Sexual Harassment

Summary

• Sexual harassment may be committed in a work-related/employment environment or in an education/training environment.

• The offender may be one who has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another.

•  The offense is committed when there is a demand, request, or requirement for sexual favor from another, regardless of whether such is accepted or not.

•  The law requires employers or heads of office to perform certain duties at the pain of being solidarily liable with the offender.

•  The Decorum and Investigation Committee is the one tasked to investigate and resolve sexual harassment cases.

1. Concept

Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an offender who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of R.A. 7877. (R.A. 7877, Section 3)

Sexual harassment is an imposition of misplaced “superiority” which is enough to dampen an employee’s spirit and her capacity for advancement. It affects her sense of judgment; it changes her life. (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. No. 155831, 18 February 2008, Per Nachura, J.)

At the core of sexual harassment in the workplace, as penalized by Republic Act No. 7877, otherwise known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, is abuse of power by a superior over a subordinate. (Escandor v. People, G.R. No. 211962, July 6, 2020, Per Leonen, J.)

a. Regardless of sex

To restate, sexual harassment can happen to anyone and everyone. Our society has often depicted women as being the weaker sex, and the only victims of sexual harassment. It is high-time that this notion is corrected. To consider women as the weaker sex is discriminatory. To think that only women can be victims of sexual harassment is discriminatory against men who have suffered the same plight; men who have been victimized by sexual predators. (Toliongco v. CA, G.R. No. 231748, July 08, 2020, Per Leonen, J.)

Toliongco v. CA, G.R. No. 231748, July 08, 2020, Per Leonen, J.:

• On October 30, 2013, respondent Anglo-Eastern Crew Management Philippines (Anglo-Eastern Crew), Inc. employed Toliongco as a Messman on behalf of its foreign principal, Anglo Eastern (ANTWERP), NV.

• On February 23, 2014, Toliongco was deployed aboard the vessel M/V Mineral Water.

• On the night of June 27, 2014, Toliongco claimed he was cleaning the galley of the ship when he felt the urge to relieve himself. He was on his way to the water closet when he met Chief Officer Korolenko Oleksiy (CO Oleksiy). Toliongco asked CO Oleksiy “if he wanted his dinner served right away,” to which CO Oleksiy replied “Ok, Ok, Thank you.”

• Toliongco served dinner to CO Oleksiy and continued to clean the galley. When he returned, Toliongco noticed that CO Oleskiy had not eaten his fruits. Toliongco handed CO Oleksiy the uneaten fruits but he was instructed to follow CO Oleksiy to his room. When both of them had entered the room, CO Oleksiy “removed all of his clothes and lay on his bed.” Toliongco was about to leave but CO Oleksiy called out to him, and as Toliongco approached, “the CO suddenly grabbed his left arm.”

• According to Toliongco, CO Oleksiy “demanded that [Toliongco] masturbate and suck his manhood.” He claimed CO Oleksiy “repeatedly forced [Toliongco’s] hand unto [CO Oleksiy’s] penis.”1However, Toliongco resisted and left CO Oleksiy’s room.

• Toliongco then went to the smoking room where he saw Able Seaman Desiderio Paner (Paner). He told Paner what happened and requested that Paner accompany him while cleaning the galley.

• Toliongco was about to finish cleaning the galley when Paner told him that CO Oleksiy was waiting for him in the ship’s office. Toliongco “asked Paner to accompany him”17 but the latter suggested that he should “just run or shout if the situation became precarious.” Paner also promised “to follow [Toliongco] if he did not come back soon.”

• Toliongco “was made to enter the cabin first.” Upon entering, he averred that CO Oleksiy locked the door, grabbed and embraced him, then dragged him to the bed. Toliongco resisted and managed to escape. After this, he told Paner as well as Chief Cook Edenjarlou Eseo (Eseo) what happened “and requested permission to call his parents.”

• The following day, Toliongco filed a Complaint for “Physical Abuse and Sexual Abuse under Alcohol Intake” against Oleksiy before the Captain. Paner and Eseo corroborated the complaint through their written testimonies. All these incidents were entered in the Deck Log Book.

• Toliongco claimed that when CO Oleksiy learned about the complaint, he threatened to kill him. Out of fear, Toliongco requested for a reliever. On July 12, 2014, he was repatriated to the Philippines.

