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Quemuel vs.

CA
16 January 1968 | Ponente: Concepcion, C.J. EN BANC Overview: Quemuel was convicted of libel by the TC. He appealed to the CA, who affirmed his conviction but imposed the penalty of imprisonment, a fine, and added an indemnity with subsidiary imprisonment in case of non-payment. Quemuel argued that such is erroneous because the offended party did not make an appeal. He also contended that subsidiary imprisonment in this case violates his constitutional right against imprisonment for non-payment of debt. The SC said that once on appeal, the whole case is for review including the authority to assess damages, and is passed on to the appellate court. As regards the subsidiary imprisonment, civil liability arising from libel is not a debt and hence not within the purview of the constitutional injunction. Statement of Facts Rufo Quemuel was convicted of libel, and sentenced to an indeterminate penalty ranging from three months and eleven days of arresto mayor to one year, eight months, and twenty-one days of prision correccional. Quemuel appealed to the CA. The CA in turn affirmed his conviction but imposed the penalty of imprisonment, a fine of P500.00, and added thereto a P2,000.00 indemnity to the offended party, with subsidiary imprisonment not to exceed six months, in case of insolvency, aside from the costs. Quemuel argues that the decision of the CA is erroneous because: 1) it awarded said indemnity, despite the fact that the offended party had not appealed from the decision of the trial court which made no award of such nature; 2) the assessment of damages in a criminal case, in which the civil action is impliedly included, is vested in trial courts (and not in appellate courts); 3) there is no proof that damages had been sustained by the offended party; and 4) subsidiary imprisonment for non-payment of debt, which is unconstitutional. Issues: 1. Does the CA have the authority to assess damages or indemnify in criminal cases despite the fact that the offended party had not appealed from the decision of the trial court but the accused? YES 2. Was the award of damages proper, despite the allegedly lack of proof of said damages? YES 3. Was the penalty of subsidiary imprisonment in violation of the constitutional right against imprisonment for nonpayment of debt? NO Rationale 1. The appeal in a criminal case opens the whole case for review and this includes the penalty, which may be increased and the indemnity is part of the penalty. a. Bagtas vs. Director of Prisons: The indemnity which a person is sentenced to pay forms an integral part of the penalty, it being expressly provided by Art. 100 of the RPC that every person criminally liable is civilly liable. b. On appeal, the authority to assess damages or indemnify in criminal cases is passed to the appellate court. i. This Court has, in many cases, increased the damages awarded by the trial court, although the only party who sought a review of the decision was the accused. 2. By its very nature, libel causes dishonor, disrepute and discredit. Injury to the reputation of the offended party is a natural and probable consequence of the defamatory words in libel cases. Where the article is libelous per se the law implies damages. Introduction of evidence of actual damages is not required, at least when the amount of the award is more or less nominal. 3. Subsidiary imprisonment for non-payment of said liability does not violate the constitutional injunction. a. The civil liability arising from libel is not a debt, within the purview of the constitutional provision against imprisonment for non-payment of debt. b. Debt means an obligation to pay a sum of money arising from a contract, express or implied. The civil liability in the case at bar arises, however, from a tort or crime, and, hence, from law. Judgment: AFFIRMED Notes: