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ANTONIO M. SERRANO VS. GALLANT MARITIME SERVICES, INC. AND MARLOW NAVIGATION CO., INC. GR No. 167614 – March 24, 2009 En banc FACTS: Petitioner Antonio Serrano was hired by respondents Gallant Maritime Services, Inc. and Marlow Navigation Co., Inc., under a POEA-approved contract of employment for 12 months, as Chief Officer, with the basic monthly salary of US$1,400, plus $700/month overtime pay, and 7 days paid vacation leave per month. On March 19, 1998, the date of his departure, Serrano was constrained to accept a downgraded employment contract for the position of Second Officer with a monthly salary of US$1,000 upon the assurance and representation of respondents that he would be Chief Officer by the end of April 1998. Respondents did not deliver on their promise to make Serrano Chief Officer. Hence, Serrano refused to stay on as second Officer and was repatriated to the Philippines on May 26, 1998, serving only two (2) months and seven (7) days of his contract, leaving an unexpired portion of nine (9) months and twenty-three (23) days. Serrano filed with the Labor Arbiter (LA) a Complaint against respondents for constructive dismissal and for payment of his money claims in the total amount of US$26,442.73 (based on the computation of $2590/month from June 1998 to February 199, $413.90 for March 1998, and $1640 for March 1999) as well as moral and exemplary damages. The LA declared the petitioner’s dismissal illegal and awarded him US$8,770, representing his salaray for three (3) months of the unexpired portion of the aforesaid contract of employment, plus $45 for salary differential and for attorney’s fees equivalent to 10% of the total amount; however, no compensation for damages as prayed was awarded. On appeal, the NLRC modified the LA decision and awarded Serrano $4669.50, representing three (3) months salary at $1400/month, plus 445 salary differential and 10% for attorney’s fees. This decision was based on the provision of RA 8042, which was made into law on July 15, 1995. Serrano filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration, but this time he questioned the constitutionality of the last clause in the 5th paragraph of Section 10 of RA 8042, which reads: Sec. 10. Money Claims. – x x x In case of termination of overseas employment without just, valid or authorized cause as defined by law or contract, the workers shall be entitled to the full reimbursement of his placement fee with interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum, plus his

salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less. The NLRC denied the Motion; hence, Serrano filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals (CA), reiterating the constitutional challenge against the subject clause. The CA affirmed the NLRC ruling on the reduction of the applicable salary rate, but skirted the constitutional issue raised by herein petitioner Serrano. ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the subject clause violates Section 10, Article III of the Constitution on non-impairment of contracts; 2. Whether or not the subject clause violate Section 1, Article III of the Constitution, and Section 18, Article II and Section 3, Article XIII on labor as a protected sector. HELD: On the first issue. The answer is in the negative. Petitioner’s claim that the subject clause unduly interferes with the stipulations in his contract on the term of his employment and the fixed salary package he will receive is not tenable. Section 10, Article III of the Constitution provides: No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed. The prohibition is aligned with the general principle that laws newly enacted have only a prospective operation, and cannot affect acts or contracts already perfected; however, as to laws already in existence, their provisions are read into contracts and deemed a part thereof. Thus, the non-impairment clause under Section 10, Article II is limited in application to laws about to be enacted that would in any way derogate from existing acts or contracts by enlarging, abridging or in any manner changing the intention of the parties thereto. As aptly observed by the OSG, the enactment of R.A. No. 8042 in 1995 preceded the execution of the employment contract between petitioner and respondents in 1998. Hence, it cannot be argued that R.A. No. 8042, particularly the subject clause, impaired the employment contract of the parties. Rather, when the parties executed their 1998 employment contract, they were deemed to have incorporated into it all the provisions of R.A. No. 8042. But even if the Court were to disregard the timeline, the subject clause may not be declared unconstitutional on the ground that it impinges on the

impairment clause, for the law was enacted in the exercise of the police power of the State to regulate a business, profession or calling, particularly the recruitment and deployment of OFWs, with the noble end in view of ensuring respect for the dignity and well-being of OFWs wherever they may be employed. Police power legislations adopted by the State to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order, safety, and general welfare of the people are generally applicable not only to future contracts but even to those already in existence, for all private contracts must yield to the superior and legitimate measures taken by the State to promote public welfare. On the second issue. The answer is in the affirmative. Section 1, Article III of the Constitution guarantees: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law. Section 18, Article II and Section 3, Article XIII accord all members of the labor sector, without distinction as to place of deployment, full protection of their rights and welfare. To Filipino workers, the rights guaranteed under the foregoing constitutional provisions translate to economic security and parity: all monetary benefits should be equally enjoyed by workers of similar category, while all monetary obligations should be borne by them in equal degree; none should be denied the protection of the laws which is enjoyed by, or spared the burden imposed on, others in like circumstances. Such rights are not absolute but subject to the inherent power of Congress to incorporate, when it sees fit, a system of classification into its legislation; however, to be valid, the classification must comply with these requirements: 1) it is based on substantial distinctions; 2) it is germane to the purposes of the law; 3) it is not limited to existing conditions only; and 4) it applies equally to all members of the class. There are three levels of scrutiny at which the Court reviews the constitutionality of a classification embodied in a law: a) the deferential or rational basis scrutiny in which the challenged classification needs only be shown to be rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest; b) the middle-tier or intermediate scrutiny in which the government must show that the challenged classification serves an important state interest and that the classification is at least substantially related to serving that interest; and c) strict judicial scrutiny in which a legislative classification which impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class is presumed unconstitutional, and the burden is upon the government to prove that the classification is necessary to

achieve a compelling state interest and that it is the least restrictive means to protect such interest. Upon cursory reading, the subject clause appears facially neutral, for it applies to all OFWs. However, a closer examination reveals that the subject clause has a discriminatory intent against, and an invidious impact on, OFWs at two levels: First, OFWs with employment contracts of less than one year vis-à-vis OFWs with employment contracts of one year or more; Second, among OFWs with employment contracts of more than one year; and Third, OFWs vis-à-vis local workers with fixed-period employment; In sum, prior to R.A. No. 8042, OFWs and local workers with fixed-term employment who were illegally discharged were treated alike in terms of the computation of their money claims: they were uniformly entitled to their salaries for the entire unexpired portions of their contracts. But with the enactment of R.A. No. 8042, specifically the adoption of the subject clause, illegally dismissed OFWs with an unexpired portion of one year or more in their employment contract have since been differently treated in that their money claims are subject to a 3-month cap, whereas no such limitation is imposed on local workers with fixed-term employment. The Court concludes that the subject clause contains a suspect classification in that, in the computation of the monetary benefits of fixed-term employees who are illegally discharged, it imposes a 3-month cap on the claim of OFWs with an unexpired portion of one year or more in their contracts, but none on the claims of other OFWs or local workers with fixed-term employment. The subject clause singles out one classification of OFWs and burdens it with a peculiar disadvantage. There being a suspect classification involving a vulnerable sector protected by the Constitution, the Court now subjects the classification to a strict judicial scrutiny, and determines whether it serves a compelling state interest through the least restrictive means. What constitutes compelling state interest is measured by the scale of rights and powers arrayed in the Constitution and calibrated by history. It is akin to the paramount interest of the state for which some individual liberties must give way, such as the public interest in safeguarding health or maintaining medical standards, or in maintaining access to information on matters of public concern. In the present case, the Court dug deep into the records but found no compelling state interest that the subject clause may possibly serve.

In fine, the Government has failed to discharge its burden of proving the existence of a compelling state interest that would justify the perpetuation of the discrimination against OFWs under the subject clause. Assuming that, as advanced by the OSG, the purpose of the subject clause is to protect the employment of OFWs by mitigating the solidary liability of placement agencies, such callous and cavalier rationale will have to be rejected. There can never be a justification for any form of government action that alleviates the burden of one sector, but imposes the same burden on another sector, especially when the favored sector is composed of private businesses such as placement agencies, while the disadvantaged sector is composed of OFWs whose protection no less than the Constitution commands. The idea that private business interest can be elevated to the level of a compelling state interest is odious. Moreover, even if the purpose of the subject clause is to lessen the solidary liability of placement agencies vis-a-vis their foreign principals, there are mechanisms already in place that can be employed to achieve that purpose without infringing on the constitutional rights of OFWs. The POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-Based Overseas Workers, dated February 4, 2002, imposes administrative disciplinary measures on erring foreign employers who default on their contractual obligations to migrant workers and/or their Philippine agents. These disciplinary measures range from temporary disqualification to preventive suspension. The POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Seafarers, dated May 23, 2003, contains similar administrative disciplinary measures against erring foreign employers. Resort to these administrative measures is undoubtedly the less restrictive means of aiding local placement agencies in enforcing the solidary liability of their foreign principals. Thus, the subject clause in the 5th paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 is violative of the right of petitioner and other OFWs to equal protection. The subject clause “or for three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less” in the 5th paragraph of Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042 is DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VERSUS CHARLIE COMILA AND AIDA COMILA Facts: Page 24 On April 5, 1999, in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Baguio City, anInformation1 for Illegal Recruitment committed in large scale by a syndicate, as definedand penalized under Article 13(6) in relation to Articles 38(b), 34 and 39 of PresidentialDecree No. 442, otherwise known as the New Labor Code, as amended, was filedagainst Charlie Comila, Aida Comila and one Indira Ram Singh Lastra. On the charge of illegal recruitment, this appellant argues that "she was merely trying tohelp the applicants to process their papers, believing that Indira Ram Sighn Lastra andErlinda Ramos would really send the applicants to Italy." With respect to coappellantCharlie Comila, the defense submits that the prosecution "miserably failed to prove hisparticipation in the illegal recruitment and estafa."The trial and appellate courts foundboth appellants guilty beyond moral certainty of doubt of the crimes charged againstthem. Hence the appeal. Issue:Whether or not illegal recruitment was committed in large scale by a syndicate Held: The Supreme Court isfully convinced that both the trial and appellate courts committedno error in finding both appellants guilty beyond moral certainty of doubt of the crimescharged against them. Through the respective testimonies of its witnesses, theprosecution has satisfactorily established that both appellants were then engaged inunlawful recruitment and placement activities. The crime of illegal recruitment iscommitted when, among other things, a person who, without being duly authorizedaccording to law represents or gives the distinct impression that he or she has thepower or the ability to provide work abroad convincing those to whom the representationis made or to whom the impression is given to thereupon part with their money in orderto be assured of that employment. In fact, even if there is no consideration involved, appellant will still be deemed ashaving engaged in recruitment activities, since it was sufficiently demonstrated that shepromised overseas employment to private complainants. To be engaged in the practiceand placement, it is plain that there must at least be a promise or offer of anemployment from the person posing as a recruiter whether locally or abroad. As regards appellant Charlie Comila, it is inconceivable for him to feign ignorance of theillegal recruitment activities of his wife Aida, and of his lack of participation therein.Again, we quote with approval what the trial court has said in it

