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12. G.R. NO.

207970, January 20, 2016

FERNANDO MEDICAL ENTERPRISES, INC., Petitioner,


vs.
WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PHILIPPINES, INC., Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The trial court may render a judgment on the pleadings upon motion of the
claiming party when the defending party's answer fails to tender an issue, or
otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party's pleading. For that
purpose, only the pleadings of the parties in the action are considered. It is error
for the trial court to deny the motion for judgment on the pleadings because the
defending party's pleading in another case supposedly tendered an issue of fact.

The Case

The petitioner appeals the decision promulgated on July 2, 2013, 1 whereby the
Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the order issued on November 23, 2011 by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 1, in Manila, denying its motion for judgment
on the pleadings in Civil Case No. 09-122116 entitled Fernando Medical
Enterprises, Inc. v. Wesleyan University-Philippines.2

Antecedents

From January 9, 2006 until February 2, 2007, the petitioner, a domestic


corporation dealing with medical equipment and supplies, delivered to and
installed medical equipment and supplies at the respondent’s hospital under the
following contracts:

a. Memorandum of Agreement dated January 9, 2006 for the supply of


medical equipment in the total amount of P18,625,000.00; 3

b. Deed of Undertaking dated July 5, 2006 for the installation of medical gas
pipeline system valued at P8,500,000.00;4

c. Deed of Undertaking dated July 27, 2006 for the supply of one unit of
Diamond Select Slice CT and one unit of Diamond Select CV-P costing
P65,000,000.00;5 and

d. Deed of Undertaking dated February 2, 2007 for the supply of furnishings


and equipment worth P32,926,650.00.6

According to the petitioner, the respondent paid only P67,357,683.23 of its total
obligation of P123,901,650.00, leaving unpaid the sum of

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P54,654,195.54.7 However, on February 11, 2009, the petitioner and the
respondent, respectively represented by Rafael P. Fernando and Guillermo T.
Maglaya, Sr., entered into an agreement,8 whereby the former agreed to reduce its
claim to only P50,400,000.00, and allowed the latter to pay the adjusted obligation
on installment basis within 36 months.9

In the letter dated May 27, 2009,10 the respondent notified the petitioner that its
new administration had reviewed their contracts and had found the contracts
defective and rescissible due to economic prejudice or lesion; and that it was
consequently declining to recognize the February 11, 2009 agreement because of
the lack of approval by its Board of Trustees and for having been signed by Maglaya
whose term of office had expired.

On June 24, 2009, the petitioner sent a demand letter to the respondent. 11

Due to the respondent’s failure to pay as demanded, the petitioner filed its
complaint for sum of money in the RTC,12averring as follows:

xxxx

2. On January 9, 2006, plaintiff supplied defendant with hospital medical


equipment for an in consideration of P18,625,000.00 payable in the following
manner: (2.1) For nos. 1 to 9 of items to be sourced from Fernando Medical
Equipment, Inc. (FMEI) – 30% down payment of P17,475,000 or P5,242,500
with the balance of P12,232,500 or 70% payable in 24 equal monthly
instalments of P509,687.50 and (2.2.) cash transaction amounting to
P1,150,000.00 (2.3) or an initial cash payment of P6,392,500.00 with the
remaining balance payable in 24 equal monthly installments every 20th day
of each month until paid, as stated in the Memorandum of Agreement, copy
of which is hereto attached as Annex "A";

3. On July 5, 2006, plaintiff installed defendants medical gas pipeline system


in the latter’s hospital building complex for and in consideration of
P8,500,000.00 payable upon installation thereof under a Deed of
Undertaking, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "B";

4. On July 27, 2006, plaintiff supplied defendant one (1) unit Diamond Select
Slice CT and one (1) unit Diamond Select CV-9 for and in consideration of
P65,000,000.00 thirty percent (30%) of which shall be paid as down payment
and the balance in 30 equal monthly instalments as provided in that Deed
of Undertaking, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "C";

5. On February 2, 2007, plaintiff supplied defendants hospital furnishings


and equipment for an in consideration of P32,926,650.00 twenty percent
(20%) of which was to be paid as downpayment and the balance in 30 months
under a Deed of Undertaking, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex
"D";
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6. Defendant’s total obligation to plaintiff was P123,901,650.00 as of
February 15, 2009, but defendant was able to pay plaintiff the sum of
P67,357,683.23 thus leaving a balance P54,654,195.54 which has become
overdue and demandable;

7. On February 11, 2009, plaintiff agreed to reduce its claim to only


P50,400,000.00 and extended its payment for 36 months provided
defendants shall pay the same within 36 months and to issue 36 postdated
checks therefor in the amount of P1,400,000.00 each to which defendant
agreed under an Agreement, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "E";

8. Accordingly, defendant issued in favor of plaintiff 36 postdated checks


each in the [a]mount of P1,400,000.00 but after four (4) of the said checks
in the sum of P5,600,000.00 were honored defendant stopped their payment
thus making the entire obligation of defendant due and demandable under
the February 11, 2009 agreement;

9. In a letter dated May 27, 2009, defendant claimed that all of the first four
(4) agreements may be rescissible and one of them is unenforceable while
the Agreement dated February 11, 2009 was without the requisite board
approval as it was signed by an agent whose term of office already expired,
copy of which letter is hereto attached as Annex "F";

10. Consequently, plaintiff told defendant that if it does not want to honor
the February 11, 2009 contract then plaintiff will insists [sic] on its original
claim which is P54,654,195.54 and made a demand for the payment thereof
within 10 days from receipt of its letter copy of which is hereto attached
as Annex "G";

11. Defendant received the aforesaid letter on July 6, 2009 but to date it has
not paid plaintiff any amount, either in the first four contracts nor in the
February 11, 2009 agreement, hence, the latter was constrained to institute
the instant suit and thus incurred attorney’s fee equivalent to 10% of the
overdue account but only after endeavouring to resolve the dispute amicable
and in a spirit of friendship[;]

12. Under the February 11, 2009 agreement the parties agreed to bring all
actions or proceedings thereunder or characterized therewith in the City of
Manila to the exclusion of other courts and for defendant to pay plaintiff 3%
per months of delay without need of demand;13

xxxx

The respondent moved to dismiss the complaint upon the following


grounds,14 namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant; (b)
improper venue; (c) litis pendentia; and (d) forum shopping. In support of the
ground of litis pendentia, it stated that it had earlier filed a complaint for the
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rescission of the four contracts and of the February 11, 2009 agreement in the
RTC in Cabanatuan City; and that the resolution of that case would be
determinative of the petitioner’s action for collection.15

After the RTC denied the motion to dismiss on July 19, 2009, 16 the respondent
filed its answer (ad cautelam),17averring thusly:

xxxx

2. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the complaint are


ADMITTED subject to the special and affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

3. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 6, 7 and 8 of the complaint are DENIED


for lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth
or falsity thereof, inasmuch as the alleged transactions were undertaken
during the term of office of the past officers of defendant Wesleyan
University-Philippines. At any rate, these allegations are subject to the
special and affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

4. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 9 and 10 of the complaint are


ADMITTED subject to the special and affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

5. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 11 and 12 of the complaint are DENIED


for being conclusions of law.18

xxxx

The petitioner filed its reply to the answer.19

On September 28, 2011, the petitioner filed its Motion for Judgment Based on the
Pleadings,20 stating that the respondent had admitted the material allegations of
its complaint and thus did not tender any issue as to such allegations.

The respondent opposed the Motion for Judgment Based on the Pleadings, arguing
that it had specifically denied the material allegations in the complaint,
particularly paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12.21

On November 23, 2011, the RTC issued the order denying the Motion for Judgment
Based on the Pleadings of the petitioner, to wit:

At the hearing of the "Motion for Judgment Based on the Pleadings" filed by the
plaintiff thru counsel, Atty. Jose Mañacop on September 28, 2011, the court
issued an Order dated October 27, 2011 which read in part as follows:

xxxx

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Considering that the allegations stated on the Motion for Judgment Based on the
Pleadings, are evidentiary in nature, the Court, instead of acting on the same,
hereby sets this case for pre-trial, considering that with the Answer and the Reply,
issues have been joined.

xxxx

In view therefore of the Order of the Court dated October 27, 2011, let the Motion
for Judgment Based on the Pleadings be hereby ordered DENIED on reasons as
abovestated and hereto reiterated.

xxxx

SO ORDERED.22

The petitioner moved for reconsideration,23 but its motion was denied on
December 29, 2011.24

The petitioner assailed the denial in the CA on certiorari.25

Judgment of the CA

On July 2, 2013, the CA promulgated its decision. Although observing that the
respondent had admitted the contracts as well as the February 11, 2009
agreement, viz.:

It must be remembered that Private Respondent admitted the existence of the


subject contracts, including Petitioner’s fulfilment of its obligations under the
same, but subjected the said admission to the "special and affirmative defenses"
earlier raised in its Motion to Dismiss.

xxxx

Obviously, Private Respondent’s special and affirmative defenses are not of such
character as to avoid Petitioner’s claim. The same special and affirmative defenses
have been passed upon by the RTC in its Order dated July 19, 2010 when it denied
Private Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss. As correctly found by the RTC, Private
Respondent’s special and affirmative defences of lack of jurisdiction over its
person, improper venue, litis pendentia and wilful and deliberate forum shopping
are not meritorious and cannot operate to dismiss Petitioner’s Complaint. Hence,
when Private Respondent subjected its admission to the said defenses, it is as
though it raised no defense at all.

Not even is Private Respondent’s contention that the rescission case must take
precedence over Petitioner’s Complaint for Sum of Money tenable.1avvphi1 To
begin with, Private Respondent had not yet proven that the subject contracts are
rescissible. And even if the subject contracts are indeed rescissible, it is well-

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settled that rescissible contracts are valid contracts until they are rescinded. Since
the subject contracts have not yet been rescinded, they are deemed valid contracts
which may be enforced in legal contemplation.

In effect, Private Respondent admitted that it entered into the subject contracts
and that Petitioner had performed its obligations under the same.

As regards Private Respondent’s denial by disavowal of knowledge of the


Agreement dated February 11, 2009, We agree with Petitioner that such denial
was made in bad faith because such allegations are plainly and necessarily within
its knowledge.

In its letter dated May 27, 2009, Private Respondent made reference to the
Agreement dated February 11, 2009, viz.:

"The Agreement dated 11 February 2009, in particular, was entered into by an


Agent of the University without the requisite authority from the Board of Trustees,
and executed when said agent’s term of office had already expired. Consequently,
such contract is, being an unenforceable contract."

Also, Private Respondent averred in page 5 of its Complaint for Rescission, which
it attached to its Motion to Dismiss, that:

"13. On 6 February 2009, when the terms of office of plaintiff’s Board of Trustess
chaired by Dominador Cabasal, as well as of Atty. Guillermo C. Maglaya as
President, had already expired, thereby rendering them on a hold-over capacity,
the said Board once again authorized Atty. Maglaya to enter into another contract
with defendant FMEI, whereby the plaintiff was obligated to pay and deliver to
defendant FMEI the amount of Fifty Million Four Hundred Thousand Pesos
(Php50,400,000.00) in thirty five (35) monthly instalments of One Million Four
Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php1,400,000.00), representing the balance of the
payment for the medical equipment supplied under the afore-cited rescissible
contracts. This side agreement, executed five (5) days later, or on 11 February
2009, and denominated as "AGREEMENT", had no object as a contract, but was
entered into solely for the purpose of getting the plaintiff locked-in to the payment
of the balance price under the rescissible contracts; x x x"

From the above averments, Private Respondent cannot deny knowledge of the
Agreement dated February 11, 2009. In one case, it was held that when a
respondent makes a "specific denial" of a material allegation of the petition without
setting forth the substance of the matters relied upon to support its general denial,
when such matters where plainly within its knowledge and the defendant could not
logically pretend ignorance as to the same, said defendant fails to properly tender
an issue.26

the CA ruled that a judgment on the pleadings would be improper because the
outstanding balance due to the petitioner remained to be an issue in the face of
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the allegations of the respondent in its complaint for rescission in the RTC in
Cabanatuan City, to wit:

However, Private Respondent’s disavowal of knowledge of its outstanding balance


is well-taken. Paragraph 6 of Petitioner’s Complaint states that Private Respondent
was able to pay only the amount of P67,357,683.23. Taken together with
paragraph 8, which states that Private Respondent was only able to make good
four (4) check payments worth P1,400,000.00 or a total of P5,600,000.00, Private
Respondent’s total payments would be, in Petitioner’s view, P72,957,683.23.
However, in its Complaint for Rescission, attached to its Motion to Dismiss
Petitioner’s Complaint for Sum of Money, Private Respondent alleged that:

"16. To date, plaintiff had already paid defendant the amount of Seventy Eight
Million Four Hundred One Thousand Six Hundred Fifty Pesos (P78,401,650.00)"

It is apparent that Private Respondent’s computation and Petitioner’s computation


of the total payments made by Private Respondent are different. Thus, Private
Respondent tendered an issue as to the amount of the balance due to Petitioner
under the subject contracts.27

Hence, this appeal.

Issue

The petitioner posits that the CA erred in going outside of the respondent’s answer
by relying on the allegations contained in the latter’s complaint for rescission; and
insists that the CA should have confined itself to the respondent’s answer in the
action in order to resolve the petitioner’s motion for judgment based on the
pleadings.1âwphi1

In contrast, the respondent contends that it had specifically denied the material
allegations of the petitioner’s complaint, including the amount claimed; and that
the CA only affirmed the previous ruling of the RTC that the pleadings submitted
by the parties tendered an issue as to the balance owing to the petitioner.

Did the CA commit reversible error in affirming the RTC’s denial of the petitioner’s
motion for judgment on the pleadings?

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

The rule on judgment based on the pleadings is Section 1, Rule 34 of the Rules of
Court, which provides thus:

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Section 1. Judgment on the pleadings. – Where an answer fails to tender an issue,
or otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party’s pleading, the
court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. x x x

The essential query in resolving a motion for judgment on the pleadings is whether
or not there are issues of fact generated by the pleadings.28 Whether issues of fact
exist in a case or not depends on how the defending party’s answer has dealt with
the ultimate facts alleged in the complaint. The defending party’s answer either
admits or denies the allegations of ultimate facts in the complaint or other
initiatory pleading. The allegations of ultimate facts the answer admit, being
undisputed, will not require evidence to establish the truth of such facts, but the
allegations of ultimate facts the answer properly denies, being disputed, will
require evidence.

The answer admits the material allegations of ultimate facts of the adverse party’s
pleadings not only when it expressly confesses the truth of such allegations but
also when it omits to deal with them at all. 29 The controversion of the ultimate
facts must only be by specific denial. Section 10, Rule 8 of the Rules of
Court recognizes only three modes by which the denial in the answer raises an
issue of fact. The first is by the defending party specifying each material allegation
of fact the truth of which he does not admit and, whenever practicable, setting
forth the substance of the matters upon which he relies to support his denial. The
second applies to the defending party who desires to deny only a part of an
averment, and the denial is done by the defending party specifying so much of the
material allegation of ultimate facts as is true and material and denying only the
remainder. The third is done by the defending party who is without knowledge or
information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of a material averment made
in the complaint by stating so in the answer. Any material averment in the
complaint not so specifically denied are deemed admitted except an averment of
the amount of unliquidated damages.30

In the case of a written instrument or document upon which an action or defense


is based, which is also known as the actionable document, the pleader of such
document is required either to set forth the substance of such instrument or
document in the pleading, and to attach the original or a copy thereof to the
pleading as an exhibit, which shall then be deemed to be a part of the pleading, or
to set forth a copy in the pleading.31 The adverse party is deemed to admit the
genuineness and due execution of the actionable document unless he specifically
denies them under oath, and sets forth what he claims to be the facts, but the
requirement of an oath does not apply when the adverse party does not appear to
be a party to the instrument or when compliance with an order for an inspection
of the original instrument is refused.32

In Civil Case No. 09-122116, the respondent expressly admitted paragraphs no. 2,
3, 4, 5, 9 and 10 of the complaint. The admission related to the petitioner’s
allegations on: (a) the four transactions for the delivery and installation of various
hospital equipment; (b) the total liability of the respondent; (c) the payments made
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by the respondents; (d) the balance still due to the petitioner; and (e) the execution
of the February 11, 2009 agreement. The admission of the various agreements,
especially the February 11, 2009 agreement, significantly admitted the petitioner’s
complaint. To recall, the petitioner’s cause of action was based on the February
11, 2009 agreement, which was the actionable document in the case. The
complaint properly alleged the substance of the February 11, 2009 agreement, and
contained a copy thereof as an annex. Upon the express admission of the
genuineness and due execution of the February 11, 2009 agreement, judgment on
the pleadings became proper.33 As held in Santos v. Alcazar:34

There is no need for proof of execution and authenticity with respect to documents
the genuineness and due execution of which are admitted by the adverse party.
With the consequent admission engendered by petitioners’ failure to properly deny
the Acknowledgment in their Answer, coupled with its proper authentication,
identification and offer by the respondent, not to mention petitioners’ admissions
in paragraphs 4 to 6 of their Answer that they are indeed indebted to respondent,
the Court believes that judgment may be had solely on the document, and there
is no need to present receipts and other documents to prove the claimed
indebtedness. The Acknowledgment, just as an ordinary acknowledgment receipt,
is valid and binding between the parties who executed it, as a document evidencing
the loan agreement they had entered into. The absence of rebutting evidence
occasioned by petitioners’ waiver of their right to present evidence renders the
Acknowledgment as the best evidence of the transactions between the parties and
the consequential indebtedness incurred. Indeed, the effect of the admission is
such that a prima facie case is made for the plaintiff which dispenses with the
necessity of evidence on his part and entitled him to a judgment on the pleadings
unless a special defense of new matter, such as payment, is interposed by the
defendant.35 (citations omitted)

The respondent denied paragraphs no. 6, 7 and 8 of the complaint "for lack of
knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity thereof,
inasmuch as the alleged transactions were undertaken during the term of office of
the past officers of defendant Wesleyan University-Philippines." Was the manner
of denial effective as a specific denial?

We answer the query in the negative. Paragraph no. 6 alleged that the respondent’s
total obligation as of February 15, 2009 was P123,901,650.00, but its balance
thereafter became only P54,654,195.54 because it had since then paid
P67,357,683.23 to the petitioner. Paragraph no. 7 stated that the petitioner had
agreed with the respondent on February 11, 2009 to reduce the balance to only
P50,400,000.00, which the respondent would pay in 36 months through 36
postdated checks of P1,400,000.00 each, which the respondent then issued for
the purpose. Paragraph no. 8 averred that after four of the checks totalling
P5,600,000.00 were paid the respondent stopped payment of the rest, rendering
the entire obligation due and demandable pursuant to the February 11, 2009
agreement. Considering that paragraphs no. 6, 7 and 8 of the complaint averred
matters that the respondent ought to know or could have easily known, the answer
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did not specifically deny such material averments. It is settled that denials based
on lack of knowledge or information of matters clearly known to the pleader, or
ought to be known to it, or could have easily been known by it are insufficient, and
constitute ineffective36 or sham denials.37

That the respondent qualified its admissions and denials by subjecting them to its
special and affirmative defenses of lack of jurisdiction over its person, improper
venue, litis pendentia and forum shopping was of no consequence because the
affirmative defenses, by their nature, involved matters extrinsic to the merits of
the petitioner’s claim, and thus did not negate the material averments of the
complaint.

Lastly, we should emphasize that in order to resolve the petitioner’s Motion for
Judgment Based on the Pleadings, the trial court could rely only on the answer of
the respondent filed in Civil Case No. 09-122116. Under Section 1, Rule 34 of
the Rules of Court, the answer was the sole basis for ascertaining whether the
complaint’s material allegations were admitted or properly denied. As such, the
respondent’s averment of payment of the total of P78,401,650.00 to the petitioner
made in its complaint for rescission had no relevance to the resolution of
the Motion for Judgment Based on the Pleadings. The CA thus wrongly held that a
factual issue on the total liability of the respondent remained to be settled through
trial on the merits. It should have openly wondered why the respondent's answer
in Civil Case No. 09-122116 did not allege the supposed payment of the
P78,401,650.00, if the payment was true, if only to buttress the specific denial of
its alleged liability. The omission exposed the respondent's denial of liability as
insincere.

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision promulgated
on July 2, 2013; DIRECTS the Regional Trial Court, Branch 1, in Manila to
resume its proceedings in Civil Case No. 09-122116 entitled Fernando Medical
Enterprises, Inc. v. Wesleyan University-Philippines, and to forthwith act on and
grant the Motion for Judgment Based on the Pleadings by rendering the proper
judgment on the pleadings; and ORDERS the respondent to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

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13. G.R. No. 144635, June 26, 2006
PROGRAMME INCORPORATED v. PROVINCE OF BATAAN

In this petition filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,


petitioner Programme Incorporated contests the Court of Appeals (CA)
decision[2] and resolution[3]upholding respondent Province of Bataans ownership
of Piazza Hotel and the land on which it stands. The assailed decision in CA-G.R.
CV No. 49135 affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
4, Balanga, Bataan in a suit for preliminary injunction and sum of money filed by
petitioner against BataanShipyard and Engineering Co., Inc. (BASECO). The case
was docketed as Civil Case No. 129-ML. The dispositive portion of the trial court
decision read:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, judgment is


hereby rendered dismissing the complaint, without pronouncement as
to costs.

Similarly, [BASECOs] counterclaim is dismissed.

On the complaint in intervention, judgment is hereby rendered


ordering [petitioner] to pay [respondent] the rentals for the leased
premises in question, namely, the Piazza Hotel and the MarivelesLodge,
situated at the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) Compound
in Mariveles, Bataan, at the rate of six thousand five hundred pesos
(P6,500.00) per month for both establishments, starting in August
1989 with legal interest at 6% per annum, up to and until the legal
arrearages shall have been fully paid, and to pay the succeeding
rentals therefor at the same rate.

SO ORDERED.[4]

The controversy arose from the following facts.

BASECO was the owner of Piazza Hotel and Mariveles Lodge, both located
in Mariveles, Bataan.
On May 14, 1986, BASECO granted petitioner a contract of lease over Piazza
Hotel at a monthly rental of P6,500 for three years, i.e., from January 1, 1986 to
January 1, 1989, subject to renewal by mutual agreement of the parties. After the
expiration of the three-year lease period, petitioner was allowed to continue
operating the hotel on monthly extensions of the lease.
In April 1989, however, the Presidential Commission on Good Government
(PCGG) issued a sequestration order against BASECO pursuant to Executive Order
No. 1 of former President Corazon C. Aquino.[5] Among the properties provisionally
seized and taken over was the lot on which Piazza Hotel stood.
On July 19, 1989, however, Piazza Hotel was sold at a public auction for
non-payment of taxes to respondent Province of Bataan. The title of the property

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was transferred to respondent. BASECOs Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-
59631 was cancelled and a new one, TCT No. T-128456, was issued to the Province
of Bataan.
On July 21, 1989, petitioner filed a complaint for preliminary injunction and
collection of sum of money against BASECO (Civil Case No. 129-ML).[6]Respondent,
as the new owner of the property, filed a motion for leave to intervene on November
22, 1990. After its motion was granted, respondent filed a complaint-in-
intervention praying, inter alia, that petitioner be ordered to vacate Piazza Hotel
and Mariveles Lodge for lack of legal interest.
During the pre-trial of the complaint-in-intervention, the parties agreed that
the case[7] be tried on the sole issue of whether respondent province, as
complainant-intervenor, was the legitimate owner of the Piazza Hotel
and Mariveles Lodge.
On February 3, 1995, after trial on the merits, the trial court rendered
judgment in favor of respondent.
On appeal, the CA addressed the issue of ownership of Piazza Hotel
and Mariveles Lodge as follows:

[W]e affirm the trial courts ruling that [respondent] Province


of Bataan has established by preponderance of evidence its claim
of ownership of Piazza Hotel and Mariveles Lodge. In fact,
[petitioner] has not presented evidence proving its ownership of
the said buildings[, whereas respondent presented] a tax
declaration and certificate of title over the same properties, over
which it now exercises full control and dominion. The fact that the
subject properties were placed under sequestration is of no moment for
the PCGG is not an owner but a conservator who can exercise only
powers of administration over property sequestered, frozen or
provisionally taken over. As the owner of said properties, [respondent-
intervenor] is entitled to the payment of the monthly rental in the sum
of P6,500.00 as ruled by the trial court.[8] (emphasis ours)

We agree with the appellate court.


Time and again, we have ruled that factual matters are best evaluated by trial
courts which can scrutinize evidence and hear testimony presented and offered by
the parties (in this case, on the issue of ownership of the subject property). All the
more does this principle ring true in this petition since such factual determination
by the RTC was upheld by the CA.[9] Only questions of law are the proper subject
of a petition for review on certiorari in this Court, unless any of the known
exceptions is extant in this case.[10] There is none.
The evidence clearly established respondents ownership of Piazza
Hotel.[11] First, the title of the land on which Piazza Hotel stands was in the name
of respondent.[12] Second, Tax Declaration No. 12782 was in the name of
respondent as owner of Piazza Hotel.[13] A note at the back of the tax declaration
read:

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Transferred by virtue of a final bill of sale executed by the
Provincial [Treasurer] of Bataan in favor of the Provincial
Government on Feb. 13, 1989[, a] year after the expiration of the
redemption period from date of auction sale held on Feb. 12, 1988 of
all real property declared in the name of [BASECO].[14] (emphasis ours)

Third, petitioner was doubtlessly just a lessee. In the lease contract annexed to
the complaint, petitioner in fact admitted BASECOs (respondents predecessor-in-
interest) ownership then of the subject property. A stipulation in the contract read:

WHEREAS, the lessor (BASECO) is the owner of the building


PIAZZA HOTEL and its outlet MARIVELES LODGE located at
BASECO, Mariveles, Bataan xxx[15] (emphasis ours)

The Rules of Court states that [a]n admission, verbal or written, made by a party
in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof. The
admission may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable
mistake or that no such admission was made.[16]

[Such admissions] may be made in (a) the pleadings filed by the


parties, (b) in the course of the trial either by verbal or written
manifestations or stipulations, or (c) in other stages of the judicial
proceeding, as in the pre-trial of the case. Admissions obtained
through depositions, written interrogatories or requests for admission
are also considered judicial admissions.[17](emphasis ours)

To be considered as a judicial admission, the same must be made in the


same case in which it is offered.[18]

In its own complaint[19] for preliminary injunction and sum of money,


petitioner acknowledged that it was not the owner of the property when it stated
that [BASECO] lease[d] to [petitioner] the building Piazza Hotel and its
outlet Mariveles Lodge xxx for monthly rentals of P6,500.00.[20] Petitioner could
not possibly be the owner of a building merely leased to it. [21]

Furthermore, petitioners reference to Article 448[22] of the


Civil Code to justify its supposed rights as possessor in good faith was erroneous.

Page 13 of 231
The benefits granted to a possessor in good faith cannot be
maintained by the lessee against the lessor because, such benefits are
intended to apply only to a case where one builds or sows or plants on
land which he believes himself to have a claim of title and not to lands
wherein ones only interest is that of a tenant under a rental contract,
otherwise, it would always be in the power of a tenant to improve his
landlord out of his property. Besides, as between lessor and lessee, the
Code applies specific provisions designed to cover their rights.

Hence, the lessee cannot claim reimbursement, as a matter of


right, for useful improvements he has made on the property, nor can
he assert a right of retention until reimbursed. His only remedy is to
remove the improvement if the lessor does not choose to pay its value;
but the court cannot give him the right to buy the land.[23]

Petitioners assertion that Piazza Hotel was constructed at (its) expense found
no support in the records. Neither did any document or testimony prove this
claim. At best, what was confirmed was that petitioner managed and operated the
hotel. There was no evidence that petitioner was the one which spent for the
construction or renovation of the property. And since petitioners alleged
expenditures were never proven, it could not even seek reimbursement of one-half
of the value of the improvements upon termination of the lease under Article
1678[24] of the Civil Code.
Finally, both the trial and appellate courts declared that the land as well as
the improvement thereon (Piazza Hotel) belonged to respondent. We find no reason
to overturn this factual conclusion.

Since this petition for review on certiorari was clearly without legal and
factual basis, petitioners counsel should not have even filed this appeal. It is
obvious that the intention was merely to delay the disposition of the case.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The decision and resolution
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 49135 are AFFIRMED.
Costs against petitioner. Same costs against Atty. Benito R. Cuesta I,
petitioners counsel, for filing this flimsy appeal, payable within ten (10) days from
finality of this decision.

SO ORDERED.

Page 14 of 231
14. G.R. No. 212196 January 12, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. RAMIL DORIA DAHIL and


ROMMEL CASTRO y CARLOS, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the September 27, 2013 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05707, which affirmed the July 17, 2012 Decision2 of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, Angeles City (RTC) in Criminal Case Nos. DC
02-376, DC 02-377 and DC 02-378, finding accused Ramil Doria Dahil (Dahil) and
Rommel Castro (Castro) guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violating Sections 5
and 11 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs
Act of 2002.

The Facts

On October 1, 2002, Dahil and Castro were charged in three (3) separate
Informations before the RTC. In Criminal Case No. DC 02-376, Dahil and Castro
were charged with violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. No. 9165 for the sale of
26.8098 grams of marijuana in the Information which reads:

That on or about the 29th day of September, 2002, in the City of Angeles,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, conspiring and confederating and mutually helping one another, did,
then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell and/or deliver to a poseur
buyer six (6) tea bags of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing TWENTY SIX
GRAMS AND EIGHT THOUSAND NINETY EIGHT TEN THOUSANDTHS OF A
GRAM (26.8098), which is a dangerous drug, without authority whatsoever.

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

In Criminal Case No. DC 02-377, Dahil was charged with possession of 20.6642
grams of marijuana in violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, in the
Information which reads: That on or about the 29th day of September, 2002, in
the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously have in his possession and custody and control Five (5) tea bags of
dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing TWENTY GRAMS AND SIX THOUSAND SIX
HUNDRED FORTY TWO TEN THOUSANDTHS OF A GRAM (20.6642), which is a
dangerous drug, without authority whatsoever.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

Page 15 of 231
In Criminal Case No. DC 02-378, Castro was charged with possession of 130.8286
grams of marijuana in violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A. No. 9165, in the
Information which reads: That on or about the 29th day of September, 2002, in
the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously have in his possession and custody and control One (1) brick in form
wrapped in masking tape of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing ONE
HUNDRED THIRTY GRAMS and EIGHT THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX
TEN THOUSANDTHS OF A GRAM (130.8286), which is a dangerous drug, without
authority whatsoever.

CONTRARY TO LAW.5

On November 14, 2002, Castro was arraigned and he pleaded not guilty. Dahil, on
the other hand, filed a motion for reinvestigation and his arraignment was
deferred. Trial ensued and the prosecution presented PO2 Arieltino Corpuz (PO2
Corpuz)and SPO1 Eliseo Licu (SPO1 Licu), as witnesses.

On August 6, 2009, the RTC discovered that Dahil was never arraigned through
inadvertence.6 The RTC informed the parties of the situation and the defense
counsel did not interpose any objection to the reopening of the case and the
arraignment of Dahil. The latter was then arraigned and he pleaded not guilty.
Thereafter, the public prosecutor manifested that he was adopting all the evidence
already adduced.

Version of the Prosecution

Evidence of the prosecution tended to show that, for a couple of weeks, the agents
of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Region 3, conducted
surveillance and casing operations relative to the information they received that a
certain alias "Buddy" and alias "Mel" were trafficking dried marijuana in TB
Pavilion, Marisol Subdivision, Barangay Ninoy Aquino, Angeles City. On
September 29, 2002, the Chief of PDEA formed a team to conduct a buy-bust
operation. The team was composed of four (4) police officers, namely, Sergeant
Juanito dela Cruz (Sergeant dela Cruz), as team leader; and PO2 Corpuz, SPO1
Licu and PO2 Javiar, as members. PO2 Corpuz was designated as the poseur-
buyer while SPO1 Licu was assigned as his back-up.

The team proceeded to the target place at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening. Upon
arriving, PO2 Corpuz together with the informant went to the house of Dahil which
was within the TB Pavillon compound. When PO2 Corpuz and the informant were
in front of the house, they met Dahil and Castro. The informant then introduced
PO2 Corpuz as the buyer of marijuana. Dahil asked PO2 Corpuz how much would
he be buying and the latter answered that he would buy ₱200.00 worth of
marijuana. At this juncture, Dahil took out from his pocket six (6) plastic sachets
of marijuana and handed them to PO2 Corpuz. After checking the items, PO2
Corpuz handed two (2) ₱100.00 marked bills to Castro.
Page 16 of 231
Immediately thereafter, PO2 Cruz took off his cap to signal that the sale had been
consummated. The rest of the buy-bust team then rushed to their location and
arrested Castro and Dahil. PO2 Corpuz frisked Dahil and recovered from his
possession another five (5) plastic sachets containing marijuana while SPO1 Licu
searched the person of Castro and confiscated from him one (1) brick of suspected
marijuana.

