Christmas Season in Legal Retrospect

by Angel Grace D. Untalan, DECEMBER 2021

Much like the events surrounding John McClane in the classic series Die Hard— various actionable offenses also occur in real life even during the festive Christmas season.

In Sanico v. Colipano which involves the consideration of extraordinary diligence employed by common carriers, the Supreme Court (Court) had the opportunity to rule over an accident that occurred in the Christmas of 1993 which led to the amputation of a mother’s leg due to a jeepney sliding backward at an uphill incline.

In this case, the Court reiterated that in cases of death of, or injury to their passengers, Article 1756 of the Civil Code provides that common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or negligent, and this presumption can be overcome only by proof of the extraordinary diligence exercised to ensure the safety of the passengers.

In MIAA v. ALA Industries, the Court pointed out that foreseeable difficulties that occur during the Christmas season and cause a delay do not constitute a fortuitous event and difficulties in processing claims during that period are not “acts of God” that would excuse noncompliance with judicially approved obligations.

The Court also gave cognizance to the case of Santos v. McCullough Printing, an action for damages for the alleged unauthorized use, adoption, and appropriation by the defendant company of plaintiff’s intellectual creation or artistic design for a Christmas card depicting “a Philippine rural Christmas time scene consisting of a woman and a child in nipa hut adorned with a star-shaped lantern and a man astride a carabao beside a tree, underneath which appears the plaintiff’s pen name, Malang.”

In Barzaga v. CA, the Court sustained an award of moral damages upon consideration of the aggrieved family’s wounded feelings, mental anguish, and serious anxiety while keeping watch on Christmas day over the remains of their loved one.

Christmas Gifts

Photo by Jill Wellington on

Usually, other jurisprudence involving Christmas is regarding labor disputes arising from gifts and bonuses, as well as the payment of 13th-month pay.

In the case of UST Faculty Union v. NLRC, the Court overturned the rulings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC stating that the Christmas gift initially paid by the University may be considered an equivalent of the 13th-month pay pursuant to the rules implementing P.D. No. 851.

The Court clarified that the said Christmas gift is not an “equivalent” of the 13th-month pay under the rules implementing P.D. No. 851. Thus, it is not akin to a “Christmas bonus,” “mid-year bonus,” “profit-sharing payments” or “other cash bonuses.”

A bonus is defined in Philippine Education Co. v. Court of Industrial Relations as an amount granted and paid to an employee for his industry and loyalty which contributed to the success of the employer’s business and made possible the realization of profits. It is also granted by an enlightened employer to spur the employee to greater efforts for the success of the business and realization of bigger profits.

In a family, spouses cannot give direct or indirect gifts to each other during marriage pursuant to Article 87 of the Family Code which states that: “Every donation or grant of gratuitous advantage, direct or indirect, between the spouses during the marriage shall be void, except moderate gifts which the spouses may give each other on the occasion of any family rejoicing. The prohibition shall also apply to persons living together as husband and wife without a valid marriage.”

As such, a husband or wife may be allowed to give moderate gifts only during their respective birthdays, anniversaries, as well as during Christmas.

In contemplating the gifts considered moderate according to the said provision, the nature and value of the gift involved are material.

As opined by a legal columnist of the Manila Times, giving a vacation house, for example, is hardly a moderate gift but may already be considered as a substantially extravagant gift within the scope of the prohibition on the donation between spouses.

The rationale for this public policy prohibition is to prevent the weaker spouse from being influenced by the stronger one and to protect creditors from being defrauded should the law allow spouses to donate to one another.

It must be noted that partners who are in common-law relationships are also included in this prohibition due to the same purpose.

On the other hand, government employees and public officials are likewise prohibited by Republic Act No. 6713 from soliciting or accepting, whether directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation regulated by the office or any transaction affected by the latter.

Similarly, Republic Act No. 3019 (RA 3019), or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, defines the act of “receiving any gift” by a public official as including accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than a member of the public officer’s immediate family, in behalf of himself or of any member of his family or relative within the fourth civil degree, either by consanguinity or affinity, even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity like Christmas, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.

Origin of Christmas Holidays

Photo by Bich Tran on

The concept of the 25th of December as a national holiday trace back to the Japanese occupation, where an Executive Order was issued by the President under the authority conferred by “the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines.

In 1953, Republic Act No. 946 outlawed working on Christmas day and New Year’s Day which makes an employer liable for a fine or imprisonment, or both in case of a violation. However, this law has already been repealed.

In Aglipay vs. Ruiz, the Court noted that religious freedom, as a constitutional mandate is not an inhibition of profound reverence for religion and is not a denial of its influence in human affairs.

Thus, Thursdays and Fridays of Holy Week, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Sundays are made legal holidays by virtue of the Administrative Code because of the secular idea that their observance is conducive to beneficial moral results.

At present, a new presidential proclamation (Proclamation No. 1107, Series of 2021) changed the status of December 24 or Christmas Eve from a special non-working holiday to a special working holiday for purposes of boosting economic productivity in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to discourage large gatherings and festivities that usually take place during public commemorations.





About the writer:

Angel Grace D. Untalan. A Legal Management graduate with an inclination to pursue the field of higher arts. She is moderately comfortable with social interaction, but can also relish her time off from the crowd. Her works are influenced by distinguished screenwriters such as Gene Roddenberry, George R.R. Martin, and Quentin Tarantino. She aspires to become a law practitioner at The Hague, who has published papers in a Scopus-indexed journal at some point in the future.

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