The concept of civil liability arising from crime

Generally, the basis of civil liability arising from crime is the fundamental postulate of our law that "Every man criminally liable is also civilly liable" (Art. 100, The Revised Penal Code). Underlying this legal principle is the traditional theory that when a person commits a crime he offends two entities namely (1) the society in which he lives in or the political entity called the State whose law he had violated; and (2) the individual member of that society whose person, right, honor, chastity or property was actually or directly injured or damaged by the same punishable act or omission. However, this rather broad and general provision is among the most complex and controversial topics in criminal procedure. It can be misleading in its implications especially where the same act or omission may be treated as a crime in one instance and as a tort in another or where the law allows a separate civil action to proceed independently of the course of the criminal prosecution with which it is intimately intertwined. (G.R. Nos. 78911-25, December 11, 1987)

Many legal scholars treat as a misconception or fallacy the generally accepted notion that the civil liability actually arises from the crime when, in the ultimate analysis, it does not. While an act or omission is felonious because it is punishable by law, it gives rise to civil liability not so much because it is a crime but because it caused damage to another. Viewing things pragmatically, we can readily see that what gives rise to the civil liability is really the obligation and the moral duty of everyone to repair or make whole the damage caused to another by reason of his own act or omission, done intentionally or negligently, whether or not the same be punishable by law. In other words, criminal liability will give rise to civil liability only if the same felonious act or omission results in damage or injury to another and is the direct and proximate cause thereof. Damage or injury to another is evidently the foundation of the civil action. Such is not the case in criminal actions for, to be criminally liable, it is enough that the act or omission complained of is punishable, regardless of whether or not it also causes material damage to another. ( (G.R. Nos. 78911-25, December 11, 1987, citing Sangco, Philippine Law on Torts and Damages, 1978, Revised Edition, pp. 246-247)

Article 20 of the New Civil Code provides:

"Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same."