Both Castro and Dahil, together with the confiscated drugs, were then brought by
the buy-bust team to the PDEA office. There, the seized items were marked by PO2
Corpuz and SPO1Licu. First, the six (6) plastic sachets of marijuana which were
sold by Dahil to PO2 Corpuz were marked with "A-1" to "A-6" and with letters
"RDRC," "ADGC" and "EML." Second, the five (5) plastic sachets recovered from
Dahil were marked with "B-1" to "B-5" and with letters "RDRC," "ADGC" and
"EML." Finally, the marijuana brick confiscated from Castro was marked "C-
RDRC." Sergeant dela Cruz then prepared the request for laboratory examination,
affidavits of arrest and other pertinent documents. An inventory of the seized
items7 was also prepared which was signed by Kagawad Pamintuan. Thereafter,
PO2 Corpuz brought the confiscated drugs to the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Crime Laboratory for examination, which subsequently yielded positive results for
marijuana.

The prosecution and defense entered into stipulation as to the essential contents
of the prospective testimony of the forensic chemist, to wit:

1. That a laboratory examination request was prepared by PO3 Dela Cruz;

2. That said letter request for laboratory examination was sent to the PNP
Crime Laboratory,Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga;

3. That Engr. Ma. Luisa Gundran David is a forensic chemist;

4. That said forensic chemist conducted an examination on the substance


subject of the letter request with qualification that said request was not
subscribedor under oath and that the forensic chemist has no personal
knowledge as from whom and where said substance was taken;

5. That the result of the laboratory examination is embodied in Chemistry


Report No. D-0518-2002; and

6. The findings and conclusion thereof.8

The prosecution was ordered to formally offer its evidence on March 7, 2007.9 After
much delay, the public prosecutor was finally able to orally submit his formal offer
of exhibits after almost two years, or on January 6, 2009.10 He offered the following
documentary evidence: (1) Joint Affidavit of Arrest, (2) Custodial Investigation
Report, (3) Photocopy of the marked money, (4) Brown envelope containing the

Page 17 of 231
subject illegal drugs, (5) Inventory of Property Seized, (6) Laboratory Examination
Request, and (7) Chemistry Report No. D-0518-2002.

Version of the Defense

In his defense, Dahil claimed that on September 29, 2002, a tricycle driver came
looking for him after he had arrived home. He saw the tricycle driver with another
man already waiting for him. He was then asked by the unknown man whether he
knew a certain Buddy in their place. He answered that there were many persons
named Buddy. Suddenly, persons alighted from the vehicles parked in front of his
house and dragged him into one of the vehicles. He was brought to Clark Air Base
and was charged with illegal selling and possession of marijuana.

For his part, Castro testified thaton September 29, 2002, he was on 4th Street of
Marisol, Barangay Ninoy Aquino, Angeles City, watching a game of chess when he
was approached by some men who asked if he knew a certain Boy residing at
Hardian Extension. He then replied that he did not know the said person and then
the men ordered him to board a vehicle and brought him to Clark Air Base where
he was charged withillegal possession of marijuana.

RTC Ruling

In its Decision,11 dated July 17, 2012, the RTC found both accused liable for
violating Sections 5 and 11 of R.A. No. 9165, and imposed upon them the penalty
of life imprisonment and a fine of ₱500,000.00 each for the crime of illegal sale of
marijuana;Twelve (12) Years and One (1) Day, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) Years
of Reclusion Temporal, as maximum, and a fine of ₱300,000.00 each for the crime
of illegal possession of marijuana.

The RTC was convinced that the prosecution was able to prove the case of selling
and possession of illegal drugs against the accused. All the elements of the crimes
were established. To the trial court, the evidence proved that PO2 Corpuz bought
marijuana from Dahil. The latter examined the marijuana purchased and then
handed the marked money to Castro.

The marked money was lost in the custody of the police officers, but the RTC ruled
that the same was not fatal considering that a photocopy of the marked money
was presented and identified by the arresting officers.12 It did not give credence to
the defense of frame-up by Dahil and Castro explaining that it could easily be
concocted with no supporting proof.

CA Ruling

The accused then appealed to the CA. In their Brief for the Accused-
Appellants,13 they argued that there were irregularities on the preservation of the
integrity and evidentiary value of the illegal items seized from them. The
prosecution witnesses exhibited gross disregard of the procedural safeguards
Page 18 of 231
which generated clouds of doubts as tothe identity of the seized items presented
in evidence.14

In its Brief for the Appellee,15 the OSG contended that the prosecution was able to
prove all the elements of the crime of illegal sale and possession of marijuana. As
to the chain of custody procedure, it insists that the prosecution witnesses were
able to account for the series of events that transpired, from the time the buy-bust
operation was conducted until the time the items were presented in court.

The CA denied the appeal in its Decision, dated September 27, 2013. In its view,
the prosecution was able to establish that the illegal sale of marijuana actually
took place. As could be gleaned from the testimony of PO2 Corpuz, there was an
actual exchange as Dahil took out from his pocket six (6) sachets containing
marijuana, while PO2 Corpuz handled out the two (2) ₱100.00 marked bills, after
they agreed to transact ₱200.00 worth of the illegal drug.16 The charge of illegal
possession of marijuana, was also thus established by the prosecution. 17 Another
five (5) plastic sachets of marijuana were recovered from Dahil’s possession while
one (1) brick of marijuana from Castro’s possession.18

It was likewise proven that the illicit drugs confiscated from the accused during
the buy-bust operation were the same drugs presented before the RTC. As testified
to by PO2 Corpuz, the six (6) plastic sachets of marijuana, which were sold by
Dahil toPO2 Corpuz were marked "A-1" to "A-6" and with letters "RDRC,"
"ADGC"and "EML," the five (5) plastic sachets recovered in the possession of Dahil
were marked "B-1" to "B-5" and with the initials "ADGC" and "EML," while the
marijuana brick confiscated from Castro was marked "C-RDRC."19

It was also held that the prosecution was able to establish the chain of custody.
PO2 Corpuz and SPO1 Licu testified that the said drugs were marked at the police
station. An inventory of the seized items was made as shown by the Inventory
Report of Property Seized, duly signed by Kagawad Pamintuan. The Request for
Laboratory Examination revealed that the confiscated drugs were the same items
submitted to the PNP crime laboratory for examination. On the other hand,
Chemistry Report No. D-0518-2002 showed that the specimen gave positive
results to the test of marijuana. The accused failed to show that the confiscated
marijuana items were tampered with, or switched, before they were delivered to
the crime laboratory for examination.20

Hence, this appeal.

This appeal involves the sole issue of whether or not the law enforcement officers
substantially complied with the chain of custody procedure required by R.A. No.
9165.

The Court’s Ruling

Page 19 of 231
Let it be underscored that appeal incriminal cases throws the whole case open for
review and it is the duty of the appellate court to correct, cite and appreciate errors
in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned. 21 Considering
that what is at stake here is no less than the liberty of the accused, this Court has
meticulously and thoroughly reviewed and examined the records of the case and
finds that there is merit in the appeal. The Court holds that that there was no
unbroken chain of custody and that the prosecution failed to establish the very
corpus delicti of the crime charged.

A buy-bust operation gave rise to the present case. While this kind of operation
has been proven to be an effective way to flush out illegal transactions that are
otherwise conducted covertly and in secrecy, a buy-bust operation has a
significant downside that has not escaped the attention of the framers of the law.
It is susceptible topolice abuse, the most notorious of which is its use as a tool for
extortion.22

The presentation of the dangerous drugs as evidence in court is material if not


indispensable in every prosecution for the illegal sale and possession of dangerous
drugs. As such, the identity of the dangerous drugs should be established beyond
doubt by showing that the items offered in court were the same substances
boughtduring the buy-bust operation. This rigorous requirement, known under
R.A. No. 9165 as the chain of custody, performs the function of ensuring
thatunnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. 23 In
People v. Catalan,24 the Court said:

To discharge its duty of establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable
doubt, therefore, the Prosecution must prove the corpus delicti.That proof is vital
to a judgment of conviction. On the other hand, the Prosecution does not comply
with the indispensable requirement of proving the violation of Section 5 of Republic
Act No. 9165 when the dangerous drugs are missing but also when there are
substantial gapsin the chain of custody of the seized dangerous drugs that raise
doubts about the authenticity of the evidence presented in court.

Although R.A. No. 9165 does not define the meaning of chain of custody, Section
1(b) of Dangerous DrugsBoard Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002, which implements
R.A. No. 9165, explains the said term as follows:

"Chain of Custody" means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody
of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or
laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to
receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for
destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include
the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized
item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of
safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition.

Page 20 of 231
As a means of ensuring the establishment of the chain of custody, Section 21 (1)
of R.A. No. 9165 specifies that:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photographthe same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel,
a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof.

Specifically, Article II, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations
(IRR)of R.A. No. 9165 enumeratesthe procedures to be observed by the
apprehending officers toconfirm the chain of custody, to wit:

xxx

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel,
a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof: Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall
be conducted at the place where the search warrantis served; or at the nearest
police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever
is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further that non-
compliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the
integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by
the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of
and custody over said items;

xxx

The strict procedure under Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 was not complied with.

Although the prosecution offered inevidence the Inventory of the Property Seized
signed by the arresting officers and Kagawad Pamintuan, the procedures provided
in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 were not observed. The said provision requires the
apprehending team, after seizure and confiscation, to immediately (1) conduct a
physically inventory; and (2) photograph the same in the presence of the accused
or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/orseized, or his/her
representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any
elected public official who shall be required tosign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof.

Page 21 of 231
First,the inventory of the property was not immediately conducted after seizure
and confiscation as it was only done at the police station. Notably, Article II,
Section 21(a) of the IRR allows the inventory to be done at the nearest police station
or at the nearest office of the apprehending team whichever is practicable, in case
of warrantless seizures. In this case, however, the prosecution did not even claim
that the PDEA Office Region 3 was the nearest office from TB Pavilion where the
drugs were seized. The prosecution also failed to give sufficient justification for the
delayed conduct of the inventory. PO2 Corpuz testified, to wit:

Q: What documents did you ask Kgd. Abel Pamintuan to sign?

A: The inventory of the property seized, sir.

Q: And did he sign that?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Where was he when he signed that?

A: In our office, sir.

Q: Already in your office?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Who prepared the inventory of the property seized?

A: Our investigator, sir.

Q: And that was prepared while you were already at your office?

A: Yes, sir, because we did not bring with us the material or equipment for
the preparation of the documents so, we invited him to our office. 25

PO2 Corpuz gave the flimsy excusethat they failed to immediately conduct an
inventory because they did not bring with them the material or equipment for the
preparation of the documents. Such explanation is unacceptable considering that
they conducted a surveillance on the target for a couple of weeks. 26 They should
have been prepared with their equipment even before the buy-bust operation took
place.

Second,there is doubt as to the identity of the person who prepared the Inventory
of Property Seized. According to the CA decision, it was Sergeant dela Cruzwho
prepared the said document.27 PO2 Cruz on the other hand, testified that it was
their investigatorwho prepared the document while SPO1 Licu’s testimony was
that a certain SPO4 Jamisolamin was their investigator.28

Page 22 of 231
Third, there were conflicting claims on whether the seized items were
photographed in the presence of the accused or his/her representative or counsel,
a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any elected public official.
During the cross-examination, PO2 Corpuz testified: Q: After you arrested Ramil
Dahil,did you conduct the inventory of the alleged seized items?

A: Yes, sir (sic).

Q: Where did you conduct the inventory?

A: In our office, ma’am

Q: Were pictures takenon the alleged seized items together with Ramil Dahil?

A: No, ma’am.29

[Emphases supplied]

SPO1 Licu when cross-examined on the same point, testified this was:

Q: After you conducted the alleged buy-bust operation, did you conduct an
inventory of the alleged seized items?

A: Yes, ma’am.

Q: Were the accused assisted by counsel at the time you conduct the
inventory?

A: No, ma’am.

Q: Were pictures taken on them including the alleged seized items?

A: Pictures were takenon the accused, ma’am.

[Emphasis supplied]

In other words, when questioned on the conduct of the inventory, PO2 Corpuz
testified that no pictures of the seized items were taken while SPO1 Licu said that
pictures of the accused were taken. From the vague statements of the police
officers, the Court doubts that photographs of the alleged drugs were indeed taken.
The records are bereft of any document showing the photos of the seized items.
The Court notes that SPO1 Licu could have misunderstood the question because
he answered that "pictures were taken on the accused" when the question referred
to photographs of the drugs and not of the accused.

The prosecution failed to establish that the integrity and evidentiary value of the
seized items were preserved.

Page 23 of 231
Notwithstanding the failure of the prosecution to establish the rigorous
requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165, jurisprudence dictates that
substantial compliance is sufficient. Failure to strictly comply with the law does
not necessarily render the arrestof the accused illegal or the items seized or
confiscated from him inadmissible.30 The issue of non-compliance with the said
section is not of admissibility, but of weight to be given on the evidence.31Moreover,
Section 21 of the IRR requires "substantial" and not necessarily "perfect
adherence," as long as it can be proven that the integrity and the evidentiary value
of the seized items are preserved as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. 32

To ensure that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are
preserved, the proper chain of custody of the seized items must be shown. The
Court explained in People v. Malillin33 how the chain of custody or movement of
the seized evidence should be maintained and why this must be shown by
evidence, viz:

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires that


the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a finding
that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. It would include
testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was picked up
to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that every person who touched
the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it was and
what happened to it while in the witness’ possession, the condition in which it was
received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link in the chain.
These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure that there
had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for someone
not in the chain to have possession of the same.

In People v. Kamad,34 the Court identified the links that the prosecution must
establish in the chain of custody in a buy-bust situation to be as follows: first, the
seizure and marking, ifpracticable, of the illegal drug recovered from the accused
by the apprehending officer; second, the turnover of the illegal drug seized bythe
apprehending officer to the investigating officer; third, the turnover by the
investigating officer of the illegal drug to the forensic chemist for laboratory
examination; and fourth, the turnover and submission of the marked illegal drug
seized by the forensic chemist to the court.

First link: Marking of the Drugs Recovered from the Accused by the Apprehending
Officer

Crucial in proving the chain of custody is the marking of the seized drugs or other
related items immediately after they have been seized from the accused. "Marking"
means the placing by the apprehending officer or the poseur-buyer of his/her
initials and signature on the items seized. Marking after seizure is the starting
point in the custodial link; hence, it is vital that the seized contraband be
immediately marked because succeeding handlers of the specimens will use the
Page 24 of 231
markingsas reference. The marking of the evidence serves to separate the
markedevidence from the corpus of all other similar or related evidence from the
time they are seized from the accused until they are disposed of at the end of the
criminal proceedings, thus, preventing switching, planting or contamination of
evidence.35

It must be noted that marking isnot found in R.A. No. 9165 and is different from
the inventory-taking and photography under Section 21 of the said law. Long
before Congress passed R.A. No. 9165, however, this Court had consistently held
that failure of the authorities to immediately mark the seized drugs would cast
reasonable doubt on the authenticity of the corpus delicti. 36

In the present case, PO2 Corpuz and SPO1 Licu claimed that they had placed their
initials on the seized items. They, however, gave little information on how they
actually did the marking. It is clear, nonetheless, that the marking was not
immediately done at the place of seizure, and the markings were only placed at the
police station based on the testimony of PO2 Corpuz, to wit: Q: So, after recovering
all those marijuana bricks and plastic sachets of marijuana and the marked money
from the accused, what else did you do?

A: We brought the two (2) suspects and the evidence and marked money to our
office, sir.

Q: So, in your office, what happened there?

A: Our investigator prepared the necessary documents, sir, the request for crime
lab examination, joint affidavit of arrest, booking sheet, and all other documents
necessary for the filing of the case against the two (2), sir.

xxx

Q: What about the marijuana, subject of the deal, and the one which you
confiscated from the accused, what did you do with those?

A: Before sending them to Olivas, we placed our markings, sir. 37

Hence, from the place of the seizure to the PDEA Office Region 3, the seized items
were not marked. It could not, therefore, be determined how the unmarked drugs
were handled. The Court must conduct guesswork on how the seized drugs were
transported and who took custody of them while in transit. Evidently, the
alteration of the seized items was a possibility absent their immediate marking
thereof.

Still, there are cases whenthe chain of a custody rule is relaxed such as when the
marking of the seized items is allowed to be undertaken at the police station rather
than at the place of arrest for as long as it is done in the presence of the accused
in illegal drugs cases.38 Even a less stringent application of the requirement,
Page 25 of 231
however, will not suffice to sustain the conviction of the accused in this case. Aside
from the fact that the police officers did not immediately place their markings on
the seized marijuana upon their arrival at the PDEA Office, there was also no
showing that the markings were made in the presence of the accused.

PO2 Corpuz testified that they only placed their markings on the drugs when they
were about to send them to Camp Olivas for forensic examination. This damaging
testimony was corroborated by the documentary evidence offered by the
prosecution. The following documents were made at the PDEA Office: (1) Joint
Affidavit of Arrest, (2) Custodial Investigation Report, (3) Inventory of Property
Seized, and (4) Laboratory Examination Request. Glaringly, only the Laboratory
Examination Request cited the markings on the seized drugs. Thus, it could only
mean that when the other documents were being prepared, the seized drugs had
not been marked and the police officers did not have basis for identifying them.
Considering that the seized drugs wereto be used for different criminal charges, it
was imperative for the police officers to properly mark them at the earliest possible
opportunity. Here, they failed in such a simple and critical task. The seized drugs
were prone to mix-up at the PDEA Office itself because of the delayed markings.

Worse, not all of the seized drugs were properly marked. As noted by the RTC,
Exhibit B-3 RC RD,39 Exhibit A-5 RC RD and Exhibit A-6 RD RC40 did not have
the initials of the apprehending officers on the back. Bearing in mind the
importance of marking the seized items, these lapses in the procedure are too
conspicuous and cannot be ignored. They placed uncertainty as to the identity of
the corpus delicti from the moment of seizure until it was belatedly marked at the
PDEA Office.

Similarly, in People v. Garcia,41 the Court considered the belated marking of the
seized drug by the apprehending officer in acquitting the accused in the case. The
officer testified that he marked the confiscated items only after he had returned
tothe police station. Such admission showed that the marking was not done
immediately after the seizure of the items, but after the lapse of a significant
intervening time.

Second Link: Turnover of the Seized Drugs by the Apprehending Officer to the
Investigating Officer

The second link in the chain of custody is the transfer of the seized drugs by the
apprehending officer to the investigating officer. Usually, the police officer who
seizes the suspected substance turns it over to a supervising officer, who will then
send it by courier to the police crime laboratory for testing. 42 This is a necessary
step in the chain of custody because it will be the investigating officer who shall
conduct the proper investigation and prepare the necessary documents for the
developing criminal case. Certainly, the investigating officer must have possession
of the illegal drugs to properly prepare the required documents.

Page 26 of 231
The investigator in this case was a certain SPO4 Jamisolamin. 43 Surprisingly,
there was no testimony from the witnesses as to the turnover of the seized items
to SPO4 Jamisolamin. It is highly improbable for an investigator in a drug-related
case toeffectively perform his work without having custody of the seized items.
Again, the case of the prosecution is forcing this Court to resort to guesswork as
to whether PO2 Corpuz and SPO1 Licu gave the seized drugs to SPO4 Jamisolamin
as the investigating officer or they had custody of the marijuana all night while
SPO4 Jamisolamin was conducting his investigation on the same items.

In People v. Remigio,44 the Court noted the failure of the police officers to establish
the chain of custody as the apprehending officer did not transfer the seized items
to the investigating officer. The apprehending officer kept the alleged shabu from
the time of confiscation until the time he transferred them to the forensic chemist.
The deviation from the links in the chain of custody led to the acquittal of the
accused in the said case.

Third Link: Turnover by the Investigating Officer of the Illegal Drugs to the Forensic
Chemist

From the investigating officer, the illegal drug is delivered to the forensic chemist.
Once the seized drugs arrive at the forensic laboratory, it will be the laboratory
technician who will test and verify the nature of the substance. In this case, it was
only during his cross-examination that PO2 Corpuz provided some information on
the delivery of the seized drugs to Camp Olivas, to wit:

Q: How about the alleged marijuana, you stated that the same was brought to the
crime laboratory, who brought the same to the crime lab?

A: Me and my back-up, ma’am.

Q: When did you bring the marijuana to the crime lab for examination?

A: I think it was the following day, ma’am.45

As can be gleaned from the testimony of PO2 Corpuz, very little detail was offered
on how the seized marijuana was handled and transferred from the PDEA Office
in Angeles City to the crime laboratory in Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga.
PO2 Corpuz kept possession of the seized drugs overnight without giving detailson
the safekeeping of the items. The most palpable deficiency of the testimony would
be the lack of information as to who received the subject drugs in Camp Olivas.

Engr. Ma. Luisa Gundran, the forensic chemist who conducted the tests on the
subject drugs, did not appear in court despite the numerous subpoenas sent to
her.46 Instead, the prosecution and the defense agreed to stipulate on the essential
points of her proffered testimony. Regrettably, the stipulated testimony of the
forensic chemist failed to shed light as to who received the subject drugs in Camp
Olivas. One of the stipulations was "that said forensic chemist conducted an
Page 27 of 231
examination on the substance of the letter-request with qualification that said
request was not subscribed or under oath and that forensic chemist has no
personalknowledge as from whom and where said substance was taken." 47 This
bolsters the fact that the forensic chemist had no knowledge as to who received
the seized marijuana at the crime laboratory.

The recent case of People v. Beran48 involved irregularities in the third link. The
police officer, who both served as apprehending and investigating officer, claimed
that he personally took the drug to the laboratory for testing, but there was no
showing who received the drug from him. The records also showed that he
submitted the sachet to the laboratory only on the next day, without explaining
how he preserved his exclusive custody thereof overnight. All those facts raised
serious doubt that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized item have not
been fatally compromised. Hence, the accused inthe said case was also acquitted.

Fourth Link: Turnover of the Marked Illegal Drug Seized by the Forensic Chemist
to the Court.

The last link involves the submission of the seized drugs by the forensic chemist
to the court when presented as evidence in the criminal case. No testimonial or
documentary evidence was given whatsoever as to how the drugs were kept while
in the custody of the forensic chemist until it was transferred to the court. The
forensic chemist should have personally testified on the safekeeping of the drugs
but the parties resorted to a general stipulation of her testimony. Although several
subpoenae were sent to the forensic chemist, only a brown envelope containing
the seized drugs arrived in court.49 Sadly, instead of focusing on the essential links
in the chain of custody, the prosecutor propounded questions concerning the
location of the misplaced marked money, which was not even indispensable in the
criminal case.

The case of People v. Gutierrez50 also had inadequate stipulations as to the


testimony of the forensic chemist. No explanation was given regarding the custody
of the seized drug in the interim - from the time it was turned over to the
investigator up to its turnover for laboratory examination. The records of the said
case did not show what happened to the allegedly seized shabu between the
turnover by the investigator to the chemist and its presentation in court. Thus,
since there was no showing that precautions were taken to ensure that there was
no change in the condition of that object and no opportunity for someone not in
the chain to have possession thereof, the accused therein was likewise acquitted.

In view of all the foregoing, the Court can only conclude that, indeed, there was no
compliance with the procedural requirements of Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165
because of the inadequate physical inventory and the lack of photography of the
marijuana allegedly confiscated from Dahil and Castro. No explanation was offered
for the non-observance of the rule. The prosecution cannot apply the saving
mechanism of Section 21 of the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 because it miserably failed
to prove that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items were
Page 28 of 231
preserved. The four links required to establish the proper chain of custody were
breached with irregularity and lapses.

The Court cannot either agree with the CA that the evidentiary rule involving the
presumption of regularity of the performance of official duties could apply in favor
of the police officers. The regularity of the performance of duty could not be
properly presumed in favor of the police officers because the records were replete
with indicia of their serious lapses.51 The presumption stands when no reason
exists in the records by which to doubt the regularity of the performance of official
duty. And even in that instance, the presumption of regularity will never be
stronger than the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. Otherwise, a
mere rule of evidence will defeat the constitutionally enshrined right of an accused
to be presumed innocent.52

Given the procedural lapses, serious uncertainty hangs over the identity of the
seized marijuana that the prosecution presented as evidence before the Court. In
effect, the prosecution failed to fully prove the elements of the crime charged,
creating a reasonable doubt on the criminal liability of the accused. 53

For said reason, there is no need to discuss the specific defenses raised by the
accused. WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The September 27, 2013
Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05707 is REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The accused-appellants, Ramil Doria Dahil and Rommel Castro y
Carlos, are ACQUITTED of the crime charged against them and ordered
immediately RELEASED from custody, unless they are being held for some other
lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to implement this decision


and to inform this Court of the date of the actual release from confinement of the
accused within five (5) days from receipt of copy.

SO ORDERED.

Page 29 of 231
15. G.R. No. 202206, March 5, 2018

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee vs. TENG MONER y ADAM,


Accused-Appellant

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an appeal of the Decision1 dated July 27, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04399 entitled, People of the Philippines v. Teng Manery
Adam, which affirmed the Joint Decision2 dated August 4, 2009 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 95 in Criminal Case Nos. Q-05-133982
and Q-05-133983. Anent Criminal Case No. Q-05-133982, the trial court found
appellant Teng Moner y Adam (Moner) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating
Section 5, Article II (sale of dangerous drugs) of Republic Act No. 9165 otherwise
known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. In the same
judgment, Moner and his co-accused were acquitted of the charge of violating
Section 11, Article II (possession of dangerous drugs) of the same statute which
was the subject of Criminal Case No. Q-05-133983.

The crime of which Moner was convicted is described in the Information dated
April 25, 2005, as follows:

That on or about the 23rd day of April, 2005, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said
accused, not being authorized by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or
distribute any dangerous drug, did then and there, willfully and unlawfully sell,
dispense, deliver, transport, distribute or act as broker in the said transaction,
three point ninety-one (3.91) grams of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug.3

Subsequently, on May 16, 2005, Moner pleaded "NOT GUILTY" to the


aforementioned charge of illegal sale of dangerous drugs upon his arraignment. 4

In its assailed Decision, the Court of Appeals presented the factual milieu of this
case in this manner:

To establish the guilt of accused-appellant, the prosecution presented three (3)


witnesses namely: P02 Joachim Panopio, P03 Junnifer Tuldanes and PO3 Edwin
Lirio.

The prosecution's evidence tends to establish the following facts:

On April 23, 2005, the police operatives of Las Piñas Police Station Anti-Illegal
Drugs Special Operation Task Force (SAIDSOTF) had arrested a certain Joel Taudil
for possession of illegal drugs. Upon investigation, they gathered from Taudil that

Page 30 of 231
the source of the illegal drugs was Teng Moner (herein accused-appellant) who
hails from Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

As per this information, Police Chief Inspector Jonathan Cabal formed a team that
would conduct a buy-bust operation for the apprehension of accused-appellant.
The team was composed of himself, SP04 Arnold Alabastro, SPO1 Warlie Hermo,
PO3 Junnifer Tuldanes, PO3 Edwin Lirio, PO2 Rodel Ordinaryo, PO1 Erwin
Sabbun and PO2 Joachim Panopio. The marked and boodle money were given to
PO2 Panopio who acted as the poseur-buyer.

Before proceeding with the buy-bust operation, the team prepared the pre-
operation report addressed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA),
the authority to operate outside their jurisdiction and the coordination paper.
Thereafter, they proceeded to the Central Police District Office (CPDO), Camp
Karingal, Quezon City for proper coordination. Thereafter, the team together with
Taudil and a CPD-DIID personnel proceeded [to] No. 26 Varsity Lane, Barangay
Culiat, Tandang Sora, Quezon City. Upon reaching the place they made a
surveillance and assumed their respective positions.

At the target area, P02 Panopio and Taudil went to accusedappellant's house.
While outside the gate, Taudil summoned accusedappellant and the latter came
out after a few minutes. The two men talked with each other in the Muslim dialect.
Taudil introduced PO2 Panopio as his friend to accused-appellant and told him
that PO2 Panopio was interested to buy shabu. PO2 Panopio asked for the price of
five (5) grams of shabu. Accused-appellant replied that the same would cost him
₱8,000.00 and asked him if he has the money. When PO2 Panopio confirmed that
he has the money with him, accused-appellant asked them to wait and he went
inside the house. When he returned after a few minutes, he handed a plastic
sachet containing a substance suspected as shabu to PO2 Panopio who in turn
gave him the marked and boodle money. Accused-appellant was about to count
the money when PO2 Panopio gave the pre-arranged signal to his team and
introduced himself as [a] police officer.

Accused-appellant resisted arrest and ran inside the house but PO2 Panopio was
able to catch up with him. The other members of the team proceeded inside the
house and they saw the other accused gather[ed] around a table re-
packing shabu. PO3 Lirio confiscated the items from them and placed the same
inside a plastic bag.

After accused-appellant and his co-accused were arrested, the team proceeded to
the Las Piñas City Police Station. The items confiscated from them were turned
over by PO2 Panopio to PO3 Dalagdagan who marked them in the presence of the
police operatives, accused-appellant and his co-accused. PO3 Dalagdagan
prepared the corresponding inventory of the confiscated items. The specimens
were then brought to the police crime laboratory for testing. The specimens yielded
positive to the test for methylamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Page 31 of 231
Consequently, a case for Violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165 was filed
against accused-appellant and another for Violation of Section 11, Article II of R.A.
9165 against him and his co-accused.

In refutation of the prosecution's version, the defense presented four (4) witnesses,
to wit: Judie Durado, Fatima Macabangen, accused-appellant and Richard
Pascual.

It is the contention of the defense that on April 23, 2005, accused-appellant and
his co-accused in Criminal Case No. Q-05-133983 were at the house located along
No. 26 Varsity Lane, Philam, Tan.dang Sora, Quezon City to prepare for the
wedding of Fatima Macabangen and Abubakar Usman to be held the following day.
While they were inside the house, several armed persons wearing civilian clothes
entered and announced that they were police officers. They searched the whole
house and gathered all of them in the living room.

The police officer who was positioned behind accused-appellant and Abubakar
dropped a plastic sachet. The former asked accused-appellant and Abubakar who
owns the plastic sachet. When accused-appellant .denied its ownership, the police
officer slapped him and accused him of being a liar. Thereafter, they were all
frisked and handcuffed and were brought outside the house. Their personal effects
and belongings were confiscated by the police officers. Then they boarded a jeepney
and were brought to [the] Las Piñas Police Station.

Upon their arrival, they were investigated. A police officer asked them to call up
anybody who can help them because they only needed money for their release.
Judie Dorado called up [his] mother. They saw the other items allegedly
confiscated from them only at the police station. At around 10:00 o'clock in the
evening, they were brought to Camp Crame, Quezon City. From there, they went
to Makati for drug testing and were returned to Las Piñas Police Station.

Subsequently, cases for Violation of R.A. No. 9165 were filed against them. 5

After receiving the evidence for both sides, the trial court convicted Moner on the
charge of selling shabu while, at the same time, acquitting him and his co-accused
of the charge of possession of illegal drugs. The dispositive portion of the August
4, 2009 Joint Decision of the trial court reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court renders its Joint Decision as follows:

1. In Criminal Case No. Q-05-133982:

The Court finds accused TENG MONER Y ADAM "GUILTY" beyond reasonable
doubt for violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165 or illegal selling of three
point ninety-one (3.91) grams of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous
drug and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and
to pay a FINE of FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (Php500,000.00).
Page 32 of 231
2. In Criminal Case No. Q-05-133983:

The Court finds accused TENG MONER Y ADAM, JUDIE DURADO Y


MACABANGEN, FATIMA MACABANGEN Y NUÑEZ, ABUBAKAR USMAN Y
MASTORA, GUIAMIL ABU Y JUANITEZ, NORODIN USMAN Y MASTORA, RICHARD
PASCUAL Y TANGALIN and AMINA USMAN-MONER "NOT GUILTY" for violation of
Section 11, Art. II of R.A. 9165 considering that the prosecution failed to prove
their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The pieces of evidence subject matter of Crim. Case No. Q-05- 133983 are hereby
ordered to be safely delivered to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for
proper disposition.6

As can be expected, Moner elevated his case to the Court of Appeals which,
unfortunately for him, ruled to affirm the findings of the trial court and
dispositively held:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated August 4, 2009 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 95, Quezon City in Criminal Case No. Q-05- 133982 finding
accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt is hereby AFFIRMED.7

Hence, Moner interposes this appeal wherein he reiterates the same errors on the
part of the trial court contained in his Brief filed with the Court of Appeals, to wit:

A. THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ISSUED ITS DECISION


DATED AUGUST 4, 2009 FINDING THE ACCUSEDAPPELLANT MONER
GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF VIOLATING SECTION 5,
ARTICLE II OF R.A. 9165, WHEN THE TESTIMONIES OF THE THREE (3)
PROSECUTION WITNESSES (P02 JOACHIM P ANOPIO, P03 JUNNIFER
TULDANES, AND P03 EDWIN LIRIO) ARE HIGHLY INCREDIBLE AND
UNBELIEVABLE TO PROVE THE ALLEGED BUY-BUST.

B. THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN ITS DECISION WHEN IT


RELIED SOLELY ON THE PERJURED TESTIMONIES OF THE
PROSECUTION WITNESSES POLICE OFFICERS WHICH ARE FULL OF
INCONSISTENCIES.

C. THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN ISSUING THE ASSAILED


DECISION WHEN IT FAILED TO GIVE CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES
OF THE DEFENSE WITNESSES WHO CLEARLY TESTIFIED THAT THERE
WAS REALLY NO BUY-BUST AND THAT APPELLANT MONER WAS NOT
SELLING ANY PROHIBITED DRUGS.

