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Aug 4, 2008

G.R. No. 141309, June 19, 2007


This is a case for damages under Article 32 of the Civil Code filed by Fortune against Liwayway as CIR.

On June 10, 1993, the legislature enacted RA 7654, which provided that locally manufactured cigarettes which are currently classified and taxed at 55% shall be charged an ad valorem tax of “55% provided that the maximum tax shall not be less than Five Pesos per pack.” Prior to effectivity of RA 7654, Liwayway issued a rule, reclassifying “Champion,” “Hope,” and “More” (all manufactured by Fortune) as locally manufactured cigarettes bearing foreign brand subject to the 55% ad valorem tax. Thus, when RA 7654 was passed, these cigarette brands were already covered.

In a case filed against Liwayway with the RTC, Fortune contended that the issuance of the rule violated its constitutional right against deprivation of property without due process of law and the right to equal protection of the laws.

For her part, Liwayway contended in her motion to dismiss that respondent has no cause of action against her because she issued RMC 37-93 in the performance of her official function and within the scope of her authority. She claimed that she acted merely as an agent of the Republic and therefore the latter is the one responsible for her acts. She also contended that the complaint states no cause of action for lack of allegation of malice or bad faith.

The order denying the motion to dismiss was elevated to the CA, who dismissed the case on the ground that under Article 32, liability may arise even if the defendant did not act with malice or bad faith.

Hence this appeal.


  • Whether or not a public officer may be validly sued in his/her private capacity for acts done in connection with the discharge of the functions of his/her office
  • Whether or not Article 32, NCC, should be applied instead of Sec. 38, Book I, Administrative Code


On the first issue, the general rule is that a public officer is not liable for damages which a person may suffer arising from the just performance of his official duties and within the scope of his assigned tasks. An officer who acts within his authority to administer the affairs of the office which he/she heads is not liable for damages that may have been caused to another, as it would virtually be a charge against the Republic, which is not amenable to judgment for monetary claims without its consent. However, a public officer is by law not immune from damages in his/her personal capacity for acts done in bad faith which, being outside the scope of his authority, are no longer protected by the mantle of immunity for official actions.

Specifically, under Sec. 38, Book I, Administrative Code, civil liability may arise where there is bad faith, malice, or gross negligence on the part of a superior public officer. And, under Sec. 39 of the same Book, civil liability may arise where the subordinate public officer’s act is characterized by willfulness or negligence. In Cojuangco, Jr. V. CA, a public officer who directly or indirectly violates the constitutional rights of another, may be validly sued for damages under Article 32 of the Civil Code even if his acts were not so tainted with malice or bad faith.

Thus, the rule in this jurisdiction is that a public officer may be validly sued in his/her private capacity for acts done in the course of the performance of the functions of the office, where said public officer: (1) acted with malice, bad faith, or negligence; or (2) where the public officer violated a constitutional right of the plaintiff.

On the second issue, SC ruled that the decisive provision is Article 32, it being a special law, which prevails over a general law (the Administrative Code).

Article 32 was patterned after the “tort” in American law. A tort is a wrong, a tortious act which has been defined as the commission or omission of an act by one, without right, whereby another receives some injury, directly or indirectly, in person, property or reputation. There are cases in which it has been stated that civil liability in tort is determined by the conduct and not by the mental state of the tortfeasor, and there are circumstances under which the motive of the defendant has been rendered immaterial. The reason sometimes given for the rule is that otherwise, the mental attitude of the alleged wrongdoer, and not the act itself, would determine whether the act was wrongful. Presence of good motive, or rather, the absence of an evil motive, does not render lawful an act which is otherwise an invasion of another’s legal right; that is, liability in tort in not precluded by the fact that defendant acted without evil intent.


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