Case Digest: UE v. Pepanio

G.R. No. 193897 : January 23, 2013




In 1992, DECS issued the Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools, which requires college faculty members to have a master's degree as a minimum educational qualification for acquiring regular status.

University of the East hired respondent Mariti D. Bueno (Bueno) in 1997 and respondent Analiza F. Pepanio (Pepanio) in 2000, both on a semester-to-semester basis to teach in its college. During this time, the 1994 CBA was still in force. It provided that UE shall extend only semester-to-semester appointments to college faculty staffs who did not possess the minimum qualifications. Meantime, DECS-CHED-TESDA-DOLE Joint Order 1 was issued which provides that “teaching or academic personnel who do not meet the minimum academic qualifications shall not acquire tenure or regular status.”

Then in 2001, UE and the faculty union 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 would obtain such requirement during their probationary period. Hence, UE extended probationary appointments to Bueno and Pepanio. The two, however, failed to obtain post-graduate degrees.

UE informed Bueno and Pepanio that their probationary status is about to expire since they lack the required post-graduate qualification. However, Bueno and Pepanio demanded that they should be considered as regular employees since they were hired in 1997 and 2000, when what was in force was the 1994 CBA which did not require a master’s degree before attaining regular status. UE did not heed to their demands.

Thus, they filed a case for illegal dismissal before the Labor Arbiter. The LA ruled in their favor. Dissatisfied, UE appealed to the NLRC. The NLRC reversed the LA’s ruling.

On petition for certiorari, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision reinstating the LA’s Decision by reason of technicality. This prompted UE to file the present petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not Bueno and Pepanio were validly terminated from their employment?

HELD: Petition is granted.

LABOR LAW: collective bargaining agreement

The policy requiring postgraduate degrees of college teachers was provided in the Manual of Regulations as early as 1992. Indeed, recognizing this, the 1994 CBA provided even then that UE was to extend only semester- to-semester appointments to college faculty staffs, like Bueno and Pepanio, who did not possess the minimum qualifications for their positions.

Besides, as the Court held in Escorpizo v. University of Baguio, a school 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.

Here, UE gave Bueno and Pepanio more than ample opportunities to acquire the postgraduate degree required of them. But they did not take advantage of such opportunities. Justice, fairness, and due process demand that an employer should not be penalized for situations where it had little or no participation or control.

NLRC’s decision is reinstated.

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