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[No. L-9605. September 30, 1957] Erezo, et al. vs.

Jepte
GAUDIOSO EREZO, ET AL., plaintiffs. GAUDIOSO
EREZO, plaintiff and appellee, vs. AGUEDO JEPTE, 1. does not bear any essential relation to the contract of
defendant and appellant. sale between the parties (Chinchilla vs. Rafael and
Verdaguer 39 Phil. 886), but to permit the use and
1. 1.DAMAGES; MOTOR VEHICLES; PUBLIC operation of the vehicle upon any public highway
SERVICE LAW; REGISTERED OWNER AS (Section 5 (a) Act No. 3992, as amended).
ACTUAL OWNER.In dealing with vehicles
registered under the Public Service Law, the public 1. 4.ID. ; ID. ; ID. ; AIM OR PURPOSE OF MOTOR
has the right to assume or presume that the VEHICLE REGISTRATION.The main aim of
registered owner is the actual owner thereof, for it motor vehicle registration is to identify the owner so
would be difficult for the Public to enforce the actions that if any accident happens, or that any damage or
that they may have for injuries caused to them by injury is caused, by the vehicle on the public
the vehicles being negligently operated if the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed on a
should be required to prove who the actual owner is. definite individual, the registered owner.

1. 2.lD.; ID.; REGISTERED OWNER PRIMARILY 1. 5.ID.; ID.; EVIDENCE; REGISTERED OWNER NOT
RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURIES.The registered ALLOWED TO PROVE ACTUAL AND REAL
owner of any vehicle, even if not used for a public OWNER OF VEHICLE; POLICY OF THE
service, should primarily be responsible to the public LAW. The law does not allow the registered owner
or to third persons for injuries caused the latter to prove who the actual owner is; the law, with its
while the vehicle is being driven on the highways or aim and policy in mind, does not relieve him directly
streets. of the responsibility that the law fixes and places
upon him as an incident or consequence of
1. 3.ID.; MOTOR VEHICLES OFFICE; registration. Were the registered owner allowed to
REGISTRATION REQUIRED AS PERMISSION evade responsibility by proving who the supposed
TO USE PUBLIC HIGHWAY.Registration is transferee or owner is, it would be easy for him by
required not to make said registration the operative collusion with others or otherwise, to escape said
act by which ownership in vehicles is transferred as responsibility and transfer the same to an indefinite
in land registration cases, because the person, or to one who possesses no property with
administrative proceeding of registration which to respond financially for the damage or
injury done.
104
104 PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED
1. 6.ID. ; ID. ; ID. ; ID. ; ID. ; REGISTRATION AS APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First
MEANS TO IDENTIFY PERSON CAUSING Instance of Manila.
INJURY OR DAMAGE.A victim of recklessness
on the public highways is usually without means to The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
discover or identify the person actually causing the Gesolgon, Matti & Custodio for appellees.
injury or damage. He has no means other than by a Aguedo Y. Jepte in his own behalf.
recourse to the registration in the Motor Vehicles
Office to determine who is the owner. The protection LABRADOR, J.:
that the law aims to extend to him would become
illusory were the registered owner given the Appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance
opportunity to escape liability by disproving his
of Manila ordering defendant to pay plaintiff Gaudioso
ownership. If the policy of the law is to be enforced
Erezo P3,000 on the death of Ernesto Erezo, son of
and carried out, the registered owner should not be
allowed to prove the contrary to the prejudice of the plaintiff Gaudioso Erezo.
person injured, that is to prove that a third person Defendant-appellant is the registered owner of a six
or another has become the owner, so that he may by six truck bearing plate No. TC-1253. On August 9,
thereby be relieved of the responsibility to the 1949, while the same was being driven by Rodolfo
injured person. Espino y Garcia, it collided with a taxicab at the
intersection of San Andres and Dakota Streets, Manila.
1. 7.lD.; MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTERED OWNER AS As the truck went off the street, it hit Ernesto Erezo and
PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE; RIGHT OF another, and the former suffered injuries, as a result of
REIMBURSEMENT.The registered owner of a which he died. The driver was prosecuted for homicide
motor vehicle is primarily responsible for the through reckless negligence in criminal case No. 10663
damage caused to the vehicle of the plaintiff-
of the Court of First Instance of Manila. The accused
appellee but the registered owner has a right to be
indemnified by the real or actual owner of the
pleaded guilty and was sentenced to suffer
amount that he may be required to pay as damage imprisonment and to pay the heirs of Ernesto Erezo the
for the injury caused to the plaintiff-appellant. sum of P3,000. As the amount of the judgment could not
be enforced against him, plaintiff brought this action
105 against the registered owner of the truck, the
VOL. 102, SEPTEMBER 30, 1957 105 defendant-appellant. The circumstances material to the
Erezo, et al. vs. Jepte case are stated by the court in its decision:
"The defendant does not deny that at the time of the fatal
accident the cargo truck driven by Rodolfo Espino y Garcia
was registered in his name. He, however, claims that the
vehicle belonged to the Port Brokerage, of which he was the by the operation of said vehicle, even though the same
broker at the time of the accident. He explained, and his had been transferred to a third person.
explanation was corroborated by Policarpio Franco, the (Montoya vs. Ignacio, 94 Phil., 182, 50 Off. Gaz.,
manager of the corporation, that the trucks of the 108; Roque vs. Malibay Transit Inc., G. R. No. L-8561,
1

