Dear PAO,

My sister is a security personnel. Her private employer allegedly delayed her deployment. As a result, she did something that her employer considers as a work offense. My sister now wants to file a labor complaint against her employer. However, somebody told me that both of them are at fault or in pari delicto. Does the principle of in pari delicto apply in labor cases?


Dear Reggie,

As a rule, a party seeking remedy must come before our courts with clean hands. Parties who are equally at fault, or in pari delicto, will not be aided. The courts will leave them to where they stand and neither of their causes will be advanced. For better understanding, our Supreme Court explained:

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"Latin for 'in equal fault,' in pari delicto connotes that two or more people are at fault or are guilty of a crime. Neither courts of law nor equity will interpose to grant relief to the parties, when· an illegal agreement has been made, and both parties stand in pari delicto. Under the pari delicto doctrine, the parties to a controversy are equally culpable or guilty, they shall have no action against each other, and it shall leave the parties where it finds them. This doctrine finds expression in the maxims 'ex dolo malo non oritur actio' and 'in pari delicto potior est condition defendentis.'" (Desiderio Ranara, Jr. v. Zacarias de los Angeles, Sr., GR 200765, Aug. 8, 2016, Ponente: Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, citing Constantino, et al. v. Heirs of Pedro Constantino, Jr., 718 Phil. 575)

You mentioned that both your sister and her employer committed a breach against each other. Corollary, should your sister decide to pursue in filing a labor complaint against her employer and it is then proven that she was also at fault, then it is likely that she may not be awarded damages and will, at most be restored to the position where she was prior such breach if the same is equitable.

The doctrine of in pari delicto has been recognized by our courts even in labor cases. In the case of Automotive Engine Rebuilders, Inc. vs. Progresibong Unyon Ng Mga Manggagawa sa AER et al. (GR 160138, July 13, 2011, Ponente: Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza) the Supreme Court ruled:

"x x x The Court is in accord with the ruling of the LA and the CA that neither party came to court with clean hands. Both were in pari delicto. x x x

"The in pari delicto doctrine in labor cases is not novel to us. It has been applied in the case of Philippines Inter-Fashion, Inc. v NLRC, where the Court held: x x x

"'The Court approves the stand taken by the Solicitor General that there was no clear and unequivocal waiver on the part of petitioner and on the contrary the record shows that it tenaciously pursued its application for their dismissal, but nevertheless in view of the undisputed findings of illegal strike on the part of the 114 employees and illegal lockout on petitioner's part, both parties are in pari delicto and such situation warrants the restoration of the status quo ante and bringing the parties back to the respective positions before the illegal strike and illegal lockout through the reinstatement of the said 114 employees, as follows: x x x'

"In the case at bar, since both AER and the union are at fault or in pari delicto, they should be restored to their respective positions prior to the illegal strike and illegal lockout. Nonetheless, if reinstatement is no longer feasible, the concerned employees should be given separation pay up to the date set for the return of the complaining employees in lieu of reinstatement."

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that 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]