Discipline

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I was slapped on the face, hit by a book, and whacked on my back by some of my teachers in elementary. Of course none of these would be tolerated at today. The teacher would be brutally skinned on social media for slightest physical or psychological harm on a pupil. Others say that a good old beating can be good in instilling discipline or a sense of accountability on pupils but psychologists say it can be traumatic to the child and of course it might inflict physical injuries. I am grateful that the beatings I experienced did not traumatise me and I have a great respect for my teachers still. This is not to say that I am in favour of inflicting physical punishment, but our education system has to come up with an alternative manner of instilling discipline on pupils to ensure that they do not just learn 1+1 but also the ability to be respectful and responsible members of our society.

Bagajo vs. Marave

The case is very simple. The incident happened in the year 1970 and the decision of the Supreme Court was promulgated in 1978. Bagajo was a public school teacher. One afternoon, Wilma one of her students tripped another that caused the latter to stumble and hit her head on a desk. Wilma was confronted by Bagajo for the incident but the former denied having to do anything on what just happened to the other student. For this, Bagajo whipped Wilma behind her legs with a bamboo stick causing bruises which the doctor determined to heal within four to six days. Bagajo was charged and convicted for the crime of slight physical injuries by the trial court. Bagajo appealed and the Solicitor General even sided with her and recommended her acquittal since she did not have criminal intent in administering the beating.

No Criminal Intent

The Supreme Court in a split decision agreed with the Solicitor General. There was no criminal intent on the part of the teacher who whipped her student. While it is true that the Civil Code expressly prohibits the administration of corporal punishment on students and the Bureau of Public Schools Service Manual also prohibits any kind of corporal punishment, the SC made it clear in this case that the question is not the Civil or Administrative liability of the teacher. The question is whether she had criminal intent in inflicting physical punishment that could come under the crime of slight physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code. No. “/A/s a matter of law, petitioner did not incur any criminal liability for her act of whipping her pupil, Wilma, with the bamboo-stick-pointer, in the circumstances proven in the record. Independently of any civil or administrative responsibility for such act she might be found to have incurred by the proper authorities, We are persuaded that she did not do what she had done with criminal intent.”(G.R. No. L-33345 November 20, 1978) She is not liable under the Revised Penal Code but she may be held Civilly or administratively liable.

The justices of the Supreme Court were divided on the issue so much so that the decision itself states that: “After several deliberations, the Court has remained divided, such that the necessary eight (8) votes necessary for conviction has not been obtained. Accordingly, the petitioner -accused is entitled to acquittal.” After more than forty years and several enacted laws, does this decision still stand? That, I am not sure.

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