D. THE COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ISSUED THE ASSAILED


DECISION DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES
FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY PROVISION OF SEC. 19 OF
R.A. NO. 9165, ON THE MATTER OF PHYSICAL INVENTORY, AND PICTURE
Page 33 of 231
TAKING OF THE EVIDENCE ALLEGEDLY SEIZED FROM THE ACCUSED,
AS WELL AS THE PROVISION OF SECTION 86 THEREOF.8

In sum, Moner maintains that the prosecution failed to discharge its burden of
proof to sustain his conviction for the charge of sale of dangerous drugs. He
highlights the fact that the prosecution failed to present in court the informant
who pointed to him as a supplier of shabu. He also stresses that the buy-bust
operation was conducted without proper coordination with the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Likewise, he derides the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses as inconsistent, incredible and unworthy of belief. Most
importantly, he underscores the failure of the arresting officers to comply with the
statutorily mandated procedure for the handling and custody of the dangerous
drugs allegedly seized from him.

The appeal is without merit.

For a successful prosecution of an offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the


following essential elements must be proven: (1) that the transaction or ·sale took
place; (2) that the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence; and
(3) that the buyer and seller were identified. 9

A perusal of the records of this case would reveal that the aforementioned elements
were established by the prosecution. The illegal drugs and the marked money were
presented and identified in court. More importantly, Police Officer (PO) 2 Joachim
Panopio (PO2 Panopio ), who acted as poseur-buyer, positively identified Moner as
the seller of the shabu to him for a consideration of ₱8,000.00.

With regard to Moner's contention that the prosecution's failure to present the
informant in court diminishes the case against him, we reiterate our
pronouncement on this matter in the recent case of People v. Lafaran10 :

It has oft been held that the presentation of an informant as witness is not
regarded as indispensable to the success of a prosecution of a drug-dealing
accused. As a rule, the informant is not presented in court for security reasons, in
view of the need to protect the informant from the retaliation of the culprit arrested
through his efforts. Thereby, the confidentiality of the informant's identity is
protected in deference to his invaluable services to law enforcement. Only when
the testimony of the informant is considered absolutely essential in obtaining the
conviction of the culprit should the need to protect his security be disregarded. In
the present case, as the buy-bust operation was duly witnessed by SPO2 Aro and
PO3 Pera, their testimonies can take the place of that of the poseur-buyer.

Thus, we concur with the appellate court's finding that there is no need to present
the informant because PO2 Panopio, who acted as the poseur-buyer, had testified
in court. Furthermore, the other members of the buy-bust team, namely PO3
Junnifer Tuldanes (PO3 Tuldanes) and PO3 Edwin Lirio (PO3 Lirio ), gave clear

Page 34 of 231
and credible testimonies with regard to the criminal transaction that was
consummated by appellant and PO2 Panopio.

In addition, we rule that inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution


witnesses that were pointed out by Moner consist merely of minor variances that
do not deviate from the main narrative which is the fact that Moner sold illegal
drugs to a poseur-buyer. It has been held, time and again, that minor
inconsistencies and contradictions in the declarations of witnesses do not destroy
the witnesses' credibility but even enhance their truthfulness as they erase any
suspicion of a rehearsed testimony.11 It bears stressing, too, that the
determination by the trial court of the credibility of witnesses, when affirmed by
the appellate court, is accorded full weight and credit as well as great respect, if
not conclusive effect.12

Lastly, we can give no credence to Moner's contention that the prosecution failed
to prove an unbroken chain of custody in consonance with the requirements of
law.

To ensure that the drug specimen presented in court as evidence against the
accused is the same material seized from him or that, at the very least, a dangerous
drug was actually taken from his possession, we have adopted the chain of custody
rule. The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has expressly defined chain of custody
involving dangerous drugs and other substances in the following terms in Section
1 (b) of DDB Regulation No. 1, Series of 2002:

b. "Chain of Custody" means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody
of seized drugs or controlled chemicals or plant sources of dangerous drugs or
laboratory equipment of each stage, from the time of seizure/confiscation to
receipt in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for
destruction. Such record of movements and custody of seized item shall include
the identity and signature of the person who held temporary custody of the seized
item, the date and time when such transfer of custody were made in the course of
safekeeping and use in court as evidence, and the final disposition[.]

In relation to this, Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 pertinently provides the
following:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered


Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. -
The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well
as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall,
immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph
Page 35 of 231
the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items
were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a
representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof[.]

Furthermore, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of


Republic Act No. 9165 relevantly states:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered


Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment.
- The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well
as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom
such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel,
a representative from the media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any
elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies of the inventory and
be given a copy thereof; Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall
be conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest
police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team,
whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures; Provided, further, that
noncompliance with these requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as
the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly
preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid
such seizures of and custody over said items[.] (Emphasis supplied.)

We have consistently ruled that noncompliance with the requirements of Section


21 of Republic Act No. 9165 will not necessarily render the illegal drugs seized or
confiscated in a buy-bust operation inadmissible. Strict compliance with the letter
of Section 21 is not required if there is a clear showing that the integrity and
evidentiary value of the seized illegal drugs have been preserved, i.e., the illegal
drugs being offered in court as evidence is, without a specter of doubt, the very
same item recovered in the buy-bust operation.13

With regard to the foregoing, Moner asserts that he should be acquitted of the
criminal charges levelled against him specifically because of the following serious
lapses in procedure committed by the apprehending officers: (a) the physical
inventory was not conducted at the place where the seizure was made; (b) the
seized item was not photographed at the place of seizure; and (c) there was no
physical inventory and photograph of the seized item in the presence of the
accused, or his representative or counsel, with an elected public official and a
Page 36 of 231
representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media who shall be
required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

The aforementioned concerns can be squarely addressed by a careful and


assiduous review of the records of this case accompanied by a liberal application
and understanding of relevant jurisprudence in support thereof. Both object and
testimonial evidence demonstrate that the apprehending officers were able to mark
the dangerous drugs seized and to prepare a physical inventory of the same at the
Las Piñas Police Station which was the place where Moner and his co-accused
were brought for processing. The following excerpts lifted from the transcript of
the testimony of PO2 Panopio during trial confirm this fact:

Q Now, Mr. Witness, after your team recovered [the] evidence on top of the table
inside the house, arrested those persons whom you identified a while ago and also
arrested Teng Moner recovered from him the buy-bust money, what happened
next?

A We brought them to the police headquarters.

Q In what headquarters did you bring the persons arrested?

A We brought them to Special Action ... SAID-SOTF Las Piñas Police Station.

xxxx

Q Now, I would like to inform you that under Section 21 of the Republic Act 9165,
the arresting officer immediately after the arrest of the accused or the person buy-
bust for possession must prepare the inventory of seized evidence.

A Yes, sir.

Q What do you mean by "yes"?

A We did prepare an inventory, sir.

Q So, you are aware of that provision?

A I just forgot the Section 21, sir.

COURT: (to the witness)

Q You do not know that doing an inventory is a requirement under Section 21?

A Yes, your Honor.

PROS.: (to the witness)

Page 37 of 231
Q Now, you said that you are aware of Section 21 an inventory must be made. Do
you know whether your team complied with that provision of the law upon
reaching the station?

A Yes, sir,

Q What do you mean by "yes"?

A We made an Inventory Report, sir.

Q Where is now that Inventory Report?

A It's with the documents I submitted earlier in court, sir.

xxxx

PROS: (to the Court)

This piece of document handed by the witness your Honor, the Inventory of
Property Seized be marked as Exhibit "OOO".

COURT: (to the witness)

Q That is the original, Mr. Witness?

A Yes, your Honor.

xxxx

PROS.: (to the Court)

Q The signature of PO3 Rufino G. Dalagdagan under the heading "Received By:"
be bracketed and be marked as Exhibit "OOO-1"; the list of the articles appearing
[in] the body of Exhibit "OOO" be bracketed and be marked as Exhibit "OOO-
2". This Receipt of Property Turned-Over, your Honor, which states: "I, P03
RUFINO G. DALAGDAGAN OF SAID-SOTF, LAS PINAS CITY POLICE STATION,
SPD hereby acknowledge received (sic) the items/articles listed hereunder
[from] PO2 JOACHIM P. PANOPIO" and may we request, your honor that letters
appearing on the top of the name TENG MONER ADAM, ET AL. (RTS) be marked
as Exhibit "OOO-3"

PROS.: (to the witness)

Q Who prepared this Exhibit "OOO"?

A PO3 Rufino Dalagdagan, sir.

Page 38 of 231
Q These items listed [in] the body of marked as Exhibit "OOO", who made these
items?

A I, myself, sir.

Q Now, showing to you this Exhibit marked as "OOO-3" particularly on [the] letters
RPS appearing inside the parenthesis, who placed that entry (RPS)?

A Police Officer Dalagdagan, sir.

Q Where were you at the time when this (RPS) marked as Exhibit "OOO-3" was
made?

A I was inside the office, sir.

Q Where were those persons whom your team arrested when this evidence
marked as Exhibit "OOO" was made?

A They were also inside the office, sir.

xxxx

Q You said a while ago that in consideration with the buy-bust money, you received
from the accused, Teng Moner, that plastic sachet containing shabu. Upon
reaching the station, what happened to the plastic sachet, subject matter of
the buy-bust operation?

A I turned it over, sir.

Q To whom?

A PO3 Dalagdagan, sir.

Q And before you turned it over to the investigator, PO3 Dalagdagan,


that shabu subject matter of the buy-bust operation, what did you do with
it?

A He placed [the] markings on it, sir.

Q Showing to you several pieces of evidence placed inside the brown envelope.
Kindly look at the same and pick from these several items that plastic sachet,
subject matter of the buy-bust operation?

A (Witness picked from the bunch of evidence the plastic sachet which already
marked as Exhibit "P" and he read [the] markings "TMAU1-23APR05".)

Page 39 of 231
Q Now, you also stated a while ago that you were the one who personally recovered
the buy-bust money used in the operation from the possession of the accused,
Teng Moner. If the same would be shown to you, would you be able to identify it?

A Yes, sir.

xxxx

Q Now, you also stated that the Request for Laboratory Examination was
made by the investigator, Now, who delivered the plastic sachet subject
matter of the buy-bust operation for laboratory examination?

A We did, sir.14 (Emphases supplied.)

Judging from the cited testimony, it is apparent that the apprehending officers
were able to substantially comply with the requirements of the law regarding the
custody of confiscated or seized dangerous drugs. When cross-examined by the
defense counsel during trial about the reason behind the buy-bust team's
noncompliance with standard procedure, PO3 Tuldanes, one of the apprehending
officers, gave the following response:

ATTY. PALAD: (to witness)

Q Meaning you had no time to make the inventory right at the scene of the alleged
buy-bust?

A Yes, sir, because we were immediately instructed to pull out from the area.

Q Was there any threat on your lives that you immediately pulled out from the
said area?

A It was not our area - Area of Responsibility - so we just wanted to make sure, for
security and immediately left, sir.

Q So this fear for security, you did not follow this photographing/inventory?

A We did not do that anymore, sir, because our security was at risk. 15

Verily, the circumstances that the buy-bust team proceeded first to the Central
Police District (CPD) Station, Camp Karingal in Quezon City and, from there, they
were accompanied by a police officer from the CPD to the target location, aside
from proving that it was a legitimate police operation, supported the existence of
a security risk to the buy-bust team. These additional precautions taken by the
buy-bust team underscored their unfamiliarity with the location of the operation
and, in fact, corroborated the above-quoted testimony that the buy-bust team
believed there was a threat to their security.

Page 40 of 231
With regard to the accused’s allegation that the buy-bust team failed to coordinate
with the PDEA before proceeding with the operation that nabbed Moner, both the
trial court and the Court of Appeals declare in unison that the requisite prior
coordination with PDEA did happen. Likewise, our own review did not provide any
reason for us to disbelieve said established fact.

To reiterate, noncompliance with the chain of custody rule is excusable as long as


there exist justifiable grounds which prevented those tasked to follow the same
from strictly conforming to the said directive. The preceding discussion clearly
show that the apprehending officers in this case did not totally disregard
prescribed procedure but, instead, demonstrated substantial compliance with
what was required. It was likewise explained that the divergence in procedure was
not arbitrary or whimsical but because the buy-bust team decided that they could
not linger at the crime scene as it would unduly expose them to security risks
since they were outside their area of responsibility.

Notably, in the recent case of Palo v. People, 16 we affirmed a conviction for illegal
possession of dangerous drugs despite the fact that the seized illegal substance
was only marked at the police station and that there was no physical inventory or
photograph of the same:

The fact that the apprehending officer marked the plastic sachet at the police
station, and not at the place of seizure, did not compromise the integrity of the
seized item. Jurisprudence has declared that "marking upon immediate
confiscation" contemplates even marking done at the nearest police station or
office of the apprehending team. Neither does the absence of a physical inventory
nor the lack of photograph of the confiscated item renders the same inadmissible.
What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary
value of the seized items as these would be used in determining the guilt or
innocence of the accused.17

With regard to the third breach of procedure highlighted by Moner, this Court
cites People v. Usman18 wherein we declared that the chain of custody is not
established solely by compliance with the prescribed physical inventory and
photographing of the seized drugs in the presence of the enumerated persons by
law. In that case, the police officers who arrested and processed the accused did
not perform the prescribed taking of photographs under the law but, nevertheless,
the assailed conviction was upheld. The Court reasoned thus:

[T]his Court has, in many cases, held that while the chain of custody should ideally
be perfect, in reality it is not, "as it is almost always impossible to obtain an
unbroken chain." The most important factor is the preservation of the integrity
and the evidentiary value of the seized items as they will be used to determine the
guilt or innocence of the accused. x x x.19

In the case at bar, the records indicate that the integrity and the evidentiary value
of the seized items had been preserved despite the procedural infirmities that
Page 41 of 231
accompanied the process. On this score, we quote with approval the disquisition
of the Court of Appeals:

The record shows that upon the arrest of accused-appellant, the shabu and
marked money were confiscated from him by P02 Panopio. Accused-appellant was
immediately brought to the Las Piñas Police Station where the items confiscated
from him were turned-over by P02 Panopio to P03 Dalagdagan, the investigator-
on-case. The latter received the confiscated items and marked them in the
presence of P02 Panopio and accused-appellant. An inventory of the
confiscated items was also made.

Thereafter, the request for laboratory examination was prepared by P03


Dalagdagan and signed by P/C Insp. Jonathan A. Cabal. The specimen together
with the request was brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Camp Crame, Quezon
City by P02 Panopio and the other police officers. There, it was received by PSI
Michael S: Holada, who delivered the specimen and request for laboratory test to
the forensic chemist PIS Maridel C. Rodis. After examination, the specimen
submitted for testing proved positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug. The result of the test was reduced to writing and signed by the
forensic chemist. It was duly noted by P/Sr. Supt. Ricardo Cacholaver. It is worth
stressing that the prosecution and defense had agreed to dispense with the
testimony of the forensic chemist and stipulated among others that she could
identify the documents and the specimens she examined. 20 (Emphases supplied
and citations omitted.)

Anent Moner' s allegation that the buy-bust team asked money from him and his
former co-accused in exchange for their liberty, it must be emphasized that the
said allegation only came to light when defense counsel asked appellant what
happened when he and his former co-accused were brought to the Las Piñas Police
Station.21 Curiously, however, defense counsel did not confront any of the
prosecution witnesses regarding the said accusation. More importantly, based on
the record, no criminal or administrative· case relating thereto was ever filed by
Moner or any of his former co-accused against their alleged extortionists.
Nevertheless, on this particular issue, we would like to reiterate our ruling that
the defense of denial or frame-up, like alibi, has been invariably viewed by the
courts with disfavor for it can just easily be concocted and is a common and
standard defense ploy in most prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs
Act.22

At this juncture, it bears repeating that in cases involving violations of the


Dangerous Drugs Act, credence is given to prosecution witnesses who are police
officers, for they are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner,
unless there is evidence to the contrary.23 Admittedly, the buy-bust team did not
follow certain aspects of procedure to the letter but this was excusable under the
saving clause of the chain of custody rule and prevailing jurisprudence. As a
consequence thereof, their arrest of Moner in the performance of their duty cannot
be described as having been done so irregularly as to convince this Court to
Page 42 of 231
invalidate the credibility and belief bestowed by the trial court on the prosecution
evidence. Accordingly, Moner must provide clear and convincing evidence to
overturn the aforesaid presumption that the police officers regularly performed
their duties but the records show that he has failed to do so. Absent any proof of
mishandling, tampering or switching of evidence presented against him by the
arresting officers and other authorities involved in the chain of custody, the
presumption remains.

This is not the first time that this Court has been confronted with the question of
whether or not to uphold the conviction of a person arrested for the illegal sale of
dangerous drugs who had been positively identified by credible witnesses as the
perpetrator of said crime but the manner by which the evidence of illegal drugs
was handled did not strictly comply with the chain of custody rule. To reiterate
past pronouncements, while ideally the procedure on the chain of custody should
be perfect and unbroken, in reality, it is not as it is almost always impossible to
obtain an unbroken chain.24 Unfortunately; rigid obedience to procedure creates
a scenario wherein the safeguards that we set to shield the innocent are likewise
exploited by the guilty to escape rightful punishment. Realizing the inconvenient
truth that no perfect chain of custody can ever be achieved, this Court has
consistently held that the most important factor in the chain of custody rule is the
preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items. 25

We find it apropos to highlight this Court's discussion in Zalameda v.


People, 26 which was restated in the recent case of Saraum v. People27

We would like to add that noncompliance with Section 21 of said law, particularly
the making of the inventory and the photographing of the drugs confiscated and/or
seized, will not render the drugs inadmissible in evidence. Under Section 3 of Rule
128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible when it is relevant to the issue
and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be inadmissible, there
should be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule,
the evidence must be admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will
accorded it by the court x x x.

We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring
about the non-admissibility of the confiscated and/or seized drugs due to
noncompliance with Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if
there is noncompliance with said section, is not of admissibility, but of weight -
evidentiary merit or probative value - to be given the evidence. The weight to be
given by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in
each case.

Stated differently, if the evidence of illegal drugs was not handled precisely in the
manner prescribed by the chain of custody rule, the consequence relates not to
inadmissibility that would automatically destroy the prosecution's case but rather
to the weight of evidence presented for each particular case. In the case at bar, the
trial court judge convicted Moner on the strength of the credibility of the
Page 43 of 231
prosecution's witnesses despite an imperfect chain of custody concerning
the corpus delicti.

It should be noted that Section 21(a) of the IRR of Republic Act No. 9165 provides
that:

SEC. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered


Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and
Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. -
The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant
sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well
as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so confiscated, seized
and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the dangerous
drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia
and/or laboratory equipment shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation,
conduct a physical inventory of the seized items and photograph the same in the
presence of the accused or the persons from whom such items were confiscated
and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, with an elected public official
and a representative of the National Prosecution Service or the media who shall be
required to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy
thereof: Provided, That the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted
at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or
at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/team, whichever is practicable, in
case of warrantless seizures: Provided, finally, That noncompliance of these
requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the
apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures
and custody over said items. (Emphases supplied.)

The above-quoted provision recognizes that the credibility of the prosecution's


witnesses and the admissibility of other evidence are well within the power of trial
court judges to decide. Paragraph (5), Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution vests upon the Supreme Court the following power, among others:

(5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of


constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the
admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the
underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure
for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same
grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of
procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless
disapproved by the Supreme Court.

Jurisprudence explains the above-quoted constitutional provision m the following


manner:
Page 44 of 231
Until the 1987 Constitution took effect, our two previous constitutions textualized
a power sharing scheme between the legislature and this Court in the enactment
of judicial rules. Thus, both the 1935 and the 1973 Constitutions vested on the
Supreme Court the "power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and
procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of law." However, these
constitutions also granted to the legislature the concurrent power to "repeal, alter
or supplement" such rules.

The 1987 Constitution textually altered the power-sharing scheme under the
previous charters by deleting in Section 5(5) of Article VIII Congress'
subsidiary and corrective power. This glaring and fundamental omission led
the Court to observe in Echegaray v. Secretary of Justice that this Court's
power to promulgate judicial rules "is no longer shared by this Court with
Congress."28

The power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all
courts is a traditional power of this Court.29 This includes the power to promulgate
the rules of evidence.

On the other hand, the Rules of Evidence are provided in the Rules of Court issued
by the Supreme Court. However, the chain of custody rule is not found in the Rules
of Court. Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165 was passed by the legislative
department and its implementing rules were promulgated by PDEA, in
consultation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other agencies under and
within the executive department.

In the United States, the chain of custody rule is followed by the federal courts
using the provisions of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Federal Court of Appeals
applied this rule in United States v. Ricco30 and held as follows:

The "chain of custody" rule is found in Fed. R. Evid. 901, which requires that
the admission of an exhibit must be preceded by "evidence sufficient to
support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims."
x x x.

x x x As we have pointed out, the "chain of custody' is not an iron-clad requirement,


and the fact of a ‘missing link' does not prevent the admission of real evidence, so
long as there is sufficient proof that the evidence is what it purports to be and has
not been altered in any material respect." x x x.

According to Cornell University's online legal encyclopedia, "[r]ules of evidence are,


as the name indicates, the rules by which a court determines what evidence is
admissible at trial. In the U.S., federal courts follow the Federal Rules of Evidence,
while state courts generally follow their own rules."31 In the U.S. State of Alaska,
for example, the "chain of custody" rule is found in Alaska Evidence Rule 901(a). 32

Page 45 of 231
Evidence is defined in Section 1 of Rule 12833 as "the means, sanctioned by these
rules, of ascertaining in a judicial proceeding the truth respecting a matter of
fact." Section 2 of the same Rule provides that "[t]he rules of evidence shall be the
same in all courts and in all trials and hearings, except as otherwise provided by
law or these rules."

Furthermore, the said Rule provides for the admissibility of evidence, and states
that "[ e ]vidence is admissible when it is relevant to the issue and is not excluded
by the law or these rules." The Rules of Admissibility provide that "[ o ]bjects as
evidence are those addressed to the senses of the court. When an object is relevant
to the fact in issue, it may be exhibited to, examined or viewed by the court. " 34

Under the doctrine of separation of powers, it is important to distinguish if a matter


is a proper subject of the rules of evidence, which as shown above are promulgated
by the Court, or it is a subject of substantive law, and should be passed by an act
of Congress. The Court discussed this distinction in the early case of Bustos v.
Lucero35:

Substantive law creates substantive rights and the two terms in this respect may
be said to be synonymous. Substantive rights is a term which includes those rights
which one enjoys under the legal system prior to the disturbance of normal
relations. (60 C. J., 980.) Substantive law is that part of the law which creates,
defines and regulates rights, or which regulates ·the rights and duties which give
rise to a cause of action; that part of the law which courts are established to
administer; as opposed to adjective or remedial law, which prescribes the method
of enforcing rights or obtains redress for their invasion. (36 C. J., 27; 52 C. J. S.,
1026.)

As applied to criminal law, substantive law is that which declares what acts
are crimes and prescribes the punishment for committing them, as
distinguished from the procedural law which provides or regulates the steps
by which one who commits a crime is to be punished. (22 C. J. S., 49.)
Preliminary investigation is eminently and essentially remedial; it is the first step
taken in a criminal prosecution.

As a rule of evidence, section 11 of Rule 108 is also procedural. Evidence - which


is "the mode and manner of proving the competent facts and circumstances on
which a party relies to establish the fact in dispute in judicial proceedings" - is
identified with and forms part of the method by which, in private law, rights are
enforced and redress obtained, and, in criminal law, a law transgressor is
punished. Criminal procedure refers to pleading, evidence and practice.
(State vs. Capaci, 154 So., 419; 179 La., 462.) The entire rules of evidence have
been incorporated into the Rules of Court. We can not tear down section 11 of Rule
108 on constitutional grounds without throwing out the whole code of evidence
embodied in these Rules.

Page 46 of 231
In Beazell vs. Ohio, 269 U. S., 167, 70 Law. ed., 216, the United States Supreme
Court said:

"Expressions are to be found in earlier judicial opinions to the effect that the
constitutional limitation may be transgressed by alterations in the rules of
evidence or procedure. See Calder vs. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 390, 1 L. ed., 648, 650;
Cummings vs. Missouri, 4 Wall. 277, 326, 18 L. ed., 356, 364; Kring vs.Missouri,
107 U. S. 221, 228, 232, 27 L. ed., 507, 508, 510, 2 Sup. Ct. Rep., 443. And there
may be procedural changes which operate to deny to the accused a defense
available under the laws in force at the time of the commission of his offense, or
which otherwise affect him in such a harsh and arbitrary manner as to fall within
the constitutional prohibition. Kring vs. Missouri, 107 U. S., 221, 27 L. ed., 507,
2 Sup. Ct. Rep., 443; Thompson vs. Utah, 170 U. S., 343, 42 L. ed., 1061, 18 Sup.
Ct. Rep., 620. But it is now well settled that statutory changes in the mode of trial
or the rules of evidence, which do not deprive the accused of a defense and which
operate only in a limited and unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage, are not
prohibited. A statute which, after indictment, enlarges the class of persons who
may be witnesses at the trial, by removing the disqualification of persons convicted
of felony, is not an ex post facto law. Hopt vs. Utah, 110 U. S., 575, 28 L. ed., 263,
4 Sup. Ct. Rep., 202, 4 Am. Crim. Rep. 417. Nor is a statute which changes the
rules of evidence after the indictment so as to render admissible against the
accused evidence previously held inadmissible, Thompson vs. Missouri, 171 U. S.,
380, 43 L. ed., 204, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep., 922; or which changes the place of trial,
Gut vs. Minnesota, 9 Wall. 35, 19 L. ed., 573; or which abolishes a court for
hearing criminal appeals, creating a new one in its stead. See
Duncan vs. Missouri, 152 U. S., 377, 382, 38 L. ed., 485, 487, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep.,
570."

xxxx

The distinction between "remedy" and "substantive right" is incapable of exact


definition. The difference is somewhat a question of degree. (Dexter vs. Edmands,
89 F., 467; Beazell vs. Ohio, supra.) It is difficult to draw a line in any particular
case beyond which legislative power over remedy and procedure can pass without
touching upon the substantive rights of parties affected, as it is impossible to fix
that boundary by general condition. (State vs. Pavelick, 279 P., 1102.) This being
so, it is inevitable that the Supreme Court in making rules should step on
substantive rights, and the Constitution must be presumed to tolerate if not to
expect such incursion as does not affect the accused in a harsh and arbitrary
manner or deprive him of a defense, but operates only in a limited and
unsubstantial manner to his disadvantage. For the Court's power is not merely to
compile, revise or codify the rules of procedure existing at the time of the
Constitution's approval. This power is "to promulgate rules concerning pleading,
practice, and procedure in all courts," which is a power to adopt a general,
complete and comprehensive system of procedure, adding new and different rules
without regard to their source and discarding old ones.

Page 47 of 231
To emphasize, the distinction in criminal law is this: substantive law is that which
declares what acts are crimes and prescribes the punishment for committing
them, as distinguished from the procedural law which provides or regulates the
steps by which one who commits a crime is to be punished.36

Based on the above, it may be gleaned that the chain of custody rule is a matter
of evidence and a rule of procedure.1âwphi1 It is therefore the Court who has the
last say regarding the appreciation of evidence. Relevant portions of decisions
elucidating on the chain of custody rule are quoted below:

Saraum v. People37:

The chain of custody rule requires the identification of the persons who
handled the confiscated items for the purpose of duly monitoring the
authorized movements of the illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia from
the time they were seized from the accused until the time they are presented
in court.x x x. (Citation omitted.)

Mallillin v. People38 :

Prosecutions for illegal possession of prohibited drugs necessitates that the


elemental act of possession of a prohibited substance be established with moral
certainty, together with the fact that the same is not authorized by law. The
dangerous drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of the offense and the fact
of its existence is vital to a judgment of conviction. Essential therefore in these
cases is that the identity of the prohibited drug be established beyond doubt. Be
that as it may, the mere fact of unauthorized possession will not suffice to create
in a reasonable mind the moral certainty required to sustain a finding of guilt.
More than just the fact of possession, the fact that the substance illegally
possessed in the first place is the same substance offered in court as exhibit must
also be established with the same unwavering exactitude as that requisite to make
a finding of guilt. The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that
it ensures that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are
removed.

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires


that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to
support a finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims
it to be. It would include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment
the item was picked up to the time it is offered into evidence, in such a way that
every person who touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was
received, where it was and what happened to it while in the witness' possession,
the condition in which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered
to the next link in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions
taken to ensure that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no
opportunity for someone not in the chain to have possession of the same. (Citations
omitted.)
Page 48 of 231
These are matters well within the powers of courts to appreciate and rule upon,
and so, when the courts find appropriate, substantial compliance with the chain
of custody rule as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
have been preserved may warrant the conviction of the accused. This is the
rationale, grounded on the constitutional power of the Court, to pass upon the
credibility and admissibility of evidence that underlies the proviso in Section 21(a)
of the IRR of Republic Act No. 9165.

To conclude, this Court has consistently espoused the time-honored doctrine that
where the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, the findings of the trial court are
not to be disturbed unless the consideration of certain facts of substance and
value, which have been plainly overlooked, might affect the result of the case. 39 We
do not believe that the explainable deviations to the chain of custody rule
demonstrated by the police officers involved in this case are reason enough to
overturn the findings of the trial court judge, who personally observed and weighed
the testimony of the witnesses during trial and examined the evidence submitted
by both parties.

In light of the foregoing, we are compelled to dismiss the present appeal and affirm
the conviction of Moner for the crime of illegal sale of dangerous drugs.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is DISMISSED for lack of


merit. The assailed Decision dated July 27, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04399 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Page 49 of 231
16. G.R. No. 179940, April 23, 2008
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. NORBERTO DEL MONTE y GAPAY @ OBET

Assailed before Us is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-


H.C. No. 02070 dated 28 May 2007 which affirmed with modification the
Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 78, in
Criminal Case No. 3437-M-02, finding accused-appellant Norberto del
Monte, a.k.a. Obet, guilty of violation of Section 5,[3] Article II of Republic Act No.
9165, otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

On 11 December 2002, accused-appellant was charged with Violation of


Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.The accusatory portion of the information reads:

That on or about the 10th day of December 2002, in the municipality of


Baliuag, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction
of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority
of law and legal justification, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously sell, trade, deliver, give away, dispatch in transit and
transport dangerous drug consisting of one (1) heat-sealed transparent
plastic sachet of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride weighing 0.290
gram.[4]

The case was raffled to Branch 78 of the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan and
docketed as Criminal Case No. 3437-M-02.

When arraigned on 20 January 2003, appellant, assisted by counsel de


oficio, pleaded Not Guilty to the charge.[5] On 17 February 2003, the pre-trial
conference was concluded.[6] Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.

The prosecution presented as its lone witness PO1 Gaudencio M. Tolentino,


Jr., the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation conducted against appellant, and
a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned with the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Regional Office 3/Special Enforcement Unit (SEU)
stationed at the Field Office, Barangay Tarcan, Baliuag, Bulacan.

The version of the prosecution is as follows:

On 10 December 2002, at around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, a confidential


informant went to the office of the PDEA SEU in Barangay Tarcan, Baliuag,
Bulacan and reported that appellant was selling shabu. Upon receipt of said
information, a briefing on a buy-bust operation against appellant was
conducted. The team was composed of SPO2 Hashim S. Maung, as team leader,
PO1 Gaudencio Tolentino, Jr. as the poseur-buyer, and PO1 Antonio Barreras as

Page 50 of 231
back-up operative. After the briefing, the team, together with the confidential
informant, proceeded to Poblacion Dike for the execution of the buy-bust
operation.

When the team arrived at appellants place, they saw the appellant standing
alone in front of the gate. The informant and PO1 Tolentino approached
appellant. The informant introduced PO1 Tolentino to appellant as his friend,
saying Barkada ko, user. PO1 Tolentino gave appellant P300.00 consisting of three
marked P100 bills.[7] The bills were marked with GT JR, PO1 Tolentinos
initials. Upon receiving the P300.00, appellant took out a plastic sachet from his
pocket and handed it over to PO1 Tolentino. As a pre-arranged signal, PO1
Tolentino lit a cigarette signifying that the sale had been consummated. PO1
Barreras arrived, arrested appellant and recovered from the latter the marked
money.

The white crystalline substance[8] in the plastic sachet which was sold to PO1
Tolentino was forwarded to PNP Regional Crime Laboratory Office 3, Malolos,
Bulacan, for laboratory examination to determine the presence of the any
dangerous drug. The request for laboratory examination was signed by SPO2
Maung.[9] Per Chemistry Report No. D-728-2002,[10] the substance bought from
appellant was positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

The testimony of Nellson Cruz Sta. Maria, Forensic Chemical Officer who
examined the substance bought from appellant, was dispensed after both
prosecution and defense stipulated that the witness will merely testify on the fact
that the drugs subject matter of this case was forwarded to their office for
laboratory examination and that laboratory examination was indeed conducted
and the result was positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride. [11]

For the defense, the appellant took the witness stand, together with his
common-law wife, Amelia Mendoza; and nephew, Alejandro Lim.

