managed to perform the other tasks assigned to him, including carrying of 30-kilogram containers with the exception of the work in 60 the Lupo Department. The fact that respondent Paramio was assigned to perform the second hardest and heaviest task in the company shows the heartlessness of the companys manager. Despite his wound, the respondent tried to accomplish the work assigned to him. The least the manager should have done was to assign the respondent to a lighter task, until such time that the latters wound had completely healed. It must be stressed where there is no showing of a clear, valid and legal cause for the termination 61 of employment, the law considers the matter a case of illegal dismissal. Consequently, respondent Paramio is entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less under paragraph 5, Section 10 of Rep. Act No. 8042. Section 10. Money Claims In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is 62 less. In Skippers Pacific, Inc. v. Mira, we ruled that an overseas Filipino worker who is illegally terminated shall be entitled to his salary equivalent to the unexpired portion of his employment contract if such contract is less than one year. However, if his contract is for a period of at least one year, he is entitled to receive his salaries equivalent to the unexpired portion of his contract, or three months salary for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is lower. In Marsaman Manning Agency, Inc. v. NLRC,
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involving Section 10 of Rep. Act No. 8042, we held:

[W]e cannot subscribe to the view that private respondent is entitled to three (3) months salary loan only. A plain reading of Sec. 10 clearly reveals that the choice of which amount to award an

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illegally dismissed overseas contract worker, i.e., whether his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or three (3) months salary for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less, comes into play only when the employment contract concerned has a term of at least one (1) year or more. This is evident from the words "for every year of the unexpired term" which follows the words "salaries x x x for three months." To follow petitio ners thinking that private respondent is entitled to three (3) months salary only simply because it is the lesser amount is to completely disregard and overlook some words used in the statute while giving effect to some. This is contrary to the well-established rule in legal hermeneutics that interpreting a statute, care should be taken that every part or word thereof be given effect since the lawmaking body is presumed to know the meaning of the words employed in the statute and to have used them advisedly. Ut res magis valeat quam pereat. Respondent Paramio was deployed on December 6, 1996. His contract was for a period of twelve 66 months or one year. He was repatriated on September 23, 1997, approximately two months from the 67 expiration of his contract. Since the termination of his employment was not based on any valid or legal ground, he is entitled to the payment of his salary equivalent to the unexpired portion of his contract. He is likewise entitled to full reimbursement of his placement fee. Based on the record, respondent Paramio 68 paid a placement fee of P19,000. Thus, he should be reimbursed the amount of P19,000 with 12% interest per annum. Similarly, the petitioner failed to substantiate its claim that respondent Navarras repatriation was based on a valid, legal and just cause. The petitioner merely alleged that it was made clear to respondent 69 Navarra that his repatriation was due to the fight he had with his supervisor. Contrary to the allegation of the petitioner, respondent Navarra denied this in his affidavit, as well as in his reply to the position paper of the petitioner. Respondent Navarra asserted that he merely enforced his rights under the employment contract when he requested, time and again, that the provisions of his contract regarding the 70 accommodation be fulfilled. The claim of petitioner that respondent Navarra shouted invectives against 71 his supervisor was, likewise, unsubstantiated. The petitioner did not even present an affidavit of the superior with whom the respondent reportedly fought. Indeed, while fighting a supervisor may constitute 72 serious misconduct and may, consequently, be considered a ground for dismissal, in light of the petitioners failure to adduce substantial evidence to prove its claim that resp ondent Navarra fought his supervisor, this ground cannot be used to justify the dismissal. Thus, the termination of respondent Navarras employment was without factual and legal basis. Respondent Navarra was deployed on November 6, 1996. He was repatriated on May 10, 1997, approximately five months prior to the expiration of his one-year contract. Considering our ruling 74 in Marsamman Manning Agency v. NLRC, he shall be entitled to an amount equivalent to three months 75 salary, or NT$46,080. Similarly, having admitted that he paid a placement fee of P19,000 only, he is entitled to be fully reimbursed therefore, plus 12% interest per annum. As to the other respondents, the petitioner alleges that they refused to go to work and, in fact, voluntarily 76 resigned. It appended the daily time records of respondents Apolinario, Sarmiento, Ferdinand (Bautista) 77 and Recto (Guillermo), as well as the resignation letters of Bautista and Sarmiento, and Curameng, Jr.s written agreement with their employer. We do not agree. The records reveal that the three respondents agreed to execute the foregoing because they could no longer bear the working conditions in their place of employment. Despite protestations to their employer and the attempt to seek help from the OWWA in Taiwan, they were victims to the following acts/omissions of their employer: a). Irregular and deliberate charging of deductions which were not fully accounted such as the blankets issued, charging of penalties amounting to 400 NT to all employees for a littering violation attributable only to one employee; b). Mandatory imposition of overtime work exceeding 10 hours without just overtime compensation and night shift differentials; c). Failure to comply with some stipulations stated in the Employment Contract particularly those relating to the accommodation and lodging of the contracted workers; d). Lack of observance of safety precautions at work area . 1. They dont give us day off.
