Facts: This is an action for habeas corpus brought by Bartolome Caunca in behalf of his cousin Estelita Flores who was employed by the Far Eastern Employment Bureau, owned by Julia Salazar, respondent herein. An advanced payment has already been given to Estelita by the employment agency, for her to work as a maid. However, Estelita wanted to transfer to another residence, which was disallowed by the employment agency. Further she was detained and her liberty was restrained. The employment agency wanted that the advance payment, which was applied to her transportation expense from the province should be paid by Estelita before she could be allowed to leave.
Issue: Whether or Not an employment agency has the right to restrain and detain a maid without returning the advance payment it gave?
Held: An employment agency, regardless of the amount it may advance to a prospective employee or maid, has absolutely no power to curtail her freedom of movement. The fact that no physical force has been exerted to keep her in the house of the respondent does not make less real the deprivation of her personal freedom of movement, freedom to transfer from one place to another, freedom to choose one’s residence. Freedom may be lost due to external moral compulsion, to founded or groundless fear, to erroneous belief in the existence of an imaginary power of an impostor to cause harm if not blindly obeyed, to any other psychological element that may curtail the mental faculty of choice or the unhampered exercise of the will. If the actual effect of such psychological spell is to place a person at the mercy of another, the victim is entitled to the protection of courts of justice as much as the individual who is illegally deprived of liberty by duress or physical coercion.