EOPLE OF PHILIPPINES, Vs. JOSEPH JAMILOSA, x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - x This is an appeal from the Decision[1]of the Regional TrialCourt (RTC) of Quezon City in Criminal Case No. Q-97-72769convicting appellant Joseph Jamilosa of large scale illegalrecruitment under Sections 6 and 7 of Republic Act (R.A.) No.8042, and sentencing him to life imprisonment and to paya P500,000.00 fine. The Information charging appellant with large scale illegalrecruitment was filed by the Senior State Prosecutor on August29, 1997.The inculpatory portion of the Information reads: That sometime in the months of January to February, 1996,or thereabout in the City of Quezon, Metro Manila, Philippines,and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, representingto have the capacity, authority or license to contract, enlist anddeploy or transport workers for overseas employment, did thenand there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally recruit, contract andpromise to deploy, for a fee the herein complainants, namely,Haide R. Ruallo, Imelda D. Bamba, Geraldine M. Lagman andAlma E. Singh, for work or employment in Los Angeles, California,U.S.A. in Nursing Home and Care Center without first obtainingthe required license and/or authority from the PhilippineOverseas Employment Administration (POEA). Contrary to law.[2] On arraignment, the appellant, assisted by counsel,pleaded not guilty to the charge. The case for the prosecution, as synthesized by the Court of Appeals (CA), is as follows: The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses, namely:private complainants Imelda D. Bamba, Geraldine M. Lagman andAlma E. Singh. Witness Imelda D. Bamba testified that on January 17,1996, she met the appellant in Cubao, Quezon City on board anaircon bus.She was on her way to Shoemart (SM),NorthEDSA, Quezon City where she was working as a companynurse.The appellant was seated beside her and introducedhimself as a recruiter of workers for employment abroad.Theappellant told her that his sister is a head nurse in a nursinghome in Los Angeles, California, USA and he could help her getemployed as a nurse at a monthly salary of Two Thousand USDollars ($2,000.00) and that she could leave in two (2) weekstime.He further averred that he has connections with the USEmbassy, being a US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agenton official mission in the Philippines for one month.According tothe appellant, she has to pay the amount of US$300.00 intendedfor the US consul.The appellant gave his pager number andinstructed her to contact him if she is interested to apply for anursing job abroad. On January 21, 1996, the appellant fetched her at heroffice.They then went to her house where she gave him thephotocopies of her transcript of records, diploma, ProfessionalRegulatory Commission (PRC) license and other credentials.On January 28 or 29, 1996, she handed to the appellant the amountof US$300.00 at the McDonalds outlet in North EDSA, QuezonCity, and the latter showed to her a photocopy of her supposedUS visa.The appellant likewise got several pieces of jewelry whichshe was then selling and assured her that he would sell the sameat theUS embassy.However, the appellant did not issue a receiptfor the said money and jewelry.Thereafter, the appellant told herto resign from her work at SM because she was booked withNorthwest Airlines and to leave for LosAngeles, California, USA onFebruary 25, 1996. The appellant promised to see her and some of his otherrecruits before their scheduled departure to hand to them theirvisas and passports; however, the appellant who was supposedto be with them in the flight failed to show up.Instead, theappellant called and informed her that he failed to give thepassport and US visa because he had to go to the provincebecause his wife died.She and her companions were not able toleave for the United States.They went to the supposed residenceof the appellant to verify, but nobody knew him or hiswhereabouts.They tried to contact him at the hotel where hetemporarily resided, but to no avail.They also inquired fromthe US embassy and found out that there was no such personconnected with the said office.Thus, she decided to file acomplaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Prosecution witness Geraldine Lagman, for her part,testified that she is a registered nurse by profession.In themorning of January 22, 1996, she went to SM North EDSA,QuezonCity to visit her cousin Imelda Bamba.At that time, Bambainformed her that she was going to meet the appellant who is anFBI agent and was willing to help nurses find a job abroad.Bambainvited Lagman to

go with her.On the same date at about 2:00oclock in the afternoon, she and Bamba met the appellant at theSM Fast-Food Center, Basement, North EDSA, Quezon City.Theappellant convinced them of his ability to send them abroad andtold them that he has a sister in the United States.Lagman toldthe appellant that she had no working experience in any hospitalbut the appellant assured her that it is not necessary to haveone.The appellant asked for US$300.00 as payment to secure anAmerican visa and an additional amount of Three Thousand FourHundred Pes In fine, the offense committed by the accused is IllegalRecruitment in large scale, it having been committed againstthree (3) persons, individually.[7] Appellant appealed the decision to this Court on thefollowing assignment of error: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSEDAPPELLANTOF THE CRIME OF ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT IN LARGE SCALEDESPITE THE FACT THAT THE LATTERS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEDBEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT BY THE PROSECUTION.[8] According to appellant, the criminal Information charginghim with illegal recruitment specifically mentioned the phrase fora fee, and as such, receipts to show proof of payment areindispensable.He pointed out that the three (3) complainingwitnesses did not present even one receipt to prove the allegedpayment of any fee. In its eagerness to cure this patent flaw, theprosecution resorted to presenting the oral testimonies of complainants which were contrary to the ordinary course of nature and ordinary habits of life [under Section 3(y), Rule 131 of the Rules on Evidence] and defied credulity. Appellant alsopointed out that complainants testimony that they paid him butno receipts were issued runs counter to the presumption underSection [3](d), Rule 131 of the Rules on Evidence that personstake ordinary care of their concern. The fact that complainantswere not able to present receipts lends credence to his allegationthat it was they who sought advice regarding their desire to applyfor jobs in Los Angeles, California, USA. Thus, thinking that hemight be charged as a recruiter, he made them sign three (3)certifications stating that he never recruited them and there wasno money involved. On the fact that the trial court disregardedthe certifications due to his failure to mention them during thepreliminary investigation at the Department of Justice (DOJ),appellant pointed out that there is no provision in the Rules of Court which bars the presentation of evidence during the hearingof the case in court. He also pointed out that the counter-affidavitwas prepared while he was in jail and probably not assisted by alawyer.[9]chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Appellee, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG),countered that the absence of receipts signed by appellantacknowledging receipt of the money and liquor from thecomplaining witnesses cannot defeat the prosecution andconviction for illegal recruitment. The OSG insisted that theprosecution was able to prove the guilt of appellant beyondreasonable doubt via the collective testimonies of thecomplaining witnesses, which the trial court found credible anddeserving of full probative weight.It pointed out that appellantfailed to prove any ill-motive on the part of the complainingwitnesses to falsely charge him of illegal recruitment. On appellants claim that the complaining witness Imelda Bambawas his girlfriend, the OSG averred: Appellants self-serving declaration that Imelda is hisgirlfriend and that she filed a complaint for illegal recruitmentafter they quarreled and separated is simply preposterous.Nolove letters or other documentary evidence was presented byappellant to substantiate such claim which could be made withfacility.Imelda has no reason to incriminate appellant except toseek justice.The evidence shows that Alma and Geraldine haveno previous quarrel with appellant.Prior to their being recruitedby appellant, Alma and Geraldine have never met appellant.It isagainst human nature and experience for private complainants toconspire and accuse a stranger of a most serious crime just tomollify their hurt feelings.( People v. Coral , 230 SCRA 499, 510[1994])[10] The OSG posited that the appellants reliance on thecertifications[11] purportedly signed by the complainingwitnesses is misplaced, considering that the certifications arebarren of probative weight. On February 23, 2005, the Court resolved to transfer thecase to the CA.[12]On June 22, 2005, the CA rendered judgmentaffirming the decision of the RTC. [13]chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary The OSG filed a Supplemental Brief, while the appellant found noneed to file one. The appeal has no merit. Article 13(b) of the Labor Code of the Philippines

definesrecruitment and placement as follows: (b) Recruitment and placement refers to any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring,or procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services,promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad,whether for profit or not.Provided, That any person or entitywhich, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment totwo or more persons shall be deemed engaged in recruitmentand placement. Section 6 of R.A. No. 8042 defined when recruitment isillegal: SEC. 6.Definition. For purposes of this Act, illegalrecruitment shall mean any act of canvassing, enlisting,contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workersand includes referring, contract services, promising or advertisingfor employment abroad, whether for profit or not, whenundertaken by a non-licensee or non-holder of authoritycontemplated under Article 13(f) of Presidential Decree No. 442,as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of thePhilippines: Provided, That any such non-licensee or non-holderwho, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employmentabroad to two or more persons shall be deemed so engaged. x xx Any recruitment activities to be undertaken by non-licensee or non-holder of contracts shall be deemed illegal andpunishable under Article 39 of the Labor Code of the Philippines.[14]Illegal recruitment is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three (3) or more persons individually or as agroup.[15]chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary To prove illegal recruitment in large scale, the prosecutionis burdened to prove three (3) essential elements, to wit: (1) theperson charged undertook a recruitment activity under Article13(b) or any prohibited practice under Article 34 of the LaborCode; (2) accused did not have the license or the authority tolawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers;and (3) accused committed the same against three or morepersons individually or as a group.[16]As gleaned from thecollective testimonies of the complaining witnesses which thetrial court and the appellate court found to be credible anddeserving of full probative weight, the prosecution mustered therequisite quantum of evidence to prove the guilt of accusedbeyond reasonable doubt for the crime charged.Indeed, thefindings of the trial court, affirmed on appeal by the CA, areconclusive on this Court absent evidence that the tribunalsignored, misunderstood, or misapplied substantial fact or othercircumstance. The failure of the prosecution to adduce in evidence anyreceipt or document signed by appellant where he acknowledgedto have received money and liquor does not free him fromcriminal liability. Even in the absence of money or othervaluables given as consideration for the services of appellant, thelatter is considered as being engaged in recruitment activities. It can be gleaned from the language of Article 13(b) of the LaborCode that the act of recruitment may be for profit or not.It issufficient that the accused promises or offers for a feeemployment to warrant conviction for illegal recruitment. [17]Asthe Court held in People v. Sagaydo :[18]chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Such is the case before us.The complainants parted withtheir money upon the prodding and enticement of accused-appellant on the false pretense that she had the capacity todeploy them for employment abroad.In the end, complainants

