G.R. No. L-47745. Apr 15, 1988 (243 Phil. 468)


Like any prospective graduate, Alfredo Amadora was looking forward to the commencement exercises where he would ascend the stage and in the presence of his relatives and friends receive his high school diploma. These ceremonies were scheduled on April 16, 1972. As it turned out, though, fate would intervene and deny him that awaited experience. On April 13, 1972, while they were in the auditorium of their school, the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletes, a classmate, Pablito Daffon, fired a gun that mortally hit Alfredo, ending all his expectations and his life as well. The victim was only seventeen years old.[1]

Daffon was convicted of homicide thru reckless imprudence.[2] Additionally, the herein petitioners, as the victim's parents, filed a civil action for damages under Article 2180 of the Civil Code against the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos, its rector, the high school principal, the dean of boys, and the physics teacher, together with Daffon and two other students, through their respective parents. The complaint against the students was later dropped. After trial, the Court of First Instance of Cebu held the remaining defendants liable to the plaintiffs in the sum of P294,984.00, representing death compensation, loss of earning capacity, costs of litigation, funeral expenses, moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney's fees.[3] On appeal to the respondent court, however, the decision was reversed and all the defendants were completely absolved.[4]

In its decision, which is now the subject of this petition for certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the respondent court found that Article 2180 was not applicable as the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos was not a school of arts and trades but an academic institution of learning. It also held that the students were not in the custody of the school at the time of the incident as the semester had already ended, that there was no clear identification of the fatal gun, and that in any event the defendants had exercised the necessary diligence in preventing the injury.[5]

The basic undisputed facts are that Alfredo Amadora went to the San Jose-Recoletos on April 13, 1972, and while in its auditorium was shot to death by Pablito Daffon, a classmate. On the implications and consequences of these facts, the parties sharply disagree.

The petitioners contend that their son was in the school to finish his physics experiment as a prerequisite to his graduation; hence, he was then under the custody of the private respondents. The private respondents submit that Alfredo Amadora had gone to the school only for the purpose of submitting his physics report and that he was no longer in their custody because the semester had already ended.

There is also the question of the identity of the gun used which the petitioners consider important because of an earlier incident which they claim underscores the negligence of the school and at least one of the private respondents. It is not denied by the respondents that on April 7, 1972, Sergio Damaso, Jr., the dean of boys, confiscated from Jose Gumban an unlicensed pistol but later returned it to him without making a report to the principal or taking any further action.[6] As Gumban was one of the companions of Daffon when the latter fired the gun that killed Alfredo, the petitioners contend that this was the same pistol that had been confiscated from Gumban and that their son would not have been killed if it had not been returned by Damaso. The respondents say, however, that there is no proof that the gun was the same firearm that killed Alfredo.

Resolution of all these disagreements will depend on the interpretation of Article 2180 which, as it happens, is invoked by both parties in support of their conflicting positions. The pertinent part of this article reads as follows:
"Lastly, teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices so long as they remain in their custody."
Three cases have so far been decided by the Court in connection with the above-quoted provision, to wit: Exconde v. Capuno,[7] Mercado v. Court of Appeals,[8] and Palisoc v. Brillantes.[9] These will be briefly reviewed in this opinion for a better resolution of the case at bar.

In the Exconde Case, Dante Capuno, a student of the Balintawak Elementary School and a Boy Scout, attended a Rizal Day parade on instructions of the city school supervisor. After the parade, the boy boarded a jeep, took over its wheel and drove it so recklessly that it turned turtle, resulting in the death of two of its passengers. Dante was found guilty of double homicide with reckless imprudence. In the separate civil action filed against them, his father was held solidarily liable with him in damages under Article 1903 (now Article 2180) of the Civil Code for the tort committed by the 15-year old boy.

This decision, which was penned by Justice Bautista Angelo on June 29, 1957, exculpated the school in an obiter dictum (as it was not a party to the case) on the ground that it was not a school of arts and trades. Justice J.B.L. Reyes, with whom Justices Sabino Padilla and Alex Reyes concurred, dissented, arguing that it was the school authorities who should be held liable. Liability under this rule, he said, was imposed on (1) teachers in general; and (2) heads of schools of arts and trades in particular. The modifying clause "of establishments of arts and trades" should apply only to "heads" and not "teachers."