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2. They feed us once a day. 3. They even let us work without rest. 4. Their (sic) were so many deductions in our salaries like payment for our boarding house, electricity and garbage fee. 5. The money they were sending to the Philippines was also reduced with the amount ranging 79 from P2000 to P5000. The petitioner failed to adduce substantial evidence to overcome the evidence of the respondents as contained in their respective affidavits. Contrary to the petitioners claim, the said affidavits are not hearsay evidence. The respondents were the victims of the abuses of their employer; as such, they had personal knowledge of the contents of their affidavits. Moreover, when there is a doubt between the 80 evidence presented by the employer and the employee, such doubt should be resolved in favor of labor. On the letters of resignation of respondents Sarmiento, Bautista and the agreement of Curameng, Jr., we agree with the ruminations of the appellate court, viz: It is not necessary that there be an express termination of ones services before a case of illegal dismissal can exist. In the landmark case of Philippine Japan Active Carbon Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. (171 SCRA 164) the Supreme Court ruled that "a constructive discharge is defined as: "A quitting because continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely." In the case at bar, the petitioners were made to suffer unbearable conditions in the workplace and the inhuman treatment of their employer until they were left with no choice but to quit. Thus, it cannot be said that the resignation and repatriation of complainants Curameng, Bautista, Sarmienta and Guillermo was voluntary. It was held in the case of Valdez vs. NLRC, 286 SCRA 87: "It would have been illogical for herein petitioner to resign and then file a complaint for illegal dismissal. Resignation is inconsistent with the filing of said complaint." Indeed, unlike the Valdez case where there was no pronouncement of resignation on the part of the complainant, there were written resignations submitted by the said petitioners in the case at bar. The more important consideration is whether such written resignations were made voluntarily. Based on the foregoing circumstances, it cannot be gainsaid that the instant complaint for illegal dismissal indicates that the resignations and repatriations of the petitioners were not done freely on their part. It is highly unlikely that these workers, after having invested so much time, effort and money to secure their employment abroad would just quit even before the expiration of their contract. We have more reason to rule that the repatriations of petitioners Paramio and Navarra were not 81 voluntary. We thus rule that the respondents were constructively dismissed from their employment. There is constructive dismissal if an act of clear discrimination, insensibility, or disdain by an employer becomes so unbearable on the part of the employee that it would foreclose any choice by him except to forego his 82 continued employment. It exists where there is cessation of work because "continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, as an offer involving a demotion in rank and a diminution 83 in pay." We find it incredible that, after all the expenses and the trouble they went through in seeking greener pastures and financial upliftment, and the concomitant tribulations of being separated from their families, the respondents would suddenly and without reason decide to resign, return home and be jobless once again. The respondents had no choice but to agree to their employers demand to sign and execute the respective agreements. They were stranded in a foreign land, with their remunerations considerably diminished by numerous illegal deductions. Their plight was all the more made unbearable by the inhumane working conditions. We note that the agreement signed by respondent Curameng, Jr. was mimeographed and prepared by his employer. Except for his handwritten name, the words "Im go (sic) very verry (sic)" and his signature at the bottom of the document, the rest of the spaces to be filled up were all blank. Most of the contents of the agreement were even in Chinese characters.

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In sum, there can be no other conclusion than that the aforementioned respondents were illegally dismissed, and their employment contract illegally terminated. Under Section 10, paragraph 5 of Rep. Act No. 8042, respondents Sarmiento, Bautista, Curameng and Guillermo are entitled to the full reimbursement of their placement fees. Since each of the respondents remitted only P19,000 to the petitioner, each of them is entitled to P19,000, plus 12% interest per annum. According to Section 10, paragraph 2 of Rep. Act No. 8042, the agency which deployed the employees whose employment contract were adjudged illegally terminated, shall be jointly and solidarily liable with the principal for the money claims awarded to the aforesaid employees. Consequently, the petitioner, as the agency of the respondents, is solidarily liable with its principal Kuan Yuan for the payment of the salaries due to the respondents corresponding to the unexpired portion of their contract, as well as the reimbursement of their placement fees. Under Section 15 of the same Act, the repatriation of the worker and the transport of his personal belongings shall be the primary responsibility of the agency which recruited or deployed the overseas contract worker. All the costs attendant thereto shall be borne by the agency concerned and/or its 85 principal. Consequently, the petitioner is obliged to refund P4,300 to each of the respondents, representing their airfare. Anent the second issue, we rule that the deed of release executed by respondent Navarra did not completely release the petitioner from its liability on the latters claim. As a rule, quitclaims, waivers or releases are looked upon with disfavor and are commonly frowned upon as contrary to public policy and 86 ineffective to bar claims for the measure of a workers legal rights. If (a) there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person; or (b) the terms of the settlement are 87 unconscionable, and on their face invalid, such quitclaims must be struck down as invalid or illegal. The records reveal that respondent Navarra executed a deed of release and waiver for and in 88 consideration of only P49,000. There is no evidence that he was informed that he was entitled to much more than the said amount, including a refund for the placement fee he paid to the petitioner. Respondent Navarra started working on November 7, 1996. His employment contract was for a period of one year. He was repatriated on May 10, 1997, or after a little over six months. The unexpired portion of his contract is, thus, five months and 27 days. Per Section 10, paragraph 5 of Rep. Act No. 8042, he is entitled to the 89 payment of three months salary or NT$46,080 and P19,000 placement fee, plus interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum. We, thus, agree