Gashem Shookat Baksh vs Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 97336 – 219 SCRA 115 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Breach of promise to Marry – Article 21 of the Civil Code

In August 1986, while working as a waitress in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Marilou Gonzales, then 21 years old, met Gashem Shookat Baksh, a 29 year old exchange student from Iran who was studying medicine in Dagupan. The two got really close and intimate. On Marilou’s account, she said that Gashem later offered to marry her at the end of the semester. Marilou then introduced Gashem to her parents where they expressed their intention to get married. Marilou’s parents then started inviting sponsors and relatives to the wedding. They even started looking for animals to slaughter for the occasion.

Meanwhile, Marilou started living with Gashem in his apartment where they had sexual intercourse. But in no time, their relationship went sour as Gashem began maltreating Marilou. Gashem eventually revoked his promise of marrying Marilou and he told her that he is already married to someone in Bacolod City. So Marilou went home and later sued Gashem for damages.

The trial court ruled in favor of Marilou and awarded her P20k in moral damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.

On appeal, Gashem averred that he never proposed marriage to Marilou and that he cannot be adjudged to have violated Filipino customs and traditions since he, being an Iranian, was not familiar with Filipino customs and traditions.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals is correct.

HELD: Yes. Gashem is liable to pay damages in favor of Marilou not really because of his breach of promise to marry her but based on Article 21 of the Civil Code which provides:

Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.

Breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong per se. In this case, it is the deceit and fraud employed by Gashem that constitutes a violation of Article 21 of the Civil Code. His promise of marrying Marilou was a deceitful scheme to lure her into sexual congress. As found by the trial court, Marilou was not a woman of loose morals. She was a virgin before she met Gashem. She would not have surrendered herself to Gashem had Gashem not promised to marry her. Gashem’s blatant disregard of Filipino traditions on marriage and on the reputation of Filipinas is contrary to morals, good customs, and public policy. As a foreigner who is enjoying the hospitality of our country and even taking advantage of the opportunity to study here he is expected to respect our traditions. Any act contrary will render him liable under Article 21 of the Civil Code.

The Supreme Court also elucidated that Article 21 was meant to expand the concepts of torts and quasi delict. It is meant to cover situations such as this case where the breach complained of is not strictly covered by existing laws. It was meant as a legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to specifically enumerate and punish in the statute books – such as the absence of a law penalizing a the breach of promise to marry.

The Supreme Court however agreed with legal luminaries that if the promise to marry was made and there was carnal knowledge because of it, then moral damages may be recovered (presence of moral or criminal seduction), Except if there was mutual lust; or if expenses were made because of the promise (expenses for the wedding), then actual damages may be recovered.

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