[SC RESOLUTION]

• There is no doubt that sexual harassment occurred on board the M/V Mineral Water, and that petitioner was a victim of it.

• [I]t is possible that the seafarer’s fear is heightened because there is no way to escape from the environment where sexual harassment occurred. Being out at sea, the seafarer has to wait for the ship to dock at the nearest port before the seafarer can disembark and be repatriated. Thus, from the time the incident of sexual harassment occurred until the time the seafarer is able to disembark, it is probable that the seafarer is cowered by fear. In addition, the sexual predator, knowing there is no room for the victim to escape, is capable of continuously committing such acts of sexual harassment. The unique condition of working on board a ship empowers the harassment. The unique condition of working on board a ship empowers the sexual predator and leaves the victim feeling helpless because they are in the same enclosed space.

2. The offender

There are two possible offenders:

1) The direct offender; and

2) The indirect offender.

a. Direct offender

The direct offender may be an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment. (R.A. 7877, Section 3)

b. Indirect offender

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any act of sexual harassment, or who cooperates in the commission thereof by another without which it would not have been committed, shall also be held liable. (R.A. 7877, Last Paragraph, Section 3)

3. Where and how committed

Sexual harassment may be committed:

1) In a work-related or employment environment; or

2) In an education or training environment.

a. In a work-related or employment environment

Sexual harassment is committed in a work-related or employment environment, when:

1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;

2) The above acts would impair the employee’s rights or privileges under existing labor laws; or,

3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee. (R.A. 7877, Section 3[a])

1) As a condition in hiring/employment, re-employment,  continued employment, etc.

In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when it is made “[a]s a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee.” (R.A. 7877, Section 3[a])

a) Demand, request, requirement

In a complaint involving a respondent who allegedly kissed the complainant on numerous occasions to her surprise, the case for sexual harassment was dismissed. “Indeed, from the records on hand, there is no showing that respondent judge demanded, requested or required any sexual favor from complainant in exchange for favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotion or privileges specified under Section 3 of R.A. 7877. Nor did he, by his actuations, violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics or the Code of Professional Responsibility.” (Aquino v. Acosta, A.M. No. CTA-01-1, 02 April 2002, Per Sandoval-Gutierrez, J.)

A mere casual buss on the cheek is not a sexual conduct or favor and does not fall within the purview of sexual harassment under R.A. No. 7877. Section 3 (a)… (Aquino v. Acosta (2002), supra.)

Even if the offender has no authority to approve employment but made it appear that he did so in order to commit the prohibited acts of sexual harassment, then there may be a violation. (Jacutin v. People, G.R. No. 140604, 06 March 2002, Per Vitug, J.)

b) When demand is not necessary

Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. No. 155831, 155840, and 158700, February 18, 2008, Per Nachura, J.

• Rayala asserts that Domingo has failed to allege and establish any sexual favor, demand, or request from petitioner in exchange for her continued employment or for her promotion. According to Rayala, the acts imputed to him are without malice or ulterior motive. It was merely Domingo’s perception of malice in his alleged acts – a “product of her own imagination” – that led her to file the sexual harassment complaint.

• [E]ven if we were to test Rayala’s acts strictly by the standards set in Section 3, RA 7877, he would still be administratively liable. It is true that this provision calls for a “demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor.” But it is not necessary that the demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor be articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. It may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the acts of the offender. Holding and squeezing Domingo’s shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and tickling her ear, having inappropriate conversations with her, giving her money allegedly for school expenses with a promise of future privileges, and making statements with unmistakable sexual overtones – all these acts of Rayala resound with deafening clarity the unspoken request for a sexual favor.

• Likewise, contrary to Rayala’s claim, it is not essential that the demand, request or requirement be made as a condition for continued employment or for promotion to a higher position. It is enough that the respondent’s acts result in creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the employee. That the acts of Rayala generated an intimidating and hostile environment for Domingo is clearly shown by the common factual finding of the Investigating Committee, the OP and the CA that Domingo reported the matter to an officemate and, after the last incident, filed for a leave of absence and requested transfer to another unit.

