Clariesse Jami Mari A. Chan ( JD'14)


One of the most controversial issues in labor law pertains to the sufficiency of reliefs available to an employee whose dismissal has been declared illegal by the courts. Despite the numerous amendments to the Labor Code introduced by several Presidential Decrees, Executive Orders, mga Batas Pambansa and Republic Acts from the time of its enactment in 1974, the issue of adequacy, let alone propriety and appropriateness of the reliefs provided therein, continues to bedevil not only employees, employers and practitioners but the courts as well. At the center of the controversy is Article 294 [formerly 279] of the Labor Code. Entitled "Security of Tenure," the provision undoubtedly seeks to provide the reliefs and remedies to an employee whose dismissal has been declared illegal. Yet, a close reading thereof would readily indicate that it is not complete by itself in terms of providing the adequate and appropriate reliefs to an illegally dismissed employee. It fails to consider the reliefs which are appropriate for a given case whose factual environmental circumstances do not fall squarely within the ambit of the situations contemplated therein. The Supreme Court, in a number of cases, had to supplement its provision with novel and newly-minted reliefs which, for lack of legal foundation, are declared as doctrines during the time of their promulgation but only to be subsequently changed and superseded by new ones which only lead to further confusion and obfuscation.

There are significant deficiencies in Article 294 [279] which this paper shall seek to unearth, explore and expound upon. Undoubtedly, these inadequacies in Article 299 [279] do not only result in confusion but in flip-flopping decisions of the High Court. In fact, it may be said that the Supreme Court is engaging in judicial legislation when it is constrained to introduce reliefs and remedies not found in Article 294 [279] if only to fill up the gaps in the law. In the face of these deficiencies in the law, the High Court cannot rightfully be accused of undue legislation since its intention is simply to fill-up the gaps in the law which, if not remedied through appropriate congressional fiat, may further exacerbate the perennial confusion over this issue. However, there can be no gainsaying that by not adequately filling up the gaping loophole in the law through appropriate, timely legislation, the Supreme Court is given much latitude and leeway which, without intending it to be, may result in the deprivation of an illegally dismissed employee to his right to security of tenure — the very constitutional guarantee sought to be strengthened, promoted and protected by Article 294 [279]. For no matter how well-intentioned the Supreme Court may be in its effort at addressing the inadequacy and imperfection of the law, it cannot be discounted that any instability, ambiguity and uncertainty in the law as to the proper relief or correct remedy to which an illegally dismissed worker is entitled as a matter of right, would have an adverse net effect on his constitutionally and legally guaranteed right to security of tenure. Without saying more, granting reliefs and remedies which tend to change in accordance with the ambivalent demands and uncertain exigencies of the times, is not promotive of the principle of security of tenure, much less, protective of the tenet of social justice.