Labor Law, Remedial Law

MERALCO vs Lim G.R. No. 184769 Writ of Habeas Data

FACTS:

Respondent Cherry Lim works as an administrative clerk at MERALCO. The HR directed the transfer of respondent to MERALCOs Alabang Sector in Muntinlupa  due to reports that there were accusations and threats directed against her from unknown individuals, which could possibly compromise her safety and security.

Lim appealed her transfer and requested for a dialogue so she could voice her concerns and misgivings on the matter, claiming that the punitive nature of the transfer amounted to a denial of due process. Citing the grueling travel from her residence in Pampanga to Alabang and back entails, and violation of the provisions on job security of their CBA, respondent expressed her thoughts on the alleged threats to her security.

Lim filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data against petitioners claiming petitioners’ unlawful act and omission consisting of the latter failing to inform her of the cause of her transfer amounting to a violation of her right to privacy in life, liberty and security, correctible by habeas data.

Respondent thus prayed for the issuance of a writ commanding petitioners to file a written return containing the following:

  1. a) a full disclosure of the data or information about respondent in relation to the report purportedly received by petitioners on the alleged threat to her safety and security; the nature of such data and the purpose for its collection;
  2. b) the measures taken by petitioners to ensure the confidentiality of such data or information; and
  3. c) the currency and accuracy of such data or information obtained.

Additionally, respondent prayed for the issuance of a TRO enjoining petitioners from effecting her transfer.

 

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

 

Hence, the present petition.

 

ISSUE:

 

Whether or not a Writ of Habeas Data is the proper remedy.

 

RULING:

 

The petition is impressed with merit.

Respondents plea that she be spared from complying with MERALCOs Memorandum directing her reassignment to the Alabang Sector, under the guise of a quest for information or data allegedly in possession of petitioners, does not fall within the province of a writ of habeas data.

Section 1 of the Rule on the Writ of Habeas Data provides:

Section 1. Habeas Data. The writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

 

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 ones right to the truth and to informational privacy, thus safeguarding the constitutional guarantees of a persons 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.

Castillo v. Cruz underscores the emphasis laid down in Tapuz v. del Rosario that the writs of amparo and 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 respondents reservations on the real reasons for her transfer – a legitimate concern respecting the terms and conditions of ones 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.

In another vein, there is no showing from the facts presented that petitioners committed any unjustifiable or unlawful violation of respondents 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 respondents 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 July 10, 2008 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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