1. CIVIL LAW CONTRACTS, LAW BETWEEN THE PARTIES. — It is a time-honored principle that contracts are respected as the law between the contracting parties (Henson v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., G.R. No. 72456, February 19, 1987, citing: Castro v. Court of Appeals, 99 SCRA 722; Escano v. Court of Appeals, 100 SCRA 197). The contract having been terminated, there is no more contract to speak of. The school cannot be compelled to enter into another contract with said students and teachers. "The courts, be they the original trial court or the appellate court, have no power to make contracts for the parties." (Henson v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., supra).
2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS; MINIMUM STANDARDS. — The minimum standards laid down by the Court to meet the demands of procedural due process are: (1) the students must be informed in writing of the nature and cause of any accusation against them; (2) they shall have the right to answer the charges against them, with the assistance of counsel, if desired: (3) they shall be informed of the evidence against them; (4) they shall have the right to adduce evidence in their own behalf; and (5) the evidence must be duly considered by the investigating committee or official designated by the school authorities to hear and decide the case (Guzman v. National University, 142 SCRA 706-707 ).
3. ID.; ACADEMIC FREEDOM; ACADEMIC DELINQUENCY, VALID GROUND TO REFUSE RE-ENROLLMENT. — The right of the school to refuse re-enrollment of students for academic delinquency and violation of disciplinary regulations has always been recognized by this Court (Tangonan v. Paño, 137 SCRA 246 ; Ateneo de Manila University v. CA, 145 SCRA 100 ). Thus, the Court has ruled that the school’s refusal is sanctioned by law. Sec. 107 of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools considers academic delinquency and violation of disciplinary regulations as valid grounds for refusing re-enrollment of students.
4. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FINDINGS OF FACT OF ADMINISTRATIVE BODIES ACCORDED RESPECT; EXCEPTIONS. — It is well settled that by reason of their special knowledge and expertise gained from the handling of specific matters falling under their respective jurisdictions, the Court ordinarily accords respect if not finality to factual findings of administrative tribunals, unless the factual findings are not supported by evidence; where the findings are vitiated by fraud, imposition or collusion; where the procedure which led to the factual findings is irregular; when palpable errors are committed; or when a grave abuse of discretion, arbitrariness, or capriciousness is manifest.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR, NOT AN EXCEPTION. — A careful scrutiny of the Report and Recommendation of the Special Investigating Committee shows it does not fall under any of the above exceptions. On the contrary, it is readily apparent that the investigation conducted was fair, open, exhaustive and adequate. Accordingly, there appears to be no cogent reason to disturb the findings of said committee and as manifested by the respondents, the report of said committee has virtually rendered this petition moot and academic.
6. ID.; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION; CONTEMPT; DEFINED. — Contempt of court has been defined as a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court; such conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant or their witnesses during litigation. (Halili v. Court of Industrial Relations, 136 SCRA 57 ).
7. ID.; ID.; ID.; NO DEFIANCE OF AUTHORITY BY MERE FILING OF A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION. — In the case at bar, there appears to be no defiance of authority by the mere filing by respondents of a motion for reconsideration of the resolution of November 12, 1986. In fact respondent school explained that the intervenors were actually reinstated as such faculty members after the issuance of the temporary mandatory injunction.
This is a petition for review on certiorari
and prohibition with motion for preliminary mandatory injunction seeking to nullify the action taken by herein respondent Philippine School of Business Administration, Quezon City Branch, in violation of petitioners’ constitutional rights.
The factual background of this case is as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Petitioners are all bonafide students of the Philippine School of Business Administration, Quezon City, while respondents, are: the Philippine School of Business Administration (hereinafter referred to as PSBA) Quezon City Branch, a non-stock institution of higher learning organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines, Juan D. Lim, President and Chairman of the Board of PSBA; Benjamin P. Paulino, Vice President for Admission and Registration of PSBA, Q.C.; Ruben Estrella, Officer-in-Charge; and Ramon Agapay, Director of the Office of Student Affairs of PSBA, Q.C. and Romeo Rafer, Chief Security of PSBA, Q.C.
As early as March 22, 1986, the students of the respondent school and the respondent PSBA, Q.C. had already agreed on certain matters which would govern them activities within the school (Rollo, p. 75). Among the agreements reached at that time were:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"On the exercise of student’s democratic rights, it has been agreed that protest actions can be conducted any day as long as they meet the following requirements:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
a) that they be held at the PSBA quadrangle from 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm only;
b) that the protest action be removed to the PSBA parking lot if it will exceed the 1:00 time limit;
c) that if the protest move exceeds 1:00 it will be limited only up to 2:30 pm;
d) However, before any action is taken the organizers of the protest action should secure a permit 6 days before, or if on the same day, it still be under the ‘first-come-first-served’ basis in the use of facilities, volume of sound system shall be adjusted so as not to disturb classes.
