Labor Law

Marsaman Manning and Diamantides Maritime vs NLRC and Cajeras

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G.R. No. 127195 – 313 SCRA 88 (371 Phil. 827) – Labor Law – Pre-Employment – Post-Employment – Standard Employment Contract – POEA – Mutual Consent – Migrant Workers Act – Illegal Dismissal

Statutory Construction – Giving effect to every word in a statute; Migrant Workers Act

Marsaman Manning Agency, Inc. was the local agency of Diamantides Maritime, Inc. In June 1995, Marsaman contracted Wilfredo Cajeras to be a cook in one of the ships operated by Diamantides (MV Prigipos). The contract was for 10 months. But less than 2 months later, Cajeras was sent back home. The captain of the ship, in his entry to the Deck Log, said that the dismissal of Cajeras was of mutual consent; that a certain Dr. Hoed diagnosed Cajeras to be having some sort of a mental disorder. Cajeras subsequently sued Marsaman for illegal dismissal. NLRC ruled in favor of Cajeras. Marsaman assailed the NLRC decision. Marsaman further alleged that in awarding backpays to workers, the law applicable should be Sec. 10 or RA 8042 (or 3 months salary for every year of service).

ISSUE: Whether or not Cajeras was illegally dismissed.

HELD: Yes. There was no proof of the mutual consent between the captain and Cajeras. Under the Standard Employment Contract by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, mutual consent of leaving overseas employment should be reduced in writing. There was no showing that Cajeras reduced his consent to writing. The captain’s entry in the Deck Log is a mere unilateral act which does not bind Cajeras. Further, the Deck Log was not properly produced and authenticated (unlike in a previous case Wallem Maritime Services, Inc. v. NLRC).

On the other hand, Dr. Hoed was not shown to be qualified to be making such diagnosis. The court cannot take judicial notice of his findings without competent proof as to his qualification. Neither did Dr. Hoed elaborate his findings which were mere sweeping statements as to Cajeras’ alleged illness. It did not show how such illness affected Cajeras’ function. In fact, as per the last rating of Cajeras, he was rated as a “Very Good” cook.

Section 10 of RA 8042 (Migrant Workers Act) is indeed applicable but the assertion of Marsaman to pay only 3 months of Cajeras’ salary is untenable. A plain reading of Sec. 10 clearly reveals that the choice of which amount to award an illegally dismissed overseas contract worker, i.e., whether his salaries for the unexpired portion of his employment contract or three months salary for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less, comes into play only when the employment contract concerned has a term of at least one year or more (Cajeras was contracted for 10 months only). This is evident from the words for every year of the unexpired term which follows the words salaries x x x for three months. To follow Marsaman’s thinking that Cajeras is entitled to three months salary only simply because it is the lesser amount is to completely disregard and overlook some words used in the statute while giving effect to some. This is contrary to the well-established rule in legal hermeneutics that in interpreting a statute, care should be taken that every part or word thereof be given effect since the law-making body is presumed to know the meaning of the words employed in the statue and to have used them advisedly. Ut res magis valeat quam pereat.

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NOTE: This case was reversed in the case of Serrano vs Gallant but was reaffirmed by the passage of R.A. 10022

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