From their collective testimonies, the defense version goes like this:

On 10 December 2002, appellant was sleeping in his sisters house in


Poblacion Dike when a commotion woke him up. His nephew, Alejandro Lim, was
shouting because the latter, together with appellants common-law wife, Amelia
Mendoza, and a niece, was being punched and kicked by several police
officers. When appellant tried to pacify the policemen and ask them why they were
beating up his common-law wife and other relatives, the policemen arrested him,
mauled him, punched him on the chest, slapped him and hit him with a palo-
palo. He sustained swollen face, lips and tooth. His common-law wife was likewise
hit on the chest with the palo-palo.

Page 51 of 231
The policemen then took appellant and his common-law wife to a house
located in the middle of a field where the former demanded P15,000.00 for their
liberty. The next day, appellant was brought to the police station.

Amelia Mendoza identified PO1 Tolentino and PO1 Barreras as the police
officers who manhandled them and who demanded P15,000.00 so that she and
appellant could go home. The following day at 6:00 a.m., she said her child and
cousin arrived with the P15,000.00. She was released but appellant was
detained. She does not know why the police officers filed this case against
appellant. What she knows is that they were asking money from them.

Alejandro Lim merely corroborated the testimonies of appellant and Amelia


Mendoza.

On 8 March 2004, the trial court rendered its decision convicting appellant
of Violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, and sentenced him to
life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P5,000,000.00. The dispostive portion of the
decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, this Court hereby finds


accused Norberto del Monte y Gapay @ Obet GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of the offense of Violation of Section 5, Art. II of R.A.
9165 and sentences him to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT
and a fine of P5,000,000.00. With cost.

The drugs subject matter of this case is hereby ordered forfeited in favor
of the government. The Branch of this Court is directed to turn over
the same to the Dangerous Drugs Board within ten (10) days from
receipt hereof for proper disposal thereof.[12]

The trial court found the lone testimony of PO1 Gaudencio M. Tolentino, Jr.
to be credible and straightforward. It established the fact that appellant was
caught selling shabu during an entrapment operation conducted on 10 December
2002. Appellant was identified as the person from whom PO1 Tolentino
bought P300.00 worth of shabu as confirmed by Chemistry Report No. D-728-
2002. On the other hand, the trial court was not convinced by appellants defense
of frame-up and denial. Appellant failed to substantiate his claims that he was
merely sleeping and was awakened by the screams of his relatives who were being
mauled by the police officers.
Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal on 10 March 2004.[13] With the filing
thereof, the trial court directed the immediate transmittal of the entire records of
the case to us.[14] However, pursuant to our ruling in People v. Mateo,[15] the case
was remanded to the Court of Appeals for appropriate action and disposition. [16]

Page 52 of 231
On 28 May 2007, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision but
reduced the fine imposed on appellant to P500,000.00. It disposed of the case as
follows:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the decision dated


March 8, 2004 of the RTC, Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in Criminal
Case No. 3437-M-02, finding accused-appellant Norberto del Monte
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 5, Article II,
Republic Act No. 9165, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life
imprisonment is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the
amount of fine imposed upon him is reduced from P5,000,000.00
to P500,000.00.[17]

A Notice of Appeal having been timely filed by appellant, the Court of Appeals
forwarded the records of the case to us for further review. [18]

In our Resolution[19] dated 10 December 2007, the parties were notified that
they may file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desired, within 30
days from notice. Both appellant and appellee opted not to file a supplemental
brief on the ground they had exhaustively argued all the relevant issues in their
respective briefs and the filing of a supplemental brief would only contain a
repetition of the arguments already discussed therein.

Appellant makes a lone assignment of error:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-


APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE OFFENSE CHARGED DESPITE THE
INADMISSIBILITY OF THE EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM FOR FAILURE
OF THE ARRESTING OFFICERS TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 21 OF
R.A. 9165.[20]

Appellant anchors his appeal on the arresting policemens failure to strictly comply
with Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165. He claims that pictures of him together
with the alleged confiscated shabu were not taken immediately upon his arrest as
shown by the testimony of the lone prosecution witness. He adds that PO1
Tolentino and PO1 Antonio Barreras, the police officers who had initial custody of
the drug allegedly seized and confiscated, did not conduct a physical inventory of
the same in his presence as shown by their joint affidavit of arrest. Their failure to
abide by said section casts doubt on both his arrest and the admissibility of the
evidence adduced against him.

At the outset, it must be stated that appellant raised the police officers alleged
non-compliance with Section 21[21] of Republic Act No. 9165 for the first time on

Page 53 of 231
appeal. This, he cannot do. It is too late in the day for him to do so. In People v.
Sta. Maria[22] in which the very same issue was raised, we ruled:

The law excuses non-compliance under justifiable


grounds. However, whatever justifiable grounds may excuse the police
officers involved in the buy-bust operation in this case from complying
with Section 21 will remain unknown, because appellant did not
question during trial the safekeeping of the items seized from
him. Indeed, the police officers alleged violations of Sections 21 and
86 of Republic Act No. 9165 were not raised before the trial court
but were instead raised for the first time on appeal. In no instance
did appellant least intimate at the trial court that there were
lapses in the safekeeping of seized items that affected their
integrity and evidentiary value. Objection to evidence cannot be
raised for the first time on appeal; when a party desires the court
to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of
objection. Without such objection he cannot raise the question for
the first time on appeal. (Emphases supplied.)

In People v. Pringas,[23] we explained that non-compliance with Section 21 will not


render an accuseds arrest illegal or the items seized/confiscated from him
inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and
the evidentiary value of the seized items as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. In the case at bar, appellant
never questioned the custody and disposition of the drug that was taken from
him. In fact, he stipulated that the drug subject matter of this case was forwarded
to PNP Regional Crime Laboratory Office 3, Malolos, Bulacan for laboratory
examination which examination gave positive result for methamphetamine
hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. We thus find the integrity and the evidentiary
value of the drug seized from appellant not to have been compromised.

We would like to add that non-compliance with Section 21 of said law, particularly
the making of the inventory and the photographing of the drugs confiscated and/or
seized, will not render the drugs inadmissible in evidence. Under Section 3 of Rule
128 of the Rules of Court, evidence is admissible when it is relevant to the issue
and is not excluded by the law or these rules. For evidence to be inadmissible, there
should be a law or rule which forbids its reception. If there is no such law or rule,
the evidence must be admitted subject only to the evidentiary weight that will
accorded it by the courts. One example is that provided in Section 31 of Rule 132
of the Rules of Court wherein a party producing a document as genuine which has
been altered and appears to be altered after its execution, in a part material to the
question in dispute, must account for the alteration. His failure to do so shall make
the document inadmissible in evidence. This is clearly provided for in the rules.

Page 54 of 231
We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring
about the non-admissibility of the confiscated and/or seized drugs due to non-
compliance with Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if there
is non-compliance with said section, is not of admissibility, but of weight
evidentiary merit or probative value to be given the evidence. The weight to be given
by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in each
case.
The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs are (1) the
identity of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the
delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. [24] What is material to the
prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction or
sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence
of corpus delicti.[25]

All these elements have been shown in the instant case. The prosecution
clearly showed that the sale of the drugs actually happened and that
the shabu subject of the sale was brought and identified in court. The poseur
buyer positively identified appellant as the seller of the shabu. Per Chemistry
Report No. D-728-2002 of Forensic Chemical Officer Nellson Cruz Sta. Maria, the
substance, weighing 0.290 gram, which was bought by PO1 Tolentino from
appellant in consideration of P300.00, was examined and found to be
methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

In the case before us, we find the testimony of the poseur-buyer, together
with the dangerous drug taken from appellant, more than sufficient to prove the
crime charged. Considering that this Court has access only to the cold and
impersonal records of the proceedings, it generally relies upon the assessment of
the trial court, which had the distinct advantage of observing the conduct and
demeanor of the witnesses during trial. It is a fundamental rule that findings of
the trial courts which are factual in nature and which involve credibility are
accorded respect when no glaring errors, gross misapprehension of facts and
speculative, arbitrary and unsupported conclusions can be gathered from such
findings. The reason for this is that the trial court is in a better position to decide
the credibility of witnesses having heard their testimonies and observed their
deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. [26]
The rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are
sustained by the Court of Appeals.[27] Finding no compelling reason to depart from
the findings of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we affirm their
findings.

Appellant denies selling shabu to the poseur-buyer insisting that he was


framed, the evidence against him being planted, and that the police officers were
exacting P15,000.00 from him.

In the case at bar, the evidence clearly shows that appellant was the subject
of a buy-bust operation. Having been caught in flagrante delicto, his identity as

Page 55 of 231
seller of the shabu can no longer be doubted. Against the positive testimonies of
the prosecution witnesses, appellants plain denial of the offenses charged,
unsubstantiated by any credible and convincing evidence, must simply
fail.[28]Frame-up, like alibi, is generally viewed with caution by this Court, because
it is easy to contrive and difficult to disprove. Moreover, it is a common and
standard line of defense in prosecutions of violations of the Dangerous Drugs
Act.[29] For this claim to prosper, the defense must adduce clear and convincing
evidence to overcome the presumption that government officials have performed
their duties in a regular and proper manner. [30] This, appellant failed to do. The
presumption remained unrebutted because the defense failed to present clear and
convincing evidence that the police officers did not properly perform their duty or
that they were inspired by an improper motive.
The presentation of his common-law wife, Amelia Mendoza, and his nephew,
Alejandro Lim, to support his claims fails to sway. We find both witnesses not to
be credible. Their testimonies are suspect and cannot be given credence without
clear and convincing evidence. Their claims, as well as that of appellant, that they
were maltreated and suffered injuries remain unsubstantiated. As found by the
trial court:

The accused, on the other hand, in an effort to exculpate himself


from liability raised the defense of frame-up. He alleged that at the time
of the alleged buy bust he was merely sleeping at the house of his
sister. That he was awakened by the yells and screams of his relatives
as they were being mauled by the police officers. However, this Court
is not convinced. Accused failed to substantiate these claims of
maltreatment even in the face of his wifes and nephews testimony. No
evidence was presented to prove the same other than their self-serving
claims.[31]

Moreover, we agree with the observation of the Office of the Solicitor General that
the witnesses for the defense cannot even agree on what time the arresting
policemen allegedly arrived in their house. It explained:

To elaborate, appellant testified that it was 3 oclock in the afternoon


of December 10, 2002 when he was roused from his sleep by the
policemen who barged into the house of his sister (TSN, July 7, 2003,
p. 2). His common-law wife, however, testified that it was 10-11 oclock
in the morning when the policemen came to the house (TSN, Oct. 13,
2003, p. 6). On the other hand, Alejandro Lim testified that he went to
sleep at 11 oclock in the morning and it was 10 oclock in the morning
when the policemen arrived (TSN, Feb.2, 2004, p. 6). He thus tried to
depict an absurd situation that the policemen arrived first before he
went to sleep with appellant.[32]

Page 56 of 231
Having established beyond reasonable doubt all the elements constituting
the illegal sale of drugs, we are constrained to uphold appellants conviction.

The sale of shabu is penalized under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165. Said section reads:

SEC. 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery,


Distribution and Transportation of Dangerous Drugs and/or
Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand
pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00) shall be
imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell,
trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute,
dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous drug, including any and
all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity
involved, or shall act as a broker in any of such transactions.

Under said law, the sale of any dangerous drug, regardless of its quantity
and purity, is punishable by life imprisonment to death and a fine of P500,000.00
to P10,000,000.00. For selling 0.290 gram of shabu to PO1 Tolentino, and there
being no modifying circumstance alleged in the information, the trial court, as
sustained by the Court of Appeals, correctly imposed the penalty of life
imprisonment in accordance with Article 63(2)[33] of the Revised Penal Code.
As regards the fine to be imposed on appellant, the trial court pegged the fine
at P5,000,000.00 which the Court of Appeals reduced to P500,000.00. Both
amounts are within the range provided for by law but the amount imposed by the
Court of Appeals, considering the quantity of the drugs involved, is more
appropriate.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DENIED. The


Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02070 dated 28 May
2007, sustaining the conviction of appellant Norberto Del Monte, a.k.a. Obet, for
violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, is hereby AFFIRMED. No
costs.

SO ORDERED.

Page 57 of 231
17. A.M. No. CA-05-20-P, September 9, 2005
VIDALLON-MAGTOLIS, COURT (Formerly OCA IPI No. 05- OF APPEALS, 81-
CA-P) v. CIELITO M. SALUD, CLERK IV, COURT OF APPEALS

Cielito Salud, Clerk IV, Mailing Section of the Judicial Records Division,
Court of Appeals (CA) stands charged with the following offenses:

1. Inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official


duties;
2. Conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service; and
3. Directly or indirectly having financial and material interest in
an official transaction, under Section 22, paragraphs (p), (t) and
(u), Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Civil
Service Law.[1]

The Facts

Melchor Lagua was found guilty of homicide in Criminal Case Nos. 118032-
H and 118033-H before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 163. [2] On
appeal, the case was assigned to the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals,
docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 27423. Lagua, who was then detained at the Bureau
of Prisons National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, filed a Very Urgent Petition
for Bail. Finding the petition well-taken, the appellate court issued a Resolution
on October 9, 2003, directing him to post a P200,000.00 bond.

Laguas bond was approved in a Resolution[3] dated November 6, 2003, where


the appellate court also directed the issuance of an order of release in favor of
Lagua. The resolution was then brought to the Office of the Division Clerk of Court,
Atty. Maria Isabel M. Pattugalan-Madarang, for promulgation.

Irma Del Rosario, Utility Worker, noticed the respondents unusual interest
in the Lagua case. The respondent had apparently been making inquiries whether
the appellate court had already directed the issuance of an order of release in the
said case and was initially told there was none yet. Due to his persistence, the
records of the case were eventually found.[4] Atty. Madarang then directed the
typing of the Order of Release Upon Bond,[5] and to notify the mailing section that
there were orders requiring personal service. [6] At around 4:00 p.m., the
respondent then went to Atty. Madarangs office and assisted in arranging and
stapling the papers for release. He brought the said resolutions and other papers
himself to the Mailing Section.[7]

On November 7, 2003, the respondent went to the National Penitentiary to


serve the resolution and order of release in the Lagua case. The respondent left
the prison compound at around 2:30 p.m.[8]

Page 58 of 231
In the meantime, Atty. Madarang received a telephone call from a certain
Melissa Melchor, who introduced herself as Laguas relative. It was about 2:00 p.m.
The caller asked her how much more they had to give to facilitate Laguas
provisional liberty. The caller also told Atty. Madarang that they had sought the
help of a certain Rhodora Valdez of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, where
the criminal case originated, but were told that they still had a balance to be given
to Justice Magtolis and Atty. Madarang through the respondent. Atty. Madarang
then called the said court and asked to speak to Ms. Valdez, pretending to be
Laguas relative.

What transpired thereafter is contained in Atty. Madarangs Affidavit dated


December 8, 2003, as follows:

4. That upon telephone queries made with the office of the Clerk of
Court of RTC Pasig, I learned that Rhodora Valdez is the incumbent
Process Server of RTC, [Branch] 163, Pasig City, from which the
original case against accused-appellant Lagua originated.
Disguising myself as accused-appellant Laguas relative, I dialed
[Branch] 163, RTC, Pasig (6314273) but Rhodora Valdez did not
report for work that day, according to Baby (also known as Ester),
her officemate (who) answered my call. She added that Rhodora
Valdez has been waiting for us (Laguas relatives) to call. Her exact
words were these: Wala si Rhodora. Meron lang siyang nilakad. Pero
kahapon pa nya hinihintay ang tawag nyo. May kulang pa kayo eh.
Kailangan kasing i-en banc sa Court of Appeals ang kaso ni Lagua.

5. That I coordinated with Ms. Cecil Secarro, the Acting Chief of the
Mailing Section, to inquire if it was usual/normal for her to text her
process servers on the field for an update of their deliveries, to which
she answered in the affirmative. While she was in the office, she
texted Salud for his whereabouts and he replied, that he was on his
way back to Quezon City. That was before 4 p.m., adding that his
deliveries were ok.

6. That I got Saluds mobile phone number from Ms. Secarro and
started texting him at about the same time Ms. Secarro did. I
represented myself as Arlyn, Laguas relative. Most of his text
messages are still stored in my mobile phone. In fact, I received one
text message from him while I was at the office of Justice Magtolis,
(the Chairman of the 6th Division and the ponente of C.R. No. 27423)
in the late afternoon of November 7, 2003 while reporting to her this
incident. Those stored in my phone are the following:

1. bkit, C rhodora to. 639204439082. Nov. 2003, 15:36:15

Page 59 of 231
2. CNO KAMAGANAK AT ANONG PANGALAN MO
639204439082, 7 Nov 2003 16:14:47

3. SINO K KC NAGHIWALAY N KAMI 639204439082, 7 Nov


2003 16:40:21

4. TAWAG K S AKIN 639204439082 7 Nov 2003 17:18:47

5. NARELEASE N C MR. LAGUA. NAGKITA N B KAYO


639204439082-7 Nov 2003 19:44:52

6. Magkano b and binigay nyo sa middle nyo. Puede bang


malaman 639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:32:05

7. Gud evening. May gusto lng akong malaman. Sana alang


makaalam kahit cino. Lito 6391844701117 Nov. 2003
19:54:20

8. Cno ang kausap n Rhodora. Pwede bang malaman


639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:37:57

9. May landline ka. Tawagan kta bukas nang umaga


639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:56:31

10. Wag s Court of Appeal. Txt na lang kta kung saan.


639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:52:58

11. Gusto mo bukas nang umaga magkita tyo.


639184470111 7 Nov 2003 20:57:10

12. D ba pwede bukas tyo kita. May gusto lang ako


malaman 639184470111 7 Nov 2003 21:02:41

13. D 2ngkol kay rhodora duon sa kasama ko kaninang


lalakeng pinsan 639184470111 7 Nov 2003, 21:04:28

14. Ala po ako sa Lunes sa opis. Sa hapon po puede kyo


639184470111, 7 Nov 2003 21:07:23

15. Kay Melchor Lagua 639184470111 7 Nov 2003


21:08:19

16. Kasama ko cya kanina nang lumabas 639184470111 7


Nov. 2003 21:13:05

Page 60 of 231
17. Ano m ba Melchor Lagua 639184470111 7 Nov 2003
21:15:52

18. Between 5 and 5:30 ng hapon. Bkit. 639184470111 7


Nov. 2003 21:54:24

19. 3 PM PUWEDE KB 639004039082 10 Nov 2003


12:09:32

20. Kilala mo b c rhodora. Nagkita na b kayo. Ala naman


problema sa kanya. Ok naman 639184470111 7 Nov 2003,
21:57:13

21. MAGKITA N LANG TAYO 639204439082 10 Nov. 2003,


12:20:16

22. A, OK, NAGKITA N B KAYO NG KAMAGANAK MO


639204439082 10 Nov 2003 15:12:14

23. D TALAGA AKO DARATING DAHIL WALA AKONG


KAILANGAN S IYO. 639204439082 10 Nov 2003 18:36:03

7. That Salud called me up in the morning of November 8, 2003 at


around 7:33 but I purposely did not answer him. Why did he need
to call me up?

8. That I personally called up the Bureau of Prisons for the exact


time the Order of Release was delivered and when accused appellant
Lagua was released. I learned that the Order of Release was received
at 9:15 A.M. and that Lagua was released between 5-5:30 P.M. of
November 7, 2003.

9. That I was able to talk to Rhodora Valdez the following Monday,


November 10, 2003. Again, I introduced myself as Laguas relative,
Arlyn and told her I only wanted to know how much more we had to
pay for Laguas release. She refused to entertain me because
according to her, Hindi ikaw ang kausap ko. Duda ako sa yo. Kung
gusto mo, puntahan mo ako dito bukas, para magkita tayo. Pero
lumabas na si Lagua. Itinawag sa akin ni Lito Salud. Then, she
[hung] up.

10. That on Tuesday, November 11, 2003, I brought Salud,


accompanied by Ms. Secarro to Justice Magtolis. Out of the
confrontation, we discovered that Salud did not properly serve the
copies of the Resolution and Order of Release upon the accused-
appellant and his counsel, Atty. Salvador C. Quimpo of the Quimpo

Page 61 of 231
Dingayan-Quimpo and Associates. He gave them to a certain Art,
allegedly Laguas relative who he claimed approached him at the
Bureau of Prisons in the morning of November 7, 2003. He told
Justice Magtolis that he gave these documents to Art, who promised
to take care of them, even before he could deliver the copy addressed
to the Director of Prisons. He never mentioned that this Art was
connected with the office of accused-appellants counsel. Because of
this information from Salud himself, I did not sign the Certificate of
Service, Annex C.

11. That several days later, Salud accompanied by Ms. Secarro, came
to my office to apologize. But before he could even say a word, he
broke down in [wails]. In between his loud cries, he uttered, Boss,
patawad po, alang-alang sa aking mga anak.[9]

On November 11, 2003, Justice Magtolis called the respondent to her office.
When confronted, the respondent denied extorting or receiving money for Laguas
release, or in any other case. He, however, admitted serving the copies of resolution
and order of release intended for Lagua and his counsel to Art Baluran. [10] Justice
Magtolis then called the respondent to a meeting with Clerk of Court Atty. Tessie
L. Gatmaitan, who stated that she would transfer the respondent to another office
which has nothing to do with cases.

Justice Magtolis lodged the complaint against the respondent in a Letter


dated November 14, 2003, containing, among others, the following allegations:
The delivery of resolutions/orders to unauthorized persons and
complete strangers who promised to take care thereof (siya na raw ang
bahala) constitutes not only neglect of duty but also conduct
prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Staying for the whole day
within the vicinity of the National Bilibid Prisons to the point of failing
to fulfill his other duties for the day constitutes inefficiency and
incompetence in the performance of official duties. On the other hand,
the use of my name and that of our Division Clerk of Court to illegally
solicit financial or material benefit from parties with pending cases
before this Court is illegal per se.

In view of the foregoing, it is respectfully requested that Cielito


Salud be subjected to an administrative investigation and disciplinary
action.[11]
Attached to the complaint were the following documents to support the charges:

ANNEX A - Record of the cases received by Salud on November 6, 2003


for delivery/service the following day, November 7, 2003. Please note
that in each of the 3 cases assigned to him, there are several
parties/counsels to be served.

Page 62 of 231
ANNEX B - Certificate of Service signed by Salud, attested by the Acting
Chief of the Mailing Section and Division Clerk of Court Ma. Ramona
L. Ledesma, showing that the parties/counsel in SP-67586 were served
only on November 10, 2003 (not on November 7, 2003).

ANNEX C - Certificate of Service for CR-27423, and corresponding


Delivery Receipts.

C-1 - Delivery Receipts for Defense Counsel Salvador Quimpo signed


by someone whose signature was identified by Salud [as] Art a cousin
of appellant Melchor Lagua.

C-2 - Delivery Receipt for the accused-appellant, received by the same


Art and not served thru the Director of Prisons.

C-3 - Delivery Receipt for the OSG, showing that it was


delivered/received by the said office on November 10, 2003, not on
November 7, 2003.

C-4 - Delivery Receipt for the Director of Prisons showing receipt on


November 7, 2003.

ANNEX D - Record of Resolutions in 3 other cases (SP-80241, SP-


65404 and SP-77957) received for service by Salud on November 10,
2003. The resolutions/processes in these 3 cases were
delivered/served to the parties/counsel on November 10, 2003
together with undelivered resolutions left unserved/undelivered on
November 7, 2003.

ANNEX E - Certification signed by Salud showing service to


parties/counsel in SP-65404 (received by Salud on November 10, 2003)
on November 10, 2003 (same date)

ANNEX F, F-1 & F-2 - Delivery Receipts for parties/counsel in SP-


65404, showing service/delivery on November 10, 2003 in contrast to
his minimal delivery/services on November 7, 2003 only in
Muntinlupa.

ANNEX G - Copy of the resolution dated November 6, 2003 of the


6th Division approving the appellants bond and directing the issuance
of an order of release.

ANNEX H - Copy of the Order of Release upon Bond, which Salud was
supposed to deliver, among others on November 7, 2003 to the defense
counsel, the appellant and the OSG.[12]

Page 63 of 231
In his counter-affidavit,[13] the respondent vehemently denied the charges.
He never demanded money from Laguas relative; his name had been used by
someone and was, thus, a mere victim of the circumstances. Moreover, the fact
that he immediately released the CA order in question was clear proof that he had
no financial interest in the transaction. His version of the events that occurred
that day is as follows:

4.1 That on November 6, 2003 at around 1:38 p.m. the Acting


Chief of the Mailing Section gave me an assignment to deliver the
Writ of Habeas Corpus (hearing on November 26, 2003 at RTC,
Zamboanga) for CA-G.R. SP No. 80238 for delivery to NBI, PAO,
Quezon City, Muntinlupa;

4.2 That I delivered a copy of the Writ of Habeas Corpus to [the


National] Bureau of Investigation (NBI);

4.3 That while I was at the NBI, I received a text message from
my boss, requesting me to return to the office immediately
because there is another notice of resolution coming from Atty.
Ledesma which I have to serve to Quezon City and Las Pias;

4.4 In compliance with the request, I returned to the Office


and arrived at around 3:15 p.m.;

4.5 That when I received the resolution, I read the same and
found out that the hearing is still scheduled on December 10,
2003 at 10:30 a.m.;

4.6 That when I was about to leave to deliver the Writ of


Habeas Corpus and the Notice of Hearing to the PAO, Quezon
City, my officemate Jun Vicencio told me to wait because Irma,
the staff of Atty. Madarang requested me to standby because I
need to deliver the Order of Release to the New Bilibid Prison,
Muntinlupa;

4.7 That because of the request I waited until 4:00 p.m.;

4.8 That because its already late, I decided to go to Atty.


Madarangs office to inquire about the Order of Release which I
need to deliver to the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa;

4.9 That Atty. Madarang told me to wait a little while because


the order is about to be finished. So I waited.

Page 64 of 231
4.10 That Atty. Madarang gave to me the Order of Release at 4:15
p.m.

4.11 That because I am aware that I may not reach [the] New
Bilibid Prison on time, I told Atty. Madarang that I can deliver it
on November 7, 2003, early in the morning. She agreed and told
me THANK YOU Ikaw na ang bahala;

4.12 That I informed my boss about the Order of Release that


was assigned to me and she had it listed in our logbook. I asked
my boss [Cecil Secarro] if I can deliver the Notice of Hearing for
SP 67586 and the others on Monday if I cannot finish delivering
them on November 7, 2003. She agreed but told me to be sure
that the Order of Release will be served first and the others be
served not later than Monday, November 10, 2003. Thereafter, I
went home.

4.13 That on November 7, 2003, I went straight to [the] New


Bilibid Prison and arrived there before 8:00 [a.m.] Unfortunately,
all the staff wearing white uniforms and the security guards were
falling in line in front of the building of the New Bilibid Prison. So
I could not enter the administration office.

4.14 That while I was standing in front of the building where the
administrative office is located, a certain ART approached me and
asked me if I am the personnel of the Court of Appeals who will
deliver the Order of Release.

4.15 That I said yes, and he told me his name and said that he
is a relative of MELCHOR LAGUA (prisoner) and is connected with
the office of Atty. [Quimpo].

4.16 That at around 9:30 [a.m.] I was able to enter the


administrative offices but because there was no staff inside I went
to the documentation office. The staff in the documentation office
told me to submit the Order of Release to the administrative
office. He said that they will prepare the documents of MELCHOR
LAGUA (prisoner) but also told me that the prisoner might be
released on Monday yet because the signatories are busy
attending the ongoing 98 anniversary celebration;

4.17 That I returned to the administrative office and was able to


find Mr. JUANITO TORRES, Administrative Officer III, who
received the copy for the Director but refused to receive the copy
of Mr. LAGUA. He told me to wait for his staff to receive the copy
of Mr. LAGUA;

Page 65 of 231
4.18 That because the staff were not around, I went to the
canteen to buy softdrinks to quench my thirst;

4.19 That Mr. ART followed me in the canteen and told me to


assist in the release of Mr. LAGUA because there were no
personnel attending to the Order of Release;

4.20 That since my boss told me to insure the release of the


prisoner, I waited for my staff to arrive who will attend to the
matter;

4.21 That I delivered the copy of Mr. LAGUA to the staff. But ART
told them he can receive the copy of Mr. LAGUA because he is his
relative so, the staff told me to give the copy to ART.

4.22 That I gave the copy of the Order of Release for the accused
to ART. ART also told me that he is authorized to receive the copy
for Atty. Quimpo because he is also the representative of the law
office. Hence, I also gave the copy for Atty. Quimpo to ART;

4.23 That I was able to finish my duty at the New Bilibid Prison
at around 2:30 [p.m.] and I proceeded to Purok I, 6A Bayanan,
Muntinlupa to serve the Writ of Habeas Corpus in CA-G.R. SP
No. 80238;

4.24 That because of [sic] the address of the addressee was


incomplete, I found a hard time locating the address of the
addressee and when I found Purok I, 6A, the persons thereat do
not know JOEL DE LA PAZ. I asked for their help but nobody in
the place knew JOEL DE LA PAZ;

4.25 That I left Muntinlupa late in the afternoon and due to the
lack of time I decided to deliver the other documents on the next
working day which is Monday, November 10, 2003;

4.26 That I delivered the other documents on Monday, November


10, 2003, without any problem;

4.27 That I was surprised when Atty. Madarang later on accused


me that I used her name and the name of Justice Magtolis to
demand money from Mr. LAGUAS relative.[14]

Page 66 of 231
Considering the gravity of the charges, then Acting Presiding Justice Cancio
C. Garcia[15] referred the matter to Atty. Elisa B. Pilar-Longalong, Assistant Clerk
of Court, for investigation, report, and recommendation.

The Investigation

The requisite hearings were held from December 12, 2003 to August 4, 2004.

Atty. Madarang affirmed the contents of her Affidavit[16] dated December 8, 2003.
She testified that the respondent later came to her office along with Ms. Secarro.
Amidst his cries, he pleaded, Boss, patawad po, alang-alang sa aking mga anak.
She replied, Wait, wala ka namang kasalanan sa akin. Ikaw ang nagpasimuno ng
lahat ng ito. The respondent repeated, Boss, patawad po alang alang sa aking mga
anak, and Atty. Madarang answered, Okey lang, pinatawad na kita. Hindi naman
ako galit sa iyo.[17]

Justice Magtolis testified that Atty. Madarang reported having received a


telephone call from the alleged relative of Lagua. She narrated that she gave the
name Arlyn to the caller, and, thereafter, exchanged text messages with the
respondent. Justice Magtolis instructed Atty. Madarang to continue
communicating with the respondent and, if possible, to see it through a possible
pay-off where a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent would be asked to
assist them. However, the entrapment did not materialize. The respondent
thereafter came to her office, where he was asked why he was unable to serve all
the other papers and documents that day.[18] He also admitted that he served a
copy of the resolution to the wrong person (Baluran). Justice Magtolis also stated
that she threatened to transfer the respondent, and that the latter vehemently
objected, pleaded, and cried saying, Huwag naman pong pa-transfer. When asked
why, the respondent said that he has children in school and something like, Dyan
po ako kumikita.[19]

Another witness was Cristy Flores, convicted of three counts of estafa who
served time at the Correctional Institute for Women in Batangas City. She testified
that the respondent was introduced to her in December 1998 by a certain Crisanta
Gamil.[20] Gamil was also detained at the correctional facility; the respondent had
worked on her appeal bond papers and asked for P20,000.00 to facilitate the
issuance of the appeal bond.[21] The payment was made right in front of her, and
the respondent issued a receipt.[22] The witness also testified that Gamil told her,
O, at least dyan mo ipalakad ang papel mo. Okay ′yan, sigurado.[23] The respondent
visited her in May 1999, as she had asked him to fix her appeal bond. During the
visit, the respondent took the pertinent documents from her.[24] The witness also
stated that she gave the respondent a partial payment of P7,000.00[25] on May 16,
1999 and he issued a receipt.[26] They then proceeded to the Documents Section
where they secured copies of the court decision, certificate of manifestation and

Page 67 of 231
her picture. She made the last payment of P13,000.00 in June 13, 1999, and also
issued a receipt. The respondent was also asking for an additional payment
of P15,000.00, which she was unable to give.
Flores narrated that she introduced another detainee to the respondent,
Dalawangbayan, whom the latter was also able to help. She stated that according
to Dalawangbayan, the respondent asked for P200,000.00. She further testified
that she knew the respondent as Joselito M. Salud, and not Cielito Salud.[27] After
the incident, she wrote a letter to Associate Justice Conrado Vasquez, Jr. to ask
for assistance regarding her appeal bond.

Atty. Salvador Quimpo, Laguas counsel, testified that it was Engineer Art
Baluran who hired him as counsel of the said accused. He stated that he gave an
oral authorization to Baluran to get the CA resolutions or orders; Baluran was the
one who furnished him a copy of the resolution.[28] He called Mr. Baluran to say
that an order for Laguas release had already been issued by the appellate court.
The witness stated, however, that he had never seen the respondent before. [29]
The respondent testified that he has been a CA employee since 1991. He
admitted that he knew Flores, and met her in January 1999 when he brought
Gamils order of release in the Batangas City Jail. He claimed that he was waiting
for the relatives of Gamil as they were the ones who would pay for his fare home,
and while waiting, he talked to the jailguard/warden. Flores then approached him
and asked him if he was from the CA. When the respondent answered in the
affirmative, Flores replied that Justice Vasquez was her neighbor in Bian, Laguna.

