Dear PAO,

Last week, my best friend confided to me that she is in love with and in a relationship, for about two years now, with her fellow teacher, who is married and has a child. Recently, rumors regarding their relationship spread among the faculty members and school officials. The school principal has called her attention about said rumors, and my friend is very worried that she might be fired from her job. Can the school dismiss her from employment? Thank you.


Dear Sicily,

Please be informed that the Supreme Court held in Jose S. Santos, Jr. vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Hagonoy Institute, Inc., its Directress, Marta B. Zuniga and Principal B. Banag (GR 115795, March 6, 1998), which was penned by Associate Justice Flerida Ruth Romero, the following:

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"We have consistently held that in order to constitute a valid dismissal, two requisites must concur: (a) the dismissal must be for any of the causes expressed in Art. 282 of the Labor Code, and (b) the employee must be accorded due process, basic of which are the opportunity to be heard and defend himself.

"Under Article 282 of the Labor Code, as amended, the following are deemed just causes to terminate an employee:

"(a) Serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his employer or representative in connection with his work;

"(b) Gross and habitual neglect by the employee of his duties:

"(c) Fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative;

"(d) Commission of a crime or offense by the employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly authorized representative; and

"(e) Other causes analogous to the foregoing.

"Moreover, it is provided inter alia under Section 94 of the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools:

"Sec. 94. Causes of Terminating Employment. In addition to the just cases enumerated in the Labor Code, the employment of school personnel, including faculty, may be terminated for any of the following causes: x x x

"1. Disgraceful or immoral conduct.

"x x x

"We cannot overemphasize that having an extra-marital affair is an affront to the sanctity of marriage, which is a basic institution of society. Even our Family Code provides that husband and wife must live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Our laws, in implementing this constitutional edict on marriage and the family underscore their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

"As a teacher, petitioner serves as an example to his pupils, especially during their formative years and stands in loco parentis to them. To stress their importance in our society, teachers are given substitute and special parental authority under our laws.

"Consequently, it is but stating the obvious to assert that teachers must adhere to the exacting standards of morality and decency. There is no dichotomy of morality. A teacher, both in his official and personal conduct, must display exemplary behavior. He must freely and willingly accept restrictions on his conduct that might be viewed irksome by ordinary citizens. In other words, the personal behavior of teachers, in and outside the classroom, must be beyond reproach.

"Accordingly, teachers must abide by a standard of personal conduct which not only proscribes the commission of immoral acts, but also prohibits behavior creating a suspicion of immorality because of the harmful impression it might have on the students. Likewise, they must observe a high standard of integrity and honesty.

"From the foregoing, it seems obvious that when a teacher engages in extra-marital relationship, especially when the parties are both married, such behavior amounts to immorality, justifying his termination from employment.

"Having concluded that immorality is a just cause for dismissing petitioner, it is imperative that the private respondent prove the same. Since the burden of proof rests upon the employer to show that the dismissal was for a just and valid cause, the same must be supported by substantial evidence." (Emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)

A teacher serves as a role model for his/her students. As such, he/she must live up to the exacting moral standards demanded by the profession. In accordance with the foregoing case law, the school may terminate your friend and her fellow teacher on the ground of immorality for engaging in an extra-marital relationship. They must, however, be afforded an opportunity to defend themselves before a decision is rendered by the school to comply with the constitutionally guaranteed due process.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]