It would be safe to presume that we are all equally and reasonably concerned with the welfare and safety of our minor children as the classes open for this school year. Next to the quality of education, unsafe school premises and activities, abusive teachers and school bullies, may just be some concerns on top of our minds as our children bid us goodbye and lug their heavy trolley bags to the school gate. Fortunate are we if these concerns would later turn out to be mere phantoms, and come moving up day, we breathe a sigh of relief.
Three laws may very well assuage us of our niggling concerns. You may take a look at the following:
1. Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 7610);
2. The Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603); and
3. The Family Code (EO 209)
RA 7610 defines "children" as persons below eighteen (18) years of age or those over but are unable to fully take care of themselves or protect themselves from abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation or discrimination because of a physical or mental disability or condition.
It also categorizes "child abuse" as the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following:
(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;
(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being;
(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or
(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.
Cruelty against or humiliation of the child as defined under PD 603 is punishable by prision mayor in its minimum period.
The Family Code (EO 209) tackles substitute and special parental authority of the school, its administrators and teachers over the children and their corresponding civil liabilities.
The Family Code provides that, “The school, its administrators and teachers, or the individual, entity or institution engaged in child care shall have special parental authority and responsibility over the minor child while under their supervision, instruction or custody.” Such authority and responsibility “shall apply to all authorized activities whether inside or outside the premises of the school, entity or institution.”
Accordingly, those given the authority and responsibility shall be principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by the acts or omissions of the unemancipated minor. The parents, judicial guardians or the persons exercising substitute parental authority over said minor shall be subsidiarily liable.
However, such liabilities would cease and shall not apply if it is proved that the school, its administrators and teachers exercise the proper diligence required under the particular circumstances.
In a recent case, the Supreme Court describes proper diligence, to wit: "...neglect in preventing a foreseeable injury and damage equates to neglect in exercising the utmost degree of diligence required of schools, its administrators and teachers, and, ultimately, was the proximate cause of the damage and injury to Jayson. As we have held in St. Mary’s, “for petitioner [St. Mary’s Academy] to be liable, there must be a finding that the act or omission considered as negligent was the proximate cause of the injury caused because the negligence must have a causal connection to the accident.” (St. Joseph's College vs. Miranda )