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MERALCO, et al. v. Lim, G.R. No. 184769, 05 October 2010.

30 Oct

EN BANC

[CARPIO-MORALES, J.]

FACTS:

Rosario G. Lim (respondent), also known as Cherry Lim, an administrative clerk at the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), learned of an anonymous letter that was posted at the door of the Metering Office of the Administration building of MERALCO Plaridel, Bulacan Sector, at which respondent is assigned, denouncing respondent. The letter reads: 

“Cherry Lim:

MATAPOS MONG LAMUNIN LAHAT NG BIYAYA NG MERALCO, NGAYON NAMAN AY GUSTO MONG PALAMON ANG BUONG KUMPANYA SA MGA BUWAYA NG GOBYERNO. KAPAL NG MUKHA MO, LUMAYAS KA RITO, WALANG UTANG NA LOOB…”

By Memorandum, petitioner Alexander Deyto, Head of MERALCO’s Human Resource Staffing, directed the transfer of respondent to MERALCO’s Alabang Sector in Muntinlupa as “A/F OTMS Clerk,” in light of the receipt of “… reports that there were accusations and threats directed against [her] from unknown individuals and which could possibly compromise [her] safety and security.”

Respondent questions the propriety of MERALCO’s action in a letter as “highly suspicious…” and being “punitive”, but the latter never responded. Respondent filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data against petitioners before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulacan. Additionally, respondent prayed for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining petitioners from effecting her transfer to the MERALCO Alabang Sector.

The trial court granted the prayers of respondent including the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction directing petitioners to desist from implementing respondent’s transfer until such time that petitioners comply with the disclosures required.

ISSUES:

[1] Whether the RTC lacked jurisdiction to over the case and cannot restrain MERALCO’s prerogative as employer to transfer the place of work of its employees.

[2] Is the issuance of the writ outside the parameters expressly set forth in the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data? 

 

HELD:

[1] YES.

The habeas data rule, in general, is designed to protect by means of judicial complaint the image, privacy, honor, information, and freedom of information of an individual. It is meant to provide a forum to enforce one’s right to the truth and to informational privacy, thus safeguarding the constitutional guarantees of a person’s right to life, liberty and security against abuse in this age of information technology. It bears reiteration that like the writ of amparo, habeas data was conceived as a response, given the lack of effective and available remedies, to address the extraordinary rise in the number of killings and enforced disappearances. Its intent is to address violations of or threats to the rights to life, liberty or security as a remedy independently from those provided under prevailing Rules.

[W]rits of …habeas data will NOT issue to protect purely property or commercial concerns nor when the grounds invoked in support of the petitions therefor are vague or doubtful. Employment constitutes a property right under the context of the due process clause of the Constitution. It is evident that respondent’s reservations on the real reasons for her transfer – a legitimate concern respecting the terms and conditions of one’s employment – are what prompted her to adopt the extraordinary remedy of habeas data. Jurisdiction over such concerns is inarguably lodged by law with the NLRC and the Labor Arbiters.

[2] YES. 

There is no showing from the facts presented that petitioners committed any unjustifiable or unlawful violation of respondent’s right to privacy vis-a-vis the right to life, liberty or security. To argue that petitioners’ refusal to disclose the contents of reports allegedly received on the threats to respondent’s safety amounts to a violation of her right to privacy is at best speculative. Respondent in fact trivializes these threats and accusations from unknown individuals in her earlier-quoted portion of her letter as “highly suspicious, doubtful or are just mere jokes if they existed at all.” And she even suspects that her transfer to another place of work “betray[s] the real intent of management]” and could be a “punitive move.” Her posture unwittingly concedes that the issue is labor-related.

 

 
 

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