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10/21/2016 G.R.No.

L49549

TodayisFriday,October21,2016

RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila

SECONDDIVISION

G.R.No.49549August30,1990

EVELYNCHUAQUA,petitioner,
vs.
HON.JACOBOC.CLAVE,inhiscapacityasPresidentialExecutiveAssistant,andTAYTUNGHIGH
SCHOOL,INC.,respondents.

WilliamC.GunitangandJaimeOpinionforpetitioner.

LaoganLawOfficesforprivaterespondent.

REGALADO,J.:

Thiswouldhavebeenjustanotherillegaldismissalcasewereitnotforthecontroversialanduniquesituationthat
themarriageofhereinpetitioner,thenaclassroomteacher,toherstudentwhowasfourteen(14)yearsherjunior,
wasconsideredbytheschoolauthoritiesassufficientbasisforterminatingherservices.

Private respondent Tay Tung High School, Inc. is an educational institution in Bacolod City. Petitioner had been
employedthereinasateachersince1963and,in1976whenthisdisputearose,wastheclassadviserinthesixth
gradewhereoneBobbyQuawasenrolled.Sinceitwasthepolicyoftheschooltoextendremedialinstructionsto
itsstudents,BobbyQuawasimpartedsuchinstructionsinschoolbypetitioner.1Inthecoursethereof,thecouplefell
inloveandonDecember24,1975,theygotmarriedinacivilceremonysolemnizedinIloiloCitybyHon.CornelioG.Lazaro,
CityJudgeofIloilo.2Petitionerwasthenthirty(30)yearsofagebutBobbyQuabeingsixteen(16)yearsold,consentand
advicetothemarriagewasgivenbyhismother,Mrs.ConcepcionOng.3Theirmarriagewasratifiedinaccordancewiththe
ritesoftheirreligioninachurchweddingsolemnizedbyFr.NickMelicoratBacolodCityonJanuary10,1976.4

OnFebruary4,1976,privaterespondentfiledwiththesubregionalofficeoftheDepartmentofLaboratBacolod
Cityanapplicationforclearancetoterminatetheemploymentofpetitioneronthefollowingground:"Forabusive
andunethicalconductunbecomingofadignifiedschoolteacherandthathercontinuedemploymentisinimicalto
thebestinterest,andwoulddowngradethehighmoralvalues,oftheschool."5

PetitionerwasplacedundersuspensionwithoutpayonMarch12,1976. 6 Executive Labor Arbiter Jose Y. Aguirre,


Jr. of the National Labor Relations Commission, Bacolod City, to whom the case was certified for resolution, required the
partiestosubmittheirpositionpapersandsupportingevidence.Affidavits 7weresubmittedbyprivaterespondenttobolster
itscontentionthatpetitioner,"defyingallstandardsofdecency,recklesslytookadvantageofherpositionasschoolteacher,
lured a Grade VI boy under her advisory section and 15 years her junior into an amorous relation." 8 More specifically,
privaterespondentraisedissuesonthefactthatpetitionerstayedalonewithBobbyQuaintheclassroomafterschoolhours
wheneverybodyhadgonehome,withonedoorallegedlylockedandtheotherslightlyopen.

On September 17, 1976, Executive Labor Arbiter Jose Y. Aguirre, Jr., without conducting any formal hearing,
renderedan"Award"inNLRCCaseNo.956infavorofprivaterespondentgrantingtheclearancetoterminatethe
employmentofpetitioner.Itwasheldthereinthat

Theaffidavits...althoughselfservingbutwereneverdisputedbytherespondentpointedoutthat
before the marriage of respondent to Bobby Qua, fourteen (14) years her junior and during her
employment with petitioner, an amorous relationship existed between them. In the absence of
evidencetothecontrary,theundisputedwrittentestimoniesofseveralwitnessesconvincinglypicture
thecircumstancesunderwhichsuchamorousrelationshipwasmanifestedwithinthepremisesofthe
school, inside the classroom, and within the sight of some employees. While no direct evidences
have been introduced to show that immoral acts were committed during these times, it is however

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enoughforasaneandcrediblemindtoimagineandconcludewhattranspiredandtookplaceduring
thesetimes....9

Petitioner,however,deniedhavingreceivedanycopyoftheaffidavitsreferredto.10

On October 7, 1976, petitioner appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission claiming denial of due
processfornothavingbeenfurnishedcopiesoftheaforesaidaffidavitsreliedonbythelaborarbiter.Shefurther
contended that there was nothing immoral, nor was it abusive and unethical conduct unbecoming of a dignified
schoolteacher,forateachertoenterintolawfulwedlockwithherstudent.11

On December 27, 1976, the National Labor Relations Commission unanimously reversed the Labor Arbiter's
decisionandorderedpetitioner'sreinstatementwithbackwages,withthefollowingspecificfindings:

Affiant Maselliones deposed and said that he saw appellant and Qua sitting on the student desk
insideaclassroomafterclasses.ThedepositionsofaffiantsDespiandChinareofthesametenor.
Nostatementswhateverwereswornbythemthattheywereeyewitnessestoimmoralorscandalous
acts.

