Sunday, June 17, 2012

Moral and exemplary damages in labor cases


We are sharing the legal research part of a recent appeal memorandum we filed in a labor case, where our client won in the decision issued by the Arbiter but the same did not award moral and exemplary damages in favor of our client. In the partial appeal, we prayed for such an award.



X x x .

A.     THIS LIMITED/PARTIAL APPEAL ONLY WITH RESPECT TO THE ABSENCE OF AN AWARD OF MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES FOR THE MENTAL ANGUISH, ANXIETIES, HUMILIATION AND RIDICULE THAT X X X HAD SUFFERED BY REASON OF THE GROSS NEGLIGENCE, BAD FAITH, AND MALICE OF THE RESPODNENTS IN TERMINATING HIM AS A WORKER AND IN ORDER TO SERVE AS A LESSON TO SOCIETY.


This appeal is limited and partial only, i.e., with respect only to the absence of an award of MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES.

      Please note that the body and decretal of the Decision disposed of the issue of DAMAGES claimed and prayed for by X X X in his Complaint, Position Paper and Reply Position Paper  in a very short, terse, succinct, brief, and direct manner, thus:

      “All other claims are dismissed for lack of merit.”


      Note that it did not contain a RATIO DECINDENDI for such a holding or conclusion, contrary to the requirements, letter and spirit of the 1987 CONSTITUTION.  See Art. VIII, Sec. 14 of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

      SEC. 14. - No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.

No petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied without stating the legal basis therefor.


Article 2219 of the Civil Code provides for recovery of moral damages in certain cases:

Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:

X x x.

 (10) Acts and actions referred to in Articles 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, and 35.

X x x.”

     
ARTICLE 21 of the Civil Code provides that:

“Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage”.


X X X humbly submits that the respondents, by intentionally and maliciously committing the illegal act of UNLAWFUL DISMISSAL of his employment without just cause, without proper due process of law, and without respecting his right to counsel, had WILFULLY caused him LOSS OR INJURY, The loss involved his proprietary right to LIVELIHOOD AND EMPLOYMENT. The injury consisted of MENTRAL ANGUISH, BESMIRCHED RERPUTATION, PUBLIC RDICULE, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, AND EXTREME ANXIETIES as a human being. Such illegal and unjust act of the respondents was CONTRARY TO MORAK, GOOSD CUSTOMS AND PUBLIC POLICY.

They should therefore be held liable for MORAL DAMAGES jointly and severally.

This is also the mandate of Art. 2176 (in relation to Art. 2180) of the Civil Code on TORT AND DAMAGES, or QUASI-DELICT or culpa ACQUILLANA (based on GROSS NEGLIGENCE amounting to BAD FAITH AND MALICE).

ARTICLE 26 of the Civil Code provides that:

“Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

X x x.

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

X x x.”


      By committing the illegal act of UNJUST DISMISSAL of the worker X X X, the respondents violated his DIGNITY, PERSONALITY, AND PEACE OF MIND. They cause UNNECESSARY AND WRONGFUL INTRIGUES against his name, honor, and reputation as a worker and human being among his co-workers in the company, especially among his subordinates who looked up to him with respect.

ARTICLE 32 of the Civil Code provides:

“Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages:

X x x.

(8) The right to the equal protection of the laws;

X x x.
 (16) The right of the accused to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witness in his behalf;

(17) Freedom from being compelled to be a witness against one's self, or from being forced to confess guilt, or from being induced by a promise of immunity or reward to make such confession, except when the person confessing becomes a State witness;

X x x.

The indemnity shall include moral damages. Exemplary damages may also be adjudicated.

X x x..”

The respondents, as private individuals (natural and juridical persons) intentionally violated the human rights and liberties of X X X, i.e, his right to EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS, his right to be assisted by counsel in an administrative proceeding, and the right to remain silent in any proceeding. The notice of hearing issued to X X X did not contain a clear statement informing him of his right to counsel during the administrative proceeding. The respondents were assisted by a battery of lawyers and inhouse HRD personnel to investigate him. He was alone – worried, anxious, nervous, and ignorant of what to do on the spot during the said proceeding because he was not informed of his right to counsel. He was induced to speak out during the said proceeding without informing him of his right to remain silent.  He was not allowed to cross-examine the complainants and witnesses against him during such administrative proceeding. Not even to be provided with copies of the complaints against him, or the minutes and transcripts of the proceeding. X X X is not a lawyer and has no working legal skills or training.

