G.R. No. L-8151, 16 December 1955, 98 Phil. 79


This suit involves the collection of P2,000 representing the value of a supplemental policy covering accidental death which was secured by one Melencio Basilio from the Philippine American Life Insurance Company.
Melencio Basilio was a watchman of the Manila Auto Supply located at the corner of Avenida Rizal and Zurbaran. He secured a life insurance policy from the Philippine American Life Insurance Company in the amount of P2,000 to which was attached a supplementary contract covering death by accident. On January 25, 1951, he died of a gunshot wound on the occasion of a robbery committed in the house of Atty. Ojeda at the corner of Oroquieta and Zurbaan streets. Virginia Calanoc, the widow, was paid the sum of P2,000, face value of the policy, but when she demanded the payment of the additional sum of P2,000 representing the value of the supplemental policy, the company refused alleging, as main defense, that the deceased died because he was murdered by a person who took part in the commission of the robbery and while making an arrest as an officer of the law which contingencies were expressly excluded in the contract and have the effect of exempting the company from liability.


Whether the Philippine American Insurance is liable for the supplemental contract


Yes. The circumstance that he was a mere watchman and had no duty to heed the call of Atty. Ojeda should not be taken as a capricious desire on his part to expose his life to danger considering the fact that the place he was in duty-bound to guard was only a block away. In volunteering to extend help under the situation, he might have thought, rightly or wrongly, that to know the truth was in the interest of his employer it being a matter that affects the security of the neighborhood. No doubt there was some risk coming to him in pursuing that errand, but that risk always existed it being inherent in the position he was holding. He cannot therefore be blamed solely for doing what he believed was in keeping with his duty as a watchman and as a citizen. And he cannot be considered as making an arrest as an officer of the law, as contended, simply because he went with the traffic policeman, for certainly he did not go there for that purpose nor was he asked to do so by the policeman.
While as a general rule “the parties may limit the coverage of the policy to certain particular accidents and risks or causes of loss, and may expressly except other risks or causes of loss therefrom” (45 C. J. S. 781-782), however, it is to be desired that the terms and phraseology of the exception clause be clearly expressed so as to be within the easy grasp and understanding of the insured, for if the terms are doubtful or obscure the same must of necessity be interpreted or resolved aganst the one who has caused the obscurity. (Article 1377, new Civil Code) And so it has bene generally held that the “terms in an insurance policy, which are ambiguous, equivacal, or uncertain . . . are to be construed strictly and most strongly against the insurer, and liberally in favor of the insured so as to effect the dominant purpose of indemnity or payment to the insured, especially where a forfeiture is involved” (29 Am. Jur., 181), and the reason for this rule is that he “insured usually has no voice in the selection or arrangement of the words employed and that the language of the contract is selected with great care and deliberation by experts and legal advisers employed by, and acting exclusively in the interest of, the insurance company.” (44 C. J. S., p. 1174.)
We are therefore persuaded to conclude that the circumstances unfolded in the present case do not warrant the finding that the death of the unfortunate victim comes within the purview of the exception clause of the supplementary policy and, hence, do not exempt the company from liability.
Wherefore, reversing the decision appealed from, we hereby order the company to pay petitioner-appellant the amount of P2,000, with legal interest from January 26, 1951 until fully paid, with costs.

*Case digest by Ana Azalea O. Adraincem, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, S.Y 2018-2019