University of the East and Dr. Ester Garcia vs. Veronica M. Masangkay
G.R. No. 226727, April 25, 2018

Stare decisis; Stare decisis does not arise where parties are not similarly situated; Waiver; Employee is amenable to termination


Respondents Veronica Masangkay (Masangkay) and Gertrudo R. Regondola (Regondola) [collectively, Masangkay, et al.] were regular faculty members, Associate Professors, and Associate Deans of petitioner University of the East (UE) -Caloocan Campus, prior to their dismissal on November 26, 2007.

While holding said positions at UE, Masangkay, et al. submitted three (3) manuals, namely: Mechanics, Statics, and Dynamics, requesting said manuals’ temporary adoption as. instructional materials. Masankay, et al. represented themselves to be the rightful authors thereof, together with their co-author, a certain Adelia F. Rocamora (Rocamora). Accompanying said requests are certifications under oath, signed by them, declaring under pain of perjury, and openly certifying that the manuals are entirely original and free from plagiarism.

After review, UE approved the requests for use of said manuals by students of the College of Engineering. Thereafter, UE and Dr. Ester Garcia (UE, et al.) received two (2) complaint-letters via electronic mail (e-mail) from a certain Harry H. Chenoweth and Lucy Singer Block. Chenoweth arid Block’s father are authors, respectively, of three books, namely: Applied Engineering Mechanics, Engineering Mechanics, 2nd Edition, 1954, and Engineering Mechanics: Statics & Dynamics, 3rd Edition, 1975.

They categorically denied giving Masangkay, et al. permission to copy, reproduce, imitate, or alter said books, and asked for assistance from UE to stop the alleged unlawful acts and deal with this academic dishonesty.

Prompted by the seriousness of the allegations, UE investigated the matter. After a thorough evaluation of the alleged plagiarized portions, UE conducted an investigation in which Masangkay, et al. actively participated and filed their Answer. Eventually, UE’s Board of Trustees issued Resolution dismissing respondents. Notices of Dismissal were sent to respondents and Rocamora via registered mail.

Unlike Masangkay, et al., Rocamora sought reconsideration of the decision to the Board of Trustees. Masangkay, et al., however, did not appeal the decision terminating them and instead opted to claim their benefits due them, which consisted of leave credits, sick leave, holiday pay, bonuses, shares in tuition fee increase, COLA, and RATA.

For her part, respondent Masangkay requested that a portion of her benefits be applied to her existing car loan. For the amounts that they received, they signed vouchers and pay slips. These were duly acted upon by UE.

After the Board of Trustees denied reconsideration of Rocamora’ s dismissal, the latter filed a case against UE for illegal dismissal. Eventually reaching the Supreme Court, the illegality of her dismissal was upheld by the SC through a resolution in University of the East and Dr. Ester Garcia vs. Adelia Rocamora, (G.R. No. 199959, February 6, 2012).

Meanwhile, almost three years after having been dismissed from service and after collecting their accrued benefits, Masangkay, et al. then filed a complaint for illegal dismissal.

LA Ruling:

The labor arbiter (LA) held that Masangkay, et al. were illegally dismissed and ordered their reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other benefits and full backwages inclusive of allowances until actual reinstatement.

UE was directed to pay a total of P4,623,873.34 representing both Masangkay, et al.’s backwages, allowances, 13th month pay, moral and exemplary damages.

NLRC Ruling:

The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversed the labor arbiter’s ruling.

Their motion for reconsideration having been denied, Masangkay, et al. elevated the case to CA.

CA Ruling:

The appellate court reinstated the labor arbiter’s ruling that UE, et al. failed to prove that indeed a just cause for Masangkay, et al.’s dismissal exists.

Too, the CA emphasized, among others, that the petition before it is bound by the SC’s Decision in the Rocamora case, calling for the application of the doctrine of stare decisis.

The CA denied reconsideration of the questioned Decision in the assailed Resolution prompting UE, et al. to file the instant petition before the SC.


