Case in Point | Two kinds of acquittal; their concepts and effects

Our law recognizes two kinds of acquittal, with different effects on the civil liability of the accused.

First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission complained of. This instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found not to be the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission (Almeida vs. Abaroa, 8 Phil. 178). There being no delict, civil liability ex delicto is out of the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delicto complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure.

The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of evidence only (Manahan vs. CA, 255 SCRA 202; Padilla vs. CA, 129 SCRA 558). This is the situation contemplated in Article 29 of the Civil Code, where the civil action for damages is “for the same act or omission.” Although the two actions have different purposes, the matters discussed in the civil case are similar to those discussed in the criminal case. However, the judgment in the criminal proceeding cannot be read in evidence in the civil action to establish any fact there determined, even though both actions involve the same act or omission. The reason for this rule is that the parties are not the same; and secondarily, different rules of evidence are applicable. Hence, notwithstanding accused’s acquittal, the court in determining whether Article 29 applied was not precluded from looking into the question of the accused’s negligence or reckless imprudence (Manantan vs. CA, et al., G.R. No. 107125, January 29, 2001; Coscolluela v. SB, et al., G.R. No. 191411; Nacionales, et al. v. SB, et al., G.R. No. 191871, July 15, 2013).