"It is the firm stand of the administration of PSBA that it will not allow the students to directly participate in the policy-making body of the school, as this is provided by law. However, the administration will be open to suggestions and questions, especially those regarding tuition fee increases and other policies that directly affect us."cralaw virtua1aw library
In spite of the above-stated agreement, petitioners felt the need to hold dialogues. Among others they demanded the negotiation of a new agreement, which demand was turned down by the school, resulting in mass assemblies and barricades of school entrances (Rollo, p. 20; 347-348). "Subsequently dialogues proved futile." Finally, petitioners received uniform letters from respondents dated October 8, 1986 (Rollo, p. 23) giving them 3 days to explain why the school should not take/mete out any administrative sanction on their direct participation and/or conspiring with others in the commission of tumultuous and anarchic acts on Thursday (Oct. 2), Friday (Oct. 3) and Tuesday (Oct. 7). The aforestated letter was answered by the counsel for the students in a reply letter dated October 22, 1982 Annex "E" (Rollo, p. 26).
During the regular enrollment period, petitioners and other students similarly situated were allegedly blacklisted and denied admission for the second semester of school year 1986-1987. On October 28, 1986 the President of the Student Council filed a complaint with the Director of the MECS against the PSBA for barring the enrollment of the Student Council Officers and student leaders. (Annex "F," Rollo, p. 30). Simultaneously on the same date, the student council wrote the President, Board of Trustees, requesting for a written statement of the schools final decision regarding their enrollment (Rollo, p. 31). Another demand letter was made by Counsel for the students Atty. Alan Romullo Yap, also to the President, Board of Trustees, to enroll his clients within forty-eight (48) hours (Rollo, p. 33). All these notwithstanding, no relief appeared to be forthcoming, hence this petition.
In the resolution of November 7, 1986, the Second Division of this Court without giving due course to the petition required respondents to comment thereon and set the hearing for preliminary mandatory injunction on November 10, 1986 (Rollo, p. 35). In compliance therewith on November 9, 1986, respondents filed their comment and opposition to the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction praying that the petition for the issuance of a writ be denied not only for lack of merit but also for being barred by res judicata (Rollo, p. 67).
Meanwhile, a motion for intervention was filed on November 10, 1986, by the Philippine School of Business Administration, Quezon City Faculty Union, (PSBA, QC-FU for brevity) representing the faculty members hereinafter referred to as intervenors, on the ground of commonality of issues and cause of action with that of the petitioners (Rollo, p. 36).
At the hearing on the petition for preliminary mandatory injunction, where counsel for all the parties appeared and argued their causes, the Court Resolved to grant the motion for intervention and to require the intervenors to comment on the petition and the petitioners to file a reply thereto (Rollo, p. 66, copy corrected, p. 167). On the same day respondents filed their comment and opposition to the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction (Rollo, pp. 67-74).
On November 12, 1986, this Court resolved to issue a temporary mandatory order directing the respondents herein (a) to re-enroll the petitioners herein and (b) to re-admit the intervenors to their former positions without prejudice to the investigation to be conducted by the school authorities (Rollo, p. 141). Said Order was issued on November 14, 1986 (Rollo, pp. 142-143).
A supplemental comment and opposition to application for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction dated November 11, 1986 was filed by herein respondents (Rollo, p. 150), while an urgent motion to reiterate prayer for issuance of preliminary mandatory injunction dated November 13, 1986 was filed by herein petitioners (Rollo, pp. 162-163).
Instead of complying with the resolution of November 12, 1986, an urgent motion for reconsideration was filed by herein respondents on November 15, 1987 (Rollo, p. 194) praying that this Court reconsider the aforesaid resolution.
On November 18, 1986 petitioners and intervenors filed a joint urgent motion to cite respondents in contempt (Rollo, p. 199), while respondents filed a supplemental motion for reconsideration, also on the same date (Rollo, p. 205).
In the resolution of November 19, 1986, respondents’ motion for reconsideration and supplemental motion for reconsideration were denied for lack of merit, and the denial was declared FINAL. The urgent motion of counsel for petitioners and intervenors to cite respondents in contempt of court was NOTED (Rollo, p. 225).
An urgent motion for intervention and answer in intervention was filed by Nelia M. Lat, Annalisa T. Geronimo, Leonora Q. Bueniraje, Maria L. Arañas, Eduerijes Llanto, Charita R. Chong, Marilou Garcia, Amelita R. Sia, Loida O. Ladines, Dominic P. Santos, Noly R. Chong, and Arthur R. Cacdac for themselves and on behalf of other students of the PSBA, Quezon City, who are similarly situated, to allow them to intervene as respondents dated November 11, 1986 (Rollo, p. 227) which was granted by this Court in a resolution dated December 3, 1986 (Rollo, p. 240)
On November 20, 1986, the respondents filed their compliance with the temporary mandatory order issued by this Court pursuant to its resolution dated November 12, 1987 (Rollo, p. 237).
On November 29, 1986, respondents filed their comment on the motion for intervention of the PSBA Quezon City Faculty Union (Rollo, p. 252).
A consolidated reply to respondents’ supplemental comment and opposition to application for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, urgent motion for reconsideration and supplemental motion for reconsideration was filed by herein intervenors on December 2, 1986 (Rollo, p. 242).
