[G.R. No. 147800.
UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK, petitioner, vs. TEOFILO C. RAMOS, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the March 30, 2001 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56737 which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, Branch 148, in Civil Case No. 94-1822.
to Zamboanga Development Corporation (ZDC) with Venicio Ramos and the Spouses
Teofilo Ramos, Sr. and Amelita Ramos as sureties. Teofilo Ramos, Sr. was the Executive Officer
of the Iglesia ni Cristo. In March 1984, the petitioner granted an
additional loan to ZDC, again with Venicio Ramos and the Spouses Teofilo Ramos
and Amelita Ramos as sureties. However, the ZDC failed to pay its account to
the petitioner despite demands. The
latter filed a complaint with the RTC of Makati against the ZDC, Venicio Ramos and the Spouses Teofilo Ramos, Sr. for the
collection of the corporation’s account.
The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 16453. On
1. To pay plaintiff the sum of THREE MILLION
ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (
P3,150,000.00) plus interest,
penalties and other charges;
2. To pay plaintiff the sum of
for attorney’s fees; and
3. To pay the cost of suit.
The decision became final and executory. On motion of the petitioner, the court issued
To help the Sheriff implement the writ, Atty. Cesar Bordalba, the
head of the Litigation and Enforcement Division (LED) of the petitioner,
requested Eduardo C. Reniva, an appraiser of the petitioner’s Credit and
Appraisal Investigation Department (CAID) on
P900,000 and that the owner thereof was Teofilo C. Ramos, married to
Rebecca Ramos. When appraised by the petitioner
of the said report, the Sheriff prepared a notice of levy in Civil Case No.
16453 stating, inter alia, that the
defendants were Teofilo Ramos, Sr. and his wife Amelita Ramos and caused the
annotation thereof by the Register of Deeds on the said title.
Meanwhile, in August of 1993, Ramdustrial Corporation applied for a loan with the UCPB, a sister company of the petitioner, using the property covered by TCT No. 275167 (PR-13108) as collateral therefor. The Ramdustrial Corporation intended to use the proceeds of the loan as additional capital as it needed to participate in a bidding project of San Miguel Corporation. In a meeting called for by the UCPB, the respondent was informed that upon verification, a notice of levy was annotated in TCT No. 275167 in favor of the petitioner as plaintiff in Civil Case No. 16453, entitled United Coconut Planters Bank v. Zamboanga Realty Development Corporation, Venicio A. Ramos and Teofilo Ramos, Sr., because of which the bank had to hold in abeyance any action on its loan application.
The respondent was shocked by the information. He was not a party in the said case; neither was he aware that his property had been levied by the sheriff in the said case. His blood temperature rose so much that immediately after the meeting, he proceeded to his doctor, Dr. Gatchalian, at the St. Lukes Medical Center, who gave the respondent the usual treatment and medication for cardio-vascular and hypertension problems.
Upon advise from his lawyer, Atty. Carmelito Montano, the respondent executed an affidavit of denial declaring that he and Teofilo Ramos, Sr., one of the judgment debtors in Civil Case No. 16453, were not one and the same person. On September 30, 1993, the respondent, through counsel, Atty. Carmelito A. Montano, wrote Sheriff Villapaña, informing him that a notice of levy was annotated on the title of the residential lot of the respondent, covered by TCT No. 275167 (PR-13108); and that such annotation was irregular and unlawful considering that the respondent was not Teofilo Ramos, Sr. of Iglesia ni Cristo, the defendant in Civil Case No. 16453. He demanded that Sheriff Villapaña cause the cancellation of the said annotation within five days from notice thereof, otherwise the respondent would take the appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action against him. Appended thereto was the respondent’s affidavit of denial. For his part, Sheriff Villapaña furnished the petitioner with a copy of the said letter.
In a conversation over the phone with Atty. Carmelito Montano, Atty. Cesar Bordalba, the head of the petitioner’s LED, suggested that the respondent file the appropriate pleading in Civil Case No. 16453 to prove his claim that Atty. Montano’s client, Teofilo C. Ramos, was not defendant Teofilo Ramos, Sr., the defendant in Civil Case No. 16453.
P2,000,000 had been approved.
