CASE DIGEST: Colegio del Santisimo Rosario v. Rojo (G.R. No. 170388)

G.R. No. 170388 : September 4, 2013 | COLEGIO DEL SANTISIMO ROSARIO AND SR. ZENAIDA S. MOFADA, OP, Petitioners, v. EMMANUEL ROJO, Respondent. DEL CASTILLO, J.:

Petitioner Colegio del Santisimo Rosario (CSR) hired respondent as a high school teacher on probationary basis for the school years 1992-1995. On April 5, 1995, CSR, through petitioner Sr. Zenaida S. Mofada, OP (Mofada), decided not to renew respondents services.Respondent filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal. He alleged that since he had served three consecutive school years which is the maximum number of terms allowed for probationary employment, he should be extended permanent employment. Citing paragraph 75 of the 1970 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools (1970 Manual), respondent asserted that "full- time teachers who have rendered three (3) consecutive years of satisfactory services shall be considered permanent."

On the other hand, petitioners argued that respondent knew that his Teachers Contract for school year 1994-1995 with CSR would expire on March 31, 1995.Accordingly, respondent was not dismissed but his probationary contract merely expired and was not renewed. Petitioners also claimed that the "three years" mentioned in paragraph 75 of the 1970 Manual refer to "36 months," not three school years.And since respondent served for only three school years of 10 months each or 30 months, then he had not yet served the "three years" or 36 months mentioned in paragraph 75 of the 1970 Manual.

LA ruled in favor of respondent. The decision was affirmed by the NLRC and the CA respectively on appeal hence this petition before the SC.

ISSUE: Whether or not respondent has become a permanent employee upon three years of service?

HELD: Yes. CA decision affirmed.

In Mercado v. AMA Computer College-Paraque City, Inc., we had occasion to rule that cases dealing with employment on probationary status of teaching personnel are not governed solely by the Labor Code as the law is supplemented, with respect to the period of probation, by special rules found in the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools (the Manual). With regard to the probationary period, Section 92 of the 1992 Manual provides

Section 92. Probationary Period. Subject in all instances to compliance with the Department and school requirements, the probationary period for academic personnel shall not be more than three (3) consecutive years of satisfactory service for those in the elementary and secondary levels, six (6) consecutive regular semesters of satisfactory service for those in the tertiary level, and nine (9) consecutive trimesters of satisfactory service for those in the tertiary level where collegiate courses are offered on a trimester basis.

However, this scheme "of fixed-term contract is a system that operates during the probationary period and for this reason is subject to Article 281 of the Labor Code," which provides-

x x x The services of an employee who has been engaged on a probationary basis may be terminated for a just cause or when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards made known by the employer to the employee at the time of his engagement. An employee who is allowed to work after a probationary period shall be considered a regular employee.

However, for teachers on probationary employment, in which case a fixed term contract is not specifically used for the fixed term it offers, it is incumbent upon the school to have not only set reasonable standards to be followed by said teachers in determining qualification for regular employment, the same must have also been communicated to the teachers at the start of the probationary period, or at the very least, at the start of the period when they were to be applied. Corollarily, should the teachers not have been apprised of such reasonable standards at the time specified above, they shall be deemed regular employees.

In this case, glaringly absent from petitioner's evidence are the reasonable standards that respondent was expected to meet that could have served as proper guidelines for purposes of evaluating his performance. Nowhere in the Teacher's Contract could such standards be found. Neither was it mentioned that the same were ever conveyed to respondent. Even assuming that respondent failed to meet the standards set forth by CSR and made known to the former at the time he was engaged as a teacher on probationary status, still, the termination was flawed for failure to give the required notice to respondent.

Curiously, despite the absence of standards, Mofada mentioned the existence of alleged performance evaluations in respondent's case. We are, however, in a quandary as to what could have been the basis of such evaluation, as no evidence were adduced to show the reasonable standards with which respondents performance was to be assessed or that he was informed thereof. Notably too, none of the supposed performance evaluations were presented. These flaws violated respondent's right to due process. As such, his dismissal is, for all intents and purposes, illegal.

It should be pointed out that absent any showing of unsatisfactory performance on the part of respondent, it can be presumed that his performance was satisfactory, especially taking into consideration the fact that even while he was still more than a year into his probationary employment, he was already designated Prefect of Discipline. In such capacity, he was able to uncover the existence of a drug syndicate within the school and lessen the incidence of drug use therein. Yet despite respondent's substantial contribution to the school, petitioners chose to disregard the same and instead terminated his services; while most of those who were involved in drug activities within the school were punished with a slap on the wrist as they were merely made to write letters promising that the incident will not happen again. PETITION DENIED.