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6/22/2017 VillanuevavsDomingo:144274:September20,2004:J.

Corona:ThirdDivision:Decision

THIRDDIVISION

[G.R.No.144274.September20,2004]

NOSTRADAMUS VILLANUEVA petitioner, vs. PRISCILLA R. DOMINGO and


LEANDROLUISR.DOMINGO,respondents.

DECISION
CORONA,J.:

[1]
This is a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CV No. 52203
affirminginturnthedecisionofthetrialcourtfindingpetitionerliabletorespondentfordamages.The
dispositiveportionread:

WHEREFORE,theappealeddecisionisherebyAFFIRMEDexcepttheawardofattorneysfeesincluding
appearancefeeswhichisDELETED.
[2]
SOORDERED.

Thefactsofthecase,assummarizedbytheCourtofAppeals,areasfollows:

[Respondent]PriscillaR.DomingoistheregisteredownerofasilverMitsubishiLancerCarmodel1980bearing
plateNo.NDW78191with[corespondent]LeandroLuisR.Domingoasauthorizeddriver.[Petitioner]
NostradamusVillanuevawasthentheregisteredownerofagreenMitsubishiLancerbearingPlateNo.PHK201
91.

On22October1991atabout9:45intheevening,followingagreentrafficlight,[respondent]Priscilla
DomingossilverLancercarwithPlateNo.NDW78191thendrivenby[corespondent]LeandroLuisR.
DomingowascruisingalongthemiddlelaneofSouthSuperhighwayatmoderatespeedfromnorthtosouth.
Suddenly,agreenMitsubishiLancerwithplateNo.PHK20191drivenbyRenatoDelaCruzOcfemiadarted
fromVitoCruzStreettowardstheSouthSuperhighwaydirectlyintothepathofNDW78191therebyhitting
andbumpingitsleftfrontportion.Asaresultoftheimpact,NDW78191hittwo(2)parkedvehiclesatthe
roadside,thesecondhittinganotherparkedcarinfrontofit.

PerTrafficAccidentReportpreparedbyTrafficInvestigatorPfc.PatrocinioN.Acido,RenatodelaCruz
Ocfemiawasdrivingwithexpiredlicenseandpositiveforalcoholicbreath.Hence,ManilaAssistantCity
ProsecutorOscarA.Pascuarecommendedthefilingofinformationforrecklessimprudenceresultingto(sic)
damagetopropertyandphysicalinjuries.

Theoriginalcomplaintwasamendedtwice:first,impleadingAutoPalaceCarExchangeascommercialagent
and/orbuyersellerandsecond,impleadingAlbertJaucianasprincipaldefendantdoingbusinessunderthename
andstyleofAutoPalaceCarExchange.

ExceptforOcfemia,allthedefendantsfiledseparateanswerstothecomplaint.[Petitioner]Nostradamus
Villanuevaclaimedthathewasnolongertheownerofthecaratthetimeofthemishapbecauseitwasswapped
withaPajeroownedbyAlbertJaucian/AutoPalaceCarExchange.Forherpart,LindaGonzalesdeclaredthat
herpresenceatthesceneoftheaccidentwasupontherequestoftheactualowneroftheMitsubishiLancer
(PHK20191)[AlbertJaucian]forwhomshehadbeenworkingasagent/seller.Ontheotherhand,AutoPalace
CarExchangerepresentedbyAlbertJaucianclaimedthathewasnottheregisteredownerofthecar.Moreover,
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itcouldnotbeheldsubsidiaryliableasemployerofOcfemiabecausethelatterwasoffdutyasutilityemployee
[3]
atthetimeoftheincident.NeitherwasOcfemiaperformingadutyrelatedtohisemployment.

Aftertrial,thetrialcourtfoundpetitionerliableandorderedhimtopayrespondentactual,moral
andexemplarydamagesplusappearanceandattorneysfees:

WHEREFORE,judgmentisherebyrenderedfortheplaintiffs,orderingNostradamusVillanuevatopaythe
amountofP99,580asactualdamages,P25,000.00asmoraldamages,P25,000.00asexemplarydamagesand
attorneysfeesintheamountofP10,000.00plusappearancefeesofP500.00perhearingwithlegalinterest
countedfromthedateofjudgment.Inconformitywiththelawonequityandinaccordancewiththerulingin
FirstMalayanLendingandFinanceCorporationvs.CourtofAppeals(supra),AlbertJaucianisherebyordered
toindemnifyNostradamusVillanuevaforwhateveramountthelatterisherebyorderedtopayunderthe
judgment.
[4]
SOORDERED.

