Is Art. 2176 is limited to negligence?

Article 2176 of the Civil Code imposes a civil liability on a person for damage caused by his act or omission constituting fault or negligence, thus:
"Article 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this chapter."
Article 2176, whenever it refers to "fault or negligence", covers not only acts "not punishable by law" but also acts criminal in character, whether intentional and voluntary or negligent. Consequently, a separate civil action lies against the offender in a criminal act, whether or not he is criminally prosecuted and found guilty or acquitted, provided that the offended party is not allowed, (if the tortfeasor is actually charged also criminally), to recover damages on both scores, and would be entitled in such eventuality only to the bigger award of the two, assuming the awards made in the two cases vary. (Virata vs. Ochoa, G.R. No. L-46179, January 31, 1978, cited in Andamo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 74761 November 6, 1990)

The distinctness of quasi-delict is shown in Article 2177 of the Civil Code, which states:
"Article 2177. Responsibility for fault or negligence under the preceding article is entirely separate and distinct from the civil liability arising from negligence under the Penal Code. But the plaintiff cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant."
According to the Report of the Code Commission, "the foregoing provision though at first sight startling, is not so novel or extraordinary when we consider the exact nature of criminal and civil negligence. The former is a violation of the criminal law, while the latter is a distinct and independent negligence, which is a "culpa aquiliana" or quasi-delict, of ancient origin, having always had its own foundation and individuality, separate from criminal negligence. Such distinction between criminal negligence and "culpa extra-contractual" or "cuasi-delito" has been sustained by decisions of the Supreme Court of Spain." (Report of the Code Commission on the Proposed Civil Code of the Philippines, January 26, 1948, p. 162)

In the case of Castillo vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 48541, August 21, 1989,176), the Supreme Court held that a quasi-delict or culpa aquiliana is a separate legal institution under the Civil Code with a substantivity all its own, and individuality that is entirely apart and independent from a delict or crime — a distinction exists between the civil liability arising from a crime and the responsibility for quasi-delicts or culpa extra-contractual. The same negligence causing damages may produce civil liability arising from a crime under the Penal Code, or create an action for quasi-delicts or culpa extra-contractual under the Civil Code. Therefore, the acquittal or conviction in the criminal case is entirely irrelevant in the civil case, unless, of course, in the event of an acquittal where the court has declared that the fact from which the civil action arose did not exist, in which case the extinction of the criminal liability would carry with it the extinction of the civil liability.

In Azucena vs. Potenciano (G.R. No. L-14028, June 30, 1962), the High Court declared that in quasi-delicts, "(t)he civil action is entirely independent of the criminal case according to Articles 33 and 2177 of the Civil Code. There can be no logical conclusion than this, for to subordinate the civil action contemplated in the said articles to the result of the criminal prosecution — whether it be conviction or acquittal — would render meaningless the independent character of the civil action and the clear injunction in Article 31, that his action may proceed independently of the criminal proceedings and regardless of the result of the latter."

Padilla, in his book, discussed the view that intentional acts fall within the purview of Article 2176 on quasi-delict. However, it was also pointed out that this majority view is subject to a minority opinion to the contrary. There are experts in tort law who also take the view that quasi-delict only refers to negligenct acts. (Padilla, Civil Code Annotated, Vol. VII-A, p. 37).

Under this view, quasi-delict is comparable to but not exactly like tort of common law. (Manila Railroad Co. vs. Cia Transatlantica, 38 Phil. 875). In Cangco vs. Manila Railroad Company (38 Phil. 768 [1918]), the Supreme Court cited Manresa (Vol. 8, p. 68) who declared that the liability arising from extra-contractual culpa is always based upon a voluntary act or omission which, without willful intent, but by mere negligence or inattention, has caused damage to another. (Aquino, 2005. Torts and Damages. ISBN-13: 978-971-23-3991-2; ISBN-10: 971-23-3991-2)

The minority view is that quasi-delict, as a whole, is founded on fault or negligence which excludesintent, deliberateness, bad faith or malice. It is opined that the insertion of the word "intentional" in the above-cited Andamo case is an inaccurate obiter and the same should be read as "voluntary." (Padilla, p. 38). Chief Justice Davide (then Associate Justice) expressed the same view in Gashem Shookat Baksh vs. Court of Appeals (1993). He observed that:
"[Article 2176] is limited to negligent acts or omissions and excludes the notion of willingness or intent. Quasidelict, known in Spanish legal treatises as culpa aquiliana, is a civil law concept while torts is an Anglo-American or common law concept. Torts is much broader than culpa aquiliana because it includes not only negligence, but intentional criminal acts as well as assault and battery, false imprisonment and deceit. In the general scheme of the Philippine legal system envisioned by the Commission responsible for drafting the New Civil Code, intentional and malicious acts, with certain exceptions, are to be governed by the Revised Penal Code while negligent acts or omissions are to be covered by Article 2176 of the Civil Code. In between these opposite spectrums are injurious acts which in the absence of Article 21, would have been beyond redress."