Despite the cancellation of the notice of levy, the respondent
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of the Honorable Regional Trial Court that after due hearing, judgment be rendered in his favor by ordering defendants jointly and severally, to pay as follows:
as moral damages;
2. 300,000.00 as exemplary damages;
3. 200,000.00 as actual damages;
4. 200,000.00 as attorney’s fees;
5. Cost of suit.
In its answer, the petitioner, while admitting that it made a mistake in causing the annotation of notice of levy on the TCT of the respondent, denied that it was motivated by malice and bad faith. The petitioner alleged that after ascertaining that it indeed made a mistake, it proposed that the respondent file a motion to cancel levy with a promise that it would not oppose the said motion. However, the respondent dilly-dallied and failed to file the said motion; forthwith, if any damages were sustained by the respondent, it was because it took him quite a long time to file the motion. The petitioner should not thus be made to suffer for the consequences of the respondent’s delay.
The petitioner further asserted that it had no knowledge that there were two persons bearing the same name Teofilo Ramos; it was only when Sheriff Villapaña notified the petitioner that a certain Teofilo C. Ramos who appeared to be the registered owner of TCT No. 275167 that it learned for the first time the notice of levy on the respondent’s property; forthwith, the petitioner held in abeyance the sale of the levied property at public auction; barred by the failure of the respondent to file a third-party claim in Civil Case No. 16453, the petitioner could not cause the removal of the levy; in lieu thereof, it suggested to the respondent the filing of a motion to cancel levy and that the petitioner will not oppose such motion; surprisingly, it was only on April 12, 1994 that the respondent filed such motion; the petitioner was thus surprised that the respondent filed an action for damages against it for his failure to secure a timely loan from the UCPB and PDB. The petitioner thus prayed:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that judgment be rendered in favor of defendant UCPB, dismissing the complaint in toto and ordering the plaintiff to:
1. pay moral damages in the amount of PESOS:
P3,000,000.00 and exemplary damages in the amount of
PESOS: FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND P500,000.00;
2. pay attorney’s fees and litigation
expenses in an amount of not less than PESOS: TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND
Other reliefs and remedies deemed just and equitable under the premises are also prayed for.
In the meantime, in 1995, PDB released the proceeds of the loan of Ramdustrial Corporation which the latter remitted to UCPB.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant UCPB, and the latter is hereby ordered to pay the following:
P800,000.00 as moral damages;
as exemplary damages;
as attorney’s fees;
(4) Cost of suit.
The trial court found that contrary to the contention of the petitioner, it acted with caution in looking for leviable properties of the judgment debtors/defendants in Civil Case No. 16453, it proceeded with haste as it did not take into consideration that the defendant Teofilo Ramos was married to Amelita Ramos and had a “Sr.” in his name, while the respondent was married to Rebecca Ramos and had “C” for his middle initial. The investigation conducted by CAID appraiser Eduardo C. Reniva did not conclusively ascertain if the respondent and Teofilo Ramos, Sr. were one and the same person.
The trial court further stated that while it was Ramdustrial Corporation which applied for a loan with UCPB and PDB, the respondent, as Chairman of Ramdustrial Corporation, with his wife Rebecca Ramos, signed in the promissory note and acted as sureties on the said obligations. Moreover, the property which was levied was the respondent’s only property where he and his family resided. Thus, the thought of losing it for reasons not of his own doing gave rise to his entitlement to moral damages.
The trial court further ruled that the mere fact that the petitioner did not file an opposition to the respondent’s motion to cancel levy did not negate its negligence and bad faith. However, the court considered the cancellation of annotation of levy as a mitigating factor on the damages caused to the respondent. For failure to show that he suffered actual damages, the court a quo dismissed the respondent’s claim therefor.
Dissatisfied, the petitioner interposed an appeal to the Court of
Appeals (CA). On
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the assailed decision is hereby AFFIRMED.
The CA ruled that the petitioner was negligent in causing the annotation of notice of levy on the title of the petitioner for its failure to determine with certainty whether the defendant Teofilo Ramos, Sr. in Civil Case No. 16453 was the registered owner of the property covered by TCT No. 275167, and to inform the sheriff that the registered owners of the property were the respondent and his wife Rebecca Ramos, and thereafter request for the cancellation of the motion of levy on the property.