The respondent admitted that he was in the Correctional Institute for Women
in Mandaluyong City on May 16, 1999, as he was then visiting Vilma
Dalawangbayan. He also saw Flores.[30]When asked why he visited
Dalawangbayan, the respondent replied that Flores had written a letter to him
(which he dubbed as maintrigang sulat)[31] addressed Lito Salud, Mailing Section,
Court of Appeals. In the said letter, Flores asked him to help Dalawangbayan, just
like he had helped Gamil. The respondent then showed the letter to then Chief of
Office Prudencio B. Aguilar, who told him, Puntahan mo yan, Lito at maintriga
′yang sulat na yan, baka tayo mapahamak dyan.[32] Thus, he went to the
Correctional Institute in Mandaluyong City to sort things out with Dalawangbayan
and Gamil. The respondent, however, stated that he could not find the letter
anywhere and had already been lost.[33]

During his May 16, 1999 visit to the correctional facility, Flores approached
him in the visiting hall, and said suddenly, Sandali lang, Kuya, then left. He then
talked to Dalawangbayan about the controversial letter, explaining that his job in
the Court of Appeals was only to remand the records and deliver the Orders for
release, just like what he did in Gamils case. [34] He again visited Dalawangbayan
on June 13, 1999[35] as evidenced by the entries in the visitors logbook. He was no
longer able to speak to Flores, but made five other such visits to Dalawangbayan
in the correctional facility.

Page 68 of 231
The Findings of the Investigating Officer

In her Report dated January 21, 2005, Atty. Longalong found that the
respondent was guilty as charged, and made the following recommendation:

In view of all the foregoing, there is substantial evidence to hold


respondent liable for the offenses charged. He is liable for inefficiency
and incompetence in the performance of his official duties and for
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service when he
admittedly served the copies of the resolution and order of release in
the Lagua case intended for detained appellant and his counsel on Mr.
Baluran whom he admitted to have met only on that day, against the
rules and normal office procedure on personal service. His long stay in
the Bureau of Prisons also caused the delay in the service of other court
processes assigned to him for service on that day. He is also liable for
having financial or material interest in an official transaction
considering his undue interest in the service of the order of release and
actual release of Lagua to the point of staying almost the whole day in
the Bureau of Prisons and the aborted deal as can be concluded from
the phone call of Melissa Melchor to Atty. Madarang and subsequent
exchange of text messages with Atty. Madarang disguising as Laguas
relative.

RECOMMENDATION:

1. Rule IV, Section 52 of Civil Service Commission Memorandum


Circular No. 19, S. 1999, issued pursuant to Book V of the
Administrative Code of 1987, provides that the penalty for the first
offense of inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official
duties, for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and for
directly or indirectly having financial and material interest in any
official transaction is suspension for a period of 6 months, 1 day to 1
year. Pursuant to Section 55 of the same Memorandum Circular, if the
respondent is found guilty of 2 or more charges, the penalty to be
imposed should be that corresponding to the most serious charge and
the rest shall be considered as aggravating circumstances. Section 54-
c of the same Memorandum Circular provides that the maximum of the
penalty shall be imposed where only aggravating and no mitigating
circumstances are present. Since in this case, the penalty is the same
for all 3 offenses, the maximum of the penalty for the first offense which
is suspension for 1 year [may be] imposed on the respondent.

2. Considering that the prescribed penalty for the offense


exceeds one month suspension, the case may now be referred to the

Page 69 of 231
Supreme Court for appropriate action, pursuant to Circular No. 30-91
of the Office of the Court Administrator.[36]

The Ruling of the Court

On the charge of inefficiency, the respondent is clearly administratively


liable. After serving Laguas copy of the resolution and order of release to the prison
Director, he should have immediately returned to his station or served the other
resolutions and documents for personal service. As an officer of the court, the
respondent plays an essential part in the administration of justice. He is required
to live up to the stringent standards of his office, and his conduct must, at all
times, be above reproach and suspicion. He must steer clear of any act which
would tend to undermine his integrity, or erode somehow the peoples faith and
trust in the courts.[37] As the respondent himself admitted, he stayed on until 2:30
p.m. without any valid reason, despite the fact that he knew he still had to serve
several orders and resolutions. As pointed out by the Investigating Officer,
inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties is classified as
a grave offense, and is punishable by suspension for six months and one day to
one year.[38]

Indeed, the complainant in administrative proceedings has the burden of


proving the allegations in the complaint by substantial evidence. If a court
employee is to be disciplined for a grave offense, the evidence against him must be
competent and derived from direct knowledge; as such, charges based on mere
suspicion and speculation cannot be given credence. Thus, if the complainant fails
to substantiate a claim of corruption and bribery, relying on mere conjectures and
suppositions, the administrative complaint must be dismissed for lack of
merit.[39] However, in administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof required
to establish malfeasance is not proof beyond reasonable doubt but substantial
evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion, is required. [40] The findings of
investigating magistrates on the credibility of witnesses are given great weight by
reason of their unmatched opportunity to see the deportment of the witnesses as
they testified.[41]

To determine the credibility and probative weight of the testimony of a


witness, such testimony must be considered in its entirety and not in truncated
parts. To determine which contradicting statements of a witness is to prevail as to
the truth, the other evidence received must be considered.[42] Thus, while it is true
that there is no direct evidence that the respondent received any money to facilitate
the release of detained Lagua, the following circumstances must be taken as
contrary to the respondents plea of innocence:

Page 70 of 231
First. The respondent admitted that he was the sender of the first three text
messages in Atty. Madarangs cellphone: bkit, C rhodora to; CNO KAMAGANAK AT
ANONG PANGALAN MO; and SINO K KC NAGHIWALAY N KAMI. The respondents
testimony on the matter is as follows:

Q: In the hearing of December 2, 2003, in the TSN on page 32 onwards

ATTY. ROSERO:

Is that the testimony of Atty. Madarang, Justice?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Oo. I will just refer to your admission through your counsel that
Cellphone No. 6392044390[8]2 is yours. You admitted that?

ATTY. ROSERO:

I think we made an admission as to that matter, Justice. Well


just check the affidavit of Atty. Madarang.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:
Here, admitted. Basahin mo.

ATTY. ROSERO:

Yes, Justice, admitted but not the cellphone number

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Sige, ulitin natin, 6392044390[9]2.

ATTY. ROSERO:
Yes, admitted. That is his cellphone.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

This cellphone is yours.

Q: Do you also admit that you called Atty. Madarang several times on
November 7, 2003?

ATTY. ROSERO:

November 7 is a Friday. Tumawag ka daw several times kay Atty.


Madarang, November 7?

Page 71 of 231
JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Texted, Im sorry I will correct that, texted.

A: Nauna po siyang magtext sa akin, Justice, hindi po ako nagtext sa


kanya. Nagtext po siya sa akin sumagot po ako sa kanya.

Q: There was an exchange several times?


A: Nuong pong text niya sa akin hindi po several times dahil kung
makita ′nyo po dyan.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Let me see the affidavit of Atty. Madarang. After this question, may I
ask for a continuance?

ATTY. ROSERO:

No objection, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

All these text messages were checked by us with your counsel in


the cellphone of Atty. Madarang which were preserved until we
allowed her to erase these. There are exchanges here:
6392044390[8]2, November 7. When she texted she answered,
Bkit c Rhodora 2 and then second was, Cnong kamaganak anong
pangalan mo? This is addressed to you, this is your telephone?
A: Opo.

Q: But the one who answered is Rhodora?


A: Ako po ′yun.

Q: Ikaw ang sumasagot. Why did you say that you are Rhodora?
A: Justice, nung ma-receive ko po ′yong text niya apat na beses ko pong
na-receive ang text ni Arlene.

INVESTIGATOR:

Who is Arlene?

A: Atty. Madarang. Arlene, sa text po niya sa akin, Sir Lito, kamaganak


po ito ni Mr. Lagua. Magkano pa po ba ang kakulangang pera

Page 72 of 231
para ibigay ko sa inyo. Si Rhodora ba kasama? Hindi ko po
sinagot yon. Pangalawa, ′yun din po ang message nya. Ano ito?
Sa akin pong kuan, sa pag-iisip ko lang po, bakit dahil si Mr. Art
Baluran kamag-anak na, ano ito? Text pa ulit pa sya ng pangatlo.
Nang-iintriga na ′to. Pang-apat, intriga ′to. Text ko nga rin ′to,
lokohan lang tayo. Bkit si Rhodora ′to yun po ang sagot ko sa
kanya.

Q: So at that time you already knew about Rhodora?


A: Hindi po, dun, duon po sa text niya nakalagay po dun eh, Si Rhodora
kasama ba? So ikinuan ko po na si Rhodora ′to, dun po sa text
nya.

Q: Nakipaglokohan ka?
A: Sa text niya nakalagay dun na Si Rhodora ba kasama kaya po ako
nakipaglokohan dun.[43]

As pointed out by the Investigating Officer, the respondents claim of joking


around (nakipaglokohan) with an unknown sender of a text message by replying
thereto is contrary to a normal persons reaction. This is made even more apparent
by the fact that the respondent even admitted that he called Atty. Madarang twice,
and when asked why, gave a vague answer, and, when further questioned, even
broke down in tears.[44]

The respondents claim that the admission of the text messages as evidence
against him constitutes a violation of his right to privacy is unavailing. Text
messages have been classified as ephemeral electronic communication under
Section 1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence,[45] and shall be proven by
the testimony of a person who was a party to the same or has personal knowledge
thereof. Any question as to the admissibility of such messages is now moot and
academic, as the respondent himself, as well as his counsel, already admitted that
he was the sender of the first three messages on Atty. Madarangs cell phone.

This was also the ruling of the Court in the recent case of Zaldy Nuez v. Elvira
Cruz-Apao.[46] In that case, the Court, in finding the respondent therein guilty of
dishonesty and grave misconduct, considered text messages addressed to the
complainant asking for a million pesos in exchange for a favorable decision in a
case pending before the CA. The Court had the occasion to state:

The text messages were properly admitted by the Committee


since the same are now covered by Section 1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on
Electronic Evidence, which provides:

Ephemeral electronic communication refers to telephone


conversations, text messages and other electronic forms of

Page 73 of 231
communication the evidence of which is not recorded or
retained.

Under Section 2, Rule 11 of the [said rules], Ephemeral electronic


communications shall be proven by the testimony of a person who was
a party to the same or who has personal knowledge thereof . In this
case, complainant who was the recipient of the said messages and
therefore had personal knowledge thereof testified on their contents
and import. Respondent herself admitted that the cellphone number
reflected in complainants cellphone from which the messages
originated was hers. Moreover, any doubt respondent may have had as
to the admissibility of the text messages had been laid to rest when she
and her counsel signed and attested to the veracity of the text messages
between her and complainant. It is also well to remember that in
administrative cases, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not
strictly applied. We have no doubt as to the probative value of the text
messages as evidence in determining the guilt or lack thereof of
respondent in this case.

Second. The respondents testimony during the hearings held before


Investigating Officer Atty. Longalong is replete with inconsistencies and loopholes.
He claimed that he made inquiries from other CA staff and learned that there was
indeed a deal between someone in the criminal section and a certain Rhodora of
the RTC, Pasig. He further claimed that the said parties wanted to get back at him
for immediately serving the release order which prevented them from demanding
the balance of the deal from Laguas relative. However, this bare claim was not
corroborated by any witness. Moreover, the respondent alleged that two
anonymous callers claimed to know something about the case against him; when
asked about it, he stated that he no longer exerted efforts to find out who they were
as they did not give out their names:
JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: On page 5 of your affidavit, you said in paragraph 8 That I made


some inquiry and some personnel of the Court of Appeals told me
that there is indeed a deal between a staff in the Criminal Section
and Rhodora of RTC, Pasig. Can you tell us who is this staff?
A: Ah dito po Justice, hindi po siya nagpakilala, sa telephono po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Sino siya?

Page 74 of 231
A: Hindi po siya ′yong tawag po niya sa akin sa telepono nang malaman
po dito sa CA na ako ay kinasuhan ninyo tumawag po siya sa
Personnel.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: Who is siya?
A: Ay hindi po siya nagpakilala.

INVESTIGATOR:

Lalaki o babae?

A: Una po babae tapos ′yong pangalawa po lalaki.

INVESTIGATOR:

Sinong kinakausap?

A: Ako po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Hinahanap ka?

A: Hinahanap po nila ako.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: What did he tell you? He, lalaki, ano?


A: Sa babae muna po?

Q: Oo, babaet lalake ba?


A: Opo.

Q: Who was the first caller, the lady or the gentleman?


A: Babae po.

Q: Were you the one who answered the phone?


A: Hindi po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Hinahanap daw siya.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Page 75 of 231
Q: Hinahanap ka, okay, when you answered the phone, what did you
say?
A: Ang sabi ko po sa kanya, pupuwede mo ba akong matulungan sa
paggawa ng affidavit dahil kinasuhan nga ako ni Justice
Magtolis.

Q: But you do not know who you were talking to?


A: Tinanong ko nga po kung sino siya eh tumutulong lang daw siya sa
akin dahil ang naririnig niyang tsismis din dyan eh baka po si
Rhodora ang may ka-kuan sa Criminal.

Q: Saan ′yong ka-kuan?


A: Ang may kausap sa Criminal.

Q: Who said na baka si Rhodora ang may kausap sa Criminal?


A: ′Yon pong kausap ko sa kabilang linya.

Q: The name you do not know?


A: Eh tinanong ko naman po kung sino siya ayaw naman po niyang
magpakilala. Matutulungan mo ba ako, ibinaba na po ang
telepono.

INVESTIGATOR:

Anonymous caller.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

You are very fond of answering calls. You dont even know the name.

Q: That anonymous caller told you that there must be some deals
between Rhodora and someone from the Criminal Section?
A: ′Yun din daw po ang naririnig niyang tsismis dyan sa labas.

Q: Tsismis, that was that the caller told you?


A: Opo.

Q: And she wanted to help you?


A: Kaya po sinabi din sa akin na tsismis eh hindi pa po pwedeng

Q: What did you answer her?

INVESTIGATOR:

Page 76 of 231
Anong sagot mo raw?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: Anong sagot niya sa tulungan kasi nakakarinig siyang tsismis?

INVESTIGATOR:

Q Ano ang sagot mo?


A: Eh iyon nga ang gusto kong malaman, ang katotohanan. Baka
naman pupuwede mo akong matulungan. Sino ba ′to?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: Di ba she was the one who offered to help?


A: Ay ayaw daw po naman niyang masabit po ang pangalan niya.

Q: But she was the one who called you?


A: Opo.
Q: Okay. How did your talk end with this girl or lady?
A: Nung pagsalita ko nga pong baka pupuwede akong tulungan, wala
na.

Q: How about the man, the gentleman or the boy who called?
A: Same kuan din po ang kanilang kuan e.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Dont use kuan.

ATTY. ROSERO:

Sige, Lito, ipaliwanag mo.

A: Same kuento rin po, sinabi niya na ganuon din po na narinig din po
niya sa labas.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: Alright, you were not the one who answered the call?
A: Hindi po.

Q: Somebody called you that theres a phone call?


A: Opo.

Page 77 of 231
Q: When you answered, what was your first word?
A: Hello!

Q: What was the answer at the other end of the line?


A: Hello rin po.

Q: What next?
A: Alam mo, ang sabi po niya sa akin ganito po

Q: Who was the first one who said something other than hello?
A: Siya po ang nauna.

Q: What did she say, the exact words?


A: Exact words, sa naalala kong sinabi niya Alam mo, Mr. Salud, Salud
po ang kuan niya sa akin, narinig ko sa labas, istoryahan dyan
sa labas na baka si Rhodora ang may ka-kuan dito sa Criminal.
Ang sabi ko po sa kanya Iyan din ang itinawag sa akin kahapon.
Eh dalawa na kayo eh baka naman pupuwede nyo akong
matulungan. Puede ko bang malaman ang pangalan mo? Ganun
din po, ayaw na pong magsalita ibinaba na [ang] telepono.

Q: Do you know Rhodora?


A: Hindi po.

Q: You never met her?


A: Hindi po.

Q: You never talked to her?


A: Nung pong ipinakiusap nyo sa akin sa telepono po nung tayo poy

Q: After the conversation with the lady and that gentleman who called
you to offer some help and afterwards did not help at all, what
happened?
A: Wala na po.

Q: Did you not check with Rhodora, What is this they are talking about
that it might be between you and someone in the Criminal
Section? You never asked her that?
A: Hindi ko na rin po

Q: You did not. But I thought you wanted help from those people who
can help you?
A: Eh hindi na nga po sila nagbanggit po ng pangalan dahil po sabi ng
unang babae ayaw nga rin po niyang sumabit sa kaso. [47]

Page 78 of 231
This respondents actuation on this matter, if at all true, is again contrary to
the normal reaction of one who has been administratively charged, and wants to
clear his name of any wrongdoing.

The respondent also admitted visiting an inmate (Vilma Dalawangbayan) at


the correctional facility eight times for no apparent reason. This admission lends
some credence to the testimony of Flores, that she was the one who introduced
him to Dalawangbayan, the person he was visiting. When asked why he frequently
visited, he stated that he found her beautiful (Maganda po siya, Justice), and was
on the verge of courting her (Para na nga po akong nanliligaw). The Court believes
that this allegation was concocted by the respondent as a mere afterthought, to
cover up for his misdeeds.

The Investigating Officer also found that the respondent was high-strung
during his testimony, and this finding must be accorded respect. Indeed, when the
issue is the credibility of witnesses, the function of evaluating it is primarily lodged
in the investigating judge. The rule which concedes due respect, and even finality,
to the assessment of the credibility of witnesses by trial judges in civil and criminal
cases where preponderance of evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt,
respectively, are required, applies a fortiori in administrative cases where the
quantum of proof required is only substantial evidence. The investigating judge is
in a better position to pass judgment on the credibility of witnesses, having
personally heard them when they testified, and observed their deportment and
manner of testifying.[48] Thus, the following findings of Atty. Longalong are well
taken:
However, respondent denied receiving P20,000 from Gamil
and P15,000 from Flores and signing LM Salud on Flores notebooks
(Exhibits E-1 and F-1) but admitted visiting Vilma at the Correctional
Institute for Women 8 times from May to August 1999. Respondents
denial here appears self-serving and incredible considering his
admission of going to the Correctional Institute for Women several
times for no valid official reason. Moreover, although Flores is a convict
for estafa, her
testimony on the matter was more consistent and credible. Likewise,
respondent admitted seeing Flores at the Correctional Institute for
Women and that Flores mailed her letter to him on May 16, 1999 which
he called maintriga. He also admitted that he told Flores to seek the
help of Justice Vasquez on her case. The foregoing, plus the fact that
Flores eventually wrote Justice Vasquez, confirms the truth of Flores
testimony on the matter.

With the aforecited admissions by respondent, the substantial


evidence presented by the complainant and her witnesses with their
positive and forthright testimonies deserve more credence than
respondents self-serving denial and inconsistent and vague testimony.
Even the demeanor of complainant and her witnesses give credence to

Page 79 of 231
their testimonies than the nervous and [high-strung] demeanor of
respondent during his testimony. Moreover, complainant and her
witnesses, including the superiors of respondent, have no reason or
motive whatsoever to testify falsely against him. Respondents defense
of denial is inherently a weak defense. It is well settled that denial, to
be believed, must be buttressed by strong evidence of non-culpability,
otherwise the denial is purely self-serving and with nil evidentiary value
(People of the Philippines v. Arlee, 323 SCRA 201). Like the defense of
alibi, denial crumbles in the light of positive declarations (People of the
Philippines vs. Ricafranca, 323 SCRA 652).
Indeed, the Court is looked upon by people with high respect, a sacred place where
litigants are heard, rights and conflicts settled and justice solemnly dispensed
with. Misbehavior within or around the vicinity diminishes its sanctity and dignity.
The conduct and behavior required of every court personnel, from the presiding
judge to the lowliest clerk, must always be beyond reproach and circumscribed
with the heavy burden of responsibility. Their conduct must, at all times, be
characterized by, among other things, propriety and decorum so as to earn and
keep the publics respect and confidence in the judicial service. [49] Public service
requires the utmost integrity and strictest discipline. Thus, a public servant must
exhibit at all times the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the
performance of his official duties but in his personal and private dealings with
other people.[50]
While there is no direct evidence to suggest that he actually extorted money
to facilitate the issuance of the appeal bond and release order which he himself
served, the surrounding circumstances, as well as the inconsistencies in his
testimony, point towards administrative culpability. The respondents actuations
fall short of the standard required of a public servant. He is guilty of gross or grave
misconduct. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule
of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction from duty, unlawful behavior, willful in
character, improper or wrong behavior,[51] while gross, has been defined as out of
all measure; beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be
excused.[52] Under the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations, grave
misconduct is punishable by dismissal from the service even for the first offense,
as it is classified as a grave offense. However, considering that the respondent has
not been previously charged nor administratively sanctioned, the Court finds that
a penalty of suspension for one year and six months will serve the purpose of
disciplining the respondent.

Court personnel, from the lowliest employee to the clerk of court or any
position lower than that of a judge or justice, are involved in the dispensation of
justice, and parties seeking redress from the courts for grievances look upon them
as part of the Judiciary. They serve as sentinels of justice, and any act of
impropriety on their part immeasurably affect the honor and dignity of the
Judiciary and the peoples confidence in it.[53] Thus, any conduct which tends to
diminish the image of the Judiciary cannot be countenanced.

Page 80 of 231
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, respondent Cielito M. Salud is
found GUILTY of inefficiency and gross misconduct. He is SUSPENDED for a
period of One (1) Year and Six (6) Months, effective immediately. He is
further DIRECTED to inform the Court as to the date of his receipt of this Decision
to determine when his suspension shall have taken effect.

The Office of the Court Administrator is also DIRECTED to conduct a


discreet investigation on the possible involvement of Rhodora Valdez (Utility
Worker), and other personnel of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 163.

SO ORDERED.

Page 81 of 231
18. [G.R. No. 144656. May 9, 2002]
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. GERRICO
VALLEJO Y SAMARTINO @ PUKE, accused-appellant.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This is an appeal from the decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 88,
Cavite City, sentencing Gerrico Vallejo y Samartino to death and ordering him to
indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity
and P50,000.00 as moral damages for the rape-slaying of a 9-year old child, Daisy
Diolola, in Rosario, Cavite on July 10, 1999.
The Information charging accused-appellant Gerrico Vallejo with the crime of
Rape with Homicide alleged:
That on or about the 10th day of July 1999, in Barangay Ligtong I, Municipality
of Rosario, Province of Cavite, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Trial Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design, by means of
force and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
have sexual intercourse with DAISY DIOLOLA Y DITALO, a nine-year old child
against the latters will and while raping the said victim, said accused strangled
her to death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[2]
Accused-appellant was arraigned on July 26, 1999 and, with the assistance of
counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged, whereupon trial ensued.
Ten (10) witnesses testified for the prosecution, namely, Ma. Nida Diolola, the
victims mother; Dr. Antonio S. Vertido, medico-legal officer of the NBI; Atty. Lupo
Leyva; Mayor Renato Abutan of Rosario, Cavite; Atty. Sikat Agbunag of the Public
Attorneys Office; Pet Byron Buan, NBI Forensic Biologist; Aida Viloria-Magsipoc,
NBI Forensic Chemist; SPO1 Arnel Cuevas of the Rosario, Cavite police station;
and Jessiemin Mataverde and Charito Paras-Yepes, both neighbors of the victim.
The victims mother, Ma. Nida Diolola, testified that at around 1:00 oclock in
the afternoon of July 10, 1999, she sent her 9-year old daughter Daisy Diolola to
their neighbors house in Pilapil, Ligtong I, Rosario, Cavite, so that Aimee Vallejo,
the sister of accused-appellant, could help Daisy with her lessons. Aimees house,
where accused-appellant was also staying, is about four to five meters away from
Daisys house. Ma. Nida saw her daughter go to the house of her tutor. She was
wearing pink short pants and a white sleeveless shirt. An hour later, Daisy came
back with accused-appellant. They were looking for a book which accused-
appellant could copy to make a drawing or a poster that Daisy would submit to
her teacher. After finding the book, Daisy and accused-appellant went back to the
latters house. When Ma. Nida woke up at about 5:30 oclock after an afternoon
nap, she noticed that Daisy was not yet home. She started looking for her daughter
and proceeded to the house of Aimee, Daisys tutor. Aimees mother told Ma. Nida
that Daisy was not there and that Aimee was not able to help Daisy with her
lessons because Aimee was not feeling well as she had her menstrual period. Ma.
Nida looked for Daisy in her brothers and sisters houses, but she was not there,
either. At about 7:00 oclock that evening, Ma. Nida went back to her neighbors
house, and there saw accused-appellant, who told her that Daisy had gone to her

Page 82 of 231
classmates house to borrow a book. But, when Ma. Nida went there, she was told
that Daisy had not been there. Ma. Nida went to the dike and was told that they
saw Daisy playing at about 3:30 oclock in the afternoon. Jessiemin Mataverde also
told Ma. Nida that Daisy was playing in front of her house that afternoon and even
watched television in her house, but that Daisy later left with accused-appellant.
Ma. Nida and her brother and sister searched for Daisy the whole evening of
June 10, 1999, a Saturday, until the early morning of the following day, June 11,
1999, a Sunday, but their search proved fruitless. Then, at about 10:00 oclock in
the morning of June 11, 1999, she was informed that the dead body of her
daughter was found tied to the root of an aroma tree by the river after the
compuerta by a certain Freddie Quinto. The body was already in the barangay hall
when Ma. Nida saw her daughter. Daisy was wearing her pink short pants with
her sleeveless shirt tied around her neck. Barangay Councilmen Raul Ricasa and
Calring Purihin reported the incident to the Rosario police. The other barangay
officers fetched accused-appellant from his house and took him to the barangay
hall. At the barangay hall, Ma. Nida pointed to accused-appellant Gerrico Vallejo
as the probable suspect since he was with the victim when she was last seen
alive.[3]
Another witness, Jessiemin Mataverde, testified that at around 3:00 oclock in
the afternoon of that day, she saw Daisy playing with other children outside her
house. She asked Daisy and her playmates to stop playing as their noise was
keeping Jessiemins one-year old baby awake. Daisy relented and watched
television instead from the door of Jessiemins house. About five minutes later,
accused-appellant came to the house and told Daisy something, as a result of
which she went with him and the two proceeded towards the compuerta.
Jessiemin testified that at around 5:00 oclock that afternoon, while she and
her daughter were in front of a store across the street from her house, accused-
appellant arrived to buy a stick of Marlboro cigarette. Accused-appellant had only
his basketball shorts on and was just holding his shirt. They noticed both his
shorts and his shirt were wet. After lighting his cigarette, accused-appellant left.[4]
Charito Yepes, another neighbor of Ma. Nida, also testified. She said that at
about 4:30 oclock in the afternoon of July 10, 1999, while she and her husband
and children were walking towards the compuerta near the seashore of Ligtong,
Rosario, Cavite, they met a fisherman named Herminio who said that it was a good
day for catching milkfish (bangus). For this reason, according to this witness, they
decided to get some fishing implements. She said they met accused-appellant
Gerrico Vallejo near the seashore and noticed that he was uneasy and looked
troubled. Charito said that accused-appellant did not even greet them, which was
unusual. She also testified that accused-appellants shorts and shirt (sando) were
wet, but his face and hair were not.[5]
SPO1 Arnel Cuevas testified that upon receipt of the report, Rosario Police Chief
Ricardo B. de la Cruz, Jr. responded to the call together with his men, PO2 Garcia,
SPO1 Araracap and PO2 Lariza. When they arrived, Daisys body was already in
the barangay hall. SPO1 Cuevas took photographs of the body. At that time, Daisy
was wearing pink short pants and a dirty white panty with a dirty white sleeveless
shirt wrapped around her neck. The body was afterwards taken to the Samson

Page 83 of 231
Funeral Parlor in Rosario, Cavite. The inquiries conducted by the police showed
that one Freddie Quinto was fishing near the compuerta when he accidentally hit
the body of Daisy, which was in the mud and tied to the root of an aroma tree.
Accused-appellant was invited by the policemen for questioning. Two others, a
certain Raymond and Esting, were also taken into custody because they were seen
with accused-appellant in front of the store in the late afternoon of July 10
1999. Later, however, the two were released. Based on the statements of Jessiemin
Mataverde and Charito Paras-Yepes, the policemen went to the house of accused-
appellant at about 4:00 oclock in the afternoon of July 11, 1999 and recovered the
white basketball shirt, with the name Samartino and No. 13 printed at the back,
and the violet basketball shorts, with the number 9 printed on it, worn by accused-
appellant the day before. The shirt and shorts, which were bloodstained, were
turned over to the NBI for laboratory examination. [6]
Dr. Antonio S. Vertido, NBI Medico-Legal Officer, testified that at about 9:00
oclock in the evening of July 11, 1999, he conducted a physical examination of
accused-appellant. His findings[7] showed the following:
PHYSICAL FINDINGS:
Abrasions: thigh, right, antero-lateral aspect, lower 3rd 5.0 x 0.1 cm., knee, left,
7.0 x 6.0 cm. legs, right anterior aspect, 28.0 x 8.0 cms., left anterior aspect,
24.0 x 10.0 cms., feet, plantar aspects; right, 9.0 x 3.0 cms. and left, 13.0 x 5.0
cms.
Hematoma, left ring finger, posterior aspect, 1.0 x 0.5 cm.
Lacerations, left ring finger, posterior aspect, 0.3 cm.
(Living Case No. BMP-9902, p. 101, records)
At about 10:00 oclock in the evening, Dr. Vertido went to the Samson Funeral
Parlor in Rosario, Cavite for an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim Daisy
Diolola. The autopsy revealed the following postmortem findings: [8]
Body in early stage of postmortem decomposition characterized by foul odor, eyes
and tongue protruding, bloating of the face and blister formation.
Washerwomans hands and feet.
Contusion, (pinkish) face, right, 14.0 x 10.0 cms. and left, 13.0 x 6.0 cms.
Contused abrasions, forehead, 13.0 x 5.0 cms. upper lip, 5.0 x 22.0 cms., lower
lip, 3.0 x 2.0 cms., neck (nailmarks) anterior aspect, 8.0 x 5.0 cms., arms, right
antero-medial aspect, middle 3rd 3.0 x 15.0 cms. posterior aspect, upper 3rd,
1.5 x 1.0 cms., left posterior aspect, 20.0 x 9.0 cms., forearm, left, posterior
aspect, 21.0 x 8.0 cms. left thumb, anterior aspect, 1.5 x 1.0 cms., left middle,
ring and little fingers, dorsal aspect, .50 x 4.0 cms. knees, right, 3.0 x 2.0 cms.
and left, 8.0- x 5.0 cms., legs, right anterior aspect, upper and middle 3rd 3.0 x
2.5 cms. foot right, dorsal aspect.
Hematoma, periorbital right, 5.0 x 3.0 cms. and left, 4.5 x 3.0 cms.
Fracture, tracheal rings.
Hemorrhages, interstitial, neck, underneath, nailmarks. Petechial
hemorrhages, subendocardial, subpleural.
Brain and other visceral organs are congested.
Stomach, contains rice and other food particles.
CAUSE OF DEATH: -Asphyxia by Manual Strangulation.

