Rosario Gaa versus Court of Appeals et al

December 1, 2017

140 SCRA 304- Labor Law – Labor Procedures – Garnishment of Salaries – Salary is not Exempt from Execution

Remedial Law – Civil Procedure – Limitations on Garnishment

Civil Law – Article 1708 – Wage is Exempt from Execution – Salary versus Wage

In 1976, Rosario Gaa, the building administrator of Trinity Building and manager of the El Grande Hotel lost a case filed against her by the Europhil Industries Corporation. Gaa was adjudged to pay damages to Europhil. Eventually, a writ of garnishment was issued upon Gaa’s salary with El Grande Hotel. She now moves for the quashal of the writ on the ground that the garnishment on her salary is prohibited by Article 1708 of the Civil Code.

ISSUE: Whether or not salaries may be garnished.

HELD: Yes.  Article 1708  of the Civil Code reads:

The laborer’s wage shall not be subject to execution or attachment, except for debts incurred for food, shelter, clothing and medical attendance.

Gaa’s functions as El Grande Hotel’s manager include “responsible for planning, directing, controlling, and coordinating the activities of all housekeeping personnel”;  “ensure the cleanliness, maintenance and orderliness of all guest rooms, function rooms, public areas, and the surroundings of the hotel.” Gaa is a responsibly placed employee and not a mere laborer. As such, Gaa is not receiving a laborer’s wage. She is receiving salary.

In its broadest sense, the word “laborer” includes everyone who performs any kind of mental or physical labor, but as commonly and customarily used and understood, it only applies to one engaged in some form of manual or physical labor. That is the sense in which the courts generally apply the term as applied in exemption acts, since persons of that class usually look to the reward of a day’s labor for immediate or present support and so are more in need of the exemption than are other.

Article 1708 used the word “wages” and not “salary” in relation to “laborer” when it declared what are to be exempted from attachment and execution. The term “wages” as distinguished from “salary”, applies to the compensation for manual labor, skilled or unskilled, paid at stated times, and measured by the day, week, month, or season, while “salary” denotes a higher degree of employment, or a superior grade of services, and implies a position of office: by contrast, the term wages ” indicates considerable pay for a lower and less responsible character of employment, while “salary” is suggestive of a larger and more important service.

Only wages, according to the law, are exempt from execution. Salaries may be subject to execution.


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