Vinzons-Chato v. Fortune Tobacco Corp.
G.R. No. 141309
Decision Date


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

LIWAYWAY VINZONS-CHATO, petitioner,vs. , respondent.



Petitioner assails the May 7, 1999 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47167, which affirmed the September 29, 1997 Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina, Branch 272, in Civil Case No. 97-341-MK, denying petitioner's motion to dismiss. The complaint filed by respondent sought to recover damages for the alleged violation of its constitutional rights arising from petitioner's issuance of .

Petitioner Liwayway Vinzons-Chato was then the

On June 10, 1993, the legislature enacted ad valorem tax at the rate of 20-45%. However, on July 1, 1993, or two days before subject to the 55% ad valorem tax. (c) (1) on locally manufactured cigarettes which are currently classified and taxed at 55%,and which imposes an ad valorem tax of "55% provided that the minimum tax shall not be less than Five Pesos (P5.00) per pack."

On July 2, 1993, at about 5:50 p.m.,BIR Deputy Commissioner Victor A. Deoferio, Jr. sent via telefax a copy of The same letter assessed respondent for ad valorem tax deficiency amounting to P9,598,334.00 (computed on the basis of On August 3, 1993, respondent filed a petition for review with the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), which on September 30, 1993, issued an injunction enjoining the implementation of In its decision dated August 10, 1994, the CTA ruled that . It was held, among others, that DHaEAS

On April 10, 1997, respondent filed before the RTC a complaint for damages against petitioner in her private capacity. Respondent contended that the latter should be held liable for damages under Article 32 of the

Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss contending that: (1) respondent has no cause of action against her because she issued

On September 29, 1997, the RTC denied petitioner's motion to dismiss holding that to rule on the allegations of petitioner would be to prematurely decide the merits of the case without allowing the parties to present evidence. It further held that the defect in the certification against forum shopping was cured by respondent's submission of the corporate secretary's certificate authorizing its counsel to execute the certification against forum shopping. The dispositive portion thereof, states:

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the motion to dismiss filed by the defendant Liwayway Vinzons-Chato and the motion to strike out and expunge from the record the said motion to dismiss filed by plaintiff


The case was elevated to the Court of Appeals via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. However, same was dismissed on the ground that under Article 32 of the

Undaunted, petitioner filed the instant recourse contending that the suit is grounded on her acts done in the performance of her functions as a public officer, hence, it is Section 38, Book I of the

Conversely, respondent argued that Section 38 which treats in general the public officers' "acts" from which civil liability may arise, is a general law; while Article 32 which deals specifically with the public officers' violation of constitutional rights, is a special provision which should determine whether the complaint states a cause of action or not. Citing the case of , respondent alleged that under Article 32 of the

The issues for resolution are as follows:

(1) May a public officer be validly sued in his/her private capacity for acts done in connection with the discharge of the functions of his/her office?

(2) Which as between Article 32 of the IEAacS

(3) Should the complaint be dismissed for failure to comply with the rule on certification against forum shopping?

(4) May petitioner be held liable for damages?

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 Section 38, Book I of the

Sec. 38. Liability of Superior Officers. (1) A public officer shall not be civilly liable for acts done in the performance of his official duties, unless there is a clear showing of bad faith, malice or gross negligence.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 39. Liability of Subordinate Officers. No subordinate officer or employee shall be civilly liable for acts done by him in good faith in the performance of his duties. However, he shall be liable for willful or negligent acts done by him which are contrary to law, morals, public policy and good customs even if he acts under orders or instructions of his superior.

In addition, the Court held in , that a public officer who directly or indirectly violates the constitutional rights of another, may be validly sued for damages under Article 32 of the

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.

Anent the second issue, we hold that the complaint filed by respondent stated a cause of action and that the decisive provision thereon is Article 32 of the

A general statute is one which embraces a class of subjects or places and does not omit any subject or place naturally belonging to such class. A special statute, as the term is generally understood, is one which relates to particular persons or things of a class or to a particular portion or section of the state only.

