CASE 2014-0023: RAUL H. SESBRENO, Petitioner, -versus- HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, JUAN I. COROMINA (SUBSTITUTED BY ANITA COROMINA, ELIZABETH COROMINA and ROSIEMARIE COROMINA), VICENTE E. GARCIA (SUBSTITUTED BY EDGAR JOHN GARCIA), FELIPE CONSTANTINO, RONALD ARCILLA, NORBETO ABELLANA, DEMETRIO BALICHA, ANGELITA LHUILLIER, JOSE E. GARCIA, AND VISAY AN ELECTRIC COMPANY (VECO), Respondents. (G.R. No. 160689, 26 MARCH 2014, BERSAMIN, J.) SUBJECT/S: ABUSE OF RIGHTS. (BRIEF TITLE: SESBRENO VS. C.A.)
WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the pet1t1on for review on certiorari; AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on March 10, 2003; and DIRECTS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.
THE VISAYAN ELECTRIC COMPANY (VECO) SENT A TEAM TO INSPECT PETITIONER’S RESIDENCE FOR ALLEGED ELECTRIC METER TAMPERING. PETITIONER ARGUED THAT SINCE THE TEAM DID NOT HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT THEY VIOLATED SECTION 2, ART 111 OF THE 1987 CONSTITUION WHICH GUARANTEES THE RIGHT OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES. WHAT DOES SECTION 2 PROVIDES?
Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
PETITIONER STATES THAT A VIOLATION OF THIS CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTY RENDERED VECO AND ITS VOS TEAM LIABLE TO HIM FOR DAMAGES BY VIRTUE OF ARTICLE 32 (9) OF THE CIVIL CODE, WHICH PERTINENTLY PROVIDES:
Article 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: x x x x (9) The right to be secured in one’s person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures; x x x x.
IS PETITIONER’S CONTENTION CORRECT?
THE CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEE APPLIES ONLY IF THE SEARCH WAS DONE BY THE GOVERNMENT. VECO AND ITS TEAM ARE NOT GOVERNMENT AGENTS. NOT BEING AGENTS OF THE STATE, THEY DID NOT HAVE TO FIRST OBTAIN A SEARCH WARRANT TO DO SO.
The constitutional guaranty against unlawful searches and seizures is intended as a restraint against the Government and its agents tasked with law enforcement. It is to be invoked only to ensure freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of State power. The Court has made this clear in its pronouncements, including that made in People v. Marti,17 viz:
If the search is made upon the request of law enforcers, a warrant must generally be first secured if it is to pass the test of constitutionality. However, if the search is made at the behest or initiative of the proprietor of a private establishment for its own and private purposes, as in the case at bar, and without the intervention of police authorities, the right against unreasonable search and seizure cannot be invoked for only the act of private individual, not the law enforcers, is involved. In sum, the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be extended to acts committed by private individuals so as to bring it within the ambit of alleged unlawful intrusion by the government.
BUT BALICHA A TEAM MEMBER WAS A POLICEMAN. DID HIS PRESENCE NOT MAKE THE SEARCH AS A SEARCH BY GOVERNMENT AGENT?
NO. HIS ROLE THERE WAS NOT TO SEARCH BUT ONLY TO PROVIDE SECURITY FOR THE TEAM.
Balicha’s presence participation in the entry did not make the inspection a search by an agent of the State within the ambit of the guaranty. As already mentioned, Balicha was part of the team by virtue of his mission order authorizing him to assist and escort the team during its routine inspection.19 Consequently, the entry into the main premises of the house by the VOC team did not constitute a violation of the guaranty.
WHAT IS THE CONCEPT OF ABUSE OF RIGHTS.
IT PRESCRIBES THAT THAT A PERSON SHOULD NOT USE HIS RIGHT UNJUSTLY OR IN BAD FAITH; OTHERWISE, HE MAY BE LIABLE TO ANOTHER WHO SUFFERS INJURY.
WHAT IS THE RATIONALE FOR SUCH CONCEPT?
TO PRESENT SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES TO BE FOLLOWED FOR THE RIGHTFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE STABILITY OF SOCIAL ORDER.
WHEN DOES SUCH ABUSE OF RIGHTS END?
WHEN THE RIGHT DISAPPEARS, AND IT DISAPPEARS WHEN IT IS ABUSED, ESPECIALLY TO THE PREJUDICE OF OTHERS[;] IT CANNOT BE SAID THAT A PERSON EXERCISES A RIGHT WHEN HE UNNECESSARILY PREJUDICES ANOTHER.”
WHAT ARE THE STANDARDS TO BE OBSERVED IN THE EXERCISE OF ONE’S RIGHTS AND IN THE PERFORMANCE OF ONE’S DUTIES?
ACCORDING TO ART. 19 OF THE CIVIL CODE THE STANDARDS ARE:
(A) TO ACT WITH JUSTICE;
(B) TO GIVE EVERYONE HIS DUE; AND
(C) TO OBSERVE HONESTY AND GOOD FAITH. THE LAW THEREBY RECOGNIZES THE PRIMORDIAL LIMITATION ON ALL RIGHTS – THAT IN THE EXERCISE OF THE RIGHTS, THE STANDARDS UNDER ARTICLE MUST BE OBSERVED.
MUST THE ACT BE ILLEGAL IN ORDER THAT THERE BE ABUSE OF RIGHTS?
ALTHOUGH THE ACT IS NOT ILLEGAL, LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES MAY ARISE SHOULD THERE BE AN ABUSE OF RIGHTS, LIKE WHEN THE ACT IS PERFORMED WITHOUT PRUDENCE OR IN BAD FAITH.
IN ORDER THAT LIABILITY MAY ATTACH UNDER THE CONCEPT OF ABUSE OF RIGHTS, WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS THAT MUST BE PRESENT?
THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS MUST BE PRESENT:
(A) THE EXISTENCE OF A LEGAL RIGHT OR DUTY,
(B) WHICH IS EXERCISED IN BAD FAITH, AND
(C) FOR THE SOLE INTENT OF PREJUDICING OR INJURING ANOTHER.
THERE IS NO HARD AND FAST RULE THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER OR NOT THE PRINCIPLE OF ABUSE OF RIGHTS IS TO BE INVOKED. THE RESOLUTION OF THE ISSUE DEPENDS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF EACH CASE.
Clearly, Sesbreño did not establish his claim for damages if the respondents were not guilty of abuse of rights. To stress, the concept of abuse of rights prescribes that a person should not use his right unjustly or in bad faith; otherwise, he may be liable to another who suffers injury. The rationale for the concept is to present some basic principles to be followed for the rightful relationship between human beings and the stability of social order.21 Moreover, according to a commentator, 22 “the exercise of right ends when the right disappears, and it disappears when it is abused, especially to the prejudice of others[;] [i]t cannot be said that a person exercises a right when he unnecessarily prejudices another.” Article 19 of the Civil Code23 sets the standards to be observed in the exercise of one’s rights and in the performance of one’s duties, namely: (a) to act with justice; (b) to give everyone his due; and (c) to observe honesty and good faith. The law thereby recognizes the primordial limitation on all rights – that in the exercise of the rights, the standards under Article 19 must be observed.24
Although the act is not illegal, liability for damages may arise should there be an abuse of rights, like when the act is performed without prudence or in bad faith. In order that liability may attach under the concept of abuse of rights, the following elements must be present, to wit: (a) the existence of a legal right or duty, (b) which is exercised in bad faith, and (c) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.25 There is no hard and fast rule that can be applied to ascertain whether or not the principle of abuse of rights is to be invoked. The resolution of the issue depends on the circumstances of each case.
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