with the ruling of the appellate court, viz.: With regard to the deed of quitclaim and acceptance, it is a well-settled principle that the law does not consider as valid any agreement to receive less compensation than what a worker is entitled to recover nor prevent him from demanding benefits to which he is entitled. Quitclaims executed are ineffective to bar recovery for the full measure of the workers rights ( Medina vs. Consolidated Broadcasting System (CBS)-DZWX, 222 SCRA 707). The reason why quitclaims are commonly frowned upon as contrary to public policy and they are ineffective to bar claims for the full measure of the workers legal rights is because the employer and employee do not stand on the same footing, such that quitclaims usually take the form of contracts of adherence, not of choice. (Wyeth-Suaco Laboratories, Inc. vs. NLRC, 219 SCRA 356). Assuming arguendo that the quitclaim was executed voluntarily, still, it cannot diminish petitioners entitlement to the full compensation provided in their contract. At the most, such amount can be considered an 90 advance on his claim. In sum, we rule that the termination of the respondents respective contracts of employment was illegal. Pursuant to Section 10, paragraph 5, Rep. Act No. 8042, each of them is entitled to the full reimbursement of the placement fee of P19,000, and interest at 12% per annum. Respondent Navarra is, likewise, entitled to the payment of an amount equivalent to three (3) months salary. All the remaining respondents are entitled to payment of their salaries, equivalent to three months. Pursuant to Section 15 of Rep. Act No. 8042, the petitioner should refund the amount of P4,300 to each of the respondents representing the expenses they incurred for their repatriation. IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 54744 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATIONS. The petitioner is ordered to pay the following: (1) The amount of NT$46,080 or its peso equivalent to respondent Ronald Navarra minus the amount of P49,000 already advanced to him;
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(2) To the respondents Romel Sarmiento, Recto Guillermo, Ferdinand Bautista, Apolinario Curameng, Jr. and Joseph Paramio, their respective salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of their respective contracts; (3) The amount of the placement fees as indicated in the respective official receipts issued to each of the respondents, with interest of 12% per annum, in conformity with Section 10, paragraph 5 of Rep. Act No. 8042; (4) To each of the respondents, the amount of P4,300 representing the expenses they incurred for their return to the Philippines. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 151303. April 15, 2005 ATHENNA INTERNATIONAL MANPOWER SERVICES, INC., Petitioners, vs. NONITO VILLANOS, Respondents
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Hence, the instant appeal, raising the following issues: 1. Did the respondent voluntarily resign or was he illegally dismissed? 2. Assuming that the respondent was illegally dismissed, was it proper for the Court of Appeals to affirm in toto the monetary awards in the Decision of the Labor Arbiter, especially: (a) the award of his supposed salaries for the entire unexpired portion of his employment contract, i.e., NT$348,480.00 and 8 (b) the award of "remittance of placement fee" in the amount of P99,110.00? Anent the first issue, petitioner insists that respondent was not illegally dismissed but voluntarily resigned; that respondent failed to prove that he was made to work as hydraulic installer/repairer instead of a caretaker; and that the documents he adduced were self-serving and immaterial. Petitioner further contends that although the resignation of respondent was in a pre-printed form, it did not mean his resignation was involuntary. The requirement that the employer has the burden of proof that the employee was illegally dismissed is, says petitioner, applicable only when the fact of dismissal is established. Petitioner submits that, in this case, respondent bore the burden of proving that his resignation was involuntary. For his part, respondent avers that he did not resign voluntarily but, he was asked to sign a letter of resignation. Furthermore, he avers that petitioner did not explain why he was unqualified. Neither was he 9 informed of any qualifications needed for the job prior to his deployment, as mandated by Article 281 of the Labor Code. Respondent points out that the allegation he resigned voluntarily is belied by petitioners own admission in its position paper that he was, in fact, found unfit for the job. He maintains that his purported resignation was obviously inconsistent with his filing a complaint for illegal dismissal against petitioner. After a thorough consideration of the submissions of the parties, we find no persuasive grounds nor substantial basis to reverse the decision and the resolution of the appellate court. An employee voluntarily resigns when he finds himself in a situation where he believes that personal reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service; thus, he has no other choice but to 10 disassociate himself from his employment. Records show that upon his repatriation from Taiwan, respondent immediately went to petitioners office and confronted its representative, Lorenza Ching, about the assignment given to him which was contrary to the agreed position of caretaker, for which he specifically applied. He demanded that he be reimbursed the P30,000 he paid as downpayment. When refused, he lodged a complaint with the POEA. He also immediately filed a complaint for illegal dismissal before Labor Arbiter Cresencio R. Iniego, upon his arrival in his hometown, indicating that respondent did not voluntarily resign, but was forced to resign, 11 which was tantamount to a dismissal. Petitioner did not refute respondents contentions regarding these

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incidents. Further, it failed to prove the legality of the dismissal, despite the fact that the burden of proof lies on the employment and recruitment agency. Thus, the presumption stands to the effect that respondent was illegally dismissed by his employer. Even assuming respondent was a mere probationary employee as claimed by petitioner, respondent could only be terminated for a pertinent and just cause, such as when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards of employment made known to him by his employer 12 at the time of his engagement. Here, it appears that the petitioner failed to prove that, at the time of respondents engagement, the employers reasonable s tandards for the job were made known to respondent. Moreover, in this case, respondent was assigned to a job different from the one he applied and was hired for. On the second issue. Petitioner claims that Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042, entitles respondent only to six months worth of the unserved portion of his employment contract; and that the order to refund the amount ofP99,110 