CASE BrieF 2018-328

CASE: 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)

PONENTE: Del Castillo, J.:

SUBJECT: Illegal Dismissal; Inexistent and Void Contracts; Estoppel

FACTS:

Raymond A. Son (Son) et. al. are full time professors of the UST Colleges of Fine Arts and Design and Philosophy, and are members of the UST Faculty Union.

Under their appointment papers, Son et. al. were designated as “faculty members on PROBATIONARY status,” whose “accession to tenure status is conditioned by their meeting all the requirements provided under existing University rules and regulations and other applicable laws including, among others, possession of the prerequisite graduate degree before the expiration of the probationary period”

The UST-UST Faculty Union CBA provided that –

“Although a master’s degree is an entry requirement, a faculty member admitted to serve the University without a master’s degree shall finish his master’s degree in five (5) semesters. If he does not finish his degree in five (5) semesters, he shall be separated from service at the end of the fifth semester; however, if he is made to serve the University further, in spite of the lack of a master’s degree, he shall be deemed to have attained tenure.”

Son et. al.enrolled in the Master’s program, but were unable to finish the same. In spite of their failure to obtain the required Master’s degree, they continued to teach even beyond the period given for completion thereof.

On March 3, 2010, then CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles issued a Memorandum addressed to the Presidents of public and private higher education institutions, directing the strict implementation of the minimum qualification for faculty members of undergraduate programs, particularly the Master’s degree and licensure requirements, as mandated by Memorandum Order No. 40-08.

Acting on the said  Memorandum, UST wrote the Son et. al. and other affected faculty members, informing them of the university’s decision to cease re-appointment of those who failed to complete their Master’s degrees.

Subsequently, Son et. al. received termination/thank you letters signed by respondent Dr. Cynthia Loza, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Design. The reason given for non-renewal of their appointments is their failure to obtain the required Master’s degree.

Son et. al. filed a labor case against UST for illegal dismissal claiming that since they have already acquired tenure by default pursuant to the CBA, they could not be dismissed for failure to complete their respective Master’s degrees. The CBA and its provision on tenure by default prevail over CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08, as they constitute the law between the parties.

ISSUES:

a) Whether Son et. al. were illegally dismissed.

b) Whether UST is deemed to be in estoppel or has waived the application of the requirement under CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08 when it continued to hire Son et. al.

RULING:

A. Son et. al. were not illegally dismissed.

“A void contract is equivalent to nothing; it produces no civil effect; and it does not create, modify or extinguish a juridical relation.”

As early as in 1992, the requirement of a Master’s degree in the undergraduate program professor’s field of instruction has been in place, through DECS Order 92 (series of 1992, August 10, 1992) or the Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools. Article IX, Section 44, paragraph 1 (a) thereof provides that college faculty members must have a master’s degree in their field of instruction as a minimum qualification for teaching in a private educational institution and acquiring regular status therein.

DECS Order 92, Series of 1992 was promulgated by the DECS in the exercise of its rule-making power as provided for under Section 70 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 232, otherwise known as the Education Act of 1982. As such, it has the force and effect of law. In University of the East v. Pepanio, the requirement of a masteral degree for tertiary education teachers was held to be not unreasonable but rather in accord with the public interest.

Thus, when the CBA was executed between the parties, they had no right to include therein the provision relative to the acquisition of tenure by default, because it is contrary to, and thus violative of the 1992 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools that was in effect at the time. As such, said CBA provision is null and void, and can have no effect as between the parties. “A void contract is equivalent to nothing; it produces no civil effect; and it does not create, modify or extinguish a juridical relation.” 

Under the Civil Code, Art. 1409. The following contracts are inexistent and void from the beginning:

“(1) Those whose cause, object or purpose is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy;xxx”

B. UST is not estopped.

It cannot be said either that by agreeing to the tenure by default provision in the CBA, UST is deemed to be in estoppel or has waived the application of the requirement under CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08. Such a waiver is precisely contrary to law.

“There could be no acquiescence – amounting to estoppel – with respect to acts which constitute a violation of law.” There could be no acquiescence – amounting to estoppel – with respect to acts which constitute a violation of law. “The doctrine of estoppel cannot operate to give effect to an act which is otherwise null and void or ultra vires.” “No estoppel can be predicated on an illegal act.”
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See related case: University of the East v. Pepanio

THINGS DECIDED:

A. A void contract is equivalent to nothing; it produces no civil effect; and it does not create, modify or extinguish a juridical relation.

B. The doctrine of estoppel cannot operate to give effect to an act which is otherwise null and void or ultra vires. No estoppel can be predicated on an illegal act.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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