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ANNOTATION CIVIL LIABILITY IN CRIMINAL CASES AND QUASI-DELICTS COMPARED

By DAVID G. NITAFAN *

I. Introduction, p. 208 II. Sources of civil obligations and principles governing them, p. 209 III. Basic legal provision of the penal law and its rationale, p. 210 IV. Extent of civil liability from crime and quasi-delict, p. 211 V. Accrual of civil liability arising from crime, p. 212 VI. Nature of responsibilities of persons liable, p. 214 VII. Defenses, p. 216 VIII. Subsidiary and secondary liability compared, p. 216 IX. Extinguishment by prescription, p. 216

_______________ I. Introduction

In the decision of the First Division of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 94713,1 the doctrine is announced that corporate civil liability may not be enforced in a criminal case filed against the issuer or drawer of the corporate check, dishonored for lack of funds upon presentment, for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, where the accused were acquitted. The decision likewise held

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* Incumbent Regional Trial Court Judge and Professor of Law.

1 Mansion Biscuit Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et al., decided on 23 November 1995Kapunan, J.

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that an acquittal on the ground that the crime charged was not committed will not justify award of civil indemnity based on quasi-delict.

These annotations will dwell on civil liabilities claimed to have arisen from either acts or omissions punished by law or quasidelict. II. Sources of civil obligations and principles governing them

The six initial articles of Book IV of the Civil Code enunciate the different sources of obligations and the principles governing each class of such obligations. Thus, the Code provides:

Art. 1167. Obligations arise from:

(1) Law;

(2) Contracts; (3) Quasi-contracts; (4) Acts or omissions punished by law; and (5) Quasi-delicts.

Art. 1158. Obligations derived from law are not presumed. Only those expressly determined in this Code or in special laws are demandable, and shall be regulated by the precepts of the law which establishes them; and as to what has not been foreseen, by the provisions of this Book.

Art. 1159. Obligations arising from contracts have the force of law between the contracting parties and should be complied with in good faith.

Art. 1160. Obligations derived from quasi-contracts shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 1, Title XVII, of this Book.

Art. 1161. Civil Obligations arising from criminal offenses shall be governed by the penal laws, subject to the provisions of Article 2177, and of the pertinent provisions of Chapter 2, Preliminary Title, on Human Relations, and of Title XVIII of this Book, regulating damages.

Art. 1162. Obligations derived from quasi-delicts shall be governed by the provisions of Chapter 2, Title XVII of this Book, and of special laws.

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We are of course concerned now with those obligations which have relation to criminal offenses and quasi-delict, and these have reference to Nos. (4) and (5), Art. 1157, and Articles 1161 and 1162 of the Civil Code, above quoted.

Question: What are the aspects of civil obligations arising from offenses which are governed by the penal law? This question is asked because of the renvoi expressly made under Article 1161 of the Civil Code to the penal law.

As a rule, the aspects of civil obligations that are regulated by law are their constitution or creation, nature, effects, and extinguishment. III. Basic legal provision of the penal law and its rationale

The fundamental principle how civil obligation arises from acts or omission punishable by law is expressed in Art. 100 of the Revised Penal Code, providing that every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable. This provision, while sweeping in its terms, is not true in all cases because there are offenses (the law uses the word felony) which do not actually result to civil liability. Thus, Chief Justice Aquino is of the view that there are persons who are criminally liable but who are not civilly liable, giving as examples the cases of criminal contempt and abortion committed by the woman herself.2 He continued that Article 100 means that there is civil liability in those cases where damages actually resulted from the offense. On the other hand, there are persons civilly liable who may not be criminally liable, even if an offense was actually committed, as in the case of persons exempt from criminal responsibility under Article 12 and employers who may only be subsidiarily liable under Articles 102 and 103 of the Revised Penal Code. Under this situation there are also those relatives who may not be criminally liable under Article 332 of the same code but may be civilly liable.

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2 Aquino, Criminal Law, Vol. 1, 1976 ed., p. 741, citing U.S. v. Heery, 25 Phil. 600.

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Indeed, Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code provides for the instances when the exemption from criminal liability does not include exemption from civil liability.

The basis of civil liability arising from crime is that any act constituting a felony results to two kinds of social disturbances: Social injury produced by the disturbance and alarm which are the outcome of the offense, and personal injury, caused to the victim of the crime who may have suffered damage, either to his person, to his property, to his honor, or to her chastity.3

Underlying the legal principle that a person who is criminally liable is also civilly liable is the view that from the standpoint of its effects, a crime has dual character: (1) an offense against the state because of the disturbance of the social order; and (2) as an offense against the private person injured by the crime unless it involves the crimes of treason, rebellion, espionage, contempt, wherein no civil liability arises on the part of the offender either because there are no damages to be compensated or there is no private person injured by the crime. In the ultimate analysis, what gives rise to the civil liability is really the obligation of everyone to repair it or to make whole the damage caused to another by reason of his act or omission, whether done intentionally or negligently and whether or not punishable by law.4 IV. Extent of civil liability from crime and quasidelict

Article 104 of the Revised Penal Code provides that the civil liability established in Articles 100, 101, 102 and 103 of the Code includes: 1. Restitution; 2. Reparation of the damage caused; and 3. Indemnification for consequential damages. It would seem that these kinds of civil liability may in certain instances concur, but under the basic postulate of fairness and justice, no one should enrich himself at the expense of another, so that the law may not be used to exact excessive indemnification.

