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UE vs JADER
Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 132344 February 17, 2000
UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST, petitioner,
ROMEO A. JADER, respondent.
May an educational institution be held liable for damages for misleading a student into believing that the latter had satisfied all the requirements for graduation when such is not the case? This is the issue in the instant petition for review premised on the following undisputed facts as summarized by the trial court and adopted by the Court of Appeals (CA),1 to wit:
Plaintiff was enrolled in the defendants’ College of Law from 1984 up to 1988. In the first semester of his last year (School year 1987-1988), he failed to take the regular final examination in Practice Court I for which he was given an incomplete grade (Exhibits “2″, also Exhibit “H”). He enrolled for the second semester as fourth year law student (Exhibit “A”) and on February 1, 1988 he filed an application for the removal of the incomplete grade given him by Professor Carlos Ortega (Exhibits “H-2″, also Exhibit “2″) which was approved by Dean Celedonio Tiongson after payment of the required fee. He took the examination on March 28, 1988. On May 30, 1988, Professor Carlos Ortega submitted his grade. It was a grade of five (5). (Exhibits “H-4″, also Exhibits “2-L”, “2-N”).
In the meantime, the Dean and the Faculty Members of the College of Law met to deliberate on who among the fourth year students should be allowed to graduate. The plaintiff’s name appeared in the Tentative List of Candidates for graduation for the Degree of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) as of Second Semester (1987-1988) with the following annotation:
JADER ROMEO A.
Def. Conflict of Laws — x-1-87-88, Practice Court I Inc., 1-87-88 C-1 to submit transcript with S.O. (Exhibits “3″, “3-C-1″, “3-C-2″).
The 35th Investitures & Commencement Ceremonies for the candidates of Bachelor of Laws was scheduled on the 16th of April 1988 at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, and in the invitation for that occasion the name of the plaintiff appeared as one of the candidates. (Exhibits “B”, “B-6″, “B-6-A”). At the foot of the list of the names of the candidates there appeared however the following annotation:
This is a tentative list Degrees will be conferred upon these candidates who satisfactorily complete requirements as stated in the University Bulletin and as approved of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (Exhibit “B-7-A”).
The plaintiff attended the investiture ceremonies at F. dela Cruz Quadrangle, U.E., Recto Campus, during the program of which he went up the stage when his name was called, escorted by her (sic) mother and his eldest brother who assisted in placing the Hood, and his Tassel was turned from left to right, and he was thereafter handed by Dean Celedonio a rolled white sheet of paper symbolical of the Law Diploma. His relatives took pictures of the occasion (Exhibits “C” to “C-6″, “D-3″ to “D-11″).
He tendered a blow-out that evening which was attended by neighbors, friends and relatives who wished him good luck in the forthcoming bar examination. There were pictures taken too during the blow-out (Exhibits “D” to “D-1″).
He thereafter prepared himself for the bar examination. He took a leave of absence without pay from his job from April 20, 1988 to September 30, 1988 (Exhibit “G”) and enrolled at the pre-bar review class in Far Eastern University. (Exhibits “F” to “F-2″). Having learned of the deficiency he dropped his review class and was not able to take the bar examination.2
Consequently, respondent sued petitioner for damages alleging that he suffered moral shock, mental anguish, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings and sleepless nights when he was not able to take the 1988 bar examinations arising from the latter’s negligence. He prayed for an award of moral and exemplary damages, unrealized income, attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.
In its answer with counterclaim, petitioner denied liability arguing mainly that it never led respondent to believe that he completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Laws degree when his name was included in the tentative list of graduating students. After trial, the lower court rendered judgment as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant ordering the latter to pay plaintiff the sum of THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED SEVENTY PESOS (P35,470.00) with legal rate of interest from the filing of the complaint until fully paid, the amount of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) as attorney’s fees and the cost of suit.
Defendant’s counterclaim is, for lack of merit, hereby dismissed.
which on appeal by both parties was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) with modification. The dispositive portion of the CA decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the lower Court’s Decision is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that defendant-appellee, in addition to the sum adjudged by the lower court in favor of plaintiff-appellant, is also ORDERED to pay plaintiff-appellant the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS for moral damages. Costs against defendant-appellee.
Upon the denial of its motion for reconsideration, petitioner UE elevated the case to this Court on a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, arguing that it has no liability to respondent Romeo A. Jader, considering that the proximate and immediate cause of the alleged damages incurred by the latter arose out of his own negligence in not verifying from the professor concerned the result of his removal exam.
The petition lacks merit.
When a student is enrolled in any educational or learning institution, a contract of education is entered into between said institution and the student. The professors, teachers or instructors hired by the school are considered merely as agents and administrators tasked to perform the school’s commitment under the contract. Since the contracting parties are the school and the student, the latter is not duty-bound to deal with the former’s agents, such as the professors with respect to the status or result of his grades, although nothing prevents either professors or students from sharing with each other such information. The Court takes judicial notice of the traditional practice in educational institutions wherein the professor directly furnishes his/her students their grades. It is the contractual obligation of the school to timely inform and furnish sufficient notice and information to each and every student as to whether he or she had already complied with all the requirements for the conferment of a degree or whether they would be included among those who will graduate. Although commencement exercises are but a formal ceremony, it nonetheless is not an ordinary occasion, since such ceremony is the educational institution’s way of announcing to the whole world that the students included in the list of those who will be conferred a degree during the baccalaureate ceremony have satisfied all the requirements for such degree. Prior or subsequent to the ceremony, the school has the obligation to promptly inform the student of any problem involving the latter’s grades and performance and also most importantly, of the procedures for remedying the same.
