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D. Waiver of rights

1. CONCEPT

Waiver is defined as “a voluntary and intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known existing legal right, advantage, benefit, claim or privilege, which except for such waiver the party would have enjoyed; the voluntary abandonment or surrender, by a capable person, of a right known by him to exist, with the intent that such right shall be surrendered and such person forever deprived of its benefit; or such conduct as warrants an inference of the relinquishment of such right; or the intentional doing of an act inconsistent with claiming it.” (F.F. Cruz & Co., Inc. v. HR Construction Corp., G.R. No. 187521, 14 March 2012)

A waiver is essentially contractual. (Radio Mindanao Network, Inc. v. Amurao III, G.R. No. 167225, 22 October 2014)

Quitclaims are contracts in the nature of a compromise where parties make concessions, a lawful device to avoid litigation. It is a valid and binding agreement between the parties, provided that it constitutes a credible and reasonable settlement and the one accomplishing it has done so voluntarily and with a full understanding of its import. In so doing, the parties adjust their difficulties in the manner they have agreed upon, disregarding the possible gain in litigation and keeping in mind that such gain is balanced by the danger of losing. While quitclaims are generally intended for the purpose of preventing or putting an end to a lawsuit, jurisprudence nonetheless holds that the parties are not precluded from entering into a compromise even if a final judgment had already been rendered. (F.F. Cruz & Co. Inc. v. Galandez, G.R. No. 236496, 08 July 2019)

a. Doctrine of waiver

Rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals, or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law. (Article 6, Civil Code)

The doctrine of waiver extends to rights and privileges of any character, and, since the word “waiver” covers every conceivable right, it is the general rule that a person may waive any matter which affects his property, and any alienable right or privilege of which he is the owner or which belongs to him or to which he is legally entitled, whether secured by contract, conferred with statute, or guaranteed by constitution, provided such rights and privileges rest in the individual, are intended for his sole benefit, do not infringe on the rights of others, and further provided the waiver of the right or privilege is not forbidden by law, and does not contravene public policy; and the principle is recognized that everyone has a right to waive, and agree to waive, the advantage of a law or rule made solely for the benefit and protection of the individual in his private capacity, if it can be dispensed with and relinquished without infringing on any public right, and without detriment to the community at large. (F.F. Cruz & Co., Inc. v. HR Construction Corp., supra.)

1) Express or implied

Waiver may be either express or implied. (Vda. de Garcia v. Locsin, G.R. No. L-45950, 29 June 1938)

2) Constitutional rights, included

The waiver of the right to cross-examine a witness may be express or implied. In these instances, no violation of the constitutional right to due process is committed as the party himself or herself has opted not to exercise the right. The validity of a waiver of the right to cross-examine is recognized in our jurisdiction. The difficulty, however, is in cases where the waiver of the right is only implied. An implied waiver may take various forms. In ascertaining whether a party has waived his or her right to cross-examine a witness, this Court has identified a general standard that depends, for its application, on the surrounding facts of each particular case. In one case, this Court said that a party may be deemed to have waived his or her right to cross-examine a witness when he or she was given an opportunity to confront and cross-examine an opposing witness but failed to do so for reasons attributable to himself or herself alone. (Dy Teban Trading, Inc. v. Dy, G.R. No. 185647, 26 July 2017)

3) Limitation

While rights may be waived, the same must not be contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals or good customs or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law. (Land and Housing Development Corporation v. Esquillo, G.R. No. 152012, 30 September 2005)

2. WAIVERS AND QUITCLAIMS

a. General rule: valid

Not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and represents a reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned simply because of a change of mind. It is only where there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person, or the terms of settlement are unconscionable on its face, that the law will step in to annul the questionable transaction. But where it is shown that the person making the waiver did so voluntarily, with full understanding of what he was doing, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking. (Land and Housing Development Corporation v. Esquillo, supra.)

Indeed, there are legitimate waivers that represent the voluntary and reasonable settlements of laborers’ claims that should be respected by the Court as the law between the parties. Where the party has voluntarily made the waiver, with a full understanding of its terms as well as its consequences, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking, and may not later be disowned simply because of a change of mind. (Radio Mindanao Network, Inc. v. Amurao III, supra.)

Quitclaims in which employees voluntarily accept a reasonable amount or consideration as settlement are deemed valid. These agreements cannot be set aside merely because the parties have subsequently changed their minds. Consistent with this doctrine, a tribunal has the duty of scrutinizing quitclaims brought to its attention by either party, in order to determine their validity. (Land Housing Development Corporation v. Esquillo, G.R. No. 152012, 30 September 2005)

1) Requirements for validity

To be valid, a deed of release, waiver or quitclaim must meet the following requirements:

1) that there was no fraud or deceit on the part of any of the parties;

2) that the consideration for the quitclaim is sufficient and reasonable; and

3) that 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. (Arlo Aluminum, Inc. v. Pinon, G.R. No. 215874, 05 July 2017)

b. Exception

A quitclaim is invalid or contrary to public policy only:

1) where there is clear proof that the waiver was wrangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person; or

2) where the terms of settlement are unconscionable on their face. In instances of invalid quitclaims, the law steps in to annul the questionable waiver. (Radio Mindanao Network, Inc. v. Amurao III, supra.)

Courts have stepped in to invalidate questionable transactions, especially where there is clear proof that a waiver, for instance, was obtained from an unsuspecting or a gullible person, or where the agreement or settlement was unconscionable on its face. 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. Moreover, a quitclaim in which the consideration is scandalously low and inequitable cannot be an obstacle to the pursuit of a worker’s legitimate claim. (Arlo Aluminum, Inc. v. Pinon, supra.)

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