A general law and a special law on the same subject are statutes in pari materia and should, accordingly, be read together and harmonized, if possible, with a view to giving effect to both. The rule is that where there are two acts, one of which is special and particular and the other general which, if standing alone, would include the same matter and thus conflict with the special act, the special law must prevail since it evinces the legislative intent more clearly than that of a general statute and must not be taken as intended to affect the more particular and specific provisions of the earlier act, unless it is absolutely necessary so to construe it in order to give its words any meaning at all.

The circumstance that the special law is passed before or after the general act does not change the principle. Where the special law is later, it will be regarded as an exception to, or a qualification of, the prior general act; and where the general act is later, the special statute will be construed as remaining an exception to its terms, unless repealed expressly or by necessary implication.

Thus, in , the Court held that Article 2189 of the ADHaTC

Manila maintains that the former provision should prevail over the latter, because

The Court of Appeals, however, applied theIn other words, said section 4 refers to liability arising from negligence, in general, regardless of the object thereof, whereas Article 2189 governs liability due to "defective streets," in particular. Since the present action is based upon the alleged defective condition of a road, said Article 2189 is decisive thereon.

In the case of , the issue was which law should govern the publication of a tax ordinance, the City Charter of Manila, a special act which treats ordinances in general and which requires their publication before enactment and after approval, or the

There is no question that However, the rule readily yields to a situation where the special statute refers to a subject in general, which the general statute treats in particular. This exactly is the circumstance obtaining in the case at bar. Section 17 of Here, as always, a general provision must give way to a particular provision. Special provision governs.

Let us examine the provisions involved in the case at bar. Article 32 of the

ART. 32. 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:

xxx xxx xxx

(6) The right against deprivation of property without due process of law; DECSIT

xxx xxx xxx

(8) The right to the equal protection of the laws;

xxx xxx xxx

The rationale for its enactment was explained by Dean Bocobo of the

"DEAN BOCOBO. Article 32, regarding individual rights, Attorney Cirilo Paredes proposes that Article 32 be so amended as to make a public official liable for violation of another person's constitutional rights only if the public official acted maliciously or in bad faith. The

"The very nature of Article 32 is that the wrong may be civil or criminal. It is not necessary therefore that there should be malice or bad faith. To make such a requisite would defeat the main purpose of Article 32 which is the effective protection of individual rights. Public officials in the past have abused their powers on the pretext of justifiable motives or good faith in the performance of their duties. Precisely, the object of the Article is to put an end to official abuse by the plea of good faith. In the United States this remedy is in the nature of a tort.

"Mr. Chairman, this article is firmly one of the fundamental articles introduced in the


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 is not precluded by the fact that defendant acted without evil intent.

The clear intention therefore of the legislature was to create a distinct cause of action in the nature of tort for violation of constitutional rights, irrespective of the motive or intent of the defendant. This is a fundamental innovation in the

In , it was held that with the enactment of Article 32, the principle of accountability of public officials under the

On the other hand, Sections 38 and 39, Book I of thei.e.,"acts" done in the performance of official duties, without specifying the action or omission that may give rise to a civil suit against the official concerned. SDHacT

Contrarily, Article 32 of the

The complaint in the instant case was brought under Article 32 of the

Anent the issue on non-compliance with the rule against forum shopping, the subsequent submission of the secretary's certificate authorizing the counsel to sign and execute the certification against forum shopping cured the defect of respondent's complaint. Besides, the merits of the instant case justify the liberal application of the rules.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated May 7, 1999 which affirmed the Order of the Regional Trial Court of Marikina, Branch 272, denying petitioner's motion to dismiss, is AFFIRMED. The Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court of Marikina, Branch 272, is hereby DIRECTED to continue with the proceedings in Civil Case No. 97-341-MK with dispatch.

With costs.


Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario and Nachura, JJ., concur.


1. Rollo,pp. 62-71. Penned by Associate Justice Hector L. Hofile a and concurred in by Associate Justices Omar U. Amin and Teodoro P. Regino.

