CASE BRIEF 2013-052

CASE: UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST, Dean Eleanor Javier, Ronnie Gillego and Dr. Jose C. Benedicto vs. Analiza F. Pepanio and Mariti D. Bueno (G.R. No. 193897 January 23, 2013)

PONENTE: Abad, J.:

SUBJECT: CBA; Illegal Dismissal; Completeness of service by registered mail (Under the 2005 NLRC Rules of Procedure); Verification and Certification

FACTS: In 1992, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) issued the Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools, Article IX, Section 44, paragraph 1 (a), of which requires college faculty members to have a master’s degree as a minimum educational qualification for acquiring regular status.

In 1994 University of the East (UE) and the UE Faculty Association executed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which provided, among others, that UE shall extend only semester-to-semester appointments to college faculty staffs who did not possess the minimum qualifications. Those with such qualifications shall be given probationary appointments.

Meantime, in 1996, DECS-CHED-TESDA-DOLE Joint Order 1 which reiterated the policy embodied in the Manual of Regulations that “teaching or academic personnel who do not meet the minimum academic qualifications shall not acquire tenure or regular status.” In consonance with this, the UE President issued a University Policy stating that, beginning the School Year 1996-1997, it would hire those who have master’s degree for its college teaching staffs, in the absence of qualified applicants, only on a semester-to-semester basis.

UE hired Mariti D. Bueno in 1997 and Analiza F. Pepanio in 2000, both on a semester-to-semester basis to teach in its college. They could not qualify for probationary or regular status because they lacked postgraduate degrees.

In 2001 UE and the UE Faculty Association entered into a new CBA that would have the school extend probationary full-time appointments to full-time faculty members who did not yet have the required postgraduate degrees provided that the latter comply with such requirement within their probationary period.

Pursuant to the new CBA, UE extended probationary appointments to Bueno and Pepanio. Two years later in October 2003, Dr. Javier, the Dean of the UE College of Arts and Sciences, sent notices to probationary faculty members, reminding them of the expiration of the probationary status of those lacking in postgraduate qualification by the end of the first semester of the School Year 2003-2004.

Bueno later wrote UE, demanding that it consider her a regular employee based on her six-and-a-half-year service on a full-load basis, given that UE hired her in 1997 when what was in force was still the 1994 CBA. Pepanio made the same demand, citing her three-and-a-half years of service on a full-load basis. When UE did not heed their demands, Bueno and Pepanio filed cases of illegal dismissal against the school before the Labor Arbiter ’s (LA) office.

For its defense, UE countered that it never regarded Bueno and Pepanio as regular employees since they did not hold the required master’s degree that government rules required as minimum educational qualification for their kind of work.

The Labor Arbiter held that Bueno and Pepanio were regular employees, given that they taught at UE for at least four semesters under the old CBA. The new CBA, said the LA, could not deprive them of the employment benefits they already enjoyed. Dissatisfied, UE appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

Bueno and Pepanio questioned the timeliness of the appeal to the NLRC. They point out that the postmaster gave notice to Atty. Mison, counsel for UE, on March 17, 2005 to claim his mail that contained the LA Decision. He was deemed in receipt of that decision five days after the notice or on March 22, 2005. Bueno and Pepanio claim that the 10-day period for appeal should be counted from March 22, 2005, five days after the postmaster’s first notice to Atty. Mison to claim his mail.

The NLRC set aside the LA Decision.

On petition for certiorari, the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered a Decision reinstating the LA’s Decision by reason of technicality. It held that the 10-day period for appeal already lapsed when UE filed it on April 14, 2005 since the reckoning period should be counted five days from March 17, when the postmaster gave notice to UE’s legal counsel to claim his mail or from March 22, 2005.

UE assailed the CA’s Decision to the Supreme Court.

Bueno and Pepanio, however, commented on the petition of UE. It claimed that it should be denied since it failed to enclose a certification from the UE Board of Trustees, authorizing petitioner Dean Javier to sign the verification and certification of non-forum shopping.

