Dear PAO,

My brother was terminated from work. He's been a regular employee, working as a private clerk, for almost a year now, and he just informed our mother of his termination. He is the one helping us out because our mother is a single parent. Can an employee be really terminated? Whatever happened to "security of tenure"? I only finished high school, so I don't have a lot of formal knowledge. But I would really like to understand. Please advise.

Kit

Dear Kit,

There is a long-recognized disparity between laborers and employers, with laborers more often than not, at a disadvantage. It is for this reason that the security of tenure of laborers is guaranteed no less by our Constitution. As can be gleaned under Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution:

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"Section 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.

"It shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law. x x x" (Emphasis supplied)

Nevertheless, we would like to emphasize that "security of tenure" does not mean a lasting or perpetual unwarranted term of employment. "Security of tenure" simply guarantees an employee from being terminated without a legal basis. If an employee is illegally terminated, he or she must be reinstated without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and is entitled to full back wages, inclusive of allowances, and such other benefits or their monetary equivalent.

On the flip side of the coin, an employee may be dismissed from his or her post if there is a just or authorized cause for termination. These rules are clearly provided under Article 294 of the Labor Code of the Philippines:

"ART. 294. [279] Security of tenure. - In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full back wages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement."

Applying the foregoing, we submit that your brother may be validly terminated from his employment if there is a finding of a just or authorized cause to do so and that such termination was done in accordance with procedural due process. While employees' rights are protected under the Constitution and under the law, it is worthy to note that no employer can be forced to retain an employee if there is a lawful cause for his or her dismissal.

On the other hand, if your brother was terminated without cause, then his employer violated his right to security of tenure. This entitles him to reinstatement to his work without loss of seniority rights and other privileges, and to full back wages, inclusive of allowances, and such other benefits or their monetary equivalent from the time he is illegally dismissed from work.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]