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Republic of the Philippines beautiful rhetoric of laws. We will not allow ATTENTION: MR.

IWATA
SUPREME COURT this travesty.
Manila I, ESALYN CHAVEZ, DANCER, do hereby
This is a petition for certiorari to review the with my own free will and voluntarily have
SECOND DIVISION Decision of the National Labor Relations the honor to authorize your good office to
Commission (NLRC), 1 dated December 29, please deduct the amount of TWO
1992, which affirmed the Decision of public HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS ($250) from
respondent Philippine Overseas my contracted monthly salary of SEVEN
G.R. No. 109808 March 1, 1995 Employment Agency (POEA) Administrator HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS ($750) as
Jose N. Sarmiento, dated February 17, monthly commission for my Manager, Mr.
ESALYN CHAVEZ, petitioner, 1992, dismissing petitioner's complaint for Jose A. Azucena, Jr.
vs. unpaid salaries amounting to Six Thousand
HON. EDNA BONTO-PEREZ, HON. Dollars (US$6,000.00). That, my monthly salary (net) is FIVE
ROGELIO T. RAYALA, HON. DOMINGO H. HUNDRED DOLLARS ($500).
ZAPANTA, HON. JOSE N. SARMIENTO, The facts are undisputed.
CENTRUM PROMOTIONS PLACEMENT (sgd. by petitioner) 3
CORPORATION, JOSE A. AZUCENA, JR., On December 1, 1988, petitioner, an
and TIMES SURETY & INSURANCE entertainment dancer, entered into a On December 16, 1988, petitioner left for
COMPANY, INC. respondents. standard employment contract for overseas Osaka, Japan, where she worked for six (6)
Filipino artists and entertainers with months, until June 10, 1989. She came
Planning Japan Co., Ltd., 2 through its back to the Philippines on June 14, 1989.
Philippine representative, private
PUNO, J.: respondent Centrum Placement & Petitioner instituted the case at bench for
Promotions Corporation. The contract had a underpayment of wages with the POEA on
One of the anguished cries in our society duration of two (2) to six (6) months, and February 21, 1991. She prayed for the
today is that while our laws appear to petitioner was to be paid a monthly payment of Six Thousand U.S. Dollars
protect the poor, their interpretation is compensation of One Thousand Five (US$6,000.00), representing the unpaid
sometimes anti-poor. In the case at bench, Hundred Dollars (US$1,5000.00). On portion of her basic salary for six months.
petitioner, a poor, uncounselled December 5, 1888, the POEA approved the Charged in the case were private
entertainment dancer signed a contract with contract. Subsequently, petitioner executed respondent Centrum Promotions and
her Japanese employer calling for a monthly the following side agreement with her Placement Corporation, the Philippine
salary of One Thousand Five Hundred U.S. Japanese employer through her local representative of Planning Japan, Co., Inc.,
Dollars (US$1,500) but later had to sign an manager, Jaz Talents Promotion: its insurer, Times Surety and Insurance Co.,
immoral side agreement reducing her salary Inc., and Jaz Talents Promotion.
below the minimum standard set by the Date: Dec. 10, 1988
POEA. Petitioner invoked the law to collect The complaint was dismissed by public
her salary differentials, but incredibly found SUBJECT: Salary Deduction respondent POEA Administrator on
public respondent straining the seams of MANAGERIAL COMMISSION February 17, 1992. He ratiocinated, inter
our law to disfavor her. There is no greater alia:
disappointment to the poor like petitioner DATE OF DEPARTURE:
than to discover the ugly reality behind the _________________ . . . Apparently and from all indications,
complainant (referring to petitioner herein)
was satisfied and did not have any The term laches has been defined as one's Placement Corporation and Jaz Talents
complaint (about) anything regarding her negligence or failure to assert his right in Promotion.
employment in Japan until after almost two due time or within reasonable time from the
(2) years (when) she filed the instant accrual of his cause of action, thus, leading There is, therefore, no merit in the appeal.