Disappointed, the petitioner filed this instant petition assigning the following errors:
IN AFFIRMING THE TRIAL COURT’S ORDER, THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED MANIFESTLY MISTAKEN INFERENCES AND EGREGIOUS MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS AND GRAVE ERRORS OF LAW, CONSIDERING THAT:
A. ON THE EVIDENCE, THE BORROWER OF THE LOAN, WHICH RESPONDENT RAMOS CLAIMED HE TRIED TO OBTAIN, WAS RAMDUSTRIAL CORPORATION. HENCE, ANY DAMAGE RESULTING FROM THE ANNOTATION WAS SUFFERED BY THE CORPORATION AND NOT BY RESPONDENT RAMOS.
B. THE DELAY IN THE CANCELLATION OF THE ANNOTATION WAS OF RESPONDENT RAMOS’S (SIC) OWN DOING.
C. THE LOAN APPLICATIONS WITH UNITED COCONUT SAVINGS BANK AND PLANTERS DEVELOPMENT BANK WERE GRANTED PRIOR TO THE CANCELLATION OF THE ANNOTATION ON THE TITLE OF THE SUBJECT PROPERTY.
THE COURT OF APPEALS’ DECISION AFFIRMING
THE TRIAL COURT’S AWARD OF MORAL DAMAGES TO RESPONDENT RAMOS IN THE AMOUNT OF
ON A FINDING OF NEGLIGENCE IS CONTRARY TO LAW AND EVIDENCE.
A. UCPB WAS NOT NEGLIGENT WHEN IT CAUSED THE LEVY ON THE SUBJECT PROPERTY.
B. AS A MATTER OF LAW, MORAL DAMAGES CANNOT BE AWARDED ON A FINDING OF MERE NEGLIGENCE.
C. IN ANY EVENT, THE AWARD OF MORAL DAMAGES TO RESPONDENT RAMOS WAS UNREASONABLE AND OPPRESSIVE.
THE AWARD OF EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AND
ATTORNEY’S FEES IS CONTRARY TO LAW SINCE THE AWARD OF MORAL DAMAGES WAS IMPROPER
UCPB prayed that:
WHEREFORE, petitioner UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK respectfully
prays that this Honorable Court render judgment reversing and setting aside the
Court of Appeals’ Decision dated
In his comment, the respondent alleged that the CA did not err in affirming, in toto, the decision of the trial court. He prayed that the petition be denied due course.
The issues posed for our resolution are the following: (a) whether or not the petitioner acted negligently in causing the annotation of levy on the title of the respondent; (b) if so, whether or not the respondent was the real party-in-interest as plaintiff to file an action for damages against the petitioner considering that the loan applicant with UCPB and PDB was RAMDUSTRIAL CORPORATION; (c) if so, whether or not the respondent is entitled to moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
On the first issue, we rule that the petitioner acted negligently when it caused the annotation of the notice of levy in TCT No. 275167.
It bears stressing that the petitioner is a banking corporation, a financial institution with power to issue its promissory notes intended to circulate as money (known as bank notes); or to receive the money of others on general deposit, to form a joint fund that shall be used by the institution for its own benefit, for one or more of the purposes of making temporary loans and discounts, of dealing in notes, foreign and domestic bills of exchange, coin bullion, credits, and the remission of money; or with both these powers, and with the privileges, in addition to these basic powers, of receiving special deposits, and making collection for the holders of negotiable paper, if the institution sees fit to engage in such business. In funding these businesses, the bank invests the money that it holds in trust of its depositors. For this reason, we have held that the business of a bank is one affected with public interest, for which reason the bank should guard against loss due to negligence or bad faith. In approving the loan of an applicant, the bank concerns itself with proper informations regarding its debtors. The petitioner, as a bank and a financial institution engaged in the grant of loans, is expected to ascertain and verify the identities of the persons it transacts business with. In this case, the petitioner knew that the sureties to the loan granted to ZDC and the defendants in Civil Case No. 94-1822 were the Spouses Teofilo Ramos, Sr. and Amelita Ramos. The names of the Spouses Teofilo Ramos, Sr. and Amelita Ramos were specified in the writ of execution issued by the trial court.
