Case Digest: SJAVFA v. St. Joseph Academy of Valenzuela

G.R. No. 182957 : June 13, 2013




The dispute arose from a notice of strike filed by the petitioner against respondent St. Joseph Academy of Valenzuela (SJAV) for illegal termination and union busting. The SOLE assumed jurisdiction after the parties agreed to submit the case for voluntary arbitration. Originally affected were 19 union members as teachers. Four of whom passed the teachers board examinations, the other 15 are non-licensess. With regard to the 4 board passers, SOLE ordered reinstatement with full backwages up to the date of their actual reinstatement and as regard to the 15, SOLE ordered the reinstatement of those with a valid temporary or special permit with full backwages up to the date of their actual reinstatement. The SOLE however, also ordered that they shall only serve for the remaining period corresponding to the period of validity of their permit.

SOLE ruled that even as probationary employees, the non-licensees still enjoy security of tenure and SJAV should have given them the opportunity to comply with the license requirement.

The CA, however ruled that reinstatement is no longer possible inasmuch as it is the Department of Education, Culture and Sports that can assign the para-teachers t schools. Moreover, SJAV cannot be deprived of its right to choose its teachers and positions have already been filled. The CA also deleted the award of backages since, as found by the SOLE, there was no illegal dismissal, the non-licensees not being its regular employees.

The petitioner now beseeches the Court to restore the SOLEs award of backwages and for the award of separation pay in lieu of reinstatement anchored on grounds of equity and compassionate justice. The petitioner admits that the non-licensees temporary or special permits have already expired, thus making reinstatement impossible, it, however, asks for the award of separation pay and backwages given the non-licensees years of service with SJAV.

SJAV calls for the dismissal of the petition on the argument that since the non-licenses could not have become regular employees, then there can be no grant of backwages and reinstatement as it presupposes illegal termination of employees.

ISSUE: Whether or not the CA committed an error in deleting the award of backwages and reinstatement

HELD: The Court of Appeals decision are modified


As both stressed by the SOLE and the CA, R.A. no. 7836 provides that no person shall engage in teaching and/or act as professional teacher unless he is a duly registered professional teacher, and a holder of a valid certificate of registration and a valid professional license or a holder of valid temporary/special permit. Aside from the finding that there was no illegal dismissal, the non-licensees cannot be reinstated since they do not possess the necessary qualification.

The Court finds that CA did not commit an error in deleting the award of backwages, as payment of backwages and other benefits is justified only if the employee was illegally dismissed.

Nevertheless, the Court, in exceptional cases, has granted financial assistance to legally dismissed emploees as an act of social justice or based on a equity so long as the dismissal was not serious misconduct, does not reflect on the employees moral character, or would involve moral turpitude. In Nissan Motor Philippines, Inc. v. Angelo, the Court ruled that, inspired by compassionate and social justice, it has in the past awarded financial assistance to dismissed employees when circumstances warranted such an award. Meanwhile, inPharmacia and Upjohn, Inc. v. Albayda, Jr., the Court held that an award to the employee of separation pay by way of financial assistance, equivalent to one-half (1/2) months pay for every year of service, is equitable. The Court, in Pharmacia, noted, among others, that although the employees actions constituted a valid ground to terminate his services, the same is not so reprehensible as to warrant complete disregard of his long years of service.

Similarly in this case, the dismissal of the 13 non-licensees was due to their failure to possess teaching licenses. It was not due to any serious misconduct or infraction reflecting their moral character. Records also bear that they have been in the employ of SJAV from five (5) to nine (9) years, and as observed by the SOLE, SJAV has not shown any dissatisfaction with their teaching services, otherwise, x x x, it would not have kept them under its employ for such quite a period of time. This being the case, the Court, in keeping with equity and social justice, grants the award of financial assistance to the 13 non-licensees equivalent to one-half (1/2) months pay for every year of service rendered with SJAV.