My brother is about to leave to work abroad. His documents and contract are all set and he has paid all the necessary fees to his recruitment agency. Something happened, however, and my brother is reconsidering his decision to work abroad. May I know what the possible repercussions are if he decides not to leave the country?
An overseas employment contract, much like any other kind of contract, establishes a legal tie between the contracting parties. It creates obligations that have the force of law between the contracting parties and are to be complied with in good faith (Art. 1159, Civil Code). As such, the failure of a contracting party to comply with his obligation would give the other contracting party a ground to file a suit in court for breach of contract and ask for damages (Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd. v. Vasquez, 399 SCRA 207).
Moreover, in addition to incurring civil liability, a party who fails to comply with the terms of an overseas employment contract may also incur administrative responsibility. Under the rules, a migrant worker can be subjected to disciplinary action for his “unjustified refusal to depart for the worksite after all employment and travel documents have been duly approved by the appropriate government agencies” (Sec. 1(A)(2), Rule III, Part VII, POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers). Take note that only those that are unjustified, not all refusals to depart, are a ground for disciplinary action. Thus, legitimate reasons can be used to justify refusal to depart. These include exposure to hazardous, demeaning working and living conditions; war; plague or other calamities at the worksite; and violation of labor laws of the Philippines, the host country or international labor laws (Sec. 4, Rule III, Part VII, POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers).
The unjustified refusal to depart for the worksite after all employment and travel documents have been duly approved is considered a serious offense. If proven, the concerned migrant worker may be penalized with six months and one day to one (1) year suspension from participation in the overseas employment program for the first offense, or permanent disqualification if committed for the second time ( Sec. 1 (A)(2), Rule IV, POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers).
Finally, the agency may also charge the migrant worker for the expenses it incurred in accordance with the rule stating that if the deployment does not materialize because of the fault of the migrant worker, the agency may charge him for actual expenses incurred in connection with his recruitment, subject to the requirement that the same be duly supported by official receipts (Sec. 4, Rule III, Part III, POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers).
Accordingly, should your brother finally decide not to proceed with his overseas employment contract, he would be open to civil liability and administrative responsibility as expounded in the preceding paragraphs. He may only evade responsibility for his action if he can show legitimate reasons for his refusal to push through with his employment contract.
We hope this opinion sufficiently addressed your concern. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you presented and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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 firstname.lastname@example.org