Thursday, September 27, 2012

academic freedom


SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 134372, August 22, 2002 ]

MANUEL CAMACHO, PETITIONER, VS. ATTY. JOVITO A. CORESIS, JR., GRAFT INVESTIGATION OFFICER I AND/OR OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN - MINDANAO, SIXTO O. DALEON, AIDA AGULO, DESIDERIO ALABA, NORMA TECSON, AND THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHEASTERN PHILIPPINES; SECRETARY RICARDO GLORIA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY RENO CAPINPIN – OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS (DECS), DR. EDMUNDO B. PRANTILLA, AND NEDA REGIONAL DIRECTOR SANTIAGO ENGINCO, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N


QUISUMBING, J.:

Subject of the present petition for certiorari is the Resolution dated June 3, 1997 of the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, hereafter simply the Office, which dismissed the administrative and criminal complaints against respondents Sixto O. Daleon, Aida Agulo, Desiderio Alaba, Norma Tecson and the Board of Regents of the University of Southeastern Philippines (USP), Davao City, for violation of Section 3 [a], [e] and [j] of Republic Act 3019 also known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”[1] Also sought to be nullified is the Order of the Office dated September 10, 1997, denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. The pertinent facts as culled from the records are as follows:
Petitioner is the Dean of the College of Education of said university, since January 1994 to the present. He has served the university as faculty member and as administrator for almost 13 years.[2]
Respondent, Dr. Sixto O. Daleon, is a Professor 6 and officer-in-charge of the Graduate School of USP, with a salary grade of CS 29. The other respondents, Agulo, Tecson and Alaba, are faculty members of said university. They enrolled under Dr. Daleon in the subject Ed.D. 317, which is a Seminar in Curriculum Development, during the first semester of 1994-1995. At the end of the semester, Dr. Daleon gave the three final passing grades of 1.0, 1.25 and 1.5, respectively.[3] They were graded without requiring them to attend regular classes. Instead, Dr. Daleon gave them a special program of self-study with reading materials, once a week tutorial meetings, quizzes, and term papers.
Sometime in June 1995, several doctoral students complained to petitioner that during the first semester of school year 1994-1995, there were “ghost students” in the Ed.D. 317 class of Dr. Daleon. According to them, these “ghost students”, namely Agulo, Alaba and Tecson were given passing grades despite their failure to attend classes.[4]
On June 13, 1995, petitioner informed Dr. Daleon of the complaint. Petitioner requested the latter to furnish him with photocopies of exams, term papers, and record of attendance of the students involved. Dr. Daleon ignored the request.[5]
On July 28, 1995, the matter was raised in a university council meeting where it was agreed that the University President, Dr. Edmundo Prantilla, would create a committee to investigate the complaint.
In a letter dated August 10, 1995, Dr. Daleon apologized for the delay in responding to petitioner’s letter-request dated June 15, 1995. Dr. Daleon admitted that he made special arrangements with Agulo, Alaba and Tecson regarding their course without petitioner’s approval.
Thereafter, petitioner wrote Dr. Prantilla recommending that Agulo, Tecson and Alaba be required to attend regular classes in school year 1995-1996 and comply with the course requirements in Ed.D. 317. Dr. Prantilla approved the recommendations. However, on December 1, 1995, Dr. Prantilla entertained the appeal of Agulo for the validation of the grades given by Dr. Daleon to the three of them. On December 23, 1995, the Board of Regents passed its Resolution No. 2432 Series of 1995, upholding the grade given by Dr. Daleon to Agulo.
Consequently, petitioner filed a Complaint-Affidavit against Dr. Daleon before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao. The complaint for gross incompetence, insubordination and violation of R.A. 6770[6] was docketed as OMB-ADM-3-96-0132.
On May 28, 1996, petitioner submitted a Manifestation with Prayer, with a Supplement to Complaint-Affidavit for Violation of R.A. 3019 and/or such other penal laws against Dr. Daleon, Agulo, Alaba, Tecson and members of the USP Board of Regents,[7] including Dr. Prantilla. On July 24, 1996, the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao issued an order directing respondent members of the Board of Regents and the committee created to hear Administrative Case No. 96-602 to desist from conducting further proceedings thereon and to have the entire records of said criminal complaint forwarded to the Office for possible consolidation with the administrative complaint.
On June 3, 1997, a Resolution was issued by Atty. Jovito Coresis, Jr., graft investigator in the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, dismissing the administrative and criminal complaints against respondents. Approved by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, the resolution in its dispositive portion reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, finding insufficient evidence to hold respondent Dr. Daleon liable for the administrative charges of incompetence, insubordination and favoritism or unjust discrimination, or of any other laws, let the instant case be ordered DISMISSED.
Likewise, finding no prima facie case of violation of Section 3(a), (e) and (j), the criminal complaint filed by Dr. Camacho against Professor Daleon, Mr. Desiderio Alaba, Misses Aida Agulo, Norma Tecson, and the Members of the Board of Regents of USP is hereby DISMISSED outright for want of palpable merit.
AS RESOLVED.[8]
Petitioner moved for reconsideration but the same was denied for lack of merit in an Order dated September 10, 1997.
Before us, petitioner now anchors the present petition on the following grounds:
  1. THE SAID QUESTIONED DISPOSITIONS FAILED TO FIND THE ACTS OF RESPONDENTS DALEON AND HIS RESPONDENTS-STUDENTS-AGULO, ALABA AND TECSON TO BE NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE LAW IN THE UNIVERSITY – THE UNIVERSITY CODE, PARTICULARLY THE PROVISIONS OF ARTICLES 128, 140, 141, 152 (LAST PARAGRAPH) THEREIN; AND OF THE ACTS OF RESPONDENT BOARD OF REGENTS AS “ULTRA VIRES” AND CONTRARY TO THE SAID LAW IN THE UNIVERSITY WHEN IT PASSED BOARD OF REGENTS (BOR) RESOLUTIONS NO. 2432 S. OF 1995 ON DECEMBER 23, 1995 AND NO. 2449 S. 1996, RESPECTIVELY;
  2. THERE WAS OBVIOUS ABUSE AND GRAVE ERROR IN MISAPPLYING THE PRINCIPLE OF “ACADEMIC FREEDOM” TO ABSOLVE RESPONDENT DALEON OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT; AND THE RESPONDENTS-STUDENTS AND THE BOARD OF REGENTS (ALONG WITH SAID RESPONDENT DALEON) OF THE ANTI-GRAFT CHARGES;
  3. THE SAID RESOLUTION AND ORDER OF RESPONDENT GRAFT INVESTIGATION OFFICER AND/OR THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN-MINDANAO WERE ATTENDED BY PATENT “DUE PROCESS” VIOLATIONS AS THEIR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS EMANATED FROM SELF-SERVING, INCREDIBLE AND HEARSAY PROFFERS; AND DID NOT CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE OF PETITIONER.[9]
In issue is whether or not public respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in exonerating Dr. Daleon from administrative as well as criminal liability arising from his giving passing grades to Agulo, Tecson and Alaba without requiring them to attend classes. Petitioner avers that public respondent Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, committed grave abuse of discretion when it affirmed the impugned BOR resolution as it is contrary to the University Code, violates due process and is based on self-serving hearsays. He argues that the BOR resolution is based on a wrong interpretation of the constitutional provision on “academic freedom”.