In the resolution of January 21, 1987, the petition was given due course and the parties were required to file their respective memoranda (Rollo. p. 266). Accordingly, respondents filed their memorandum on February 23, 1987, (Rollo, p. 269) while the intervenor Union filed its memorandum on March 13, 1987 (Rollo, p. 296). Respondents filed their reply memorandum on April 13, 1987 praying that the intervention of the intervening teachers be dismissed (Rollo, p. 328).
Respondents filed their manifestation and motion dated April 27, 1987 stating that pursuant to this court’s order dated November 12, 1986, the school authorities created a special investigating committee to conduct an investigation, which submitted a report with recommendations (Rollo, p. 335), the report reading as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"After due deliberation, the Committee hereby submits the following recommendation:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
A. RENATO PALMA, BERNADETTE ANG, ROGELIO TAGANAS are hereby recommended to be EXONERATED of all charges.
B. SOPHIA ALCUAZ (up to No. 19) are hereby recommended to be HONORABLY DISMISSED from PSBA Q.C. roll of students without prejudice to re-enrollment on a case to case basis if found suitable and justified.
A. To be EXONERATED of all charges JOSE C. ANTONIO, DONALLY BRINGAS, DANTE CAJUCOM, LEO LOQUELLANO, SOLITA A. CRUZ, and VIVIAN TOLENTINO.
B. To be reprimanded with a WARNING that a repetition of similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely FLORANTE BAGSIC and ATENOGENES BONDOC.
C. MR. SEVERINO CORTES, JR. is hereby recommended for non-renewal of his semester to semester appointment.
D. MESSRS. ASSER (BONG) TAMAYO and RENE Q. ENCARNACION are hereby recommended for termination of their services as faculty members."cralaw virtua1aw library
Respondents adopted the aforestated recommendations of the Committee and prayed that the case be dismissed for having become moot (Rollo, p. 341). On April 30, a second urgent manifestation and motion was filed by respondent praying that the recommendation of special Committee as implemented by its president be made effective by the discontinuance of the summer enrollment of petitioners Anna Shiela A. Diñoso, Zeny Gudito and Ma. Shalina Pitoy upon the refund to them of all the fees they have paid to the school (Rollo, p. 397).
An urgent motion to cite for contempt herein respondents was filed on May 5, 1987 for violating this court’s temporary mandatory order on November 12, 1986, by discharging and striking off from the roll of students petitioners Diñoso, Gudito and Pitoy (Rollo, p. 400) while an opposition to urgent motion to cite for contempt was filed by herein respondents on May 20, 1987 (Rollo, p. 413).
On May 20, 1987, Intervenor Union filed their Intervenor’s Comment on Respondents’ reply memorandum and manifestation and motion with motion to cite respondent in contempt (Rollo, p. 417).
On June 8, 1987, petitioners filed their very urgent motion for an order to re-enroll (Rollo, p. 620) followed by an urgent supplemental motion and Reply to opposition dated June 9, 1987 (Rollo, p. 623).
Later on, an Opposition to "very urgent motion for order to re-enroll was filed by herein respondents on June 11, 1987 (Rollo, p. 625) while on June 15, 1987, herein intervenor Union filed its manifestation and motion with urgent motion reiterating intervenor’s motion to cite respondents in contempt (Rollo, p. 629).
On June 16, 1987 respondents filed their opposition to urgent motion to oppose petitioners’ urgent motion dated June 9, 1987 (Rollo, p. 795). Petitioners filed their memorandum on June 17, 1987 (Rollo, p. 799).
On June 18, 1987, respondents filed their counter-comment and opposition to motion to cite respondents in contempt (Rollo, p. 815). Subsequently, on June 25, 1987, respondents filed their Reply Memorandum on the petitioners’ memorandum (Rollo, p. 820.).
In the resolution of June 29, 1987 the motion of petitioners to compel respondents to readmit or re-enroll herein petitioners was denied except in the case of three (3) student petitioners cleared by the investigating committee and who had been recommended to be readmitted or re-enrolled. This court further stated that the reason for the non-enrollment of the others is that the results of the investigation conducted indicate prima facie the violation by the majority of the petitioners of the rules and regulations of respondent school (Rollo, p. 793). The Court further resolved to require respondent school to show cause why it should not be adjudged in contempt for refusing to reinstate the intervenors-faculty members in the interim.
Respondents filed the manifestation on July 3, 1987 informing this Court that they did not refuse to reinstate the intervenors/faculty members; that they were in fact actually reinstated in compliance with the Court’s temporary mandatory order (Rollo, p. 829). Hence, the motion for contempt should be dismissed.
The pivotal issue of this case is whether or not there has been deprivation of due process for petitioners-students who have been barred from re-enrollment and for intervenors-teachers whose services have been terminated as faculty members, on account of their participation in the demonstration or protest charged by respondents as "anarchic" rallies, and a violation of their constitutional rights of expression and assembly.
Petitioners allege that they have been deprived of procedural due process which requires that there be due notice and hearing and of substantive due process which requires that the person or body to conduct the investigation be competent to act and decide free from bias or prejudice. They claim that barring them from enrollment for the second semester is equivalent to expulsion which cannot be valid and effective without the required MEC’s approval (Rollo, pp. 12-13).
