Aquinas vs. Spouses Inton Digest

G.R. No. 184202, January 26, 2011

AQUINAS SCHOOL, petitioner, vs. SPS. JOSE INTON and MA. VICTORIA S. INTON, on their behalf and on behalf of their minor child, JOSE LUIS S. INTON, and SR. MARGARITA YAMYAMIN, OP, respondents.



Respondent Jose Luis Inton was a grade 3 student at Aquinas School while Respondent Yamyamin was a religion teacher at said school. Yamyamin caught Luis misbehaving in class twice, going over to his classmate instead of copying what was written on the blackboard. She allegedly kicked him in the legs and shoved his head on the classmate's seat.

The parents of Luis filed an action for damages on behalf of their son against Yamyamin and Aquinas school.

With regard to the action for damages, the Intons sought to recover actual, moral, and exemplary damages, as well as attorneys fees, for the hurt that Jose Luis and his mother Victoria suffered. The RTC dismissed Victorias personal claims but ruled in Jose Luis favor, holding Yamyamin liable to him for moral damages of P25,000.00, exemplary damages of P25,000.00, and attorneys fees of P10,000.00 plus the costs of suit.

Not satisfied, the Intons elevated the case to the Court of Appeals and they asked it to increase the award of damages and to hold Aquinas solidarily liable with Yamyamin. Finding that an employer-employee relation existed between Aquinas and Yamyamin, the CA found them solidarily liable to Jose Luis.

ISSUE: Whether the CA erred in holding Aquinas solidarily liable with Yamyamin for the damages awarded to Jose Luis.

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

LABOR LAW - Employer-Employee relationship

In this case, the school directress testified that Aquinas had an agreement with a congregation of sisters under which, in order to fulfill its ministry, the congregation would send religion teachers to Aquinas to provide catechesis to its students. Aquinas insists that it was not the school but Yamyamins religious congregation that chose her for the task of catechizing the schools grade three students, much like the way bishops designate the catechists who would teach religion in public schools. Under the circumstances, it was quite evident that Aquinas did not have control over Yamyamins teaching methods. Consequently, it was error for the CA to hold Aquinas solidarily liable with Yamyamin.

Of course, Aquinas still had the responsibility of taking steps to ensure that only qualified outside catechists are allowed to teach its young students. In this regard, it cannot be said that Aquinas took no steps to avoid the occurrence of improper conduct towards the students by their religion teacher.

First, Yamyamins transcript of records, certificates, and diplomas showed that she was qualified to teach religion.

Second, there is no question that Aquinas ascertained that Yamyamin came from a legitimate religious congregation of sisters and that, given her Christian training, the school had reason to assume that she would behave properly towards the students.

Third, the school gave Yamyamin a copy of the schools Administrative Faculty Staff Manual that set the standards for handling students. It also required her to attend a teaching orientation before she was allowed to teach beginning that June of 1998.

Fourth, the school pre-approved the content of the course she was to teach to ensure that she was really catechizing the students.

And fifth, the school had a program for subjecting Yamyamin to classroom evaluation. Unfortunately, since she was new and it was just the start of the school year, Aquinas did not have sufficient opportunity to observe her methods. At any rate, it acted promptly to relieve her of her assignment as soon as the school learned of the incident. It cannot be said that Aquinas was guilty of outright neglect.