ISSUES:

A. Whether or not UE filed a timely appeal to the NLRC from the Decision of the LA;

B. Whether or not UE’s petition before this Court can be given due course given its failure to enclose a certification from the UE Board of Trustees’ empowering Dean Javier to execute the verification and certification of non-forum shopping; and

C. Whether or not UE illegally dismissed Bueno and Pepanio.

RULING:

A. Under the 2005 NLRC Rules of Procedure, for completeness of service by registered mail, the reckoning period starts either (a) from the date of actual receipt of the mail by the addressee or (b) after five days from the date he received the first notice from the postmaster.

There must be a conclusive proof, however, that the registry notice was received by or at least served on the addressee before the five-day period begins to run.

Here, the records fail to show that Atty. Mison in fact received the alleged registry notice from the post office on March 22, 2005 that required him to claim his mail. Bueno and Pepanio have not presented a copy of the receipt evidencing that notice. The Court has no choice but to consider the registry return receipt bearing the date April 4, 2005 which showed the date of Atty. Mison’s receipt of a copy of the LA Decision a conclusive proof of service on that date. Reckoned from April 4, 2005, UE filed its appeal to the NLRC on time.

B. As a general rule, the Board of Directors or Board of Trustees of a corporation must authorize the person who signs the verification and certification against non-forum shopping of its petition. But the Court has held that such authorization is not necessary when it is self-evident that the signatory is in a position to verify the truthfulness and correctness of the allegations in the petition. Here the verification and certification were signed by Dean Javier who, based on the given facts of the case, was “in a position to verify the truthfulness and correctness of the allegations in the petition.”

C. Bueno and Pepanio were not illegally dismissed.

The policy requiring postgraduate degrees of college teachers was provided in the Manual of Regulations as early as 1992.

A CBA must be read in conjunction with statutory and administrative regulations governing faculty qualifications. Such regulations form part of a valid CBA without need for the parties to make express reference to it. While the contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions, as they may see fit, the right to contract is still subject to the limitation that the agreement must not be contrary to law or public policy (Escorpizo v. University of Baguio)

The State through Batas Pambansa Bilang 232 (The Education Act of 1982) delegated the administration of the education system and the supervision and regulation of educational institutions to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education). Accordingly, in promulgating the Manual of Regulations, DECS was exercising its power of regulation over educational institutions, which includes prescribing the minimum academic qualifications for teaching personnel.

In 1994 the legislature transferred the power to prescribe such qualifications to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). CHED’s charter authorized it to set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning. The Manual of Regulations continued to apply to colleges and universities and suppletorily the Joint Order until 2010 when CHED issued a Revised Manual of Regulations which specifically applies only to institutions involved in tertiary education.

The requirement of a masteral degree for tertiary education teachers is not unreasonable. The operation of educational institutions involves public interest. The government has a right to ensure that only qualified persons, in possession of sufficient academic knowledge and teaching skills, are allowed to teach in such institutions. Government regulation in this field of human activity is desirable for protecting, not only the students, but the public as well from ill-prepared teachers, who are lacking in the required scientific or technical knowledge.


See related case brief: [CASE BRIEF 2018-327] Raymond A. Son, Raymond S. Antiola, and Wilfredo E. Pollarco vs UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS, FR. Rolando Dela Rosa, DR. Clarita Carillo, DR. Cythia Loza, FR. Edgardo Alaurin, and the College Of Fine Arts and Design Faculty Council (April 18, 2018 G.R. No. 211273)


THINGS DECIDED:

A)      Under the 2005 NLRC Rules of Procedure, for completeness of service by registered mail, the reckoning period starts either (a) from the date of actual receipt of the mail by the addressee or (b) after five days from the date he received the first notice from the postmaster.

There must be a conclusive proof, however, that the registry notice was received by or at least served on the addressee before the five-day period begins to run.

B) A CBA must be read in conjunction with statutory and administrative regulations governing faculty qualifications. While the contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions, as they may see fit, the right to contract is still subject to the limitation that the agreement must not be contrary to law or public policy (Escorpizo v. University of Baguio)

C) The requirement of a masteral degree for tertiary education teachers is not unreasonable. The operation of educational institutions involves public interest. The government has a right to ensure that only qualified persons, in possession of sufficient academic knowledge and teaching skills, are allowed to teach in such institutions.

D) Authorization by the Corporate Board is not necessary when it is self-evident that the signatory in the verification and certification is in a position to verify the truthfulness and correctness of the allegations in the petition.

 ‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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