Whether or not the doctrine of stare decisis applies despite the difference in the facts between the parties who were dismissed simultaneously

Whether or not the employee who is amenable to termination was illegally dismissed from service

SC Ruling:

The SC granted the petition.

The SC held that the CA erred when it relied on its ruling in University of the East vs. Adelia Rocamora in resolving the dispute. The SC held that its decision in Rocamora, rendered via a Minute Resolution, is not a precedent to the case at bar even though it tackles the same violation-the alleged plagiarism of the very same materials subject of the instant case, which was initiated by Masangkay et al.’s co-author. This is so since Masangkay et al. are simply not similarly situated with Rocamora so as to warrant the application of the doctrine of stare decisis.

Learn more about the principles and doctrines of Valid Dismissal of Employees

A legal precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.

The SC found that the Rocamora case is not on all fours with the present dispute, thereby removing it from the application of the principle of stare decisis. First, according the SC, Masangkay et al. categorically represented to UE under oath that the Manuals were free from plagiarism-an act in which their co-author Rocamora did not participate.

Second, Masangkay et al. benefited financially from the sale of the Manuals while Rocamora did not. Third, Masangkay et al. acquiesced to UE’s decision to terminate their services and even requested the release of and thereafter claimed the benefits due them.

Aside from these, Masangkay et al. executed a Certification categorically stating under oath and declaring under pain of perjury that the manuals are entirely original and free from plagiarism.

Rocamora made no such undertaking with respect to the subject materials. Per SC, this Certification is crucial in determining the guilt of Masangkay et al. and cannot simply be disregarded. By expressly guaranteeing to UE that their Manuals were entirely original, coupled by their omission to attribute the copied portions to the original authors thereof, as per the Memorandum submitted by Chancellor Celso D. Benologa, it is apparent that Masangkay et al. represented said copied portions as their own.

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The SC found that there is sufficient basis for dismissing Masangkay et al. from service, considering the highest integrity and morality which the profession requires from its teachers. They plagiarized the works of Chenoweth and Singer by lifting large portions of the text of the works of said writers without properly attributing the copied text, and, to make matters worse, they represented under oath that no portion of the Manuals were plagiarized when, in truth and in fact, huge portions thereof were improperly lifted from other materials.

Masangkay requested the recomputation of the amounts due in her favor after said termination, as well as the application of said amounts to her car loan balance. She was even cooperative with the procedure, asking the management to advise her should there be a need for her to prepare and accomplish her time records for purposes of recomputing her salary. As to Regondola, aside from the cash and check vouchers that he signed after receiving the amounts due him after said termination, it does not appear that he made any similar letter request or appeal, unlike Masangkay or Rocamora, respectively.

Indeed, rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals, or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person with a right to be recognized by law. Within the context of a termination dispute, waivers are generally looked upon with disfavor and are commonly frowned upon as contrary to public policy and ineffective to bar claims for the measure of a worker’s legal rights. If (a) there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person; or (b) the terms of the settlement are unconscionable, and on their face invalid, such quitclaims must be struck down as invalid or illegal.

Thus, not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and represents a reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned simply because of a change of mind.

In the case at bar, the SC found no reason to rule that Masangkay, et al. did not waive their right to contest UE’s decision. Based on their actuations subsequent to their termination, it is clear that they were amenable to UE’s decision of terminating their services on the ground of academic dishonesty. Nowhere was there any indication of unwillingness or lack of cooperation on Masangkay, et al.’s part with regard to the events that transpired so as to convince that they were indeed constrained to forego their right to question the management’s decision.

The SC also did not find any coercion or intimidation, subtle or otherwise, which could have forced Masangkay, et al. to simply accept said decision. In fact, based on their qualifications, this Court cannot say that respondents and UE do not stand on equal footing so as to force respondents to simply yield to UE’s decision. Furthermore, there is no showing that respondents did not receive or received less than what is legally due them in said termination.

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