Published 3 April 2023, The Daily Tribune

The fundamental equality between women and men is enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

In this article, we’ll discuss a recent Supreme Court ruling, where the SC declared as unconstitutional a compulsory retirement age provision in a Collective Bargaining Agreement for discriminating against women.

In a decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, promulgated on 10 January 2023, the SC En Banc unanimously declared as unconstitutional and void Section 144(A) of the 2000-2005 CBA entered between Philippine Airlines, Inc. and the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines.

Section 144(A) of the 2000-2005 CBA provides that the compulsory retirement age for female flight attendants is 55 years old, while 60 years old for male flight attendants.

In 2019, female flight attendants of PAL filed a petition, in the case entitled Halagueña, et al. v. Philippine Airlines Inc. (docketed as G.R. 243256) arguing that Section 144(A)  of the CBA deprives female flight attendants of employment opportunities at an age “not young enough to seek a new job but not old enough to be considered retired.”

In finding the petition meritorious, the SC declared that the compulsory retirement age provision is void for “discriminating against women” and for “being contrary to laws, international convention, and public policy.”

The SC did not find sufficient proof to support PAL’s argument that female flight attendants between 55 to 59 years old do not have the “necessary strength to open emergency doors, the agility to attend to passengers in cramped working conditions, and the stamina to withstand grueling flight schedules, unlike their male counterparts.”

In ruling for the female flight attendants, the court emphasized the fundamental equality of women and men before the law, which is enshrined and guaranteed by the Constitution, the Labor Code, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

According to the SC, the policy deprived petitioners of benefits attached to employment, such as income and medical benefits, five years earlier than their male counterparts, without any factual basis.

Furthermore, the SC pointed out that the compulsory retirement age provision denied employment when female flight attendants were “not young enough to seek for a new job but not old enough to be considered retired.’’

The High Court held that considering the constitutional guarantee of protection to labor and security of tenure, PAL failed to provide a reasonable basis for differentiating compulsory retirement age based on sex.

Finally, the court also found that, aside from being contrary to the Constitution, laws, and international convention, the compulsory retirement provision in Section 144(A) of the Agreement was not voluntarily agreed upon by the parties.

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