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SECOND DIVISION

TITUS B. VILLANUEVA, G.R. No. 180764


Petitioner,
Present:

Carpio, J., Chairperson,
- versus - Brion,
Del Castillo,
Abad, and
Perez, JJ.
EMMA M. ROSQUETA,
Respondent. Promulgated:

January 19, 2010
x --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECI SI ON

ABAD, J .:


This case is about the right to recover damages for alleged abuse of right
committed by a superior public officer in preventing a subordinate from doing her
assigned task and being officially recognized for it.

The Facts and the Case

Respondent Emma M. Rosqueta (Rosqueta), formerly Deputy Commissioner
of the Revenue Collection and Monitoring Group of the Bureau of Customs (the
Bureau), tendered her courtesy resignation from that post on January 23, 2001,
shortly after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office. But five months
later on June 5, 2001, she withdrew her resignation, claiming that she enjoyed
security of tenure and that she had resigned against her will on orders of her
superior.1[1]

Meantime, on July 13, 2001 President Arroyo appointed Gil Valera (Valera)
to respondent Rosquetas position. Challenging such appointment, Rosqueta filed
a petition for prohibition, quo warranto, and injunction against petitioner Titus B.
Villanueva (Villanueva), then Commissioner of Customs, the Secretary of Finance,

1[1] Former Commissioner of Customs, Renato A. Ampil.
and Valera with the Regional Trial Court2[2] (RTC) of Manila in Civil Case 01-
101539. On August 27, 2001 the RTC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO),
enjoining Villanueva and the Finance Secretary3[3] from implementing Valeras
appointment. On August 28, 2001 the trial court superseded the TRO with a writ
of preliminary injunction.4[4]

Petitioner Villanueva, Valera, and the Secretary of Finance challenged the
injunction order before the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP 66070. On
September 14, 2001 the CA issued its own TRO, enjoining the implementation of
the RTCs injunction order. But the TRO lapsed after 60 days and the CA
eventually dismissed the petition before it.

On November 22, 2001 while the preliminary injunction in the quo warranto
case was again in force, petitioner Villanueva issued Customs Memorandum Order
40-2001, authorizing Valera to exercise the powers and functions of the Deputy
Commissioner.


2[2] Branch 51.
3[3] Hon. Jose Isidro Camacho.
4[4] Records, p. 12. It is hereby ordered by the undersigned Judge of the Regional Trial Court
that until further orders, you, the said respondents and all your attorneys, representatives, agents
and any other persons assisting are hereby enjoined from implementing or enforcing the
appointment of respondent GIL A. VALERA to the position of Customs Deputy Commissioner
for Revenue Collection and Monitoring and respondent Valera from assuming the said office or
exercising its functions until further orders from this Court.
During the Bureaus celebration of its centennial anniversary in February
2002, its special Panorama magazine edition featured all the customs deputy
commissioners, except respondent Rosqueta. The souvenir program, authorized by
the Bureaus Steering Committee headed by petitioner Villanueva to be issued on
the occasion, had a space where Rosquetas picture was supposed to be but it
instead stated that her position was under litigation. Meanwhile, the
commemorative billboard displayed at the Bureaus main gate included Valeras
picture but not Rosquetas.

On February 28, 2002 respondent Rosqueta filed a complaint5[5] for
damages before the RTC of Quezon City against petitioner Villanueva in Civil
Case Q-02-46256, alleging that the latter maliciously excluded her from the
centennial anniversary memorabilia. Further, she claimed that he prevented her
from performing her duties as Deputy Commissioner, withheld her salaries, and
refused to act on her leave applications. Thus, she asked the RTC to award her
P1,000,000.00 in moral damages, P500,000.00 in exemplary damages, and
P300,000.00 in attorneys fees and costs of suit.

But the RTC dismissed6[6] respondent Rosquetas complaint, stating that
petitioner Villanueva committed no wrong and incurred no omission that entitled
her to damages. The RTC found that Villanueva had validly and legally replaced

5[5] Id. at 1-8.
6[6] Rollo, pp. 80-109. Penned by Judge Thelma A. Ponferrada.
her as Deputy Commissioner seven months before the Bureaus centennial
anniversary.

