Petitioner was employed in Tay Tung High School, Inc. as the class adviser in the sixth grade where Bobby Qua was enrolled in. Since it was the policy of the school to extend remedial instructions to its students, Bobby Qua was imparted such instructions in school by petitioner. In the course thereof, the couple fell in love and got married in a civil ceremony. Petitioner was then 30 years old while Bobby Qua was 16 years old. Consent and advice to the marriage was given by his mother, and their marriage was ratified in accordance with the rites of their religion in a church wedding.
Private respondent filed with the sub-regional office of the Department of Labor at Bacolod City an application for clearance to terminate the employment of petitioner on the following ground: “For abusive and unethical conduct unbecoming of a dignified school teacher and that her continued employment is inimical to the best interest, and would downgrade the high moral values, of the school.”
Petitioner was placed under suspension without pay.
The Labor Arbiter, without conducting any formal hearing, granted the clearance to terminate the employment of petitioner.
The NLRC unanimously reversed the Labor Arbiter’s decision and ordered petitioner’s reinstatement with backwages,
Whether or not petitioner committed serious misconduct or breached the trust reposed on her by her employer or committed any of the other grounds enumerated in the Labor Code which will justify the termination of her employment.
We rule that public respondent acted with grave abuse of discretion.
As earlier stated, from the outset even the labor arbiter conceded that there was no direct evidence to show that immoral acts were committed. Nonetheless, indulging in a patently unfair conjecture, he concluded that “it is however enough for a sane and credible mind to imagine and conclude what transpired during those times.” In reversing his decision, the NLRC observed that the assertions of immoral acts or conducts are gratuitous and that there is no direct evidence to support such claim.
With the finding that there is no substantial evidence of the imputed immoral acts, it follows that the alleged violation of the Code of Ethics governing school teachers would have no basis. Private respondent utterly failed to show that petitioner took advantage of her position to court her student. If the two eventually fell in love, despite the disparity in their ages and academic levels, this only lends substance to the truism that the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know. But, definitely, yielding to this gentle and universal emotion is not to be so casually equated with immorality. The deviation of the circumstances of their marriage from the usual societal pattern cannot be considered as a defiance of contemporary social mores.
The charge against petitioner not having been substantiated, we declare her dismissal as unwarranted and illegal. It being apparent, however, that the relationship between petitioner and private respondent has been inevitably and severely strained, we believe that it would neither be to the interest of the parties nor would any prudent purpose be served by ordering her reinstatement.