Furthermore, petitioners point out that the acts of respondents constitute a wanton and deliberate disregard of petitioners’ freedom of expression (ibid).chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library
In the same manner, intervenors-teachers claim that their constitutional right to due process has been violated when they were summarily dismissed without affording them the opportunity to be heard (Rollo, p. 301).
It is beyond dispute that a student once admitted by the school is considered enrolled for one semester. It is provided in Paragraph 137 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools, that when a college student registers in a school, it is understood that he is enrolling for the entire semester. Likewise, it is provided in the Manual, that the "written contracts" required for college teachers are for "one semester." It is thus evident that after the close of the first semester, the PSBA-QC no longer has any existing contract either with the students or with the intervening teachers. Such being the case, the charge of denial of due process is untenable. It is a time-honored principle that contracts are respected as the law between the contracting parties (Henson v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., G.R. No. 72456, February 19, 1987, citing: Castro v. Court of Appeals, 99 SCRA 722; Escano v. Court of Appeals, 100 SCRA 197). The contract having been terminated, there is no more contract to speak of. The school cannot be compelled to enter into another contract with said students and teachers. "The courts, be they the original trial court or the appellate court, have no power to make contracts for the parties." (Henson v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., supra).
Under similar circumstances where students have been refused re-enrollment but without allegation of termination of contracts as in the instant case, this Court has stressed, that due process in disciplinary cases involving students does not entail proceedings and hearings similar to those prescribed for actions and proceedings in courts of justice. Such proceedings may be summary and cross-examination is not even an essential part thereof. Accordingly, the minimum standards laid down by the Court to meet the demands of procedural due process are: (1) the students must be informed in writing of the nature and cause of any accusation against them; (2) they shall have the right to answer the charges against them, with the assistance of counsel, if desired: (3) they shall be informed of the evidence against them; (4) they shall have the right to adduce evidence in their own behalf; and (5) the evidence must be duly considered by the investigating committee or official designated by the school authorities to hear and decide the case (Guzman v. National University, 142 SCRA 706-707 ).
Tested under said standards, the records show that the proceedings in the case at bar, at the outset satisfied conditions No. 1 and 2, but, without a hearing, conditions No. 3, 4 and 5 had evidently not been complied with.
It is not disputed that printed Rules and Regulations of the PSBA-Q.C. are distributed at the beginning of each school year to the students including petitioners. The Rules, among other things, provide:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Enrollment in the PSBA is contractual in nature and upon admission to the School, the Student is deemed to have agreed to bind himself to all rules/relations promulgated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Furthermore, he stress that he may be required to withdraw from the School at any time for reasons deemed sufficiently serious by the School Administration."cralaw virtua1aw library
As previously stated, in violation of aforesaid Rules and Regulations, some students staged noisy demonstrations in the premises of the school. For the settlement thereof, an agreement was reached providing among others the regulations for the conduct of protest actions. Despite said agreement, it was alleged that petitioners, acting as the core group of a noisy minority, committed tumultuous and anarchic acts within the premises of the school, fanned by the cooperation of the intervening teachers, causing disruption of classes to the prejudice of the majority of the students including the intervening ones; which acts now constitute the subject of this controversy (Rollo, p. 271).
Accordingly, both students and teachers were given three (3) days from receipts of letter to explain in writing why the school should not take/mete out any administrative sanction on them in view of their participation in the commission of tumultuous and anarchic acts on the dates stated.
Respondents alleged that none of the students ever filed a reply thereto. The records show however that a letter was sent by Atty. Alan Roullo Yap, in behalf of all PSBA students to the President of the School Mr. Juan D. Lim, explaining why said students are not guilty of the charges filed against them (Rollo, pp. 26-28). Similarly, a faculty member of the PSBA filed his answer in a letter to the same President of the school, where he denied the charges against him (Rollo, p. 52). It therefore becomes readily apparent that while the students and the teachers have been informed in writing of the charges filed against them and they in turn filed their answers thereto, no investigating committee or official was designated by the school authorities to hear and decide the case upon the presentation of evidence of both parties. Presumably, the school banking on the theory that the contracts have already expired, said procedural steps are no longer necessary.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
At any rate, this Court obviously to insure that full justice is done both to the students and teachers on the one hand and the school on the other, ordered an investigation to be conducted by the school authorities, in the resolution of November 12, 1986.
The investigating committee found among others that: there were concerted mass assemblies conducted on October 2, 3, 7 and 8 at PSBA Quezon City, which were participated in by said students and teachers, and which disrupted classes. The disruption of classes and the barricades in the school entrances constitute violations of existing MECS and PSBA rules and regulations (Rollo, pp. 348-349). It is ironic that many of those who claim that their human rights have been violated are the very ones who emasculate the human rights of the innocent majority.