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EvenifwehavetostrainoursenseofmoralvaluestoaccommodatetheconclusionoftheArbiter,we
couldnotdeduceanythingimmoralorscandalousaboutagirlandaboytalkinginsidearoomafter
classeswithlightsonandwiththedooropen.

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Petitionerappellee naively insisted that the clearance application was precipitated by immoral acts
which did not lend dignity to the position of appellant. Aside from such gratuitous assertions of
immoralactsorconductbyhereinappellant,noevidencetosupportsuchclaimswasintroducedby
petitionerappellee.Wereviewedthethesequenceofeventsfromthebeginningoftherelationship
betweenappellantEvelynChuaandBobbyQuauptothedateofthefilingofthepresentapplication
for clearance in search of evidence that could have proved detrimental to the image and dignity of
theschoolbutnonehascometoourattention....12

The case was elevated by private respondent to the Minister of Labor who, on March 30, 1977, reversed the
decisionoftheNationalLaborRelationsCommission.Thepetitionerwas,however,awardedsix(6)monthssalary
asfinancialassistance.13

OnMay20,1977,petitionerappealedthesaiddecisiontotheOfficeofthePresidentofthePhilippines. 14 After
thecorrespondingexchanges,onSeptember1,1978saidoffice,throughPresidentialExecutiveAssistantJacoboC.Clave,
rendered its decision reversing the appealed decision. Private respondent was ordered to reinstate petitioner to her former
positionwithoutlossofseniorityrightsandotherprivilegesandwithfullbackwagesfromthetimeshewasnotallowedto
workuntilthedateofheractualreinstatement.15

Havingrunthegamutofthreeprioradjudicationsofthecasewithalternatingreversals,onewouldthinkthatthis
decisionofpublicrespondentwrotefinistopetitioner'scalvary.However,inaresolutiondatedDecember6,1978,
public respondent, acting on a motion for reconsideration 16 of herein private respondent and despite opposition
thereto,17reconsideredandmodifiedtheaforesaiddecision,thistimegivingduecoursetotheapplicationofTayTungHigh
School,Inc.toterminatetheservicesofpetitionerasclassroomteacherbutgivingherseparationpayequivalenttohersix
(6)monthssalary.18

Inthusreconsideringhisearlierdecision,publicrespondentreasonedoutinhismanifestation/commentfiledon
August14,1979inthisCourtinthepresentcase:

ThatthisOfficedidnotlimititselftothelegalissuesinvolvedinthecase,butwentfurthertoviewthe
matter from the standpoint of policy which involves the delicate task of rearing and educating of
children whose interest must be held paramount in the school community, and on this basis, this
Officedeemeditwisetoupholdthejudgmentandactionoftheschoolauthoritiesinterminatingthe
services of a teacher whose actuations and behavior, in the belief of the school authorities, had
spawneduglyrumorsthathadcastseriousdoubtsonherintegrity,asituationwhichwasconsidered
bythemasnothealthyforaschoolcampus,believingthataschoolteachershouldatalltimesact
withutmostcircumspectionandconductherselfbeyondreproachandabovesuspicion19

Inthispetitionforcertiorari,petitionerreliesonthefollowinggroundsforthereversaloftheaforesaidresolutionof
publicrespondent,viz.:

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1.Thedismissalorterminationofpetitioner'semployment,despiteTayTung'sclaimtothecontrary,
wasactuallybasedonhermarriagewithherpupilandis,therefore,illegal.

2.Petitioner'srighttodueprocessundertheConstitutionwasviolatedwhenthehearsayaffidavitsof
LaddyMaselliones,EleuterioDespi,PinaD.Chiu,andOngLeeBing,wereadmittedandconsidered
in evidence without presenting the affiants as witnesses and affording the petitioner the right to
confrontandcrossexaminethem.

3. No sufficient proofs were adduced to show that petitioner committed serious misconduct or
breached the trust reposed on her by her employer or committed any of the other grounds
enumeratedinArticle283(NowArticle282)oftheLaborCodewhichwilljustifytheterminationofher
employment.20

We first dispose of petitioner's claim that her right to due process was violated. We do not agree. There is no
denialofdueprocesswhereapartywasaffordedanopportunitytopresenthisside.Also,theprocedurebywhich
issues are resolved based on position papers, affidavits and other documentary evidence is recognized as not
violative of such right. Moreover, petitioner could have insisted on a hearing to confront and crossexamine the
affiants but she did not do so, obviously because she was convinced that the case involves a question of law.
Besides,saidaffidavitswerealsocitedanddiscussedbyherintheproceedingsbeforetheMinistryofLabor.