were neither able to leave for work abroad nor get their moneyback. The fact that private complainants Rogelio Tibeb and JessieBolinao failed to produce receipts as proof of their payment toaccusedappellant does not free the latter from liability.Theabsence of receipts cannot defeat a criminal

prosecution forillegal recruitment.As long as the witnesses can positively showthrough their respective testimonies that the accused is the oneinvolved in prohibited recruitment, he may be convicted of theoffense despite the absence of receipts.[19] Appellants reliance on the certifications purportedly signedby the complaining witnesses Imelda Bamba, Alma Singh andGeraldine Lagman[20]is misplaced.Indeed, the trial court and theappellate court found the certifications barren of credence andprobative weight. We agree with the following pronouncement of the appellate court: Anent the claim of the appellant that the trial court erredin not giving weight to the certifications (Exhs. 2, 3 & 4) allegedlyexecuted by the complainants to the effect that he did not recruitthem and that no money was involved, the same deserves scantconsideration. The appellant testified that he was in possession of thesaid certifications at the time the same were executed by thecomplainants and the same were always in his possession;however, when he filed his counteraffidavit during thepreliminary investigation before the Department of Justice, he didnot mention the said certifications nor attach them to hiscounter-affidavit. We find it unbelievable that the appellant, a collegegraduate, would not divulge the said certifications which wouldprove that, indeed, he is not an illegal recruiter.By failing topresent the said certifications prior to the trial, the appellant risksthe adverse inference and legal presumption that, indeed, suchcertifications were not genuine.When a party has it in hispossession or power to produce the best evidence of which thecase in its nature is susceptible and withholds it, the fairpresumption is that the evidence is withheld for some sinistermotive and that its production would thwart his evil or fraudulentpurpose.As aptly pointed out by the trial court: x x xThese certifications were allegedly executed beforecharges were filed against him. Knowing that he was alreadybeing charged for prohibited recruitment, why did he notbring out these certifications which were definitelyfavorable to him, if the same were authentic.It is socontrary to human nature that one would suppressevidence which would belie the charge against him .(Emphasis Ours)[21] At the preliminary investigation, appellant was furnishedwith copies of the affidavits of the complaining witnesses andwas required to submit his counter-affidavit. The complainingwitnesses identified him as the culprit who recruited them. At notime did appellant present the certifications purportedly signedby the complaining witnesses to belie the complaint againsthim.He likewise did not indicate in his counter-affidavit that thecomplaining witnesses had executed certifications stating thatthey were not recruited by him and that he did not receive anymoney from any of them.He has not come forward with any validexcuse for his inaction.It was only when he testified in hisdefense that he revealed the certifications for the first time.Eventhen, appellant lied when he claimed that he did not submit thecertifications because the State Prosecutor did not require him tosubmit any counter-affidavit, and that he was told that thecriminal complaint would be dismissed on account of the failureof the complaining witnesses to appear during the preliminaryinvestigation.The prevarications of appellant were exposed byPublic Prosecutor Pedro Catral on cross-examination, thus: Q Mr. Witness, you said that a preliminary investigation[was] conducted by the Department of Justice through StateProsecutor Daosos.Right?A Yes, Sir. Q Were you requested to file your Counter-Affidavit?A Yes, Sir.I was required. Q Did you file your Counter-Affidavit?A Yes, Sir, but he did not accept it. Q Why?A Because he said never mind because the witness is notappearing so he dismissed the case. Q Are you sure that he did not accept your Counter-Affidavit, Mr. Witness?A I dont know of that, Sir. Q If I show you that Counter-Affidavit you said youprepared, will you be able to identify the same, Mr. Witness?A Yes, Sir. Q I will show you the Counter-Affidavit dated June 16,1997 filed by one Joseph J. Jamilosa, will you please go over thisand tell if this is the same CounterAffidavit you said youprepared and you are going to file with the investigating stateprosecutor?A Yes, Sir.This the same Counter-Affidavit. Q There is a signature over the typewritten name Joseph J. Jamilosa, will you please go over this and tell this HonorableCourt if this is your signature, Mr. Witness?A Yes, Sir.This is my signature. Q During the direct examination you were asked to identify[the] Certification as Exh. 2 dated January 17, 1996, allegedlyissued by Bamba, one of

the complainants in this case, when didyou receive this Certification issued by Imelda Bamba, Mr.Witness?A That is the date, Sir. Q You mean the date appearing in the Certification.A Yes, Sir. Q Where was this handed to you by Imelda Bamba, Mr.Witness?A At SM North Edsa, Sir. Q During the direct examination you were also asked toidentify a Certification Exh. 3 for the defense dated February 19,1996, allegedly issued by Alma Singh, one of the complainants inthis case, will you please go over this and tell us when did AlmaSingh allegedly issue to you this Certification?A On February 19, 1996, Sir. Q And also during the direct examination, you were askedto identify a Certification which was already marked as Exh. 4 forthe defense dated January 22, 1996allegedly issued by GeraldineM. Lagman, one of the complainants in this case, will you pleasetell the court when did Geraldine Lagman give you thisCertification?A January 22, 1996, Sir. Q During that time, January 22, 1996, January 17,1996 and February 19, 1996, you were in possession of all theseCertification.Correct, Mr. Witness?A Yes, Sir. Q These were always in your possession.Right?A Yes, Sir, with my papers. Q Do you know when did the complainants file casesagainst you?A I dont know, Sir. Q Alright.I will read to you this Counter-Affidavit of yours,and I quote I, Joseph Jamilosa, of legal age, married and residentof Manila City Jail, after having duly sworn to in accordance withlaw hereby depose and states that: 1) the complainants swornunder oath to the National Bureau of Investigation that I recruited

them and paid me certain sums of money assuming that there istruth in those allegation of this ( sic ) complainants.The chargefiled by them should be immediately dismissed for certain lack of merit in their Sworn Statement to the NBI Investigator; 2)likewise, the complainants allegation is not true and I neverrecruited them to work abroad and that they did not give memoney, they asked me for some help so I [helped] them inassisting and processing the necessary documents, copies forgetting US Visa; 3) the complainant said under oath that they canshow a receipt to prove that they can give me sums or amount of money.That is a lie.They sworn ( sic ), under oath, that they canshow a receipt that I gave to them to prove that I got the moneyfrom them.I asked the kindness of the state prosecutor to ask thecomplainants to show and produce the receipts that I gave tothem that was stated in the sworn statement of the NBI; 4) theallegation of the complainants that the charges filed by themshould be dismissed because I never [received] any amount fromthem and they can not show any receipt that I gave them, ManilaCity Jail, Philippines, June 16, 1997.So, Mr. Witness, June 16,1997 is the date when you prepared this.Correct?A Yes, Sir. Q Now, my question to you, Mr. Witness, you said that youhave with you all the time the Certification issued by [the] three(3) complainants in this case, did you allege in your CounterAffidavit that this Certification you said you claimed they issuedto you?A I did not say that, Sir. Q So, it is not here in your Counter-Affidavit?A None, Sir. Q What is your educational attainment, Mr. Witness?A I am a graduate of AB Course Associate Arts in 1963 atthe University of the East. Q You said that the State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice did not accept your Counter-Affidavit, are you sure of that,Mr. Witness?A Yes, Sir. Q Did you receive a copy of the dismissal which you said itwas dismissed?A No, Sir.I did not receive anything. Q Did you receive a resolution from the Department of Justice?A No, Sir. Q Did you go over the said resolution you said you receivedhere?A I just learned about it now, Sir. Q Did you read the content of the resolution?A Not yet, Sir.Its only now that I am going to read. COURT Q You said it was dismissed.Correct?A Yes, Your Honor. Q Did you receive a resolution of this dismissal?A No, Your Honor. FISCAL CATRALQ What did you receive?A I did not receive any resolution, Sir.Its just now that Ilearned about the finding. Q You said you learned here in court, did you

read theresolution filed against you, Mr. Witness?A I did not read it, Sir. Q Did you read by yourself the resolution made by StateProsecutor Daosos, Mr. Witness?A Not yet, Sir. Q What did you take, if any, when you received thesubpoena from this court?A I was in court already when I asked Atty. Usita toinvestigate this case. Q You said a while ago that your Affidavit was not acceptedby State Prosecutor Daosos.Is that correct?A Yes, Sir. Q Will you please read to us paragraph four (4), page two(2) of this resolution of State Prosecutor Daosos. (witness reading par. 4 of the resolution) Alright.What did you understand of this paragraph 4, Mr.Witness?A Probably, guilty to the offense charge.[22] It turned out that appellant requested the complainingwitnesses to sign the certifications merely to prove that he wassettling the cases: COURTQ These complainants, why did you make them sign in thecertifications?A Because one of the complainants told me to sign andthey are planning to sue me. Q You mean they told you that they are filing chargesagainst you and yet you [made] them sign certifications in yourfavor, what is the reason why you made them sign?A To prove that Im settling this case. Q Despite the fact that they are filing cases against youand yet you were able to make them sign certifications?A Only one person, Your Honor, who told me and he is notaround. Q But they all signed these three (3) certifications and yetthey filed charges against you and yet you made them signcertifications in your favor, so what is the reason why you madethem sign? (witness can not answer)[23] The Court notes that the trial court ordered appellant torefund US$300.00 to each of the complaining witnesses.Theruling of the appellate court must be modified.Appellant mustpay only the peso equivalent of US$300.00 to each of thecomplaining witnesses. IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING , the appealis DISMISSED .The Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming theconviction of Joseph Jamilosa for large scale illegal recruitmentunder Sections 6 and 7 of Republic Act No. 8042 is AFFIRMEDWITH MODIFICATION. The appellant is hereby ordered torefund to each of the complaining witnesses the peso equivalentof US$300.00.Costs against appellant. SO ORDERED .