Moreover, petitioners named in the report were found to be academically deficient (Rollo, p. 273) while the intervening teachers apart from participating in acts of illegality against the school were found to have committed various acts of misconduct (Rollo, p. 275). Accordingly, three students were recommended for exoneration from all charges, and some to be honorably dismissed. Of the faculty members eight were recommended to be exonerated of all charges, two to be reprimanded, one for non-renewal of his semester-to-semester appointment and two to be terminated (Rollo, pp. 359-360).
The right of the school to refuse re-enrollment of students for academic delinquency and violation of disciplinary regulations has always been recognized by this Court (Tangonan v. Paño, 137 SCRA 246 ; Ateneo de Manila University v. CA, 145 SCRA 100 ). Thus, the Court has ruled that the school’s refusal is sanctioned by law. Sec. 107 of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools considers academic delinquency and violation of disciplinary regulations as valid grounds for refusing re-enrollment of students. The opposite view would do violence to the academic freedom enjoyed by the school and enshrined under the Constitution. More specifically, academic freedom is defined by the Court as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"This institutional academic freedom includes not only the freedom of professionally qualified persons to inquire, discover, publish and teach the truth as they see it in the field of their competence subject to no control or authority except of rational methods by which truths and conclusions are sought and established in their disciplines, but also the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them the grant being to institutions of higher learning — free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint." (Tangonan v. Paño, supra).
It is well settled that by reason of their special knowledge and expertise gained from the handling of specific matters falling under their respective jurisdictions, the Court ordinarily accords respect if not finality to factual findings of administrative tribunals, unless the factual findings are not supported by evidence; where the findings are vitiated by fraud, imposition or collusion; where the procedure which led to the factual findings is irregular; when palpable errors are committed; or when a grave abuse of discretion, arbitrariness, or capriciousness is manifest. (Ateneo de Manila University v. Court of Appeals, 145 SCRA 106 (1986); citing: International Hardwood and Veneer Co. of the Philippines v. Leonardo, 117 SCRA 967; Baguio Country Club Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, 118 SCRA 557; Sichangco v. Commissioner of Immigration, 94 SCRA 61 and Eusebio v. Sociedad Agricola de Balarin, 16 SCRA 569).
A careful scrutiny of the Report and Recommendation of the Special Investigating Committee shows it does not fall under any of the above exceptions. On the contrary, it is readily apparent that the investigation conducted was fair, open, exhaustive and adequate.
Accordingly, there appears to be no cogent reason to disturb the findings of said committee and as manifested by the respondents, the report of said committee has virtually rendered this petition moot and academic.
The urgent motion of petitioners and intervenors to cite respondents in contempt of court is likewise untenable.
Contempt of court has been defined as a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court; such conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant or their witnesses during litigation. (Halili v. Court of Industrial Relations, 136 SCRA 57 ).chanrobles.com:cralaw:red
In the case at bar, there appears to be no defiance of authority by the mere filing by respondents of a motion for reconsideration of the resolution of November 12, 1986. In fact respondent school explained that the intervenors were actually reinstated as such faculty members after the issuance of the temporary mandatory injunction. Thus, in the compliance submitted by said school on November 20, 1986, it manifested that "without prejudice to the investigation to be conducted by the school authorities, . . . and in order the dislocations may not result with respect to the academic activities of the students and the distribution of teaching loads among the teachers, the respondent school has created new classes for the petitioners and the intervening teachers" beginning November 20, 1986.
The school manifested that while the investigation was going on, the intervenors-faculty members were teaching and it was only after the investigation, that the recommendations of the Committee were adopted by the school and the latter moved for the dismissal of the case for having become moot and academic. Otherwise stated, respondent school has fully complied with its duties under the temporary mandatory injunction (Rollo, pp. 830-832).
PREMISES CONSIDERED, the petition is hereby DISMISSED, but in the light of compassionate equity, students who were, in view of the absence of academic deficiencies, scheduled to graduate during the school year when this petition was filed, should be allowed to re-enroll and to graduate in due time. No pronouncement as to costs.
Yap (C.J.), Melencio-Herrera and Padilla, JJ.
, dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
I find distressing the manner in which the majority would so cavalierly dismiss this petition as a simple case of contractual relations and extinguishment of contract. The petitioners have come to this court on serious Constitutional questions, in the main, due process of law, and inferentially, academic freedom and the rights to free speech and assembly. An examination of the records, and a scrutiny of the majority’s recital of the case as well, will show that the controversy is indeed ripe for such issues, and accordingly, for Constitutional adjudication.
Education is a concern impressed with a public interest. It is a matter of State policy, a policy enshrined in the Constitution, to "protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all." 1 As part of this guaranty, the Constitution wills it that" [e]very citizen has a right to select a profession or course of study, subject to fair, reasonable, and equitable admission and academic requirements." 2 While academic freedom, the Charter decrees, shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning," 3 it calls upon, nonetheless, the Government to exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all educational institutions." 4
It is plain that education is more than a contract.