TheCAupheldthetrialcourtsdecisionbutdeletedtheawardforappearanceandattorneysfees
becausethejustificationforthegrantwasnotstatedinthebodyofthedecision.Thus,thispetitionfor
reviewwhichraisesasingularissue:

MAYTHEREGISTEREDOWNEROFAMOTORVEHICLEBEHELDLIABLEFORDAMAGES
ARISINGFROMAVEHICULARACCIDENTINVOLVINGHISMOTORVEHICLEWHILEBEING
OPERATEDBYTHEEMPLOYEEOFITSBUYERWITHOUTTHELATTERSCONSENTAND
[5]
KNOWLEDGE?

Yes.

We have consistently ruled that the registered owner of any vehicle is directly and primarily
[6]
responsible to the public and third persons while it is being operated. The rationale behind such
[7]
doctrinewasexplainedwaybackin1957inErezovs.Jepte :

TheprincipleuponwhichthisdoctrineisbasedisthatindealingwithvehiclesregisteredunderthePublic
ServiceLaw,thepublichastherighttoassumeorpresumethattheregisteredowneristheactualownerthereof,
foritwouldbedifficultforthepublictoenforcetheactionsthattheymayhaveforinjuriescausedtothemby
thevehiclesbeingnegligentlyoperatedifthepublicshouldberequiredtoprovewhotheactualowneris.How
wouldthepublicorthirdpersonsknowagainstwhomtoenforcetheirrightsincaseofsubsequenttransfersof
thevehicles?Wedonotimplybyhisdoctrine,however,thattheregisteredownermaynotrecoverwhatever
amounthehadpaidbyvirtueofhisliabilitytothirdpersonsfromthepersontowhomhehadactuallysold,
assignedorconveyedthevehicle.

Underthesameprincipletheregisteredownerofanyvehicle,evenifnotusedforapublicservice,should
primarilyberesponsibletothepublicortothirdpersonsforinjuriescausedthelatterwhilethevehicleisbeing
drivenonthehighwaysorstreets.ThemembersoftheCourtareinagreementthatthedefendantappellant
shouldbeheldliabletoplaintiffappelleefortheinjuriesoccasionedtothelatterbecauseofthenegligenceof
thedriver,evenifthedefendantappellantwasnolongertheownerofthevehicleatthetimeofthedamage
becausehehadpreviouslysoldittoanother.Whatisthelegalbasisforhis(defendantappellants)liability?

Thereisapresumptionthattheowneroftheguiltyvehicleisthedefendantappellantasheistheregistered
ownerintheMotorVehiclesOffice.Shouldhenotbeallowedtoprovethetruth,thathehadsoldittoanother
andthusshifttheresponsibilityfortheinjurytotherealandactualowner?Thedefendantholdstheaffirmative
ofthispropositionthetrialcourtheldthenegative.

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TheRevisedMotorVehicleLaw(ActNo.3992,asamended)providesthatnovehiclemaybeusedoroperated
uponanypublichighwayunlessthesameispropertyregistered.Ithasbeenstatedthatthesystemoflicensing
andtherequirementthateachmachinemustcarryaregistrationnumber,conspicuouslydisplayed,isoneofthe
precautionstakentoreducethedangerofinjurytopedestriansandothertravelersfromthecarelessmanagement
ofautomobiles.Andtofurnishameansofascertainingtheidentityofpersonsviolatingthelawsandordinances,
regulatingthespeedandoperationofmachinesuponthehighways(2R.C.L.1176).Notonlyarevehiclestobe
registeredandthatnomotorvehiclesaretobeusedoroperatedwithoutbeingproperlyregisteredforthecurrent
year,butthatdealersinmotorvehiclesshallfurnishtheeMotorVehiclesOfficeareportshowingthenameand
addressofeachpurchaserofmotorvehicleduringthepreviousmonthandthemanufacturersserialnumberand
motornumber.(Section5(c),ActNo.3992,asamended.)

