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Apr 30, 2008

  • intentional acts
  • transgressions on the chapter on Human Relations of the Civil Code


(1) Abuse of Right

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.

Q: How is Article 19 reconciled with the theory that “he who uses a right injures no one?”

A: The principle of abuse of right is a departure from the theory that he who uses a right injures no one. In the said article, even if the act is merely an exercise of a right and therefore is not illegal per se, the plaintiff is given recourse in indemnity for damages as a consequence of defendant’s abuse of such right.

Sea Commercial Company vs. CA, G.R. No. 122823, Nov. 25, 1999


The principle of abuse of rights stated in the above article, departs from the classical theory that "he who uses a right injures no one". The modern tendency is to depart from the classical and traditional theory, and to grant indemnity for damages in cases where there is an abuse of rights, even when the act is not illicit.


Art. 19 was intended to expand the concept of torts by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to provide specifically in statutory law. If mere fault or negligence in one's acts can make him liable for damages for injury caused thereby, with more reason should abuse or bad faith make him liable. The absence of good faith is essential to abuse of right. Good faith is an honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another, even through the forms or technicalities of the law, together with an absence of all information or belief of fact which would render the transaction unconscientious. In business relations, it means good faith as understood by men of affairs.


While Article 19 may have been intended as a mere declaration of principle, the "cardinal law on human conduct" expressed in said article has given rise to certain rules, e.g. that where a person exercises his rights but does so arbitrarily or unjustly or performs his duties in a manner that is not in keeping with honesty and good faith, he opens himself to liability. The elements of an abuse of rights under Article 19 are: (1) there is a legal right or duty; (2) which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.

Even if the dealership agreement was amended to make it on a non-exclusive basis, SEACOM may not exercise its right unjustly or in a manner that is not in keeping with honesty or good faith; otherwise it opens itself to liability under the abuse of right rule embodied in Article 19 of the Civil Code above-quoted. This provision, together with the succeeding article on human relation, was intended to embody certain basic principles "that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human being and for the stability of the social order." What is sought to be written into the law is the pervading principle of equity and justice above strict legalism.

Gashem Shookat Baksh vs. CA, G.R. No. 97336, Feb. 19, 1993

Article 21 (which) is designed to expand the concept of torts or quasi-delict in this jurisdiction by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to specifically enumerate and punish in the statute books.

…where a man’s promise to marry is in fact the proximate cause of the acceptance of his love by a woman and his representation to fulfill that promise thereafter becomes the proximate cause of the giving of herself unto him in a sexual congress, proof that he had, in reality, no intention of marrying her and that the promise was only a subtle scheme or deceptive device to entire or inveigle her to accept him and to obtain her consent to the sexual act, could justify the award of damages pursuant to Article 21 not because of such promise to marry but because of the fraud and deceit behind it and the willful injury to her honor and reputation which followed thereafter. It is essential, however, that such injury should have been committed in a manner contrary to morals, good customs or public policy.

Albenson Enterprises Corp vs CA, G.R. No. 88694, Jan. 11, 1993


Article 19, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, sets certain standards which may 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 the 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. Although the requirements of each provision is different, these three (3) articles are all related to each other. As the eminent Civilist Senator Arturo Tolentino puts it: "With this article (Article 21), combined with articles 19 and 20, the scope of our law on civil wrongs has been very greatly broadened; it has become much more supple and adaptable than the Anglo-American law on torts. It is now difficult to conceive of any malevolent exercise of a right which could not be checked by the application of these articles" (Tolentino, 1 Civil Code of the Philippines 72).


The elements of an abuse of right under Article 19 are the following: (1) There is a legal right or duty; (2) which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another. Article 20 speaks of the general sanction for all other provisions of law which do not especially provide for their own sanction (Tolentino, supra, p. 71). Thus, anyone who, whether willfully or negligently, in the exercise of his legal right or duty, causes damage to another, shall indemnify his victim for injuries suffered thereby. Article 21 deals with acts contra bonus mores, and has the following elements: 1) There is an act which is legal; 2) but which is contrary to morals, good custom, public order, or public policy; 3) and it is done with intent to injure.

Thus, under any of these three (3) provisions of law, an act which causes injury to another may be made the basis for an award of damages.

There is a common element under Articles 19 and 21, and that is, the act must be intentional. However, Article 20 does not distinguish: the act may be done either "willfully", or "negligently".