With all due respect to my brethren. I find their reliance upon paragraph 137 of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools forced and oversimplified. As we have noted, registration in an institution of learning is subject to reasonable admission, and conversely, dismissal standards. It is my view that the Manual should be read alongside the Constitutional ban against unreasonable entrance requirements. To say that a student faces automatic disqualification following one semester for the simple reason that his contract has expired is not only to impose an unreasonable academic requirement on the right to education but to defeat the right itself. Furthermore, such a view would grant schools unbridled authority over the academe when the Charter itself states that the academe enjoys academic freedom. It will, in effect, furnish them dubious grounds to dismiss a student when he is in fact being dismissed, say, because the school does not like his face. And this is precisely the scenario, however exaggerated, the Constitution guards against. But for student leaders, recurring "headaches" to many schools, its chilling implications are very real and certain.
It would furthermore allow school heads to shirk charges of denial of due process — as in this case — by a simple invocation of the terms and conditions of the students’ contracts. it would enable schools to defy reinstatement orders, whether by local school committees, agencies of the Department of Education, or by the courts of law, by postponing compliance, one way or the other, until the end of the semester and upon the consequent expiration of the contract. There is nothing that would stop them under the doctrine the majority would advance.
There is further no denying the fact that agreements of this character are contracts of adhesion that leave the other party but a twofold option: to take them or leave them. It is not much of a choice in the ultimate analysis, with the cards stacked in the proponent’s table, and in such cases, we have not hesitated to come to the aid of such other party. 5
While there is an existing contractual relation between school and students, the agreement should not be the final basis settling school-student disputes. To that extent, paragraph 137 of the Manual for Regulations of Private Schools would be open to Constitutional questions. It is important to determine, at the same time, whether the school itself, in meting out expulsion against its students, had acted within the permissible limits implied in the Constitution. In any event, the contract should yield to the Constitution.
I do not agree that" [t]he school cannot be compelled to enter into another contract" 6 with its students. To begin with, reinstatement of students, whenever warranted, is not strictly speaking, compulsion upon schools to enter into a contract with them. It is merely to undo a wrong previously done. But if indeed, contract in this case were a valid yardstick, why allow re-enrollment to the petitioners-students (who have not sustained academic deficiencies) 7 whose contracts have expired? If the contract is the "law between the parties," 8 and that" [t]he courts . . . have no power to make contracts for the parties, 9 by what authority may the majority order reinstatement? Surely, the majority speaks of "compassionate equity" 10 to justify reinstatement, but that gives rise to yet another problem: Where does one draw the line? As I have noted, it is too easy to invoke ‘contract’ if it would suit one’s purpose, but it seems even easier to cite "equity" if it would better serve that purpose.
Following the contract theory further, why was it necessary for the Court to order the investigation of the case, pursuant to our resolution of November 12, 1986, when there seemed nothing more to investigate, the petitioners’ supposed contracts having expired? The majority would rely on "full justice" 11 — that elusive judicial standard — to justify its action, but since, as the majority would so clearly stress, the contract is the law between the parties, had not "justice" been done upon the alleged expiration of the parties’ covenants? After all, is not "justice" presumed from the law? 12
I do not see as a matter of fact how "full justice" would be served by ordering an inquiry. There is no debate that the petitioners had been denied due process, in the absence of any "investigating committee or official designated by the school authorities to hear and decide the case." 13 In Guzman v. National University, 14 we held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Under the Education Act of 1982, the petitioners, as students, have the right among others "to freely choose their field of study subject to existing curricula and to continue their course therein up to graduation, except in case of academic deficiency, or violation of disciplinary regulations." Petitioners were being denied this right, or being disciplined, without due process, in violation of the admonition in the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools that" (n)o penalty shall be imposed upon any student except for cause as defined . . . (the) Manual and/or in the school rules and regulations are duly promulgated and only after due investigation shall have been conducted." This Court is therefore constrained, as in Beriña v. Philippine Maritime Institute, to declare illegal this act of respondents of imposing sanctions on students without due investigation. 15
To order an investigation is to accord moreover then the respondents a chance to correct their errors — indeed, violations — when they should have been forthwith held liable therefor. And fortunately for them, the investigation allowed them a fresh chance to fish for lapses the petitioners might have committed, and as it would indeed turn out, certain petitioners were supposed to be suffering from alleged scholastic deficiencies. It is my thinking that by directing the respondents to conduct an "investigation," we did not thereby condone the acts the petitioners now impugn (denial of due process), but simply prepared the parties a forum to thresh out anew whatever differences there were dividing them. We did not equip the respondents with ammunition to launch a final offensive on the petitioners. If that were the case, the respondents’ existing expulsion order (without due notice and hearing to the petitioners-students) would have been an anti-climatic prejudgment of whatever findings the investigation might yield. For certainly, we did not then expect the respondents to reverse themselves, except perhaps to polish their existing dismissal ruling.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
Notwithstanding the majority’s postures — with due respect of leniency toward the petitioners, the majority has been in fact unduly soft on the respondents.
With respect to the alleged failing grades incurred by certain petitioners, I find the same to be an eleventh-hour effort by the respondents to justify dismissal. Students’ academic performance is a matter of record that requires no investigation. If it is true that these students had incurred failing grades, why did they surface only in mid-semester and in the investigation? Estoppel is an impediment against the respondents’ arguments, they having admitted these students in spite of such delinquencies.