complaint on February 21, 1991. The another party to believe that there is nothing Hence, We affirmed. 4
records show that after signing the Standard wrong with his own claim. This resulted in
Employment Contract on December 1, placing the negligent party in estoppel to Dissatisfied with the NLRC's Decision,
1988, she entered into a side agreement assert or enforce his right. . . . Likewise, the petitioner instituted the present petition,
with the Japanese employer thru her local Supreme Court in one case held that not alleging that public respondents committed
manager, Jaz Talents Promotion consenting only is inaction within reasonable time to grave abuse of discretion in finding: that she
to a monthly salary of US$750.00 which she enforce a right the basic premise that is guilty of laches; that she entered into a
affirmed during the conference of May 21, underlies a valid defense of laches but such side contract on December 10, 1988 for the
1991. Respondent agency had no inaction evinces implied consent or reduction of her basic salary to Seven
knowledge nor participation in the said acquiescence to the violation of the right . . . Hundred Fifty U.S. Dollars (US$750.00)
agreement such that it could not be faulted which superseded, nullified and invalidated
for violation of the Standard Employment Under the prevailing circumstances of this the standard employment contract she
Contract regarding the stipulated salary. We case, it is outside the regulatory powers of entered into on December 1, 1988; and that
cannot take cognizance of such violation the Administration to rule on the liability of Planning Japan Co., Ltd. and private
when one of the principal party (sic) thereto respondent Jaz Talents Promotions, if any, respondents are not solidarily liable to her
opted to receive a salary different from what (it) not being a licensed private agency but a for Six Thousand US Dollars (US$6,000.00)
has been stipulated in their contract, promotion which trains entertainers for in unpaid wages. 5
especially so if the contracting party did not abroad.
consent/participate in such arrangement. The petition is meritorious.
Complainant (petitioner) cannot now xxx xxx xxx
demand from respondent agency to pay her Firstly, we hold that the managerial
the salary based (on) the processed (Citations omitted.) commission agreement executed by
Employment Contract for she is now petitioner to authorize her Japanese
considered in bad faith and hence, On appeal, the NLRC upheld the Decision, Employer to deduct Two Hundred Fifty U.S.
estopped from claiming thereto thru her own thus: Dollars (US$250.00) from her monthly basic
act of consenting and agreeing to receive a salary is void because it is against our
salary not in accordance with her contract of We fail to see any conspiracy that the existing laws, morals and public policy. It
employment. Moreover, her self-imposed complainant (petitioner herein) imputes to cannot supersede the standard employment
silence for a long period of time worked to the respondents. She has, to put it bluntly, contract of December 1, 1988 approved by
her own disadvantage as she allowed not established and/or laid the basis for Us the POEA with the following stipulation
laches to prevail which barred respondent to arrive at a conclusion that the appended thereto:
from doing something at the outset. respondents have been and should be held
Normally, if a person's right (is) violated, liable for her claims. It is understood that the terms and
she/he would immediately react to protect conditions stated in this Employment
her/his rights which is not true in the case at The way We see it, the records do not at all Contract are in conformance with the
bar. indicate any connection between Standard Employment Contract for
respondents Centrum Promotion & Entertainers prescribed by the POEA under
Memorandum Circular No. 2, Series of
1986. Any alterations or changes made in Rule and shall recognize the prevailing null and void for violating the POEA's
any part of this contract without prior labor and social legislations at the site of minimum employment standards, and for
approval by the POEA shall be null and employment and international conventions. not having been approved by the POEA.
void; 6 (Emphasis supplied.) The SEC shall set the minimum terms and Indeed, this side agreement is a scheme all
conditions of employment. All employers too frequently resorted to by unscrupulous
The stipulation is in line with the provisions and principals shall adopt the SEC in employers against our helpless overseas
of Rule II, Book V and Section 2(f), Rule I, connection with the hiring of workers without workers who are compelled to agree to
Book VI of the 1991 Rules and Regulations prejudice to their adoption of other terms satisfy their basic economic needs.
Governing Overseas Employment, thus: and conditions of employment over and
above the minimum standards of the Secondly. The doctrine of laches or "stale
Book V, Rule II Administration. (Emphasis supplied.) demands"' cannot be applied to petitioner.
Laches has been defined as the failure or
Sec. 1. Employment Standards. The and neglect for an unreasonable and
Administration shall determine, formulate unexplained length time to do that which, by
and review employment standards in BOOK VI, RULE I exercising due diligence, could or should
accordance with the market development have been done earlier, 7 thus giving rise to
and welfare objectives of the overseas Sec. 2. Grounds for suspension/cancellation a presumption that the party entitled to
employment program and the prevailing of license. assert it either has abandoned or declined
market conditions. to assert it. 8 It is not concerned with mere
xxx xxx xxx lapse of time; the fact of delay, standing
Sec. 2. Minimum Provisions for Contract. alone, is insufficient to constitute laches. 9
The following shall be considered the f. Substituting or altering employment
minimum requirements for contracts of contracts and other documents approved The doctrine of laches is based upon
employment: and verified by the Administration from the grounds of public policy which requires, for
time of actual signing thereof by the parties the peace of society, the discouragement of
a. Guaranteed wages for regular up to and including the period of expiration stale claims, and is principally a question of
working hours and overtime pay for services of the same without the Administration's the inequity or unfairness of permitting a
rendered beyond regular working hours in approval. right or claim to be enforced or asserted. 10
accordance with the standards established There is no absolute rule as to what
by the Administration; xxx xxx xxx constitutes laches; each case is to be
determined according to its particular
xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied.) circumstances. The question of laches is
addressed to the sound discretion of the
Sec. 3. Standard Employment Contract. The Clearly, the basic salary of One Thousand court, and since it is an equitable doctrine,
administration shall undertake development Five Hundred U.S. Dollars (US$1,500.00) its application is controlled by equitable
and/or periodic review of region, country guaranteed to petitioner under the parties' considerations. It cannot be worked to
and skills specific employment contracts for standard employment contract is in defeat justice or to perpetrate fraud and
landbased workers and conduct regular accordance with the minimum employment injustice. 11
review of standard employment contracts standards with respect to wages set by the
(SEC) for seafarers. These contracts shall POEA, Thus, the side agreement which In the case at bench, petitioner filed her
provide for minimum employment standards reduced petitioner's basic wage to Seven claim well within the three-year prescriptive
herein enumerated under Section 2, of this Hundred Fifty U.S. Dollars (US$750.00) is period for the filing of money claims set forth
in Article 291 of the Labor Code. 12 For this violations of the recruitment agreement and
reason, we hold the doctrine of laches Thirdly, private respondents Centrum and the contracts of employment.