corporation were registered in his name as a convenient


November 18, 1955; Vda. de Medina vs. Cresencia, 99
arrangement so as to enable the corporation to pay the
Phil., 506, 52 Off. Gaz., [10], 4606.) The principle upon
registration fee with his backpay as a pre-war government
employee. Franco, however, admitted that the arrangement which this doctrine is based is that in dealing with
was not known to the Motor Vehicles Office." vehicles registered under the Public Service Law, the
106 public has the right to assume or presume that the
106 PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED registered owner is the actual owner thereof, for it
Erezo, et al. vs. Jepte would be difficult for the public to enforce the actions
The trial court held that as the defendant-appellant that they may have for injuries caused to them by the
represented himself to be the owner of the truck and the vehicles being negligently operated if the public should
Motor Vehicles Office, relying on his representation, be required to prove who the actual owner is. How
registered the vehicles in his name, the Government would the public or third persons know against whom
and all persons affected by the representation had the to enforce their rights in case of subsequent transfers of
right to rely on his declaration of ownership and the vehicles? We do not imply by this doctrine,
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registration. It, therefore, held that defendant-
appellant is liable because he cannot be permitted to 1197 Phil., 1004.
repudiate his own declaration. (Section 68' [a], Rule 107
123, and Art. 1431, New Civil Code.) VOL. 102, SEPTEMBER 30, 1957 107
Against the judgment, the defendant has prosecuted Erezo, et al. vs. Jepte
this appeal claiming that at the time of the accident the however, that the registered owner may not recover
relation of employer and employee between the driver whatever amount he had paid by virtue of his liability
and defendant-appellant was not established, it having to third persons from the person to whom he had
been proved at the trial that the owner of the truck was actually sold, assigned or conveyed the vehicle.
the Port Brokerage, of which defendant-appellant was Under the same principle the registered owner of any
merely a broker. We find no merit or justice in the above vehicle, even if not used for a public service, should
contention. In previous decisions, We already have held primarily be responsible to the public or to third persons
that the registered owner of a certificate of public for injuries caused the latter while the vehicle is being
convenience is liable to the public for the injuries or driven on the highways or streets. The members of the
damages suffered by passengers or third persons caused Court are in agreement that the defendant-appellant
should be held liable to plaintiff-appellee for the injuries current year, but that dealers in motor vehicles shall
occasioned to the latter because of the negligence of the furnish the Motor Vehicles Office a report showing the
driver, even if the defendant-appellant was no longer name and address of each purchaser of motor vehicle
the owner of the vehicle at the time of the damage during the previous month and the manufacturer's
because he had previously sold it to another. What is serial number and motor number. (Section 5 [c], Act No.
the legal basis for his (defendant-appellant's) liability? 3992, as amended.)
There is a presumption that the owner of the guilty Registration is required not to make said registration
vehicle is the defendant-appellant as he is the the operative act by which ownership in vehicles is
registered owner in the Motor Vehicles Office. Should transferred, as in land registration cases, because the
he not be allowed to prove the truth, that he had sold it administrative proceeding of registration does not bear
to another and thus shift the responsibility for the any essential relation to the contract of sale between the
injury to the real and actual owner? The defendant parties (Chinchilla vs. Rafael and Verdaguer, 39 Phil.
holds the affirmative of this proposition; the trial court 888), but to permit the use and operation of the vehicle
held the negative. upon any public highway (section 5 [a], Act No. 3992, as
The Revised Motor Vehicles Law (Act No. 3992, as amended). The main aim of motor vehicle registration
amended) provides that no vehicle may be used or is to identify the owner so that if any accident happens,
operated upon any public highway unless the same is or that any damage or injury is caused by the vehicle on
properly registered. It has been stated that the system the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed
of licensing and the requirement that each machine on a definite individual, the registered owner. Instances
must carry a registration number, conspicuously are numerous where vehicles running on public
displayed, is one of the precautions taken to reduce the highways caused accidents or injuries to pedestrians or