as placement fee has no factual basis because respondent himself admitted he only paid P30,000 as placement fee, albeit, he was assessed the amount of P94,000. Respondent counters that he worked for only a month because he was hastily and unceremoniously terminated; and that he was entitled to his salary corresponding to the remaining portion of the employment contract. Further, he demands full reimbursement of the P30,000 he paid as placement fee. Pertinent to this issue is Section 10 of Rep. Act No. 8042 SEC. 10. Money Claims. - . . . In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. ... Thus, for the computation of the lump-sum salary due an illegally dismissed overseas employee, there are two clauses as points of reckoning: first is the cumulative salary for the unexpired portion of his employment; and the other is the grant of three months salary for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is lesser. Since respondent was dismissed after only one month of service, the unexpired portion of his contract is admittedly one year, nine months and twenty-eight days. But the applicable clause is not the first but the second: three months salary for every year of the unexpired term, as the lesser amount, hence it is what is due the respondent. Note that the fraction of nine months and twenty-eight days is considered as one whole year following the Labor Code. Thus, respondents lump-sum salary should be computed as follows: 3 months x 2 (years) = 6 months worth of salary 6 months x (NT$) 15,840 = NT$95,040, subject to proper conversion to Philippine currency by Labor Arbiter Cresencio Iniego. Under the aforequoted provision, an illegally dismissed overseas worker is also entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum. We note that while respondent was assessed P94,000 in placement fee, he paid only P30,000 on the agreement that the balance of P64,000 would be paid on a monthly salary deduction upon his deployment. Hence, we cannot grant respondent reimbursement of the entire assessed amount of P94,000. He is only entitled to the reimbursement of the amount of placement fee he actually paid, which is the P30,000 he gave as downpayment plus interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum. Lastly, because of the breach of contract and bad faith alleged against the employer and the petitioner, we must sustain the award of P50,000 in moral damages and P50,000 as exemplary damages, in addition to attorneys fees of ten percent (10%) of the aggregate monetary awards. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated May 23, 2001, and Resolution dated November 23, 2001, of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner Athenna
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International Manpower Services, Inc. is hereby DECLARED solidarily liable with Wei Yu Hsien to pay respondent NONITO VILLANOS the amount of NT$95,040.00, subject to proper conversion to Philippine currency, as unpaid salary of respondent equivalent to six months service under Rep. Act No. 8042, Section 10 as well as P50,000.00 in moral damages, and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages suffered by respondent; and ten percent (10%) of the aggregate monetary awards as attorneys fees, pursuant to law and jurisprudence. Petitioner herein is also ordered to pay respondent the amount of P30,000.00 as reimbursement of the placement fee, with 12% interest per annum until fully paid. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 148407 November 12, 2003

MA. LUISA OLARTE, doing business under the name and style, SUNACE INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES, Petitioners, vs. LEOCADIA NAYONA, Respondent. On September 14, 2000, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision affirming the NLRCs Decision dated October 29, 1999 and Resolution dated December 20, 1999. In holding that respondent was illegally dismissed from employment, the Appellate Court ratiocinated as follows: "Petitioner claims that the NLRC and Labor Arbiter Gambito committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in finding that private respondent was illegally dismissed as said finding was not supported by substantial evidence and there was misappreciation of facts by both public respondents. "The contention is without merit. In termination cases, the burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause shall rest on the employer. In this case, the petitioner miserably failed to prove that private respondent was legally terminated. After a careful scrutiny of the records of this case, we find no reason to disturb the NLRCs findings that private respondent was illegally dismissed. As aptly observed by the Labor Arbiter and affirmed by the NLRC: In the instant case, respondents failed to substantiate their defense that com plainant was unfit for work and incapable of performing the tasks assigned to her. Nothing was presented as evidence to bolster their allegation; not even copies of the alleged warnings that they sent her which allegedly remained ignored (pp. 61 & 182, Records). "It is likewise evident that petitioner failed to comply with the twin-requirement of notice and hearing which constitutes the essential elements of due process, thus making private respondents dismissal illegal. Petitioner never gave private respondent any chance to know why she was repatriated. She was suddenly fetched by Tseng Wen making her believe that she will only be given another employment. She never knew the reason, it ever there was, why she was dismissed and brought back to the Philippines. "It is a settled rule that "if the contract is for a fixed term and the employee is dismissed without just cause, he is entitled to the payment of his salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of his contract." In this case, as private-respondents contract was for one year and her dismissal was not for a just cause, hence, she is entitled to her salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion of her contract. The NLRC, therefore, correctly awarded private respondent the amount which is equivalent to the unexpired portion of her contract as well as her unpaid salary.1wphi1 "The claim that public respondent NLRC abused its discretion when it ordered the refund of the placement fee of P 23,000.00, when the official receipt (Exhibit "N") which is the best evidence as to the payment of the placement fee of private respondent Nayona, only states P 20,840.00, holds no water. As correctly ruled by the Labor Arbiter: x x x. Moreover, we do not believe that the complainant paid a placement fee of only P 5 ,000.00 as shown in Annex "1" of respondents position paper. Recruitment agencies are allowed to collect placement fees not exceeding P 5,000.00 as required by the POEA. However, applicants pay more but their payments are not reflected in the receipts issued to them by these agencies. "x x x "Private respondent having been illegally dismissed and not paid the wages due her from the foreign employer, the liabilities arising as a consequence thereof shall attach to petitioner.

