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THIRD DIVISION Sometime in August 2000, respondent was charged with

violating AMAs Employees Conduct and Discipline


provided in its Orientation Handbook (Handbook),[7] as
AMA COMPUTER COLLEGE, follows:
PARAAQUE, and/or
AMABLE C. AGUILUZ IX, 1) leaking of test questions;
President, MRS. CELESTE BANSALE, School Director, MS. 2) failure to monitor general requirements vital to the
SOCORRO, operations of the
MR. PATRICK AZANZA, company; and
GRACE BERANIA and MAJAL JACOB, 3) gross inefficiency.
Petitioners,

In a Memorandum[8] dated August 29, 2000, respondent


- versus - refuted the charges against him. Thereafter, respondent was
placed on preventive suspension from September 8,
ROLANDO A. AUSTRIA, 2000 toOctober 10, 2000. Notices[9] of Investigation were
Respondent. sent to respondent. Eventually, on September 29, 2000,
respondent was informed of his dismissal, to wit:

Dear Mr. Austria[,]

Please be informed that after a careful


deliberation on the case filed against you
and upon serious consideration of the
evidences (sic) presented, the Management
has found you guilty of violating the
following policies:
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
----------x A. Loss of trust and
confidence by
DECISION management due
to gross inefficiency.
NACHURA, J.: (5.21 Very Serious/Grave
Offense)
Before this Court is a Petition for Review
on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil B. Failure to monitor
Procedure seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) general requirements
Decision[2] datedMarch 29, 2004 which affirmed with vital to the operations of
modification the Decision[3] of the National Labor Relations the company.
Commission (NLRC), dated March 31, 2003. (5.10 Medium Offense)

C. Leaking of test
The Facts questions.
(4.17 Very Serious/Grave
Petitioner AMA Computer College, Paraaque (AMA) is an Offense)
educational institution duly organized under the laws of
the Philippines. The rest of the petitioners are principal This resulted to the loss of trust and
officers of AMA. Respondent Rolando A. confidence in your credibility as a
Austria[4] (respondent) was hired by AMA on probationary company officer holding a highly sensitive
employment as a college dean on April 24, 2000. position. In view of this, your services as
[5]
On August 22, 2000, respondents appointment as dean Dean of AMA Paraaque is hereby
was confirmed by AMAs Officer-in-Charge (OIC), terminated effective immediately.
Academic Affairs, in his Memorandum,[6] which reads:
You are hereby instructed to report to the
After a thorough evaluation of the branch HR Personnel for further
performance of Mr. Rolando Austria as instructions. Please bear in mind that as a
Dean, we are happy to inform you that he company policy you are required to
is hereby officially confirmed as Dean of accomplish your clearance and turn over
AMA College Paraaque effective April 17, all documents and responsibilities to the
2000 to September 17, 2000. appropriate officers.

In view of this, he will be entitled to a You are barred from entering the company
transportation allowance of One Thousand premises unless with clearance from the
Five Hundred Sixty Pesos (P1,560.00). HRD.[10]

In the event that Mr. Austria gives up the On October 27, 2000, respondent filed a Complaint[11] for
Dean position or fails to meet the standards Illegal Dismissal, Illegal Suspension, Non-Payment of Salary
of the (sic) based on the evaluation of his and 13th Month Pay with prayer for Damages and Attorney's
immediate superior, he shall be considered Fees against AMA and the rest of the petitioners. Trial on the
for a faculty position and the appointee merits ensued.
agrees that he shall lose the transportation
allowance he enjoys as Dean and be
entitled to his faculty rate. The Labor Arbiter's Ruling
In his Decision[12] dated December 6, 2000, the Labor Arbiter
held that petitioners accorded respondent due process. The Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration [17] assailing
Labor Arbiter however, also held that respondent respondent's regular status, which the NLRC in a Resolution,
[18]
substantially refuted the charges of gross inefficiency, denied for having been filed out of time and for lack of
incompetence, and leaking of test questions filed against merit. Respondent also filed a Motion for Partial
him. But since respondent can no longer be reinstated Reconsideration,[19] which the NLRC, in another Resolution,
[20]
beyond September 17, 2000 as his designation as college denied for lack of merit.
dean was only until such date, respondent should instead be
paid his compensation and transportation allowance for the Thus, petitioners went to the CA via Petition
period from September 8, 2000 to September 17, 2000, or for Certiorari[21] under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
the salary and benefits withheld prior thereto. Thus: Procedure.