More: Domingo v. Rayala (2008)

2) Impair the employee’s rights or privileges under existing labor laws

In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when any of the “above acts would impair the employee’s rights or privileges under existing labor laws.” (R.A. 7877, Section 3[a])

3) Result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee

In a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed when any of the “above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.” (R.A. 7877, Section 3[a])

Gonzales v. Serrano, G.R. No. 175433, March 11, 2015, Per Peralta, J.:

• In this case, the Court finds the element of corruption present. As correctly pointed out by the CA, petitioner used his position and authority as Head of the Legal Division of PHILRACOM, as well as his moral ascendancy, to elicit sexual favors and to indulge in sexually malicious acts from his respondent, his female subordinate. As to petitioner’s sole defense that he merely gave respondent an innocent birthday greeting kiss, the Court is unconvinced in view of the Joint Affidavit of their officemates attesting that he forcibly kissed her on the lips and said: “Ang sarap pala ng labi ni Maila. x x x”

More: Gonzales v. Serrano (2008)

Buban v. Dela Peña, G.R. No. 268399, January 24, 2024, J.:

• On November 11, 2014, Buban was hired as Customer Care Senior Specialist in Xerox Business. On March 22, 2015, between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Buban arrived at the office and went directly to the workstation of Team Leader Kiko10 to get her headset. However, the latter was on leave and left his pedestal locked. As a result, Buban was constrained to get a temporary headset in the storage room. She tried them on three computers, but was unsuccessful due to a system error. Buban promptly informed Dela Peña, the assigned team leader at the time, and asked for assistance in reporting the system issue to the Information Technology Department. Dela Peña told Buban that the error might be due to the headset and directed her to get a replacement headset from the storage room.

• While inside the storage room, Dela Peña suddenly appeared and told Buban, “Baby tigas na tigas na ako, kelan mo ba talaga ako pagibigyan [sic]?” Startled and feeling uneasy, Buban tried to make light of the situation by answering, “TL ano kaba? Para kang tanga dyan.” Then, she grabbed the nearest headset and ran out of the room back to her station.

• Unfortunately, the headset that Buban took was similarly defective. Buban had to get another headset without an “enabler.” Thinking that Dela Peña already left the storage area, Buban went back inside. To her surprise, Dela Peña approached her. Trying to avoid further contact, Buban hurriedly moved away, but Dela Peña grabbed her by the waist and tried to kiss her. She struggled to push him away, but Dela Peña was stronger. Dela Peña was able to hug her and he started groping her breasts. Mustering all her strength, Buban was able to break free from Dela Pena’s hold and race out of the room.

• Buban’s ordeal did not end here. While she was at her workstation, Dela Peña approached her and told her to reboot her tools and get a replacement headset, so she can start making calls instead of using system error as an excuse to slack off. Distressed at being put on the spot, Buban complied and went back to the storage room to get another headset. To her horror, Dela Peña followed her inside, closed the door, and blocked the exit. Again, Dela Peña made sexual advances on Buban, telling her, “Sige na Baby, pagkahawak mo at itatago ko din agad.” Despite her vehement protestations and warnings that he would be caught by the closed-circuit television camera, Dela Peña still forced himself upon Buban. When she found an opportunity, she ran out of the room. Shocked at what she had just experienced, she was only able to tell her teammates about the incident during their break.

• From then on, she detested going to work for fear of running into Dela Peña. As a result, her health deteriorated. At work, she became anxious and paranoid, and would find herself uncontrollably crying whenever she saw Dela Peña. However, as a single parent, she could not afford to quit. Thus, she was left with no choice but to continue working.

• She reported the incident and filed a formal complaint with the Human Resources Department. However, her case was never heard, and no protective measure was afforded to her by the management. Dela Peña continued to work in the same area and same shift with her, magnifying her distress. To her consternation, Dela Peña acted condescendingly and even insinuated that it was Buban who wanted or asked for what happened between them. To make matters worse, Xerox Business withheld three days of Buban’s salary earned in May 2015.