Now,onthemerits.Citingitsuprightintentiontopreservetherespectofthecommunitytowardtheteachersand
to strengthen the educational system, private respondent submits that petitioner's actuations as a teacher
constitute serious misconduct, if not an immoral act, a breach of trust and confidence reposed upon her and,
thus,avalidandjustgroundtoterminateherservices.Itarguesthatasaschoolteacherwhoexercisessubstitute
parental authority over her pupils inside the school campus, petitioner had moral ascendancy over Bobby Qua
and, therefore, she must not abuse such authority and respect extended to her. Furthermore, it charged
petitionerwithhavingallegedlyviolatedtheCodeofEthicsforteachersthepertinentprovisionofwhichstatesthat
a"schoolofficialorteachershouldnevertakeadvantageofhis/herpositiontocourtapupilorstudent."21

On the other hand, petitioner maintains that there was no ground to terminate her services as there is nothing
wrongwithateacherfallinginlovewithherpupiland,subsequently,contractingalawfulmarriagewithhim.She
argued that she was dismissed because of her marriage with Bobby Qua This contention was sustained in the
aforesaiddecisionoftheNationalLaborRelationsCommissionthus:

. . . One thing, however, has not escaped our observation: That the application for clearance was
filed only after more than one month elapsed from the date of appellant's marriage to Bobby Qua
Certainly, such belated application for clearance weakens instead of strengthening the cause of
petitionerappellee.Theallegedimmoralactstranspiredbeforethemarriageandifitisthesealleged
undignifiedconductthattriggeredtheintendedseparation,thenwhywasthepresentapplicationfor
clearancenotfiledatthattimewhentheallegeddemoralizingeffectwasstillfreshandabrasive?22

Afterapainstakingperusaloftherecords,weareoftheconsideredviewthatthedeterminationofthelegalityof
the dismissal hinges on the issue of whether or not there is substantial evidence to prove that the antecedent
facts which culminated in the marriage between petitioner and her student constitute immorality and/or grave
misconduct. To constitute immorality, the circumstances of each particular case must be holistically considered
andevaluatedinthelightofprevailingnormsofconductandtheapplicablelaw.Contrarytowhatpetitionerhad
insistedonfromtheverystart,whatisbeforeusisafactualquestion,theresolutionofwhichisbetterlefttothe
trieroffacts.

Considering that there was no formal hearing conducted, we are constrained to review the factual conclusions
arrivedatbypublicrespondent,andtonullifyhisdecisionthroughtheextraordinarywritofcertiorariifthesameis
taintedbyabsenceorexcessofjurisdictionorgraveabuseofdiscretion.Thefindingsoffactmustbesupported
bysubstantialevidenceotherwise,thisCourtisnotboundthereby.23

Werulethatpublicrespondentactedwithgraveabuseofdiscretion.Asvividlyandforcefullyobservedbyhimin
hisoriginaldecision:

Indeed,therecordsrelieduponbytheActingSecretaryofLabor(actuallytherecordsreferredtoare
the affidavits attached as Annexes "A" to "D" of the position paper dated August 10, 1976 filed by
appelleeatthearbitrationproceedings)inarrivingathisdecisionareunbelievableandunworthyof
credit, leaving many question unanswered by a rational mind. For one thing, the affidavits refer to
certaintimesofthedayduringoffschoolhourswhenappellantandherstudentwerefoundtogether
inoneoftheclassroomsoftheschool.Buttherecordsofthecasepresentareadyanswer:appellant
wasgivingremedialinstructiontoherstudentandtheschoolwasthemostconvenientplacetoserve
the purpose. What is glaring in the affidavits is the complete absence of specific immoral acts
allegedly committed by appellant and her student. For another, and very important at that, the

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alleged acts complained of invariably happened from September to December, 1975, but the
disciplinenaryactionimposedbyappelleewassoughtonlyinFebruary,1976,andwhatismore,the
affidavitswereexecutedonlyinAugust,1976andfromallindications,werepreparedbyappelleeor
itscounsel.Theaffidavitsheavilyrelieduponbyappelleeareclearlytheproductofafterthought....
Theactionpursuedbyappelleeindismissingappellantoveronemonthafterhermarriage,allegedly
basedonimmoralactscommittedevenmuchearlier,isopentobasisoftheactionsoughtseriously
doubted on the question. The basis of the action sought is seriously doubted on the contrary, we
aremoreinclinedtobelievethatappelleehadcertainselfish,ulteriorandundisclosedmotivesknown
onlytoitself.24