WHEREFORE, premises considered,


judgment is hereby rendered ordering The CA's Ruling
respondent AMA Computer College,
Paraaque to pay complainants proportionate On March 29, 2004, the CA held that based on the Handbook
salary for the period beginning 8 September and on respondent's appointment, it can be inferred that
2000 to 17 September 2000. respondent was a regular employee, and as such, his
employment can only be terminated for any of the causes
provided under Article 282[22] of the Labor Code and after
P30,000 x 10/30 days observance of the requirements of due process.Furthermore,
= P10,000.00 and the CA upheld the Labor Arbiters and the NLRCs similar
his proportionate findings that respondent sufficiently rebutted the charges
transportation allowance. against him and that petitioners failed to prove the grounds
for respondent's dismissal. The dispositive portion of the said
P1,560.00 x 10/30 days Decision reads:
= P520.00 and the
salary/benefits withheld WHEREFORE, premises considered, the
prior to 8 September petition is hereby DENIED DUE
2000, if any. COURSE and DISMISSED for lack of
merit. The decision of the NLRC
All other claims are is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONas
hereby dismissed for lack above stated, with regard to the
of merit. computation of backwages.

SO ORDERED.
SO ORDERED.

Aggrieved, respondent appealed the said Decision to the


NLRC.[13] Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration [23] of the said
Decision, which the CA denied, in its
Resolution[24] dated June 11, 2004, for lack of merit.
The NLRC's Ruling
Hence, this Petition based on the sole ground that the CA
On March 31, 2003, the NLRC, in its Decision, [14] found committed serious error of law in affirming and then further
merit in respondent's appeal. The NLRC opined that the modifying the erroneous decision of the NLRC declaring
petitioners did not that herein respondent was illegally dismissed by AMA.[25]
contravene respondent's allegation that hehad attained
regular status after Petitioners argue that respondent, as college dean, was an
academic personnel of AMA under Section 4(m) (4)(c) of
the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools [26] (Manual)
serving the three (3)-month probationary period required and, as such, his probationary employment is governed by
under the Handbook.[15] Thus, while the NLRC sustained the Section 92[27] thereof and not by the Labor Code or AMA's
Labor Arbiter's finding that petitioners failed to establish the Handbook; that under the circumstances, respondent has not
grounds for respondent's dismissal, it held that the Labor yet attained the status of a regular employee; that
Arbiter erred in declaring that respondent's appointment was respondent's employment was for a fixed term as found by
only from April 24 to September 17, 2000. Accordingly, the the Labor Arbiter but the same was terminated earlier due to
NLRC declared that respondent was a regular employee and just causes; that the respondent, whether he may be
that he was illegally dismissed. Nevertheless, the NLRC held considered as a probationary or a regular employee, was
that reinstatement would not promote industrial harmony; dismissed for just causes; and that the award of backwages in
hence, the NLRC disposed of the case in this wise: favor of the respondent, up to the finality of the decision, is
oppressive to the petitioners, considering the absence of an
PREMISES CONSIDERED the Decision order of reinstatement and the respondent's fixed period of
of December 6, 2000 is VACATED and a employment.[28]
new one entered declaring complainant
illegally dismissed. Respondents are On the other hand, respondent counters that both the NLRC
directed to pay complainant separation pay and the CA found that respondent was a regular employee
computed at one (1) month per year of and that he was illegally dismissed; that the instant Petition
service in addition to full backwages from raises questions of fact - such as whether or not respondent is
September 29, 2000 until December 6, a regular employee and whether or not circumstances existed
2000, or in the amount of one hundred warranting his dismissal - which can no longer be inquired
thousand three hundred seventy eight- into by
pesos & 80/100 (P100,378.80).

