Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Calanoc vs. CA (98 PHIL 79)

Facts: Basilio was a watchman of the Manila Auto Supply located at the corner of Avenida Rizal and Zurbaran. He secured a life insurance policy from the Philippine American Life Insurance Company in the amount of P2,000 to which was attached a supplementary contract covering death by accident. On January 25, 1951, he died of a gunshot wound on the occasion of a robbery committed in the house of Atty. Ojeda at the corner of Oroquieta and Zurbaran streets. Calanoc, the widow, was paid the sum of P2,000, face value of the policy, but when she demanded the payment of the additional sum of P2,000 representing the value of the supplemental policy, the company refused alleging, as main defense, that the deceased died because he was murdered by a person who took part in the commission of the robbery and while making an arrest as an officer of the law which contingencies were expressly excluded in the contract and have the effect of exempting the company from liability. 

It is contended in behalf of the company that Basilio was killed which "making an arrest as an officer of the law" or as a result of an "assault or murder" committed in the place and therefore his death was caused by one of the risks excluded by the supplementary contract which exempts the company from liability. This contention was upheld by the Court of Appeals. Hence, this petition. 

Issue: Whether or not the death of the victim comes within the purview of the exception clause of the supplementary policy and, hence, exempts the company from liability. 

Held: NO. Basilio was a watchman of the Manila Auto Supply which was a block away from the house of Atty. Ojeda where something suspicious was happening which caused the latter to ask for help. While at first he declined the invitation of Atty. Ojeda to go with him to his residence to inquire into what was going on because he was not a regular policeman, he later agreed to come along when prompted by the traffic policeman, and upon approaching the gate of the residence he was shot and died. The circumstance that he was a mere watchman and had no duty to heed the call of Atty. Ojeda should not be taken as a capricious desire on his part to expose his life to danger considering the fact that the place he was in duty-bound to guard was only a block away. In volunteering to extend help under the situation, he might have thought, rightly or wrongly, that to know the truth was in the interest of his employer it being a matter that affects the security of the neighborhood. No doubt there was some risk coming to him in pursuing that errand, but that risk always existed it being inherent in the position he was holding. He cannot therefore be blamed solely for doing what he believed was in keeping with his duty as a watchman and as a citizen. And he cannot be considered as making an arrest as an officer of the law, as contended, simply because he went with the traffic policeman, for certainly he did not go there for that purpose nor was he asked to do so by the policeman. 

Much less can it be pretended that Basilio died in the course of an assault or murder considering the very nature of these crimes. In the first place, there is no proof that the death of Basilio is the result of either crime for the record is barren of any circumstance showing how the fatal shot was fired. Perhaps this may be clarified in the criminal case now pending in court as regards the incident but before that is done anything that might be said on the point would be a mere conjecture. Nor can it be said that the killing was intentional for there is the possibility that the malefactor had fired the shot merely to scare away the people around for his own protection and not necessarily to kill or hit the victim. In any event, while the act may not exempt the triggerman from liability for the damage done, the fact remains that the happening was a pure accident on the part of the victim. The victim could have been either the policeman or Atty. Ojeda for it cannot be pretended that the malefactor aimed at the deceased precisely because he wanted to take his life. 

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