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Vinzons-Chato filed a motion to dismiss the action for damages, noting that: (a) Fortune
Tabaco did not have a cause of action against her because she issued RMC 37-93 in the
performance of her official function and within the scope of her authority; (b) she acted without
malice or bad faith; and (c) Fortune Tobaco's certification againt forum shopping was
G.R. No: 141309
defective. The RTC and CA denied her petition. Hence, the case at bar.
Petitioner/s: Liwayway Vinzons-Chato
Respondent/s:Fortune Tobacco Corporation
Ponente: J. Ynares-Santiago
Action: Certiorari ISSUE 1
Date:June 19, 2007
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? IT DEPENDS.


FACTS 1. 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
1. In June 1993, Congress passed RA 7654. This law officially took effect on July 3, 1993. tasks.
Under this law, locally manufactured cigarettes bearing a foreign brand are subjected to 55%
ad valorem tax. 2. 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
2. On July 1, 1993, or two days before RA 7654 took effect, then BIR Commissioner Liwayway protected by the mantle of immunity for official actions.
Vinzons-Chato issued Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 37-93, which reclassified
Fortune Tobaco Corp.'s brands (Champion, Hope, and More) from local brands subjected to 3. Under Section 38, Book I of the Administrative Code, civil liability may arise where there is
an ad valorem tax at the rate of 20-45% to locally manufactured cigarettes bearing a foreign bad faith, malice, or gross negligence on the part of a superior public officer. And, under
brand subject to the 55% ad valorem tax. A day before the law took effect, BIR Deputy Section 39 of the same Book, civil liability may arise where the subordinate public officers act
Commissioner Victor A. Deoferio, Jr. sent via telefax a copy of RMC 37-93 to Fortune is characterized by willfulness or negligence.
Tobacco but it was addressed to no one in particular.
4. Thus, the rule in this jurisdiction is that a public officer may be validly sued in his/her private
3. Subsequently, Fortune Tobaco filed a petition to have RMC 37-93 reviewed. In capacity for acts done in the course of the performance of the functions of the office, where
Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Court of Appeals, the SC held that the subject circular said public officer: (1) acted with malice, bad faith, or negligence; or (2) where the public
was defective and invalid for having fallen short of the requirements for a valid administrative officer violated a constitutional right of the plaintiff.

4. In April 1997, Fortune Tabaco filed an action for damages against Vinzons-Chato in her
private capacity. The cigarette company noted that she should be held liable for damages
under Article 32 of the Civil Code because her issuance of RMC 37-93 had violated Fortune Which as between Article 32 of the Civil Code and Section 38, Book I of the Administrative
Tobaco's constitutional right against deprivation of property without due process of law and Code should govern in determining whether the instant complaint states a cause of action?
the right to equal protection of the laws. ART. 32 OF THE CIVIL CODE.


HELD May Vinzons-Chato be held liable for damages? YES.

1. Between Sec. 38 of the Adminitrative Code and Art. 32 of the Civil Code, the former is the HELD
general statute and the latter is the specific statute. 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 1. Given the foregoing, it is clear that Vinzons-Chato may be held liable for her actions with or
class. A special statute, as the term is generally understood, is one which relates to particular without the presence of bad faith on her part. But the lower court needs to hear the merits of
persons or things of a class or to a particular portion or section of the state only.. the case first.

2. 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. The rule is that where there
are two acts, one of which is special and particular and the other general, the special law
must prevail since it evinces the legislative intent more clearly than that of a general statute. Vinzons-Chato's petition for the dismissal of the action for damages against her is dismissed
by the Court. Case is remanded to the RTC to continue with the damages proceeding.
3. In this case, Art. 32 is the applicable provision. As per Dean Bocobo, the rationale of Art. 32
is: "The very nature of Article 32 is that the wrong may be civil or criminal. It is not necessary NOTES
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.

4. What is a TORT? 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. Presence of good
motive, or rather, the absence of an evil motive, does not render lawful an act which is
otherwise an invasion of anothers legal right; that is, liability in tort is not precluded by
the fact that defendant acted without evil intent.


Should Fortune Tabacos action for damages against Vinzons-Chato be dismissed for failure
to comply with the rule on certification against forum shopping? NO.


1. The subsequent submission of the Fortune Tobaco secretarys certificate authorizing the
counsel to sign and execute the certification against forum shopping already cured the defect
Vinzons-Chato was complaining about.