2. Id. at 598-602. Penned by Judge Reuben P. De La Cruz.


4. Prior to its amendment by

"On locally manufactured cigarettes bearing a foreign brand, fifty-five percent (55%) Provided, That this rate shall apply regardless of whether or not the right to use or title to the foreign brand was sold or transferred by its owner to the local manufacturer. Whenever it has to be determined whether or not a cigarette bears a foreign brand, the listing of brands manufactured in foreign countries appearing in the current World Tobacco Directory shall govern."

5. Pertinent portion thereof, states:

SEC. 142. Cigars and Cigarettes.

xxx xxx xxx

(c) Cigarettes packed by machine. There shall be levied, assessed and collected on cigarettes packed by machine a tax at the rates prescribed below based on the constructive manufacturer's wholesale price or the actual manufacturer's wholesale price, whichever is higher:

(1) On locally manufactured cigarettes which are currently classified and taxed at fifty-five percent (55%) or the exportation of which is not authorized by contract or otherwise, fifty-five (55%) provided that the minimum tax shall not be less than Five Pesos (P5.00) per pack.

(2) On other locally manufactured cigarettes, forty-five percent (45%) provided that the minimum tax shall not be less than Three Pesos (P3.00) per pack.

6. ,supra note 3 at 1001-1003; Separate Opinion of Justice Josue N. Bellosillo, id. at 1014-1015.

7. Id. at 1004.

8. Rollo,pp. 542-543.

9. Id. at 569.

10. Supra note 3. The motion for reconsideration of the Court's Decision was denied with finality on October 7, 1996. ETaSDc

11. Rollo,pp. 533-552.

12. Id. at 555-584.

13. Id. at 602. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied on December 4, 1997 (Rollo,pp. 603-606).

14. No. L-22554, August 29, 1975, 66 SCRA 299.

15. ,G.R. No. 75959, August 31, 1992, 213 SCRA 109, 126, cited in Agpalo, Philippine Administrative Law, 2004 edition, p. 473.

16. ,G.R. No. 86147, February 26, 1990, 182 SCRA 721, 728.

17. ,G.R. No. 82220, July 14, 1995, 246 SCRA 162, 174.

18. G.R. No. 119398, July 2, 1999, 309 SCRA 602, 604.

19. Agpalo, Statutory Construction, second edition (1990),p. 197.

20. Id. at 197-198.

21. Id. at 198.

22. G.R. No. L-23052, January 29, 1968, 22 SCRA 267.

23. Id. at 269-270. Emphasis supplied.

24. G.R. No. L-41613, December 17, 1976, 74 SCRA 306, 311-312. (Emphasis added)

25. Report of the Special Joint Committee of the Congress on the Amendments to the ,supra note 14 at 309. Article 32 of the ,G.R. No. L-69866, April 15, 1988, 160 SCRA 590; ,G.R. No. 86720, September 2, 1994, 236 SCRA 227; ,supra note 18; ,G.R. No. 120852, October 28, 1999, 317 SCRA 594; ,G.R. No. 141176, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 449; ,G.R. No. 163087, February 20, 2006, 482 SCRA 660.

26. ,supra.

27. Report of the Special Joint Committee of the Congress on the Amendments to the

28. 74 Am Jur 2d, Torts, Section 1, 620.

29. Id.,Section 6, 623-624.

30. Id. at 624.

31. In the report on the Special Joint Committee of the Congress on the Amendments to the

CONGRESSMAN DE LEON. So that Mr. Justice, under the provisions Article 32 of the

DEAN BOCOBO. It would not be good faith but it would be inherent justifiability of the act, which is up to our courts to decide under the peculiar circumstance of each case, because we had back in our minds the old saying that "Hell is paved with good intentions." (Lawyers' Journal, No. 5, May 31, 1951, p. 259.)

32. Supra note 25.

33. ,G.R. No. 159653, January 25, 2006, 480 SCRA 137, 144-145.