G.R. No. 140420      February 15, 2001

SERGIO AMONOY, petitioner,
Spouses JOSE GUTIERREZ and ANGELA FORNIDA, respondents.


Damnum absque injuria. Under this principle, the legitimate exercise of a person's rights, even if it causes loss to another, does not automatically result in an actionable injury. The law does not prescribe a remedy for the loss. This principle does not, however, apply when there is an abuse of a person's right, or when the exercise of this right is suspended or extinguished pursuant to a court order. Indeed, in the availment of one's rights, one must act with justice, give their due, and observe honesty and good faith

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the April 21, 1999 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 41451, which set aside the judgment2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tanay, Rizal. The RTC had earlier dismissed the Complaint for damages filed by herein respondents against petitioner. The dispositive portion of the challenged CA Decision reads as follows:

"WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is SET ASIDE, and in its stead judgment is rendered ordering the defendant-appellee Sergio Amonoy to pay the plaintiffs-appellants bruno and Bernadina Gutierrez as actual damages the sum of [t]wo [h]undred [f]ifty [t]housand [p]esos (P250,000.00)."3

Likewise assailed is the October 19, 1999 CA Resolution,4 which denied the Motion for Reconsideration.

The Facts

The appellate court narrated the factual antecedents of this case as follows:

"This case had its roots in Special Proceedings No. 3103 of Branch I of the CFI of Pasig, Rizal, for the settlement of the estate of the deceased Julio Cantolos, involving six(6) parcels of land situated in Tanay Rizal. Amonoy was the counsel of therein Francisca Catolos, Agnes Catolos, Asuncion Pasamba and Alfonso Formida. On 12 January 1965, the Project of Partition submitted was approved and xxx two (2) of the said lots were adjudicated to Asuncion Pasamba and Alfonso Formilda. The Attorney's fees charged by Amonoy was P27,600.00 and on 20 January 1965 Asuncion Pasamba and Alfonso Formida executed a deed of real estate mortgage on the said two (2) lots adjudicated to them, in favor of Amonoy to secure the payment of his attorney's fees. But it was only on 6 August 1969 after the taxes had been paid, the claims settled and the properties adjudicated, that the estate was declared closed and terminated.

"Asuncion Pasamba died on 24 February 1969 while Alfonso Fornilda passsed away on 2 July 1969. Among the heirs of the latter was his daughter, plaintiff-appellant Angela Gutierrez.

"Because his Attorney's fess thus secured by the two lots were not paid, on 21 January 1970 Amonoy filed for their foreclosure in Civil Code4 No. 12726 entitled Sergio Amonoy vs. Heirs of Asuncion Pasamba and Heirs of Alfonso Fornilda before the CFI of Pasig, Rizal, and this was assigned to Branch VIII. The heirs opposed, contending that the attorney's fees charged [were] unconscionable and that the attorney's fees charged [were] unconscionable and that the agreed sum was only P11,695.92. But on 28 September 1972 judgment was rendered in favor of Amonoy requiring the heirs to pay within 90 days the P27,600.00 secured by the mortgage, P11,880.00 as value of the harvests, and P9,645.00 as another round of attorney's fees. Failing in that, the two (2) lots would be sold at public auction.

"They failed to pay. On 6 February 1973, the said lots were foreclosed and on 23 March 1973 the auction sale was held where Amonoy was the highest bidder at P23,760.00. On 2 May 1973 his bid was judicially confirmed. A deficiency was claimed and to satisfy it another execution sale was conducted, and again the highest bidder was Amonoy at P12,137.50.

"Included in those sold was the lot on which the Gutierrez spouses had their house.

"More than a year after the Decision in Civil Code No. 12726 was rendered, the said decedent's heirs filed on 19 December 1973 before the CFI of Pasig, Rixal[,] Civil case No. 18731 entitled Maria Penano, et al vs. Sergio Amonoy, et al, a suit for the annulment thereof. The case was dismissed by the CFI on 7 November 1977, and this was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on 22 July 1981.