Exconde was reiterated in the Mercado Case, and with an elaboration. A student cut a classmate with a razor blade during recess time at the Lourdes Catholic School in Quezon City, and the parents of the victim sued the culprit's parents for damages. Through Justice Labrador, the Court declared in another obiter (as the school itself had also not been sued) that the school was not liable because it was not ar establishment of arts and trades. Moreover, the custody requirement had not been proved as this "contemplates a situation where the student lives and boards with the teacher, such that the control, direction and influences on the pupil supersede those of the parents." Justice J.B.L. Reyes did not take part but the other members of the Court concurred in this decision promulgated on May 30, 1960.

In Palisoc v. Brillantes, decided on October 4, 1971, a 16-year old student was killed by a classmate with fist blows in the laboratory of the Manila Technical Institute. Although the wrongdoer - who was already of age - was not boarding in the school, the head thereof and the teacher in charge were held solidarily liable with him. The Court declared through Justice Teehankee:
"The phrase used in the cited article -'so long as (the students) remain in their custody' - means the protective and supervisory custody that the school and its heads and teachers exercise over the pupils and students for as long as they are at attendance in the school, including recess time. There is nothing in the law that requires that for such liability to attach, the pupil or student who commits the tortious act must live and board in the school, as erroneously held by the lower court, and the dicta in Mercado (as well as in Exconde) on which it relied, must now be deemed to have been set aside by the present decision."
This decision was concurred in by five other members,[10] including Justice J.B.L. Reyes, who stressed, in answer to the dissenting opinion, that even students already of age were covered by the provision since they were equally in the custody of the school and subject to its discipline. Dissenting with three others,[11] Justice Makalintal was for retaining the custody interpretation in Mercado and submitted that the rule should apply only to torts committed by students not yet of age as the school would be acting only in loco parentis.

In a footnote, Justice Teehankee said he agreed with Justice Reyes's dissent in the Exconde Case but added that "since the school involved at bar is a non-academic school, the question as to the applicability of the cited codal provision to academic institutions will have to await another case wherein it may properly be raised."

This is the case.

Unlike in Exconde and Mercado, the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos has been directly impleaded and is sought to be held liable under Article 2180; and unlike in Palisoc, it is not a school of arts and trades but an academic institution of learning. The parties herein have also directly raised the question of whether or not Article 2180 covers even establishments which are technically not schools of arts and trades, and, if so, when the offending student is supposed to be "in its custody."

After an exhaustive examination of the problem, the Court has come to the conclusion that the provision in question should apply to all schools, academic as well as non-academic. Where the school is academic rather than technical or vocational in nature, responsibility for the tort committed by the student will attach to the teacher in charge of such student, following the first part of the provision. This is the general rule. In the case of establishments of arts and trades, it is the head thereof, and only he, who shall be held liable as an exception to the general rule. In other words, teachers in general shall be liable for the acts of their students except where the school is technical in nature, in which case it is the head thereof who shall be answerable. Following the canon of reddendo singula singulis, "teachers" should apply to the words "pupils and students" and "heads of establishments of arts and trades" to the word "apprentices."

The Court thus conforms to the dissenting opinion expressed by Justice J.B.L Reyes in Exconde where he said in part:
"I can see no sound reason for limiting Art. 1903 of the old Civil Code to teachers of arts and trades and not to academic ones. What substantial difference is there between them insofar as concerns the proper supervision and vigilance over their pupils? It cannot be seriously contended that an academic teacher is exempt from the duty of watching that his pupils do not commit a tort to the detriment of third persons, so long as they are in a position to exercise authority and supervision over the pupil. In my opinion, in the phrase 'teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades' used in Art. 1903 of the old Civil Code, the words 'arts and trades' does not qualify 'teachers' but only 'heads of establishments.' The phrase is only an updated version of the equivalent terms 'preceptores y artesanos' used in the Italian and French Civil Codes.

