G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013 - JOYCE V. ARDIENTE, Petitioner, v. SPOUSES JAVIER AND MA. THERESA PASTORFIDE, CAGAYAN DE ORO WATER DISTRICT AND GASPAR GONZALEZ,* JR., Respondents.
G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013
JOYCE V. ARDIENTE, Petitioner, v. SPOUSES JAVIER AND MA. THERESA PASTORFIDE, CAGAYAN DE ORO WATER DISTRICT AND GASPAR GONZALEZ,* JR., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
[Herein petitioner] Joyce V. Ardiente and her husband Dr. Roberto S. Ardiente are owners of a housing unit at Emily Homes, Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City with a lot area of one hundred fifty-three (153) square meters and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 69905.
On June 2, 1994, Joyce Ardiente entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (Exh. “B”, pp. 470-473, Records) selling, transferring and conveying in favor of [respondent] Ma. Theresa Pastorfide all their rights and interests in the housing unit at Emily Homes in consideration of P70,000.00. The Memorandum of Agreement carries a stipulation:cralavvonlinelawlibrary
“4. That the water and power bill of the subject property shall be for the account of the Second Party (Ma. Theresa Pastorfide) effective June 1, 1994.” (Records, p. 47)
vis-a-vis Ma. Theresa Pastorfide's assumption of the payment of the mortgage loan secured by Joyce Ardiente from the National Home Mortgage (Records, Exh. “A”, pp. 468-469)
For four (4) years, Ma. Theresa's use of the water connection in the name of Joyce Ardiente was never questioned nor perturbed (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, pp. 7-8) until on March 12, 1999, without notice, the water connection of Ma. Theresa was cut off. Proceeding to the office of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) to complain, a certain Mrs. Madjos told Ma. Theresa that she was delinquent for three (3) months corresponding to the months of December 1998, January 1999, and February 1999. Ma. Theresa argued that the due date of her payment was March 18, 1999 yet (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, pp. 11-12). Mrs. Madjos later told her that it was at the instance of Joyce Ardiente that the water line was cut off (T.S.N., February 5, 2001, p. 31).
On March 15, 1999, Ma. Theresa paid the delinquent bills (T.S.N., October 31, 2000, p. 12). On the same date, through her lawyer, Ma. Theresa wrote a letter to the COWD to explain who authorized the cutting of the water line (Records, p. 160).
On March 18, 1999, COWD, through the general manager, [respondent] Gaspar Gonzalez, Jr., answered the letter dated March 15, 1999 and reiterated that it was at the instance of Joyce Ardiente that the water line was cut off (Records, p. 161).
Aggrieved, on April 14, 1999, Ma. Theresa Pastorfide [and her husband] filed [a] complaint for damages [against petitioner, COWD and its manager Gaspar Gonzalez] (Records, pp. 2-6).
In the meantime, Ma. Theresa Pastorfide's water line was only restored and reconnected when the [trial] court issued a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction on December 14, 1999 (Records, p. 237).4
x x x x
In the exercise of their rights and performance of their duties, defendants did not act with justice, gave plaintiffs their due and observe honesty and good faith. Before disconnecting the water supply, defendants COWD and Engr. Gaspar Gonzales did not even send a disconnection notice to plaintiffs as testified to by Engr. Bienvenido Batar, in-charge of the Commercial Department of defendant COWD. There was one though, but only three (3) days after the actual disconnection on March 12, 1999. The due date for payment was yet on March 15. Clearly, they did not act with justice. Neither did they observe honesty.
They should not have been swayed by the prodding of Joyce V. Ardiente. They should have investigated first as to the present ownership of the house. For doing the act because Ardiente told them, they were negligent. Defendant Joyce Ardiente should have requested before the cutting off of the water supply, plaintiffs to pay. While she attempted to tell plaintiffs but she did not have the patience of seeing them. She knew that it was plaintiffs who had been using the water four (4) years ago and not hers. She should have been very careful. x x x5
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendants [Ardiente, COWD and Gonzalez] to pay jointly and severally plaintiffs, the following sums:cralavvonlinelawlibrary(a) P200,000.00 for moral damages;chanroblesvirtualawlibraryThe cross-claim of Cagayan de Oro Water District and Engr. Gaspar Gonzales is hereby dismissed. The Court is not swayed that the cutting off of the water supply of plaintiffs was because they were influenced by defendant Joyce Ardiente. They were negligent too for which they should be liable.
(b) 200,000.00 for exemplary damages; and
(c) 50,000.00 for attorney's fee.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the appealed decision is AFFIRMED, with the modification that the awarded damages is reduced to P100,000.00 each for moral and exemplary damages, while attorney's fees is lowered to P25,000.00. Costs against appellants.
