G.R. No. L-47822, 22 December 1988, 186 SCRA 612
Respondent Ernesto Cendana, a junk dealer, was engaged in buying up used bottles and scrap metal in Pangasinan. Upon gathering sufficient quantities of such scrap material, respondent would bring such material to Manila for resale. On the return trip to Pangasinan, respondent would load his vehicles with cargo which various merchants wanted delivered to differing establishments in Pangasinan. For that service, respondent charged freight rates which were commonly lower than regular commercial rates.
Petitioner Pedro de Guzman a merchant and authorized dealer of General Milk Company (Philippines), Inc. in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, contracted with respondent for the hauling of 750 cartons of Liberty filled milk from a warehouse of General Milk in Makati, Rizal, to petitioner’s establishment in Urdaneta. Accordingly respondent loaded in Makati the merchandise on to his trucks: 150 cartons were loaded on a truck driven by respondent himself, while 600 cartons were placed on board the other truck which was driven by Manuel Estrada, respondent’s driver and employee.
Only 150 boxes of Liberty filled milk were delivered to petitioner. The other 600 boxes never reached petitioner, since the truck which carried these boxes was hijacked somewhere along the MacArthur Highway in Paniqui, Tarlac, by armed men who took with them the truck, its driver, his helper and the cargo.
Petitioner commenced action against private respondent claiming the value of the lost merchandise. Petitioner argued that private respondent, being a common carrier, and having failed to exercise the extraordinary diligence required of him by the law, should be held liable for the value of the undelivered goods. Private respondent denied that he was a common carrier and argued that he could not be held responsible for the value of the lost goods, such loss having been due to force majeure.
Whether the private respondent is required to exercise extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods carried in the specific context of hijacking or armed robbery.
The duty of extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over goods is, under Article 1733, given additional specification not only by Articles 1734 and 1735 but also by Article 1745, numbers 4, 5 and 6. Article 1745 provides in relevant part:
Any of the following or similar stipulations shall be considered unreasonable, unjust and contrary to public policy:
(5) that the common carrier shall not be responsible for the acts or omissions of his or its employees;
(6) that the common carrier’s liability for acts committed by thieves, or of robbers who do not act with grave or irresistible threat, violence or force, is dispensed with or diminished; and
(7) that the common carrier shall not responsible for the loss, destruction or deterioration of goods on account of the defective condition of the car vehicle, ship, airplane or other equipment used in the contract of carriage.
Under Article 1745 (6) above, a common carrier is held responsible — and will not be allowed to divest or to diminish such responsibility — even for acts of strangers like thieves or robbers, except where such thieves or robbers in fact acted “with grave or irresistible threat, violence or force.” The limits of the duty of extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods carried are reached where the goods are lost as a result of a robbery which is attended by “grave or irresistible threat, violence or force.”
The occurrence of the loss must reasonably be regarded as quite beyond the control of the common carrier and properly regarded as a fortuitous event. It is necessary to recall that even common carriers are not made absolute insurers against all risks of travel and of transport of goods, and are not held liable for acts or events which cannot be foreseen or are inevitable, provided that they shall have complied with the rigorous standard of extraordinary diligence.
*Case digest by Geraldine M. Cabucos, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019