danger of injury to pedestrians and other travellers other vehicles without positive identification of the
from the careless management of automobiles, and to owner or drivers, or with very scant means of
furnish a means of ascertaining the identity of persons identification. It is to forestall these circumstances, so
violating the laws and ordinances, regulating the speed inconvenient or prejudicial to the public, that the motor
and operation of machines upon the highways (2 R. C. vehicle registration is primarily ordained, in the
L. 1176). Not only are vehicles to be registered and that interest of the determination of persons responsible for
no motor vehicles are to be used or operated without damages or injuries caused on public highways.
being properly registered for the " 'One of the principal purposes of motor vehicles legislation
108 is identification of the vehicle and of the operator, in case of
108 PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED accident; and another is that the knowledge that means of
Erezo, et al. vs. Jepte detection are always available may act as a deterrent from
lax observance of the law and of the rules of conservative and possesses no property with which to respond financially
safe operation. Whatever purpose there may be in these for the damage or injury done. A victim of recklessness
statutes, it is subordinate at the last to the primary purpose on the public highways is usually without means to
of rendering it certain that the violator of the law or of the discover or identify the person actually causing the
rules of safety shall not escape because of lack of means to
injury or damage. He has no means other than by a
discover him.' The purpose of the statute is thwarted, and the
recourse to the registration in the Motor Vehicles Office
displayed number becomes a 'snare and delusion,' if courts
would entertain such defenses as that put to determine who is the owner. The protection that the
109 law aims to extend to him would become illusory were
VOL. 102, SEPTEMBER 30, 1957 109 the registered owner given the opportunity to escape
Erezo, et al. vs. Jepte liability by disproving his ownership. If the policy of the
forward by appellee in this case. No responsible person or law is to be enforced and carried out, the registered
corporation could be held liable for the most outrageous acts owner should not be allowed to prove the contrary to the
of negligence, if they should be allowed to place a prejudice of the person injured, that is, to prove that a
"middleman' between them and the public, and escape third person or another has become the owner, so that
liability by the manner in which they recompense their he may thereby be relieved of the responsibility to the
servants." (King vs.Brenham Automobile Co., 145 S. W. 278, injured person.
279.) The above policy and application of the law may
With the above policy in mind, the question that appear quite harsh and would seem to conflict with
defendant-appellant poses is: should not the registered truth
owner be allowed at the trial to prove who the actual 110
and real owner is, and in accordance with such proof 110 PHILIPPINE REPORTS ANNOTATED
escape or evade responsibility and lay the same on the Ruiz and Herrera vs. Cabahug, et al.
person actually owning the vehicle? We hold with the and justice. We do not think it is so. A registered owner
trial court that the law does not allow him to do so; the who has already sold or transferred a vehicle has the
law, with its aim and policy in mind, does not relieve recourse to a third-party complaint, in the same action
him directly of the responsibility that the law fixes and brought against him to recover for the damage or injury
places upon him as an incident or consequence of done, against the vendee or transferee of the vehicle.
registration. Were a registered owner allowed to evade The inconvenience of the suit is no justification for
responsibility by proving who the supposed transferee relieving him of liability; said inconvenience is the price
or owner is, it would be easy for him, by collusion with he pays for failure to comply with the registration that
others or otherwise, to escape said responsibility and the law demands and requires.
transfer the same to an indefinite person, or to one who
In synthesis, we hold that the registered owner, the
defendant-appellant herein, is primarily responsible for
the damage caused to the vehicle of the plaintiff-
appellee, but he (defendant-appellant) has a right to be
indemnified by the real or actual owner of the amount
that he may be required to pay as damage for the injury
caused to the plaintiff-appellant.
The judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed, with
costs against defendant-appellant.
Pars, C. J., Bengzon, Bautista
Angelo, Concepcin, Reyes,J. B. L., Endencia, and Felix,
JJ., concur.
Montemayor, J., concurs in the result.
Judgment affirmed.

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