Perfecto Floresca vs Philex Mining Corporation

G.R. No. L-30642 – 136 SCRA 141 – Political Law – Separation of Powers – SC Cannot Legislate; Exception

Statutory Construction – Determining the Purpose of the Law

Perfecto Floresca et al are the heirs of the deceased employees of Philex Mining Corporation who, while working at its copper mines underground operations in Tuba, Benguet on June 28, 1967, died as a result of a cave-in that buried them in the tunnels of the mine. Their complaint alleged that Philex, in violation of government rules and regulations, negligently and deliberately failed to take the required precautions for the protection of the lives of its men working underground. Floresca et al moved to claim their benefits pursuant to the Workmen’s Compensation Act before the Workmen’s Compensation Commission. They also filed a separate civil case against Philex for damages.

Philex sought the dismissal of the civil case as it insisted that Floresca et al have already claimed benefits under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

ISSUE: Whether or not Philex is correct.

HELD: Yes. Under the law, Floresca et al could only do either one. If they filed for benefits under the WCA then they will be estopped from proceeding with a civil case before the regular courts. Conversely, if they sued before the civil courts then they would also be estopped from claiming benefits under the WCA.

HOWEVER, the Supreme Court ruled that Floresca et al are excused from this deficiency due to ignorance of the fact. Had they been aware of such then they may have not availed of such a remedy. But, if in case they’ll win in the lower court whatever award may be granted, the amount given to them under the WCA should be deducted. The SC emphasized that if they would go strictly by the book in this case then the purpose of the law may be defeated. Idolatrous reverence for the letter of the law sacrifices the human being. The spirit of the law insures man’s survival and ennobles him. As Shakespeare said, the letter of the law killeth but its spirit giveth life.

Justice Gutierrez dissenting

No civil suit should prosper after claiming benefits under the WCA. If employers are already liable to pay benefits under the WCA they should not be compelled to bear the cost of damage suits or get insurance for that purpose. The exclusion provided by the WCA can only be properly removed by the legislature NOT the SC.

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