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3 Reyes, L.B., Criminal Law, 1993 ed., Vol. 1, p. 876.

4 Occena v. Icamina, 181 SCRA 328.

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In both crimes and quasi-delicts, the accused/defendant shall be liable for all damages which are the natural and probable consequences of the act or omission complained of, and it is not necessary that such damages have been foreseen or could have reasonably been foreseen by the defendant.5 In either crime or quasidelict, interests as part of the damages may, in a proper case, be adjudicated in the discretion of the court.6

However, in crimes, the damages to be adjudicated may be respectively increased or lessened according to the aggravating or mitigating circumstances,7 while in quasi-delicts, the contributory negligence of the plaintiff, or that the loss has resulted in any event, or that the defendant has done his best to minimize the plaintiffs loss, are the factors that may reduce the damages.8

Moral damages may be recovered in both crimes and quasidelicts resulting to physical injuries.9 V. Accrual of civil liability arising from crime

Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, while very brief, actually provides when civil liability arising from crime accrues, that is, when it becomes due and demandable. Thus, it provides that every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable. The underscored word is very significant, because it makes criminal liability as condition sine qua non or precedent for the civil liabilitywhich means that without a finding of criminal liability on the part of the alleged offender, he cannot be held civilly.

There is, however, a rule mandating that even in case of acquittal, unless there is a clear showing that the act from which the civil liability might arise did not exist, the judgment shall make a finding on the civil liability of the accused in favor of the

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5 Art. 2202, Civil Code.

6 Art. 2211, Ibid.

7 Art. 2204, Ibid.

8 Arts. 2214 & 2215, Ibid.

9 Art. 2219, Ibid.

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offended party.10 This is not only contrary to the substantive import of Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, but it also converts the criminal prosecution into a purely civil action, thereby convoluting the rules. The soundness of this rule was the subject of a prior annotation.11

As earlier intimated, there are instances when civil liability accrues notwithstanding the fact that the offender cannot be held criminally. Thus, Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

The exemption from criminal liability established in subdivisions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 of Article 12 and in subdivision 4 of Article 11 of this Code does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced subject to the following rules:

First. In cases of subdivisions 1, 2, and 3 of Article 12, the civil liability for acts committed by an imbecile or insane person, and by a person under nine years of age, or by one over nine but under fifteen years of age, who has acted without discernment, shall devolve upon those having such person under their legal authority or control, unless it appears that there was no fault or negligence on their part.

Should there be no person having such insane, imbecile or minor under his authority, legal guardianship, or control or if such person be insolvent, said insane, imbecile, or minor shall respond with their own property, excepting property exempt from execution, in accordance with the civil law.

Second. In cases falling within subdivision 4 of Article 11, the person for whose benefit the harm has been prevented shall be civilly liable in proportion to the benefit which they may have received.

The courts shall determine, in their sound discretion, the proportionate amount for which each one shall be liable.

When the respective shares cannot be equitably determined, even approximately, or when the liability also attaches to the Government, or to the majority of the inhabitants of the town, and, in all events whenever the damage has been caused with the consent of the authorities or their agents, indemnification shall be made in the

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10 Sec. 2, last par., Rule 120, 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure.

11 231 SCRA 537, et seq.

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manner prescribed by special laws or regulations.

Third. In cases falling within subdivisions 5 and 6 of Article 12, the persons using violence or causing the fear shall be primarily liable and secondarily, or, if there be no such persons, those doing the act shall be liable, saving always to the latter that part of their property exempt from execution.

In connection with the devolution of the civil liability for acts committed by a youthful offender, Article 201 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code,12 provides that the civil liability for acts committed by a youthful offender shall devolve upon the offenders father and, in case of his death or incapacity, upon the mother or in case of her death or incapacity, upon the guardian. Civil liability may also be voluntarily assumed by a relative or family friend of the youthful offender.

In case of tort (quasi-delict), parents and guardians are responsible for the damage caused by the child under their parental authority in accordance with the Civil Code.13 VI. Nature of responsibilities of persons liable

The civil liability of an offender is primary. So also that of the persons to whom the liability of an imbecile, insane or minor devolves, but in the absence of such person, the imbecile, insane or minor is secondarily liable with their properties. This is provided for in the second sentence of the first rule under Article 101. This is the same rule in quasi-delict under Article 2182 of the Civil Code.

The responsibility of the person benefited under circumstance 4 of Article 11 is also primary, but under circumstances 5 and 6 of Article 12, third rule under Article 101, the person who caused or induced the irresistible force or uncontrollable fear, other than the victim himself/herself, is primary, but that of the actor is

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12 Pres. Decree No. 603, dated 10 December 1974, which took effect six months after its date.

