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10/9/2016

G.R.No.96126

TodayisSunday,October09,2016

RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila
FIRSTDIVISION

G.R.No.96126August10,1992
ESTERIAF.GARCIANO,petitioner,
vs.
THEHON.COURTOFAPPEALS,EMERITOLABAJO,LUNISITAMARODA,LALIANADIONES,CANONISA
PANINSORO,DIONISIOROSAL,REMEDIOSGALUSO,FLORDELUNAPETALCORIN,MELCHIZEDECHLOON,
NORBERTAMARODAandJOSEPHWIERTZ,respondents.
BasilioE.Duabanforpetitioner.
JuliusZ.Neriforprivaterespondent.

GRIOAQUINO,J.:
ThisisapetitionforreviewofthedecisionoftheCourtofAppealsdismissingthecomplaintfordamagesfiledby
thepetitioneragainsttheprivaterespondents.
Thepetitionerwashiredtoteachduringthe198182schoolyearintheImmaculateConcepcionInstituteinthe
IslandofCamotes.OnJanuary13,1982,orbeforetheschoolyearended,sheappliedforanindefiniteleaveof
absence because her daughter was taking her to Austria where her daughter was employed (Exh. B). The
application was recommended for approval by the school principal, Emerito O. Labajo, and approved by the
Presidentoftheschool'sBoardofDirectors(Exh.B1).
OnJune1,1982,EmeritoLabajoaddressedalettertothepetitionerthroughherhusband,SoteroGarciano(for
shewasstillabroad),informingherofthedecisionofFr.JosephWiertz,theschool'sfounder,concurredinbythe
presidentoftheParentTeachersAssociationandtheschoolfaculty,toterminateherservicesasamemberofthe
teachingstaffbecauseof:(1)theabsenceofanywrittencontractofemploymentbetweenherandtheschooldue
to her refusal to sign one and (2) the difficulty of getting a substitute for her on a temporary basis as no one
wouldacceptthepositionwithoutawrittencontract(Exhs.Cand1).UponherreturnfromAustriainthelaterpart
ofJune,1982,shereceivedtheletterinformingherthatherservicesattheImmaculateConcepcionInstitutehad
beenterminated.Shemadeinquiriesfromtheschoolaboutthematterand,onJuly7,1982,themembersofthe
BoardofDirectorsoftheschool,withtheexceptionofFr.JosephWiertz,signedaletternotifyingherthatshewas
"reinstated to report and do your usual duties as Classroom Teacher . . . effective July 5, 1982," and that "any
letter or notice of termination received by you before this date has no sanction or authority by the Board of
DirectorsofthisInstitution,thereforeitisdeclarednullandvoid..."(Exhs.Dand2).
OnJuly9,1982,thepresident,vicepresident,secretary,andthreemembersoftheBoardofDirectors,outofa
membershipofnine(9),resignedtheirpositionsfromtheBoard"forthereasonthattheICIFaculty,hasreacted
acidly to the Board's deliberations for the reinstatement of Mrs. Esteria F. Garciano, thereby questioning the
integrityoftheBoard'sdecision"(Exh.E).
On September 3, 1982, petitioner filed a complaint for damages in the Regional Trial Court, Cebu, Branch XI,
againstFr.Wiertz,EmeritoLabajo,andsomemembersofthefacultyoftheschoolfordiscriminationandunjust
andillegaldismissal.
Aftertrial,thelowercourtrenderedadecisiononAugust30,1985,orderingthedefendantsjointlyandseverally
topayherP200,000asmoraldamages,P50,000exemplarydamages,P32,400aslostearningsfornineyears,
andP10,000aslitigationexpensesandattorney'sfees.

