What the law says about customers who publicly humiliate service workers

January 20, 2023 - 5:42 PM
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Image by Blake Wisz via Unsplash

Did you know that there is a law that considers humiliating service workers on purpose a crime?

In a TikTok video on January 18, veteran lawyer Chel Diokno informed customers that public humiliation can be considered a crime under “unjust vexation.”

“Bastos na customer, paglabag ba sa batas? Alamin!” the caption reads.

This video was also posted on Diokno’s social media channels.

In the video, Diokno said that the customer is not always right in cases of intentionally being rude to the workers.

“Puwede iyang ituring na paglabag sa batas. Una, ang pagpapahiya ng tao ay pweding ituring na krimen na tinatawag na unjust vexation,” he said.

According to the lawyer, unjust vexation is any conduct that can cause any of the following:

  • Annoyance
  • Irritation
  • Torment
  • Distress
  • Disturbance

Diokno further stated that such actions can also be liable to civil damages under the Civil Code of the Philippines.

“Read articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Civil Code na naglalatag ng basic principles para sa tamang pagtrato ng kapwa tao,” he said.

The former senatorial candidate ended the video with an emphasis on respecting people.

“Sa madaling salita, respeto. Always treat others with respect. At wag i-expose ang iba sa unnecessary ridicule, shame at indignity,” Diokno said.

This came amid the controversy involving Alex Gonzaga that was caught on video. The footage showed Alex smearing cake icing on a server’s forehead during her 35th birthday party.

This incident placed the actress under fire on social media.

It also prompted calls for celebrities like her to respect service workers in the Philippines.

READ: ‘Respect service workers’: Reactions to viral cake icing-smearing vid of Alex Gonzaga | ‘Magtropa po tayo?’: Parody video of Alex Gonzaga birthday issue gains buzz online | Alex Gonzaga cake-smearing issue: Friendship with a waiter a valid excuse? 

Laws related to respecting people

The provision of unjust vexation was introduced in the case of the People of the Philippines versus Salvino Sumingwa on October 13, 2009.

The law cited was Article 287 for Light Coercions under the Civil Code of the Philippines.

The second paragraph of it reads: “Any other coercion or unjust vexation shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from 5 to 200 pesos, or both.”

The Court then explained, as follows:

“The second paragraph of this provision is broad enough to include any human conduct that, although not productive of some physical or material harm, could unjustifiably annoy or vex an innocent person. The paramount question to be considered is whether the offender’s act caused annoyance, irritation, torment, distress, or disturbance to the mind of the person to whom it was directed.”

In the Civil Code, meanwhile, the following are the provisions under articles 19, 20 and 21:

  • Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.
  • Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.
  • Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.