The Supreme Court has ordered Far Eastern University (FEU) and its security agency, Galaxy Management and Development Corporation (Galaxy), to pay damages to a former FEU law student accidentally shot by one of the security guards on duty at the school premises.
In a 13-page decision penned by Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, the Supreme Court’s Third Division reversed and set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeals dismissing the complaint for damages filed by Joseph Saludaga against FEU and its former president Edilberto C. de Jesus for breach of the school’s obligation to provide students with a safe and secure learning atmosphere. The High Court found FEU liable to Saludaga for damages amounting to PhP205,298.25 under Article 1170 of the Civil Code, which penalizes those negligent in the performance of their obligations. De Jesus, on the other hand, was cleared of liabilities by the Court for being a separate and distinct personality from FEU. The Court ruled that corporate officers cannot be held personally liable for the liabilities of their corporation except under certain conditions which had not been established in the case.
The Court held that FEU breached the school-student contract for negligence on its obligation to ensure and take adequate steps to maintain peace and order within the campus. It found that FEU had failed to undertake measures to ascertain and confirm that the security guards assigned in the campus possess the qualifications required in the Security Service Agreement between FEU and Galaxy.
“A learning institution should not be allowed to completely relinquish or abdicate security matters in its premises to the security agency it hired. To do so would result to contracting away its inherent obligation to ensure a safe learning environment for its students,” the Court stressed.
The Court also ordered Galaxy and its president, Mariano D. Imperial, to jointly and severally pay FEU damages equivalent to the amount awarded to Saludaga for acts of negligence that resulted to FEU’s breach of obligation to its student. Galaxy was found negligent in the selection and supervision of its employees, as supported by the lack of administrative sanction against Alejandro Rosete, the security guard who shot Saludaga. Rosete, who was instead allowed to go on leave after the shooting incident, eventually disappeared.
Imperial was held solidarily liable with Galaxy for being found grossly negligent in directing the affairs of the security agency. (GR No. 179337, Saludaga v. FEU, April 30, 2008)