Page 84 of 231
GENITAL EXAMINATION: - Pubic hair, no growth. Labia majora and minora,
gaping and congested. Hymen, moderately tall, thick with fresh lacerations,
complete at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 oclock positions, edges with blood clots.
[Autopsy Report No. BTNO-99-152]
Renato Abutan, Municipal Mayor of Rosario, Cavite, testified that he was
informed of the rape and murder at past 10:00 oclock in the evening of June 11,
1999. The mayor said he immediately proceeded to the municipal jail, where
accused-appellant was detained, and talked to the latter. Accused-appellant at
first denied having anything to do with the killing and rape of the child. The mayor
said he told accused-appellant that he could not help him if he did not tell the
truth. At that point, accused-appellant started crying and told the mayor that he
killed the victim by strangling her. Accused-appellant claimed that he was under
the influence of drugs. The mayor asked accused-appellant if he wanted to have
the services of Atty. Lupo Leyva, a resident of Rosario, as his lawyer. When
accused-appellant said he did, Mayor Abutan fetched Atty. Leyva from his house
and took him to the police station about 11:00 oclock that evening. [9]
Atty. Lupo Leyva corroborated Mayor Abutans testimony. He said that upon
arriving at the police station, he asked accused-appellant if he wanted his services
as counsel in the investigation. After accused-appellant assented, Atty. Leyva
testified that he sort of discouraged the former from making statements as
anything he said could be used against him. But, as accused-appellant was willing
to be investigated, Atty. Leyva said he advised him to tell the truth. PO2 Garcia,
the investigator, informed accused-appellant of his constitutional rights to remain
silent and to be assisted by counsel and warned him that any answer he gave
could and might be used against him in a court of law. PO2 Garcia asked questions
from accused-appellant, who gave his answers in the presence of Atty. Leyva. After
the statement was taken, Atty. Leyva and accused-appellant read it and afterwards
signed it. Atty. Leyva testified that he did not see or notice any indication that
accused-appellant had been maltreated by the police. In his sworn statement (Exh.
M), accused-appellant confessed to killing the victim by strangling her to death,
but denied having molested her.[10]
Pet Byron Buan, Forensic Biologist of the NBI, testified that on July 12, 1999,
he took blood samples from accused-appellant in his office for laboratory
examination to determine his blood type. Likewise, the basketball shorts and shirt
worn by accused-appellant on the day the victim was missing and the victims
clothing were turned over to the Forensic Chemistry Division of the NBI by PO1
Amoranto of the Rosario, Cavite police for the purpose of determining the presence
of human blood and its groups.[11]
The results of the examinations conducted by Pet Byron T. Buan showed
accused-appellant to belong to Group O. The following specimens: (1) one (1) white
no. 13 athletic basketball shirt, with patches Grizzlies in front and SAMARTINO at
the back; (2) one (1) violet no. 9 athletic basketball short pants; (3) one (1) white
small Hello Kitty T-shirt with reddish brown stains; (4) one (1) cut pink short pants
with reddish brown stains; (5) one (1) cut dirty white small panty with reddish
brown stains, were all positive for the presence of human blood showing the
reactions of Group A.[12]

Page 85 of 231
Pet Byron Buan also testified that before he took the blood samples, he had a
conversation with accused-appellant during which the latter admitted that he had
raped and later killed the victim by strangulation and stated that he was willing to
accept the punishment that would be meted out on him because of the grievous
offense he had committed. Mr. Buan observed that accused-appellant was
remorseful and was crying when he made the confession in the presence of SPO1
Amoranto at the NBI laboratory.[13]
When accused-appellant was brought before Inquest Prosecutor Elpidia J. Itoc
at around noon of July 13, 1999 in Cavite City, accused-appellant had with him a
handwritten confession which he had executed inside his cell at the Municipal Jail
of Rosario. In his confession, accused-appellant admitted not only that he killed
the victim but that he had before that raped her. Accused-appellant said he laid
down the victim on a grassy area near the dike. He claimed that she did not resist
when he removed her undergarments but that when he tried to insert his penis
into the victims vagina, she struggled and resisted. Accused-appellant said he
panicked and killed the child. He then dumped her body in the shallow river near
the compuerta and went home.[14]
Atty. Sikat Agbunag, a lawyer from the Public Attorneys Office, testified that at
noon of July 13, 1999, while she was in their office in Cavite City, Prosecutor Itoc
came together with accused-appellant and some policemen.Prosecutor Itoc asked
Atty. Agbunag to assist accused-appellant about his confession. Atty. Agbunag
read the document, informed accused-appellant of his constitutional rights, and
warned him that the document could be used against him and that he could be
convicted of the case against him, but, according to her, accused-appellant said
that he had freely and voluntarily executed the document because he was bothered
by his conscience. Accused-appellant, assisted by Atty. Agbunag, then affixed his
signature to the document and swore to it before Prosecutor Itoc. [15]
At the instance of City Prosecutor Agapito S. Lu of Cavite City, NBI Forensic
Biologist Pet Byron Buan took buccal swabs and hair samples from accused-
appellant, as well as buccal swabs and hair samples from the parents of the victim,
namely, Ma. Nida Diolola and Arnulfo Diolola. The samples were submitted to the
DNA Laboratory of the NBI for examination.
Aida Viloria-Magsipoc, Forensic Chemist of the NBI, conducted DNA tests on
the specimens collected by Dr. Vertido. She testified that the vaginal swabs of the
victim taken by Dr. Vertido during the autopsy contained the DNA profiles of
accused-appellant and the victim.[16]
The defense then presented as witnesses accused-appellant Gerrico Vallejo and
his sister Aimee Vallejo. Their testimonies show that at about 1:00 oclock in the
afternoon of July 10, 1999, accused-appellant, Aimee, and their sister Abigail were
in their house in Barangay Talisay, Ligtong I, Rosario, Cavite when Daisy Diolola
came to ask accused-appellant to draw her school project. After making the
request, Daisy left.[17] Accused-appellant did not immediately make the drawing
because he was watching television. Accused-appellant said that he finished the
drawing at about 3:00 oclock in the afternoon and gave it to the victims aunt,
Glory. He then returned home to watch television again. He claimed he did not go
out of the house until 7:00 oclock in the evening when he saw Ma. Nida, who was

Page 86 of 231
looking for her daughter. Accused-appellant said he told her that he had not seen
Daisy. After that, accused-appellant said he went to the pilapil and talked with
some friends, and, at about 8:00 oclock that evening, he went home.
At 9:00 oclock in the morning of July 11, 1999, barangay officials fetched
accused-appellant from his house and took him to the barangay hall, where he
was asked about the disappearance of Daisy. He claimed that he did not know
anything about it. Accused-appellant was allowed to go home, but, at 11:00 oclock
that morning, policemen came and invited him to the police headquarters for
questioning. His mother went with him to the police station.There, accused-
appellant was asked whether he had something to do with the rape and killing of
Daisy. He denied knowledge of the crime.
At 4:00 oclock that afternoon, accused-appellant accompanied the police to his
house to get the basketball shorts and shirt he was wearing the day before, which
were placed together with other dirty clothes at the back of their house. According
to accused-appellant, the police forced him to admit that he had raped and killed
Daisy and that he admitted having committed the crime to stop them from beating
him up. Accused-appellant claimed the police even burned his penis with a lighted
cigarette and pricked it with a needle.
Accused-appellant confirmed that Mayor Renato Abutan and Atty. Lupo Leyva
went to see him in the investigation room of the police station and told him that
they would help him if he told the truth. Atty. Leyva asked him whether he wanted
him to be his counsel, and accused-appellant said he answered in the
affirmative. He said Atty. Leyva informed him of his constitutional rights. Accused-
appellant claimed that, although he admitted to Mayor Abutan and Atty. Leyva the
commission of the crime, this was because the police had maltreated
him. Accused-appellant said he did not tell the mayor or Atty. Leyva that he had
been tortured because the policemen were around and he was afraid of them. It
appears that the family of accused-appellant transferred their residence to Laguna
on July 12, 1999 because of fear of reprisal by residents of their
barangay.[18] According to accused-appellant, Mayor Abutan and Atty. Leyva were
not present when he gave his confession to the police and signed the
same. Accused-appellant claims that although Exhibit N was in his own
handwriting, he merely copied the contents thereof from a pattern given to him by
the police.[19]
On July 31, 2000, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused-appellant
guilty of the offense charged. The dispositive portion of its decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, the Court finds the
accused Gerrico Vallejo y Samartino GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Rape with Homicide, as charged in the Information, accordingly hereby
sentences him to the supreme penalty of DEATH. The accused is directed to
indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity
and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
SO ORDERED.[20]
Hence this appeal. Accused-appellant contends that:
I. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-
APPELLANT OF RAPE WITH HOMICIDE DESPITE THE INSUFFICIENCY

Page 87 of 231
AND WEAKNESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE OF THE
PROSECUTION.
II. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING EVIDENTIARY WEIGHT
TO THE ALLEGED ORAL CONFESSIONS OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT
DESPITE ITS BEING HEARSAY IN NATURE.
III. THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN GIVING
PROBATIVE VALUE TO THE WRITTEN EXTRA-JUDICIAL CONFESSION
OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE SAME
WAS OBTAINED THROUGH FORCE AND INTIMIDATION AND THAT THE
LAWYER WHO ASSISTED HIM DURING HIS CUSTODIAL
INVESTIGATION DID NOT AND COULD NOT POSSIBLY GIVE HIM
EFFECTIVE LEGAL ASSISTANCE.
We find accused-appellants contentions to be without merit.
First. An accused can be convicted even if no eyewitness is available, provided
sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented by the prosecution to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime.[21] In rape with homicide,
the evidence against an accused is more often than not circumstantial. This is
because the nature of the crime, where only the victim and the rapist would have
been present at the time of its commission, makes the prosecution of the offense
particularly difficult since the victim could no longer testify against the
perpetrator. Resort to circumstantial evidence is inevitable and to demand direct
evidence proving the modality of the offense and the identity of the perpetrator is
unreasonable.[22]
Under Rule 133, section 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, circumstantial
evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction if:
(a) there is more than one circumstance;
(b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and
(c) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce conviction
beyond reasonable doubt.[23]
In the case at bar, the following circumstantial evidence establish beyond
reasonable doubt the guilt of accused-appellant:
1. The victim went to Aimee Vallejos house, where accused-appellant was
residing, at 1:00 oclock in the afternoon of July 10, 1999, for tutoring.
2. At around 2:00 oclock in the afternoon, accused-appellant and Daisy
went together to the latters house to get a book from which the former
could copy Daisys school project. After getting the book, they proceeded
to accused-appellants residence.
3. From accused-appellants house, Daisy then went to the house of
Jessiemin Mataverde where she watched television. Accused-appellant
thereafter arrived and whispered something to Daisy, and the latter went
with him towards the compuerta.
4. At about 4:30 oclock in the afternoon, the spouses Iluminado and
Charito Yepes saw accused-appellant coming out of the compuerta, with
his clothes, basketball shorts, and t-shirt wet, although his face and hair
were not. According to these witnesses, he looked pale, uneasy, and

Page 88 of 231
troubled (balisa). He kept looking around and did not even greet them as
was his custom to do so.
5. The fishing boat which accused-appellant used as a bomber (a boat for
catching fish with dynamite) was docked by the seashore.
6. A little before 5:00 oclock in the afternoon, Jessiemin Mataverde also saw
accused-appellant buying a Marlboro cigarette from a store. Jessiemen
also noticed that accused-appellants clothes were wet but not his face
nor his hair.
7. By 5:30 oclock in the afternoon, as Ma. Nida Diolola looked for her
daughter, she was told by accused-appellant that Daisy had gone to her
classmate Rosarios house. The information proved to be false.
8. Daisys body was found tied to an aroma tree at the part of the river near
the compuerta.
9. During the initial investigation, accused-appellant had scratches on his
feet similar to those caused by the thorns of an aroma tree.
10. The clothes which accused-appellant wore the day before were
bloodstained. The bloodstains on accused-appellants clothes and on
Daisys clothes were found positive of human blood type A.
11. Accused-appellant has blood type O.
12. The vaginal swabs from Daisys body contained her DNA profile as well
as that of accused-appellant.
Accused-appellant contends that the bloodstains found on his garments were
not proven to have been that of the victim as the victims blood type was not
determined.
The contention has no merit. The examination conducted by Forensic Biologist
Pet Byron Buan of both accused-appellants and the victims clothing yielded
bloodstains of the same blood type A.[24] Even if there was no direct determination
as to what blood type the victim had, it can reasonably be inferred that the victim
was blood type A since she sustained contused abrasions all over her body which
would necessarily produce the bloodstains on her clothing.[25] That it was the
victims blood which predominantly registered in the examination was explained
by Mr. Buan, thus:[26]
ATTY. ESPIRITU
Q: But you will agree with me that more probably than not, if a crime is being
committed, and it results in a bloody death, it is very possible that the blood
of the victim and the blood of the assailant might mix in that particular item
like the t-shirt, shorts or pants?
A: It is possible when there is a huge amount of blood coming from the victim
and the suspect, Sir. It is possible. It will mix. Whichever is the dominant
blood in it, it will be the one which will register. For example, if there is more
blood coming from the victim, that blood will be the one to register, on
occasions when the two blood mix.
Q: But in these specimens number 1 to 5, it is very clear now that only type A
and no type O blood was found?
A: Yes, sir.

Page 89 of 231
Accused-appellant also questions the validity of the method by which his
bloodstained clothes were recovered. According to accused-appellant, the
policemen questioned him as to the clothes he wore the day before. Thereafter,
they took him to his house and accused-appellant accompanied them to the back
of the house where dirty clothes were kept.[27] There is no showing, however, that
accused-appellant was coerced or forced into producing the garments. Indeed, that
the accused-appellant voluntarily brought out the clothes sought by the police
becomes more convincing when considered together with his confessions. A
consented warrantless search is an exception to the proscription in Section 2 of
Article III of the Constitution. As we have held, the consent of the owner of the
house to the search effectively removes any badge of illegality. [28]
The DNA analysis conducted by NBI Forensic Chemist Aida Viloria-Magsipoc
is also questioned by accused-appellant. He argues that the prosecution failed to
show that all the samples submitted for DNA testing were not contaminated,
considering that these specimens were already soaked in smirchy waters before
they were submitted to the laboratory.
DNA is an organic substance found in a persons cells which contains his or
her genetic code. Except for identical twins, each persons DNA profile is distinct
and unique.[29]
When a crime is committed, material is collected from the scene of the crime
or from the victims body for the suspects DNA. This is the evidence sample. The
evidence sample is then matched with the reference sample taken from the suspect
and the victim.[30]
The purpose of DNA testing is to ascertain whether an association exists
between the evidence sample and the reference sample.[31] The samples collected
are subjected to various chemical processes to establish their profile. [32] The test
may yield three possible results:
1) The samples are different and therefore must have originated from different
sources (exclusion). This conclusion is absolute and requires no further analysis
or discussion;
2) It is not possible to be sure, based on the results of the test, whether the
samples have similar DNA types (inconclusive). This might occur for a variety of
reasons including degradation, contamination, or failure of some aspect of the
protocol. Various parts of the analysis might then be repeated with the same or a
different sample, to obtain a more conclusive result; or
3) The samples are similar, and could have originated from the same source
(inclusion).[33] In such a case, the samples are found to be similar, the analyst
proceeds to determine the statistical significance of the Similarity. [34]
In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, therefore, courts should
consider, among others things, the following data: how the samples were collected,
how they were handled, the possibility of contamination of the samples, the
procedure followed in analyzing the samples, whether the proper standards and
procedures were followed in conducting the tests, and the qualification of the
analyst who conducted the tests.
In the case at bar, the bloodstains taken from the clothing of the victim and of
accused-appellant, the smears taken from the victim as well as the strands of hair

Page 90 of 231
and nails taken from her tested negative for the presence of human
DNA,[35] because, as Ms. Viloria-Magsipoc explained:
PROSECUTOR LU:
Q: I noticed that specimens 1 to 5 consisting of bloodstains taken from the
clothing of the victim and of the accused gave negative results for the
presence of human DNA. Why is it so? What is the reason for this when there
are still bloodstains on the clothing?
A: After this Honorable Court issued an Order for DNA analysis, serological
methods were already conducted on the said specimens. And upon inquiry
from Mr. Buan and as far as he also knew of this case, and we also
interviewed the mother who came over to the laboratory one time on how was
the state of the specimens when they were found out. We found that these
specimens were soaked in smirchy water before they were submitted to the
laboratory. The state of the specimens prior to the DNA analysis could have
hampered the preservation of any DNA that could have been there before. So
when serological methods were done on these specimens, Mr. Byron could
have taken such portion or stains that were only amenable for serological
method and were not enough for DNA analysis already. So negative results
were found on the clothings that were submitted which were specimens no.
1 to 5 in my report, Sir.
Q: I also noticed that specimen no. 6-B consisting of the smears taken from the
victim also proved negative for human DNA, why is it so?
A: Because when we received the vaginal smears submitted by Dr. Vertido, the
smear on the slide was very, very dry and could have chipped off. I already
informed Dr. Vertido about it and he confirmed the state of the
specimen. And I told him that maybe it would be the swab that could help
us in this case, Sir. And so upon examination, the smears geared negative
results and the swabs gave positive results, Sir.
Q: How about specimen no. 7, the hair and nails taken from the victim, why did
they show negative results for DNA?
A: The hair samples were cut hair. This means that the hair did not contain any
root. So any hair that is above the skin or the epidermis of ones skin would
give negative results as the hair shaft is negative for DNA. And then the nails
did not contain any subcutaneous cells that would be amenable for DNA
analysis also, Sir.
Q: So its the inadequacy of the specimens that were the reason for this negative
result, not the inadequacy of the examination or the instruments used?
A: Yes, Sir.
Thus, it is the inadequacy of the specimens submitted for examination, and
not the possibility that the samples had been contaminated, which accounted for
the negative results of their examination. But the vaginal swabs taken from the
victim yielded positive for the presence of human DNA. Upon analysis by the
experts, they showed the DNA profile of accused-appellant:[36]
PROSECUTOR LU:

Page 91 of 231
Q: So based on your findings, can we say conclusively that the DNA profile of
the accused in this case was found in the vaginal swabs taken from the
victim?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: That is very definite and conclusive?
A: Yes, Sir."
In conclusion, we hold that the totality of the evidence points to no other
conclusion than that accused-appellant is guilty of the crime charged. Evidence is
weighed not counted. When facts or circumstances which are proved are not only
consistent with the guilt of the accused but also inconsistent with his innocence,
such evidence, in its weight and probative force, may surpass direct evidence in
its effect upon the court.[37] This is how it is in this case.
Second. Accused-appellant challenges the validity of the oral and written
confessions presented as evidence against him. He alleges that the oral
confessions were inadmissible in evidence for being hearsay, while the
extrajudicial confessions were obtained through force and intimidation.
The claim is untenable. Section 12 of Art. III of the Constitution provides in
pertinent parts:
(1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall
have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have
competent and independent counsel, preferably of his own choice. If the
person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with
one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence
of counsel.
(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which
vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places,
solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are
prohibited.
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17
shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.
There are two kinds of involuntary or coerced confessions treated in this
constitutional provision: (1) coerced confessions, the product of third degree
methods such as torture, force, violence, threat, and intimidation, which are dealt
with in paragraph 2 of Section 12, and (2) uncounselled statements, given without
the benefit of Miranda warnings, which are the subject of paragraph 1 of the same
section.[38]
Accused-appellant argues that the oral confessions given to Mayor Abutan of
Rosario, Cavite and to NBI Forensic Biologist should be deemed inadmissible for
being violative of his constitutional rights as these were made by one already under
custodial investigation to persons in authority without the presence of
counsel. With respect to the oral confessions, Atty. Leyva testified: [39]
PROSECUTOR LU:
Q: Upon meeting this Gerrico Vallejo at the police station were you able to confer
with him?
A: Yes, Sir.

Page 92 of 231
Q: Did you ask him whether he really wants you to represent or assist him as a
lawyer during that investigation?
A: I did, as a matter of fact, I asked him whether he would like me to represent
him in that investigation, Sir.
Q: And what was his answer?
A: He said yes.
Q: After agreeing to retain you as his counsel, what else did you talk about?
A: I told him that in the investigation, whatever he will state may be used against
him, so its a sort of discouraging him from making any statement to the
police, Sir.
Upon cross-examination, Atty. Leyva testified as follows:[40]
Q: You stated that you personally read this recital of the constitutional rights of
the accused?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: But it will appear in this recital of constitutional rights that you did not
inform the accused that the statement that he will be giving might be used
against him in a court of justice?
A: I did that, Sir.
Q: But it does not appear in this statement?
PROSECUTOR LU
The best evidence will be the statement, your Honor.
ATTY ESPIRITU
The only thing that is stated here is that Maaaring gamitin pabor o laban sa
iyo.
COURT
Let the witness answer.
A: I told him that, as a matter of fact, and I also told him to tell the truth and
nothing but the truth.
The testimony of Atty. Leyva is not only corroborated by the testimony of Mayor
Renato Abutan,[41] it is also confirmed by accused-appellant who testified as
follows:[42]
ATTY. ESPIRITU:
Q: Did Atty. Leyva explain to you the meaning and significance of that document
which you are supposed to have executed and signed?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: What did Atty. Leyva tell you?
A: That they are allowing me to exercise my constitutional right to reveal or
narrate all what I know about this case, Sir.
Q: Did Atty. Leyva tell you that if you do not want, nobody can force you to give
that statement?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: And did he tell you that what you would be giving is an extra-judicial
confession?
A: Yes, Sir.
Clearly, accused-appellant cannot now claim that he was not apprised of the
consequences of the statements he was to make as well as the written confessions

Page 93 of 231
he was to execute. Neither can he question the qualifications of Atty. Lupo Leyva
who acted as his counsel during the investigation. To be an effective counsel, a
lawyer need not challenge all the questions being propounded to his client. The
presence of a lawyer is not intended to stop an accused from saying anything which
might incriminate him but, rather, it was adopted in our Constitution to preclude
the slightest coercion as would lead the accused to admit something false. Indeed,
counsel should not prevent an accused from freely and voluntarily telling the
truth.[43]
Indeed, accused-appellant admitted that he was first asked whether he wanted
the services of Atty. Leyva before the latter acted as his defense counsel. [44] And
counsel who is provided by the investigators is deemed engaged by the accused
where the latter never raised any objection against the formers appointment
during the course of the investigation but, on the contrary, thereafter subscribed
to the veracity of his statement before the swearing officer. [45]Contrary to the
assertions of accused-appellant, Atty. Leyva was not the municipal attorney of
Rosario, Cavite but only a legal adviser of Mayor Renato Abutan. [46]
Accused-appellant contends that the rulings in People vs. Andan[47] and People
vs. Mantung[48] do not apply to this case. We disagree. The facts of these cases and
that of the case at bar are similar. In all these cases, the accused made
extrajudicial confessions to the municipal mayor freely and voluntarily. In all of
them, the extrajudicial confessions were held admissible in evidence, being the
spontaneous, free, and voluntary admissions of the guilt of the accused. We note
further that the testimony of Mayor Abutan was never objected to by the defense.
Indeed, the mayors questions to accused-appellant were not in the nature of
an interrogation, but rather an act of benevolence by a leader seeking to help one
of his constituents. Thus, Mayor Abutan testified:[49]
PROSECUTOR LU:
Q: And during the conversation you had with Accused Gerrico Vallejo, what
exactly did he tell you?
A: At first he said that he did not do that. That was the first thing he told
me. Then I told him that I will not be able to help him if he will not tell me
the truth.
Q: And what was the reply of the accused?
A: He had been silent for a minute. Then we talked about the incident, Sir.
Q: And what exactly did he tell you about the incident?
A: I asked him, Were you under the influence of drugs at that time?
Q: What else did he tell you?
A: I told him, What reason pushed you to do that thing? x x x
Q: Please tell us in tagalog, the exact words that the accused used in telling you
what happened.
A: He told me that he saw the child as if she was headless at that time. That is
why he strangled the child, Sir. (Ang sabi niya po sa kin, nakita niya raw
yung bata na parang walang ulo na naglalakad. Kaya po sinakal niya.)
xxxxxxxxx
COURT:

Page 94 of 231
Q: When you told the accused that you will help him, what kind of help were
you thinking at that time?
A: I told him that if he will tell the truth, I could help give him legal counsel.
Q: And what was the answer of the accused?
A: Yes, he will tell me the truth, Your Honor.
In People vs. Mantung,[50] this Court said:
Never was it raised during the trial that Mantungs admission during the press
conference was coerced or made under duress. As the records show, accused-
appellant voluntarily made the statements in response to Mayor Marquez
question as to whether he killed the pawnshop employees. Mantung answered in
the affirmative and even proceeded to explain that he killed the victims because
they made him eat pork. These circumstances hardly indicate that Mantung felt
compelled to own up to the crime. Besides, he could have chosen to remain silent
or to do deny altogether any participation in the robbery and killings but he did
not; thus accused-appellant sealed his own fate. As held in People v. Montiero, a
confession constitutes evidence of high order since it is supported by the strong
presumption that no person of normal mind would deliberately and knowingly
confess to a crime unless prompted by truth and his conscience.
And in People vs. Andan, it was explained:
Thus, it has been held that the constitutional procedures on custodial
investigation do not apply to a spontaneous statement, not elicited through
questioning by the authorities, but given in an ordinary manner whereby
appellant orally admitted having committed the crime. What the Constitution
bars is the compulsory disclosure of incriminating facts or confessions. The
rights under Section 12 are guaranteed to preclude the slightest use of coercion
by the state as would lead the accused to admit something false, not prevent him
from freely and voluntarily telling the truth.[51]
For the same reason, the oral confession made by accused-appellant to NBI
Forensic Biologist Pet Byron Buan is admissible. Accused-appellant would have
this Court exclude this confession on the ground that it was uncounselled and
that Mr. Buan, who initiated the conversation with accused-appellant, was part of
the NBI. The issue concerning the sufficiency of the assistance given by Atty. Leyva
has already been discussed. On the other hand, the questions put by Mr. Buan to
accused-appellant were asked out of mere personal curiosity and clearly not as
part of his tasks. As Buan testified:[52]
PROSECUTOR LU:
Q: What was the subject of your conversation with him?
A: It is customary when we examine the accused. During the examination, we
talk to them for me to add knowledge on the case, Sir.
Q: What did you talk about during your conversation?
A: I asked him if he was the one who did the killing on this victim, Daisy Diolola,
Sir.
Q: And what was the reply of the accused?
A: He said yes, Sir.
Q: What else did you ask the accused?

Page 95 of 231
A: I remember that while asking him, he was crying as if feeling remorse on the
killing, Sir.
....
Q: And it was you who initiated the conversation?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Do you usually do that?
A: Yes, Sir. We usually do that.
Q: Is that part of your procedure?
A: It is not SOP. But for me alone, I want to know more about the case, Sir. And
any information either on the victim or from the suspect will help me
personally. Its not an SOP, Sir.
The confession, thus, can be likened to one freely and voluntarily given to an
ordinary individual and is, therefore, admissible as evidence.
Third. The admissibility of the extrajudicial confessions of accused-appellant
is also attacked on the ground that these were extracted from him by means of
torture, beatings, and threats to his life. The bare assertions of maltreatment by
the police authorities in extracting confessions from the accused are not
sufficient. The standing rule is that where the defendants did not present evidence
of compulsion, or duress nor violence on their person; where they failed to
complain to the officer who administered their oaths; where they did not institute
any criminal or administrative action against their alleged intimidators for
maltreatment; where there appeared to be no marks of violence on their bodies;
and where they did not have themselves examined by a reputable physician to
buttress their claim, all these will be considered as indicating
voluntariness.[53] Indeed, extrajudicial confessions are presumed to be voluntary,
and, in the absence of conclusive evidence showing that the declarants consent in
executing the same has been vitiated, the confession will be sustained. [54]
Accused-appellants claim that he was tortured and subjected to beatings by
policemen in order to extract the said confession from him is unsupported by any
proof:[55]
ATTY. ESPIRITU:
Q: Did they further interrogate you?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What else did they ask you?
A: They were asking me the project, Sir.
Q: What else?
A: That is the only thing, Sir.
Q: Who was doing the questioning?
A: The investigator, Sir.
Q: How many were they inside that room?
A: Five, Sir.
Q: They are all policemen?
A: Yes, Sir.
xxxxxxxxx
Q: Until what time did they keep you inside that room?
A: Up to 11:00 in the evening, Sir.

Page 96 of 231
Q: Between 10:30 in the morning up to 11:00 oclock in the evening, what did
you do there?
A: They were interrogating and forcing me to admit something, Sir.
Q: In what way did they force you to admit something?
A: They were mauling me, Sir.
Q: The 5 of them?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: The 5 of them remained inside that room with you throughout the
questioning?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: In what way did they hurt you?
A: They burned my private part with a lighted cigarette butt and pierced me with
a needle, Sir.
Q: Who did these things to you?
A: Mercado, Sir.
Q: Who is this Mercado?
A: EPZA policemen, Sir.
Q: Did the other policemen help in doing these things to you?
A: No, Sir.
Q: Were you asked to undress or you were forced to do that?
A: They forced me to remove my clothes, Sir.
Q: In what way did they force you to remove your clothes?
A: They were asking me to take off the pants which I was wearing at the time,
Sir.
Q: Did they do anything to you to force you to remove your pants?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: What?
A: They boxed me, Sir.
Q: What else, if any?
A: They hit me with a piece of wood, Sir.
Q: What did you feel when your private part was burned with a cigarette butt?
A: It was painful, Sir.
Q: In what part of your body were you pricked by a needle?
A: At my private part, Sir.
These bare assertions cannot be given weight. Accused-appellant testified that
he was made to stay in the municipal hall from 10:00 oclock in the morning until
11:00 oclock that night of July 10, 1999, during which time he was boxed,
tortured, and hit with a piece of wood by policemen to make him admit to the
crime. However, accused-appellant was physically examined by Dr. Antonio
Vertido at about 9:00 oclock in the evening of the same day.While the results show
that accused-appellant did sustain injuries, the same are incompatible with his
claim of torture. As Dr. Vertido testified:[56]
PROSECUTOR LU:
Q: What were your findings when you conducted the physical examination of
the suspect?

Page 97 of 231
A: I found abrasions, your Honor, abrasions on the thigh, knees, legs and feet
of the suspect, and I also found hematoma on the left ring finger, posterior
aspect and at the same time, a laceration on the left ring finger.
xxxxxxxxx
Q: In your findings, it appears that the accused in this case suffered certain
physical injuries on his person like this abrasion on the thigh, right anterior
lateral aspect lower third of the knee, what could have caused this injury?
A: Abrasions are usually caused when the skin comes in contact with a rough
surface, Sir. Hematoma are usually caused by a blunt instrument or object
and laceration is the forcible contact of the skin from that blunt object.
Q: I am particularly interested in your findings hematoma on the left ring finger,
posterior aspect and laceration left ring finger posterior aspect, what could
have caused those injuries on the accused?
A: My opinion to these hematoma and laceration found on the said left ring
finger was that it was caused by a bite, Sir.
If the account of accused-appellant that he was beaten up is true, Dr. Antonio
Vertido would have found more than mere abrasions and hematoma on his left
finger. Dr. Vertidos findings are more consistent with the theory that accused-
appellant sustained physical injuries as a result of the struggle made by the victim
during the commission of the rape in the compuerta.
At all events, even if accused-appellant was truthful and his assailed
confessions are inadmissible, the circumstantial evidence, as already shown, is
sufficient to establish his guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecution
witnesses presented a mosaic of circumstances showing accused-appellants
guilt. Their testimonies rule out the possibility that the crime was the handiwork
of some other evil mind. These witnesses have not been shown to have been
motivated by ill will against accused-appellant.
On the other hand, no other witness not related to accused-appellant was ever
called to corroborate his claim. The defense presented only accused-appellants
sister, Aimee Vallejo, to corroborate his story. We have held time and again that
alibi cannot prosper if it is established mainly by the accused and his relatives,
and not by credible persons.[57] It is well settled that alibi is the weakest of all
defenses as it is easy to contrive and difficult to disprove. For this reason, this
Court looks with caution upon the defense of alibi, especially when, as in this case,
it is corroborated only by relatives or friends of the accused.[58]
Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code provides that When by reason or on
the occasion of the rape, homicide is committed, the penalty shall be
death.[59] Therefore, no other penalty can be imposed on accused-appellant.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, the decision of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 88, Cavite City, finding accused-appellant Gerrico
Vallejo y Samartino GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with
Homicide and sentencing him to the supreme penalty of DEATH and directing him
to indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P100,000.00 as civil
indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages, is hereby AFFIRMED.
In accordance with Section 25 of R.A. 7659, amending Art. 83 of the Revised
Penal Code, upon the finality of this decision, let the records of this case be

Page 98 of 231
forthwith forwarded to the President of the Philippines for the possible exercise of
the pardoning power.
SO ORDERED.