Registrationisrequirednottomakesaidregistrationtheoperativeactbywhichownershipinvehiclesis
transferred,asinlandregistrationcases,becausetheadministrativeproceedingofregistrationdoesnotbearany
essentialrelationtothecontractofsalebetweentheparties(Chinchillavs.RafaelandVerdaguer,39Phil.888),
buttopermittheuseandoperationofthevehicleuponanypublichighway(section5[a],ActNo.3992,as
amended).Themainaimofmotorvehicleregistrationistoidentifytheownersothatifanyaccidenthappens,or
thatanydamageorinjuryiscausedbythevehicleonthepublichighways,responsibilitythereforecanbefixed
onadefiniteindividual,theregisteredowner.Instancesarenumerouswherevehiclesrunningonpublic
highwayscausedaccidentsorinjuriestopedestriansorothervehicleswithoutpositiveidentificationofthe
ownerordrivers,orwithveryscantmeansofidentification.Itistoforestallthesecircumstances,so
inconvenientorprejudicialtothepublic,thatthemotorvehicleregistrationisprimarilyordained,intheinterest
ofthedeterminationofpersonsresponsiblefordamagesorinjuriescausedonpublichighways:

Oneoftheprincipalpurposesofmotorvehicleslegislationisidentificationofthevehicleandoftheoperator,in
caseofaccidentandanotheristhattheknowledgethatmeansofdetectionarealwaysavailablemayactasa
deterrentfromlaxobservanceofthelawandoftherulesofconservativeandsafeoperation.Whateverpurpose
theremaybeinthesestatutes,itissubordinateatthelasttotheprimarypurposeofrenderingitcertainthatthe
violatorofthelaworoftherulesofsafetyshallnotescapebecauseoflackofmeanstodiscoverhim.The
purposeofthestatuteisthwarted,andthedisplayednumberbecomesashareanddelusion,ifcourtswould
entertainsuchdefensesasthatputforwardbyappelleeinthiscase.Noresponsiblepersonorcorporationcould
beheldliableforthemostoutrageousactsofnegligence,iftheyshouldbeallowedtopaceamiddleman
betweenthemandthepublic,andescapeliabilitybythemannerinwhichtheyrecompenseservants.(Kingvs.
BrenhamAutomobileCo.,Inc.145S.W.278,279.)

Withtheabovepolicyinmind,thequestionthatdefendantappellantposesis:shouldnottheregisteredownerbe
allowedatthetrialtoprovewhotheactualandrealowneris,andinaccordancewithsuchproofescapeorevade
responsibilitybyandlaythesameonthepersonactuallyowningthevehicle?Weholdwiththetrialcourtthat
thelawdoesnotallowhimtodosothelaw,withitsaimandpolicyinmind,doesnotrelievehimdirectlyofthe
responsibilitythatthelawfixesandplacesuponhimasanincidentorconsequenceofregistration.Werea
registeredownerallowedtoevaderesponsibilitybyprovingwhothesupposedtransfereeorowneris,itwould
beeasyforhim,bycollusionwithothersorotherwise,toescapesaidresponsibilityandtransferthesametoan
indefiniteperson,ortoonewhopossessesnopropertywithwhichtorespondfinanciallyforthedamageor
injurydone.Avictimofrecklessnessonthepublichighwaysisusuallywithoutmeanstodiscoveroridentifythe
personactuallycausingtheinjuryordamage.Hehasnomeansotherthanbyarecoursetotheregistrationinthe
MotorVehiclesOfficetodeterminewhoistheowner.Theprotectionthatthelawaimstoextendtohimwould
becomeillusoryweretheregisteredownergiventheopportunitytoescapeliabilitybydisprovinghisownership.
Ifthepolicyofthelawistobeenforcedandcarriedout,theregisteredownershouldnotbeallowedtoprovethe
contrarytotheprejudiceofthepersoninjured,thatis,toprovethatathirdpersonoranotherhasbecomethe
owner,sothathemaytherebyberelievedoftheresponsibilitytotheinjuredperson.