It is true that in Villar v. Technological Institute of the Philippines, 16 this Court recognized as part and parcel of academic freedom the schools’ "right to set academic standards to determine under what circumstances failing grades suffice for the expulsion of students," 17 but the Court likewise warned that" [i]t cannot be utilized to discriminate against those students who exercise their Constitutional rights to peaceable assembly and free speech." 18 In Guzman furthermore, we said that expulsion arising from academic delinquency depends on proof of existing rules providing therefor. 19
There is no doubt that in the case at bar, a controversy had been raging on campus, a controversy serious enough to force a school-student dialogue. Obviously, it was not a case of a few hotheads on a rampage on the school grounds, but apparently, student leaders seeking redress for some legitimate grievance. I think that the respondent College was overreacting when, rather than confront the petitioners, it threatened them with disciplinary action.
I am likewise perturbed by the blanket condemnation my brethren would level against the petitioners for holding the concerted actions in question. It is not disputed that the same turned out to be "noisy" 20 and resulted in the disruption of ongoing classes, but my question is: Does this warrant a sweeping rebuke? And I think It would be protesting too much to highlight as well the petitioners’ alleged disregard of "the human rights of the innocent majority." 21 This case was precipitated by alleged violations against due process committed by the respondent College, and not on a complaint by the "innocent majority." There is therefore no need for sarcasm.
Freedom of expression and assembly are rights held sacred by the Constitution, 22 and made available to all the citizenry without distinction or discrimination. This was our holding in Malabanan v. Ramento. 23 It was likewise our holding in that case that some disruption is normal in such gatherings. I quote:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
. . . If in the course of such demonstration, with an enthusiastic audience goading them on, utterances, extremely critical, at times even vitriolic, were let loose, that is quite understandable. Student leaders are hardly the timid, diffident types. They would be ineffective if during a rally they speak in the guarded and judicious language of the academe. At any rate, even a sympathetic audience is not disposed to accord full credence to their flary exhortations. They take into account the excitement of the occasion, the propensity of speakers to exaggerate, the exhuberance of youth. They may give the speakers the benefit of their applause, but with the activity taking place in the school premises and during the daytime, no clear and present danger of public disorder is discernible. 24
Malabanan finds its origins in another decision, more than seven decades antedating it, U.S. v. Apurado. 25 I quote:chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library
It is rather expected that more or less disorder will mark the public assembly of the people to protest against grievances whether real or imaginary, because on such occasions feeling is always wrought to a high pitch of excitement, and the greater the grievance and the more intense the feeling, the less perfect, as a rule, will be the disciplinary control of the leaders over their irresponsible followers. But if the prosecution be permitted to seize upon every instance of such disorderly conduct by individual members of a crowd as an excuse to characterize the assembly as seditious and tumultuous rising against the authorities, then the right to assemble and to petition for redress of grievances would become a delusion and a snare and the attempt to exercise it on the most righteous occasion and in the most peaceable manner would expose all those who took part therein to the severest and most unmented punishment, if the purposes which they sought to attain did not happen to be pleasing to the prosecuting authorities. If instances of disorderly conduct occur on such occasions, the guilty individuals should be sought out and punished therefor, but the utmost discretion must be exercised in drawing the line between disorderly and seditious conduct and between an essentially peaceable assembly and a tumultuous uprising. 26
Notwithstanding such disturbances, and in the absence of threats of a clear and present danger, we sustained the exercise of the right on the strength primarily of the Constitutional guaranties. I do not see why this Court should reverse itself now, in view furthermore of a new Constitution that bares a stronger bias toward human rights and civil liberties.
While I do not rule out entirely, punishment for disorderly conduct by genuine troublemakers — and we did not rule out such a recourse in either Malabanan or Apurado — I do not see how, in this case, any punishment, more so that of expulsion, should be due. There is nothing in the records that would show that the petitioners, other than for holding "noisy" demonstrations, were guilty of unruly behavior. The fact that the same were marked with tension and excitement, as we held in Malabanan and Apurado, does not make them "unruly." To impose penalties upon the petitioners is indeed to put a price on the exercise of a right, a right the fundamental law holds out for free.
To be sure, there is mention of alleged "barricades’ being set up "in the school entrances" 27 supposedly in breach of "existing MECS and PSBA rules and regulations." 28 Significantly, there is no allegation that the petitioners resorted to violence, or threatened one, that would admittedly present a clear and present danger for which the school may respond with remedial measures. Mere allegations that barricades were put up, in my belief, would not suffice to warrant a disciplinary action by the school authorities in the absence of allegations that violence or threats thereof attended the same.
At any rate, the query that arises, assuming that some penal measure were in order, is: Does the punishment (expulsion) fit the crime (disrupting classes)? In Malabanan, we referred to penalties being disproportionate with the offense 29 in connection with the one-year suspension prescribed by the school for similar activities. We struck down the suspension order and imposed, in its stead, a suspension of one week. I submit that the same principle applies here.
I agree that it is within schools’ right "to refuse re-enrollment of students for academic delinquency and violation of disciplinary regulations," 30 but that presumes that the acts complained of indeed constitute violations. If the respondents’ regulations, or the rules of the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports for that matter, enjoin the exercise of Constitutional rights, they are null and void since they are, indubitably, inferior to the Charter.