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 156029 November 14, 2008

SANTOSA B. DATUMAN, petitioner, vs. FIRST COSMOPOLITAN MANPOWER AND PROMOTION SERVICES, INC., respondent. DECISION LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.: Before us is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision1 dated August 7, 2002, in CA-G.R. SP No. 59825, setting aside the Decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The facts are as follows: Sometime in 1989, respondent First Cosmopolitan Manpower & Promotion Services, Inc. recruited petitioner Santosa B. Datuman to work abroad under the following terms and conditions:
Site of employment Employees Classification/Position/Grade Basic Monthly Salary Duration of Contract Foreign Employer - Bahrain - Saleslady - US$370.00 - One (1) year - Mohammed Sharif Abbas Ghulam Hussain2

On April 17, 1989, petitioner was deployed to Bahrain after paying the required placement fee. However, her employer Mohammed Hussain took her passport when she arrived there; and instead of working as a saleslady, she was forced to work as a domestic helper with a salary of

Forty Bahrain Dinar (BD40.00), equivalent only to One Hundred US Dollars (US$100.00). This was contrary to the agreed salary of US$370.00 indicated in her Contract of Employment signed in the Philippines and approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).3 On September 1, 1989, her employer compelled her to sign another contract, transferring her to another employer as housemaid with a salary of BD40.00 for the duration of two (2) years.4 She pleaded with him to give her a release paper and to return her passport but her pleas were unheeded. Left with no choice, she continued working against her will. Worse, she even worked without compensation from September 1991 to April 1993 because of her employer's continued failure and refusal to pay her salary despite demand. In May 1993, she was able to finally return to the Philippines through the help of the Bahrain Passport and Immigration Department.5 In May 1995, petitioner filed a complaint before the POEA Adjudication Office against respondent for underpayment and nonpayment of salary, vacation leave pay and refund of her plane fare, docketed as Case No. POEA ADJ. (L) 95-05-1586.6 While the case was pending, she filed the instant case before the NLRC for underpayment of salary for a period of one year and six months, nonpayment of vacation pay and reimbursement of return airfare. When the parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement before the Labor Arbiter, they were required to file their respective position papers, subsequent pleadings and documentary exhibits. In its Position Paper,7 respondent countered that petitioner actually agreed to work in Bahrain as a housemaid for one (1) year because it was the only position available then. However, since such position was not yet allowed by the POEA at that time, they mutually agreed to submit the contract to the POEA indicating petitioner's position as saleslady. Respondent added that it was actually petitioner herself who violated the terms of their contract when she allegedly transferred to another employer without respondent's knowledge and approval. Lastly, respondent raised the defense of prescription of cause of action since the claim was filed beyond the three (3)-year period from the time the right accrued, reckoned from either 1990 or 1991.8

On April 29, 1998, Labor Arbiter Jovencio Mayor, Jr. rendered a Decision finding respondent liable for violating the terms of the Employment Contract and ordering it to pay petitioner: (a) the amount of US$4,050.00, or its equivalent rate prevailing at the time of payment, representing her salary differentials for fifteen (15) months; and, (b) the amount of BD 180.00 or its equivalent rate prevailing at the time of payment, representing the refund of plane ticket, thus: From the foregoing factual backdrop, the only crucial issue for us to resolve in this case is whether or not complainant is entitled to her monetary claims. xxx In the instant case, from the facts and circumstances laid down, it is thus self-evident that the relationship of the complainant and respondent agency is governed by the Contract of Employment, the basic terms a covenants of which provided for the position of saleslady, monthly compensation of US$370.00 and duration of contract for one (1) year. As it is, when the parties - complainant and respondent Agency - signed and executed the POEA approved Contract of Employment, this agreement is the law that governs them. Thus, when respondent agency deviated from the terms of the contract by assigning the position of a housemaid to complainant instead of a saleslady as agreed upon in the POEAapproved Contract of Employment, respondent Agency committed a breach of said Employment Contract. Worthy of mention is the fact that respondent agency in their Position Paper paragraph 2, Brief Statement of the Facts and of the Case admitted that it had entered into an illegal contract with complainant by proposing the position of a housemaid which said position was then not allowed by the POEA, by making it appear in the Employment Contract that the position being applied for is the position of a saleslady. As it is, we find indubitably clear that the foreign employer had took advantage to the herein hopeless complainant and because of this ordeal, the same obviously rendered complainant's continuous employment unreasonable if not downright impossible. The facts and surrounding circumstances of her ordeal was convincingly laid down by the complainant in her Position Paper, from which we find no flaws material enough to

disregard the same. Complainant had clearly made out her case and no amount of persuasion can convince us to tilt the scales of justice in favor of respondents whose defense was anchored solely on the flimsy allegations that for a period of more than five (5) years - from 1989 until 1995 - nothing was heard from her or from her relatives, presuming then that complainant had no problem with her employment abroad. We also find that the pleadings and the annexes filed by the parties reveal a total lapse on the part of respondent First Cosmopolitan Manpower and Promotions - their failure to support with substantial evidence their contention that complainant transferred from one employer to another without knowledge and approval of respondent agency in contravention of the terms of the POEA approved Employment Contract. Obviously, respondent Agency anchored its disquisition on the alleged "contracts" signed by the complainant that she agreed with the terms of said contracts - one (1) year duration only and as a housemaid - to support its contention that complainant violated the contract agreement by transferring from one employer to another on her own volition without the knowledge and consent of respondent agency. To us, this posture of respondent agency is unavailing. These "documents" are selfserving. We could not but rule that the same were fabricated to tailor-fit their defense that complainant was guilty of violating the terms of the Employment Contract. Consequently, we could not avoid the inference of a more logical conclusion that complainant was forced against her will to continue with her employment notwithstanding the fact that it was in violation of the original Employment Contract including the illegal withholding of her passport. With the foregoing, we find and so rule that respondent Agency failed to discharge the burden of proving with substantial evidence that complainant violated the terms of the Employment Contract, thus negating respondent Agency's liability for complainant's money claims. All the more, the record is bereft of any evidence to show that complainant Datuman is either not entitled to her wage differentials or have already received the same from respondent. As such, we are perforce constrained to grant complainant's prayer for payment of salary differentials computed as follows: January 1992 April 1993 (15 months)

US$370.00 agreed salary US$100.00 actual paid salary US$270.00 balance US$270.00 x 15 months = US$4050.00 We are also inclined to grant complainant's entitlement to a refund of her plane ticket in the amount of BD 180 Bahrain Dinar or the equivalent in Philippine Currency at the rate of exchange prevailing at the time of payment. Anent complainant's claim for vacation leave pay and overtime pay, we cannot, however, grant the same for failure on the part of complainant to prove with particularity the months that she was not granted vacation leave and the day wherein she did render overtime work. Also, we could not grant complainant's prayer for award of damages and attorney's fees for lack of factual and legal basis. WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered, finding respondent Agency liable for violating the term of Employment Contract and respondent First Cosmopolitan Manpower and Promotions is hereby ordered: To pay complainant the amount of US$ FOUR THOUSAND AND FIFTY (US$4,050.00), or its equivalent rate prevailing at the time of payment, representing her salary differentials for fifteen (15) months; To pay complainant the amount of BD 180.00 or its equivalent rate prevailing at the time of payment, representing the refund of plane ticket; All other claims are hereby dismissed for lack of merit. SO ORDERED.9 (emphasis supplied) On appeal, the NLRC, Second Division, issued a Decision10 affirming with modification the Decision of Labor Arbiter Mayor, Jr., by reducing

the award of salary differentials from US$4,050.00 to US$2,970.00 ratiocinating as follows: Accordingly, we find that the claims for salary differentials accruing earlier than April of 1993 had indeed prescribed. This is so as complainant had filed her complaint on May 31, 1995 when she arrived from the jobsite in April 1993. Since the cause of action for salary differential accrues at the time when it falls due, it is clear that only the claims for the months of May 1993 to April 1994 have not yet prescribed. With an approved salary rate of US$370.00 vis-à-vis the amount of salary received which was $100.00, complainant is entitled to the salary differential for the said period in the amount of $2,970.00. xxx WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered MODIFYING the assailed Decision by reducing the award of salary differentials to $2,970.00 to the complainant. The rest of the disposition is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.11 On July 21, 2000, respondent elevated the matter to the CA through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. On August 2, 2000,12 the CA dismissed the petition for being insufficient in form pursuant to the last paragraph of Section 3, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. On October 20, 2000,13 however, the CA reinstated the petition upon respondent's motion for reconsideration.14 On August 7, 2002, the CA issued the assailed Decision15 granting the petition and reversing the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter, thus: Under Section 1 (f), Rule II, Book II of the 1991 POEA Rules and Regulations, the local agency shall assume joint and solidary liability with the employer for all claims and liabilities which may arise in connection with the implementation of the contract,

including but not limited to payment of wages, health and disability compensation and repatriation. Respondent Commission was correct in declaring that claims of private respondent "for salary differentials accruing earlier than April of 1993 had indeed prescribed." It must be noted that petitioner company is privy only to the first contract. Granting arguendo that its liability extends to the acts of its foreign principal, the Towering Recruiting Services, which appears to have a hand in the execution of the second contract, it is Our considered opinion that the same would, at the most, extend only up to the expiration of the second contract or until 01 September 1991. Clearly, the money claims subject of the complaint filed in 1995 had prescribed. However, this Court declares respondent Commission as not only having abused its discretion, but as being without jurisdiction at all, in declaring private respondent entitled to salary differentials. After decreeing the money claims accruing before April 1993 as having prescribed, it has no more jurisdiction to hold petitioner company for salary differentials after that period. To reiterate, the local agency shall assume joint and solidary liability with the employer for all claims and liabilities which may arise in connection with the implementation of the contract. Which contract? Upon a judicious consideration, we so hold that it is only in connection with the first contract. The provisions in number 2, Section 10 (a), Rule V, Book I of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code Section 1 (f), Rule II, Book II of the 1991 POEA Rules and Regulations were not made to make the local agency a perpetual insurer against all untoward acts that may be done by the foreign principal or the direct employer abroad. It is only as regards the principal contract to which it is privy shall its liability extend. In Catan v. National Labor Relations Commission, 160 SCRA 691 (1988), it was held that the responsibilities of the local agent and the foreign principal towards the contracted employees under the recruitment agreement extends up to and until the expiration of the employment contracts of the employees recruited and employed pursuant to the said recruitment agreement. xxx

Foregoing considered, the assailed Decision dated 24 February 2000 and the Resolution dated 23 June 2000 of respondent Commission in NLRC NCR CA 016354-98 are hereby SET ASIDE. SO ORDERED.16 Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration17 thereon was denied in the assailed Resolution18 dated November 14, 2002. Hence, the present petition based on the following grounds: I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT ABANDONED THE FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE LABOR ARBITER AS AFFIRMED BY THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION. II. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PATENTLY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE RESPONDENT AGENCY IS ONLY A [sic] PRIVY AND LIABLE TO THE PRINCIPAL CONTRACT. III. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE CAUSE OF ACTION OF THE PETITIONER ALREADY PRESCRIBED. The respondent counters in its Comment that the CA is correct in ruling that it is not liable for the monetary claims of petitioner as the claim had already prescribed and had no factual basis. Simply put, the issues boil down to whether the CA erred in not holding respondent liable for petitioner's money claims pursuant to their Contract of Employment. We grant the petition.