In its Comment, the Office of Solicitor General posits a contrary view. The OSG argues that public respondent did not commit grave abuse of discretion.[10] According to the OSG, there is no provision in the University Code of USP which prohibits a professor or teacher from giving a special program or arrangement tailored to meet the requirements of a particular course.[11]
We are in agreement with the position taken by the respondents through the OSG. The petition lacks merit and ought to dismissed.
A special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is an extraordinary remedy for the correction of errors of jurisdiction. To invoke the Court’s power of judicial review under this Rule, it must first be shown that respondent tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi- judicial functions has indeed acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, and that there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.[12] Conversely, absent a showing of lack or excess of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the acts of the respondents may not be subjected to our review under Rule 65.
From the records, we find no valid ground nor cogent reason to hold that the respondent Office had gravely abused its discretion in issuing the assailed Resolution dated June 3, 1997. We note that the conclusions in said resolution are based on substantial evidence easily verifiable from the records. Well established is the principle that factual findings of administrative agencies are generally accorded respect and even finality by this Court, provided such findings are supported by substantial evidence,[13] as in this case. Graft Investigation Officer I Jovito A. Coresis, Jr., of said Office gave weight to the counter-affidavit of Dr. Daleon[14] as corroborated by the affidavit of Prof. Concesa P. Lagare,[15] Professor 2 of the College of Education, USP. These affidavits averred that during the graduate school orientation program sometime in July 1995, the university’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Luz D. Ancheta, declared that special arrangements between a professor and a graduate student may be allowed on a case-to-case basis. Dr. Ancheta made this statement in reply to Dr. Daleon’s query on the policy of USP on attendance of graduate school students and whether Dr. Daleon could give grades to students who do not attend classes. In her reply to Dr. Daleon’s query, the VPAA even cited her experience when she pursued her doctoral course at UP Los BaƱos. According to Dr. Ancheta, she was given a special arrangement by one of her professors. She added that she, too, had allowed the same special arrangement for her students at the USP Graduate School.
Public respondent also anchored his decision on Article 140 of the University Code, which provides that the rules on attendance of students shall be enforced in all classes subject to the modification by the Dean in the case of graduate students and other courses.[16] It is undisputed that at the time that Dr. Daleon handled the graduate class in Ed.D. 317, he had already been duly designated Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the Graduate School by the President of USP and was even entitled to the emoluments inherent to the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.[17] Accordingly, as OIC, performing the functions of the Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Daleon had the authority to modify the rule on attendance without seeking permission of petitioner.
Further, Dr. Daleon’s teaching style had the support of the members of the Board of Regents, the body with the authority to formulate university policies, fully knowing the policy on attendance of students in the graduate school. In passing Resolution No. 2432, S. 1995,[18] not only did they validate the grade given by Dr. Daleon to Agulo, but they also gave an imprimatur on the propriety, regularity and acceptability of Dr. Daleon’s instructional approach. In said resolution, the BOR cited Article 155 and Article 3 of the University Code, thus:
The Board upheld the first grading sheet submitted by Dr. S. Daleon in the light of the following provisions of the University Code: (1) Article 155 which states that “no grade shall be changed after the report has been submitted” and (2) Article 3 which states that “Every member of the faculty shall enjoy academic freedom, which is the right of the professor to teach the subject of his specialization according to his best lights… nor shall any restraint be placed upon him in the choice of subjects for research and investigation.”
The Dean must promote unity in his unit and must ensure that the dignity of every professor in his unit is respected.[19]
As held by the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, the Resolution of the Board of Regents is clearly an exercise of its sound discretion as the final arbiter of issues affecting the internal operations of the university and as interpreter of the policies of the school.[20]
Finally, we agree with respondents’ position on the primacy of academic freedom in regard to higher institutions of learning. Dr. Daleon’s teaching style, validated by the action of the USP Board of Regents, is bolstered by the constitutional guarantee on academic freedom.[21] Academic freedom is two-tiered – that of the academic institution and the teacher’s.
Institutional academic freedom includes the right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives and the methods on how best to attain them, free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint.[22] It encompasses the freedom to determine for itself on academic grounds: who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.”[23] The right of the school to confirm and validate the teaching method of Dr. Daleon is at once apparent in the third freedom, i.e., “how it shall be taught.”
Academic freedom also accords a faculty member the right to pursue his studies in his particular specialty.[24] It is defined as a right claimed by the accredited educator, as teacher and as investigator, to interpret his findings and to communicate his conclusions without being subjected to any interference, molestation, or penalty because these conclusions are unacceptable to some constituted authority within or beyond the institution.[25] As applied to the case at bar, academic freedom clothes Dr. Daleon with the widest latitude to innovate and experiment on the method of teaching which is most fitting to his students (graduate students at that), subject only to the rules and policies of the university. Considering that the Board of Regents, whose task is to lay down school rules and policies of the University of Southeastern Philippines, has validated his teaching style, we see no reason for petitioner to complain before us simply because he holds a contrary opinion on the matter.
In our view, petitioner failed to establish that Dr. Daleon and the Board of Regents of the University of Southeastern Philippines acted in evident bad faith or with manifest partiality in the performance of their official duties. Hence, there is no basis to hold that the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao committed any grave abuse of discretion in exonerating respondents below from both administrative and criminal charges. The resolution of that Office is in order for it accords with the facts and the law.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Resolution dated June 3, 1997, of the Office of the Ombudsman- Mindanao is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, Acting C.J., (Chairman), Mendoza, and Corona, JJ., concur.