"If, as conceded by all commentators, the basis of the presumption of negligence of Art. 1903 in some culpa in vigilando that the parents, teachers, etc. are supposed to have incurred in the exercise of their authority, it would seem clear that where the parent places the child under the effective authority of the teacher, the latter, and not the parent, should be the one answerable for the torts committed while under his custody, for the very reason that the parent is not supposed to interfere with the discipline of the school nor with the authority and supervision of the teacher while the child is under instruction. And if there is no authority, there can be no responsibility."
There is really no substantial distinction between the academic and the non-academic schools insofar as torts committed by their, students are concerned. The same vigilance is expected from the teacher over the students under his control and supervision, whatever the nature of the school where he is teaching. The suggestion in the Exconde and Mercado Cases is that the provision would make the teacher or even the head of the school of arts and trades liable for an injury caused by any student in its custody but if that same tort were committed in an academic school, no liability would attach to the teacher or the school head. All other circumstances being the same, the teacher or the head of the academic school would be absolved whereas the teacher and the head of the non-academic school would be held liable, and simply because the latter is a school of arts and trades.

The Court cannot see why different degrees of vigilance should be exercised by the school authorities on the basis only of the nature of their respective schools. There does not seem to be any plausible reason for relaxing that vigilance simply because the school is academic in nature and for increasing such vigilance where the school is non-academic. Notably, the injury subject of liability is caused by the student and not by the school itself nor is it a result of the operations of the school or its equipment. The injury contemplated may be caused by any student regardless of the school where he is registered. The teacher certainly should not be able to excuse himself by simply showing that he is teaching in an academic school where, on the other hand, the head would be held liable if the school were non-academic.

These questions, though, may be asked: If the teacher of the academic school is to be held answerable for the torts committed by his students, why is it only the head of the school only who is held liable where the injury is caused in a school of arts and trades? And in the case of the academic or non-technical school, why not apply the rule also to the head thereof instead of imposing the liability only on the teacher?

The reason for the disparity can be traced to the fact that historically the head of the school of arts and trades exercised a closer tutelage over his pupils than the head of the academic school. The old schools of arts and trades were engaged in the training of artisans apprenticed to their master who personally and directly instructed them on the technique and secrets of their craft. The head of the school of arts and trades was such a master and so was personally involved in the task of teaching his students, who usually even boarded with him and so came under his constant control, supervision and influence. By contrast, the head of the academic school was not as involved with his students and exercised only administrative duties over the teachers who were the persons directly dealing with the students. The head of the academic school had then (as now) only a vicarious relationship with the students. Consequently, while he could not be directly faulted for the acts of the students, the head of the school of arts and trades, because of his closer ties with them, could be so blamed.

It is conceded that the distinction no longer obtains at present in view of the expansion of the schools of arts and trades, the consequent increase in their enrollment, and the corresponding diminution of the direct and personal contact of their heads with the students. Article 2180, however, remains unchanged. In its present state, the provision must be interpreted by the Court according to its clear and original mandate until the legislature, taking into account the changes in the situation subject to be regulated, sees fit to enact the necessary amendment.

The other matter to be resolved is the duration of the responsibility of the teacher or the head of the school of arts and trades over the students. Is such responsibility co-extensive with the period when the student is actually undergoing studies during the school term, as contended by the respondents and impliedly admitted by the petitioners themselves?

From a reading of the provision under examination, it is clear that while the custody requirement, to repeat Palisoc v. Brillantes, does not mean that the student must be boarding with the school authorities, it does signify that the student should be within the control and under the influence of the school authorities at the time of the occurrence of the injury. This does not necessarily mean that such custody be co-terminous with the semester, beginning with the start of classes and ending upon the close thereof, and excluding the time before or after such period, such as the period of registration, and in the case of graduating students, the period before the commencement exercises. In the view of the Court, the student is in the custody of the school authorities as long as he is under the control and influence of the school and within its premises, whether the semester has not yet begun or has already ended.

It is too tenuous to argue that the student comes under the discipline of the school only upon the start of classes notwithstanding that before that day he has already registered and thus placed himself under its rules. Neither should such discipline be deemed ended upon the last day of classes notwithstanding that there may still be certain requisites to be satisfied for completion of the course, such as submission of reports, term papers, clearances and the like. During such periods, the student is still subject to the disciplinary authority of the school and cannot consider himself released altogether from observance of its rules.

