Labor law aims social justice

The discussion below is based on an outline by Azucena (2013) in his book, The Labor Code: with Comments and Cases (Vol. 1). On pages 10 to 11 of said books, Azucena, an award-winning and popular author in the field of social legislation, explains that the aim and the reason and, therefore, the justification of labor laws is social justice.

Social justice is "neither communism, nor despotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy," but the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated. Social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the Government of measures calculated to insure economic stability of all the competent elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est suprema lex. Social justice, therefore, must be founded on the recognition of the necessity of interdependence among divers and diverse units of a society and of the protection that should be equally and evenly extended to all groups as a combined force in our social and economic life, consistent with the fundamental and paramount objective of the state of promoting the health, comfort, and quiet of all persons, and of bringing about "the greatest good to the greatest number." (Calalang vs. Williams, 70 Phil. 726 [1940])

Social justice is so powerful a concept that it even overrides certain basic principles of our civil life such as the prohibition against unjust enrichment. "The social justice principles of labor law outweigh or render inapplicable the civil law doctrine of unjust enrichment espoused by Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr. in his Separate Opinion. The constitutional and statutory precepts portray the otherwise unjust situation as a condition affording full protection to labor. Even outside the theoretical trappings of the discussion and into the mundane realities of human experience, the refund doctrine easily demonstrates how a favorable decision by the Labor Arbiter could harm, more than help, a dismissed employee. The employee, to make both ends meet, would necessarily have to use up the salaries received during the pendency of the appeal, only to end up having to refund the sum in case of a final unfavorable decision. It is mirage of a stop-gap leading the employee to a risky cliff of insolvency." (G.R. No. 164856)

"In essence, social justice is both a juridical principle and a societal goal. As a juridical principle, it prescribes equality of the people, rich or poor, before the law. As a goal, it means the attainment of decent quality of life of the masses through humane productive efforts. The process and the goal are inseparable because one is the synergistic cause and effect of the other — legal equality opens opportunities that strengthen equality which creates more opportunities. The pursuit of social justice does not require making the rich poor but, by lawful process, making the rich share with the government the aim to realize social justice," Azucena explains in his book.
"The promotion of social justice ordained by the Constitution does not supply paramount basis for untrammeled expropriation of private land by the Rural Progress Administration or any other government instrumentality. Social justice does not champion division of property or equality of economic status; what it and the Constitution do guaranty are equality of opportunity, equality of political rights, equality before the law, equality between values given and received, and equitable sharing of the social and material goods on the basis of efforts exerted in their production." (Guido vs. Rural Progress Administration, L-2089, October 31, 1949)

According to thhe 1987 Constitution, the State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all. The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development and it (the State) affirms labor as a primary social economic force.” Therefore, “it shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.”

Azucena carefully notes that the framers of the 1987 Constitution were not content with these basic State policy declarations, so much so that a separation chapter (Article XIII with 14 sections) was written and devoted to “Social Justice and Human Rights.” Section 1 thereof provides, "The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. To this end, the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use, and disposition of property and its increments.

Also under Article XIII, it says that the promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance.

Azucena quotes the constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. who has said "This is a recognition of the reality that, in a situation of extreme mass poverty, political rights, no matter how strongly guaranteed by the constitution, become largely rights enjoyed by the upper and middle classes and are a myth for the underprivileged. Without the improvement of economic conditions there can be no real enhancement of the political rights of the people."

Azucena ends this part of his book about social justice saying, "It can be seen that the social justice concept in the 1987 Constitution transcends the economic sphere. Political equality is likewise a goal of social justice. Towards this aim, the State is commanded not just to create economic opportunities but also to diffuse economic wealth."

SOURCE: Azucena, C. A. (2013). The Labor Code: with Comments and Cases (Vol. 1). National Book Store.