G.R. No. 88694, 11 January 1993
Petitioner Albenson Enterprises Corporation delivered to Guaranteed Industries, Inc. at Baltao Building mild steel plates which the latter ordered and as part of the payment, a bouncing check was issued by one “Eugenio Baltao”.
Petitioner, in a sincere attempt to collect the sum of money due them, filed a criminal complaint against private respondent Eugenio S. Baltao after the latter refused to make good the amount of the bouncing check despite demand. However, there was a mistake of identity as there were two “Eugenio Baltaos” conducting business in the same building – Eugenio S. Baltao and his son, Eugenio Baltao III.
It was found that the signature of the check was not of Eugenio S. Baltao and because of the alleged unjust filing of a criminal case against him, respondent Baltao filed a complaint for damages anchored on Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code against petitioners.
Whether or not the principle of abuse of rights (Article 19) has been violated, resulting in damages under Articles 20 and 21 or other applicable provision of law.
No, petitioners could not be said to have violated the principle of abuse of rights. What prompted petitioners to file the case for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 against private respondent was their failure to collect the amount of P2,575.00 due on a bounced check which they honestly believed was issued to them by private respondent. Petitioners had conducted inquiries regarding the origin of the check. Private respondent, however, did nothing to clarify the case of mistaken identity at first hand. Instead, private respondent waited in ambush and thereafter pounced on the hapless petitioners at a time he thought was propitious by filing an action for damages.
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. 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.
There is no proof or showing that petitioners acted maliciously or in bad faith in the filing of the case against private respondent. Consequently, in the absence of proof of fraud and bad faith committed by petitioners, they cannot be held liable for damages.
* Case digest by Gretchen Rina A. Lim, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018