DOCTRINE: As part of its academic freedom, the University of the Philippines has the prerogative to determine who may teach its students. The Civil Service Commission has no authority to force it to dismiss a member of its faculty even in the guise of enforcing Civil Service Rules.

FACTS: Dr. Alfredo B. De Torres is an Associate Professor of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) who went on a vacation leave of absence without pay from September 1, 1986 to August 30, 1989. During this period, he served as the Philippine Government’s official representative to the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and [the] Pacific (CIRDAP).

When the term of his leave of absence was about to expire, CIRDAP requested the UPLB for an extension of said leave of absence for another year, but was denied by Dr. Eulogio Castillo, the then Director of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, Inc. (ACCI) of UPLB. In the same letter, Dr. Castillo advised Dr. De Torres to report for duty at UPLB not later than September 15, 1989; while the then UPLB Chancellor Raul P. de Guzman apprised him on the rules of the Civil Service on leaves and warned of the possibility of being considered on Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL) if he failed to return and report for duty as directed. 

On August 27, 198[9], Dr. De Torres wrote UPLB that he had ‘no alternative but . . . to pursue the matter in continuing his commitment to CIRDAP.’ In response thereto, Chancellor de Guzman warned De Torres, in a Letter dated November 20, 1989, that in case of the latter’s failure to report ‘within 30 days from today,’ UPLB would be forced to drop him from the rolls of personnel. Despite the warning, Dr. De Torres did not report to work.

On January 3, 1994 or after almost five years of absence without leave, Dr. De Torres wrote the incumbent Chancellor Ruben L. Villareal that he was reporting back to duty at ACCI-UPLB effective January 3, 1994 . . . However, Chancellor Villareal notified Dr. De Torres that ‘when an employee reports back for duty, he should have been from an approved leave . . .’ Likewise, Director Leodegacio M. Ilag, of ACCI-UPLB, in a Letter dated February 10, 1994, informed De Torres that in the absence of any approved application for leave of absence, he [was] considered to be on AWOL. Thus, he was advised to re-apply with UPLB. AaSIET

On June 30, 1994, Dr. De Torres wrote Chancellor Villareal seeking reconsideration [of] the two aforementioned decisions . . . On July 4, 1994, Chancellor Villarealreversed his earlier stand and notified De Torres that since records at UPLB [did] not show that he ha[d] been officially dropped from the rolls he may report for duty effective January 3, 1994 . . . .

Mesdames Juanita Baskinas and Winifreda Medina, members of Academic Personnel Committee, ACCI-UPLB, requested the Civil Service Commission regarding the employment status of Dr. De Torres . . . .

On May 5, 1995, the Commission issued CSC Resolution No. 95-3045 . . ., the dispositive portion of which reads:

‘WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby rules that Dr. De Torres is considered to have been dropped from the service as of September 1, 1989. Hence, his re-employment requires the issuance of appointment subject to the requirements of Civil Service Law and Rules.’

On June 9, 1995, Dr. De Torres and the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) filed separate requests for reconsideration of aforesaid CSC Resolution No. 95-3045 dated May 5, 1995. In its CSC Resolution No. 96-1041 . . ., the commission denied the motion for reconsideration, further stating that CSC Resolution No. 95-3045 [stood] and that since separation from the service [was] non-disciplinary in nature, the appointing authority may appoint Dr. De Torres to any vacant position pursuant to existing civil service law and rules.

ISSUE: WON the CSC has the power to force the University of the Philippines to remove him from it faculty.

HELD: NO. In the case at bar, however, Petitioner De Torres was never actually dropped from the service by UP. He remained in the UPLB’s roll of academic personnel, even after he had been warned of the possibility of being dropped from the service if he failed to return to work within a stated period. Indeed, as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Emiliana N. Bernardo explained to the CSC in her October 12, 1994 letter: “UPLB records show that no notice or order of dropping Dr. de Torres from the rolls was ever issued by the UPLB Chancellor. On the contrary, UPLB records show that his salary was increased several times during his absence — on January 1, 1988, March 16, 1988, and July 1, 1989. His appointment was also reclassified with promotion in rank from Training Specialist II to Assistant Professor IV effective March 16, 1988. This promotion was approved by the UP Board of Regents during its 1015th meeting held on August 25, 1988.”

Verily, these acts are clearly inconsistent with separation or dropping from the service. Private petitioner was not only retained in the roll of personnel; his salary was even increased three times. Moreover, he was promoted in rank with the explicit approval of the Board of Regents, the highest governing body of UP. Since the commencement of the Complaint before the CSC, the University has consistently stood by his side. When respondent ruled against him in its assailed Resolution No. 95-3045, the University promptly filed a Motion for Reconsideration favoring his cause. Then, UP joined Dr. De Torres in his appeal before the Court of Appeals, as well as in the Petition now before us. All these circumstances indubitably demonstrate that the University has chosen not to exercise its prerogative of dismissing petitioner from its employ.

UP’s actuations, in spite of Section 33, Rule XVI of the Revised Civil Service Rules, are consistent with the exercise of its academic freedom. We have held time and again that “the University has the academic 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.” Clearly, this freedom encompasses the autonomy to choose who should teach and, concomitant therewith, who should be retained in its rolls of professors and other academic personnel. This Court declared in Ateneo de Manila University v. Capulong: “As corporate entities, educational institutions of higher learning are inherently endowed with the right to establish their policies, academic and otherwise, unhampered by external controls or pressure. Similarly, Vicente G. Sinco, a former UP president and delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, stressed that the Constitution “definitely grants the right of academic freedom to the University as an institution as distinguished from the academic freedom of a university professor.”

We are not unaware that academic freedom has been traditionally associated with freedom of thought, speech, expression and the press. But, as explained by Constitutional Commissioner Adolfo S. Azcuna during the deliberations on Section 5(2), Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution, “[s]ince academic freedom is a dynamic concept, we want to expand the frontiers of freedom, especially in education, therefore, we shall leave it to the courts to develop further the parameters of academic freedom.”

Thus, we hold that by opting to retain private petitioner and even promoting him despite his absence without leave, the University was exercising its freedom to choose who may teach or, more precisely, who may continue to teach in its faculty. Even in the light of the provision of the Revised Civil Service Law,the Respondent CSC had no authority to dictate to UP the outright dismissal of its personnel. The former could not have done so without trampling upon the latter’s constitutionally enshrined academic freedom. Moreover, in Chang v. Civil Service Commission, the Court stressed that “[t]he CSC is not a co-manager, or surrogate administrator of government offices and agencies. Its functions and authority are limited to approving or reviewing appointments to determine their concordance with the requirements of the Civil Service Law.” In short, on its own, the CSC does not have the power to terminate employment or to drop workers from the rolls.

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