SO ORDERED.[16]
this Court;[29] that petitioners assailed the regular status of the contradictory between a definite period of employment and
respondent for the first time only before the CA; that they the nature of the employees duties.[34]
never raised as issue respondent's regular status before the
Labor Arbiter and the NLRC because they merely Thus, this Court's ruling in Brent School, Inc. v. Zamora[35] is
concentrated on their stand that respondent was lawfully instructive:
dismissed; that petitioners failed to discharge the burden of
proving the existence of a valid ground in dismissing The question immediately
respondent as found by the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC, and the provoked. . .
CA; and that the CA's award of backwages from the date is whether or not a voluntar
ofactual dismissal up to the date of the finality of the y agreement on a fixed ter
decision in favor of the respondent is consonant with Article m or period would be valid
279[30] of the Labor Code, and hence, valid.[31] where the employee "has b
een engaged to perform act
From this exchange of arguments, we glean two ultimate ivities which are usually ne
questions that require resolution, viz.: cessary or desirable in the u
sual business or trade of the
1. What is the nature of respondent's employment? employer." The definition s
2. Was he lawfully dismissed? eems non sequitur. From th
e premise that the duties of
The first question, i.e., whether respondent is a regular, an employee entail "activiti
probationary, or fixed term employee is essentially factual in es which are usually necess
nature.[32] However, the Court opts to resolve this question ary or desirable in the usual
due to the far-reaching effects it could bring to the sector of business or trade of the em
the academe. ployer" the conclusion does
not necessarily follow that t
As an exception to the general rule, we held in Molina v. he employer and employee
Pacific Plans, Inc.: [33] should be forbidden to stip
ulate any period of time for
A disharmony between the factual findings the performance of those ac
of the Labor Arbiter and the National tivities. There is nothing es
Labor Relations Commission opens the sentially contradictory bet
door to a review thereof by this Court. ween a definite period of a
Factual findings of administrative agencies n employment contract and
are not infallible and will be set aside when the nature of the employee'
they fail the test of arbitrariness. Moreover, s duties set down in that co
when the findings of the National Labor ntract as being "usually nec
Relations Commission contradict those of essary or desirable in the us
the Labor Arbiter, this Court, in the ual business or trade of the
exercise of its equity jurisdiction, may look employer." The concept of t
into the records of the case and reexamine he employee's duties as bei
the questioned findings. ng "usually necessary or de
sirable in the usual business
The instant case falls squarely within the aforesaid or trade of the employer" is
exception. The Labor Arbiter held that, while petitioners did not synonymous with or id
not prove the existence of just causes in order to warrant entical to employment with
respondent's dismissal, the latter's employment as dean a fixed term. Logically, the
ceased to exist upon expiration of respondent's term of decisive determinant in ter
employment on September 17, 2000. In sum, the Labor m employment should not
Arbiter held that the nature of respondent's employment is be the activities that the em
one for a fixed term. On the other hand, the NLRC and the ployee is called upon to per
CA both held that respondent is a regular employee because form, but the day certain ag
respondent had fully served the three (3)-month probationary reed upon by the parties for
period required in the Handbook, which the petitioners failed the commencement and ter
to deny or contravene in the proceedings before the Labor mination of their employm
Arbiter. ent relationship, a day certa
in being understood to be "t
Prior to his dismissal, respondent held the position of college hat which must necessarily
dean. The letter of appointment states that he was officially come, although it may not
confirmed as Dean of AMA College, Paraaque,effective be known when." Seasonal
from April 17, 2000 to September 17, 2000. Petitioners employment, and employm
submit that the nature of respondent's employment as dean is ent for a particular project a
one with a fixed term. re merely instances of empl
oyment in which a period,
We agree. where not expressly set do
wn, is necessarily implied.
We held that Article 280 of the Labor Code does not xxxxxxxxx
proscribe or prohibit an employment contract with a fixed
period. Even if the duties of the employee consist of Some familiar examples m
activities necessary or desirable in the usual ay be cited of employment
business of the employer, the parties contracts which may be nei
are free to agree on a fixed period ther for seasonal work nor f
of time for the performance of such activities. or specific projects, but to
There is nothing essentially which a fixed term is an e
ssential and natural appu
rtenance: overseas employ
ment contracts, for one, to upon knowingly and
which, whatever the nature voluntarily by the parties,
of the engagement, the con without any force, duress
cept of regular employment or improper pressure
with all that it implies does being brought to bear
not appear ever to have bee upon the employee and
n applied, Article 280 of th absent any other
e Labor Code notwithstandi circumstances vitiating
ng; also appointments to t his consent, or where it
he positions of dean, assis satisfactorily appears that
tant dean, college secretar the employer and
y, principal, and other ad employee dealt with each
ministrative offices in edu other on more or less
cational institutions, whic equal terms with no
h are by practice or tradit moral dominance
ion rotated among the fac whatever being exercised
ulty members, and where by the former over the
fixed terms are a necessit latter. Unless, thus, limited
y without which no reaso in its purview, the law
nable rotation would would be made to apply to
be possible . . . . purposes other than those
xxx explicitly stated by its
framers; it thus becomes
pointless and arbitrary,
The instant case involves respondent's position as dean, and unjust in its effects and apt
comes within the purview of the Brent School doctrine. to lead to absurd and
unintended consequences.
[37]
First. The letter of appointment was clear. Respondent was
confirmed as Dean of AMA College, Paraaque, effective
from April 17, 2000 to September 17, 2000. In numerous
cases decided by this Court, we had taken notice, that by way The fact that respondent voluntarily accepted the
of practice and tradition, the position of dean is normally an employment, assumed the position, and performed the
employment for a fixed term.[36] Although it does not appear functions of dean is clear indication that he knowingly and
on record and neither was it alleged by any of the parties voluntarily consented to the terms and conditions of the
that respondent, other than holding the position of dean, appointment, including the fixed period of his deanship.
concurrently occupied a teaching position, it can be deduced Other than the handwritten notes made in the letter of
from the last paragraph of said letter that the respondent shall appointment, no evidence was ever presented to show that
be considered for a faculty position in the event he gives up respondents consent was vitiated, or that respondent objected
his deanship or fails to meet AMA's standards. Such to the said appointment or to any of its conditions.
provision reasonably serves the intention set forth Furthermore, in his status as dean, there can be no valid
in Brent School that the deanship may be rotated among the inference that he was shackled by any form of moral
other members of the faculty. dominance exercised by AMA and the rest of the petitioners.

