Generally, the law looks with disfavor on quitclaims and releases by employees who have been inveigled or pressured into signing them by unscrupulous employers seeking to evade their legal responsibilities and frustrate just claims of employees.[Promotions and Management, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 439 Phil. 1, 11 (2002)] They are frowned upon as contrary to public policy. A quitclaim is ineffective in barring recovery of the full measure of a worker’s rights, and the acceptance of benefits therefrom does not amount to estoppel.[R & E Transport, Inc. v. Latag, 467 Phil. 355, 369 (2004)]
The reason is laid down in Lopez Sugar Corporation v. Federation of Free Workers: [G.R. Nos. 75700-01, August 30, 1990, 189 SCRA 179, 193]
The reason is plain. Employer and employee, obviously, do not stand on the same footing. The employer drove the employee to the wall. The latter must have to get hold of money. Because, out of the job, he had to face harsh necessities of life. He thus found himself in no position to resist money proferred. His, then, is a case of adherence, not of choice. One thing sure, however, is that petitioners did not relent their claim. They pressed it. They are deemed not to have waived any of their rights. Renuntiatio non praesumitur.
In exceptional cases, the Court has accepted the validity of quitclaims executed by employees if the employer is able to prove the following requisites: (1) the employee executes a deed of quitclaim voluntarily; (2) there is no fraud or deceit on the part of any of the parties; (3) the consideration of the quitclaim is credible and reasonable; and (4) the contract is not contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals or good customs or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law. [Sime Darby Pilipinas, Inc. v. Arguilla, G.R. No. 143542, June 8, 2006, 490 SCRA 183, 201] In this case, petitioners failed to establish all the foregoing requisites.
To be precise, only Alejandro was able to claim a partial amount of his retirement benefit. Thus, it is clear from the decisions of the LA, NLRC and CA that petitioners are still liable to pay Alejandro the differential on his retirement benefits. On the other hand, Agripino was actually and totally deprived of his retirement benefit.
Moreover, the petitioners, not the respondents, have the burden of proving that the quitclaim was voluntarily entered into.[EMCO Plywood Corporation v. Abelgas, G.R. No. 148532, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 496, 514, citing Salonga v. NLRC, 324 Phil. 330 (1996)] In previous cases, we have considered, among others, the educational attainment of the employees concerned in upholding the validity of the quitclaims whichthey have executed in favor of their employers. [In Mendoza, Jr. v. San Miguel Foods, Inc., G.R. No. 158684, May 16, 2005, 458 SCRA 664, we held that the petitioner therein was not an unsuspecting or a gullible person. As adverted to by the respondents, the petitioner was a graduate of the University of the Philippines, no less, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Surely, he knew the nature and the legal effect of the said deed.
In Agustilo v. Court of Appeals, 417 Phil. 218 (2001), we held that the petitioner therein was not an illiterate person who needed special protection. The petitioner held a master’s degree in library science and was an instructor in political science at the University of San Carlos. He was also at that time a law student in the said university. cralawIn Sicangco v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 110261, August 4, 1994, 235 SCRA 96, we held that the petitioner therein, who was a lawyer, could not renege on the release, waiver and quitclaim he executed, since lawyers are not easily coerced into signing legal documents] However, in Becton Dickinson Phils., Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, [G.R. Nos. 159969 & 160116, November 15, 2005, 475 SCRA 123, 147] we held:
There is no nexus between intelligence, or even the position which the employee held in the company when it concerns the pressure which the employer may exert upon the free will of the employee who is asked to sign a release and quitclaim. A lowly employee or a sales manager, as in the present case, who is confronted with the same dilemma of whether signing a release and quitclaim and accept what the company offers them, or refusing to sign and walk out without receiving anything, may do succumb to the same pressure, being very well aware that it is going to take quite a while before he can recover whatever he is entitled to, because it is only after a protracted legal battle starting from the labor arbiter level, all the way to this Court, can he receive anything at all. The Court understands that such a risk of not receiving anything whatsoever, coupled with the probability of not immediately getting any gainful employment or means of livelihood in the meantime, constitutes enough pressure upon anyone who is asked to sign a release and quitclaim in exchange of some amount of money which may be way below what he may be entitled to based on company practice and policy or by law.
Universal Robina Sugar Milling Corporation (Ursumco) And/Or Renato Cabati V. Agripino Caballeda And Alejandro Cadalin, G.R. No. 156644, July 28, 2008