Abellana v. Marava [GR L-27760, 29 May 1974]
Second Division, Fernando (p): 4 concur, 1 concur based on paragraph 2 & 3 of opinio

Facts: Francisco Abellana was charged with the City Court of Ozamis City with the crime of physical injuries through reckless imprudence in driving his cargo truck, hitting a motorized pedicab resulting in injuries to its passengers, namely, Marcelo Lamason, Maria Gurrea, Pacienciosa Flores, and Estelita Nemeño. Abellana was found guilty as charged, damages in favor of the offended parties likewise being awarded.

Abellana appealed such decision to the CFI. At this stage, Lamason et.al. filed with another branch of the CFI of Misamis Occidental a separate and independent civil action for damages allegedly suffered by them from the reckless driving of Abellana.   In such complaint, Crispin Abellana, the alleged employer, was included as defendant. Both of them then sought the dismissal of such action principally on the ground that there was no reservation for the filing thereof in the City Court of Ozamis. It was argued by them that it was not allowable at the stage where the criminal case was already on appeal.  The judge in the latter CFI ordered on 28 April 1967 that the City Court judgment is vacated and a trail de novo be conducted. He noted that the offended parties failed to expressly waive the civil action or reserved their right to institute it separately in the City Court; but which they filed in the CFI. In view of the waiver and reservation, the Court would be precluded from judging civil damages against the accused and in favor of the offended parties. the motion to dismiss is denied. A motion for reconsideration was likewise denied. Hence, the petition.

The Supreme Court dismissed the petition with costs against petitioners.

  1. Appeal of judgment in municipal trial court, new trial as if originally instituted in the CFI
    The rule in the jurisdiction of the Court is that upon appeal by the defendant from a judgment of conviction by the municipal court, the appealed decision is vacated and the appealed case shall be tried in all respects anew in the CFI as if it had been originally instituted in that court (Section 7 of Rule 123, People v. Jamisola). So it is in civil cases under Section 9 of Rule 40.  An interpretation that an independent civil action is barred absent a reservation under Section 1 of Rule 111 is a non-sequitur, as the inference does not per se arise from the wordings of the rule and ignores what is explicitly provided in Section 7, Rule 123.
  2. A statute must not be construed in a manner giving rise to a constitutional doubt
    A court is to avoid construing a statute or legal norm in such a manner as would give rise to a constitutional doubt. The grant of power to the Court, both in the present Constitution and under the 1935 Charter, does not extend to any diminution, increase or modification of substantive right.   Thus, substantive right cannot to be frittered away by a construction that could render it nugatory, if through oversight, the offended parties failed at the initial stage to seek recovery for damages in a civil suit. Article 33 of the Civil Code is quite clear when it provides that in cases of physical injuries.