13 Art. 58, Child and Youth Welfare Code. Parental authority is now provided in the Family CodeEx. Or. 209.

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merely secondary.

Under Articles 102 and 103 of the Revised Penal Code, there are persons who are substantially liable, such as inkeepers, tavernkeepers, or employers for criminal acts committed within the places, compounds or areas specified in Article 102. Employers, teachers, persons and corporations engaged in industry are likewise subsidiarily liable for felonies committed by their servants, pupils, workmen, apprentices, or employees in the discharge of their duties, under Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code. Persons subsidiarily liable under the Revised Penal Code are entitled to reimbursement from the actor should the latters finances subsequently permit.

In contrast, the liabilities of parents, guardians, owners and managers of establishment or enterprises, employers, the State and teachers or head of establishments of arts and trades, under Article 2180 of the Civil Code are primary, but they are entitled to reimbursement from the person negligent under the provision of Article 2181 of the same Code. Civil liability of joint tortfeasors are not only primary but also solidary under 2194 of the Civil Code.

The solidary liability under the last mentioned article had been the subject of confusion not only among some trial courts but of appellate courts as well. The decision of this court applies the solidary liability to defendants who are not joint tortfeasors or who are liable under only one kind of tort but also even when they are being held under different torts. For this reason, this had been the subject of exhaustive and extensive prior annotations.14

The owner of a motor vehicle who was in the vehicle at the time of the collision, who could have prevented the accident by the use of due diligence, is solidarity liable with the driver for quasi-delict under Article 2184 of the Civil Code, but he is only primarily liable as an employer (and therefore entitled to reimbursement) if he was not in the vehicle, provided he qualifies as such employer under Article 2180 of said Code.

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14 See 193 SCRA 613, also 203 SCRA 635.

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Persons primarily liable under Article 101 of the Revised Penal Code, except in the cases of an insane, imbecile or minor offender, cannot raise the defense that they were not at fault or negligent. Persons primarily liable under quasi-delict pursuant to Article 2180 of the Civil Code can avoid the liability by proving that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage because of the last paragraph of said article. VIII. Subsidiary and secondary liability compared

Is there any distinction between secondary liability and subsidiary liability?

Both kinds of liabilities are so-called in contrast with primary liabilitythat is, subsidiary or secondary liability accrues only for failure of the person primarily liable to satisfy the obligation. There seems to be no substantial distinction between them except in which the law denominates them. IX. Extinguishment by prescription

Article 1231 of the Civil Code provides for the modes of extinguishment of obligations, among which is prescription, and which is provided for in Title V, Book III of the Civil Code.

A reading of the provisions of Articles 1139 to 1155 on prescription of actions will reveal that while there is a specific period for the prescription of actions based on quasi-delicts,15 there is no specific period provided therein for the prescription of actions based on acts or omissions punished by law. Thus, in a case,16 there were views to the effect that the prescriptive period should be ten years,17 or five years because of the provision of Article 1149 of the Civil Code stating that all other actions whose periods

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15 Art. 1146(2), which is four years.

16 Tan v. Nitafan, 231 SCRA 129.

17 Supra, at 139-145Vitug, J.

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are not fixed in this Code or in other laws must be brought within five years from the time the right of action accrues.18

The majority opinion in said case held that the ruling of the trial judge that the prescriptive period of civil actions for obligations arising from crimes is coterminous with the prescription of the crime itself, which had been affirmed by the Supreme Court in previous petitions which reached it,19 had become the law of the case which may not be relitigated.

The principal reason behind the ruling of the trial judge, that the prescriptive period for the civil action was coterminous with the prescription of the criminal action, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court, is that the renvoi to the penal law concerning obligations arising from crimes, provided for in Article 1161 of the Civil

Code, includes the period of prescription as a mode of extinguishing the obligation. And this results to the inapplicability of Article 1149, because the pencil law fixes a definite period of prescription. Article 1149 refers to all other actions whose periods are not fixed in this Code or in other laws, thereby making the opinion of Justice Quiason without any leg to stand on. The opinion of Justice Vitug that the prescriptive period should be ten years because indemnification in criminal case is expressly provided by the penal code so that the ten year prescriptive period for obligations created by law must be applied, while at first blush plausible, will merge Nos. (1) and (4) in Article 1157 as separate sources of obligation, which could not have been the intention of the legislature.

In any event, the prevailing rule now, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in G.R. Nos. 67029 and 69418, and as reaffirmed in the cited case of Tan v. Nitafan, is that the prescription of the civil action for an obligation arising from an act punished by law (offense) is coterminous with the prescriptive period of the offense itself, as provided in the penal law.

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18 Supra, at 145-148Quiason, J., with Davide, Jr., J., concurring.

19 G.R. No. 67029 dated 24 May 1984 & also G.R. No. 69418. [Civil Liability in Criminal Cases and Quasi-Delicts Compared, 250 SCRA 208(1995)]