Karate chop costs ex-solon P300k
The Court of Appeals has ordered former San Juan Rep. Jose Mari Gonzalez to pay P200,000 in damages to the widow of ex-House of Representatives sergeant-at-arms Bayani Fabic after it found him liable for slapping the latter during heated deliberations in November 2000 that led to then President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment.
At the same time, the court’s 10th Division upheld the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s decision three years ago that found Gonzalez civilly liable and directed him to pay Fabic P100,000 in lawyers’ fees as well as litigation costs.
Editha Atienza, Fabic’s wife, replaced her husband as the complainant after he passed away on Aug. 17, 2011.
In a 19-page decision written by Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, the appellate court said it found “no cogent reason to reverse the [lower] court’s findings on Gonzalez’s liability.”
The other division members, Justices Angelita Gacutan and Francisco Acosta, concurred with Peralta.
However, they lowered to P200,000 from P500,000 the amount of damages awarded by the lower court to Fabic as they noted that “moral damages are not intended to impose a penalty [on] the wrongdoer [or] enrich the claimant at the expense of the defendant.”
Gonzalez, a movie actor in the ’60s, was seen on live television slapping Fabic during the uproar that ensued in the House session hall after then Speaker Manuel Villar Jr. read the articles of impeachment against Estrada.
He later said it was not a slap but a karate chop although the appellate court said he failed to present evidence to support his claim that his action was justified.
“It bears stressing that whether the blow administered by defendant-appellant was a slap or karate chop is immaterial. In the exercise of rights and performance of duties, everyone must act with justice,” it stressed.
In his defense, Gonzalez said he lost his temper because Fabic had ignored his repeated requests to pacify the rowdy crowd in the session hall. The sergeant-at-arms, according to Gonzalez, refused to act because there was no such order from Villar.
Gonzalez subsequently apologized to Fabic and his family several times although the House sergeant-at-arms still sued him in February 2001 after the House ethics committee failed to complete its investigation of the incident.
Citing preponderance of evidence, the QC court ruled in Fabic’s favor in February 2010, prompting Gonzalez to elevate the case to the Court of Appeals.
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