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"x x x WHEREFORE, the Decision dated October 29, 1999 and Resolution dated December 20, 1999 of the National Labor Relations Commission are hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED." On May 31, 2001, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution denying the respondents motion for reconsideration. Petitioners, in the instant petition for review on certiorari, vigorously assert that the Court of Appeals erred 6 in interpreting Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042 on the amount of the salary which should be awarded to an illegally dismissed overseas contract worker. Section 10 of RA 8042 partly provides: "x x x "In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, the worker shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest at twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. "x x x." A plain reading of the above provision clearly reveals that the choice of which amount to award an illegally dismissed overseas contract worker comes into play only when the employment contract has a term of at least one (1) year or more. We are not in accord with the ruling of the labor tribunals and the Court of Appeals that respondent should be paid her salaries for the unexpired portion of her employment contract. Records show that her actual employment was only for twenty-one (21) days. Following the above provision, we hold that she is entitled only to an amount corresponding to her three (3) months salary, which is obviously less than her salaries for the unexpired portion of her one-year employment contract. WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision dated September 14, 2000 and Resolution dated May 31, 2001 of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in the sense that petitioner is ordered to pay respondent (NT) $47,520.00, or its peso equivalent, corresponding to her three (3) months salary, and to reimburse her placement fee of P23,000.00, with legal interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum. SO ORDERED.

G.R. Nos. 182978-79

April 7, 2009

BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER AND PROMOTION, INC., Petitioner, vs. SPOUSES SIMPLICIO and MILA CUARESMA (for and in behalf of their daughter, Jasmin G. Cuaresma), WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC. and JAIME ORTIZ (President,White Falcon Services, Inc.), Respondents. x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x G.R. Nos. 184298-99 April 7, 2009

SPOUSES SIMPLICIO and MILA CUARESMA (for and in behalf of their daughter, Jasmin G. Cuaresma),Petitioners, vs. WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC. and BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER AND PROMOTION, INC., Respondents. The issue for resolution is whether the Cuaresmas are entitled to monetary claims, by way of benefits and damages, for the death of their daughter Jasmin.

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The terms and conditions of Jasmins 1996 Employment Agreement which she and her employer Rajab freely entered into constitute the law between them. As a rule, stipulations in an employment contract not contrary to statutes, public policy, public order or morals have the force of law between the contracting 18 parties. An examination of said employment agreement shows that it provides for no other monetary or other benefits/privileges than the following: 1. 1,300 rials (or US$247.00) monthly salary; 2. Free air tickets to KSA at the start of her contract and to the Philippines at the end thereof, as well as for her vacation at the end of each twenty four-month service; 3. Transportation to and from work; 4. Free living accommodations; 5. Free medical treatment, except for optical and dental operations, plastic surgery charges and lenses, and medical treatment obtained outside of KSA; 6. Entry visa fees will be shared equally between her and her employer, but the exit/re-entry visa fees, fees for Iqama issuance, renewal, replacement, passport renewal, sponsorship transfer and other liabilities shall be borne by her; 7. Thirty days paid vacation leave with round trip tickets to Manila after twenty four-months of continuous service; 8. Eight days public holidays per year; 9. The indemnity benefit due her at the end of her service will be calculated as per labor laws of KSA. Thus, the agreement does not include provisions for insurance, or for accident, death or other benefits that the Cuaresmas seek to recover, and which the labor tribunals and appellate court granted variably in the guise of compensatory damages. However, the absence of provisions for social security and other benefits does not make Jasmins employment contract infirm. Under KSA law, her foreign employer is not obliged to provide her these benefits; and neither is Jasmin entitled to minimum wage unless of course the KSA labor laws have been amended to the opposite effect, or that a bilateral wage agreement has been entered into. Our next inquiry is, should Jasmins death be considered as work -connected and thus compensable? The evidence indicates that it is not. At the time of her death, she was not on duty, or else evidence to the contrary would have been adduced. Neither was she within hospital premises at the time. Instead, she was at her dormitory room on personal time when she died. Neither has it been shown, nor does the evidence suggest, that at the time she died, Jasmin was performing an act reasonably necessary or incidental to her employment as nurse, because she was at her dormitory room. It is reasonable to suppose that all her work is performed at the Al-birk Hospital, and not at her dormitory room. We cannot expect that the foreign employer should ensure her safety even while she is not on duty. It is not fair to require employers to answer even for their employees personal time away from work, which the latter are free to spend of their own choosing. Whether they choose to spend their free time in the pursuit of safe or perilous undertakings, in the company of friends or strangers, lovers or enemies, this is not one area which their employers should be made accountable for. While we have emphasized the 19 need to observe official work time strictly, what an employee does on free time is beyond the employers sphere of inquiry. While the "employers premises" may be defined very broadly not only to include premises owned by it, 20 but also premises it leases, hires, supplies or uses, we are not prepared to rule that the dormitory wherein Jasmin stayed should constitute employers premises as would allow a findin g that death or injury therein is considered to have been incurred or sustained in the course of or arose out of her 21 employment. There are certainly exceptions, but they do not appear to apply here. Moreover, a complete determination would have to depend on the unique circumstances obtaining and the overall factual environment of the case, which are here lacking.