On whether respondent is solidarily liable for petitioner's monetary claims Section 1 of Rule II of the POEA Rules and Regulations states that: Section 1. Requirements for Issuance of License. - Every applicant for license to operate a private employment agency or manning agency shall submit a written application together with the following requirements: xxx f. A verified undertaking stating that the applicant: xxx (3) Shall assume joint and solidary liability with the employer for all claims and liabilities which may arise in connection with the implementation of the contract; including but not limited to payment of wages, death and disability compensation and repatriation. (emphasis supplied) The above provisions are clear that the private employment agency shall assume joint and solidary liability with the employer.19 This Court has, time and again, ruled that private employment agencies are held jointly and severally liable with the foreign-based employer for any violation of the recruitment agreement or contract of employment.20 This joint and solidary liability imposed by law against recruitment agencies and foreign employers is meant to assure the aggrieved worker of immediate and sufficient payment of what is due him.21 This is in line with the policy of the state to protect and alleviate the plight of the working class. In the assailed Decision, the CA disregarded the aforecited provision of the law and the policy of the state when it reversed the findings of the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter. As the agency which recruited petitioner, respondent is jointly and solidarily liable with the latter's principal employer abroad for her (petitioner's) money claims. Respondent cannot, therefore, exempt itself from all the claims and liabilities arising from the implementation of their POEA-approved Contract of Employment.

We cannot agree with the view of the CA that the solidary liability of respondent extends only to the first contract (i.e. the original, POEAapproved contract which had a term of until April 1990). The signing of the "substitute" contracts with the foreign employer/principal before the expiration of the POEA-approved contract and any continuation of petitioner's employment beyond the original one-year term, against the will of petitioner, are continuing breaches of the original POEA-approved contract. To accept the CA's reasoning will open the floodgates to even more abuse of our overseas workers at the hands of their foreign employers and local recruiters, since the recruitment agency could easily escape its mandated solidary liability for breaches of the POEAapproved contract by colluding with their foreign principals in substituting the approved contract with another upon the worker's arrival in the country of employment. Such outcome is certainly contrary to the State's policy of extending protection and support to our overseas workers. To be sure, Republic Act No. 8042 explicitly prohibits the substitution or alteration to the prejudice of the worker of employment contracts already approved and verified by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) from the time of actual signing thereof by the parties up to and including the period of the expiration of the same without the approval of the DOLE.22 Respondent's contention that it was petitioner herself who violated their Contract of Employment when she signed another contract in Bahrain deserves scant consideration. It is the finding of both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC - which, significantly, the CA did not disturb - that petitioner was forced to work long after the term of her original POEAapproved contract, through the illegal acts of the foreign employer. In Placewell International Services Corporation v. Camote,23 we held that the subsequently executed side agreement of an overseas contract worker with her foreign employer which reduced his salary below the amount approved by the POEA is void because it is against our existing laws, morals and public policy. The said side agreement cannot supersede the terms of the standard employment contract approved by the POEA. Hence, in the present case, the diminution in the salary of petitioner from US$370.00 to US$100 (BD 40.00) per month is void for violating the POEA-approved contract which set the minimum standards, terms, and conditions of her employment. Consequently, the solidary liability of

respondent with petitioner's foreign employer for petitioner's money claims continues although she was forced to sign another contract in Bahrain. It is the terms of the original POEA-approved employment contract that shall govern the relationship of petitioner with the respondent recruitment agency and the foreign employer. We agree with the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC that the precepts of justice and fairness dictate that petitioner must be compensated for all months worked regardless of the supposed termination of the original contract in April 1990. It is undisputed that petitioner was compelled to render service until April 1993 and for the entire period that she worked for the foreign employer or his unilaterally appointed successor, she should have been paid US$370/month for every month worked in accordance with her original contract. Respondent cannot disclaim liability for the acts of the foreign employer which forced petitioner to remain employed in violation of our laws and under the most oppressive conditions on the allegation that it purportedly had no knowledge of, or participation in, the contract unwillingly signed by petitioner abroad. We cannot give credence to this claim considering that respondent by its own allegations knew from the outset that the contract submitted to the POEA for approval was not to be the "real" contract. Respondent blithely admitted to submitting to the POEA a contract stating that the position to be filled by petitioner is that of "Saleslady" although she was to be employed as a domestic helper since the latter position was not approved for deployment by the POEA at that time. Respondent's evident bad faith and admittedcircumvention of the laws and regulations on migrant workers belie its protestations of innocence and put petitioner in a position where she could be exploited and taken advantage of overseas, as what indeed happened to her in this case. We look upon with great disfavor the unsubstantiated actuations of innocence or ignorance on the part of local recruitment agencies of acts of their foreign principals, as if the agencies' responsibility ends with the deployment of the worker. In the light of the recruitment agency's legally mandated joint and several liability with the foreign employer for all claims in connection with the implementation of the contract, it is the recruitment agency's responsibility to ensure that the terms and conditions of the employment contract, as approved by the POEA, are faithfully complied with and implemented properly by its foreign client/principal. Indeed, it is in its best interest to do so to avoid being

haled to the courts or labor tribunals and defend itself from suits for acts of its foreign principal. On whether petitioner's claims for underpaid salaries have prescribed It should be recalled that the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC similarly found that petitioner is entitled to underpaid salaries, albeit they differed in the number of months for which salary differentials should be paid. The CA, on the other hand, held that all of petitioner's monetary claims have prescribed pursuant to Article 291 of the Labor Code which provides that: Art. 291. Money Claims. - All money claims arising from employeremployee relations accruing during the effectivity of this Code shall be filed within three years from the time that cause of action accrued; otherwise, they shall be forever barred. (emphasis supplied) We do not agree with the CA when it held that the cause of action of petitioner had already prescribed as the three-year prescriptive period should be reckoned from September 1, 1989 when petitioner was forced to sign another contract against her will. As stated in the complaint, one of petitioner's causes of action was for underpayment of salaries. The NLRC correctly ruled the right to claim unpaid salaries (or in this case, unpaid salary differentials) accrue as they fall due.24 Thus, petitioner's cause of action to claim salary differential for October 1989 only accrued after she had rendered service for that month (or at the end of October 1989). Her right to claim salary differential for November 1989 only accrued at the end of November 1989, and so on and so forth. Both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC found that petitioner was forced to work until April 1993. Interestingly, the CA did not disturb this finding but held only that the extent of respondent's liability was limited to the term under the original contract or, at most, to the term of the subsequent contract entered into with the participation of respondent's foreign principal, i.e. 1991. We have discussed previously the reasons why (a) the CA's theory of limited liability on the part of respondent is untenable and (b) the petitioner has a right to be compensated for all months she, in fact, was forced to work. To determine for which months petitioner's right to claim salary differentials has not prescribed, we must count three years prior to the filing of the complaint on May 31, 1995. Thus,

only claims accruing prior to May 31, 1992 have prescribed when the complaint was filed on May 31, 1995. Petitioner is entitled to her claims for salary differentials for the period May 31, 1992 to April 1993, or approximately eleven (11) months.25 We find that the NLRC correctly computed the salary differential due to petitioner at US$2,970.00 (US$370.00 as approved salary rate US$100.00 as salary received = US$290 as underpaid salary per month x 11 months). However, it should be for the period May 31, 1992 to April 1993 and not May 1993 to April 1994 as erroneously stated in the NLRC's Decision. A final note This Court reminds local recruitment agencies that it is their bounden duty to guarantee our overseas workers that they are being recruited for bona fide jobs with bona fide employers. Local agencies should never allow themselves to be instruments of exploitation or oppression of their compatriots at the hands of foreign employers. Indeed, being the ones who profit most from the exodus of Filipino workers to find greener pastures abroad, recruiters should be first to ensure the welfare of the very people that keep their industry alive. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated August 7, 2002 and Resolution dated November 14, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 59825 are REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The Decision of the National Labor Relations Commission dated February 24, 2000 isREINSTATED with a qualification with respect to the award of salary differentials, which should be granted for the period May 31, 1992 to April 1993 and not May 1993 to April 1994. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 182232 October 6, 2008

