Patricia Sto. Tomas vs Rey Salac

June 7, 2014
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  • The corporate officers and directors of a private recruitment company engaged in illegal recruitment are not automatically liable
  • There must first be a finding that they were remiss in directing the affairs of that company

685 SCRA 245 – Labor Law – Labor Standards – Constitutionality of Sections 6, 7, 9, 10, 29, and 30 of the Migrant Workers Act or R.A. No. 8042

This case is a consolidation of the following cases: G.R. No. 152642, G.R. No. 152710, G.R. No. 167590, G.R. Nos. 182978-79, and G.R. Nos. 184298-99.

G.R. No. 152642 and G.R. No. 152710

In G.R. No. 152642, in 2002, Rey Salac et al, who are recruiters deploying workers abroad, sought to enjoin the Secretary of Labor, Patricia Sto. Tomas, the POEA, and TESDA, from regulating the activities of private recruiters. Salac et al invoked Sections 29 and 30 of the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act which provides that recruitment agency in the Philippines shall be deregulated one year from the passage of the said law; that 5 years thereafter, recruitment should be fully deregulated. RA 8042 was passed in 1995, hence, Salac et al insisted that as early as 2000, the aforementioned government agencies should have stopped issuing memorandums and circulars regulating the recruitment of workers abroad.

Sto. Tomas then questioned the validity of Sections 29 and 30.

ISSUE: Whether or not Sections 29 and 30 are valid.

HELD: The issue became moot and academic. It appears that during the pendency of this case in 2007, RA 9422 (An Act to Strengthen the Regulatory Functions of the POEA) was passed which repealed Sections 29 and 30 of RA 8042.

G.R. 167590

In this case, the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI) questioned the validity of the following provisions of RA 8042:

a. Section 6, which defines the term “illegal recruitment”. PASEI claims that the definition by the law is vague as it fails to distinguish between licensed and non-licensed recruiters;

b. Section 7, which penalizes violations against RA 8042. PASEI argues that the penalties for simple violations against RA 8042, i.e., mere failure to render report or obstructing inspection are already punishable for at least 6 years and 1 day imprisonment an a fine of at least P200k. PASEI argues that such is unreasonable;

c. Section 9, which allows the victims of illegal recruitment to have the option to either file the criminal case where he or she resides or at the place where the crime was committed. PASEI argues that this provision is void for being contrary to the Rules of Court which provides that criminal cases must be prosecuted in the place where the crime or any of its essential elements were committed;

d. Section 10, which provides that corporate officers and directors of a company found to be in violation of RA 8042 shall be themselves be jointly and solidarily liable with the corporation or partnership for the aforesaid claims and damages. PASEI claims that this automatic liability imposed upon corporate officers and directors is void for being violative of due process.

RTC Judge Jose Paneda of Quezon City agreed with PASEI and he declared the said provisions of RA 8042 as void. Secretary Sto. Tomas petitioned for the annulment of the RTC judgment.

ISSUE: Whether or not Sections 6, 7, 9, and 10 of RA 8042 are void.

HELD: No, they are valid provisions.

a. Section 6: The law clearly and unambiguously distinguished between licensed and non-licensed recruiters. By its terms, persons who engage in “canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers” without the appropriate government license or authority are guilty of illegal recruitment whether or not they commit the wrongful acts enumerated in that section. On the other hand, recruiters who engage in the canvassing, enlisting, etc. of OFWs, although with the appropriate government license or authority, are guilty of illegal recruitment only if they commit any of the wrongful acts enumerated in Section 6.

b. Section 7: The penalties are valid. Congress is well within its right to prescribed the said penalties. Besides, it is not the duty of the courts to inquire into the wisdom behind the law.

c. Section 9: The Rules on Criminal Procedure, particularly Section 15(a) of Rule 110, itself, provides that the rule on venue when it comes to criminal cases is subject to existing laws. Therefore, there is nothing arbitrary when Congress provided an alternative venue for violations of a special penal law like RA 8042.

d. Section 10: The liability of corporate officers and directors is not automatic. To make them jointly and solidarily liable with their company, there must be a finding that they were remiss in directing the affairs of that company, such as sponsoring or tolerating the conduct of illegal activities.

G.R. 182978-79, and G.R. 184298-99

In this case, Jasmin Cuaresma, a nurse working in Saudi Arabia was found dead. Her parents received insurance benefits from the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration). But when they found out based on an autopsy conducted in the Philippines that Jasmin was raped and thereafter killed, her parents (Simplicio and Mila Cuaresma) filed for death and insurance benefits with damages from the recruitment and placement agency which handled Jasmin (Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc.).

The case reached the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court ruled that since Becmen was negligent in investigating the true cause of death of Jasmin ( a violation of RA 8042), it shall be liable for damages. The Supreme Court also ruled that pursuant to Section 10 of RA 8042, the directors and officers of Becmen are themselves jointly and solidarily liable with Becmen.

Eufrocina Gumabay and the other officers of Becmen filed a motion for leave to intervene. They aver that Section 10 is invalid.

ISSUE: Whether or not Section is invalid.

HELD: No. As earlier discussed, Section 10 is valid. The liability of Gumabay et al is not automatic. However, the SC reconsidered its earlier ruling that Gumabay et al are solidarily and jointly liable with Becmen there being no evidence on record which shows that they were personally involved in their company’s particular actions or omissions in Jasmin’s case.

 

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