ZENAIDA R. GREGORIO vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Posted: April 12, 2017 in case digests, civil law, torts, Uncategorized
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ZENAIDA R. GREGORIO vs. COURT OF APPEALS

G.R. No. 179799

 

FACTS: The case arose from the filing of an Affidavit of Complaint for violation of B.P. 22 by Emma J. Datuin (Datuin), as Officer-in-Charge of the Accounts Receivables Department, and upon authority of Sansio Philippines, Inc. (Sansio), against Zenaida R. Gregorio (Gregorio) and one Vito Belarmino, as proprietors of Alvi Marketing, allegedly for delivering insufficiently funded bank checks as payment for the numerous appliances bought by Alvi Marketing from Sansio. As the address stated in the complaint was incorrect, Gregorio was unable to controvert the charges against her. Consequently, she was indicted for three (3) counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

 

The MeTC issued a warrant for her arrest, and it was served upon her by the armed operatives of the Public Assistance and Reaction Against Crime (PARAC) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on October 17, 1997, Friday, at around 9:30 a.m. in Quezon City while she was visiting her husband and their two (2) daughters at their city residence. Gregorio was brought to the PARAC-DILG Office where she was subjected to fingerprinting and mug shots, and was detained. She was released in the afternoon of the same day when her husband posted a bond for her temporary liberty.

 

On December 5, 1997, Gregorio filed before the MeTC a Motion for Deferment of Arraignment and Reinvestigation, alleging that she could not have issued the bounced checks, since she did not even have a checking account with the bank on which the checks were drawn, as certified by the branch manager of the Philippine National Bank, Sorsogon Branch. She also alleged that her signature was patently and radically different from the signatures appearing on the bounced checks.

 

The MeTC granted the Motion and a reinvestigation was conducted. In the course of the reinvestigation, Datuin submitted an Affidavit of Desistance stating, among others, that Gregorio was not one of the signatories of the bounced checks subject of prosecution.

 

On August 18, 2000, Gregorio filed a complaint for damages against Sansio and Datuin before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 12, Ligao, Albay.  Sansio and Datuin filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground that the complaint, being one for damages arising from malicious prosecution, failed to state a cause of action, as the ultimate facts constituting the elements thereof were not alleged in the complaint.

 

ISSUE: Whether the complaint, a civil suit filed by Gregorio, is based on quasi-delict or malicious prosecution.

 

HELD: A perusal of the allegations of Gregorio’s complaint for damages readily shows that she filed a civil suit against Sansio and Datuin for filing against her criminal charges for violation of B.P. Blg. 22; that respondents did not exercise diligent efforts to ascertain the true identity of the person who delivered to them insufficiently funded checks as payment for the various appliances purchased; and that respondents never gave her the opportunity to controvert the charges against her, because they stated an incorrect address in the criminal complaint. Gregorio claimed damages for the embarrassment and humiliation she suffered when she was suddenly arrested at her city residence in Quezon City while visiting her family. She was, at the time of her arrest, a respected Kagawad in Oas, Albay. Gregorio anchored her civil complaint on Articles 26, 2176, and 2180 of the Civil Code. Noticeably, despite alleging either fault or negligence on the part of Sansio and Datuin, Gregorio never imputed to them any bad faith in her complaint.

 

Basic is the legal principle that the nature of an action is determined by the material averments in the complaint and the character of the relief sought. Undeniably, Gregorio’s civil complaint, read in its entirety, is a complaint based on quasi-delict under Article 2176, in relation to Article 26 of the Civil Code, rather than on malicious prosecution.

 

In every tort case filed under Article 2176 of the Civil Code, the plaintiff has to prove by a preponderance of evidence: (1) the damages suffered by him; (2) the fault or negligence of the defendant or some other person to whose act he must respond; (3) the connection of cause and effect between the fault or negligence and the damages incurred; and (4) that there must be no preexisting contractual relation between the parties.

 

On the other hand, Article 26 of the Civil Code grants a cause of action for damages, prevention, and other relief in cases of breach, though not necessarily constituting a criminal offense, of the following rights: (1) right to personal dignity; (2) right to personal security; (3) right to family relations; (4) right to social intercourse; (5) right to privacy; and (6) right to peace of mind.

 

A scrutiny of Gregorio’s civil complaint reveals that the averments thereof, taken together, fulfill the elements of Article 2176, in relation to Article 26 of the Civil Code. It appears that Gregorio’s rights to personal dignity, personal security, privacy, and peace of mind were infringed by Sansio and Datuin when they failed to exercise the requisite diligence in determining the identity of the person they should rightfully accuse of tendering insufficiently funded checks. This fault was compounded when they failed to ascertain the correct address of petitioner, thus depriving her of the opportunity to controvert the charges, because she was not given proper notice. Because she was not able to refute the charges against her, petitioner was falsely indicted for three (3) counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22. Although she was never found at No. 76 Peñaranda St., Legaspi City, the office address of Alvi Marketing as stated in the criminal complaint, Gregorio was conveniently arrested by armed operatives of the PARAC-DILG at her city residence at 78 K-2 St., Kamuning, Quezon City, while visiting her family. She suffered embarrassment and humiliation over her sudden arrest and detention and she had to spend time, effort, and money to clear her tarnished name and reputation, considering that she had held several honorable positions in different organizations and offices in the public service, particularly her being a Kagawad in Oas, Albay at the time of her arrest. There exists no contractual relation between Gregorio and Sansio. On the other hand, Gregorio is prosecuting Sansio, under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, for its vicarious liability, as employer, arising from the act or omission of its employee Datuin.

 

These allegations, assuming them to be true, sufficiently constituted a cause of action against Sansio and Datuin. Thus, the RTC was correct when it denied respondents’ motion to dismiss.

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