Published 14 February 2022, The Daily Tribune

It is said that teachers play the role of mentors, role models, and most especially, act as the second parents to their students. With this, teachers or professors are expected to act with utmost concern for the promotion of the entire well-being of their students.

This expectation has been emphasized by the Supreme Court (SC) in a labor case entitled University of Cordilleras vs Lacanaria (GR 223665, 27 September 2021), where a professor (Lacanaria) was dismissed due to his actuations, which were deemed tantamount to serious misconduct, a ground for dismissal.

In this case, it was stated that during a scheduled creative presentation for the professor’s class, one of his students, Rafael, did not join in the dance portion of their group number, although he participated in the singing and acting parts. Apparently, Rafael had a persistent cough, but he attended the class since an absence would yield a grade of zero for the performance. Because Rafael did not join in the dance segment, the professor instructed him to still dance to be fair to the whole group. However, while Rafael was dancing, his knees suddenly gave out which caused him to fall to the floor close to the wall. This notwithstanding, the professor did not pay much attention to what happened and instead instructed the next group to perform. Since he did not feel well, Rafael requested from the professor to permit him to proceed to the clinic. However, the professor told him, “Umupo ka muna dyan, hindi ka pa naman mamamatay.” Regardless, Rafael repeated his request. The professor eventually allowed him to go to the clinic with a classmate, but instructed him to return after his consultation. As the doctor was not yet around, Rafael headed home and was eventually brought to the Notre Dame Hospital where he was diagnosed to have “costochondritis and upper respiratory tract infection.” Rafael returned to school and sought the professor to report what had happened to him. However, when the latter saw Rafael at the stairs, the former said “T*e mo!” and then left.

Because of what happened, Rafael then filed a written complaint addressed to the Dean.

With the foregoing, can it be concluded that Lacanaria’s actuations amount to serious misconduct that will result in a just case for his termination?

The SC said yes. Those actuations demonstrated how Lacanaria’s misconduct amounted to something grave and not merely trivial, considering his position as a professor.

The SC held that indisputably, the incident was associated with Lacanaria’s work as a professor. His actuations clearly showed him unfit to continue working for the university, considering his daily interaction with the students. He acted with wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment since his statements were tainted with mockery and insult. He consciously uttered those words with full knowledge that he was conversing with a student whom he exercises authority over. Hence, he failed to display professionalism and decency in dealing with his students. In fact, common and basic decorum requires that he acts with respect toward his students or any other person. Yet, for reasons only known to him, he exhibited the contrary.

The SC finally noted that Lacanaria is a professional, equipped with a higher degree of learning compared to others. He even received accolades and recognitions for his professional achievements.

Thus, as a university professor, he was expected to adhere to a greater standard and exemplify traits which would not place the school in a damaging light. More importantly, he should be able to inspire instead of antagonize his students. Indeed, “(T)eachers are duly licensed professionals who must not only be competent in the practice of their noble profession, but must also possess dignity and a reputation with high moral values.”

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