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Gonzales vs.

People
G.R. No. 159950
Quisimbing, J.

Feb. 12, 2007

Facts:
-

On June 26, 1997, a two-storey residential building in La Loma, Quezon City was burned to the
ground. Said building, which was partitioned into dwellings and rented out to tenants, was owned by
Carlos Canlas. The fire took out the building as well as other properties therein.
o Prosecution: eyewitness Canlas stated that on that fateful night, at around 9 pm, he was
watching TV in his room when his daughter urged him to check the commotion in an adjacent
room. When he went to check, he smelled gas and soon after saw the accused Joel Garcia
ignite a flame and throw it on a pile of clothes in the middle of a living room where an LPG
was also placed.
o They also presented the account of witnesses Andres Villaflor and Francis Simpao, both
tenants of the building. Villaflor testified that he heard the accused and the aunt of the accused
quarrel, with the former declaring that Susunugin koi tong bahay na ito. Simpao, on the
other hand, testified that he saw the fire originating from Gonzales room, and that the
accused was laughing while the building was burning. After the fire was extinguished, the
aunt of the accused also told Simpao that her nephew was to blame.
o The accounts were corroborated by Police Officer Alejandro Mendoza, who testified that
when he arrived at the scene, Gonzales admitted responsibility to the crime.
o Defense: fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring, and that a Physical Science Report
revealed the ashes of the burned place were negative of any flammable substance.
RTC Convicted the accused.
o Only awarded nominal damages to the amount of P10,000.00 each to private complainants.
CA Affirmed.

Issues/Held:
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The SC affirmed that the accused is guilty of the crime of Arson of an Inhabited Building
o Positively identified by witnesses; rules over negative evidence
o With the inaccuracies between affidavit and testimony of the witness, the SC held that such
cannot overcome the evidence against the accused.
The accused is liable for nominal, temperate and exemplary damages
o Nominal damages left to the discretion of the Court; generally by their nature are small
sums fixed by Court without regard to the extent of the hurt to the victim. However, it is held
that nominal damage is a substantial claim, if based upon the violation of a legal right; in
such a case, the law presumes damage although actual or compensatory damages are not
proven.
Nominal damage is not factualrather, it is simply in recognition of the existence of
a technical injury.
o Temperate damages can be charged, as well as exemplary.

Affirmed with modifications; P100K to each private complainant as temperate damages (except for
P500K to be given to Canlas) and P50K each for exemplary damages.