Private respondent, the association of parents and guardians of students enrolled in petitioner Bloomfield Academy, a non-stock, non-profit educational institution, filed a complaint for injunction against the latter. The complaint alleged that petitioner decided to increase its tuition fees in lieu of RA 6727 granting mandatory increase of minimum wage of the teachers without prior consultation to the parents which is a requirement before any increase should be made effective. Respondent court ordered the issuance of writ of preliminary injunction. In the petition for certiorari attributing to the court a quo grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the writ, the appellate court held the petition to be without merit.
Whether or not the court a quo has acted within its jurisdiction in issuing the questioned order and, in the affirmative, whether or not it has committed grave abuse of discretion specifically in granting private respondent’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction.
We see merit in the petition.
The pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 6728, also commonly known as “An Act Providing Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education, And Appropriating Funds Therefor,” provide: Sec. 10. Consultation. — In any proposed increase in the rate of tuition fee, there shall be appropriate consultations conducted by the school administration with the duly organized parents and teachers associations and faculty associations with respect to secondary schools, and with students governments or councils, alumni and faculty associations with respect to colleges. For this purpose, audited financial statements shall be made available to authorized representatives of these sectors. Every effort shall be exerted to reconcile possible differences. In case of disagreement, the alumni association of the school or any other impartial body of their choosing shall act as arbitrator.
In passing, we also observe that the parties have both remained silent on the provisions of Republic Act No. 6728 to the effect that in case of disagreement on tuition fee increases (in this instance by herein private parties), the issue should be resolved through arbitration. Although the matter has not been raised by the parties, it is an aspect, nevertheless, in our view that could have well been explored by them instead of immediately invoking, such as they apparently did, the administrative and judicial relief to resolve the controversy.
All told, we hold that the court a quo has been bereft of jurisdiction in taking cognizance of private respondent’s complaint. We see no real justification, on the basis of the factual and case settings here obtaining, to permit a deviation from the long standing rule that the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any time even on appeal.
Wherefore, conformably with our above opinion, the instant petition is granted and the questioned ordered of the court a quo and the decision of the appellate court are set aside.