Legally Yours,  Political Law

Torio v. Fontanilla

Constitutional Law. Political Law. Doctrine of State Immunity.
TORIO v. FONTANILLA
GR No. L-29993; October 23, 1978

FACTS:
On October 21, 1978, the Municipal Council of Malasiqui, Pangasinan passed Resolution No. 156 whereby it resolved to manage the 1959 Malasiqui town fiesta celebration on January 21, 22, and 23, 1959. Resolution No. 182 was also passed creating the town fiesta committee with Jose Macaraeg as Chairman. The amount of P100.00 was also appropriated for the construction of two stages, one for the zarzuela and the other for the cancionan. On January 22, while in the midst of the zarzuela, the stage collapsed, pinning Vicente Fontanilla who died thereafter. The heirs of Fontanilla filed a petition for recovery of damages. Defendant councilors contend that they are merely acting as agents of the municipality.

ISSUE:
1)    Is the celebration of a town fiesta authorized by a municipal council a governmental or a corporate function of the municipality?
2)    Are the councilors liable for the death of Fontanilla?

HELD:
The holding of the town fiesta in 1959 by the municipality was an exercise of a private or proprietary function of the municipality. The provision on Section 2282 of the Revised Administrative Code simply gives authority to the municipality to celebrate a yearly fiesta but it does not impose upon it a duty to observe one. It follows that under the doctrine of respondent-superior, the municipality is held liable for damages for the death of Fontanilla. Since it is established that the municipality was acting a proprietary function, it follows that it stands on the same footing as an ordinary private corporation where officers are not held liable for the negligence of the corporation merely because of their official relation to it. Thus, the municipal councilors are absolved from any criminal liability for they did not directly participate in the defective construction of the stage.

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