[SC RESOLUTION]

• [W]e find no cogent reason to depart from the uniform factual findings of the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the CA that Xerox Business was remiss in its duty under Section 4 of Republic Act No. 7877 to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment. Specifically, it failed to create a committee on decorum and investigation to promptly act upon the allegation of sexual harassment filed by Buban. Accordingly, pursuant to Section 5 of the law, Xerox Business was adjudged solidarily liable with Dela Peña for payment of damages arising from the acts of sexual harassment committed in the employment.

• Having ascertained the solidary liability of Xerox Business and Dela Peña, we now proceed to determine the proper amount thereof.

• Buban contends that the CA erred in reducing the award of moral damages to PHP 100,000.00 and exemplary damages to PHP 50,000.00. Further, she claims that aside from the damages awarded to her by the NLRC, she is likewise entitled to the damages provided under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7877 arising from the acts of sexual harassment committed in the work environment.69

• At this juncture, it is worth noting that while the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC, and the CA are in agreement that Xerox Business and Dela Peña are solidarity liable for the payment of damages resulting from the act of sexual harassment, they are at odds with the amount thereof. The Labor Arbiter, as upheld by the CA, ruled that Buban is entitled to PHP 100,000.00 as moral damages and PHP 50,000.00 as exemplary damages. Meanwhile, the NLRC ruled that Buban is entitled to moral and exemplary damages in the amount of PHP 500,000.00.

• To put things in proper perspective, Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 7877 provides that workplace sexual harassment occurs when the employer, agent of the employer, or any other person who has authority over another in a work environment, imposes sexual favors on another, which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the latter. The essence of sexual harassment is the abuse of power by the offender, not the violation of the offended party’s sexuality. Such abuse of power emanates from the fact that the superior can remove the subordinate from the workplace should the latter refuse the superior’s amorous advances.70 What the law intends to correct “is the undue exercise of power and authority manifested through sexually charged conduct or one filled with sexual undertones.”

• In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Yañez, this Court re-emphasized that the “demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor” requirement in Section 3 is not essential before an act can be qualified as sexual harassment in an administrative charge. It suffices that the offender’s actions created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.

• Corollary thereto, the liability of the erring managerial officer and the employer are distinct. In fact, such liabilities are covered by separate provisions under Republic Act No. 7877. For the erring manager, unlawful acts are defined under Section 3(a), whereas the liability of the employer is subsumed under Section 4, in relation to Section 5, of the law.

• Upon a careful scrutiny of the records of the case, we sustain the CA’s modification on the awards of moral and exemplary damages.

• The award of damages is consistent with Buban’s prayer for relief in her Position Paper. To recall, Buban asked that Xerox Business and Dela Peña be declared “jointly and solidarily liable to pay [Buban] all of her monetary claims, moral and exemplary damages amounting to PHP 100,000.00 and PHP 50,000.00, respectively, and ten percent attorney’s fees from the total monetary award.”

• Applied to the present sexual harassment case, Buban is entitled to recover damages. The failure of Xerox Business to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment demonstrated its insensibility, indifference, and utter disregard not only to the employee’s security and welfare, but also to its duty under Republic Act No. 7877.

• On this matter, the CA acted accordingly in reducing the award of moral damages to PHP 100,000.00 and exemplary damages to PHP 50,000.00. The same is not only supported by the records of the case, but also consistent with prevailing jurisprudence. In Toliongco v. Court of Appeals, this Court awarded moral damages amounting to PHP 100,000.00 and exemplary damages amounting to PHP 50,000.00 upon a finding of sexual harassment.

More: Buban v. Dela Peña (2024)

b. In an education or training environment

Sexual harassment is committed in an education or training environment:

1) Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender;

2) Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship or tutorship is entrusted to the offender;

3) When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving of a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships, or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits, privileges, or consideration; or,

4) When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice. (R.A. 7877, Section 3[b])

4. Duty of the Employer or Head of Office

The employer or the head of the work-related, educational or training environment or institution, has the following duties:

1) Prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment;

2) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations, including proper decorum in the workplace and education or training institutions, in consultation with and joint1y approved by the employees or students or trainees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the procedure for the investigation of sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions therefor;

3) Create a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment; and

4) Disseminate or post a copy of R.A. 7877 for the information of all concerned. (R.A. 7877, Section 4)

