Security of tenure conferred upon the professors by the CBA between the parties despite the fact that it is contrary to the mandate of the law is null and void. It has no legal effect. Hence, dismissal on this ground is valid and the CBA cannot be used as basis for reinstatement.

Raymond A. Son, Raymond S. Antiola, and Wilfredo E. Pollarco, vs. University of Santo Tomas, et al.
G.R. No. 211273, April 18, 2018


Petitioners Raymond A. Son, Raymond S. Antiola, and Wilfredo E. Pollarco (Son, et al.) are full time professors of UST Colleges of Fine Arts and Design and Philosophy, and are members of the UST Faculty Union, with which UST at the time had a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Son and Antiola were hired in June 2005 while Pollarco was employed earlier, or in June 2004. Under their respective appointment papers, they were designated as “faculty members on PROBATIONARY status” whose “accession to tenure status is conditioned by your 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 and by your satisfactory performance of the duties and responsibilities set forth in the job description hereto attached.

The US-UST Faculty Union CBA provided that:

“Section 1. Tenured Faculty Member – He is:

  1. Teaching Faculty member, given a tenure track appointment upon hiring who has rendered six (6) consecutive semesters of satisfactory service on a full-time basis, carrying fifteen-unit load (15) or more. Although a mater’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”

The CBA provision relative to the requirement of a Master’s degree in the faculty member’s field of instruction is in line with the requirement laid down in the 1992 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools issued by then Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS), and the CHED’s Memorandum Order No. 40-08 – or Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education of 2008.

Son, et al. did not possess the required Master’s degree, but were nonetheless hired by UST on the condition that they fulfill the requirement within the prescribed period. They 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, “to ensure the highest qualification of their faculty.”

Acting on the March 3, 2010 Memorandum, UST wrote 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, but allow a written appeal from the concerned faculty members who are due for thesis defense/completion of their Master’s degrees.

Son, et al. did not make a written appeal, operating under the belief that they have been vested tenure under the CBA for their continued employment despite failure to obtain the required Master’s degree.

On June 11, 2010, Son, et al. received termination/thank you letters. 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 for unfair labor practice (ULP), illegal dismissal, and recovery of money claims contending that they have already acquired tenure by default pursuant to the tenure provision of the CBA. Thus, they could not be dismissed for failure to complete their respective Master’s degrees. The CBA is the law between the parties and its provisions should be observed.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) rendered his Decision finding illegal dismissal and ULP, as well as malice and bad faith in illegally dismissing Son, et al.

UST, et al. appealed before the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC issued a Decision dismissing the appeal for lack of merit and affirming the LA’s Decision.

The NLRC held that the CBA took precedence over CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08 and that by said CBA Son, et al. acquired tenure by default. The only cause for their dismissal was their refusal to submit a written appeal, which is not a valid ground for dismissal or non-renewal of their appointment.

UST, et al. moved for reconsideration. The case was re-opened as the handling Commissioners inhibited themselves from the case. Thereafter, the Special Division of the NLRC issued a new Decision which set aside the earlier Decision and dismissed the labor case.

It held that the CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08 took precedence over the parties’ CBA which should conform to the said Memorandum as it had the force and effect of the law. Since the CBA did not conform to the CHED Memorandum, it is null and void. Son, et al moved to reconsider.

Meanwhile, the case was re-assigned to Second Division of the NLRC which promulgated ad Decision granting Son, et al.’s motion for reconsideration. It set aside the Decision of the Special Division and reinstated the LA’s Decision. UST, et al. filed its Motion for Reconsideration.

The NLRC denied the motion for lack of merit. It filed Petition for Certiorari before the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA granted the petition.

The CA held that Son, et al. failed to meet the standards for regular employment provided under Memorandum Order No. 040-08 issued by CHED. The termination of their contract was based on their failure to obtain a master’s degree and cannot, therefore, be regarded as illegal.

Son, et al.’s reliance on the CBA is not tenable. While every individual has autonomy to enter into any contract, the contractual stipulations, however, must not be contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.

Son, et al. moved for reconsideration but the CA denied the same. Hence, the petition before the SC.


Whether or not the faculty member can be validly dismissed for failure to comply with the Master’s degree requirement despite the fact that the CBA already granted tenure even to those who have no such degree.

SC Ruling:

The Supreme Court (SC) denied the petition.

The SC held that as early as in 1992, the requirement of 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.

Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees, Second Edition

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 Univerisity of the East vs. Pepanio, the requirement of 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 in 2006, 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 contact is equivalent to nothing; it produces no civil effect; and it does not create, modify or extinguish a juridical relation. Under Article 1409 of the Civil Code, contracts whose cause, object or purpose is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy are inexistent and void from the beginning.

When CHED Memorandum Order No. 40-08 came out, it merely carried over the requirement of a masteral degree for faculty members of undergraduate programs contained in the 1992 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools. It cannot therefore be said that the requirement of a master’s degree was retroactively applied to Son, et al.’s case, because it was already the prevailing rule with the issuance of the 1992 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools.

Thus, it is plain to see that Son, et al. are not qualified to teach in the undergraduate programs of UST. And while they were given ample time and opportunity to satisfy the requirements by obtaining their respective master’s degrees, they failed in the endeavor. They knew this—that they cannot continue to teach for failure to secure their master’s degrees—and needed no reminding of this fact. Those who are seeking to be educators are presumed to know these mandated qualifications.

From a strict legal viewpoint, the parties are both in violation of the law. UST, et al. for maintaining professors without the mandated masteral degrees, and for Son, et al. for agreeing to be employed despite knowledge of their lack of the necessary qualifications. Son, et al. cannot therefore insist to be employed by UST since they still do not possess the required master’s degrees; the fact that UST continues to hire and maintain professors without the necessary master’s degrees is not a ground for claiming illegal dismissal, or even reinstatement.

As far as the law is concerned, UST, et al are in violation of the CHED regulations for continuing the practice of hiring unqualified teaching personnel. But the law cannot come to the aid of Son, et al. on this sole ground. As between the parties herein, they are in pari delicto or in equal fault.

Neither courts of law nor equity will interpose to grant relief to the parties. They shall have no action against each other and the Courts shall leave the parties where it finds them.

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