G.R. No. 142943, 3 April 2002
The plaintiff, spouses Antonio and Lorna Quisumbing are the owners of a house located at #94 Greenmeadows Avenue, Quezon City. Around 9AM on March 3, 1995, defendant’s inspectors headed by Emmanuel C. Orlino were assigned to conduct a routine on the spot inspection of all single phase meters at the house and observed as standard operating procedure to ask permission and was granted by the plaintiff’s secretary. After the inspection, it was found that the meter had been tampered with. The result was relayed to the secretary who conveyed the information to the owners of the house. The inspectors advised that the meter be brought in their laboratory for further verifications. In the event that the meter was indeed tampered, defendant had to temporarily disconnect the electric services of the couple. After an hour, inspectors returned and informed the findings of the laboratory and asked the couple that unless they pay the amount of P178,875.01 representing the differential bill their electric supply will be disconnected. The plaintiff filed complaint for damages with a prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction despite the immediate reconnection.
Whether or not MERALCO acted maliciously and malevolent manner done without due process, lack of regard for QUISUMBING’s rights, feelings, social and business reputation and therefore held them accountable and plaintiff be entitled for damages.
Art 32 of the Civil Code provides that “Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages” and one of the rights as provided by part 6 of this article states, “The right against deprivation of property without due process of law”. As provided by this article, MERALCO directly deprived the Quisumbing’s of their property in the form of electricity without due process of law.
Supreme Court partly granted the petition and ordered plaintiff to pay respondent the billing differential of P193,332.96 while latter is ordered to pay petitioners moral and exemplary damages including attorney’s fees. Moral damages may be recovered when rights of individuals including right against the deprivation of property without due process of law are violated. Exemplary damages on the other hand are imposed by way of example or correction for public. SC recognized the effort of MERALCO in preventing illegal use of electricity. However, any action must be done in strict observance of the rights of the people. “Under the law, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) may immediately disconnect electric service on the ground of alleged meter tampering, but only if the discovery of the cause is personally witnessed and attested to by an officer of the law or by a duly authorized representative of the Energy Regulatory Board”. During the inspection, no government official or ERB representative was present.
Petitioner’s claim for actual damages was not granted for failure to supply proof and was premised only upon Lorna’s testimony. These are compensation for an injury that will put the injure position where it was before it was injured.
* Case digest by Desmarc G. Malate, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018