"Thereafter, the CFI on 25 July 1985 issued a Writ of Possession and pursuant to which a notice to vacate was made on 26 August 1985. On Amonoy's motion of 24 April 1986, the Orders of 25 April 1986 and 6 May 1986 were issued for the demolition of structures in the said lots, including the house of the Gutierrez spouses.

"On 27 September 1985 the petition entitled David Fornilda, et al vs Branch 164 RTC Ivth Pasig, Deputy Sheriff Joaquin Antonil and Atty. Sergio Amonoy, G.R. No. L-72306, was filed before the Supreme Court. Among the petitioners was the plaintiff-appellant Angela Gutierrez. On a twin musiyun (Mahigpit na Musiyon Para Papanagutin Kaugnay ng Paglalapastangan) with full titles as fanciful and elongated as their Petisyung (Petisyung Makapagsuri Taglay and Pagpigil ng Utos), a temporary restraining order was granted on 2 June 1986 enjoining the demolition of the petitioners' houses.

"Then on 5 October 1988 a Decision was rendered in the said G.R. No. L-72306 disposing that:

"WHEREFORE, Certiorari is granted; the Order of respondent Trial Court, dated 25 July 1985, granting a Writ of Possession, as well as its Orderd, dated 25 April 1986 and 16 May 1986, directing and authorizing respondent Sheriff to demolish the houses of petitioners Angela and Leocadia Fornilda are hereby ordered returned to petitioners unless some of them have been conveyed to innocent third persons."5

But by the time the Supreme Court promulgated the abovementioned Decision, respondents' house had already been destroyed, supposedly in accordance with a Writ of Demolition ordered by the lower court.

Thus, a Complaint for damages in connection with the destruction of their house was filed by respondents against petitioner before the RTC on December 15, 1989.

In its January 27, 1993 Decision, the RTC dismissed respondents' suit. On appeal, the CA set aside the lower court's ruling and ordered petitioner to pay respondents P250,000 as actual damages. Petitioner then filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was also denied.

The Issue

In his Memorandum,7 petitioner submits this lone issue for our consideration:

"Whether or not the Court of Appeals was correct was correct in deciding that the petition [was] liable to the respondents for damages."8

The Court's Ruling

The Petition has no merit.

Main Issue:

Petitioner's Liability

Well-settled is the maxim that damage resulting from the legitimate exercise of a person's rights is a loss without injury- damnum absque injuria - for which the law gives no remedy.9 In other words, one who merely exercises one's rights does no actionable injury and cannot be held liable for damages.

Petitioner invokes this legal precept in arguing that he is not liable for the demolition of respondents' house. He maintains that he was merely acting in accordance with the Writ of Demolition ordered by the RTC.

We reject this submission. Damnum absque injuria finds no application to this case.

True, petitioner commenced the demolition of respondents' house on May 30, 1986 under the authority of a Writ of Demolition issued by the RTC. But the records show that a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), enjoining the demolition of respondents' house, was issued by the Supreme Court on June 2, 1986. The CA also found, based on the Certificate of Service of the Supreme Court process server, that a copy of the TRO was served on petitioner himself on June 4, 1986.

Petitioner, howeverm, did not heed the TRO of this Court. We agree with the CA that he unlawfully pursued the demolition of respondents' house well until the middle of 1987. This is clear from Respondent Angela Gutierrez's testimony. The appellate court quoted the following pertinent portion thereof:10

"Q.       On May 30, 1986, were they able to destroy your house?

"A.       Not all, a certain portion only

xxx      xxx      xxx

"Q.       Was your house completely demolished?

"A.       No, sir.

xxx      xxx      xxx

"Q.       Until when[,] Mrs. Witness?

"A.       Until 1987.

"Q.       About what month of 1987?

"A.       Middle of the year.

"Q.       Can you tell the Honorable Court who completed the demolition?