Page 99 of 231
19. G.R. No. 150224 May 19, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. JOEL YATAR alias
"KAWIT", appellant.
On automatic review is a Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Bulanao, Tabuk,
Kalinga, Branch 25, sentencing appellant Joel Yatar alias "Kawit" to Death for the
special complex crime of Rape with Homicide, and ordering him to pay the heirs of
the victim, Kathylyn D. Uba, civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00, moral
damages in the amount of P200,000.00, exemplary damages in the amount of
P50,000.00, actual damages in the amount of P186,410.00, or total damages
amounting to P511,410.00, and costs of litigation.1
Appellant was charged with Rape with Homicide under the following Information:
That on or about the afternoon of June 30, 1998 at Liwan West, Rizal,
Kalinga, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused, in
order to have carnal knowledge of a certain KATHYLYN D. UBA, did then and
there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, and with use of a bladed weapon
stab the latter inflicting upon her fatal injuries resulting in the death of the
victim, and on the occasion or by reason thereof, accused, wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously, and by means of force and violence had carnal
knowledge of said Kathlyn D. Uba against her will.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
The facts are:
On June 30, 1998, at 8:30 a.m., Judilyn Pas-a and her first cousin,
seventeen year old Kathylyn Uba, were on the ground floor of the house of
their grandmother, Isabel Dawang, in Liwan West, Rizal, Kalinga. They were
talking about the letter sent by their aunt, Luz Yatar, to her husband,
appellant Joel Yatar, through Kathylyn’s friend, Cecil Casingan. Kathylyn
handed the letter to appellant earlier that morning.3
At 9:00 a.m. of the same day, Judilyn and her husband, together with Isabel
Dawang, left for their farm in Nagbitayan some two kilometers away. Before
Judilyn and her husband departed, Kathylyn told Judilyn that she intended to go
to Tuguegarao, but in the event she would not be able to leave, she would just stay
home and wash her clothes or go to the house of their aunt, Anita Wania. Kathylyn
was left alone in the house.4
Later, at 10:00 a.m., Anita Wania and fifteen year old Beverly Deneng stopped by
the house of Isabel. They saw appellant at the back of the house. They went inside
the house through the back door of the kitchen to have a drink of water. Anita
asked appellant what he was doing there, and he replied that he was getting
lumber to bring to the house of his mother.5
At 12:30 p.m., while Judilyn was on her way home from Nagbitayan, she saw
appellant descend the ladder from the second floor of the house of Isabel Dawang
and run towards the back of the house.6 She later noticed appellant, who was
Page 100 of 231
wearing a white shirt with collar and black pants, pacing back and forth at the
back of the house. She did not find this unusual as appellant and his wife used to
live in the house of Isabel Dawang.7
At 1:30 p.m., Judilyn again saw appellant when he called her near her house. This
time, he was wearing a black shirt without collar and blue pants. Appellant told
her that he would not be getting the lumber he had stacked, and that Isabel could
use it. She noticed that appellant’s eyes were "reddish and sharp." Appellant asked
her where her husband was as he had something important to tell him. Judilyn’s
husband then arrived and appellant immediately left and went towards the back
of the house of Isabel.8
In the evening of the same day, Isabel Dawang arrived home and found that the
lights in her house were off. She called out for her granddaughter, Kathylyn Uba.
The door to the ground floor was open. She noticed that the water container she
asked Kathylyn to fill up earlier that day was still empty. She went up the ladder
to the second floor of the house to see if Kathylyn was upstairs. She found that
the door was tied with a rope, so she went down to get a knife. While she groped
in the dark, she felt a lifeless body that was cold and rigid. 9
Isabel moved her hand throughout the entire body. She found out that it was the
naked body of her granddaughter, Kathylyn. She called for help. Judilyn and her
husband arrived. Isabel was given a flashlight by Judilyn. She focused the beam
and saw Kathylyn sprawled on the floor naked, with her intestines protruding out
of her stomach. Meanwhile, neighbors had arrived to offer assistance. A daughter
of Isabel, Cion, called the police.10
At 9:00 that evening, SP04 Melchor Faniswa received a report that a dead woman
was found in Isabel Dawang’s house. Together with fellow police officers, Faniswa
went to the house and found the naked body of Kathylyn Uba with multiple stab
wounds.
The people in the vicinity informed the police officers that appellant was seen going
down the ladder of the house of Isabel Dawang at approximately 12:30 p.m.
The police discovered the victim’s panties, brassiere, denim pants, bag and sandals
beside her naked cadaver at the scene of the crime, and they found a dirty white
shirt splattered with blood within 50 meters from the house of Isabel.
When questioned by the police authorities, appellant denied any knowledge of
Kathylyns’s death,11 however, he was placed under police custody.
On July 3, 1998, appellant asked the police officers if he could relieve himself.
Police Officer Cesar Abagan accompanied him to the toilet around seven to ten
meters away from the police station. They suddenly heard someone shout in the
Ilocano dialect, "Nagtaray!" (He’s running away!). Police Officer Orlando Manuel
exited through the gate of the Police Station and saw appellant running away.
Appellant was approximately 70 meters away from the station when Police Officer
Abagan recaptured him.12 He was charged with Rape with Homicide. When he was
arraigned on July 21, 1998, appellant pleaded "not guilty."
Page 101 of 231
After trial, appellant was convicted of the crime of Rape with Homicide, defined and
penalized under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A.
8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, and was accordingly,
sentenced to Death.
Hence, this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as
amended. In his Brief, appellant assigns the following errors:
I
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING MUCH WEIGHT TO THE
EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE PROSECUTION NOTWITHSTANDING
THEIR DOUBTFULNESS.
II
THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE SERIOUS CRIME CHARGED DUE TO
REASONABLE DOUBT.
Appellant’s contentions are unmeritorious.
The issue regarding the credibility of the prosecution witnesses should be resolved
against appellant. This Court will not interfere with the judgment of the trial court
in determining the credibility of witnesses unless there appears in the record some
fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the
significance of which has been misinterpreted.13 Well-entrenched is the rule that
the findings of the trial court on credibility of witnesses are entitled to great weight
on appeal unless cogent reasons are presented necessitating a reexamination if
not the disturbance of the same; the reason being that the former is in a better
and unique position of hearing first hand the witnesses and observing their
deportment, conduct and attitude.14 Absent any showing that the trial judge
overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight
which would affect the result of the case, the trial judge’s assessment of credibility
deserves the appellate court’s highest respect.15 Where there is nothing to show
that the witnesses for the prosecution were actuated by improper motive, their
testimonies are entitled to full faith and credit.16
The weight of the prosecution’s evidence must be appreciated in light of the well-
settled rule which provides that an accused can be convicted even if no eyewitness
is available, as long as sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented by the
prosecution to prove beyond doubt that the accused committed the crime. 17
Reference to the records will show that a total of eleven (11) wounds, six (6) stab
and five (5) incised, were found on the victim’s abdomen and back, causing a
portion of her small intestines to spill out of her body.18 Rigor mortis of the vicitm’s
body was complete when Dr. Bartolo examined the victim at 9:00 a.m. on July 1,
1998. According to him, the time of death may be approximated from between nine
(9) to twelve (12) hours prior to the completion of rigor mortis.19 In other words, the
estimated time of death was sometime between 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on June

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30, 1998. This was within the timeframe within which the lone presence of
appellant lurking in the house of Isabel Dawang was testified to by witnesses.
It should also be noted that, although the Postmortem Report by the attending
physician, Dr. Pej Evan C. Bartolo, indicates that no hymenal lacerations,
contusions or hematoma were noted on the victim, 20 Dr. Bartolo discovered the
presence of semen in the vaginal canal of the victim. During his testimony, Dr.
Bartolo stated that the introduction of semen into the vaginal canal could only be
done through sexual intercourse with the victim.21 In addition, it is apparent from
the pictures submitted by the prosecution that the sexual violation of the victim
was manifested by a bruise and some swelling in her right forearm indicating
resistance to the appellant’s assault on her virtue.22
Significantly, subsequent testing showed that the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of
the sperm specimen from the vagina of the victim was identical the semen to be
that of appellant’s gene type.
DNA is a molecule that encodes the genetic information in all living organisms. 23 A
person’s DNA is the same in each cell and it does not change throughout a person’s
lifetime; the DNA in a person’s blood is the same as the DNA found in his saliva,
sweat, bone, the root and shaft of hair, earwax, mucus, urine, skin tissue, and
vaginal and rectal cells.24 Most importantly, because of polymorphisms in human
genetic structure, no two individuals have the same DNA, with the notable
exception of identical twins.25
DNA print or identification technology has been advanced as a uniquely effective
means to link a suspect to a crime, or to exonerate a wrongly accused suspect,
where biological evidence has been left. For purposes of criminal investigation,
DNA identification is a fertile source of both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence.
It can assist immensely in effecting a more accurate account of the crime
committed, efficiently facilitating the conviction of the guilty, securing the acquittal
of the innocent, and ensuring the proper administration of justice in every case.
DNA evidence collected from a crime scene can link a suspect to a crime or
eliminate one from suspicion in the same principle as fingerprints are
used.26 Incidents involving sexual assault would leave biological evidence such as
hair, skin tissue, semen, blood, or saliva which can be left on the victim’s body or
at the crime scene. Hair and fiber from clothing, carpets, bedding, or furniture
could also be transferred to the victim’s body during the assault.27Forensic DNA
evidence is helpful in proving that there was physical contact between an assailant
and a victim. If properly collected from the victim, crime scene or assailant, DNA
can be compared with known samples to place the suspect at the scene of the
crime.28
The U.P. National Science Research Institute (NSRI), which conducted the DNA
tests in this case, used the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification method
by Short Tandem Repeat (STR) analysis. With PCR testing, tiny amounts of a
specific DNA sequence can be copied exponentially within hours. Thus, getting

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sufficient DNA for analysis has become much easier since it became possible to
reliably amplify small samples using the PCR method.
In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, courts should consider, inter
alia, the following factors: how the samples were collected, how they were handled,
the possibility of contamination of the samples, the procedure followed in
analyzing the samples, whether the proper standards and procedures were
followed in conducting the tests, and the qualification of the analyst who
conducted the tests.29
In the case at bar, Dr. Maria Corazon Abogado de Ungria was duly qualified by the
prosecution as an expert witness on DNA print or identification
techniques.30 Based on Dr. de Ungria’s testimony, it was determined that the gene
type and DNA profile of appellant are identical to that of the extracts subject of
examination.31 The blood sample taken from the appellant showed that he was of
the following gene types: vWA 15/19, TH01 7/8, DHFRP2 9/10 and CSF1PO
10/11, which are identical with semen taken from the victim’s vaginal
canal.32 Verily, a DNA match exists between the semen found in the victim and the
blood sample given by the appellant in open court during the course of the trial.
Admittedly, we are just beginning to integrate these advances in science and
technology in the Philippine criminal justice system, so we must be cautious as
we traverse these relatively uncharted waters. Fortunately, we can benefit from the
wealth of persuasive jurisprudence that has developed in other jurisdictions.
Specifically, the prevailing doctrine in the U.S. has proven instructive.
In Daubert v. Merrell Dow,33 it was ruled that pertinent evidence based on
scientifically valid principles could be used as long as it was relevant and reliable.
Judges, under Daubert, were allowed greater discretion over which testimony they
would allow at trial, including the introduction of new kinds of scientific
techniques. DNA typing is one such novel procedure.
Under Philippine law, evidence is relevant when it relates directly to a fact in issue
as to induce belief in its existence or non-existence.34 Applying the Daubert test to
the case at bar, the DNA evidence obtained through PCR testing and utilizing STR
analysis, and which was appreciated by the court a quo is relevant and reliable
since it is reasonably based on scientifically valid principles of human genetics
and molecular biology.
Independently of the physical evidence of appellant’s semen found in the victim’s
vaginal canal, the trial court appreciated the following circumstantial evidence as
being sufficient to sustain a conviction beyond reasonable doubt: (1) Appellant and
his wife were living in the house of Isabel Dawang together with the victim,
Kathylyn Uba; (2) In June 1998, appellant’s wife left the house because of their
frequent quarrels; (3) Appellant received from the victim, Kathylyn Uba, a letter
from his estranged wife in the early morning on June 30, 1998; (4) Appellant was
seen by Apolonia Wania and Beverly Denneng at 1:00 p.m. of June 30, 1998 near
the kitchen of the house of Isabel Dawang, acting strangely and wearing a dirty
white shirt with collar; (5) Judilyn Pas-a saw appellant going down the ladder of
Page 104 of 231
the house of Isabel at 12:30 p.m., wearing a dirty white shirt, and again at 1:30
p.m., this time wearing a black shirt; (6) Appellant hurriedly left when the husband
of Judilyn Pas-a was approaching; (7) Salmalina Tandagan saw appellant in a dirty
white shirt coming down the ladder of the house of Isabel on the day Kathylyn Uba
was found dead; (8) The door leading to the second floor of the house of Isabel
Dawang was tied by a rope; (9) The victim, Kathylyn Uba, lay naked in a pool of
blood with her intestines protruding from her body on the second floor of the house
of Isabel Dawang, with her stained pants, bra, underwear and shoes scattered
along the periphery; (10) Laboratory examination revealed sperm in the victim’s
vagina (Exhibit "H" and "J"); (11) The stained or dirty white shirt found in the crime
scene was found to be positive with blood; (12) DNA of slide, Exhibit "J" and "H",
compared with the DNA profile of the appellant are identical; and (13) Appellant
escaped two days after he was detained but was subsequently apprehended, such
flight being indicative of guilt.35
Circumstantial evidence, to be sufficient to warrant a conviction, must form an
unbroken chain which leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused,
to the exclusion of others, is the perpetrator of the crime. To determine whether
there is sufficient circumstantial evidence, three requisites must concur: (1) there
is more than one circumstance; (2) facts on which the inferences are derived are
proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a
conviction beyond reasonable doubt.36
In an attempt to exclude the DNA evidence, the appellant contends that the blood
sample taken from him as well as the DNA tests were conducted in violation of his
right to remain silent as well as his right against self-incrimination under Secs. 12
and 17 of Art. III of the Constitution.
This contention is untenable. The kernel of the right is not against all compulsion,
but against testimonial compulsion.37 The right against self- incrimination is
simply against the legal process of extracting from the lips of the accused an
admission of guilt. It does not apply where the evidence sought to be excluded is
not an incrimination but as part of object evidence.
We ruled in People v. Rondero38 that although accused-appellant insisted that hair
samples were forcibly taken from him and submitted to the National Bureau of
Investigation for forensic examination, the hair samples may be admitted in
evidence against him, for what is proscribed is the use of testimonial compulsion
or any evidence communicative in nature acquired from the accused under duress.
Hence, a person may be compelled to submit to fingerprinting, photographing,
paraffin, blood and DNA, as there is no testimonial compulsion involved.
Under People v. Gallarde,39 where immediately after the incident, the police
authorities took pictures of the accused without the presence of counsel, we ruled
that there was no violation of the right against self-incrimination. The accused
may be compelled to submit to a physical examination to determine his
involvement in an offense of which he is accused.

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It must also be noted that appellant in this case submitted himself for blood
sampling which was conducted in open court on March 30, 2000, in the presence
of counsel.
Appellant further argues that the DNA tests conducted by the prosecution against
him are unconstitutional on the ground that resort thereto is tantamount to the
application of an ex-post facto law.
This argument is specious. No ex-post facto law is involved in the case at bar. The
science of DNA typing involves the admissibility, relevance and reliability of the
evidence obtained under the Rules of Court. Whereas an ex-post facto law refers
primarily to a question of law, DNA profiling requires a factual determination of
the probative weight of the evidence presented.
Appellant’s twin defense of denial and alibi cannot be sustained. The forensic DNA
evidence and bloodied shirt, notwithstanding the eyewitness accounts of his
presence at Isabel Dawang’s house during the time when the crime was committed,
undeniably link him to the June 30, 1998 incident. Appellant did not demonstrate
with clear and convincing evidence an impossibility to be in two places at the same
time, especially in this case where the two places are located in the same
barangay.40 He lives within a one hundred (100) meter radius from the scene of
the crime, and requires a mere five minute walk to reach one house from the other.
This fact severely weakens his alibi.
As to the second assignment of error, appellant asserts that the court a
quo committed reversible error in convicting him of the crime charged. He alleges
that he should be acquitted on reasonable doubt.
Appellant’s assertion cannot be sustained.
Generally, courts should only consider and rely upon duly established evidence
and never on mere conjectures or suppositions. The legal relevancy of evidence
denotes "something more than a minimum of probative value," suggesting that
such evidentiary relevance must contain a "plus value."41 This may be necessary
to preclude the trial court from being satisfied by matters of slight value, capable
of being exaggerated by prejudice and hasty conclusions. Evidence without "plus
value" may be logically relevant but not legally sufficient to convict. It is incumbent
upon the trial court to balance the probative value of such evidence against the
likely harm that would result from its admission.
The judgment in a criminal case can be upheld only when there is relevant
evidence from which the court can properly find or infer that the accused is guilty
beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt requires moral certainty
of guilt in order to sustain a conviction. Moral certainty is that degree of certainty
that convinces and directs the understanding and satisfies the reason and
judgment of those who are bound to act conscientiously upon it. It is certainty
beyond reasonable doubt.42 This requires that the circumstances, taken together,
should be of a conclusive nature and tendency; leading, on the whole, to a
satisfactory conclusion that the accused, and no one else, committed the offense

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charged.43 In view of the totality of evidence appreciated thus far, we rule that the
present case passes the test of moral certainty.
However, as a matter of procedure, and for the purpose of meeting the requirement
of proof beyond reasonable doubt, motive is essential for conviction when there is
doubt as to the identity of the culprit. 44
Pertinently, it must be noted that Judilyn Pas-a, first cousin of the victim, testified
that she last saw the victim alive in the morning of June 30, 1998 at the house of
Isabel Dawang.45 She witnessed the appellant running down the stairs of Isabel’s
house and proceeding to the back of the same house.46 She also testified that a
few days before the victim was raped and killed, the latter revealed to her that "Joel
Yatar attempted to rape her after she came from the school." 47 The victim told
Judilyn about the incident or attempt of the appellant to rape her five days before
her naked and violated body was found dead in her grandmother’s house on June
25, 1998.48 In addition, Judilyn also testified that when her auntie Luz Dawang
Yatar, wife of appellant, separated from her husband, "this Joel Yatar threatened
to kill our family."49 According to Judilyn, who was personally present during an
argument between her aunt and the appellant, the exact words uttered by
appellant to his wife in the Ilocano dialect was, "If you leave me, I will kill all your
family and your relatives x x x."50 These statements were not contradicted by
appellant.
Thus, appellant’s motive to sexually assault and kill the victim was evident in the
instant case. It is a rule in criminal law that motive, being a state of mind, is
established by the testimony of witnesses on the acts or statements of the accused
before or immediately after the commission of the offense, deeds or words that may
express it or from which his motive or reason for committing it may be inferred.51
Accordingly, we are convinced that the appellant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the special complex crime of rape with homicide. Appellant sexually assaulted
Kathylyn Uba, and by reason or on the occasion thereof, in order to conceal his
lustful deed, permanently sealed the victim’s lips by stabbing her repeatedly,
thereby causing her untimely demise.
The following are the elements constitutive of rape with homicide: (1) the appellant
had carnal knowledge of a woman; (2) carnal knowledge of a woman was achieved
by means of force, threat or intimidation; and (3) by reason or on the occasion of
such carnal knowledge by means of force, threat or intimidation, appellant killed
the woman.52However, in rape committed by close kin, such as the victim’s father,
step-father, uncle, or the common-law spouse of her mother, it is not necessary
that actual force or intimidation be employed. 53 Moral influence or ascendancy
takes the place of violence and intimidation.54 The fact that the victim’s hymen is
intact does not negate a finding that rape was committed as mere entry by the
penis into the lips of the female genital organ, even without rupture or laceration
of the hymen, suffices for conviction of rape. 55 The strength and dilatability of the
hymen are invariable; it may be so elastic as to stretch without laceration during
intercourse. Absence of hymenal lacerations does not disprove sexual abuse
especially when the victim is of tender age.56
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In the case at bar, appellant is the husband of the victim’s aunt. He is seven years
older than the victim Kathylyn Uba. Before he and his wife separated, appellant
lived in the house of his mother-in-law, together with the victim and his wife. After
the separation, appellant moved to the house of his parents, approximately one
hundred (100) meters from his mother-in-law’s house. Being a relative by affinity
within the third civil degree, he is deemed in legal contemplation to have moral
ascendancy over the victim.
Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty of death is imposed
when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, homicide is committed. Although
three (3) Justices of this Court maintain their position that R.A. 7659 is
unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty, they nevertheless
submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is not unconstitutional, and that
the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.
As to damages, civil indemnity ex delicto of P100,000.00, 57 actual damages
incurred by the family of the victim that have been proved at the trial amounting
to P93,190.00,58 and moral damages of P75,000.0059 should be awarded in the
light of prevailing law and jurisprudence. Exemplary damages cannot be awarded
as part of the civil liability since the crime was not committed with one or more
aggravating circumstances.60
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the RTC of Bulanao, Tabuk,
Kalinga, Branch 25 in Criminal Case No. 35-98, sentencing appellant Joel Yatar
alias "Kawit" to Death for the special complex crime of Rape with Homicide
is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he be ORDERED to pay the family of
the victim Kathylyn Uba civil indemnity ex delicto in the amount of P100,000.00,
P93,190.00 in actual damages and P75,000.00 in moral damages. The award of
exemplary damages is DELETED.
Upon the finality of this Decision and in accordance with Art. 83 of the Revised
Penal Code, as amended by Sec. 25 of Rep. Act No. 7659, let the records of this
case be forthwith forwarded to the President of the Philippines for the possible
exercise of the pardoning power.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

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20. G.R. No. 190710, June 6, 2011
JESSE U. LUCAS v. JESUS S. LUCAS

Is a prima facie showing necessary before a court can issue a DNA testing order?
In this petition for review on certiorari, we address this question to guide the Bench
and the Bar in dealing with a relatively new evidentiary tool. Assailed in this
petition are the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[1] dated September 25, 2009 and
Resolution dated December 17, 2009.

The antecedents of the case are, as follows:

On July 26, 2007, petitioner, Jesse U. Lucas, filed a Petition to Establish


Illegitimate Filiation (with Motion for the Submission of Parties to DNA
Testing)[2] before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 72, Valenzuela City.
Petitioner narrated that, sometime in 1967, his mother, Elsie Uy (Elsie), migrated
to Manila from Davao and stayed with a certain Ate Belen (Belen) who worked in
a prominent nightspot in Manila. Elsie would oftentimes accompany Belen to
work. On one occasion, Elsie got acquainted with respondent, Jesus S. Lucas, at
Belens workplace, and an intimate relationship developed between the two. Elsie
eventually got pregnant and, on March 11, 1969, she gave birth to petitioner, Jesse
U. Lucas. The name of petitioners father was not stated in petitioners certificate of
live birth. However, Elsie later on told petitioner that his father is respondent. On
August 1, 1969, petitioner was baptized at San Isidro Parish, Taft
Avenue, Pasay City. Respondent allegedly extended financial support to Elsie and
petitioner for a period of about two years. When the relationship of Elsie and
respondent ended, Elsie refused to accept respondents offer of support and
decided to raise petitioner on her own. While petitioner was growing up, Elsie made
several attempts to introduce petitioner to respondent, but all attempts were in
vain.

Attached to the petition were the following: (a) petitioners certificate of live birth;
(b) petitioners baptismal certificate; (c) petitioners college diploma, showing that
he graduated from Saint Louis University in Baguio City with a degree in
Psychology; (d) his Certificate of Graduation from the same school; (e) Certificate
of Recognition from the University of the Philippines, College of Music; and (f)
clippings of several articles from different newspapers about petitioner, as a
musical prodigy.
Respondent was not served with a copy of the petition. Nonetheless, respondent
learned of the petition to establish filiation. His counsel therefore went to the trial
court on August 29, 2007 and obtained a copy of the petition.

Petitioner filed with the RTC a Very Urgent Motion to Try and Hear the Case.
Hence, on September 3, 2007, the RTC, finding the petition to be sufficient in form
and substance, issued the Order[3]setting the case for hearing and urging anyone
who has any objection to the petition to file his opposition. The court also directed

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that the Order be published once a week for three consecutive weeks in any
newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, and that the Solicitor General
be furnished with copies of the Order and the petition in order that he may appear
and represent the State in the case.

On September 4, 2007, unaware of the issuance of the September 3, 2007 Order,


respondent filed a Special Appearance and Comment. He manifested inter
alia that: (1) he did not receive the summons and a copy of the petition; (2) the
petition was adversarial in nature and therefore summons should be served on
him as respondent; (3) should the court agree that summons was required, he was
waiving service of summons and making a voluntary appearance; and (4) notice
by publication of the petition and the hearing was improper because of the
confidentiality of the subject matter.[4]

On September 14, 2007, respondent also filed a Manifestation and Comment on


Petitioners Very Urgent Motion to Try and Hear the Case. Respondent reiterated
that the petition for recognition is adversarial in nature; hence, he should be
served with summons.
After learning of the September 3, 2007 Order, respondent filed a motion for
reconsideration.[5] Respondent averred that the petition was not in due form and
substance because petitioner could not have personally known the matters that
were alleged therein. He argued that DNA testing cannot be had on the basis of a
mere allegation pointing to respondent as petitioners father. Moreover,
jurisprudence is still unsettled on the acceptability of DNA evidence.
On July 30, 2008, the RTC, acting on respondents motion for reconsideration,
issued an Order[6] dismissing the case. The court remarked that, based on the case
of Herrera v. Alba,[7] there are four significant procedural aspects of a traditional
paternity action which the parties have to face: a prima facie case, affirmative
defenses, presumption of legitimacy, and physical resemblance between the
putative father and the child. The court opined that petitioner must first establish
these four procedural aspects before he can present evidence of paternity and
filiation, which may include incriminating acts or scientific evidence like blood
group test and DNA test results. The court observed that the petition did not show
that these procedural aspects were present. Petitioner failed to establish a prima
facie case considering that (a) his mother did not personally declare that she had
sexual relations with respondent, and petitioners statement as to what his mother
told him about his father was clearly hearsay; (b) the certificate of live birth was
not signed by respondent; and (c) although petitioner used the surname of
respondent, there was no allegation that he was treated as the child of respondent
by the latter or his family. The court opined that, having failed to establish a prima
facie case, respondent had no obligation to present any affirmative defenses. The
dispositive portion of the said Order therefore reads:
WHEREFORE, for failure of the petitioner to establish compliance
with the four procedural aspects of a traditional paternity action in his
petition, his motion for the submission of parties to DNA testing to

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establish paternity and filiation is hereby DENIED. This case is
DISMISSED without prejudice.
SO ORDERED.[8]

Petitioner seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration to the Order dated July
30, 2008, which the RTC resolved in his favor. Thus, on October 20, 2008, it issued
the Order[9] setting aside the courts previous order, thus:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Order dated July 30,
2008 is hereby reconsidered and set aside.

Let the Petition (with Motion for the Submission of Parties to DNA
Testing) be set for hearing on January 22, 2009 at 8:30 in the
morning.

xxxx

SO ORDERED.[10]

This time, the RTC held that the ruling on the grounds relied upon by petitioner
for filing the petition is premature considering that a full-blown trial has not yet
taken place. The court stressed that the petition was sufficient in form and
substance. It was verified, it included a certification against forum shopping, and
it contained a plain, concise, and direct statement of the ultimate facts on which
petitioner relies on for his claim, in accordance with Section 1, Rule 8 of the Rules
of Court. The court remarked that the allegation that the statements in the petition
were not of petitioners personal knowledge is a matter of evidence. The court also
dismissed respondents arguments that there is no basis for the taking of DNA test,
and that jurisprudence is still unsettled on the acceptability of DNA evidence. It
noted that the new Rule on DNA Evidence [11] allows the conduct of DNA testing,
whether at the courts instance or upon application of any person who has legal
interest in the matter in litigation.

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Order dated October 20,


2008 and for Dismissal of Petition,[12] reiterating that (a) the petition was not in
due form and substance as no defendant was named in the title, and all the basic
allegations were hearsay; and (b) there was no prima facie case, which made the
petition susceptible to dismissal.

The RTC denied the motion in the Order dated January 19, 2009, and
rescheduled the hearing.[13]

Aggrieved, respondent filed a petition for certiorari with the CA, questioning
the Orders dated October 20, 2008 and January 19, 2009.

On September 25, 2009, the CA decided the petition for certiorari in favor of
respondent, thus:

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WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby
GRANTED for being meritorious. The assailed Orders dated October
20, 2008 and January 19, 2009 both issued by the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 172 of Valenzuela City in SP. Proceeding Case No. 30-
V-07 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the case docketed
as SP. Proceeding Case No. 30-V-07 is DISMISSED.[14]

The CA held that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of
respondent, as no summons had been served on him. Respondents special
appearance could not be considered as voluntary appearance because it was filed
only for the purpose of questioning the jurisdiction of the court over respondent.
Although respondent likewise questioned the courts jurisdiction over the subject
matter of the petition, the same is not equivalent to a waiver of his right to object
to the jurisdiction of the court over his person.

The CA remarked that petitioner filed the petition to establish illegitimate


filiation, specifically seeking a DNA testing order to abbreviate the proceedings. It
noted that petitioner failed to show that the four significant procedural aspects of
a traditional paternity action had been met. The CA further held that a DNA testing
should not be allowed when the petitioner has failed to establish a prima
facie case, thus:

While the tenor [of Section 4, Rule on DNA Evidence] appears to be absolute,
the rule could not really have been intended to trample on the substantive
rights of the parties. It could have not meant to be an instrument to promote
disorder, harassment, or extortion. It could have not been intended to
legalize unwarranted expedition to fish for evidence. Such will be the
situation in this particular case if a court may at any time order the taking
of a DNA test. If the DNA test in compulsory recognition cases is immediately
available to the petitioner/complainant without requiring first the
presentation of corroborative proof, then a dire and absurd rule would result.
Such will encourage and promote harassment and extortion.

xxxx

At the risk of being repetitious, the Court would like to stress that it sees the
danger of allowing an absolute DNA testing to a compulsory recognition test
even if the plaintiff/petitioner failed to establish prima facie proof. x x x If at
anytime, motu proprio and without pre-conditions, the court can indeed
order the taking of DNA test in compulsory recognition cases, then the
prominent and well-to-do members of our society will be easy prey for
opportunists and extortionists. For no cause at all, or even for [sic] casual
sexual indiscretions in their younger years could be used as a means to
harass them. Unscrupulous women, unsure of the paternity of their children
may just be taking the chances-just in case-by pointing to a sexual partner

Page 112 of 231


in a long past one-time encounter. Indeed an absolute and unconditional
taking of DNA test for compulsory recognition case opens wide the
opportunities for extortionist to prey on victims who have no stomach for
scandal.[15]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration. On December 17, 2009, the CA denied


the motion for lack of merit.[16]
In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioner raises the following issues:
I.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT
RESOLVED THE ISSUE OF LACK OF JURISDICTION OVER THE
PERSON OF HEREIN RESPONDENT ALBEIT THE SAME WAS NEVER
RAISED IN THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI.

I.A
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
WHEN IT RULED THAT JURISDICTION WAS NOT
ACQUIRED OVER THE PERSON OF THE RESPONDENT.

I.B
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
WHEN IT FAILED TO REALIZE THAT THE RESPONDENT
HAD ALREADY SUBMITTED VOLUNTARILY TO THE
JURISDICTION OF THE COURT A QUO.

I.C
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
WHEN IT ESSENTIALLY RULED THAT THE TITLE OF A
PLEADING, RATHER THAN ITS BODY, IS CONTROLLING.

II.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT
ORDERED THE DISMISSAL OF THE PETITION BY REASON OF THE
MOTION (FILED BY THE PETITIONER BEFORE THE COURT A QUO)
FOR THE CONDUCT OF DNA TESTING.

II.A
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED
WHEN IT ESSENTIALLY RULED THAT DNA TESTING CAN
ONLY BE ORDERED AFTER THE PETITIONER
ESTABLISHES PRIMA FACIE PROOF OF FILIATION.

III.
WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WITH ITS
MISPLACED RELIANCE ON THE CASE OF HERRERA VS. ALBA,

Page 113 of 231


ESPECIALLY AS REGARDS THE FOUR SIGNIFICANT PROCEDURAL
ASPECTS OF A TRADITIONAL PATERNITY ACTION.[17]

Petitioner contends that respondent never raised as issue in his petition


for certiorari the courts lack of jurisdiction over his person. Hence, the CA had no
legal basis to discuss the same, because issues not raised are deemed waived or
abandoned. At any rate, respondent had already voluntarily submitted to the
jurisdiction of the trial court by his filing of several motions asking for affirmative
relief, such as the (a) Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated September 3,
2007; (b) Ex Parte Motion to Resolve Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated
November 6, 2007; and (c) Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated October
20, 2008 and for Dismissal of Petition. Petitioner points out that respondent even
expressly admitted that he has waived his right to summons in his Manifestation
and Comment on Petitioners Very Urgent Motion to Try and Hear the Case. Hence,
the issue is already moot and academic.

Petitioner argues that the case was adversarial in nature. Although the caption of
the petition does not state respondents name, the body of the petition clearly
indicates his name and his known address. He maintains that the body of the
petition is controlling and not the caption.

Finally, petitioner asserts that the motion for DNA testing should not be a reason
for the dismissal of the petition since it is not a legal ground for the dismissal of
cases. If the CA entertained any doubt as to the propriety of DNA testing, it should
have simply denied the motion.[18] Petitioner points out that Section 4 of the Rule
on DNA Evidence does not require that there must be a prior proof of filiation
before DNA testing can be ordered. He adds that the CA erroneously relied on the
four significant procedural aspects of a paternity case, as enunciated in Herrera v.
Alba.[19]Petitioner avers that these procedural aspects are not applicable at this
point of the proceedings because they are matters of evidence that should be taken
up during the trial.[20]

In his Comment, respondent supports the CAs ruling on most issues raised in the
petition for certiorari and merely reiterates his previous arguments. However, on
the issue of lack of jurisdiction, respondent counters that, contrary to petitioners
assertion, he raised the issue before the CA in relation to his claim that the petition
was not in due form and substance. Respondent denies that he waived his right
to the service of summons. He insists that the alleged waiver and voluntary
appearance was conditional upon a finding by the court that summons is indeed
required. He avers that the assertion of affirmative defenses, aside from lack of
jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, cannot be considered as waiver of
the defense of lack of jurisdiction over such person.

The petition is meritorious.

Page 114 of 231


Primarily, we emphasize that the assailed Orders of the trial court were
orders denying respondents motion to dismiss the petition for illegitimate filiation.
An order denying a motion to dismiss is an interlocutory order which neither
terminates nor finally disposes of a case, as it leaves something to be done by the
court before the case is finally decided on the merits. As such, the general rule is
that the denial of a motion to dismiss cannot be questioned in a special civil action
for certiorari, which is a remedy designed to correct errors of jurisdiction and not
errors of judgment. Neither can a denial of a motion to dismiss be the subject of
an appeal unless and until a final judgment or order is rendered. In a number of
cases, the court has granted the extraordinary remedy of certiorari on the denial
of the motion to dismiss but only when it has been tainted with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.[21] In the present case, we
discern no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in denying the
motion to dismiss.

The grounds for dismissal relied upon by respondent were (a) the courts lack
of jurisdiction over his person due to the absence of summons, and (b) defect in
the form and substance of the petition to establish illegitimate filiation, which is
equivalent to failure to state a cause of action.

We need not belabor the issues on whether lack of jurisdiction was raised
before the CA, whether the court acquired jurisdiction over the person of
respondent, or whether respondent waived his right to the service of summons.
We find that the primordial issue here is actually whether it was necessary, in the
first place, to serve summons on respondent for the court to acquire jurisdiction
over the case. In other words, was the service of summons jurisdictional? The
answer to this question depends on the nature of petitioners action, that is,
whether it is an action in personam, in rem, or quasi in rem.