inapplicable to petitioner. As we ruled in Times as well as Planning Japan Co., Ltd.
Imperial Victory Shipping Agency v. NLRC, the agency's foreign principal are xxx xxx xxx
200 SCRA 178 (1991): solidarily liable to petitioner for her unpaid
wages. This is in accordance with (Emphasis supplied.)
. . . Laches is a doctrine in equity while stipulation 13.7 of the parties' standard
prescription is based on law. Our courts are employment contract which provides: Our overseas workers constitute an
basically courts of law not courts of equity. exploited class. Most of them come from the
Thus, laches cannot be invoked to resist the 13.7. The Employer (in this case, Planning poorest sector of our society. They are
enforcement of an existing legal right. We Japan Co., Ltd. ) and its locally (sic) thoroughly disadvantaged. Their profile
have ruled in Arsenal v. Intermediate agent/promoter/representative (private shows they live in suffocating slums,
Appellate Court . . . that it is a long standing respondent Centrum Promotions & trapped in an environment of crime. Hardly
principle that equity follows the law. Courts Placement Corporation) shall be jointly and literate and in ill health, their only hope lies
exercising equity jurisdiction are bound by severally responsible for the proper in jobs they can hardly find in our country.
rules of law and have no arbitrary discretion implementation of the terms and conditions Their unfortunate circumstance makes them
to disregard them. In Zabat, Jr. v. Court of in this Contract. 13 (Emphasis supplied.) easy prey to avaricious employers. They will
Appeals . . ., this Court was more emphatic climb mountains, cross the seas, endure
upholding the rules of procedure. We said This solidary liability also arises from the slave treatment in foreign lands just to
therein: provisions of Section 10(a)(2), Rule V, Book survive. Out of despondence, they will work
I of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the under sub-human conditions and accept
As for equity, which has been aptly Labor Code, as amended, thus: salaries below the minimum. The least we
described as a "justice outside legality," this can do is to protect them with our laws in
applied only in the absence of, and never Sec. 10. Requirement before our land. Regretfully, respondent public
against, statutory law or, as in this case, recruitment. Before recruiting any worker, officials who should sympathize with the
judicial rules of procedure. Aequetas the private employment agency shall submit working class appear to have a different
nunguam contravenit legis. The pertinent to the Bureau the following documents: orientation.
positive rules being present here, they
should pre-empt and prevail over all a) A formal appointment or agency IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is GRANTED.
abstract arguments based only on equity. contract executed by a foreign-based The Decisions of respondent POEA
employer in favor of the license holder to Administrator and NLRC Commissioners in
POEA Case No. Adj. 91-02-199 (ER),
Thus, where the claim was filed within the recruit and hire personnel for the former . . .
respectively dated February 17 and December
three-year statutory period, recovery . Such formal appointment or recruitment 29, 1992, and the Resolution of the NLRC,
therefore cannot be barred by laches. agreement shall contain the following dated March 23, 1993, are REVERSED and
Courts should never apply the doctrine of provisions, among others: SET ASIDE. Private respondents are held jointly
laches earlier than the expiration of time and severally liable to petitioner for the payment
limited for the commencement of actions at xxx xxx xxx of SIX THOUSAND US DOLLARS
law. (US$6,000.00) in unpaid wages. Costs against
2. Power of the agency to sue and be private respondents.
xxx xxx xxx sued jointly and solidarily with the principal
or foreign based employer for any of the SO ORDERED.
(Emphasis supplied. Citations omitted.)