DBP vs. CA, G.R. No. 137916, Dec. 8, 2004


Malice or bad faith is at the core of said provision (Article 19). Good faith is presumed and he who alleges bad faith has the duty to prove the same.


Good faith refers to the state of the mind which is manifested by the acts of the individual concerned. It consists of the intention to abstain from taking an unconscionable and unscrupulous advantage of another.


Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or simple negligence, dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong, a breach of known duty due to some motives or interest or ill-will that partakes of the nature of fraud. Malice connotes ill-will or spite and speaks not in response to duty. It implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive.

(2) Emotional Distress

MVRS Publications vs. Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, G.R. No. 135306, Jan. 28, 2003

FACTS: Islamic Da’Wah Council of the Philippines, Inc., a local federation of more than 70 Muslim religious organizations, filed a complaint for damages against MVRS Publications, Inc., arising from an article, which reads:


Na ang mga baboy at kahit anong uri ng hayop sa Mindanao ay hindi kinakain ng mga Muslim?

Para sa kanila ang mga ito ay isang sagradong bagay. Hindi nila ito kailangang kainin kahit na sila pa ay magutom at mawalan ng ulam sa tuwing sila ay kakain. Ginagawa nila itong Diyos at sinasamba pa nila ito sa tuwing araw ng kanilang pangingilin lalung-lalo na sa araw na tinatawag nilang 'Ramadan'."


  • W/N this is an action for defamation (libel) or an emotional distress tort action


The Supreme Court held that there is no cause of action for defamation.


Defamation, which includes libel and slander, means the offense of injuring a person's character, fame or reputation through false and malicious statements. It is that which tends to injure reputation or to diminish the esteem, respect, good will or confidence in the plaintiff or to excite derogatory feelings or opinions about the plaintiff. It is the publication of anything which is injurious to the good name or reputation of another or tends to bring him into disrepute. Defamation is an invasion of a relational interest since it involves the opinion which others in the community may have, or tend to have, of the plaintiff.


…where the defamation is alleged to have been directed at a group or class, it is essential that the statement must be so sweeping or all-embracing as to apply to every individual in that group or class, or sufficiently specific so that each individual in the class or group can prove that the defamatory statement specifically pointed to him, so that he can bring the action separately, if need be….

The statements published by petitioners in the instant case did not specifically identify nor refer to any particular individuals who were purportedly the subject of the alleged libelous publication. Respondents can scarcely claim to having been singled out for social censure pointedly resulting in damages.

The action likewise is not for emotional distress.


Primarily, an "emotional distress" tort action is personal in nature, i.e., it is a civil action filed by an individual to assuage the injuries to his emotional tranquility due to personal attacks on his character. It has no application in the instant case since no particular individual was identified in the disputed article of Bulgar. Also, the purported damage caused by the article, assuming there was any, falls under the principle of relational harm which includes harm to social relationships in the community in the form of defamation; as distinguished from the principle of reactive harm which includes injuries to individual emotional tranquility in the form of an infliction of emotional distress. In their complaint, respondents clearly asserted an alleged harm to the standing of Muslims in the community, especially to their activities in propagating their faith in Metro Manila and in other non-Muslim communities in the country. It is thus beyond cavil that the present case falls within the application of the relational harm principle of tort actions for defamation, rather than the reactive harm principle on which the concept of emotional distress properly belongs.


To recover for the intentional infliction of emotional distress the plaintiff must show that: (a) The conduct of the defendant was intentional or in reckless disregard of the plaintiff; (b) The conduct was extreme and outrageous; (c) There was a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's mental distress; and, (d) The plaintiff's mental distress was extreme and severe.

"Extreme and outrageous conduct" means conduct that is so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in civilized society. The defendant's actions must have been so terrifying as naturally to humiliate, embarrass or frighten the plaintiff.

"Emotional distress" means any highly unpleasant mental reaction such as extreme grief, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, worry, nausea, mental suffering and anguish, shock, fright, horror, and chagrin. "Severe emotional distress," in some jurisdictions, refers to any type of severe and disabling emotional or mental condition which may be generally recognized and diagnosed by professionals trained to do so, including posttraumatic stress disorder, neurosis, psychosis, chronic depression, or phobia. The plaintiff is required to show, among other things, that he or she has suffered emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it; severity of the distress is an element of the cause of action, not simply a matter of damages.