As long as it can be shown that the student is in the school premises in pursuance of a legitimate student objective, in the exercise of a legitimate student right, and even in the enjoyment of a legitimate student privilege, the responsibility of the school authorities over the student continues. Indeed, even if the student should be doing nothing more than relaxing in the campus in the company of his classmates and friends and enjoying the ambience and atmosphere of the school, he is still within the custody and subject to the discipline of the school authorities under the provisions of Article 2180.

During all these occasions, it is obviously the teacher-in-charge who must answer for his students' torts, in practically the same way that the parents are responsible for the child when he is in their custody. The teacher-in-charge is the one designated by the dean, principal, or other administrative superior to exercise supervision over the pupils in the specific classes or sections to which they are assigned. It is not necessary that at the time of the injury, the teacher be physically present and in a position to prevent it. Custody does not connote immediate and actual physical control but refers more to the influence exerted on the child and the discipline instilled in him as a result of such influence. Thus, for the injuries caused by the student, the teacher and not the parent shall be held responsible if the tort was committed within the premises of the school at any time when its authority could be validly exercised over him.

In any event, it should be noted that the liability imposed by this article is supposed to fall directly on the teacher or the head of the school of arts and trades and not on the school itself. If at all, the school, whatever its nature, may be held to answer for the acts of its teachers or even of the head thereof under the general principle of respondeat superior, but then it may exculpate itself from liability by proof that it had exercised the diligence of a bonus paterfamilias.

Such defense is, of course, also available to the teacher or the head of the school of arts and trades directly held to answer for the tort committed by the student. As long as the defendant can show that he had taken the necessary precautions to prevent the injury complained of, he can exonerate himself from the liability imposed by Article 2180, which also states that:
"The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damages."
In this connection, it should be observed that the teacher will be held liable not only when he is acting in loco parentis for the law does not require that the offending student be of minority age. Unlike the parent, who will be liable only if his child is still a minor, the teacher is held answerable by the law for the act of the student under him regardless of the student's age. Thus, in the Palisoc Case, liability attached to the teacher and the head of the technical school although the wrongdoer was already of age. In this sense, Article 2180 treats the parent more favorably than the teacher.

The Court is not unmindful of the apprehensions expressed by Justice Makalintal in his dissenting opinion in Palisoc that the school may be unduly exposed to liability under this article in view of the increasing activism among the students that is likely to cause violence and resulting injuries in the school premises. That is a valid fear, to be sure. Nevertheless, it should be repeated that, under the present ruling, it is not the school that will be held directly liable. Moreover, the defense of due diligence is available to it in case it is sought to be held answerable as principal for the acts or omission of its head or the teacher in its employ.

The school can show that it exercised proper measures in selecting the head or its teachers and the appropriate supervision over them in the custody and instruction of the pupils pursuant to its rules and regulations for the maintenance of discipline among them. In almost all cases now, in fact, these measures are effected through the assistance of an adequate security force to help the teacher physically enforce those rules upon the students. This should bolster the claim of the school that it has taken adequate steps to prevent any injury that may be committed by its students.

fortiori, the teacher himself may invoke this defense as it would otherwise be unfair to hold him directly answerable for the damage caused by his students as long as they are in the school premises and presumably under his influence. In this respect, the Court is disposed not to expect from the teacher the same measure of responsibility imposed on the parent for their influence over the child is not equal in degree. Obviously, the parent can expect more obedience from the child because the latter's dependence on him is greater than on the teacher. It need not be stressed that such dependence includes the child's support and sustenance whereas submission to the teacher's influence, besides being co-terminous with the period of custody, is usually enforced only because of the students' desire to pass the course. The parent can instill more lasting discipline on the child than the teacher and so should be held to a greater accountability than the teacher for the tort committed by the child.

