15 February 2010

Chua-Qua vs Clave: The heart has reasons of its own according to SC ruling

There are stories of love deemed by others as inappropriate. However, true love defies odds, move mountains, and for this instance, compels a Supreme Court Justice to be extra-mushy in his ruling.

Years before the ratification of the 1987 Family Code of the Philippines, the old civil code allowed marriage of person(s) below the age of 18. Interestingly enough, I stumbled upon this interesting love-story-turned-courtroom-drama that occurred in 1976.

School is a usual setting where adolescents experience their first whirlwind romance. Be it a simple admiration, mutual understanding, or even serious relationships, love plants it seeds somewhere in the four corners of our schools.

Our story began at Tay Tung High School in Bacolod City where 30-year-old Evelyn Chua had built her teaching career for the last 12 years. During the academic year 1975-76, the school assigned her to handle a class of 6th graders where she met Bobby Qua, one of her students.

The school had been requiring its faculty members to provide remedial instructions to students in need of assistance or refreshers. Evelyn nonetheless tutored Bobby. Every after class, the two would stay in the classroom to cover subjects and topics. Past through their remedial sessions, the seeming student-teacher relationship moved to another notch. Evelyn Chua and Bobby Qua found themselves romantically attached with one another.

On December 24, 1975, the teacher and student exchange marital vows in a civil ceremony. Because Bobby was only 16 that time, he needed consent and advice from his parents. On January 10, 1976, the couple observed the sacrament of holy matrimony in a church wedding officiated by a Catholic priest.

It was not a happy ending for the newly weds, however. The marriage of a 30-year-old teacher to a 16-year-old student  enraged the school.

At the sub-regional office of the Department of Labor, Tay Tung High School filed a clearance to terminate Evelyn on the grounds of “abusive and unethical conduct unbecoming of a dignified school teacher" The school further argued that "her continued employment is inimical to the best interest, and would downgrade the high moral values of the school.” In other words, the school considered her a licensed professional with loose morals.

Executive Labor Arbiter Jose Y. Aguirre, Jr. of the National Labor Relations Commission, Bacolod City, required Evelyn and the school to submit position papers and evidences as affidavits.

In its affidavit, the school accused Evelyn of defying the standards of decency by recklessly taking advantage of her position as a teacher. To be specific, the school accused here of luring a Grade 6 boy under her advisory section and 15 years her junior into an amorous relationship. The lengthy after-class tutorials between Evelyn and Bobby were also cited as indications of immoral acts transpiring while in the performance of professional duty.

The Labor Arbiter decided in favor of the school saying, “While no direct evidences have been introduced to show that immoral acts were committed during these times, it is however enough for a sane and credible mind to imagine and conclude what transpired and took place during these times.” In other words, the Arbiter argued that although there was no substantial evidence, the mere fact that Evelyn pursued a relationship with Bobby was a proof that such immoral acts had transpired inside the school premises.

Evelyn lost her job and according to her, she was denied of due process. Determine, she fought back pronouncing that being in love and being wed-locked to her student did not make her less of a dignified teacher. On December 1976, the commission reversed the Arbiter’s ruling in favor of Evelyn.

The school however refused to accept defeat. After appealing to the Minister of Labor on March 30, 1977, the school won although they were obliged to provide Evelyn with financial assistance worth her entire six-month salary.

Evelyn elevated the case to the Office of the President on May 20, 1977. Then Presidential Executive Assistant Jacobo C. Clave came out with a decision and ordered the school to reinstate the teacher.

It felt Evelyn had finally won. However, Clave had a change of heart. Accordingly, he based his new decision on matters beyond legality and technicality. Specifically, he argued that the ongoing rumors concerning Evelyn were creating an unhealthy environment, especially for a school community tasked with a delicate responsibility of nurturing children. A teacher, according to Clave, should always act “beyond reproach and above suspicion.”

But love prevails.

In a Supreme Court decision dated August 30, 1990, Justice Regaldo considered it unlawful to terminated Evelyn based on unproven claims of immoral conduct. In addition, he reiterated the fact that school policies should not be at odds with security of tenure. The judge also mentioned that the marriage of Evelyn with Bobby could not be taken as a proof that immoral conduct had taken place inside the school premises. As regards the claim that Evelyn used her authority to malign a child, Justice Regaldo said, while quoting Blaise Pascal:
“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 court awarded Evelyn with three years back wages and a separation pay.

Chua-Qua v Clave, G.R. No. 49549 (1990)


KatipunanLaw,  January 9, 2015 at 6:07 AM  

Wow! Didn't know that we had this incident in the history of Philippines jurisprudence. Interesting read

Scarlette Coopera February 22, 2016 at 6:58 AM  

Hi! Good day. I'm a first year law student. As a requisite to one of my subjects, my group mates and I will make a film regarding Chua-Qua case. Can I copy your narration as reference? Thank you!