But the CA reversed the RTCs decision,7[7] holding instead that petitioner
Villanuevas refusal to comply with the preliminary injunction order issued in the
quo warranto case earned for Rosqueta the right to recover moral damages from
him.8[8] Citing the abuse of right principle, the RTC said that Villanueva acted
maliciously when he prevented Rosqueta from performing her duties, deprived her
of salaries and leaves, and denied her official recognition as Deputy Commissioner
by excluding her from the centennial anniversary memorabilia. Thus, the appellate
court ordered Villanueva to pay P500,000.00 in moral damages, P200,000.00 in
exemplary damages and P100,000.00 in attorneys fees and litigation expenses.
With the denial of his motion for reconsideration, Villanueva filed this petition for
review on certiorari under Rule 45.

The Issue Presented

The key issue presented in this case is whether or not the CA erred in
holding petitioner Villanueva liable in damages to respondent Rosqueta for
ignoring the preliminary injunction order that the RTC issued in the quo warranto

7[7] Id. at 48-65. Penned by Associate Justice Enrico A. Lanzanas and concurred in by Associate
Justices Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente.
8[8] Id. at 63.
case (Civil Case 01-101539), thus denying her of the right to do her job as Deputy
Commissioner of the Bureau and to be officially recognized as such public officer.

The Courts Ruling

Under the abuse of right principle found in Article 19 of the Civil Code,9[9]
a person must, in the exercise of his legal right or duty, act in good faith. He
would be liable if he instead acts in bad faith, with intent to prejudice another.
Complementing this principle are Articles 2010[10] and 2111[11] of the Civil
Code which grant the latter indemnity for the injury he suffers because of such
abuse of right or duty.12[12]

Petitioner Villanueva claims that he merely acted on advice of the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG) when he allowed Valera to assume the office as
Deputy Commissioner since respondent Rosqueta held the position merely in a

9[9] Art. 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties,
act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.
10[10] Art. 20. Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to
another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.
11[11] Art. 21. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is
contrary to morals or good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.
12[12] Carpio v. Valmonte, 481 Phil. 352, 362 (2004).
temporary capacity and since she lacked the Career Executive Service eligibility
required for the job.

But petitioner Villanueva cannot seek shelter in the alleged advice that the
OSG gave him. Surely, a government official of his rank must know that a
preliminary injunction order issued by a court of law had to be obeyed, especially
since the question of Valeras right to replace respondent Rosqueta had not yet
been properly resolved.

That petitioner Villanueva ignored the injunction shows bad faith and intent
to spite Rosqueta who remained in the eyes of the law the Deputy Commissioner.
His exclusion of her from the centennial anniversary memorabilia was not an
honest mistake by any reckoning. Indeed, he withheld her salary and prevented her
from assuming the duties of the position. As the Court said in Amonoy v. Spouses
Gutierrez,13[13] a partys refusal to abide by a court order enjoining him from
doing an act, otherwise lawful, constitutes an abuse and an unlawful exercise of
right.

That respondent Rosqueta was later appointed Deputy Commissioner for
another division of the Bureau is immaterial. While such appointment, when
accepted, rendered the quo warranto case moot and academic, it did not have the

13[13] 404 Phil. 586, 594 (2001).
effect of wiping out the injuries she suffered on account of petitioner Villanuevas
treatment of her. The damage suit is an independent action.

The CA correctly awarded moral damages to respondent Rosqueta. Such
damages may be awarded when the defendants transgression is the immediate
cause of the plaintiffs anguish14[14] in the cases specified in Article 221915[15]
of the Civil Code.16[16]

14[14] Art. 2217, Civil Code. Moral damages include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright,
serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation, and
similar injury. Though incapable of pecuniary computation, moral damages may be recovered if
they are the proximate result of the defendants wrongful act for omission.
15[15] Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:
1) A criminal offense resulting in physical injuries;
2) Quasi-delicts causing physical injuries;
3) Seduction, abduction, rape, or other lascivious acts;
4) Adultery or concubinage;
5) Illegal or arbitrary detention or arrest;
6) Illegal search;
7) Libel, slander or any other form of defamation;
8) Malicious prosecution;
9) Acts mentioned in Article 309;
10) Acts and actions referred to in Articles 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34 and 35.
The parents of the female seduced, abducted, raped, or abused, referred to in No. 3 of this
Article, may also recover moral damages.