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. NENITA B. HU, accused-appellant. DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.: This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by accused-appellant Nenita B. Hu (Hu) seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated 9 October 2007 in CA-G.R.-CR.-H.C. No. 02243, affirming with modification the Decision2 dated 4 January 2005 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 66, in Criminal Case No. 03356. The RTC in its Decision found Hu guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, as defined and penalized under Section 7(b) of Republic Act No. 8042,3 and accordingly, sentenced her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment, to pay the fine of P500,000.00, and to indemnify private complainants Paul Abril (Abril), Joel Panguelo (Panguelo) and Evangeline Garcia (Garcia) in the amounts of P44,000.00, P50,000 and P50,000, respectively. The decretal part of the assailed Court of Appeals Decision reads: Wherefore, in the light of the foregoing disquisitions, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 66, in Criminal Case No. 03-856, finding appellant Nenita B. Hu, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. As modified, the award of actual damages in the amount of P50,000 in favor of Evangeline Garcia, isDELETED.4 The antecedent facts are as follows: An Information5 for Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale was filed against Hu and Ethel V. Genoves (Genoves) which reads: The undersigned Prosecutor accuses Ethel V. Genoves a.k.a. Merry Ann Genoves and Nenita B. Hu, of the crime of Violation of Section 6 penalized under Section 7(b) of RA 80426 (Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale) committed as follows: That on or about the 9th day of October 2001, in the City of Makati, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring

and confederating together and both of them helping and aiding one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously recruit, promise employment/job placement abroad for an overseas employment and collect fees from the following persons to wit: NOEL P. DELAYUN JOEL U. PANGUELO EVANGELINE E. GARCIA JOEY F. SILAO PAUL C. ABRIL ERIC V. ORILLANO

thus in large scale amounting to economic sabotage without any license or authorized by the POEA of the Department of Labor and Employment to recruit workers for an overseas employment. Upon arraignment, Hu assisted by counsel entered a plea of not guilty while Genoves remained at large.7Subsequently, trial on the merits ensued. While the Information for illegal recruitment named several persons as having been promised jobs by Hu and Genoves, only four of them - Panguelo, Garcia, Abril and Orillano -- testified. Hu was the President of Brighturn International Services, Inc. (Brighturn), a land-based recruitment agency duly licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to engage in the business of recruitment and placement of workers abroad, with principal address at No. 1916 San Marcelino St., Malate, Manila. Brighturn was authorized by the POEA to recruit, process and deploy land-based workers for the period 18 December 1999 to 17 December 2001.8 Genoves worked as a consultant and marketing officer of Brighturn. Aside from her stint at Brighturn, Genoves was also connected with Riverland Consultancy Service (Riverland), another recruitment agency located at Room No. 210, LPL Building, Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City. Private complainants Orillano, Panguelo, Abril and Garcia sought employment at Brighturn for the positions of factory worker and electronic operator in Taiwan.9 Notwithstanding private complainants' compliance with all of the pre-employment requirements, including the payment of placement fees, they were not able to leave the country to work abroad. Sometime in June 2001, Panguelo was informed by a friend that Brighturn was hiring factory workers for Taiwan. When Panguelo went to Brighturn, he was promised employment abroad by Hu for P50,000.00. Upon Hu's instruction, Panguelo paid in full the placement fee in the amount of P50,000.00 to Genoves. The payment was evidenced by an Official Receipt dated 16 October 2001 bearing Genoves' signature. Panguelo waited for three years to be deployed to Taiwan. His waiting was all for naught. Thus, Panguelo decided to abort his application and demanded from Hu the return of the amount he paid for the placement fee, but Hu could no longer return the money.10 Also sometime in September 2001, Abril went to Brighturn to apply as a factory worker in Taiwan. At Brighturn, Abril was entertained by Hu who oriented him on the necessary requirements for application which included a valid passport, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance and ID pictures. After complying with the documentary requirements, Abril was required by Hu to pay the placement fee to Genoves in the amount of P44,000.00. As shown in Official Receipts dated 9 October 2001 and 26 October 2000, which were signed by Genoves, Abril paid the whole amount of P44,000.00 as placement

fee. Abril was assured by Hu that he would be deployed to Taiwan by December 2001 which was subsequently reset to April 2002. Despite several postponements, Abril was not able to leave the country.11 For his part, Orillano came to know of Brighturn thru Genoves. Orillano was interviewed at Brighturn by a Taiwanese principal in October 2001. After the interview, Hu informed Orillano to submit a medical certificate, NBI clearance and passport; and to pay the requisite placement fee in the amount of P50,000.00. Believing that Hu could send him abroad, Orillano faithfully complied with these requirements including the placement fee, the payment of which was made to Genoves at Brighturn's office. Despite such payment, however, Orillano was not able to leave the country.12 Garcia suffered the same fate as her co-applicants. In April 2002, Garcia applied as Electronic Operator at Brighturn wherein she was entertained by Hu who informed her that Brighturn's license was suspended. Garcia was then referred by Hu to Best One International (Best One), another recruitment agency likewise located in Malate, Manila. While Garcia was told by Hu that the processing of her documents would be done at Best One, the placement fee, however, should be paid at Brighturn. Accordingly, the amount of P60,000.00 was paid by Garcia to Hu and Genoves as placement fee upon Hu's instruction. Almost predictably, the promise of an employment abroad never came to pass.13 When Hu was not able to refund the amounts paid as placement fees upon demand, private complainants went to NBI to file a complaint for illegal recruitment against Hu and Genoves. For her defense, Hu claimed that she was the President of Brighturn, a duly authorized landbased recruitment agency. Brighturn had foreign principals in Taiwan who were looking for skilled individuals willing to work in a foreign country. Hu alleged that Brighturn had an established recruitment procedure wherein applicants were only required to pay the corresponding placement fees after the POEA had already approved their employment contracts. According to Hu, announcements were posted all over Brighturn's premises warning job applicants to pay placement fees only to the cashier. After the expiration of its license issued by the POEA on 18 December 1999, Brighturn failed to pursue its application for renewal due its inability to post the required cash bond. Brighturn was thus constrained to refer all pending applications to Best One. 14 Hu admitted knowing the private complainants because these individuals went to her office demanding the return of their placement fees by showing their official receipts. Hu averred that when she examined such receipts, she found that private complainants paid their placement fees to Riverland and not to Brighturn as shown in the heading of the said receipts which bore the name and address of Riverland and its proprietress, Genoves. Hu denied knowing Genoves.15 On 4 January 2005, the trial court rendered a Decision16 finding Hu guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Nenita Hu guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of illegal recruitment in large scale under Section 6 and 7(b) of Republic Act No. 8042, and, accordingly, sentences the accused to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment, pay the fine of P500,000.00 and to indemnify private complainants Paul Abril in the amount of P44,000.00, Joel Panguelo in the amount of P50,000.00 and Evangeline Garcia in the amount of P50,000.00.

The Court of Appeals, in its Decision17 dated 9 October 2007, confirmed the presence of all the elements of illegal recruitment in large scale, and thereby affirmed the conviction of Hu with the modification that the amount of actual damages awarded to Garcia in the amount of P50,000.00 be deleted. Hence, this Petition raising the sole issue of: WHETHER OR NOT THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING HU GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT IN LARGE SCALE. Hu was charged with and convicted by the trial court of the crime of Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale, which conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The appellate court found that Hu made enticing, albeit empty promises, which moved private complainants to part with their money and pay the placement fee. For its part, the Solicitor General joined the lower courts in finding that Hu was indeed guilty of Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale. According to the Solicitor General, all the elements of illegal recruitment in large scale had been established beyond reasonable doubt. 18 We cannot sustain the conviction for illegal recruitment in large scale. Illegal recruitment is committed when two elements concur, namely: (1) the offender has no valid license or authority required by law to enable him to lawfully engage in the recruitment and placement of workers; and (2) he undertakes any activity within the meaning of "recruitment and placement" defined under Article 13(b) of the Labor Code.19 Recruitment and placement is "any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers; and includes referrals, contact services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not: Provided, that any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment to two or more persons shall be deemed engaged in recruitment and placement."20 The crime becomes Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale when the foregoing two elements concur, with the addition of a third element - the recruiter committed the same against three or more persons, individually or as group.21 A conviction for large scale illegal recruitment must be based on a finding in each case of illegal recruitment of three or more persons whether individually or as a group. While it is true that the law does not require that at least three victims testify at the trial, nevertheless, it is necessary that there is sufficient evidence proving that the offense was committed against three or more persons.22 In the appreciation of evidence in criminal cases, it is a basic tenet that the prosecution has the burden of proof in establishing the guilt of the accused for the offense with which he is charged. Ei incumbit probation qui dicit non qui negat; i.e., "he who asserts, not he who denies, must prove." The conviction of appellant must rest not on the weakness of his defense, but on the strength of the prosecution's evidence.23 In the case at bar, the prosecution failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that illegal recruitment was committed against three or more persons. What we have uncovered upon careful scrutiny of the records was the fact that illegal recruitment was committed against only one person; that is, against Garcia alone. Illegal recruitment cannot successfully

attach to the allegations of Panguelo, Abril and Orillano, since they testified that they accomplished their pre-employment requirements through Brighturn from June 2001 up to October of the same year,24 a period wherein Brighturn's license to engage in recruitment and placement was still in full force and effect. 25 While there were six private complainants in this case, four of whom were presented during the trial, the prosecution, nonetheless, failed to establish that Hu engaged in illegal recruitment acts against at least three of these complainants. In offenses in which the number of victims is essential, such as in the present petition, failure of the prosecution to prove by convincing evidence that the offense is committed against the minimum number of persons required by law is fatal to its cause of action. Underscoring the significance of the number of victims was the disquisition of Justice Florenz Regalado in People v. OrtizMiyake26: It is evident that in illegal recruitment cases, the number of persons victimized is determinative.Where illegal recruitment is committed against a lone victim, the accused may be convicted of simple illegal recruitment which is punishable with a lower penalty under Article 39(c)27 of the Labor Code. Corollarily, where the offense is committed against three or more persons, it is qualified to illegal recruitment in large scale which provides a higher penalty under Article 39(a)28 of the same Code. (Emphasis supplied.) Regrettably, we cannot affirm the conviction of Hu for the offense of illegal recruitment in large scale. While we strongly condemn the pervasive proliferation of illegal job recruiters and syndicates preying on innocent people anxious to obtain employment abroad, nevertheless, we find the pieces of evidence insufficient to prove the guilt of Hu beyond reasonable doubt. It is unfortunate that the prosecution evidence did not pass the test of reasonable doubt, since the testimonies of its witnesses unveil a contradicting inference -that the recruitment of Panguelo, Abril and Orillano was undertaken by Hu with the required authority from the POEA. Failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of Hu beyond reasonable doubt does not absolve her of her civil obligation to return the money she collected from private complaints Panguelo, Abril and Orillano, plus legal interest in accordance with our ruling in Domagsang v. Court of Appeals.29 There, the prosecution failed to sufficiently establish a case to warrant a conviction, but clearly proved a just debt owed to the private complainant. Thus, the accused was ordered to pay the face value of the check with 12% legal interest per annum, reckoned from the filing of the information until the finality of the judgment. It is well settled that acquittal based on reasonable doubt does not preclude an award for civil damages. The judgment of acquittal extinguishes the liability of the accused only when it includes a declaration that the facts from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. Thus, civil liability is not extinguished where the acquittal is based on lack of proof beyond reasonable doubt, since only preponderance of evidence is required in civil cases. There appears to be no sound reason to require that a separate action be still filed considering that the facts to be proved in the civil case have already been established in the criminal proceedings.30 In the present case, the prosecution explicitly proved that private complainants parted with substantial amounts of money upon the prodding and enticement of Hu on the false pretense that she had the capacity to deploy them for employment abroad. In the end, private complainants were not able to leave for work abroad or get their money back. Neither does her acquittal herein exempt Hu from subsequent criminal prosecution for estafa31 provided that deceit, which is an essential element of estafa, be proven by the