Neither Tangonan v. Paño 31 nor Ateneo de Manila University v. Court of Appeals 32 is in point. Neither case involved the exercise of fundamental civil liberties. Tongonan referred to pure questions of academic deficiency, while Ateneo dealt with charges of unbecoming conduct levelled against a student for fighting. 33 The instant case carries, however, a political color, a consideration that differentiates it from either case.
It is true that academic freedom pertains to houses of education, as we defined the term in Tongonan, but "academic freedom" does not mean untramelled liberty for schools and school authorities. Educational institutions, under the Constitution, and as an exception to academic freedom, are subject to State regulation. Moreover, the privilege applies to students as well. Why recognize the schools’ right to it and deny that of students? In any case, it is my considered opinion that the respondent College had abused that freedom that compels some drastic action from this Court.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The majority would write finis to the case by a non-chalant acceptance of the respondents’ investigative committee’s findings based on the usual escape valve of finality of findings of administrative bodies. My point is that the petitioners had been underdogs from the very beginning, and under the circumstances, they deserved a fairer tribunal to take up their case, it is not that I have doubts about the capacity of such an investigating committee to dispense justice, but as an agent of administration, it was obviously acting for the interests of the school. And not surprisingly, in its recommendation, it would propose the expulsion of students on account of failing grades — a ground that has nothing to do with the subject of the investigation. As I have observed, I read our resolution of November 12, 1986 as an appeal upon the parties to sit down anew and to find mutual solutions to the ills of their academic community. It was not meant to be a call for an adversarial confrontation between them that would have — and had — allowed the school to unravel the petitioners’ delinquencies as to grades and other dirty linen.
We come to the charges of contempt of which the petitioners urge that we find the respondents guilty. The majority would absolve the respondents on the ground that the intervenors-faculty members were in fact given teaching loads pending this petition. What the majority is silent about, however, is the fact that in the same resolution of November 12, 1986, we directed the respondents "to re-enroll the petitioners" (students). 34 The petitioners-students shortly filed an urgent motion to cite for contempt directed against the respondent College arising from its discharge of three petitioners from the students roll. 35 Subsequently, the petitioners filed yet another motion "to re-enroll." 36 It is not controverted that despite our reinstatement directive, the respondent failed and refused to comply therewith as far as the students are concerned. For such an act of defiance, it is my opinion that they are liable for contempt. I would then have disposed of the case as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. Exonerate the petitioners, students and faculty members alike, from any liability, and effect their reinstatement, except those on whom I would recommend the penalty of suspension, subject to the provisions of the succeeding paragraph regarding service of suspension;
2. Impose the penalty of one-week suspension upon those petitioners actually guilty of disruption of classes, that is, disruption resulting in actual stoppage of classes as a direct consequence of the mass actions in question and through no voluntary vacating of the classrooms by students or instructors, but consider the suspension to have been served in view of the respondents’ refusal to reinstate them pending the resolution of the petition; and
3. Find the respondents guilty of contempt.
SARMIENTO, J., dissenting:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
1. CONST., Art. XIV, Sec. 1.
2. Supra, Sec. 5, par. (3).
3. Supra, Sec. 5, par. (2).
4. Supra, Sec. 4, par. (1).
5. Sweet Lines v. Teves, No. L-37750, May 19, 1978, 83 SCRA 361.
6. G.R. No. 76353, 12.
7. Supra, 19.
8. Supra, 12.
10. Supra, 19.
11. Supra, 15.
12. See CIVIL CODE, Art. 10.
13. G.R. No. 76353, supra, 15.
14. No. L-68288, July 11, 1986, 142 SCRA 699; also Beriña v. Philippine Maritime Institute, No. L-58610, September 30, 1982, 117 SCRA 581.
15. Supra, 705-706.
16. No. L-69198, April l7, 1985, 135 SCRA 706.
17. Supra, 711.
19. Beriña v. Philippine Maritime Institute, supra.
20. G.R. No. 76353, supra, 14.
21. Supra, 16.
22. CONST., supra, Art. III, Sec. 4.
23. No. L-62270, May 21, 1984, 129 SCRA 359.
24. Supra, 369.
25. 7 Phil. 422 (1907).
26. Supra, 426; see also Reyes v. Bagatsing, No. L-65366, November 9, 1983, 125 SCRA 553.
27. G.R. No. 76353, supra, 16.
29. Malabanan v. Ramento, supra, 371.
30. G.R. No. 76353, supra.
31. No. L-45157, June 27, 1985, 137 SCRA 245.
32. No. L-56180, October 16, 1986, 145 SCRA 100.
33. In Angeles v. Sison (No. L-45551, February 16, 1982, 112 SCRA 26), we sustained expulsion arising from assault upon a professor. In Magtibay v. Garcia (No. L-28971, January 28, 1983, 120 SCRA 370), we likewise upheld dismissal for academic delinquency.
34. G.R. No. 76353, supra, 5.
35. Supra, 9.