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The Power of Love: The Chua-Qua Case

Love is patient, love is kind.

“The heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know.”

She was 30. He was 14 years younger than her. She was a teacher; he, a student under her.

During Valentine’s day, almost everyone is talking about love and how great its powers are that even the most rational mind cannot explain how it works.

The passage above was actually used in one of the most celebrated decisions made by the Supreme Court of the Philippines – the case of “Evelyn Chua-Qua vs. Jacobe Clave and Tay Tung High School, Inc.”, with G.R. No. 49549, and promulgated on August 30, 1990.

THE FACTS

The controversy happened in 1976. Evelyn Chua was a teacher in Tay Tung High School (TTHS) in Bacolod City. She was a Class Adviser in Grade VI. TTHS has a policy to extend remedial instructions to its students.

Bobby Qua is one of Evelyn’s advisory students in Grade VI. He was under the remedial instructions of Evelyn which is conducted after the regular class hours.

In the course thereof, they got in love with each other. Eventually, they got married. Evelyn was 30 years old and Bobby, 16 years old, an age gap of 14 years.

Consequently, TTHS filed with the Labor Arbiter an application to terminate Evelyn’s employment because her “actuations as a teacher constitute serious misconduct, if not an immoral act, a breach of trust and confidence reposed upon her and, thus, a valid and just ground to terminate her services” and she “violated the Code of Ethics for teachers the pertinent provision of which states that a ‘school official or teacher should never take advantage of his/her position to court a pupil or student’.”

Evelyn countered by saying that “there was no ground to terminate her services as there is nothing wrong with a teacher falling in love with her pupil and, subsequently, contracting a lawful marriage with him.”

The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of TTHS to dismiss Evelyn’s services despite conceding that “there was no direct evidence to show that immoral acts were committed” because according to him it is “enough for a sane and credible mind to imagine and conclude what transpired during those times.”

Evelyn elevated the case to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) which originally decided in her favor but was reversed on motion for reconsideration of TTHS. NLRC ratiocinated its flip-flopped decision in this wise:

“[t]his Office deemed it wise to uphold the judgment and action of the school authorities in terminating the services of a teacher whose actuations and behavior, in the belief of the school authorities, had spawned ugly rumors that had cast serious doubts on her integrity, a situation which was considered by them as not healthy for a school campus, believing that a school teacher should at all times act with utmost circumspection and conduct herself beyond reproach and above suspicion”.

THE ISSUE

Do the actuations of Evelyn Chua-Qua constitute immorality and/or grave misconduct to warrant her dismissal?

THE DECISION

The Supreme Court (SC) said that the dismissal was illegal by opining that:

“To constitute immorality, the circumstances of each particular case must be holistically considered and evaluated in the light of prevailing norms of conduct and the applicable law.”

There were no evidence given that show specific immoral acts allegedly committed by the two. The records show that the reason why Evelyn and Bobby were found together in one classroom during off school hours was because she was conducting remedial instructions to him.

Further, the acts complained of were alleged to have been committed from September to December 1975 but the disciplinary action was made only in February 1976 and the affidavits executed only in August 1976. Hence, the action was merely an afterthought having been made after the marriage of Evelyn and Bobby.

The SC added that:

“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 [TTHS] utterly failed to show that petitioner [Evelyn] 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.”