prosecution.32 Apparently, Hu deluded private complainants into believing that she had the capacity to send them abroad for employment. Through this hoax, she was able to convince private complainants to surrender their money to her in the vain hope, as it turned out, of securing employment abroad. This leaves us a case of simple illegal recruitment committed against Garcia. Garcia testified that she applied for employment in Taiwan for the position of Electronic Operator thru Brighturn in April 2002. Due to the alleged suspension of Brighturn's license, Hu referred her to a neighboring agency (Best One), but Hu continued collecting placement fees from her. The act of referral, which means the act of passing along or forwarding an applicant after an initial interview to a selected employer, placement or bureau, is included in recruitment.33 Undoubtedly, the act of Hu in referring Garcia to another recruitment agency squarely fell within the purview of recruitment that was undertaken by Hu after her authority to recruit and place workers already expired on 17 December 2001. Failure of Garcia to present proof of payment is irrelevant. The absence of receipts in the case of illegal recruitment does not warrant the acquittal of the appellant and is not fatal to the prosecution's case. As long as the prosecution is able to establish through credible and testimonial evidence, as in the case at bar, that the appellant had engaged in illegal recruitment, a conviction for the offense can be very well justified.34 Irrefragably, the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Hu of the charge of illegal recruitment against Garcia when the former referred the latter to another agency without the license or authority to do so. The trial court gave full credence to the testimony of Garcia, which unmistakably demonstrated how Hu successfully enticed her to part with a considerable amount of money in exchange for an employment abroad which was never realized. This finding was adopted by the appellate court, considering that that the trial court was in the best position to ascertain credibility issues, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during trial. Aptly, the bare denials of Hu have no probative value when ranged against the affirmative declarations of Garcia, even if the latter failed to present receipts for the payments she had made. In People v. Villas,35 this Court affirmed the conviction of the appellant for illegal recruitment even if private complaints were not able to present any receipt that they paid appellant anything, thus: Neither is there merit in the contention of the defense that appellant should be exonerated for failure of the prosecution to present any receipt proving that private complainants paid her anything. The defense argues that a receipt is the best evidence to prove delivery of money and the absence thereof shows that no payment was made. This argument is not novel. The Court has previously ruled that the absence of receipts evidencing payment does not defeat a criminal prosecution for illegal recruitment. In People vs. Pabalan [262 SCRA 574, 30 September 1996], this Court ruled: "x x x the absence of receipts in a criminal case for illegal recruitment does not warrant the acquittal of the accused and is not fatal to the case of the

prosecution. As long as the witnesses had positively shown through their respective testimonies that the accused is the one involved in the prohibited recruitment, he may be convicted of the offense despite the want of receipts. "The Statute of Frauds and the rules of evidence do not require the presentation of receipts in order to prove the existence of recruitment agreement and the procurement of fees in illegal recruitment cases. The amounts may consequently be proved by the testimony of witnesses." The private complainants have convincingly testified that the accused enticed them to apply and, in actual fact, received payments from them. And to these testimonies, the trial court accorded credence. On the other hand, appellant has not shown any reason to justify a modification or reversal of the trial court's finding. Our ruling in People v. Villas36 that the absence of receipts in illegal recruitment case does not warrant the acquittal of the accused has been reiterated in several cases.37 We are not unaware of the proliferation of these scheming illegal recruiters who cunningly rob Filipino workers, desperate to work abroad, of their money in exchange of empty promises. This Court cannot be drawn to the ingenious ploy of these illegal recruiters in withholding receipts from their victims in their vain attempt to evade liability. In fine, the Court will have to discard the conviction for illegal recruitment in large scale meted out by the RTC, since only one applicant abroad was recruited by Hu without license and authority from the POEA. Accordingly, Hu should be held responsible for simple illegal recruitment only. Hu's unsuccessful indictment for illegal recruitment in large scale, however, does not discharge her from her civil obligation to return the placement fees paid by private complainants. Under Section 7(a) of Republic Act No. 8042,38 simple illegal recruitment is punishable by imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day but not more than twelve years and a fine of not less than two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) nor more than five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00). Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law provides that if the offense is punishable by a special law, as in this case, the court shall impose on the accused an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by the said law and the minimum of which shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same. Accordingly, a penalty of eight (8) to twelve (12) years of imprisonment should be meted out to Hu. In addition, a fine in the amount of P500,000.00; and indemnity to private complainants -- Abril in the amount of P44,000.00, Panguelo in the amount of P50,000.00, Garcia in the amount of P60,000.00 and Orillano in the amount of P50,000.00, with 12% legal interest per annum, reckoned from the filing of the information until the finality of the judgment - is imposed. WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Decision dated 9 October 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.-CR.H.C. No. 02243 affirming the conviction of the accused-appellant Nenita B. Hu for the offense of Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale and sentencing her to life imprisonment is hereby VACATED. A new Decision is hereby entered convicting the accused-appellant of the offense of Simple Illegal Recruitment committed against private complainant Evangeline Garcia. She is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years to twelve (12) years of imprisonment. She is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of P500,000.00 and to

indemnify private complainant Evangeline Garcia in the amount of P60,000.00, with 12% interest per annum, reckoned from the filing of the information until the finality of the judgment. Accused-appellant Nenita B. Hu is likewise ordered to indemnify private complainants Paul Abril in the amount ofP44,000.00, Joel Panguelo in the amount of P50,000.00, and Eric Orillano in the amount of P50,000.00, with 12% interest per annum, as reckoned above. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 176169, November 14, 2008

ROSARIO NASI-VILLAR, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.
DECISION
Tinga, J.:
This is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Rosario Nasi-Villar assailing the Decision[2] dated 27 June 2005 and Resolution[3] dated 28 November 2006 of the Court of Appeals. This case originated from an Information[4] for Illegal Recruitment as defined under Sections 6 and 7 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8042[5] filed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Davao del Sur on 5 October 1998 for acts committed by petitioner and one Dolores Placa in or about January 1993. The Information reads: That on [sic] or about the month of [January 1993], in the Municipality of Sta. Cruz, Province of Davao del Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the aforenamed accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another through fraudulent representation and deceitful machination, did then and there [willfully], unlawfully and feloniously recruit Nila Panilag for employment abroad[,] demand and receive the amount of P6,500.00 Philippine Currency [sic] as placement fee[,] the said accused being a non-licensee or non-holder of authority to engage in the recruitment of workers abroad to the damage and prejudice of the herein offended party. CONTRARY TO LAW.[6] On 3 July 2002, after due trial, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Br. 18, Digos City, Davao del Sur found the evidence presented by the prosecution to be

more credible than that presented by the defense and thus held petitioner liable for the offense of illegal recruitment under the Labor Code, as amended.[7] The dispositive portion of the decision reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby finds accused ROSARIO NASI-VILLAR GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of Illegal Recruitment and, in accordance with the penalty set forth under the Labor Code, as amended, said accused is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty ranging from FOUR YEARS as minimum to FIVE YEARS as maximum. On the civil aspect of the case, there being no substantial proof presented to justify a grant of civil damages, this Court makes no pronouncement thereon. With respect to accused Ma. Dolores Placa, who is still at large, the records of this case are hereby sent to the archives to be retrieved in the event that said accused would be apprehended. Issue an alias warrant of arrest for the apprehension of said accused. SO ORDERED.[8] Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals raising as sole issue the alleged error by the trial court in finding her guilty of illegal recruitment on the basis of the trial court’s appreciation of the evidence presented by the prosecution. The Court of Appeals, in its Decision dated 27 June 2005,[9] following the principle that an appeal in a criminal case throws the whole case wide open for review, noted that the criminal acts alleged to have been committed happened sometime in 1993. However, R.A. No. 8042, under which petitioner was charged, was approved only on 7 June 1995 and took effect on 15 July 1995. Thus, the Court of Appeals declared that petitioner should have been charged under the Labor Code, in particular Art. 13(b) thereof, and not under R.A. No. 8042. Accordingly, it made its findings on the basis of the provisions of the Labor Code and found petitioner liable under Art. 38, in relation to Art. 13(b), and Art. 39 of the Labor Code. The appellate court affirmed with modification the decision of the RTC, decreeing in the dispositive portion, thus: WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court, 11th Judicial Region, Br. 18, City of Digos, Province of Davao del Sur, finding Rosario Nasi-Villar guilty beyond reasonable doubt o the

crime of Illegal Recruitment is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that Rosario Nasi-Villar is ORDERED to pay Nila Panilag the sum of P10,000.00 as temperate damages. SO ORDERED.[10] On 28 November 2006, the appellate court denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.[11] Hence, petitioner filed the instant petition for review. Petitioner alleges that the Court of Appeals erred in failing to consider that R.A. No. 8042 cannot be given retroactive effect and that the decision of the RTC constitutes a violation of the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto law. Since R.A. No. 8042 did not yet exist in January 1993 when the crime was allegedly committed, petitioner argues that law cannot be used as the basis of filing a criminal action for illegal recruitment. What was applicable in 1993 is the Labor Code, where under Art. 38, in relation to Art. 39, the violation of the Code is penalized with imprisonment of not less than four (4) years nor more than eight (8) years or a fine of not less than P20,000.00 and not more than P100,000.00 or both. On the other hand, Sec. 7(c) of R.A. No. 8042 penalizes illegal recruitment with a penalty of imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day but not more than twelve (12) years and a fine not less than P200,000.00 nor more than P500,000.00. Thus, the penalty of imprisonment provided in the Labor Code was raised or increased by R.A. No. 8042. Petitioner concludes that the charge and conviction of an offense carrying a penalty higher than that provided by the law at the time of its commission constitutes a violation of the prohibition against ex post facto law and the retroactive application of R.A. No. 8042. In its Comment[12] dated 7 September 2007, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) argues that the Court of Appeals’ conviction of petitioner under the Labor Code is correct. While conceding that there was an erroneous designation of the law violated by petitioner, the OSG stresses that the designation of the offense in the Information is not determinative of the nature and character of the crime charged against her but the acts alleged in the Information. The allegations in the Information clearly charge petitioner with illegal recruitment as defined in Art. 38, in relation to Art. 13(b) of the Labor