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But, did Jasmin commit suicide? Rajab, Becmen and White Falcon vehemently insist that she did; thus, her heirs may not claim benefits or damages based on criminal aggression. On the other hand, the Cuaresmas do not believe so. The Court cannot subscribe to the idea that Jasmin committed suicide while halfway into her employment contract. It is beyond human comprehension that a 25-year old Filipina, in the prime of her life and working abroad with a chance at making a decent living with a high-paying job which she could not find in her own country, would simply commit suicide for no compelling reason. The Saudi police and autopsy reports which state that Jasmin is a likely/or apparent victim of poisoning arepatently inconclusive. They are thus unreliable as evidence. On the contrary, the autopsy report of the Cabanatuan City Health Officer and the exhumation report of the NBI categorically and unqualifiedly show that Jasmin sustained external and internal injuries, specifically abrasions at her inner lip and gums; lacerated wounds and abrasions on her left and right ears; lacerated wounds and hematoma (contusions) on her elbows ; abrasions and hematoma on her thigh and legs; intra-muscular hemorrhage at the anterior chest; a fractured rib; puncture wounds; and abrasions on the labia minora of the vaginal area. The NBI toxicology report came up negative on the presence of poison. All these show that Jasmin was manhandled and possibly raped prior to her death. Even if we were to agree with the Saudi police and autopsy reports that indicate Jasmin was poisoned to death, we do not believe that it was self-induced. If ever Jasmin was poisoned, the assailants who beat her up and possibly raped her are certainly responsible therefor. We are not exactly ignorant of what goes on with our OFWs. Nor is the rest of the world blind to the realities of life being suffered by migrant workers in the hands of some foreign employers. It is inconceivable that our Filipina women would seek employment abroad and face uncertainty in a foreign land, only to commit suicide for unexplained reasons. Deciding to leave their family, loved ones, and the comfort and safety of home, to work in a strange land requires unrivaled strength and courage. Indeed, many of our women OFWs who are unfortunate to end up with undesirable employers have been there more times than they care to, beaten up and broken in body yet they have remained strong in mind, refusing to give up the will to live. Raped, burned with cigarettes, kicked in the chest with sharp highheeled shoes, starved for days or even weeks, stabbed, slaved with incessant work, locked in their rooms, forced to serve their masters naked, grossly debased, dehumanized and insulted, their spirits fought on and they lived for the day that they would once again be reunited with their families and loved ones. Their bodies surrendered, but their will to survive remained strong. It is surprising, therefore, that Rajab, Becmen and White Falcon should insist on suicide, without even lifting a finger to help solve the mystery of Jasmins death. Being in the business of sending OFWs to work abroad, Becmen and White Falcon should know what happens to some of our OFWs. It is impossible for them to be completely unaware that cruelties and inhumanities are inflicted on OFWs who are unfortunate to be employed by vicious employers, or upon those who work in communities or environments where they are liable to become victims of crime. By now they should know that our women OFWs do not readily succumb to the temptation of killing themselves even when assaulted, abused, starved, debased and, worst, raped. Indeed, what we have seen is Rajab and Becmens revolting scheme of conveniently avoiding responsibility by clinging to the absurd theory that Jasmin took her own life. Abandoning their legal, moral and social obligation (as employer and recruiter) to assist Jasmins family in obtaining justice for her death, they immediately gave up on Jasmins case, which has remained under investigation as the autopsy and police reports themselves indicate. Instead of taking the cudgels for Jasmin, who had no relative or representative in the KSA who would naturally demand and seek an investigation of her case, Rajab and Becmen chose to take the most convenient route to avoiding and denying liability, by casting Jasmins fate to oblivion. It appears from the record that to this date, no follow up of Jasmins case was ever made at all by them, and they seem to have expediently treated Jasmins death as a closed case. Despite being given the lead via the autopsy and toxicology reports of the Philippine authorities, they failed and refused to act and pursue justice for Jasmins sake and to restore honor to her name. Indeed, their nonchalant and uncaring attitude may be seen from how Jasmins remains were rep atriated. No official representative from Rajab or Becmen was kind enough to make personal representations with Jasmins parents, if only to extend their condolences or sympathies; instead, a mere colleague, nurse Jessie Fajardo, was designated to accompany Jasmins body home.

