Antonio Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc.

CASE NO. 6 OF 50

ANTONIO M. SERRANO
VS.
GALLANT MARITIME SERVICES, INC.

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 the date of his departure, Serrano was constrained to accept a downgraded employment contract 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, serving only two months and 7 days, leaving an unexpired portion of nine months and twenty-three  days.

Upon complaint filed by Serrano before the Labor Arbiter (LA), the dismissal was declared illegal.

On appeal, the NLRC modified the LA decision based on the provision of RA 8042.

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.

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.

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.

On the second issue.

The answer is in the affirmative.

To Filipino workers, the rights guaranteed under the foregoing constitutional provisions translate to economic security and parity.

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;

The subject clause singles out one classification of OFWs and burdens it with a peculiar disadvantage.

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.

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