And if it is also considered that under the article in question, the teacher or the head of the school of arts and trades is responsible for the damage caused by the student or apprentice even if he is already of age - and therefore less tractable than the minor - then there should all the more be justification to require from the school authorities less accountability as long as they can prove reasonable diligence in preventing the injury. After all, if the parent himself is no longer liable for the student's acts because he has reached majority age and so is no longer under the former's control, there is then all the more reason for leniency in assessing the teacher's responsibility for the acts of the student.

Applying the foregoing considerations, the Court has arrived at the following conclusions:
  1. At the time Alfredo Amadora was fatally shot, he was still in the custody of the authorities of Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos notwithstanding that the fourth year classes had formally ended. It was immaterial if he was in the school auditorium to finish his physics experiment or merely to submit his physics report for what is important is that he was there for a legitimate purpose. As previously observed, even the mere savoring of the company of his friends in the premises of the school is a legitimate purpose that would have also brought him in the custody of the school authorities.
  2. The rector, the high school principal and the dean of boys cannot be held liable because none of them was the teacher-in-charge as previously defined. Each of them was exercising only a general authority over the student body and not the direct control and influence exerted by the teacher placed in charge of particular classes or sections and thus immediately involved in its discipline. The evidence of the parties does not disclose who the teacher-in-charge of the offending student was. The mere fact that Alfredo Amadora had gone to school that day in connection with his physics report did not necessarily make the physics teacher, respondent Celestino Dicon, the teacher-in-charge of Alfredo's killer.
  3. At any rate, assuming that he was the teacher-in-charge, there is no showing that Dicon was negligent in enforcing discipline upon Daffon or that he had waived observance of the rules and regulations of the school or condoned their non-observance. His absence when the tragedy happened cannot be considered against him because he was not supposed or required to report to school on that day. And while it is true that the offending student was still in the custody of the teacher-in-charge even if the latter was physically absent when the tort was committed, it has not been established that it was caused by his laxness in enforcing discipline upon the student. On the contrary, the private respondents have proved that they had exercised due diligence, through the enforcement of the school regulations, in maintaining that discipline.
  4. In the absence of a teacher-in-charge, it is probably the dean of boys who should be held liable, especially in view of the unrefuted evidence that he had earlier confiscated an unlicensed gun from one of the students and returned the same later to him without taking disciplinary action or reporting the matter to higher authorities. While this was clearly negligence on his part, for which he deserves sanctions from the school, it does not necessarily link him to the shooting of Amador as it has not been shown that the confiscated and returned pistol was the gun that killed the petitioners' son.
  5. Finally, as previously observed, the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos cannot be held directly liable under the article because only the teacher or the head of the school of arts and trades is made responsible for the damage caused by the student or apprentice. Neither can it be held to answer for the tort committed by any of the other private respondents for none of them has been found to have been charged with the custody of the offending student or has been remiss in the discharge of his duties in connection with such custody.
In sum, the Court finds under the facts as disclosed by the record and in the light of the principles herein announced that none of the respondents is liable for the injury inflicted by Pablito Daffon on Alfredo Amadora that resulted in the latter's death at the auditorium of the Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos on April 13, 1972. While we deeply sympathize with the petitioners over the loss of their son under the tragic circumstances here related, we nevertheless are unable to extend them the material relief they seek, as a balm to their grief, under the law they have invoked.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, without any pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered.

Yap, Narvasa, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, and GriƱo-Aquino, JJ., concur.
Gutierrez, Jr., J., concur but please see additional statement.
Melencio-Herrera, J., with separate concurring and dissenting opinion.
Teehankee, C.J., did not participate in deliberations.
Fernan, and Padilla, JJ., no part, formerly counsel for Colegio de San Jose-Recoletos.

[1] Rollo, pp. 63, 157.

[2] Ibid., p. 38.

[3] Id., p. 23.

[4] Id., p. 31. Climaco, J., ponente, with Pascual and Agcaoili, JJ.

[5] Id., pp. 30-31.

[6] Id., pp. 23, 272.

[7] 101 Phil. 843.

[8] 108 Phil. 414.

[9] 41 SCRA 548.

[10] Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, Barredo, Villamor, and Makasiar, JJ.

[11] Castro, Fernando, and Zaldivar, JJ.