Asearlierstated,fromtheoutseteventhelaborarbiterconcededthattherewasnodirectevidencetoshowthat
immoral acts were committed. Nonetheless, indulging in a patently unfair conjecture, he concluded that "it is
howeverenoughforasaneandcrediblemindtoimagineandconcludewhattranspiredduringthosetimes."25 In
reversinghisdecision,theNationalLaborRelationsCommissionobservedthattheassertionsofimmoralactsorconducts
aregratuitousandthatthereisnodirectevidencetosupportsuchclaim,26afindingwhichhereinpublicrespondenthimself
shared.

Weare,therefore,atalossastohowpublicrespondentcouldadoptthevoltefacein the questioned resolution, which we


hereby reject, despite his prior trenchant observations hereinbefore quoted. What is revealing however, is that the reversal of his original decision is
inexplicablybasedonunsubstantiatedsurmisesandnonsequiturswhichheincorporatedinhisassailedresolutioninthiswise:

...Whileadmittedly,noonedirectlysawEvelynChuaandBobbyQuadoingimmoralactsinsidethe
classroom it seems obvious and this Office is convinced that such a happening indeed transpired
withinthesolitudeoftheclassromafterregularclasshours.ThemarriagebetweenEvelynChuaand
BobbyQuaisthebestproofwhichconfirmsthesuspicionthatthetwoindulgedinamorousrelations
inthatplaceduringthosetimesoftheday....27

With the finding that there is no substantial evidence of the imputed immoral acts, it follows that the alleged
violationoftheCodeofEthicsgoverningschoolteacherswouldhavenobasis.Privaterespondentutterlyfailedto
showthatpetitionertookadvantageofherpositiontocourtherstudent.Ifthetwoeventuallyfellinlove,despite
thedisparityintheiragesandacademiclevels,thisonlylendssubstancetothetruismthatthehearthasreasons
ofitsownwhichreasondoesnotknow.But,definitely,yieldingtothisgentleanduniversalemotionisnottobeso
casually equated with immorality. The deviation of the circumstances of their marriage from the usual societal
patterncannotbeconsideredasadefianceofcontemporarysocialmores.

It would seem quite obvious that the avowed policy of the school in rearing and educating children is being
unnecessarilybanneredtojustifythedismissalofpetitioner.Thispolicy,however,isnotatoddswithandshould
notbecapitalizedontodefeatthesecurityoftenuregrantedbytheConstitutiontolabor.Interminationcases,the
burdenofprovingjustandvalidcausefordismissinganemployeerestsontheemployerandhisfailuretodoso
wouldresultinafindingthatthedismissalisunjustified.

Thechargeagainstpetitionernothavingbeensubstantiated,wedeclareherdismissalasunwarrantedandillegal.
It being apparent, however, that the relationship between petitioner and private respondent has been inevitably
and severely strained, we believe that it would neither be to the interest of the parties nor would any prudent
purposebeservedbyorderingherreinstatement.

WHEREFORE,thepetitionforcertiorariisGRANTEDandtheresolutionofpublicrespondent,datedDecember6,
1978isANNULLEDandSETASIDE.PrivaterespondentTayTungHighSchool,Inc.isherebyORDEREDtopay
petitionerbackwagesequivalenttothree(3)years,withoutanydeductionorqualification,andseparationpayin
theamountofone(1)monthforeveryyearofservice.

SOORDERED.

MelencioHerrera(Chairman),ParasandPadilla,JJ.,concur.

Sarmiento,J.,isonleave.

Footnotes

1Rollo,189.

2Ibid.,84.

3Ibid.,14AnnexA,Petition,

4Ibid.,id.,:AnnexB.id.
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5Ibid.,id.,AnnexC,id.

6Ibid.,43,Annex1,id.

7AnnexesN1toN4Petition.

8Rollo,15AnnexF,Petition.

9Rollo,6061.

10Ibid.,74.

11Ibid.,7375.

12Ibid.,8587.

13Ibid.,111114.

14Ibid,.115122.

15Ibid.,137.

16Ibid.,138142.

17Ibid.,143144.

18Ibid.,146.

19Ibid.,180181.

20Ibid.,22.

21Ibid.,127.

22Ibid.,87.

23Llobreravs.NationalLaborRelationsCommission,etal.,162SCRA788(1988).

24Rollo,135136.

25Ibid.,6061.

26Ibid.,86.

27Ibid.,148.

TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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