Occena v. Icamina (G.R. No. 82146)

Facts:

Petitioner Eulogio Occena filed a criminal complaint for Grave Oral Defamation against private respondent Cristina Vegafria alleging that the latter had openly, publicly and maliciously insulted him by uttering that he is a “foolish Barangay Captain, traitor, tyrant and Judas” which caused great and irreparable injury to his person and honor. After trial, Cristina was found guilty of Slight Oral Defamation and was sentenced to pay the fine. However, the trial court did not award damages to petitioner stating that the facts and circumstances did not warrant the awarding of moral damages. Petitioner appealed the civil liability of Cristina but was denied.

Issue:

Whether or not petitioner is entitled to moral damages.

Ruling: YES.

Article 2219, par. (7) of the Civil Code allows the recovery of moral damages in case of libel, slander or any other form of defamation This provision of law establishes the right of an offended party in a case for oral defamation to recover from the guilty party damages for injury to his feelings and reputation. The offended party is likewise allowed to recover punitive or exemplary damages.

It must be remembered that every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown. And malice may be inferred from the style and tone of publication subject to certain exceptions which are not present in the case at bar. Calling petitioner who was a barangay captain an ignoramus, traitor, tyrant and Judas is clearly an imputation of defects in petitioner’s character sufficient to cause him embarrassment and social humiliation. Petitioner testified to the feelings of shame and anguish he suffered as a result of the incident complained of.

From the evidence presented, we rule that for the injury to his feelings and reputation, being a barangay captain, petitioner is entitled to moral damages in the sum of P5,000.00 and a further sum of P5,000.00 as exemplary damages.

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