Silva v. Peralta, 110 Phil. 57, is a Supreme Court tort case involving fraud. The plaintiff in the said case was induced to live with one of the defendants by deceiving her that he was not married. The defendant was made liable for all the consequences of such fraud on the basis of Article 1902 of the old Civil Code.

Article 2176 is now the provision on quasi-delict under the New Civil Code. The Supreme Court has held that Article 2176 includes intentional acts. (Elcano and Elcano v. Hill and Hill, G.R. No. L-24803, May 26, 1977). The Supreme Court ruled in Elcano that:
“Contrary to an immediate impression one might get upon a reading of the foregoing excerpts from the opinion in Garcia — that the concurrence of the Penal Code and the Civil Code therein referred to contemplate only acts of negligence and not intentional voluntary acts — deeper reflection would reveal that the thrust of the pronouncements therein is not so limited, but that in fact it actually extends to fault or culpa. This can be seen in the reference made therein to the Sentence of the Supreme Court of Spain of February 14, 1919, supra, which involved a case of fraud or estafa, not a negligent act. Indeed, Article 1093 of the Civil Code of Spain, in force here at the time of Garcia, provided textually that obligations “which are derived from acts or omissions in which fault or negligence, not punishable by law, intervene shall be the subject of Chapter II, Title XV of this book (which refers to quasi-delicts).” And it is precisely the underline qualification, “not punishable by law,” that Justice Bocobo emphasized could lead to an undesirable construction or interpretation of the letter of the law that “killeth, rather than the spirit that giveth life” hence, the ruling that “(W)e will not use the literal meaning of the law to smother and render almost lifeless a principle of such ancient origin and such full-grown development as culpa aquiliana or cuasi-delito, which is conserved and made enduring in Articles 1902 to 1910 of the Spanish Civil Code.” And so, because Justice Bocobo was Chairman of the Code Commission that drafted the original text of the new Civil Code, it is to be noted that the said Code, which was enacted after the Garcia doctrine, no longer uses the term, “not punishable by law,” thereby making it clear that the concept of culpa aquiliana includes acts which are criminal in character or in violation of the penal law, whether voluntary or negligent. Thus, the corresponding provisions to said Article 1093 in the new code, which is Article 1162, simply says, “Obligations derived from quasi-delicts shall be governed by the provisions of Chapter 2, Title XVII of this Book, (on quasi-delicts) and by special laws.” More precisely, a new provision, Article 2177 of the new code provides:
“ART. 2177. Responsibility for fault or negligence under the preceding article is entirely separate and distinct from the civil liability arising from negligence under the Penal Code. But the plaintiff cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant.”
According to the Code Commission: “The foregoing provi- sion (Article 2177) though at first sight startling, is not so novel or extraordinary when we consider the exact nature of criminal and civil negligence. The former is a violation of the criminal law, while the latter is a “culpa aquiliana’’ or quasi-delict, of ancient origin, having always had its own foundation and individuality, separate from criminal negligence. Such distinction between criminal negligence and “culpa extra-contractual’’ or “cuasidelito’’ has been sustained by decision of the Supreme Court of Spain and maintained as clear, sound and perfectly tenable by Maura, an outstanding Spanish jurist. Therefore, under the proposed Article 2177, acquittal from an accusation of criminal negligence, whether on reasonable doubt or not, shall not be a bar to a subsequent civil action, not for civil liability arising from criminal negligence, but for damages due to a quasi-delict or “culpa aquiliana.’’ But said article forestalls a double recovery.” (Report of the Code Commission, p. 162).

Although, again, this Article 2177 does seem to literally refer to only acts of negligence, the same argument of Justice Bacobo about construction that upholds “the spirit that giveth life” rather than that which is literal that killeth the intent of the lawmaker should be observed in applying the same. And considering that the preliminary chapter on human relations of the new Civil Code definitely establishes the separability and independence of liability in a civil action for acts criminal in character (under Articles 29 to 32) from the civil responsibility arising from crime fixed by Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, and, in a sense, the Rules of Court, under Sections 2 and 3(c), Rule 111, contemplate also the same separability, it is “more congruent with the spirit of law, equity and justice, and more in harmony with modern progress,” to borrow the felicitous relevant language in Rakes vs. Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Co., 7 Phil. 359, to hold, as We do hold, that Article 2176, where it refers to “fault or negligence,” covers not only acts “not punishable by law” but also acts criminal in character, whether intentional and voluntary or negligent. Consequently, a separate civil action lies against the offender in a criminal act, whether or not he is criminally prosecuted and found guilty or acquitted, provided that the offended party is not allowed, if he is actually charged also criminally, to recover damages on both scores, and would be entitled in such eventuality only to the bigger award of the two, assuming the awards made in the two cases vary. In other words, the extinction of civil liability referred to in Par. (e) of Section 3, Rule 111, refers exclusively to civil liability founded on Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, whereas the civil liability for the same act considered as a quasi-delict only and not as a crime is not extinguished even by a declaration in the criminal case that the criminal act charged has not happened or has not been committed by the accused. Briefly stated, We here hold, in reiteration of Garcia, that culpa aquiliana includes voluntary and negligent acts which may be punishable by law.’’

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