I concur, except with respect to the restricted meaning given the term "teacher" in Article 2180 of the Civil Code as "teacher-in-charge". This would limit liability to occasions where there are classes under the immediate charge of a teacher, which does not seem to be the intendment of the law.

As I understand it, the philosophy of the law is that whoever stands in loco parentis will have the same duties and obligations as parents whenever in such a standing. Those persons are mandatorily held liable for the tortious acts of pupils and students so long as the latter remain in their custody, meaning their protective and supervisory custody.

Thus, Article 349 of the Civil Code enumerates the persons who stand in loco parentis and thereby exercise substitute parental authority:
"Art. 349. The following persons shall exercise substitute parental authority:

x x x

(2) Teachers and professors:

x x x

(4) Directors of trade establishments, with regard to apprentices;"
Article 352 of the Civil Code further provides:
"Art. 352. The relations between teacher and pupil, professor and student, are fixed by government regulations and those of each school or institution. x x x "
But even such rules and regulations as may be fixed can not contravene the concept of substitute parental authority.

The rationale of liability of school heads and teachers for the tortious acts of their pupils was explained in Palisoc vs. Brillantes (41 SCRA 548), thus:
"The protective custody of the school heads and teachers is mandatorily substituted for that of the parents, and hence, it becomes their obligation as well as that of the school itself to provide proper supervision of the students’ activities during the whole time that they are at attendance in the school, including recess time, as well as to take the necessary precautions to protect the students in their custody from dangers and hazards that would reasonably be anticipated, including injuries that some students themselves may inflict wilfully or through negligence on their fellow students." (Emphasis supplied)
Of course, as provided for in the same Article 2180, the responsibility treated of shall cease when the persons mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.

And while a school is, admittedly, not directly liable since Article 2180 speaks only of teachers and school heads, yet, by virtue of the same provision, the school, as their employer, may be held liable for the failure of its teachers or school heads to perform their mandatory legal duties as substitute parents (Sangco, Philippine Law on Torts & Damages, 1978 ed., p. 201). Again, the school may exculpate itself from liability by proving that it had exercised the diligence of a good father of the family.
"Art. 2180. x x x

"Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry.
x x x x x x "

Parenthetically, from the enumeration in Article 349 of the Civil Code, supra, it is apparent that the Code Commission had already segregated the classification of "teachers and professors" vis-a-vis their pupils, from "directors of trade establishments, with regard to their apprentices".



I concur in the Court's opinion so carefully analyzed and crafted by Justice Isagani A. Cruz. However, I would like to stress the need for a major amendment to, if not a complete scrapping of, Article 2180 of the Civil Code insofar as it refers to teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades in relation to pupils and students or apprentices. The seventh paragraph of Art. 2180 is a relic of the past and contemplates a situation long gone and out of date. In a Palisoc v. Brillantes (41 SCRA 548) situation, it is bound to result in mischief and injustice.

First, we no longer have masters and apprentices toiling in schools of arts and trades. Students in "technological" colleges and universities are no different from students in liberal arts or professional schools. Apprentices now work in regular shops and factories and their relationship to the employer is covered by laws governing the employment relationship and not by laws governing the teacher - student relationship.

Second, except for kindergarten, elementary, and perhaps early high school students, teachers are often no longer objects of veneration who are given the respect due to substitute parents. Many students in their late teens or early adult years view some teachers as part of a bourgeois or reactionary group whose advice on behaviour, deportment, and other non-academic matters is not only resented but actively rejected. It seems most unfair to hold teachers liable on a presumption juris tantum of negligence for acts of students even under circumstances where strictly speaking there could be no in loco parentis relationship. Why do teachers have to prove the contrary of negligence to be freed from solidary liability for the acts of bomb-throwing or pistol packing students who would just as soon hurt them as they would other members of the so-called establishment.

The ordinary rules on quasi-delicts should apply to teachers and schools of whatever nature insofar as grown up students are concerned. The provision of Art. 2180 of the Civil Code involved in this case has outlived its purpose. The Court cannot make law. It can only apply the law with its imperfections. However, the Court can suggest that such a law should be amended or repealed.