CA orders Bulacan school to pay P15,000-nominal damages to bullying victim


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CA orders Bulacan school to pay P15,000-nominal damages to bullying victim
The CA rules that the Divine Lord of Mercy School of Marilao 'failed to provide a conducive atmosphere for learning and to maintain peace and order in its premises when it allowed the bullying incident to take place inside its campus'

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals has ordered a school in Marilao, Bulacan, to pay P15,000 in nominal damages to a student who got bullied inside the school premises.

The CA’s Special Fourteenth Division partially granted the petition filed by the female student through her mother, appealing the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan Branch 78 ruling that junked her suit for damages and attorney’s fees against Divine Lord of Mercy School of Marilao, Incorporated.

The case stemmed from the bullying of the plaintiff that was captured on video and posted on YouTube, showing the girl, who was then in second year high school, being ganged up on and bullied by other students inside a classroom in their school. 

The CA said the school is liable for breach of contract and ordered it to pay the student P15,000 in nominal damages.    

It also imposed an interest rate of 6% per annum on the awarded amount from the finality of the decision until full payment.    

“Prescinding from the foregoing, Divine Lord is principally liable for nominal damages in the amount of P15,000.00, which we deem reasonable given the circumstances in this case,” the court said in its 36-page decision penned by Associate Justice Wilhelmina Jorge-Wagan.

“Divine Lord failed to provide a conducive atmosphere for learning and to maintain peace and order in its premises when it allowed the bullying incident to take place inside its campus,” the decision also said.

Under Article 2221 of the Civil Code, nominal damages may be awarded to an aggrieved party so that a person whose right has been violated or invaded may be vindicated or recognized. But “not for the purpose of indemnifying the plaintiff for any loss suffered.”    

Under Article 2222 of the Civil Code, “the court may award nominal damages in every obligation arising from any source – law, contracts, quasi-contracts, crimes of acts or omissions punished by law and quasi-delicts or torts (wrongful acts) – enumerated in Article 1157, or in every case where any property right has been invaded.”     

“Moreover, the award of nominal damages becomes even more necessary in light of the modern trend recognizing an individual’s mental health, which is made manifest in the subsequent enactments of the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 and Republic Act 11036, or the Mental Health Act,” the CA said in its decision.     

The court noted that Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti- Bullying Act of 2013 recognizes that bullying encompasses not only physical harm but also psychological and emotional harm, and that the Mental Health Act affirms the basic right of all Filipinos to mental health and ensures that mental health is valued, promoted, and protected. (READ: Rappler Recap: Is the anti-bullying law still effective after 10 years?)

Not entitled to actual, moral damages

The CA, however, upheld the Malolos RTC’s decision to dismiss the student’s claim for actual and moral damages against the school.

The CA said the student failed to provide receipts to back up her claim for actual damages, or the cost she claimed to have incurred for her treatment following the bullying incident.

The CA also upheld the Malolos court’s ruling against the award of moral damages, citing the plaintiff-appellant’s failure to prove the existence of fraud or bad faith.

Based on the complaint for damages filed before the Malolos RTC on October 7, 2009, the student’s mother got her report card at the end of school year 2007-2008, and was surprised to find out that she had failed all her subjects.

The student’s brother later told their mother of a YouTube video showing his sister in a classroom where her classmates kicked her chair, shouted at her, and provoked her. Some students were also seen sticking bubblegum on her hair.    

The student at first denied the incident in the video but later confirmed it to be true. She also said the incident was behind her failing grades.

Based on the complaint, the student showed “abnormal behavior such as anxiety attacks, sudden mood swings, aloofness, and severe depression” since the bullying incident.

The CA said in its decision that while the video showed that the incident took place inside a classroom, it did not establish that it happened during class hours or while the students were doing authorized activities inside school premises.

It was also not established that the students were under the school’s supervision, instruction, or custody at the time of the incident.

Because of these, the CA ruled that the plaintiff-appellant failed to establish that Divine Lord was negligent and such negligent act was the reason for her depression.   

“Verily, her claim for damages based on quasi-delict against Divine Lord must be dismissed. Necessarily, the action against the parents or legal guardians of her classmates must also fail,” the CA said. – Rappler.com     

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