Published 29 March 2021, The Daily Tribune

It has been said that noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption. Worse, when noise disturbance rises to the level of noise pollution, it becomes just like any other type of pollution, such as air or water pollution.

It can lead to infections, stress and other illnesses. In fact, according to a report released by the World Health Organization some years ago, environmental noise is among the top environmental risks to health.

While indeed not every noise is at a level where it can be considered a pollution, noise, when left unchecked, can be a great source of vexation and disturbance.

Interestingly, back in 2015, House Bill 1035, “An Act Prohibiting the use of Videoke/Karaoke systems and Other Sound Amplifying Equipment that Cause Unnecessary Disturbance to the Public within the Residential Areas, and Providing Penalties Therefor,” was filed with Congress to regulate the use of such videoke/karaoke systems.

The bill proposed to limit the use of such equipment from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. only.

If it can be heard at a distance of at least 50 feet from the place in which it is located, there shall be prima facie evidence of a violation, and the individual or business operating the same shall be punished by a fine of P1,000 or an imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.

Pending the bill’s progression into law, there are already civil remedies available under the law when it comes to noise disturbances.

These are not necessarily limited to boisterous singing or use of videoke/karaoke, either.

Noise is considered a nuisance under our Civil Code when it annoys or offends the senses; or hinders or impairs the use of property.

As can be gleaned from Article 696 of the Civil Code, the owners or possessors of property, even their successors, are liable for such nuisance. Remedies against such a nuisance include abatement and recovery of damages.

Nuisance is either public or private. A public nuisance affects a community or neighborhood or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance, danger or damage upon individuals may be unequal.

A private person may file an action on account of a public nuisance, if it is especially injurious to himself.

In case of a private nuisance, the affected party may file a civil action to claim damages and for abatement of the nuisance without judicial proceedings if the nuisance is considered a nuisance per se, or one which affects the immediate safety of persons and property, it may be summarily abated under the undefined law of necessity.

If it is a nuisance per accidens, or that which depends upon certain conditions and circumstances, and its existence being a question of fact, it cannot be abated without due hearing thereon in a tribunal authorized to decide whether such a thing does in law constitute a nuisance (Rana vs. Wong, GR 192861, 30 June 2014).

By producing excessive noise without regard to the welfare, peace of mind, or tranquility of one’s neighbors, one becomes liable for damages under the law.

Under Article 19 of the Civil Code, every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

Under Article 26, every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons.

Although they may not constitute a criminal offense, they shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief.

Likewise, under Article 682 of the Civil Code, every building or piece of land is subject to the easement which prohibits the proprietor or possessor from committing nuisance through noise, jarring, offensive odor, smoke, heat, dust, water, glare and other causes.

While there is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes tolerable versus actionable noise, the standard is, as with everything, to do to others what you would have them do to you.

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