Article 2229 of the Civil Code, on the other hand, provides for recovery of exemplary damages:

Art. 2229. Exemplary or corrective damages are imposed, by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages.


      The best way to punish natural and juridical respondents, such as the respondents in this case, is to impose EXEMPLARY DAMAGES in order to serve as a lesson to society.

Otherwise, rich and powerful companies and management officers and executives, like the respondents in this case, who selfishly and arrogantly think that they are gods and goddesses in their corporate and feudal kingdoms and turfs, can easily, at anytime, violate with impunity and grave abuse and ill intent the basic human rights, liberties, and dignity of their lowly workers, like X X X, who was ILEGALLY DISMISSED by the respondents with full intent, knowledge and purpose to make him suffer based on unfounded, flimsy, and unjustified grounds that they had wittingly or unwittingly manufactured or invented in their minds or that they had intentionally and wrongfully misinterpreted and misjudged in their minds, resulting in grave and irreparable loss and prejudice to X X X.
     
      In the recent case of Aliling vs. Feliciano, et. al., G.R. No. 185829, April 25, 2012, it was held that “to effect a legal dismissal, the employer must show not only a valid ground therefor, but also that procedural due process has properly been observed”; that “when the Labor Code speaks of procedural due process, the reference is usually to the two (2)-written notice rule envisaged in Section 2 (III), Rule XXIII, Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code, which provides:

Section 2. Standard of due process: requirements of notice. — In all cases of termination of employment, the following standards of due process shall be substantially observed.

I. For termination of employment based on just causes as defined in Article 282 of the Code:

(a) A written notice served on the employee specifying the ground or grounds for termination, and giving to said employee reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side;

(b) A hearing or conference during which the employee concerned, with the assistance of counsel if the employee so desires, is given opportunity to respond to the charge, present his evidence or rebut the evidence presented against him; and

(c) A written notice [of] termination served on the employee indicating that upon due consideration of all the circumstance, grounds have been established to justify his termination.


      In the recent case of SARONA vs. NLRC, et. al., G.R. No. 185280, January 18, 2012, it was held (a) that moral damages may be recovered where the dismissal of the employee was tainted by bad faith or fraud, or where it constituted an act oppressive to labor, and done in a manner contrary to morals, good customs or public policy and (b) that exemplary damages are recoverable if the dismissal was done in a wanton, oppressive, or malevolent manner

      Further, in the recent case of BRIGHT MARITIME CORPORATION (BMC)/DESIREE P. TENORIO vs. RICARDO B. FANTONIAL, G.R. No. 165935, February 8, 2012, moral damages were awarded because the employer’s act was “tainted with bad faith, considering that respondent’s Medical Certificate stated that he was fit to work on the day of his scheduled departure, yet he was not allowed to leave allegedly for medical reasons”. Further, in the said case, exemplary damages was also imposed on the employer  “by way of example or correction for the public good in view of petitioner’s act of preventing respondent from being deployed on the ground that he was not yet declared fit to work on the date of his departure, despite evidence to the contrary”.  The Court added: “x x x. Exemplary damages are imposed not to enrich one party or impoverish another, but to serve as a deterrent against or as a negative incentive to curb socially deleterious actions.”


X x x.


I.                   RELIEF.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed that the appealed Decision be AFFIRMED insofar as the finding of ILLEGAL DISMISSAL and the award of backwages, separation pay, terminal pay, and attorney’s fees are concerned but MODIFIED as to impose on the respondents, jointly and severally, the duty to pay complainant-appellant MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES at such amounts as the Honorable Commission may find wise, fit, necessary, and justified by the evidence.

FURTHER, the complainant-appellant prays for such and other reliefs, as may be deemed just and equitable in the premises.
Las Pinas City, June 18, 2012.


LASERNA CUEVA-MERCADER
LAW OFFICES

Counsel for Complainant-Appellant                            
Unit 15, Star Arcade, C.V. Star Ave.
Philamlife Village, Las Pinas City 1743
Tel/Fax 8462539, 8725443


X x x.

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