Sources of Philippine tort law

The New Civil Code is the primary statute that governs torts in the Philippines. Article 1157 of the New Civil Code includes quasi-delict as a source of obligation. This source of obligation is classified as “extra-contractual obligation” and is governed by Chapter XVII, Chapter 2 of the Code consisting of Articles 2176 to 2194. Other provisions that are considered “tort” provisions can be found in other titles of the Code and in special laws. These tort provisions, just like the rest of the provisions of the Civil Code, are from Spanish, French as well as Anglo-American law.
[1] Quasi-delict is not a crime, although many students mistakenly believe so. Remember that criminal negligence is a crime (delict), not quasi-delict.

[2] Quasi-delict, by definition, is extra-contractual. Article 2176 states that there should be no pre-existing contractual relations. In short, if the obligation arises from contract and breach thereof is complained of, the basis of action should be the contract, not quasi-delict.

[3] However, in some cases decided by the Supreme Court, it has been held that the existence of a contract does not always negate an action based on quasi-delict.

[4] For example, in Air France vs. Carrascoso, involving an airplane passenger who, despite his first-class ticket, had been illegally ousted from his first-class accommodation and compelled to take a seat in the tourist compartment, was held entitled to recover damages from the air-carrier, upon the ground of tort on the latter's part, for, although the relation between a passenger and a carrier is "contractual both in origin and nature ... the act that breaks the contract may also be a tort." (G.R. No. L-24837, citing G.R. No. L-21438)

[5] Tort has three forms: negligent tort; contractual tort; and strict tort.

[6] In the study of torts and damages, a student must be very familiar with the concepts of culpa aquiliana, culpa contractual and culpa criminal.

[7] Article 1157. Obligations arise from: (1) Law; (2) Contracts; (3) Quasi-contracts; (4) Acts or omissions punished by law; and (5) Quasi-delicts.

The Code Commission explained: “The project of the Civil Code is based upon the Civil Code of 1889, which is of Spanish and French origin. The proposed Code has been strengthened and enriched with new provisions chosen with care from the codes, laws and judicial decisions of various countries as well as from the works of jurists of various nations. Among them are: Spain, the various States of the American Union, — especially California and Louisiana, — France, Argentina, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, England, and Italy. In addition, there are a number of articles which restate the doctrines laid down by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Finally, there are hundreds of amendments and new rules agreed upon by the Commission originally and not having in mind any code, decision or treatise, in order to consecrate Filipino customs, or to rectify unjust or unwise provisions heretofore in force, or to clarify doubtful articles and clauses in the present Code, or to afford solutions to numerous questions and situations not foreseen in the Civil Code of 1889 and other laws." (Report of the Code Commission, pp. 3-5)

The adoption of provisions and precepts from other countries is justified on several grounds:

FIRST GROUND. The Philippines, by its contact with Western culture from the last four centuries, is a rightful beneficiary of the Roman Law, which is common heritage of civilization. For many generations that legal system as developed in Spain has been the chief regulator of the juridical relations among Filipinos. It is but natural and fitting, therefore, that when the young Republic of the Philippines frames its new Civil Code, the main inspiration should be the Roman law as unfolded and adapted in Spain, France, Argentina, Germany and other civil law countries.

[1] The next preceding paragraph simply means that Roman law has been an inspiration in the formulation of Philippine civil laws.

SECOND GROUND. The selection of rules from the Anglo-American law is proper and advisable: (a) because of the element of American culture that has been incorporated into Filipino life during the nearly half a century of democratic apprenticeship under American auspices; (b) because in the foreseeable future, the economic relations between the two countries will continue; and (c) because the American and English courts have developed certain equitable rules that are not recognized in the present Civil Code.

[1] American and English courts, according to the second ground, have also inspired the crafting of civil law rules.

THIRD GROUND. The concepts of right and wrong are essentially the same throughout the civilized world. Provided, the codifier exercises prudence in selection and bears in mind the peculiar conditions of his own country, he may safely draw rules from the codes and legal doctrines of other nations.” (Report of the Code Commission, pp. 3-5)

[1] Because the whole world of nations maintains more or less similar concepts of right and wrong, it is not surprising that civilized nations, especially democratic ones, copy from the legislative notes of one another. This is especially true when it comes to the law on torts and damages.

According to Aquino (2005), various torts in other countries are recognized as such in this jurisdiction. He also points out that the Supreme Court borrows heavily from the decisions of Supreme Courts in other countries especially Spain and the United States. In deciding tort cases, it is not unusual for the Supreme Court to rely, as it often relies, on the decisions of the said foreign courts.

[1] It must be noted that decisions of foreign Supreme Courts are NOT binding in the Philippines. However, those decisions based on laws or constitutions from which the Philippines has patterned its own have persuasive effect in the mind of judges and justices.
[2] In statutory construction, it must be recalled, decisions by the Supreme Court of a foreign jurisdiction relating to a law or a constitution that the Philippines has copied are controlling only if promulgated BEFORE adoption thereof by the Philippines. If promulgated AFTER adoption here in our jurisdiction, they become simply persuasive. This is the general rule and, of course, there are exceptions.

The Code Commission explained that Roman Law served as the main inspiration of the New Civil Code. The influence of Roman Law is quite evident in the field of quasi-delict. It should be noted that the “Institutes’’ in Roman law added the category of obligations that arise quasi ex delicto. Four are listed within such category: a) liability of a judge who misconducts a case or gives a wrong decision, b) the liability of an occupier of a building for double the damage caused by anything thrown or forced out of the building, no matter by whom, on to a public place, c) liability of the occupier if he keeps any object suspended from the building which would do damage if it fell, and d) the liability of the shop keeper, innkeeper or keeper of a stable for any theft or damage caused by slaves or employees, or in case of the innkeepers, of permanent residents. (Barry Nicholas, An Introduction to Roman Law, 1962 Ed., pp. 224-225).

[1] Note that, under our Civil Code, the liability for damages of any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the civil and political rights and liberties enumerated under Article 32 is NOT demandable from a judge UNLESS his act or omission constitutes a violation of the Penal Code or other penal statute.
[2] Article 2000. The responsibility referred to in the two preceding articles shall include the loss of, or injury to the personal property of the guests caused by the servants or employees of the keepers of hotels or inns as well as strangers; but not that which may proceed from any force majeure. The fact that travellers are constrained to rely on the vigilance of the keeper of the hotels or inns shall be considered in determining the degree of care required of him.
[3] Article 2193. The head of a family that lives in a building or a part thereof, is responsible for damages caused by things thrown or falling from the same.
[4] Article 1998. The deposit of effects made by travellers in hotels or inns shall also be regarded as necessary. The keepers of hotels or inns shall be responsible for them as depositaries, provided that notice was given to them, or to their employees, of the effects brought by the guests and that, on the part of the latter, they take the precautions which said hotel-keepers or their substitutes advised relative to the care and vigilance of their effects.
[5] Article 482. If a building, wall, column, or any other construction is in danger of falling, the owner shall be obliged to demolish it or to execute the necessary work in order to prevent it from falling. If the proprietor does not comply with this obligation, the administrative authorities may order the demolition of the structure at the expense of the owner, or take measures to insure public safety.

The discussion above is based on an outline by Aquino (2005) on torts and damages. His books are available in fine bookstores nationwide. SOURCE: Aquino (2005). Torts and Damages By Timoteo B. Aquino, Professor of Law. Philippine Copyright, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-971-23-3991-2. ISBN-10: 971-23-3991-2. Rex Books Store.