JAIME P. ADRIANO and LEGASPI TOWERS 300, INC., Petitioners, vs. ALBERTO LASALA and LOURDES LASALA, Respondents.
G.R. No. 197842 October 9, 2013
On September 25, 1992, Legaspi Towers 300 (LT300) entered a security service contract with Alberto and Lourdes Lasala (the Lasalas), the owners of Thunder Security and Investigation Agency, for a period of one year.
On October 18, 1992, the Lasalas received a letter signed by Building Administrator Jaime P. Adriano (Adriano), reminding them of their non-compliance with the security services agreement, among which were the failure to assign security guards with the required height and educational attainment, and the failure to provide the agreed service vehicle. In compliance, respondents relieved and replaced the unqualified personnel with Adriano’s recommendees. A Ford Fiera was also produced although parked in a nearby area as no space in the building was available. The Lasalas received another letter 3 days later, reiterating the same instances of non-compliance. This prompted them to talk to Adriano.
In the meeting, Adriano mentioned that the differences could only be settled by cooperating with each other. He then requested from respondents the payment of P18,000.00, of which P5,000 would be given to the LT300 President; P3,000.00 to Captain Perez; and the rest to Adriano himself. These payments were requested in return for acting as the bridge in resolving the issues. The Lasalas paid, but the Mr. Adriano demanded another equivalent amount in another meeting in November.
Thereafter, a series of correspondence between the parties took place, with LT300 constantly reiterating the alleged violations of the service contract. In the last letter, LT300 added another grievance – non- payment of the minimum wage. To finally settle the issues, respondents sought audience before the LT300 Board but to no avail. Instead, the Board terminated the contract.
The Lasalas filed a complaint for damages alleging that LT300 and Adriano illegally terminated their services.
In its defense, LT300 said that the Lasalas breached the contract by employing personnel who failed to meet the minimum qualifications of at least 2nd year of college and 5’6" in height (note, however, that the unqualified employees were absorbed by the Lasalas due to the recommendation of LT300). LT300 also argued that the Lasalas failed to provide a service vehicle and pay minimum wage to the security guards.
The RTC ruled in favor of the Lasalas, and the CA affirmed the decision (with modification on damages).
ISSUE: W/N LT300 and Adriano are liable to the Lasalas for illegal pretermination of the contract.
LT300 has no basis in attributing breach of contract on the part of the Lasalas. As to the absorbed employees, it is ridiculous and unfair to allow the LT300 to cite lack of qualifications when they were active participants in the selection and hiring process. As to the non-provision of service vehicle and non-payment of minimum wage, the same are groundless and flimsy.
In fact, LT300 was the one that committed the breach by its abrupt and groundless termination of the agreement. Although pre-termination was allowed under the contract, LT300 could not just invoke and exercise the same without a valid and legal ground.
The LT300 is reminded that "every person must, in the exercise of his right and in the performance of his duty, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith." The Lasalas clearly complied with their part of the obligation under the security services agreement but it appeared that whatever they did, the LT300 was bent on ending it.
As such, the award of moral damages was proper since the termination was effected without valid reason, in addition to the inappropriate dealings of Adriano to acquire financial gain at the expense of the Lasalas manifested LT300’s malicious and unjust intent to do away with the Lasalas’ services.
As regards exemplary damages, the same is proper as bad faith attended the termination of the service contract agreement.
On temperate damages, the Lasalas suffered pecuniary loss because of the untimely termination of their services for no cause at all. As there is no proof capable of ascertaining the actual loss, the same is proper in lieu of actual damages.
As to attorney's fees, suffice it to say that because the Lasalas were constrained to litigate to protect their interests, the award was proper.