Theabovepolicyandapplicationofthelawmayappearquiteharshandwouldseemtoconflictwithtruthand
justice.Wedonotthinkitisso.Aregisteredownerwhohasalreadysoldortransferredavehiclehasthe
recoursetoathirdpartycomplaint,inthesameactionbroughtagainsthimtorecoverforthedamageorinjury
done,againstthevendeeortransfereeofthevehicle.Theinconvenienceofthesuitisnojustificationfor

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relievinghimofliabilitysaidinconvenienceisthepricehepaysforfailuretocomplywiththeregistrationthat
thelawdemandsandrequires.

Insynthesis,weholdthattheregisteredowner,thedefendantappellantherein,isprimarilyresponsibleforthe
damagecausedtothevehicleoftheplaintiffappellee,buthe(defendantappellant)hasarighttobeindemnified
bytherealoractualowneroftheamountthathemayberequiredtopayasdamagefortheinjurycausedtothe
[8]
plaintiffappellant.

Petitionerinsiststhatheisnotliablefordamagessincethedriverofthevehicleatthetimeofthe
accident was not an authorized driver of the new (actual) owner of the vehicle. He claims that the
[9]
rulinginFirstMalayanLeasingandFinanceCorporationvs.CA impliesthattoholdtheregistered
ownerliablefordamages,thedriverofthevehiclemusthavebeenauthorized,allowedandpermitted
by its actual owner to operate and drive it.Thus, if the vehicle is driven without the knowledge and
consentoftheactualowner,thentheregisteredownercannotbeheldliablefordamages.
[10]
HefurtherarguesthatthiswastheunderlyingtheorybehindDuavitvs.CA whereinthecourt
absolvedtheregisteredownerfromliabilityafterfindingthatthevehiclewasvirtuallystolenfromthe
owners garage by a person who was neither authorized nor employed by the owner. Petitioner
concludesthattherulinginDuavitandnottheoneinFirstMalayanshouldbeapplicabletohim.
Petitioners argument lacks merit. Whether the driver is authorized or not by the actual owner is
irrelevanttodeterminingtheliabilityoftheregisteredownerwhothelawholdsprimarilyanddirectly
responsibleforanyaccident,injuryordeathcausedbytheoperationofthevehicleinthestreetsand
highways. To require the driver of the vehicle to be authorized by the actual owner before the
registeredownercanbeheldaccountableistodefeattheverypurposewhymotorvehiclelegislations
areenactedinthefirstplace.
Furthermore,thereisnothinginFirstMalayanwhichevenremotelysuggeststhatthedrivermust
beauthorizedbeforetheregisteredownercanbeheldaccountable.InFirstMalayan,theregistered
owner,FirstMalayanCorporation,washeldliablefordamagesarisingfromtheaccidentevenifthe
vehicleinvolvedwasalreadyownedbyanotherparty:

ThisCourthasconsistentlyruledthatregardlessofwhotheactualownerisofamotorvehiclemightbe,the
registeredowneristheoperatorofthesamewithrespecttothepublicandthirdpersons,andassuch,directly
andprimarilyresponsiblefortheconsequencesofitsoperation.Incontemplationoflaw,theowner/operatorof
recordistheemployerofthedriver,theactualoperatorandemployerbeingconsideredmerelyashisagent
(MYCAgroIndustrialCorporationvs.Vda.deCaldo,132SCRA10,citingVargasvs.Langcay,6SCRA174
Tamayovs.Aquino,105Phil.949).

Webelievethatitisimmaterialwhetherornotthedriverwasactuallyemployedbytheoperatorofrecord.Itis
evennotnecessarytoprovewhotheactualownerofthevehicleandtheemployerofthedriveris.Grantingthat,
inthiscase,thefatherofthedriveristheactualownerandthatheistheactualemployer,followingthewell
settledprinciplethattheoperatorofrecordcontinuestobetheoperatorofthevehicleincontemplationoflaw,
asregardsthepublicandthirdperson,andassuchisresponsiblefortheconsequencesincidenttoitsoperation,
wemustholdandconsidersuchowneroperatorofrecordastheemployer,incontemplationoflaw,ofthe
driver.And,togiveeffecttothispolicyoflawasenunciatedintheaboveciteddecisionsofthisCourt,wemust
[11]
nowextendthesameandconsidertheactualoperatorandemployerastheagentoftheoperatorofrecord.

