One morning, the victim, a 14-year-old high-school student, was attending his class at the school basketball court where the accused, a public school teacher, was also conducting his Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health class for third year students. Along with some of his classmates, the victim joined the third year students who were practicing basketball shots. The accused then instructed his class to form two lines. The victim, thinking that three lines were to be formed, stayed in between the two lines. Without warning, the accused held his right arm and punched his stomach for failing to follow instructions. As a result, the victim sustained a contusion hematoma and was confined in the hospital for three days.
The victim filed an administrative complaint against the accused before the Civil Service Commission-Cordillera Administrative Region (CSC-CAR) and a criminal case before with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for Less Serious Physical Injury.
Before the CSC-CAR, the accused denied the charges against him and claimed that he had merely scolded the accused for failing to follow his instructions. He offered sworn statements of other student to prove that he did not punch the victim.
While the proceedings of the administrative case were ongoing, the RTC found the accused guilty of the offense of slight physical injury and sentenced him to imprisonment ranging from 11 to 20 days.
The CSC-CAR found him guilty of simple misconduct and suspended him for six (6) months. It held that the accused clearly transgressed the proper norms of conduct required of a public official aggravated by the seriousness of the resulting injury.
On appeal before the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the CSC modified the decision of its regional arm. It found the accused guilty of grave misconduct and dismissed him from the service. It noted that the accused did not question his conviction for the crime of slight physical injuries, which was based on the same set of facts and circumstances and involved the same parties and issues.
Because the Court of Appeals sustained the CSC resolution, the accused brought his case to the Supreme Court (SC). He argued that assuming that he did box the victim, he was not motivated by bad faith to warrant a finding for grave misconduct. He merely acted on the belief that, as a teacher, he was exercising authority over the victim in loco parentis, i.e., in place of a parent, and was within his right to discipline his student.
The SC upheld the finding of grave misconduct, but tempered the penalty to suspension since there was sufficient provocation on the part of the victim. Section 8, Article VIII of the Code of Ethics of Professional Teachers provides that “a teacher shall not inflict corporal punishment on offending learners.”
Held the High Court
Clearly then, [the accused]cannot argue that in punching [the victim], he was exercising his rights as a teacher in loco parentis to discipline his student. It is beyond cavil that [he], as a public school teacher, deliberately violated his Code of Ethics. Such violation is a flagrant disregard for the established rule contained in the said Code tantamount to grave misconduct (Pat-og, Sr. v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 198755, 5 June 2013, J. Mendoza).