The petitioner, with Atty. Bordalba as the Chief of LED and handling lawyer of Civil Case No. 16453, in coordination with the sheriff, caused the annotation of notice of levy in the respondent’s title despite its knowledge that the property was owned by the respondent and his wife Rebecca Ramos, who were not privies to the loan availment of ZDC nor parties-defendants in Civil Case No. 16453. Even when the respondent informed the petitioner, through counsel, that the property levied by the sheriff was owned by the respondent, the petitioner failed to have the annotation cancelled by the Register of Deeds.
In determining whether or not the petitioner acted negligently, the constant test is: “Did the defendant in doing the negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation? If not, then he is guilty of negligence.” Considering the testimonial and documentary evidence on record, we are convinced that the petitioner failed to act with the reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation.
The petitioner has access to more facilities in confirming the identity of their judgment debtors. It should have acted more cautiously, especially since some uncertainty had been reported by the appraiser whom the petitioner had tasked to make verifications. It appears that the petitioner treated the uncertainty raised by appraiser Eduardo C. Reniva as a flimsy matter. It placed more importance on the information regarding the marketability and market value of the property, utterly disregarding the identity of the registered owner thereof.
It should not be amiss to note that the judgment debtor’s name was Teofilo Ramos, Sr. We note, as the Supreme Court of Washington in 1909 had, that a legal name consists of one given name and one surname or family name, and a mistake in a middle name is not regarded as of consequence. However, since the use of initials, instead of a given name, before a surname, has become a practice, the necessity that these initials be all given and correctly given in court proceedings has become of importance in every case, and in many, absolutely essential to a correct designation of the person intended. A middle name is very important or even decisive in a case in which the issue is as between two persons who have the same first name and surname, did the act complained of, or is injured or sued or the like.
In this case, the name of the judgment debtor in Civil Case No. 16453 was Teofilo Ramos, Sr., as appearing in the judgment of the court and in the writ of execution issued by the trial court. The name of the owner of the property covered by TCT No. 275167 was Teofilo C. Ramos. It behooved the petitioner to ascertain whether the defendant Teofilo Ramos, Sr. in Civil Case No. 16453 was the same person who appeared as the owner of the property covered by the said title. If the petitioner had done so, it would have surely discovered that the respondent was not the surety and the judgment debtor in Civil Case No. 16453. The petitioner failed to do so, and merely assumed that the respondent and the judgment debtor Teofilo Ramos, Sr. were one and the same person.
In sum, we find that the petitioner acted negligently in causing the annotation of notice of levy in the title of the herein respondent, and that its negligence was the proximate cause of the damages sustained by the respondent.
On the second issue, the petitioner insists that the respondent is not the real party-in-interest to file the action for damages, as he was not the one who applied for a loan from UCPB and PDB but Ramdustrial Corporation, of which he was merely the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
We do not agree. The respondent very clearly stated in his complaint that as a result of the unlawful levy by the petitioner of his property, he suffered sleepless nights, moral shock, and almost a heart attack due to high blood pressure.
It must be underscored that the registered owner of the property which was unlawfully levied by the petitioner is the respondent. As owner of the property, the respondent has the right to enjoy, encumber and dispose of his property without other limitations than those established by law. The owner also has a right of action against the holder and possessor of the thing in order to recover it. Necessarily, upon the annotation of the notice of levy on the TCT, his right to use, encumber and dispose of his property was diminished, if not negated. He could no longer mortgage the same or use it as collateral for a loan.
Arising from his right of ownership over the said property is a cause of action against persons or parties who have disturbed his rights as an owner. As an owner, he is one who would be benefited or injured by the judgment, or who is entitled to the avails of the suit for an action for damages against one who disturbed his right of ownership.
Hence, regardless of the fact that the respondent was not the loan applicant with the UCPB and PDB, as the registered owner of the property whose ownership had been unlawfully disturbed and limited by the unlawful annotation of notice of levy on his TCT, the respondent had the legal standing to file the said action for damages. In both instances, the respondent’s property was used as collateral of the loans applied for by Ramdustrial Corporation. Moreover, the respondent, together with his wife, was a surety of the aforesaid loans.