Here, respondent Rosquetas colleagues and friends testified that she
suffered severe anxiety on account of the speculation over her employment
status.17[17] She had to endure being referred to as a squatter in her workplace.
She had to face inquiries from family and friends about her exclusion from the
Bureaus centennial anniversary memorabilia. She did not have to endure all these
affronts and the angst and depression they produced had Villanueva abided in good
faith by the courts order in her favor. Clearly, she is entitled to moral damages.

The Court, however, finds the award of P500,000.00 excessive. As it held in
Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Alejandro,18[18] moral damages are
not a bonanza. They are given to ease the defendants grief and suffering. Moral
damages should reasonably approximate the extent of hurt caused and the gravity
of the wrong done. Here, that would be P200,000.00.

The Court affirms the grant of exemplary damages by way of example or
correction for the public good but, in line with the same reasoning, reduces it to

The spouse, descendants, ascendants, and brothers and sisters may bring the action
mentioned in No. 9 of this Article, in the order named.
16[16] Carpio v. Valmonte, supra note 12, at 364.
17[17] Testimony of Wilnora Cawile, TSN, March 5, 2003, pp. 16-18; testimony of Wilhelmina
Faustino, TSN, May 15, 2003, pp. 10-13, 19-25; testimony of John Aclaro, June 6, 2003, pp. 20-
26.
18[18] G.R. No. 175587, September 21, 2007, 533 SCRA 738, 757-758.
P50,000.00. Finally, the Court affirms the award of attorneys fees and litigation
expenses but reduces it to P50,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS the
decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 30, 2007 in CA-G.R. CV 85931 with
MODIFICATION in that petitioner Titus B. Villanueva is ORDERED to pay
respondent Emma M. Rosqueta the sum of P200,000.00 in moral damages,
P50,000.00 in exemplary damages, and P50,000.00 in attorneys fees and litigation
expenses.

SO ORDERED.


ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice


WE CONCUR:



ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice




ARTURO D. BRION MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice Associate Justice




JOSE P. PEREZ
Associate Justice







ATTESTATI ON

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.



ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division



CERTI FI CATI ON

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division
Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.




REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice





January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law
Posted on February 10, 2010 by Rose Marie M. King-Dominguez Posted in Civil Law Tagged agency,
agricultural lease, attorney's fees, contract, damages, fraud, laches, lease, moral damages, mortgage,
prescription, rescission, sale, succession, void contract, writ of possession
Here are selected January 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law and
related laws:
Civil Code
Agency; principle of undisclosed principal. It is a general rule in the law of agency that, in order
to bind the principal by a mortgage on real property executed by an agent, it must upon its face
purport to be made, signed and sealed in the name of the principal, otherwise, it will bind the
agent only. It is not enough merely that the agent was in fact authorized to make the mortgage, if
he has not acted in the name of the principal. Neither is it ordinarily sufficient that in the
mortgage the agent describes himself as acting by virtue of a power of attorney, if in fact the
agent has acted in his own name and has set his own hand and seal to the mortgage. This is
especially true where the agent himself is a party to the instrument. However clearly the body of
the mortgage may show and intend that it shall be the act of the principal, yet, unless in fact it is
executed by the agent for and on behalf of his principal and as the act and deed of the principal,
it is not valid as to the principal. Far East Bank and Trust Company (Now Bank of the Philippine
Islands) and Rolando Borja, Deputy Sherrif vs. Sps. Ernesto and Leonor C. Cayetano, G.R. No.
179909, January 25, 2010.
Contract; element of consent; causal fraud. In order that fraud may vitiate consent to a contract, it
must be the causal (dolo causante), not merely the incidental (dolo incidente), inducement to the
making of the contract. Additionally, the fraud must be serious. In this case, causal fraud
necessary to justify the annulment of the contract of sale between the parties was absent. It is
clear from the records that petitioners agreed to sell their property to the buyers. The petitioners
belief that the fraud employed by the buyers was already operational at the time of the
perfection of the contract of sale is incorrect. The Buyers misrepresentation that the
postdated check (covering the purchase price for the property) would not bounce on its maturity
hardly equates to dolo causante. The buyers assurance that the check issued was fully funded
was not the principal inducement for the petitioners to sign the Deed of Absolute Sale. Even
before the buyers issued the check, the parties had already consented and agreed to the sale
transaction. The petitioners were never tricked into selling their property to the buyer. On the
contrary, they willingly accepted his offer to purchase the property at P3,000,000. In short, there
was a meeting of the minds as to the object of the sale as well as the consideration
therefor. Spouses Carmen Tongson and Jose Tongson vs. Emergency Pawnshop Bula, Inc. et al.,
G.R. No. 167874, January 15, 2010.
Contract; interpretation. There is nothing in the subject Extrajudicial Settlement to indicate any
express stipulation for petitioner and respondents to continue with their supposed co-ownership
of the contested lot. On the contrary, a plain reading of the provisions of the Extrajudicial
Settlement would not, in any way, support petitioners contention that it was his and his siblings
intention to buy the subject property from the Bank and continue what they believed to be co-
ownership thereof. It is a cardinal rule in the interpretation of contracts that the intention of the
parties shall be accorded primordial consideration. It is the duty of the courts to place a practical
and realistic construction upon it, giving due consideration to the context in which it is
negotiated and the purpose which it is intended to serve. Such intention is determined from the
express terms of their agreement, as well as their contemporaneous and subsequent acts. Absurd
and illogical interpretations should also be avoided. Petitioners contention that he and his
siblings intended to continue their supposed co-ownership of the subject property contradicts the
provisions of the subject Extrajudicial Settlement where they clearly manifested their intention of
having the subject property divided or partitioned by assigning to each of the petitioner and
respondents a specific 1/3 portion of the same. Partition calls for the segregation and conveyance
of a determinate portion of the property owned in common. It seeks a severance of the individual
interests of each co-owner, vesting in each of them a sole estate in a specific property and giving
each one a right to enjoy his estate without supervision or interference from the other. In other
words, the purpose of partition is to put an end to co-ownership, an objective which negates
petitioners claims in the present case. Celestino Balus vs. Saturnino Balus and Leonarda Balus
vda. De Calunod, G.R. No. 168970, January 15, 2010.
Contract; reciprocal obligations; remedy of rescission. While no causal fraud attended the
execution of the sales contract, the fraud existed in the consummation stage of the sale when the
parties were in the process of performing their respective obligations under the perfected contract
of sale. Indisputably, the sellers had already performed their obligation of executing the Deed of
Sale, which led to the cancellation of their title in favor of the buyer. Respondent buyers, on the
other hand, failed to perform their correlative obligation of paying the full amount of the contract
price. Clearly, respondents committed a substantial breach of their reciprocal obligation, entitling
the petitioners to the rescission of the sales contract. Under the Civil Code, an injured party may