Any party seeking recovery for mental anguish must prove more than mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger. Liability does not arise from mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty expressions, or other trivialities. In determining whether the tort of outrage had been committed, a plaintiff is necessarily expected and required to be hardened to a certain amount of criticism, rough language, and to occasional acts and words that are definitely inconsiderate and unkind; the mere fact that the actor knows that the other will regard the conduct as insulting, or will have his feelings hurt, is not enough.

(3) Interferences with Contractual Relations

Art. 1314: Any third person who induces another to violate his contract shall be liable for damages to the other contracting party.

Lagon vs CA, G.R. No. 119107, March 18, 2005


The Court, in the case of So Ping Bun v. Court of Appeals, laid down the elements of tortuous interference with contractual relations: (a) existence of a valid contract; (b) knowledge on the part of the third person of the existence of the contract and (c) interference of the third person without legal justification or excuse. In that case, petitioner So Ping Bun occupied the premises which the corporation of his grandfather was leasing from private respondent, without the knowledge and permission of the corporation. The corporation, prevented from using the premises for its business, sued So Ping Bun for tortuous interference.


As regards the first element, the existence of a valid contract must be duly established. To prove this, private respondent presented in court a notarized copy of the purported lease renewal. While the contract appeared as duly notarized, the notarization thereof, however, only proved its due execution and delivery but not the veracity of its contents. Nonetheless, after undergoing the rigid scrutiny of petitioner’s counsel and after the trial court declared it to be valid and subsisting, the notarized copy of the lease contract presented in court appeared to be incontestable proof that private respondent and the late Bai Tonina Sepi actually renewed their lease contract. Settled is the rule that until overcome by clear, strong and convincing evidence, a notarized document continues to be prima facie evidence of the facts that gave rise to its execution and delivery.


The second element, on the other hand, requires that there be knowledge on the part of the interferer that the contract exists. Knowledge of the subsistence of the contract is an essential element to state a cause of action for tortuous interference. A defendant in such a case cannot be made liable for interfering with a contract he is unaware of. While it is not necessary to prove actual knowledge, he must nonetheless be aware of the facts which, if followed by a reasonable inquiry, will lead to a complete disclosure of the contractual relations and rights of the parties in the contract.

In this case, petitioner claims that he had no knowledge of the lease contract. His sellers (the heirs of Bai Tonina Sepi) likewise allegedly did not inform him of any existing lease contract.

After a careful perusal of the records, we find the contention of petitioner meritorious. He conducted his own personal investigation and inquiry, and unearthed no suspicious circumstance that would have made a cautious man probe deeper and watch out for any conflicting claim over the property. An examination of the entire property’s title bore no indication of the leasehold interest of private respondent. Even the registry of property had no record of the same.

Assuming ex gratia argumenti that petitioner knew of the contract, such knowledge alone was not sufficient to make him liable for tortuous interference. Which brings us to the third element.


According to our ruling in So Ping Bun, petitioner may be held liable only when there was no legal justification or excuse for his action or when his conduct was stirred by a wrongful motive. To sustain a case for tortuous interference, the defendant must have acted with malice or must have been driven by purely impious reasons to injure the plaintiff. In other words, his act of interference cannot be justified.

Furthermore, the records do not support the allegation of private respondent that petitioner induced the heirs of Bai Tonina Sepi to sell the property to him. The word “induce” refers to situations where a person causes another to choose one course of conduct by persuasion or intimidation. The records show that the decision of the heirs of the late Bai Tonina Sepi to sell the property was completely of their own volition and that petitioner did absolutely nothing to influence their judgment. Private respondent himself did not proffer any evidence to support his claim. In short, even assuming that private respondent was able to prove the renewal of his lease contract with Bai Tonina Sepi, the fact was that he was unable to prove malice or bad faith on the part of petitioner in purchasing the property. Therefore, the claim of tortuous interference was never established.


As a general rule, justification for interfering with the business relations of another exists where the actor’s motive is to benefit himself. Such justification does not exist where the actor’s motive is to cause harm to the other. Added to this, some authorities believe that it is not necessary that the interferer’s interest outweigh that of the party whose rights are invaded, and that an individual acts under an economic interest that is substantial, not merely de minimis, such that wrongful and malicious motives are negatived, for he acts in self-protection. Moreover, justification for protecting one’s financial position should not be made to depend on a comparison of his economic interest in the subject matter with that of the others. It is sufficient if the impetus of his conduct lies in a proper business interest rather than in wrongful motives.


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