While it is true that the loss of business opportunities cannot be used as a reason for an action for damages arising from loss of business opportunities caused by the negligent act of the petitioner, the respondent, as a registered owner whose right of ownership had been disturbed and limited, clearly has the legal personality and cause of action to file an action for damages. Not even the respondent’s failure to have the annotation cancelled immediately after he came to know of the said wrongful levy negates his cause of action.
On the third issue, for the award of moral damages to be granted, the following must exist: (1) there must be an injury clearly sustained by the claimant, whether physical, mental or psychological; (2) there must be a culpable act or omission factually established; (3) the wrongful act or omission of the defendant is the proximate cause of the injury sustained by the claimant; and (4) the award for damages is predicated on any of the cases stated in Article 2219 of the Civil Code.
In the case at bar, although the respondent was not the loan applicant and the business opportunities lost were those of Ramdustrial Corporation, all four requisites were established. First, the respondent sustained injuries in that his physical health and cardio-vascular ailment were aggravated; his fear that his one and only property would be foreclosed, hounded him endlessly; and his reputation as mortgagor had been tarnished. Second, the annotation of notice of levy on the TCT of the private respondent was wrongful, arising as it did from the petitioner’s negligent act of allowing the levy without verifying the identity of its judgment debtor. Third, such wrongful levy was the proximate cause of the respondent’s misery. Fourth, the award for damages is predicated on Article 2219 of the Civil Code, particularly, number 10 thereof.
Although the respondent was able to establish the petitioner’s negligence, we cannot, however, allow the award for exemplary damages, absent the private respondent’s failure to show that the petitioner acted with malice and bad faith. It is a requisite in the grant of exemplary damages that the act of the offender must be accompanied by bad faith or done in a wanton, fraudulent or malevolent manner.
Attorney’s fees may be awarded when a party is compelled to litigate or to incur expenses to protect his interest by reason of an unjustified act of the other party. In this case, the respondent was compelled to engage the services of counsel and to incur expenses of litigation in order to protect his interest to the subject property against the petitioner’s unlawful levy. The award is reasonable in view of the time it has taken this case to be resolved.
In sum, we rule that the petitioner acted negligently in levying
the property of the respondent despite doubts as to the identity of the
respondent vis-à-vis its judgment
debtor. By reason of such negligent act,
a wrongful levy was made, causing physical, mental and psychological injuries
on the person of the respondent. Such
injuries entitle the respondent to an award of moral damages in the amount of
P800,000. No exemplary damages can be awarded because
the petitioner’s negligent act was not tainted with malice and bad faith. By reason of such wrongful levy, the
respondent had to hire the services of counsel to cause the cancellation of the
annotation; hence, the award of attorney’s fees.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 56737 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. The award for exemplary damages is deleted. No costs.
 Penned by Associate Justice Elvi John S. Asuncion with Associate Justices Cancio C. Garcia and Oswaldo D. Agcaoili concurring.
 Penned by Judge Oscar B. Pimentel.
 Exhibit “5,” Records, p. 150.
 Exhibit “D,” id. at 77.
 Exhibit “7,” Records, pp. 154-155.
 Exhibit “C,” Records, p. 76.
 Exhibit “B,” Records, p. 9.
 Exhibit “6,” id. at 152.
 Exhibit “4,” id. at 144.
 Exhibit “4-A,” id. at 145.
 Exhibit “3,” Records, p. 143.
 Rollo, pp. 105-106.
 Records, p. 203.
 Rollo, p. 74.
Morse, Jr., John T.: A Treatise on the Law of Banks and Banking, Vol. I, 6th
 Carney v. Bigham, 99 P. 21 (1909).
 Records, p. 3.
 Article 428, Civil Code.
 A cause of action exists if the following elements are present: (1) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever means and under whatever law it arises or created; (2) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and (3) an act or omission on the part of such defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages. (Vergara v. Court of Appeals, 319 SCRA 323 ).
 Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases: … 10. Cases and actions referred to in articles 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34 and 35.
 See note 41.