[1] SEC. 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. – In addition to acts or omissions of public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
(a) Persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation or offense.
xxx
(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.
xxx
(j) Knowingly approving or granting any license, permit, privilege or benefit in favor of any person not qualified for or not legally entitled to such license, permit, privilege or advantage, or of a mere representative or dummy of one who is not so qualified or entitled. xxx
[2] Rollo, p. 184.
[3] Records, p. 8.
[4] Supra, note 2.
[5] Id. at 185.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Id. at 186.
[8] Id. at 41.
[9] Id. at 16-17.
[10] Id. at 188.
[11] Id. at 193.
[12] Rules of Court, Rule 65, Sec. 1.
[13] Litonjua vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120294, 286 SCRA 136, 149 (1998).
[14] Records, p. 38, Item 7.
[15] Id. at 111, Annex “19”.
[16] Id. at 11.
[17] Id. at 68.
[18] Id. at 15.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Rollo, p. 39.
[21] Sec. 5., Art. XIV, 1987 Constitution-
xxx
(2) Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.
xxx
[22] Miriam College vs. CA, G.R. No. 127930, 348 SCRA 265, 284-285 (2000).
[23] Id. at 285.
[24] Montemayor vs. Araneta University Foundation et. al., No. L-44251, 77 SCRA 321, 327 (1977); citing Garcia vs. The Faculty Admission Committee, No. L-40779, 68 SCRA 277 (1975).
[25] Ibid.




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