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Thedefendants(nowprivaterespondents)appealedtotheCourtofAppeals(CAG.R.CVNo.10692),whichon
August30,1990reversedthetrialcourt'sdecisionthus:
WHEREFORE,thedecisionappealedfromisreversed,thecomplaintisdismissed,anddefendants
appellantsareabsolvedfromanyliabilitytoplaintiffappellee.Withcostsagainstplaintiffappellee.(p.
13,Rollo.)
The plaintiffappellee (now petitioner) filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court of Appeals denied on
October26,1990.Hence,thispetitionforreviewwhereintheloneerrorassignedbypetitionerreads:
Respondent Court of Appeals gravely erred in absolving the private respondents from liability by
faultingthepetitionerforherfailuretoreportbacktoherwork.(p.6,Rollo.)
Afteracarefulperusalofthepetitionandtherespondents'comments,theCourtresolvedtodenythepetitionfor
lackofmerit.
TheboardofdirectorsoftheImmaculateConcepcionInstitute,whichalonepossessestheauthoritytohireand
fireteachersandotheremployeesoftheschool,didnotdismissthepetitioner.Itinfactdirectedhertoreportfor
work.Whiletheprivaterespondentssentheraletterofterminationthroughherhusband,theyadmittedlyhadno
authoritytodoso.AstheCourtofAppealsaptlyobserved:
Weagreewithdefendantsappellants,however,thattheyshouldnothavebeenheldliabletoplaintiff
appellee for damages. Defendantsappellants had no authority to dismiss plaintiffappellee and the
latter was aware of this. Hence, the letter of termination sent to her through her husband (Exhs. C
and 1) by defendantsappellants had no legal effect whatsoever. It did not effectively prevent her
from reporting for work. What is more, it was subsequently repudiated by the Board of Directors
whichdirectedhertoreportforwork.(Exhs.Dand2)Therewas,therefore,noreasonwhyshedid
not continue with her teaching in the school. No evidence had been presented to show that
defendantsappellants prevented her from reporting for work. The fact that defendantsappellants
had "acidly" received the action of the Board of Directors repudiating their decision to terminate
plaintiffappellee is not proof that defendantsappellants had effectively and physically prevented
plaintiffappellee from resuming her post. It was nothing more than a reaction to what defendants
appellantsperceivedasanaffronttotheircollectiveprestige.Itwouldappear,therefore,thatplaintiff
appelleevoluntarilydesistedfromherteachingjobintheschoolandhasnorighttorecoverdamages
fromdefendantsappellants.(p.13,Rollo.)
LiabilityfordamagesunderArticles19,20and21oftheCivilCodearisesonlyfromunlawful,willfulornegligent
actsthatarecontrarytolaw,ormorals,goodcustomsorpublicpolicy.
Art.19.Everypersonmust,intheexerciseofhisrightsandintheperformanceofhisduties,actwith
justice,giveeveryonehisdue,andobservehonestyandgoodfaith.
Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall
indemnifythelatterforthesame.
Art. 21. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to
morals,goodcustomsorpublicpolicyshallcompensatethelatterforthedamage.
The Court of Appeals was correct in finding that petitioner's discontinuance from teaching was her own choice.
While the respondents admittedly wanted her service terminated, they actually did nothing to physically prevent
her from reassuming her post, as ordered by the school's Board of Directors. That the school principal and Fr.
Wiertz disagreed with the Board's decision to retain her, and some teachers allegedly threatened to resign en
masse,eveniftrue,didnotmakethemliabletoherfordamages.Theyweresimplyexercisingtheirrightoffree
speech or their right to dissent from the Board's decision. Their acts were not contrary to law, morals, good
customsorpublicpolicy.Theydidnot"illegallydismiss"herfortheBoard'sdecisiontoretainherprevailed.She
wasorderedtoreportforworkonJuly5,1982,butshedidnotcomplywiththatorder.Consequently,whatever
lossshemayhaveincurredintheformoflostearningswasselfinflicted.Volentinonfitinjuria.
Withrespecttopetitioner'sclaimformoraldamages,therighttorecoverthemunderArticle21isbasedonequity,
and he who comes to court to demand equity, must come with clean hands. Article 21 should be construed as
grantingtherighttorecoverdamagestoinjuredpersonswhoarenotthemselvesatfault(Mabutasvs.Calapan
ElectricCo.[CA]50OG5828,citedinPadilla,CivilCodeAnnotated,Vol.1,1975Ed.,p.87).Moraldamagesare
recoverableonlyifthecasefallsunderArticle2219inrelationtoArticle21(Flordelisvs.Mar,114SCRA41).In
the case at bar, petitioners is not without fault. Firstly, she went on an indefinite leave of absence and failed to
reportbackintimefortheregularopeningofclasses.Secondly,forreasonsknowntoherselfalone,sherefused
tosignawrittencontractofemployment.Lastly,sheignoredtheBoardofDirectors'orderforhertoreportforduty
onJuly5,1982.
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Thetrialcourt'sawardofexemplarydamagestoherwasnotjustifiedforsheisnotentitledtomoral,temperateor
compensatorydamages.(Art.2234,CivilCode).
Insum,theCourtofAppealscorrectlysetasidethedamagesawardedbythetrialcourttothepetitionerforthey
didnothaveanylegalorfactualbasis.
WHEREFORE,thepetitionisDISMISSEDforlackofmeritandthedecisionoftheCourtofAppealsisAFFIRMED.
SOORDERED.
Cruz,MedialdeaandBellosillo,JJ.,concur.
TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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