BERNARDINA P. BARTOLOME vs. SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM and SCANMAR MARITIME SERVICES, INC., G.R. No. 192531, November 12, 2014
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b. Rule XV, Section 1(c)(1) of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation is in contravention of the equal protection clause
To insist that the ECC validly interpreted the Labor Code provision is an affront to the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the laws for the rule, as worded, prevents the parents of an illegitimate child from claiming benefits under Art. 167 (j) of the Labor Code, as amended by PD 626. To Our mind, such postulation cannot be countenanced.
As jurisprudence elucidates, equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. It requires public bodies and institutions to treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner.18 In other words, the concept of equal justice under the law requires the state to govern impartially, and it may not draw distinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate governmental objective.19
The concept of equal protection, however, does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. Indeed, the equal protection clause permits classification. Such classification, however, to be valid must pass the test of reasonableness. The test has four requisites: (1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions; (2) It is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and (4) It applies equally to all members of the same class. "Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification."20
In the instant case, there is no compelling reasonable basis to discriminate against illegitimate parents. Simply put, the above-cited rule promulgated by the ECC that limits the claim of benefits to the legitimate parents miserably failed the test of reasonableness since the classification is not germane to the law being implemented. We see no pressing government concern or interest that requires protection so as to warrant balancing the rights of unmarried parents on one hand and the rationale behind the law on the other. On the contrary, the SSS can better fulfill its mandate, and the policy of PD 626 – that employees and their dependents may promptly secure adequate benefits in the event of work-connected disability or death - will be better served if Article 167 (j) of the Labor Code is not so narrowly interpreted.
There being no justification for limiting secondary parent beneficiaries to the legitimate ones, there can be no other course of action to take other than to strike down as unconstitutional the phrase "illegitimate" as appearing in Rule XV, Section 1(c)(1) of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation.
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