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Of all lifes tragedies, the death of ones own child must be the most painful for a parent. Not knowing why or how Jasmins life was snuffed out makes the pain doubly unbearable for Jasmins parents, and further aggravated by Rajab, Becmen, and White Falcons baseless insistence and accusation that it was a self inflicted death, a mortal sin by any religious standard. Thus we categorically hold, based on the evidence; the actual experiences of our OFWs; and the resilient and courageous spirit of the Filipina that transcends the vilest desecration of her physical self, that Jasmin did not commit suicide but a victim of murderous aggression. Rajab, Becmen, and White Falcons indifference to Jasmins case has caused unfathomable pain and suffering upon her parents. They have turned away from their moral obligation, as employer and recruiter and as entities laden with social and civic obligations in society, to pursue justice for and in behalf of Jasmin, her parents and those she left behind. Possessed with the resources to determine the truth and to pursue justice, they chose to stand idly for the sake of convenience and in order that they may avoid pecuniary liability, turning a blind eye to the Philippine authorities autopsy and toxicolo gy reports instead of taking action upon them as leads in pursuing justice for Jasmins death. They have placed their own financial and corporate interests above their moral and social obligations, and chose to secure and insulate themselves from the perceived responsibility of having to answer for and indemnify Jasmins heirs for her death. Under Republic Act No. 8042 (R.A. 8042), or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 22 1995, the State shall, at all times, uphold the dignity of its citizens whether in country or overseas, in 23 general, and Filipino migrant workers, in particular. The State shall provide adequate and timely social, 24 25 economic and legal services to Filipino migrant workers. The rights and interest of distressed overseas Filipinos, in general, and Filipino migrant workers, in particular, documented or undocumented, are 26 adequately protected and safeguarded. Becmen and White Falcon, as licensed local recruitment agencies, miserably failed to abide by the provisions of R.A. 8042. Recruitment agencies are expected to extend assistance to their deployed OFWs, especially those in distress. Instead, they abandoned Jasmins case and allowed it to remain unsolved to further their interests and avoid anticipated liability which parents or relatives of Jasmin would certainly exact from them. They willfully refused to protect and tend to the welfare of the deceased Jasmin, treating her case as just one of those unsolved crimes that is not worth wasting their time and resources on. The evidence does not even show that Becmen and Rajab lifted a finger to provide legal representation and seek an investigation of Jasmins case. Worst of all, they unnecessarily trampled upon the person and dignity of Jasmin by standing pat on the argument that Jasmin committed suicide, which is a grave accusation given its un-Christian nature. We cannot reasonably expect that Jasmins parents should be the ones to actively pursue a just resolution of her case in the KSA, unless they are provided with the finances to undertake this herculean task. Sadly, Becmen and Rajab did not lend any assistance at all in this respect. The most Jasmins parents can do is to coordinate with Philippine authorities as mandated under R.A. 8042, obtain free legal assistance and secure the aid of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, the POEA and the OWWA in trying to solve the case or obtain relief, in accordance with 27 Section 23 of R.A. 8042. To our mind, the Cuaresmas did all that was within their power, short of actually flying to the KSA. Indeed, the Cuaresmas went even further. To the best of their abilities and capacities, they ventured to investigate Jasmins case on their own: they caused another autopsy on Jasmins remains as soon as it arrived to inquire into the true cause of her death. Beyond that, they subjected themselves to the painful and distressful experience of exhuming Jasmins remains in order to obtain another autopsy for the sole purpose of determining whether or not their daughter was poisoned. Their quest for the truth and justice is equally to be expected of all loving parents. All this time, Rajab and Becmen instead of extending their full cooperation to the Cuaresma family merely sat on their laurels in seeming unconcern. In Interorient Maritime Enterprises, Inc. v. NLRC, a seaman who was being repatriated after his employment contract expired, failed to make his Bangkok to Manila connecting flight as he began to wander the streets of Bangkok aimlessly. He was shot to death by Thai police four days after, on account of running amuck with a knife in hand and threatening to harm anybody within sight. The employer, sued for death and other benefits as well as damages, interposed as defense the provision in the seafarer agreement which provides that "no compensation shall be payable in respect of any injury, incapacity, disability or death resulting from a willful act on his own life by the seaman." The Court rejected the defense on the view, among others, that the recruitment agency should have observed some precautionary measures and should not have allowed the seaman, who was later on found to be mentally ill, to travel home alone, and its failure to do so rendered it liable for the seamans death. We ruled therein that
