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Breach of contract by employer

Dear PAO,

I have signed and approved an employment contract, and have passed all the tests required to work abroad as a seafarer. I was supposed to be deployed, but my agency prevented me from leaving before the scheduled departure date without any valid reason. Can I hold them liable for the loss of my salary provided in my contract?


Dear Andy,

Please be informed of the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Bright Maritime Corp. (BMC) / Desiree P. Tenorio vs. Ricardo B. Fantonial, docketed as GR 165935, Feb. 8, 2012, and penned by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, where it was provided that:

«In Santiago v. CF Sharp Crew Management, Inc., the Court held that the employment contract did not commence when the petitioner therein, a hired seaman, was not able to depart from the airport or seaport in the point of hire; thus, no employer-employee relationship was created between the parties.

»Nevertheless, even before the start of any employer-employee relationship, contemporaneous with the perfection of the employment contract was the birth of certain and obligations, the breach of which may give rise to a cause of action against the erring party. If the reverse happened, that is, the seafarer failed or refused to be deployed as agreed upon, he would be liable for damages.

«The Court agrees with the NLRC that a recruitment agency, like petitioner BMC, must ensure that an applicant for employment abroad is technically equipped and physically fit because a labor contract affects public interest. Nevertheless, in this case, petitioners failed to prove with substantial evidence that they had a valid ground to prevent respondent from leaving on the scheduled date of his deployment. While the POEA Standard Contract must be recognized and respected, neither the manning agent nor the employer can simply prevent a seafarer from being deployed without a valid reason.

»Petitioners' act of preventing respondent from leaving and complying with his contract of employment constitutes breach of contract for which petitioner BMC is liable for actual damages to respondent for the loss of one-year salary as provided in the contract. The monthly salary stipulated in the contract is