Published 26 December 2022, The Daily Tribune

Social justice has always been the yardstick applied in deciding labor cases — which are disputes involving relations between the “underprivileged” employee and the “privileged” capital.

The off-repeated concept of social justice — that is, that the State shall afford full protection of labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities, and regulate the relations between workers and employers (Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution) and that all doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of the Labor Code shall be resolved in favor of the labor (Article 3 of the Labor Code) — tilt the ends of justice in favor of labor.

However, the concept of social justice in labor laws is never one-sided. While it champions the rights of the underprivileged labor against the abusive and oppressive maneuvers of the capital, social justice is never meant to authorize the oppression or self-destruction of the employer (PJ Luillier Inc. v. Camacho, G.R. No. 223073, 22 February 2017). It is not intended to countenance wrongdoings simply because it is committed by the underprivileged (Osias Academy v. The Department of Labor and Employment, G.R. No. 83234, 18 April 1989). It cannot be used as a refuge by those who claim an underserved privilege. For while social justice tilts the scales a little in favor of labor, it is never meant to disable the equally sacred right of employers to dismiss an employee who committed acts inimical to its interest (Maula v. Ximex Delivery Express Inc., G.R. No. 207838, 25 January 2017).

It is only when these two seemingly diametrically opposed concepts of social justice are altogether applied in a case that one can say that social justice, in its truest form — the one envisioned by the framers of our constitution — is achieved.

The application of this principle is most especially true when the circumstances involve the commission of acts inimical to the interest of the employer such as theft of company property. According to the Supreme Court, in cases of commission of these kinds of acts against the employer, equity and social justice cannot be considered as a refuge for erring employees. Accordingly, the policy of social justice is not intended to countenance wrongdoing simply because it is committed by the underprivileged. At best, it may mitigate the penalty, but it certainly will not condone the offense.

Compassion for the poor is an imperative of every humane society but only when the recipient is not a rascal claiming an undeserved privilege. Social justice cannot be permitted to be the refuge of scoundrels any more than can equity be an impediment to the punishment of the guilty. Those who invoke social justice may do so only if their hands are clean and their motives blameless and not simply because they happen to be poor. This great policy of our Constitution is not meant for the protection of those who have proved they are not worthy of it, like the workers who have tainted the cause of labor with the blemishes of their own character. (Manila Water Company v. Del Rosario, GR, 188747, 29 January 2014 )

In this Christmas season, may social justice in its truest form be achieved.

Blessed and Happy Christmas to all.

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