Contrary to petitioners position, the First Malayan ruling is applicable to him since the case
involves the same set of facts the registered owner had previously sold the vehicle to someone
elseandwasbeingdrivenbyanemployeeofthenew(actual)owner.Duavitisinapplicablesincethe
vehicle there was not transferred to another the registered and the actual owner was one and the
sameperson.Besides,inDuavit,thedefenseoftheregisteredowner,GilbertoDuavit,wasthatthe
vehiclewaspracticallystolenfromhisgaragebyOscarSabiano,asaffirmedbythelatter:

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DefendantSabiano,inhistestimony,categoricallyadmittedthathetookthejeepfromthegarageofdefendant
Duavitwithouttheconsentandauthorityofthelatter.HetestifiedfurtherthatDuavitevenfiledchargesagainst
himforthetheftofthejeepbutwhichDuavitdidnotpushthroughashis(Sabianos)parentsapologizedto
[12]
Duavitonhisbehalf.

AscorrectlypointedoutbytheCA,theDuavitrulingisnotapplicabletopetitionerscasesincethe
circumstance of unauthorized use was not present. He in fact voluntarily delivered his car to Albert
Jaucian as part of the downpayment for a vehicle he purchased from Jaucian. Thus, he could not
claimthatthevehiclewasstolenfromhimsincehevoluntarilycededpossessionthereoftoJaucian.It
wasthelatter,asthenew(actual)owner,whocouldhaveraisedthedefenseofthefttoprovethathe
was not liable for the acts of his employee Ocfemia. Thus, there is no reason to apply the Duavit
rulingtothiscase.
[13]
The ruling in FirstMalayan has been reiterated in BA Finance Corporation vs. CA and more
[14]
recentlyinAguilar,Sr.vs.CommercialSavingsBank. InBAFinance,weheldtheregisteredowner
liableevenif,atthetimeoftheaccident,thevehiclewasleasedbyanotherpartyandwasdrivenby
thelesseesemployee.InAguilar,theregisteredownerbankansweredfordamagesfortheaccident
evenifthevehiclewasbeingdrivenbytheVicePresidentoftheBankinhisprivatecapacityandnot
asanofficeroftheBank,asclaimedbytheBank.Wefindnoreasontodeviatefromthesedecisions.
Themainpurposeofvehicleregistrationistheeasyidentificationoftheownerwhocanbeheld
responsible for any accident, damage or injury caused by the vehicle. Easy identification prevents
inconvenienceandprejudicetoathirdpartyinjuredbyonewhoisunknownorunidentified.Toallowa
registeredownertoescapeliabilitybyclaimingthatthedriverwasnotauthorizedbythenew(actual)
ownerresultsinthepublicdetrimentthelawseekstoavoid.
Finally,theissueofwhetherornotthedriverofthevehicleduringtheaccidentwasauthorizedis
not at all relevant to determining the liability of the registered owner. This must be so if we are to
comply with the rationale and principle behind the registration requirement under the motor vehicle
law.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The January 26, 2000 decision of the Court of
AppealsisAFFIRMED.
SOORDERED.
Panganiban(Chairman)andSandovalGutierrez,JJ.,concur.
CarpioMorales,J.,onleave.

[1]
PennedbyAssociateJusticeBuenaventuraJ.GuerreroandconcurredinbyAssociateJusticesHilarionL.Aquinoand
ElviJohnS.AsuncionoftheEighthDivision.
[2]
CourtofAppealsDecision,Rollo,p.30.
[3]
Rollo,pp.2425.
[4]
Rollo,pp.2324.
[5]
PetitionforReview,Rollo,p.10.
[6]
St.Marys Academy vs. Carpitanos, et al., 426 Phil 878 (2002) BA Finance Corporation vs. CA, G.R. No. 98275, 13
November1992,215SCRA715,720,citingErezovs.Jepte,102Phil103(1957).
[7]
102Phil103(1957).
[8]
Ibidat106110.

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[9]
G.R.No.91378,9June1992,209SCRA660.
[10]
G.R.No.82318,18May1989,173SCRA490.
[11]
Supranote9at663.
[12]
Supranote10at493.
[13]
G.R.No.98275,13November1992,215SCRA715.
[14]
412Phil834(2001).

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