5. Liability of the Employer, Head of Office, Educational or Training Institution

The employer or head of office, educational or training institution shall be solidarily liable for damages arising from the acts of sexual harassment committed in the employment, education or training environment if the employer or head of office, educational or training institution is informed of such acts by the offended party and no immediate action is taken. (R.A. 7877, Section 5)

LBC Express-VIS, Inc. v. Palco, G.R. No. 217101, February 12, 2020, Per Leonen, J:

• In this case, Batucan cannot be considered to have been acting on [the Company]’s behalf when he sexually harassed respondent. Thus, respondent cannot base her illegal dismissal complaint against [the Company] solely on Batucan’s acts. However, even if [the Company] had no participation in the sexual harassment, it had been informed of the incident. Despite this, it failed to take immediate action on respondent’s complaint. Its lack of prompt action reinforced the hostile work environment created by Batucan.

• The delay on [the Company]’s part is clear. The following are the undisputed sequence of events:

(1) On May 1, 2010, the kissing incident occurred.

(2) On May 5, 2010, respondent reported the incident to management in the LBC Head Office.70 Management suggested that instead of resigning, perhaps she could transfer to another branch. Respondent conceded.

(3) On May 8, 2010, she went back to the LBC Head Office with her mother, Araceli Palco, to submit her formal complaint. She also reported the incident to the police.

(4) While respondent was waiting to be transferred to another branch, Araceli Palco noted that Batucan resumed his duties as usual.

(5) On May 14, 2010, Palco tendered her resignation after sensing that management did not act on her complaint. In her resignation letter, she stated that she wanted to look for a more secure workplace. In her exit interview, she ranked the following factors as having caused a strong influence for her to leave: (1) relations with co-workers; (2) job security; (3) how her supervisor relates to her; and (4) her overall perception of the company’s ability to deal fairly with its associates.

(6) On June 18, 2010,76 Batucan received a Notice to Explain—41 days after respondent reported the incident, and one (1) month after she felt constrained to leave her employment.

(7) On June 19, 2010, Batucan submitted his written explanation. It took another month before the administrative hearing for the complaint was conducted. They heard Batucan only on July 20, 2010, the same date respondent filed her illegal dismissal complaint.

(8) On September 27, 2010, Batucan was suspended for 60 days with last warning—two (2) months after his administrative hearing, and over four (4) months from the time the complaint was filed.80 During the span of the investigation, there was no showing that Batucan was preventively suspended.

• Clearly, there was unreasonable delay on [the Company]’s part in acting on respondent’s complaint. Despite its allegations, there is no showing that [the Company] acted on respondent’s report before they issued Batucan a Notice to Explain. Thus, the formal investigation is deemed to have commenced only 41 days after the incident was reported. [the Company] likewise offered no explanation as to why it took another month before it held an administrative hearing for the case.

• Worse, it took [the Company] another two (2) months to resolve the matter, even if Batucan’s answers in his administrative hearing did not substantially differ from respondent’s allegations.

• Given these circumstances, the delay in acting on respondent’s case showed [the Company]’s insensibility, indifference, and disregard for its employees’ security and welfare. In failing to act on respondent’s complaint with prompt and in choosing to let the resolution of the complaint hang in the air for a long period of time, it had shown that it did not accord her claims the necessary degree of importance, and at best considered it a minor infraction that could wait. [The Company], it appears, belittled her allegations.

• Furthermore, during the investigation, Batucan resumed his duties as usual. In the meantime, respondent consumed her vacation leaves just trying to avoid him while waiting for her transfer to another branch. [The Company]’s acts showed that it was respondent who had to change and adjust, and even transfer from her place of work, instead of Batucan. [the Company] thus cannot claim that it did not create a hostile, unfavorable, unreasonable work atmosphere for respondent.

• [The Company] was explicit enough in denying the statement that it would not immediately act on the case. Yet it did not expressly deny stating that the case was difficult to decide because there are no bruises or witnesses.

• This Court emphasizes that statements suggesting that a case is weak because there are no witnesses or bruises are highly insensitive to victims of sexual harassment. In stating that a sexual harassment case is hard to prove without witnesses or physical manifestations of force, employers discourage their employees from coming forward with sexual harassment incidents. They foster an environment in which employees feel that their word cannot be taken against the word of the perpetrator. In making these statements, the employer lends more credence to the perpetrator, even without the latter having been questioned or having submitted a written explanation. It allows the employee to feel that the sexual harassment complaint’s resolution had already been pre-determined against him or her.