Code, and penalized under Art. 39(c) of the same Code. The evidence on record substantiates the charge to a moral certainty. Thus, while there was an erroneous specification of the law violated by petitioner in the Information, the CA was correct in affirming the RTC’s imposition of the penalty for simple illegal recruitment under the Labor Code, the OSG concludes. The petition is denied. We find no reversible error in the decision arrived at by the Court of Appeals. In Gabriel v. Court of Appeals,[13] we held that the real nature of the crime charged is determined, not from the caption or preamble of the information nor from the specification of the law alleged to have been violated— these being conclusions of law—but by the actual recital of facts in the complaint or information. What controls is not the designation but the description of the offense charged. From a legal point of view, and in a very real sense, it is of no concern to the accused what the technical name of the crime of which he stands charged is. If the accused performed the acts alleged in the body of the information, in the manner stated, then he ought to be punished and punished adequately, whatever may be the name of the crime which those acts constitute. [14] In the case at bar, the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt that petitioner had performed the acts constituting the offense defined in Art. 38, in relation to Art. 13(b) and punished by Art. 39 of the Labor Code, as alleged in the body of the Information. To prove illegal recruitment, two elements must be shown, namely: (1) the person charged with the crime must have undertaken recruitment activities, or any of the activities enumerated in Article 34 of the Labor Code, as amended; and (2) said person does not have a license or authority to do so.[15] Art. 13(b) defines “recruitment and placement” as “any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers, and includes referrals, contract services, promising, or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not; Provided that any person or entity which, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment to two or more persons, is considered engaged in recruitment and placement.” The trial court found these two elements had been proven in the case at bar. Petitioner has not offered any argument or proof that countervails such findings.

The basic rule is that a criminal act is punishable under the law in force at the time of its commission. Thus, petitioner can only be charged and found guilty under the Labor Code which was in force in 1993 when the acts attributed to her were committed. Petitioner was charged in 1998 under an Information that erroneously designated the offense as covered by R.A. No. 8042, but alleged in its body acts which are punishable under the Labor Code. As it was proven that petitioner had committed the acts she was charged with, she was properly convicted under the Labor Code, and not under R.A. No. 8042. There is no violation of the prohibition against ex post facto law nor a retroactive application of R.A. No. 8042, as alleged by petitioner. An ex post facto law is one which, among others, aggravates a crime or makes it greater than it was when committed or changes the punishment and inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed.[16] Penal laws and laws which, while not penal in nature, nonetheless have provisions defining offenses and prescribing penalties for their violation operate prospectively. Penal laws cannot be given retroactive effect, except when they are favorable to the accused.[17] R.A. No. 8042 amended pertinent provisions of the Labor Code and gave a new definition of the crime of illegal recruitment and provided for its higher penalty. There is no indication in R.A. No. 8042 that said law, including the penalties provided therein, would take effect retroactively. A law can never be considered ex post facto as long as it operates prospectively since its strictures would cover only offenses committed after and not before its enactment.[18] Neither did the trial court nor the appellate court give R.A. No. 8042 a retroactive application since both courts passed upon petitioner’s case only under the aegis of the Labor Code. The proceedings before the trial court and the appellate court did not violate the prohibition against ex post facto law nor involved a retroactive application of R.A. No. 8042 in any way. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated 27 June 2005 and Resolution dated 28 November 2006 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Acting C.J., (Chairperson), Carpio Morales, Velasco, Jr., and Brion, JJ., concur.

BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER VS. CUARESMA
BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER AND PROMOTION, INC. vs. SPOUSES SIMPLICIO and MILA CUARESMA, WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC. and JAIME ORTIZ GR No. 182978-79 SPOUSES SIMPLICIO AND MILA CUARESMA vs. WHITE FALCON SERVICES, INC. and BECMEN SERVICE EXPORTER, INC. GR No. 184298-99 April 7, 2009

FACTS: On January 6, 1997, Jasmin Cuaresma (Jasmin) was deployed by Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc. (Becmen) to serve as assistant nurse in Al-Birk Hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), for a contract duration of three years, with a corresponding salary of US$247.00 per month. Over a year later, she died allegedly of poisoning. Jessie Fajardo, a co-worker of Jasmin, narrated that on June 21, 1998, Jasmin was found dead by a female cleaner lying on the floor inside her dormitory room with her mouth foaming and smelling of poison. Based on the police report and the medical report of the examining physician of the Al-Birk Hospital, who conducted an autopsy of Jasmin’s body, the likely cause of her death was poisoning. Jasmin’s body was repatriated to Manila on September 3, 1998. The following day, the City Health Officer of Cabanatuan City conducted an autopsy and the resulting medical report indicated that Jasmin died under violent circumstances, and not poisoning as originally found by the KSA examining physician. The toxicology report of the NBI, however, tested negative for non-volatile, metallic poison and insecticides. Simplicio and Mila Cuaresma (the Cuaresmas), Jasmin’s parents and her surviving heirs, received from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) the following amounts: P50,000.00 for death benefits; P50,000.00 for loss of life; P20,000.00 for funeral expenses; and P10,000.00 for medical reimbursement. On November 22, 1999, the Cuaresmas filed a complaint against Becmen and its principal in the KSA, Rajab & Silsilah Company (Rajab), claiming death and insurance benefits, as well as moral and exemplary damages for Jasmin’s death, Jasmin’s death was work-related, having occurred at the employer’s premises; that under Jasmin’s contract with Becmen, she is entitled to “iqama insurance” coverage; that Jasmin is entitled to compensatory damages in the amount of US$103,740.00, which is the sum total of her monthly salary of US$247.00 per month under her employment contract, multiplied by 35 years (or the remaining years of her productive life had death not supervened at age 25, assuming that she lived and would have retired at age 60).

In their position paper, Becmen and Rajab insist that Jasmin committed suicide, citing a prior unsuccessful suicide attempt sometime in March or April 1998 and relying on the medical report of the examining physician of the Al-Birk Hospital. They likewise deny liability because the Cuaresmas already recovered death and other benefits totaling P130,000.00 from the OWWA. They insist that the Cuaresmas are not entitled to “iqama insurance” because this refers to the “issuance” – not insurance – of iqama, or residency/work permit required in the KSA. On the issue of moral and exemplary damages, they claim that the Cuaresmas are not entitled to the same because they have not acted with fraud, nor have they been in bad faith in handling Jasmin’s case. While the case was pending, Becmen filed a manifestation and motion for substitution alleging that Rajab terminated their agency relationship and had appointed White Falcon Services, Inc. (White Falcon) as its new recruitment agent in the Philippines. Thus, White Falcon was impleaded as respondent as well, and it adopted and reiterated Becmen’s arguments in the position paper it subsequently filed. ISSUES: (1.) whether the Cuaresmas are entitled to monetary claims, by way of benefits and damages, for the death of their daughter Jasmin. (2) whether or not Jasmin’s death be considered as work-connected and thus compensable even while she was not on duty; HELD: Article 19 of the Civil Code provides that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. Article 21 of the Code states that any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. And, lastly, Article 24 requires that in all contractual, property or other relations, when one of the parties is at a disadvantage on account of his moral dependence, ignorance, indigence, mental weakness, tender age or other handicap, the courts must be vigilant for his protection. Clearly, Rajab, Becmen and White Falcon’s acts and omissions are against public policy because they undermine and subvert the interest and general welfare of our OFWs abroad, who are entitled to full protection under the law. They set an awful example of how foreign employers and recruitment agencies should treat and act with respect to their distressed employees and workers abroad. Their shabby and callous treatment of Jasmin’s case; their uncaring attitude; their unjustified failure and refusal to assist in the determination of the true circumstances surrounding her mysterious death, and instead finding satisfaction in the unreasonable insistence that

she committed suicide just so they can conveniently avoid pecuniary liability; placing their own corporate interests above of the welfare of their employee’s – all these are contrary to morals, good customs and public policy, and constitute taking advantage of the poor employee and her family’s ignorance, helplessness, indigence and lack of power and resources to seek the truth and obtain justice for the death of a loved one. Giving in handily to the idea that Jasmin committed suicide, and adamantly insisting on it just to protect Rajab and Becmen’s material interest – despite evidence to the contrary – is against the moral law and runs contrary to the good custom of not denouncing one’s fellowmen for alleged grave wrongdoings that undermine their good name and honor. Whether employed locally or overseas, all Filipino workers enjoy the protective mantle of Philippine labor and social legislation, contract stipulations to the contrary notwithstanding. This pronouncement is in keeping with the basic public policy of the State to afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed, and regulate the relations between workers and employers. This ruling is likewise rendered imperative by Article 17 of the Civil Code which states that laws which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country. The relations between capital and labor are so impressed with public interest,and neither shall act oppressively against the other, or impair the interest or convenience of the public. In case of doubt, all labor legislation and all labor contracts shall be construed in favor of the safety and decent living for the laborer. The grant of moral damages to the employee by reason of misconduct on the part of the employer is sanctioned by Article 2219 (10) of the Civil Code, which allows recovery of such damages in actions referred to in Article 21. Thus, in view of the foregoing, the Court holds that the Cuaresmas are entitled to moral damages, which Becmen and White Falcon are jointly and solidarily liable to pay, together with exemplary damages for wanton and oppressive behavior, and by way of example for the public good. On the second issue: While the “employer’s premises” may be defined very broadly not only to include premises owned by it, but also premises it leases, hires, supplies or uses, we are not prepared to rule that the dormitory wherein Jasmin stayed should constitute employer’s premises as would allow a finding that death or injury therein is considered to have been incurred or sustained in the course of or arose out of her employment. There are certainly exceptions, but they do not appear to apply here. Moreover, a complete determination would have to depend on the unique circumstances obtaining and the overall factual environment of the case, which are here lacking.

WHEREFORE, Rajab & Silsilah Company, White Falcon Services, Inc., Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc., and their corporate directors and officers are found jointly and solidarily liable and ORDERED to indemnify the heirs of Jasmin Cuaresma, spouses Simplicio and Mila Cuaresma, the following amounts: (1) TWO MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P2,500,000.00) as moral damages; (2) TWO MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P2,500,000.00) as exemplary damages; (3)Attorney’s fees equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the total monetary award.

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