A.       The men of Fiscal Amonoy."11

The foregoing disproves the claim of petitioner that the demolition, which allegedly commenced only on May 30, 1986, was completed the following day. It likewise belies his allegation that the demolitions had already ceased when he received notice of the TRO.

Although the acts of petitioner may have been legally justified at the outsset, their continuation after the issuance of the TRO amounted to an insidious abuse of his right. Indubitably, his actions were tainted with bad faith. Had he not insisted on completing the demolition, respondents would not have suffered the loss that engendered the suit before the RTC. Verily, his acts constituted not only an abuse of a right, but an invalid exercise of a right that had been suspended when he received thae TRO from this Court on June 4, 1986. By then he was no longer entitled to proceed with the demolition.

A commentator on this topic explains:

"The exercise of a right ends when the right disappears, and it disappears when it is abused, especially to the prejudice of others. The mask of a right without the spirit of justcie which gives it life, is repugnant to the modern concept of social law. It cannot be said that a person exercises a right when he unnecessarily prejudices another xxx. Over and above the specific precepts of postive law are the supreme norms of justice xxx; and he who violates them violates the law. For this reason it is not permissible to abuse our rights to prejudice others."12

Likewise, in Albenson Enterprises Corp. v. CA,13 the Court discussed the concept of abuse of rights as follows:

"Artilce 19, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, sets certain standards which may be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights but also in the performance of one's duties.These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; recognizes the primordial limitation on all rights: that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible xxx."

Clearly then, the demolition of respondents' house by petitioner, despite his receipt of the TRO, was not only an abuse but also an unlawful exercise of such right. In insisting on his alleged right, he wantonly violated this Court's Order and wittingly caused the destruction of respondents; house.1âwphi1.nęt

Obviously, petitioner cannot invoke damnum absque injuria, a principle premised on the valid exercise of a right.14 Anything less or beyond such exercise will not give rise to the legal protection that the principle accords. And when damage or prejudice to another is occasioned thereby, liability cannot be obscured, much less abated.

In the ultimate analysis, petitioner's liability is premised on the obligation to repair or to make whole the damage caused to another by reason of one's act or omission, whether done intentionally or negligently and whether or not punishable by law.15

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the appealed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.


Melo, Vitug, Gonzaga-Reyes, Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ: concur.


1 Rollo, pp. 34-44. The CA Decision was penned by Justice Roberto A. Barrios, with the concurrence of Justices Godardo A. Jacinto (Division chairman) and Renato C. Dacudao.

2 Rollo, pp. 83-87; written by Judge Gil P. Fernandez.

3 Rollo, p. 41

4 Rollo, pp. 43-44.

5 Rollo, pp. 35-37.

6 The case was deemed submitted for resolution on July 21, 2000, upon receipt by this Court of Respondents' Memorandum signed by Attys. Romeo B. Igot and Liberato F. Mojica. Filed earlier was petitioner's Memorandum, signed by Atty. Gelacio C. Mamaril and Roberto B. Arca.

7 Rollo, pp. 180-210

8 Ibid., p. 192. Upper case used in the original.

9 Custodio v. Court of Appeals, 253 SCRA 483, February 9, 1996; China Banking Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 231 SCRA 472, March 28, 1994; Sba v. Court of Appeals, 189 SCRA 50, Auguts 24, 1990; ilocos Norte Electric Company v. Court of Appeals, 179 SCRA 5, November 6, 1989; Auyong Hian v. CTA, 59 SCRA 110, September 12, 1974.

10 CA Decision, pp. 6-7; rollo, pp. 39-40.

11 TSN, February 12, 1991, pp. 14-15

12 Alicia Gonzales-Decano, Notes on Torts and Damages, p. 97.

13 217 SCRA 16, 24-25, January 11, 1993, per Bidin, J.

14 Globe Mackay Cable and Radio Corp. v. Cout of Appeals, 176 SCRA 778, August 25, 1989.

15 Occena v. Icamina, 181 SCRA 328, January 22, 1990

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