choose between the fulfillment and the rescission of the obligation, with payment of damages in
either case. He may also seek rescission, even after he has chosen fulfillment, if the latter should
become impossible. Respondents claims that rescission is not proper and that he should be given
more time to pay for the unpaid remaining balance of the purchase price cannot be countenanced.
Having acted fraudulently in performing his obligation, the respondent is not entitled to more
time to pay the remaining balance, and thereby erase the default or breach that he had
deliberately incurred. To do otherwise would be to sanction a deliberate and reiterated
infringement of the contractual obligations incurred by the buyers, an attitude repugnant to the
stability and obligatory force of contracts. Spouses Carmen Tongson and Jose Tongson vs.
Emergency Pawnshop Bula, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 167874, January 15, 2010.
Contract; sale; nullity because of forgery. In order that the holder of a certificate for value issued
by virtue of the registration of a voluntary instrument may be considered a holder in good faith
and for value, the instrument registered should not be forged. Indubitably, therefore, the
questioned Deed of Absolute Sale did not convey any title to herein petitioners. Thus, we hold
that with the presentation of the forged deed, even if accompanied by the owners duplicate
certificate of title, the registered owner did not thereby lose his title, and neither does the
assignee in the forged deed acquire any right or title to the said property. Spouses Patricio and
Myrna Bernales vs. Heirs of Julian Sambaan, et al., G.R. No. 163271, January 15, 2010.
Damages; attorneys fee; reduction. The relation to a foreclosure of a mortgage by a bank, the
Court ruled that the award of attorneys fee, it being part of a partys liquidated damages,
likewise could be equitably reduced. The Court affirmed the lower courts ruling reducing the
attorneys fee from 10% to 1% based on the following reasons: (1) attorneys fee is not essential
to the cost of borrowing, but a mere incident of collection; (2) 1% is just and adequate because
the bank had already charged foreclosure expenses; (3) attorneys fee of 10% of the total amount
due is onerous considering the rote effort that goes into extrajudicial foreclosures. Bank of the
Philippines Islands, Inc. vs. Spouses Norman and Angelina Yu, et al., G.R. No. 184122, January
20, 2010.
Damages; moral and exemplary; fraud in contract. The buyer defrauded the petitioners in his acts
of issuing a worthless check and representing to them that the check was funded, committing in
the process a substantial breach of his obligation as a buyer. For such fraudulent acts, the buyer
is liable for moral damages and exemplary damages under Article 2220, and 2232 and 2234of
the Civil Code, respectively. Spouses Carmen Tongson and Jose Tongson vs. Emergency
Pawnshop Bula, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 167874, January 15, 2010.
Damages; moral and exemplary; reduction. Moral damages were correctly awarded to the
respondent. Such damages may be awarded when the defendants transgression is the immediate
cause of the plaintiffs anguish in the cases specified in Article 2219 of the Civil Code. Here,
respondents colleagues and friends testified that she suffered severe anxiety on account of the
speculation over her employment status. She had to endure being referred to as a squatter in
her workplace. She had to face inquiries from family and friends about her exclusion from the
Bureaus centennial anniversary memorabilia. She did not have to endure all these affronts and
the angst and depression they produced had petitioner abided in good faith by the courts order in
her favor. Clearly, she is entitled to moral damages. The Court, however, finds the award
excessive. Moral damages are not a bonanza. They are given to ease the defendants grief and
suffering. Moral damages should reasonably approximate the extent of hurt caused and the
gravity of the wrong done. The Court affirms the grant of exemplary damages by way of
example or correction for the public good but, in line with the same reasoning, reduces it. Titus
B. Villanueva vs. Emma M. Rosqueta, G.R. No. 180764, January 19, 2010.
Human relations; abuse of right. Under the abuse of right principle found in Article 19 of the
Civil Code, a person must, in the exercise of his legal right or duty, act in good faith. He would
be liable if he instead acts in bad faith, with intent to prejudice another. Complementing this
principle are Articles 20 and 21 of the Civil Code, which grant the latter indemnity for the injury
he suffers because of such abuse of right or duty. The Court found that the petitioner had acted in
bad faith and with intent to spite the respondent, when the petitioner, notwithstanding a
preliminary injunction order preventing him from doing so, allowed another party to assume the
office as Deputy Commissioner in place of the respondent. Petitioners exclusion of the
respondent from the centennial anniversary memorabilia was not an honest mistake by any
reckoning. Indeed, he withheld her salary and prevented her from assuming the duties of the
position. A partys refusal to abide by a court order enjoining him from doing an act, otherwise
lawful, constitutes an abuse and an unlawful exercise of right. That respondent was later
appointed Deputy Commissioner for another division of the Bureau is immaterial. While such
appointment, when accepted, rendered the quo warranto case moot and academic, it did not have
the effect of wiping out the injuries she suffered on account of Petitioner treatment of her. The
damage suit is an independent action. Titus B. Villanueva vs. Emma M. Rosqueta, G.R. No.
180764, January 19, 2010.