Second. The fact that respondent did not sign the letter of Alternatively, petitioners also claim that respondent did not
appointment is of no moment. We held in Brent School, to attain regular status, relying on Section 92 of the Manual in
wit: connection with Section 4(m) 4(c) thereof which provides
for a three (3)-year probationary period for Academic
Accordingly, and since the Personnel. Petitioners submit that the position of dean is
entire purpose behind the included in the provision school officials responsible for
development of legislation academic matters, and may include other school officials. As
culminating in the present such, petitioners aver that the three (3)-month probationary
Article 280 of the Labor period for officers set forth in the Handbook is not applicable
Code clearly appears to to the case of respondent.
have been, as already
observed, to prevent The Handbook merely provides for two classes of employees
circumvention of the for purposes of permanency, i.e., Faculty and Non-
employee's right to be Academic. However, the same does not specifically classify
secure in his tenure, the the position of dean as part of the Faculty or of the Non-
clause in said article Academic personnel. At this juncture, we find solace in
indiscriminately and the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools Annotated,
[38]
completely ruling out all which provides that the college dean is the senior officer
written or oral agreements responsible for the operation of an academic program, the
conflicting with the enforcement of rules and regulations, and the supervision of
concept of regular faculty and student services. We already had occasion to
employment as defined state that the position of dean is primarily academic [39] and,
therein should be construed as such, he is considered a managerial employee. [40] Yet, a
to refer to the substantive perusal of the Handbook yields the interpretation that the
evil that the Code itself has provision on the permanency of Faculty members applies to
singled out: agreements teachers only. But the Handbook or school manual must
entered into precisely to yield to the decree of the Manual, the latter having the
circumvent security of character of law.[41] The specified probationary periods in
tenure. It should have no Section 92 of the Manual are the maximum periods; under
application to instances certain conditions, regular status may be achieved by the
where a fixed period of employee in less time.[42] However, under the given
employment was agreed circumstances and the fact that the position of dean in this
case is for a fixed term, the issue whether the respondent mistaken belief that respondent was liable for the charges
attained a regular status is not in point. By the same token, leveled against him. But respondent also cannot claim
the application of the provision in the Manual as to the entitlement to any benefit flowing from such employment
required probationary period is misplaced. It can be well said after September 17, 2000, because the employment, which is
that a tenured status of employment co-exists and is co- the source of the benefits, had, by then, already ceased to
terminous only with the definite term fixed in the contract of exist.
employment.
Finally, while this Court adheres to the principle of social
justice and protection to labor, the constitutional policy to
In light of the foregoing disquisition, the resolution of the provide such protection to labor is not meant to be an
second question requires full cognizance of respondents instrument to oppress employers. The commitment under the
fixed term of employment and all the effects thereof. It is fundamental law is that the cause of labor does not prevent
axiomatic that a contract of employment for a definite period us from sustaining the employer when the law is clearly on
terminates on its own force at the end of such period. [43] The its side.[45]
lack of notice of termination is of no consequence because WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED and the
when the contract specifies the length of its duration, it CA Decision in CA-G.R. SP No.
comes to an end upon the expiration of such period.[44] 78455 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of
the Labor Arbiter, datedDecember 6, 2000, is
Thus, the unanimous finding of the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC hereby REINSTATED. No costs.
and the CA that respondent adequately refuted all the charges
against him assumes relevance only insofar as respondents
dismissal from the service was effected by petitioners before SO ORDERED.
expiration of the fixed period of employment. True,
petitioners erred in dismissing the respondent, acting on the