SC dismisses Palace cameraman for harassing colleague
MANILA, Philippines — “Insensitive jokes or actions could border on harassment,” the Supreme Court has said in a ruling that dismissed from service a Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) cameraman for touching and tickling a colleague’s knee.
The high court’s second division said the female employee felt harassed by the actions of the accused, who, in defense, said his action was only done in jest since they are colleagues.
“It is important to stress that there is playful teasing and then there is hurtful teasing. Despite teasing’s positive effects to interpersonal relationships, it may not always be perceived favorably,” the Supreme Court said in the decision written by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting.
The SC decision was dated February 26 but was only made public recently.
“The way a person views a joke may differ depending on the situation and on how one perceives a tease –a teaser’s intentions and his/her overall interaction with the teaser. Insensitive jokes or actions could border on harassment, due to the fact that targets may be unaware of the teaser’s intentions,” the high court added.
The incident happened in 2012 when the accused sat beside the victim, held her, and tickled her knee. According to the victim, she struggled to break free from the accused so that she hit her left elbow to an adjacent cabinet.
Consequently, the victim said she went to the restroom and cried. When she returned to the office, the accused approached her and asked, “Oh, umiyak ka daw?”
The victim subsequently filed a complaint of sexual harassment or grave misconduct over the accused’s unwelcome act of tickling her knee.
An investigation was conducted and eventually, the accused was recommended dismissed from government service. But the accused went to the Civil Service Commission and questioned the findings. A reinvestigation was carried out and the same recommendation was handed down.
The case has reached the Court of Appeals, which partially granted the accused’s plea and modified the penalty from dismissal to only six months suspension without pay.
The appeals court mitigated the imposed penalty due to the following reasons: the offense was not beyond rectification, the triviality of the complained offense, and his length of service, which is 25 years from 1987 to 2012.
But the Supreme Court, acting on RTVM’s petition, reversed the Court of Appeals’ ruling and affirmed the accused’s dismissal from service. It also forfeited the accused’s benefits including retirement, except accrued leave/terminal benefits and personal contribution in the Government Insurance System, and perpetually disqualified him from government service.
“Unsolicited physical contact, even if done in jest, has no place in the workplace, especially in government service,” the high court noted, even adding that the length of service cannot be considered a mitigating circumstance as it should instead be an aggravating one because “his seniority apparently emboldened him to commit unsolicited advances” towards the victim.
Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justices Andres Reyes Jr. and Ramon Paul Hernando concurred in the ruling.
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