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The foreign employer may not have been obligated by its contract to provide a companion for a returning employee, but it cannot deny that it was expressly tasked by its agreement to assure the safe return of said worker. The uncaring attitude displayed by petitioners who, knowing fully well that its employee had been suffering from some mental disorder, nevertheless still allowed him to travel home alone, is appalling to say the least. Such attitude harks back to another time when the landed gentry practically owned the serfs, and disposed of them when the latter had grown old, 29 sick or otherwise lost their usefulness. (Emphasis supplied) Thus, more than just recruiting and deploying OFWs to their foreign principals, recruitment agencies have equally significant responsibilities. In a foreign land where OFWs are likely to encounter uneven if not discriminatory treatment from the foreign government, and certainly a delayed access to language interpretation, legal aid, and the Philippine consulate, the recruitment agencies should be the first to come to the rescue of our distressed OFWs since they know the employers and the addresses where they are deployed or stationed. Upon them lies the primary obligation to protect the rights and ensure the welfare of our OFWs, whether distressed or not. Who else is in a better position, if not these recruitment agencies, to render immediate aid to their deployed OFWs abroad? Article 19 of the Civil Code provides that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. Article 21 of the Code states that any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. And, lastly, Article 24 requires that in all contractual, property or other relations, when one of the parties is at a disadvantage on account of his moral dependence, ignorance, indigence, mental weakness, tender age or other handicap, the courts must be vigilant for his protection. Clearly, Rajab, Becmen and White Falcons acts and omissions are again st public policy because they undermine and subvert the interest and general welfare of our OFWs abroad, who are entitled to full protection under the law. They set an awful example of how foreign employers and recruitment agencies should treat and act with respect to their distressed employees and workers abroad. Their shabby and callous treatment of Jasmins case; their uncaring attitude; their unjustified failure and refusal to assist in the determination of the true circumstances surrounding her mysterious death, and instead finding satisfaction in the unreasonable insistence that she committed suicide just so they can conveniently avoid pecuniary liability; placing their own corporate interests above of the welfare of their employees all these are contrary to morals, good customs and public policy, and constitute taking advantage of the poor employee and her familys ignorance, helplessness, indigence and lack of power and resources to seek the truth and obtain justice for the death of a loved one. Giving in handily to the idea that Jasmin committed suicide, and adamantly insisting on it just to protect Rajab and Becmens material interest despite evidence to the contrary is against the moral law and runs contrary to the good custom of not denouncing ones fellowmen for alleged grave wrongdoings that 30 undermine their good name and honor. Whether employed locally or overseas, all Filipino workers enjoy the protective mantle of Philippine labor and social legislation, contract stipulations to the contrary notwithstanding. This pronouncement is in keeping with the basic public policy of the State to afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed, and regulate the relations between workers and employers. This ruling is likewise rendered imperative by Article 17 of the Civil Code which states that laws which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon 31 in a foreign country. The relations between capital and labor are so impressed with public interest, and neither shall act 33 oppressively against the other, or impair the interest or convenience of the public. In case of doubt, all labor legislation and all labor contracts shall be construed in favor of the safety and decent living for the 34 laborer. The grant of moral damages to the employee by reason of misconduct on the part of the employer is 35 sanctioned by Article 2219 (10) of the Civil Code, which allows recovery of such damages in actions 36 referred to in Article 21. Thus, in view of the foregoing, the Court holds that the Cuaresmas are entitled to moral damages, which Becmen and White Falcon are jointly and solidarily liable to pay, together with exemplary damages for wanton and oppressive behavior, and by way of example for the public good. Private employment agencies are held jointly and severally liable with the foreign-based employer for any violation of the recruitment agreement or contract of employment. This joint and solidary liability imposed
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by law against recruitment agencies and foreign employers is meant to assure the aggrieved worker of 37 immediate and sufficient payment of what is due him. If the recruitment/placement agency is a juridical being, the corporate officers and directors and partners as the case may be, shall themselves be jointly 38 and solidarily liable with the corporation or partnership for the aforesaid claims and damages. White Falcons assumption of Becmens liability does not automatically result in Becmens freedom or 39 release from liability. This has been ruled in ABD Overseas Manpower Corporation v. NLRC. Instead, both Becmen and White Falcon should be held liable solidarily, without prejudice to each having the right to be reimbursed under the provision of the Civil Code that whoever pays for another may demand from 40 the debtor what he has paid. WHEREFORE, the Amended Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 14, 2008 in CA-G.R. SP No. 80619 and CA-G.R. SP No. 81030 is SET ASIDE. Rajab & Silsilah Company, White Falcon Services, Inc., Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc., and their corporate directors and officers are found jointly and solidarily liable and ORDERED to indemnify the heirs of Jasmin Cuaresma, spouses Simplicio and Mila Cuaresma, the following amounts: 1) TWO MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P2,500,000.00) as moral damages; 2) TWO MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P2,500,000.00) as exemplary damages; 3) Attorneys fees equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the total monetary award; and, 4) Costs of suit. SO ORDERED. CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice

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