Philippine Association of Service Exporters v. Drilon, 163 SCRA 386 (1988)
The Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI) is a firm "engaged principally in the recruitment of Filipino workers, male and female, for overseas placement."
It challenged the Constitutional validity of DOLE’s Department Order 1 (series of 1988), in the character of "Guidelines Governing the Temporary Suspension of Deployment of Filipino Domestic and Household Workers," in a petition for certiorari and prohibition.
The measure is assailed (1) for "discrimination against males or females;" that it does not apply to all Filipino workers but only to domestic helpers and females with similar skills;" (2) for being violative of the right to travel, and (3) for being an invalid exercise of the lawmaking power, police power being legislative, and not executive, in character.
PASEI also invoked Section 3 of Article XIII of the Constitution providing for worker participation "in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law as Department Order No. 1, as contended, was passed in the absence of prior consultations.
It also claimed that it violated the Charter's non-impairment clause, in addition to the "great and irreparable injury" that PASEI members face should the Order be further enforced.
On May 25, 1988, the Solicitor General, on behalf of the Secretary of Labor and Administrator of the POEA, filed a Comment informing the Court that on March 8, 1988, the Labor Secretary lifted the deployment ban in the states of Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Canada, Hongkong, United States, Italy, Norway, Austria, and Switzerland.
In submitting the validity of the challenged "guidelines," the Solicitor General invokes the police power of the Philippine State.
Whether Department Order 1 (series of 1988) unduly discriminates against women.
Department Order 1 applies only to "female contract workers," but it does not thereby make an undue discrimination between the sexes. “Equality before the law" under the Constitution does not import a perfect identity of rights among all men and women. It admits of classifications, provided that (1) such classifications rest on substantial distinctions; (2) they are germane to the purposes of the law; (3) they are not confined to existing conditions; and (4) they apply equally to all members of the same class.
The classification made —the preference for female workers — rests on substantial distinctions. The sordid tales of maltreatment suffered by migrant Filipina workers, even rape and various forms of torture, confirmed by testimonies of returning workers, are compelling motives for urgent Government action. As precisely the caretaker of Constitutional rights, the Court is called upon to protect victims of exploitation. In fulfilling that duty, the Court sustains the Government's efforts. There is no evidence that, except perhaps for isolated instances, Filipino men abroad have been afflicted with an identical predicament. Discrimination in this case is justified. Further, the impugned guidelines are applicable to all female domestic overseas workers, not all Filipina workers. Had the ban been given universal applicability, then it would have been unreasonable and arbitrary, since not all of them are similarly circumstanced. What the Constitution prohibits is the singling out of a select person or group of persons within an existing class, to the prejudice of such a person or group or resulting in an unfair advantage to another person or group of persons. Where the classification is based on such distinctions that make a real difference as infancy, sex, and stage of civilization of minority groups, the better rule is to recognize its validity only if the young, the women, and the cultural minorities are singled out for favorable treatment.
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