• Indifference to complaints of sexual harassment victims may no longer be tolerated. Recent social movements have raised awareness on the continued prevalence of sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, and has revealed that one of the causes of its pervasiveness is the lack of concern, empathy, and responsiveness to the situation. Many times, victims are blamed, hushed, and compelled to accept that it is just the way things are, and that they should either just leave or move on.

• [The Company]’s insensibility to respondent’s sexual harassment case is a ground for constructive dismissal. In this instance, it cannot be denied that respondent was compelled to leave her employment because of the hostile and offensive work environment created and reinforced by Batucan and [the Company]. She was thus clearly constructively dismissed.

More: LBC Express-VIS v. Palco (2022)

6. Decorum and Investigation Committee

The committee shall conduct meetings, as the case may be, with all concerned to increase understanding and prevent incidents of sexual harassment. It shall also conduct the investigation of alleged cases constituting sexual harassment. (R.A. 7877, Section 4[b])

In the case of a work-related environment, the committee shall be composed of at least one (1) representative each from the management, the union, if any, the employees from the supervisory rank, and from the rank and file employees. (R.A. 7877, 2nd paragraph, Section 4[b])

In the case of the educational or training institution, the committee shall be composed of at least one (1) representative from the administration, the trainors, instructors, professors or coaches and students or trainees, as the case may be. (R.A. 7877, (3rd paragraph, Section 4[b]

7. Prescription

For purposes of criminal action against the offender, any action arising from a violation of this law shall prescribe in three (3) years. (R.A. 7877, Paragraph 2, Section 7)

However, for purposes of administrative liability in the private sector against an offender, there is no such prescription. Thus, an employee may still be held liable for sexual harassment even if it happened more than three (3) years ago.

a. No strict time period to file an action

Philippine Aeolus Automotive United Corporation v. NLRC, G.R. No. 124617, 28 April 2000, Per Bellosillo, J.:

• The gravamen of the offense in sexual harassment is not the violation of the employee’s sexuality but the abuse of power by the employer. Any employee, male or female, may rightfully cry ‘foul’ provided the claim is well substantiated. Strictly speaking, there is no time period within which he or she is expected to complain through the proper channels. The time to do so may vary depending upon the needs, circumstances, and more importantly, the emotional threshold of the employee.

• [The complainant] admittedly allowed four (4) years to pass before finally coming out with her employer’s sexual impositions. Not many women, especially in this country, are made of the stuff that can endure the agony and trauma of a public, even corporate, scandal. If (the respondent) corporation had not issued the third memorandum that terminated the services of (the complainant), we could only speculate how much longer she would keep her silence. Moreover, few persons are privileged indeed to transfer from one employer to another. The dearth of quality employment has become a daily ‘monster’ roaming the streets that one may not be expected to give up one’s employment easily but to hang on to it, so to speak, by all tolerable means. Perhaps, to (the complainant’s) mind, for as long as she could outwit her employer’s ploys she would continue on herb and consider them as mere occupational hazards. This uneasiness in her place of work thrived in an atmosphere of tolerance for four (4) years, and one could only imagine the prevailing anxiety and resentment, if not bitterness, that beset her all that time. But (the alleged offender) faced reality soon enough. Since he had no place in (the complainant’s) heart, so must she have no place in his office. So, he provoked her, harassed her, and finally dislodged her; and for finally venting her pent-up anger for years, he ‘found’ the perfect reason to terminate her.

b. Delay, however, must be justified

“While, as this Court stated in Philippine Aelous, there is, strictly speaking, no fixed period within which an alleged victim of sexual harassment may file a complaint, it does not mean that she or he is at liberty to file one anytime she or he wants to. Surely, any delay in filing a complaint must be justifiable or reasonable as not to cast doubt on its merits… At all events, it is settled that the only test of whether an alleged fact or circumstance is worthy of credence is the common experience, knowledge and observation of ordinary men.” (Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. v. Soriano, G.R. No. 166039, 26 June 2006, Per Carpio Morales, J.)

References

R.A. 7877 (1995)

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