7.1 HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS (ALTHOUGH IT HAS REDUCED THE LIABILITY INTO HALF) HAS STILL COMMITTED GRAVE AND SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT UPHELD THE JOINT AND SOLIDARY LIABILITY OF PETITIONER JOYCE V. ARDIENTE WITH CAGAYAN DE ORO WATER DISTRICT (COWD) AND ENGR. GASPAR D. GONZALES FOR THE LATTER'S FAILURE TO SERVE NOTICE UPON RESPONDENTS SPOUSES PASTORFIDE PRIOR TO THE ACTUAL DISCONNECTION DESPITE EVIDENCE ADDUCED DURING TRIAL THAT EVEN WITHOUT PETITIONER'S REQUEST, COWD WAS ALREADY SET TO EFFECT DISCONNECTION OF RESPONDENTS' WATER SUPPLY DUE TO NON-PAYMENT OF ACCOUNT FOR THREE (3) MONTHS.
7.2 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE AND SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT RULED TOTALLY AGAINST PETITIONER AND FAILED TO FIND THAT RESPONDENTS ARE GUILTY OF CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE WHEN THEY FAILED TO PAY THEIR WATER BILLS FOR THREE MONTHS AND TO MOVE FOR THE TRANSFER OF THE COWD ACCOUNT IN THEIR NAME, WHICH WAS A VIOLATION OF THEIR MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT WITH PETITIONER JOYCE V. ARDIENTE. RESPONDENTS LIKEWISE DELIBERATELY FAILED TO EXERCISE DILIGENCE OF A GOOD FATHER OF THE FAMILY TO MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE UNDER ART. 2203 OF THE NEW CIVIL CODE.
7.3 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT DISREGARDED THE FACT THAT RESPONDENT SPOUSES PASTORFIDE ARE LIKEWISE BOUND TO OBSERVE ARTICLE 19 OF THE NEW CIVIL CODE, i.e., IN THE EXERCISE OF THEIR RIGHTS AND IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DUTIES TO ACT WITH JUSTICE, GIVE EVERYONE HIS DUE AND OBSERVE HONESTY AND GOOD FAITH.
7.4 THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT GRANTED AN AWARD OF MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY'S FEES AS AGAINST PETITIONER ARDIENTE.12
x x x x
This provision of law sets standards which must be observed in the exercise of one’s rights as well as in the performance of its duties, to wit: to act with justice; give everyone his due; and observe honesty and good faith.
In Globe Mackay Cable and Radio Corporation v. Court of Appeals, it was elucidated that while Article 19 “lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.” The Court said:cralavvonlinelawlibraryOne of the more notable innovations of the New Civil Code is the codification of "some basic principles that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human beings and for the stability of the social order." [REPORT ON THE CODE COMMISSION ON THE PROPOSED CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, p. 39]. The framers of the Code, seeking to remedy the defect of the old Code which merely stated the effects of the law, but failed to draw out its spirit, incorporated certain fundamental precepts which were "designed to indicate certain norms that spring from the fountain of good conscience" and which were also meant to serve as "guides for human conduct [that] should run as golden threads through society, to the end that law may approach its supreme ideal, which is the sway and dominance of justice." (Id.) Foremost among these principles is that pronounced in Article 19 x x x.Corollarilly, Article 20 provides that “every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same.” It speaks of the general sanctions of all other provisions of law which do not especially provide for its own sanction. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform to the standards set forth in the said provision and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be responsible. Thus, if the provision does not provide a remedy for its violation, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 of the Civil Code would be proper.
x x x x
This article, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights, but also in the performance of one's duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. The law, therefore, recognizes a primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper.
The question of whether or not the principle of abuse of rights has been violated resulting in damages under Article 20 or other applicable provision of law, depends on the circumstances of each case. x x x18
* Spelled as Gonzales in other parts of the rollo and records.cralawlibrary
1 Penned by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr., with Associate Justices Edgardo P. Cruz and Noel G. Tijam, concurring; rollo, pp. 60-67.cralawlibrary
2 Id. at 68.cralawlibrary
3 Penned by Judge Leonardo N. Demecillo, id. at 27-37.cralawlibrary
4Rollo, pp. 60-62.cralawlibrary
5 Id. at 35-36.cralawlibrary
6 Id. at 37.cralawlibrary
7 Id. at 67. (Emphasis in the original)
8 Id. at 65.cralawlibrary
9 Id. at 64.cralawlibrary
10 Id. at 219.cralawlibrary
11 Id. at 220.cralawlibrary
12 Id. at 14.cralawlibrary
13Philippine National Bank v. DKS International, Inc., G.R. No. 179161, January 22, 2010, 610 SCRA 603, 621.cralawlibrary
15 Uypitching v. Quiamco, G.R. No. 146322, December 6, 2006, 510 SCRA 172, 179.cralawlibrary
17 G.R. No. 184315, November 28, 2011, 661 SCRA 392.cralawlibrary
18 Id. at 402-404. (Emphasis supplied)
19 Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:cralavvonlinelawlibraryx x x x
(10) Acts and actions referred to in Articles 21, 26, 27, 28. 29, 30, 32, 34 and 35.
x x x x
20 Every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.cralawlibrary
21 Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.cralawlibrary
22Yuchengco v. The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation, supra note 17, at 405.