Petitioner, in belatedly informing respondent of the result of the removal examination, particularly at a time when he had already commenced preparing for the bar exams, cannot be said to have acted in good faith. Absence of good faith must be sufficiently established for a successful prosecution by the aggrieved party in a suit for abuse of right under Article 19 of the Civil Code. Good faith connotes an honest intention to abstain from taking undue advantage of another, even though the forms and technicalities of the law, together with the absence of all information or belief of facts, would render the transaction unconscientious.5 It is the school that has access to those information and it is only the school that can compel its professors to act and comply with its rules, regulations and policies with respect to the computation and the prompt submission of grades. Students do not exercise control, much less influence, over the way an educational institution should run its affairs, particularly in disciplining its professors and teachers and ensuring their compliance with the school’s rules and orders. Being the party that hired them, it is the school that exercises general supervision and exclusive control over the professors with respect to the submission of reports involving the students’ standing. Exclusive control means that no other person or entity had any control over the instrumentality which caused the damage or injury.6
The college dean is the senior officer responsible for the operation of an academic program, enforcement of rules and regulations, and the supervision of faculty and student services.7 He must see to it that his own professors and teachers, regardless of their status or position outside of the university, must comply with the rules set by the latter. The negligent act of a professor who fails to observe the rules of the school, for instance by not promptly submitting a student’s grade, is not only imputable to the professor but is an act of the school, being his employer.
Considering further, that the institution of learning involved herein is a university which is engaged in legal education, it should have practiced what it inculcates in its students, more specifically the principle of good dealings enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the Civil Code which states:
Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.
Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.
Art. 19 was intended to expand the concept of torts by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to provide specifically in statutory law.8 In civilized society, men must be able to assume that others will do them no intended injury — that others will commit no internal aggressions upon them; that their fellowmen, when they act affirmatively will do so with due care which the ordinary understanding and moral sense of the community exacts and that those with whom they deal in the general course of society will act in good faith. The ultimate thing in the theory of liability is justifiable reliance under conditions of civilized society.9 Schools and professors cannot just take students for granted and be indifferent to them, for without the latter, the former are useless.
Educational institutions are duty-bound to inform the students of their academic status and not wait for the latter to inquire from the former. The conscious indifference of a person to the rights or welfare of the person/persons who may be affected by his act or omission can support a claim for damages.10 Want of care to the conscious disregard of civil obligations coupled with a conscious knowledge of the cause naturally calculated to produce them would make the erring party liable.11 Petitioner ought to have known that time was of the essence in the performance of its obligation to inform respondent of his grade. It cannot feign ignorance that respondent will not prepare himself for the bar exams since that is precisely the immediate concern after graduation of an LL.B. graduate. It failed to act seasonably. Petitioner cannot just give out its student’s grades at any time because a student has to comply with certain deadlines set by the Supreme Court on the submission of requirements for taking the bar. Petitioner’s liability arose from its failure to promptly inform respondent of the result of an examination and in misleading the latter into believing that he had satisfied all requirements for the course. Worth quoting is the following disquisition of the respondent court:
It is apparent from the testimony of Dean Tiongson that defendant-appellee University had been informed during the deliberation that the professor in Practice Court I gave plaintiff-appellant a failing grade. Yet, defendant-appellee still did not inform plaintiff-appellant of his failure to complete the requirements for the degree nor did they remove his name from the tentative list of candidates for graduation. Worse, defendant-appellee university, despite the knowledge that plaintiff-appellant failed in Practice Court I, again included plaintiff-appellant’s name in the “tentative list of candidates for graduation which was prepared after the deliberation and which became the basis for the commencement rites program. Dean Tiongson reasons out that plaintiff-appellant’s name was allowed to remain in the tentative list of candidates for graduation in the hope that the latter would still be able to remedy the situation in the remaining few days before graduation day. Dean Tiongson, however, did not explain how plaintiff appellant Jader could have done something to complete his deficiency if defendant-appellee university did not exert any effort to inform plaintiff-appellant of his failing grade in Practice Court I.12
Petitioner cannot pass on its blame to the professors to justify its own negligence that led to the delayed relay of information to respondent. When one of two innocent parties must suffer, he through whose agency the loss occurred must bear it.13 The modern tendency is to grant indemnity for damages in cases where there is abuse of right, even when the act is not illicit.14 If mere fault or negligence in one’s acts can make him liable for damages for injury caused thereby, with more reason should abuse or bad faith make him liable. A person should be protected only when he acts in the legitimate exercise of his right, that is, when he acts with prudence and in good faith, but not when he acts with negligence or abuse.15
However, while petitioner was guilty of negligence and thus liable to respondent for the latter’s actual damages, we hold that respondent should not have been awarded moral damages. We do not agree with the Court of Appeals’ findings that respondent suffered shock, trauma and pain when he was informed that he could not graduate and will not be allowed to take the bar examinations. At the very least, it behooved on respondent to verify for himself whether he has completed all necessary requirements to be eligible for the bar examinations. As a senior law student, respondent should have been responsible enough to ensure that all his affairs, specifically those pertaining to his academic achievement, are in order. Given these considerations, we fail to see how respondent could have suffered untold embarrassment in attending the graduation rites, enrolling in the bar review classes and not being able to take the bar exams. If respondent was indeed humiliated by his failure to take the bar, he brought this upon himself by not verifying if he has satisfied all the requirements including his school records, before preparing himself for the bar examination. Certainly, taking the bar examinations does not only entail a mental preparation on the subjects thereof; there are also prerequisites of documentation and submission of requirements which the prospective examinee must meet.
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner is ORDERED to PAY respondent the sum of Thirty-five Thousand Four Hundred Seventy Pesos (P35,470.00), with legal interest of 6% per annum computed from the date of filing of the complaint until fully paid; the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) as attorney’s fees; and the costs of the suit. The award of moral damages is DELEIED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., took no part.
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