An action in personam is lodged against a person based on personal liability;


an action in rem is directed against the thing itself instead of the person; while an
action quasi in rem names a person as defendant, but its object is to subject that
person's interest in a property to a corresponding lien or obligation. A petition
directed against the "thing" itself or the res, which concerns the status of a person,
like a petition for adoption, annulment of marriage, or correction of entries in the
birth certificate, is an action in rem.[22]

In an action in personam, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is


necessary for the court to validly try and decide the case. In a proceeding in
rem or quasi in rem, jurisdiction over the person of the defendant is not a
prerequisite to confer jurisdiction on the court, provided that the latter has
jurisdiction over the res. Jurisdiction over the res is acquired either (a) by the
seizure of the property under legal process, whereby it is brought into actual
custody of the law, or (b) as a result of the institution of legal proceedings, in which
the power of the court is recognized and made effective. [23]

Page 115 of 231


The herein petition to establish illegitimate filiation is an action in rem. By
the simple filing of the petition to establish illegitimate filiation before the RTC,
which undoubtedly had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the petition, the
latter thereby acquired jurisdiction over the case. An in rem proceeding is validated
essentially through publication. Publication is notice to the whole world that the
proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might be minded to make
an objection of any sort to the right sought to be established. [24] Through
publication, all interested parties are deemed notified of the petition.

If at all, service of summons or notice is made to the defendant, it is not for


the purpose of vesting the court with jurisdiction, but merely for satisfying the due
process requirements.[25] This is but proper in order to afford the person concerned
the opportunity to protect his interest if he so chooses.[26] Hence, failure to serve
summons will not deprive the court of its jurisdiction to try and decide the case.
In such a case, the lack of summons may be excused where it is determined that
the adverse party had, in fact, the opportunity to file his opposition, as in this case.
We find that the due process requirement with respect to respondent has been
satisfied, considering that he has participated in the proceedings in this case and
he has the opportunity to file his opposition to the petition to establish filiation.

To address respondents contention that the petition should have been


adversarial in form, we further hold that the herein petition to establish filiation
was sufficient in form. It was indeed adversarial in nature despite its caption which
lacked the name of a defendant, the failure to implead respondent as defendant,
and the non-service of summons upon respondent. A proceeding
is adversarial where the party seeking relief has given legal warning to the other
party and afforded the latter an opportunity to contest it.[27] In this
petitionclassified as an action in remthe notice requirement for an adversarial
proceeding was likewise satisfied by the publication of the petition and the giving
of notice to the Solicitor General, as directed by the trial court.

The petition to establish filiation is sufficient in substance. It satisfies Section


1, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court, which requires the complaint to contain a plain,
concise, and direct statement of the ultimate facts upon which the plaintiff bases
his claim. A fact is essential if it cannot be stricken out without leaving the
statement of the cause of action inadequate.[28] A complaint states a cause of
action when it contains the following elements: (1) the legal right of plaintiff, (2)
the correlative obligation of the defendant, and (3) the act or omission of the
defendant in violation of said legal right.[29]

The petition sufficiently states the ultimate facts relied upon by petitioner to
establish his filiation to respondent. Respondent, however, contends that the
allegations in the petition were hearsay as they were not of petitioners personal

Page 116 of 231


knowledge. Such matter is clearly a matter of evidence that cannot be determined
at this point but only during the trial when petitioner presents his evidence.

In a motion to dismiss a complaint based on lack of cause of action, the question


submitted to the court for determination is the sufficiency of the allegations made
in the complaint to constitute a cause of action and not whether those allegations
of fact are true, for said motion must hypothetically admit the truth of the facts
alleged in the complaint.[30]
The inquiry is confined to the four corners of the complaint, and no other. [31] The
test of the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint is whether or not,
admitting the facts alleged, the court could render a valid judgment upon the same
in accordance with the prayer of the complaint.[32]

If the allegations of the complaint are sufficient in form and substance but their
veracity and correctness are assailed, it is incumbent upon the court to deny
the motion to dismiss and require the defendant to answer and go to trial to prove
his defense. The veracity of the assertions of the parties can be ascertained at the
trial of the case on the merits.[33]

The statement in Herrera v. Alba[34] that there are four significant procedural
aspects in a traditional paternity case which parties have to face has been widely
misunderstood and misapplied in this case. A party is confronted by these so-
called procedural aspects during trial, when the parties have presented their
respective evidence. They are matters of evidence that cannot be determined at
this initial stage of the proceedings, when only the petition to establish filiation
has been filed. The CAs observation that petitioner failed to establish a prima
facie casethe first procedural aspect in a paternity caseis therefore misplaced.
A prima facie case is built by a partys evidence and not by mere allegations in the
initiatory pleading.

Clearly then, it was also not the opportune time to discuss the lack of a prima
facie case vis--vis the motion for DNA testing since no evidence has, as yet, been
presented by petitioner. More essentially, it is premature to discuss whether,
under the circumstances, a DNA testing order is warranted considering that no
such order has yet been issued by the trial court. In fact, the latter has just set
the said case for hearing.

At any rate, the CAs view that it would be dangerous to allow a DNA testing
without corroborative proof is well taken and deserves the Courts attention. In
light of this observation, we find that there is a need to supplement the Rule on
DNA Evidence to aid the courts in resolving motions for DNA testing order,
particularly in paternity and other filiation cases. We, thus, address the question
of whether a prima facie showing is necessary before a court can issue a DNA
testing order.

Page 117 of 231


The Rule on DNA Evidence was enacted to guide the Bench and the Bar for
the introduction and use of DNA evidence in the judicial system. It provides the
prescribed parameters on the requisite elements for reliability and validity (i.e., the
proper procedures, protocols, necessary laboratory reports, etc.), the possible
sources of error, the available objections to the admission of DNA test results as
evidence as well as the probative value of DNA evidence. It seeks to ensure that
the evidence gathered, using various methods of DNA analysis, is utilized
effectively and properly, [and] shall not be misused and/or abused and, more
importantly, shall continue to ensure that DNA analysis serves justice and
protects, rather than prejudice the public.[35]

Not surprisingly, Section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence merely provides for
conditions that are aimed to safeguard the accuracy and integrity of the DNA
testing. Section 4 states:

SEC. 4. Application for DNA Testing Order. The appropriate court may,
at any time, either motu proprio or on application of any person who
has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, order a DNA
testing. Such order shall issue after due hearing and notice to the
parties upon a showing of the following:
(a) A biological sample exists that is relevant to the case;
(b) The biological sample: (i) was not previously subjected to the
type of DNA testing now requested; or (ii) was previously
subjected to DNA testing, but the results may require
confirmation for good reasons;
(c) The DNA testing uses a scientifically valid technique;
(d) The DNA testing has the scientific potential to produce new
information that is relevant to the proper resolution of the
case; and
(e) The existence of other factors, if any, which the court may
consider as potentially affecting the accuracy or integrity of the
DNA testing.
This Rule shall not preclude a DNA testing, without need of a
prior court order, at the behest of any party, including law enforcement
agencies, before a suit or proceeding is commenced.

This does not mean, however, that a DNA testing order will be issued as a
matter of right if, during the hearing, the said conditions are established.

In some states, to warrant the issuance of the DNA testing order, there must
be a show cause hearing wherein the applicant must first present sufficient
evidence to establish a prima facie case or a reasonable possibility of paternity or
good cause for the holding of the test. [36] In these states, a court order for blood
testing is considered a search, which, under their Constitutions (as in ours), must
be preceded by a finding of probable cause in order to be valid. Hence, the
requirement of a prima facie case, or reasonable possibility, was imposed in civil

Page 118 of 231


actions as a counterpart of a finding of probable cause. The Supreme Court of
Louisiana eloquently explained

Although a paternity action is civil, not criminal, the constitutional


prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is still
applicable, and a proper showing of sufficient justification under the
particular factual circumstances of the case must be made before a
court may order a compulsory blood test. Courts in various
jurisdictions have differed regarding the kind of procedures which are
required, but those jurisdictions have almost universally found that a
preliminary showing must be made before a court can constitutionally
order compulsory blood testing in paternity cases. We agree, and find
that, as a preliminary matter, before the court may issue an order for
compulsory blood testing, the moving party must show that there is a
reasonable possibility of paternity. As explained hereafter, in cases in
which paternity is contested and a party to the action refuses to
voluntarily undergo a blood test, a show cause hearing must be held
in which the court can determine whether there is sufficient evidence
to establish a prima facie case which warrants issuance of a court
order for blood testing.[37]

The same condition precedent should be applied in our jurisdiction to protect


the putative father from mere harassment suits. Thus, during the hearing on the
motion for DNA testing, the petitioner must present prima facie evidence or
establish a reasonable possibility of paternity.

Notwithstanding these, it should be stressed that the issuance of a DNA


testing order remains discretionary upon the court. The court may, for example,
consider whether there is absolute necessity for the DNA testing. If there is already
preponderance of evidence to establish paternity and the DNA test result would
only be corroborative, the court may, in its discretion, disallow a DNA testing.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of


Appeals Decision dated September 25, 2009 and Resolution dated December 17,
2009 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Orders dated October 20, 2008 and
January 19, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela City are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Page 119 of 231


21. G.R. No. 172607, October 26, 2007
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES v. RUFINO UMANITO

On appeal is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals dated 15 February 2006,


affirming the Judgment[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bauang, La Union,
Branch 67 dated 15 October 1997 finding Rufino Umanito (appellant) guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, sentencing him to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua and ordering him to indemnify the private complainant in the
sum of P50,000.00.[3]

On 9 January 1990, appellant was charged with the crime of rape in a Criminal
Complaint[4] which reads:
That on or about 9:00 P.M. of July 15, 1989, at Brgy[.]
Daramuangan, Municipality of Naguilian, Province of La Union,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused who was armed with a fan knife and by means
of force and threats, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously succeeded in having a sexual intercourse to [sic] the
undersigned who is unmarried woman of good reputation, a woman
who is over 12 but below 18 years old [sic] of age, to the damage and
prejudice of the offended party.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]

It was only five (5) years later, or sometime in 1995, that appellant was arrested.
It took place when he went to the Municipal Hall of Naguilian to secure a police
clearance.

On arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty.

The appellate courts chronicle of the facts is as follows:

It was around 9:00 oclock in the evening of July 15, 1989, while
on her way to her grandmothers home, when private
complainant [AAA][6] was accosted by a young male. It was only

later when she learned the name of accused-appellant UMANITO. She


recounted that accused-appellant UMANITO waited for her by the
creek, and then with a knife pointed at [AAA]s left side of the [sic]
abdomen, he forced her to give in to his kisses, to his holding her
breasts and stomach, and to his pulling her by the arm to be dragged
to the Home Economics Building inside the premises of the
Daramuangan Elementary School where accused-appellant UMANITO

Page 120 of 231


first undressed her [AAA] and himself with his right hand while he still
clutched the knife menacingly on his left hand. Private complainant
[AAA] recounted that she could not shout because she was afraid. She
further recounted that accused-appellant UMANITO laid her down on
a bench, 4 meters long and 24 inches wide, set the knife down, then
mounted her, inserting his penis into her [AAAs] vagina and shortly
thereafter, accused-appellant UMANITO dressed up and threatened
[AAA] while poking the knife at her neck, not to report the incident to
the police or else he said he would kill her. Accused-appellant
UMANITO then left, while the victim [AAA] went on to her grandmothers
house and she noticed that it was already around 1:00 oclock in the
morning when she reached there.

In January 1990, 6 months after the incident, private


complainant [AAAs] mother, [BBB],[7] noticed the prominence on [AAA]s
stomach. It was only then when the victim, private complainant [AAA],
divulged to her mother the alleged rape and told her the details of what
had happened in July, [sic] 1989. After hearing private complainant
[AAA]s story, her mother brought her to the police station.[8]

Appellants version on the stand was different. Denying the accusations of


AAA, he claimed that on 15 July 1989, he was home the whole day, helping his
family complete rush work on picture frames ordered from Baguio. He did not step
out of their house on the evening in question, he added. [9] Concerning his
relationship with AAA, appellant admitted that he had courted her but she
spurned him. He conjectured, though, that AAA had a crush on him since she
frequently visited him at his house.[10]

Finding that the prosecution had proven appellants guilt beyond reasonable
doubt, the RTC rendered judgment against him and sentenced him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify AAA in the sum of P50,000.00.[11] In
so doing, the court a quo held that the discrepancies in AAAs testimony did not
impair her credibility. Despite some inconsistencies in her statement, the RTC
observed that AAAs demeanor on the witness stand did not indicate any falsehood
in her narration.[12]

The trial court likewise rejected appellants defense of alibi, ruling that he did
not prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime
given the testimonies that he and complainant were residing in the same barrio.[13]

Pursuant to our ruling in People v. Mateo,[14] appellants appeal before us was


transferred to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review. On 15 February 2006,
the appellate court affirmed the challenged decision. Finding AAA to be a credible
witness, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the inconsistencies

Page 121 of 231


in her statements were too trivial and inconsequential to impair the credibility of
her testimony.[15]

In this appeal, appellant seeks his acquittal on reasonable doubt by reason


of the belated filing of the case against him and the questionable credibility of AAA
with respect to her varying allegations.

Appellant asserts that the court a quo erred in giving full faith and credence
to the testimony of the complaining witness and in not acquitting him on
reasonable doubt. He avers that apparently AAA filed the complaint against him
only upon the prodding of her mother.[16] This aspect, appellant insists, negates
AAAs claim that he was the one who raped her but rather supports his assertion
that the sexual congress AAA engaged in was with another man, her real lover who
was married to another woman.[17] Appellant further puts in issue the long delay
in AAAs filing of the complaint.[18]

Appellant capitalizes on the alleged serious inconsistencies in AAAs


assertions, and further characterizes her actions and contentions as incredible
and unnatural.[19] In particular, appellant highlights AAAs contradictory
declarations on when she met appellant and the nature of their relationship. He
also alludes to AAAs purportedly inconsistent statements on whether it was
appellant or she herself, upon his orders, who took off her clothes. Finally,
appellant points out the supposedly conflicting assertions of AAA on whether it
was at the creek or in the school building that he kissed her face and other parts
of her body.

Once again, this Court is called upon to determine whether the prosecution
has successfully met the level of proof needed to find appellant guilty of the crime
of rape.

Among the many incongruent assertions of the prosecution and the defense,
the disharmony on a certain point stands out. Appellant, on one hand, testified
that although he had courted AAA, they were not sweethearts. Therefore, this
testimony largely discounts the possibility of consensual coitus between him and
AAA. On the other, AAA made contradictory allegations at the preliminary
investigation and on the witness stand with respect to the nature of her
relationship with appellant. First, she claimed that she met appellant only on the
day of the purported rape; later, she stated that they were actually friends; and
still later, she admitted that they were close.[20]

Amidst the slew of assertions and counter-assertions, a happenstance may


provide the definitive key to the absolution of the appellant. This is the fact that
AAA bore a child as a result of the purported rape. With the advance in genetics
and the availability of new technology, it can now be determined with reasonable
certainty whether appellant is the father of AAAs child. If he is not, his acquittal
may be ordained. We have pronounced that if it can be conclusively determined

Page 122 of 231


that the accused did not sire the alleged victims child, this may cast the shadow
of reasonable doubt and allow his acquittal on this basis. [21] If he is found not to
be the father, the finding will at least weigh heavily in the ultimate decision in this
case. Thus, we are directing appellant, AAA and AAAs child to submit themselves
to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing[22] under the aegis of the New Rule on DNA
Evidence[23] (the Rules), which took effect on 15 October 2007, subject to
guidelines prescribed herein.

DNA print or identification technology is now recognized as a uniquely


effective means to link a suspect to a crime, or to absolve one erroneously accused,
where biological evidence is available. For purposes of criminal investigation, DNA
identification is a fertile source of both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. It
can aid immensely in determining a more accurate account of the crime
committed, efficiently facilitating the conviction of the guilty, securing the acquittal
of the innocent, and ensuring the proper administration of justice in every
case.[24] Verily, as we pointed out in People v. Yatar,[25] the process of obtaining
such vital evidence has become less arduous

The U.P. National Science Research Institute (NSRI), which


conducted the DNA tests in this case, used the Polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) amplification method by Short Tandem Repeat (STR)
analysis. With PCR testing, tiny amounts of a specific DNA sequence
can be copied exponentially within hours. Thus, getting sufficient DNA
for analysis has become much easier since it became possible to
reliably amplify small samples using the PCR method.[26]

The ground work for acknowledging the strong weight of DNA testing was
first laid out in Tijing v. Court of Appeals,[27] where the Court said

x x x Parentage will still be resolved using conventional methods unless


we adopt the modern and scientific ways available. Fortunately, we
have now the facility and expertise in using DNA test for identification
and parentage testing. The University of the Philippines Natural
Science Research Institute (UP-NSRI) DNA Analysis Laboratory has
now the capability to conduct DNA typing using short tandem repeat
(STR) analysis.The analysis is based on the fact that the DNA of a
child/person has two (2) copies, one copy from the mother and the
other from the father. The DNA from the mother, the alleged father and
child are analyzed to establish parentage. Of course, being a novel
scientific technique, the use of DNA test as evidence is still open to
challenge. Eventually, as the appropriate case comes, courts should
not hesitate to rule on the admissibility of DNA evidence. For it was
said, that courts should apply the results of science when competently
obtained in aid of situations presented, since to reject said result is to
deny progress. Though it is not necessary in this case to resort to DNA

Page 123 of 231


testing, in future it would be useful to all concerned in the prompt
resolution of parentage and identity issues.[28]

The leading case of Herrera v. Alba,[29] where the validity of a DNA test as a
probative tool to determine filiation in our jurisdiction was put in issue, discussed
DNA analysis as evidence and traced the development of its admissibility in our
jurisdiction. Thus:

DNA is the fundamental building block of a persons entire genetic


make-up. DNA is found in all human cells and is the same in every
cell of the same person. Genetic identity is unique. Hence, a persons
DNA profile can determine his identity.
DNA analysis is a procedure in which DNA extracted from a biological
sample obtained from an individual is examined. The DNA is
processed to generate a pattern, or a DNA profile, for the individual
from whom the sample is taken. This DNA profile is unique for each
person, except for identical twins. We quote relevant portions of the
trial courts 3 February 2000 Order with approval:

Everyone is born with a distinct genetic blueprint


called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). It is exclusive to an
individual (except in the rare occurrence of identical twins
that share a single, fertilized egg), and DNA is unchanging
throughout life. Being a component of every cell in the
human body, the DNA of an individuals blood is the very
DNA in his or her skin cells, hair follicles, muscles, semen,
samples from buccal swabs, saliva, or other body parts.

The chemical structure of DNA has four bases. They are


known as A (adenine), G (guanine), C (cystosine)
and T (thymine). The order in which the four bases appear
in an individuals DNA determines his or her physical
makeup. And since DNA is a double-stranded molecule, it
is composed of two specific paired bases, A-T or T-A and G-
C or C-G. These are called genes.

Every gene has a certain number of the above base pairs


distributed in a particular sequence. This gives a person
his or her genetic code. Somewhere in the DNA framework,
nonetheless, are sections that differ. They are known

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as polymorphic loci, which are the areas analyzed in DNA
typing (profiling, tests, fingerprinting, or analysis/DNA
fingerprinting/genetic tests or fingerprinting). In other
words, DNA typing simply means determining
the polymorphic loci.
How is DNA typing performed? From a DNA sample
obtained or extracted, a molecular biologist may proceed to
analyze it in several ways. There are five (5) techniques to
conduct DNA typing. They are: the RFLP (restriction
fragment length polymorphism); reverse dot blot or HLA DQ
a/Pm loci which was used in 287 cases that were admitted
as evidence by 37 courts in the U.S. as of November 1994;
mtDNA process; VNTR (variable number tandem repeats);
and the most recent which is known as the PCR-
([polymerase] chain reaction) based STR (short tandem
repeats) method which, as of 1996, was availed of by most
forensic laboratories in the world. PCR is the process of
replicating or copying DNA in an evidence sample a million
times through repeated cycling of a reaction involving the
so-called DNA polymerize enzyme. STR, on the other hand,
takes measurements in 13 separate places and can match
two (2) samples with a reported theoretical error rate of less
than one (1) in a trillion.

Just like in fingerprint analysis, in DNA typing, matches are


determined. To illustrate, when DNA or fingerprint tests
are done to identify a suspect in a criminal case, the
evidence collected from the crime scene is compared with
the known print. If a substantial amount of the identifying
features are the same, the DNA or fingerprint is deemed to
be a match. But then, even if only one feature of the DNA
or fingerprint is different, it is deemed not to have come
from the suspect.

As earlier stated, certain regions of human DNA show


variations between people. In each of these regions, a
person possesses two genetic types called allele, one
inherited from each parent. In [a] paternity test, the
forensic scientist looks at a number of these variable
regions in an individual to produce a DNA
profile. Comparing next the DNA profiles of the mother and

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child, it is possible to determine which half of the childs
DNA was inherited from the mother. The other half must
have been inherited from the biological father. The alleged
fathers profile is then examined to ascertain whether he has
the DNA types in his profile, which match the paternal types
in the child. If the mans DNA types do not match that of
the child, the man is excluded as the father. If the DNA
types match, then he is not excluded as the father
(Emphasis in the original).

xxxx

The 2002 case of People v. Vallejo discussed DNA analysis as


evidence. This may be considered a 180 degree turn from the Courts
wary attitude towards DNA testing in the 1997 Pe Lim case, where
we stated that DNA, being a relatively new science, x x x has not yet
been accorded official recognition by our courts. In Vallejo, the DNA
profile from the vaginal swabs taken from the rape victim matched the
accuseds DNA profile. We affirmed the accuseds conviction of rape
with homicide and sentenced him to death.

xxxx
Vallejo discussed the probative value, not admissibility, of DNA
evidence. By 2002, there was no longer any question on the validity of
the use of DNA analysis as evidence. The Court moved from the issue
of according official recognition to DNA analysis as evidence to the
issue of observance of procedures in conducting DNA analysis.

In 2004, there were two other cases that had a significant impact on
jurisprudence on DNA testing: People v. Yatar and In re: The Writ of
Habeas Corpus for Reynaldo de Villa. In Yatar, a match existed
between the DNA profile of the semen found in the victim and the DNA
profile of the blood sample given by appellant in open court. The
Court, following Vallejos footsteps, affirmed the conviction of appellant
because the physical evidence, corroborated by circumstantial
evidence, showed appellant guilty of rape with homicide. In De Villa,
the convict-petitioner presented DNA test results to prove that he is not
the father of the child conceived at the time of commission of the
rape. The Court ruled that a difference between the DNA profile of the
convict-petitioner and the DNA profile of the victims child does not
preclude the convict-petitioners commission of rape.[30]

The 2004 case of Tecson v. Commission on Elections[31] likewise reiterated the


acceptance of DNA testing in our jurisdiction in this wise: [i]n case proof of filiation
or paternity would be unlikely to satisfactorily establish or would be difficult to

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obtain, DNA testing, which examines genetic codes obtained from body cells of the
illegitimate child and any physical residue of the long dead parent could be
resorted to.[32]

It is obvious to the Court that the determination of whether appellant is the


father of AAAs child, which may be accomplished through DNA testing, is material
to the fair and correct adjudication of the instant appeal. Under Section 4 of the
Rules, the courts are authorized, after due hearing and notice, motu proprio to
order a DNA testing. However, while this Court retains jurisdiction over the case
at bar, capacitated as it is to receive and act on the matter in controversy, the
Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and does not, in the course of daily routine,
conduct hearings.[33] Hence, it would be more appropriate that the case be
remanded to the RTC for reception of evidence in appropriate hearings, with due
notice to the parties.

What should be the proper scope of such hearings? Section 4 of the Rules
spells out the matters which the trial court must determine, thus:

SEC. 4. Application for DNA Testing Order.The appropriate court


may, at any time, either motu proprio or on application of any person
who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, order a DNA testing.
Such order shall issue after due hearing and notice to the parties upon
a showing of the following:

(a) A biological sample exists that is relevant to the case;

(b) The biological sample: (i) was not previously subjected to the
type of DNA testing now requested; or (ii) was previously subjected to
DNA testing, but the results may require confirmation for good reasons;

(c) The DNA testing uses a scientifically valid technique;

(d) The DNA testing has the scientific potential to produce new
information that is relevant to the proper resolution of the case; and

(e) The existence of other factors, if any, which the court may
consider as potentially affecting the accuracy or integrity of the DNA
testing.

The Rule shall not preclude a DNA testing, without need of a prior
court order, at the behest of any party, including law enforcement
agencies, before a suit or proceeding is commenced.[34]

Given our earlier pronouncements on the relevance of the DNA testing, it


would be unbecoming of the RTC to conclude otherwise, Section 4 (d)

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notwithstanding. The hearing should be confined to ascertaining the feasibility of
DNA testing with due regard to the standards set in Section 4 (a), (b), (c) and (e) of
the Rules.

Should the RTC find the DNA testing feasible in the case at bar, it shall order
the same, in conformity with Section 5 of the Rules.[35] It is also the RTC which
shall determine the institution[36] to undertake the DNA testing and the parties are
free to manifest their comments on the choice of DNA testing center.

After the DNA analysis is obtained, it shall be incumbent upon the parties who
wish to avail of the same to offer the results in accordance with the rules of
evidence. The RTC, in evaluating the DNA results upon presentation, shall assess
the same as evidence in keeping with Sections 7 and 8 of the Rules, to wit:

SEC. 7. Assessment of probative value of DNA evidence. In assessing the


probative value of the DNA evidence presented, the court shall consider
the following:

(a) The chain of custody, including how the biological samples


were collected, how they were handled, and the possibility of
contamination of the samples;

(b) The DNA testing methodology, including the procedure


followed in analyzing the samples, the advantages and disadvantages
of the procedure, and compliance with the scientifically valid standards
in conducting the tests;

(c) The forensic DNA laboratory, including accreditation by any


reputable standards-setting institution and the qualification of the
analyst who conducted the tests. If the laboratory is not accredited, the
relevant experience of the laboratory in forensic casework and
credibility shall be properly established; and

(d) The reliability of the testing result, as hereinafter provided.

The provisions of the Rules of Court concerning the appreciation


of evidence shall apply suppletorily.

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SEC. 8. Reliability of DNA testing methodology.In evaluating whether
the DNA testing methodology is reliable, the court shall consider the
following:

(a) The falsifiability of the principles or methods used, that is, whether
the theory or technique can be and has been tested;

(b) The subjection to peer review and publication of the principles or


methods;

(c) The general acceptance of the principles or methods by the relevant


scientific community;

(d) The existence and maintenance of standards and controls to ensure


the correctness of data gathered;

(e) The existence of an appropriate reference population database; and

(f) The general degree of confidence attributed to mathematical


calculations used in comparing DNA profiles and the significance and
limitation of statistical calculations used in comparing DNA profiles.

The trial court is further enjoined to observe the requirements of


confidentiality and preservation of the DNA evidence in accordance with Sections
11[37] and 12[38] of the Rules.

In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, the RTC shall consider,
among other things, the following data: how the samples were collected, how they
were handled, the possibility of contamination of the samples, the procedure
followed in analyzing the samples, whether the proper standards and procedures
were followed in conducting the tests, and the qualification of the analyst who
conducted the tests.[39]

Moreover, the court a quo must ensure that the proper chain of custody in
the handling of the samples submitted by the parties is adequately borne in the
records, i.e.: that the samples are collected by a neutral third party; that the tested
parties are appropriately identified at their sample collection appointments; that
the samples are protected with tamper tape at the collection site; that all persons
in possession thereof at each stage of testing thoroughly inspected the samples for
tampering and explained his role in the custody of the samples and the acts he
performed in relation thereto.

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In light of the fact that this case constitutes the first known application of
the Rules, the Court is especially interested in monitoring the implementation
thereof in this case, for its guidance and continuing evaluation of the Rules as
implemented. For purposes of supervising the implementation the instant
resolution, the Court designates Deputy Court Administrator Reuben Dela Cruz
(DCA Dela Cruz) to: (a) monitor the manner in which the court a quo carries out
the Rules; and (b) assess and submit periodic reports on said implementation to
the Court. Towards the fulfillment of such end, the RTC is directed to cooperate
and coordinate with DCA Dela Cruz.

A final note. In order to facilitate the execution of this Resolution, though the
parties are primarily bound to bear the expenses for DNA testing, such costs may
be advanced by this Court if needed.

WHEREFORE, the instant case is remanded to the RTC for reception of DNA
evidence in accordance with the terms of this Resolution. The RTC is further
directed to report to the Court the results of the proceedings below within sixty
(60) days from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.

Page 130 of 231


22. G.R. No. 170604 September 2, 2013
HEIRS OF MARGARITA PRODON, PETITIONERS, vs.
HEIRS OF MAXIMO S. ALVAREZ AND VALENTINA CLAVE, REPRESENTED BY
REV. MAXIMO ALVAREZ, JR.,RESPONDENTS.

The Best Evidence Rule applies only when the terms of a written document are the
subject of the inquiry. In an action for quieting of title based on the inexistence of
a deed of sale with right to repurchase that purportedly cast a cloud on the title of
a property, therefore, the Best Evidence Rule does not apply, and the defendant is
not precluded from presenting evidence other than the original document.
The Case
This appeal seeks the review and reversal of the decision promulgated on August
18, 2005,1 whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the judgment rendered on
November 5, 1997 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 35, in Manila in Civil
Case No. 96-78481 entitled Heirs of Maximo S Alvarez and Valentina Clave,
represented by Rev. Maximo S. Alvarez and Valentina Clave, represented by Rev.
Maximo Alvarez, Jr. v. Margarita Prodon and the Register of Deeds of the City of
Manila dismissing the respondents’ action for quieting of title.2
Antecedents
In their complaint for quieting of title and damages against Margarita Prodon, 3 the
respondents averred as the plaintiffs that their parents, the late spouses Maximo
S. Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave, were the registered owners of that parcel of
land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 84797 of the Register of
Deeds of Manila; that their parents had been in possession of the property during
their lifetime; that upon their parents’ deaths, they had continued the possession
of the property as heirs, paying the real property taxes due thereon; that they could
not locate the owner’s duplicate copy of TCT No. 84797, but the original copy of
TCT No. 84797 on file with the Register of Deeds of Manila was intact; that the
original copy contained an entry stating that the property had been sold to
defendant Prodon subject to the right of repurchase; and that the entry had been
maliciously done by Prodon because the deed of sale with right to repurchase
covering the property did not exist. Consequently, they prayed that the entry be
cancelled, and that Prodon be adjudged liable for damages.
The entry sought to be cancelled reads:
ENTRY NO. 3816/T-84797 – SALE W/ RIGHT TO REPURCHASE IN FAVOR OF:
MARGARITA PRODON, SINGLE, FOR THE SUM OF ₱120,000.00, THE HEREIN
REGISTERED OWNER RESERVING FOR HIMSELF THE RIGHTS TO
REPURCHASE SAID PROPERTY FOR THE SAME AMOUNT WITHIN THE PERIOD
OF SIX MONTH (sic) FROM EXECUTION THEREOF. OTHER CONDITION SET
FORTH IN (DOC. NO. 321, PAGE 66, BOOK NO. VIII OF LISEO A. RAZON,
NOT.PUB. OF MANILA)
DATE OF INSTRUMENT – SEPT. 9, 1975
DATE OF INSCRIPTION – SEPT. 10, 1975,
AT 3:42 P.M. 4

In her answer,5 Prodon claimed that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had executed on
September 9, 1975 the deed of sale with right to repurchase; that the deed had

Page 131 of 231


been registered with the Register of Deeds and duly annotated on the title; that
the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been granted six months from September 9, 1975
within which to repurchase the property; and that she had then become the
absolute owner of the property due to its non-repurchase within the given 6-month
period.
During trial, the custodian of the records of the property attested that the copy of
the deed of sale with right to repurchase could not be found in the files of the
Register of Deeds of Manila.
On November 5, 1997, the RTC rendered judgment,6 finding untenable the
plaintiffs’ contention that the deed of sale with right to repurchase did not exist. It
opined that although the deed itself could not be presented as evidence in court,
its contents could nevertheless be proved by secondary evidence in accordance
with Section 5, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, upon proof of its execution or
existence and of the cause of its unavailability being without bad faith. It found
that the defendant had established the execution and existence of the deed, to wit:
In the case under consideration, the execution and existence of the disputed deed
of sale with right to repurchase accomplished by the late Maximo Alvarez in favor
of defendant Margarita Prodon has been adequately established by reliable and
trustworthy evidences (sic). Defendant Prodon swore that on September 9, 1975
she purchased the land covered by TCT No. 84747 (Exhibit 1) from its registered
owners Maximo S. Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave (TSN, Aug. 1, 1997, pp.5-7);
that the deed of sale with right to repurchase was drawn and prepared by Notary
Public Eliseo Razon (Ibid., p. 9); and that on September 10, 1975, she registered
the document in the Register of Deeds of Manila (Ibid., pp.18-19).
The testimony of Margarita Prodon has been confirmed by the Notarial Register of
Notary Public Eliseo Razon dated September 10, 1975 (Exhibit 2), and by the
Primary Entry Book of the Register of Deeds of Manila (Exhibit 4).
Page 66 of Exhibit 2 discloses, among others, the following entries, to wit: "No.
321; Nature of Instrument: Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase; Name of
Persons: Maximo S. Alvarez and Valentina Alvarez (ack.); Date and Month: 9 Sept."
(Exhibit 2-a).
Exhibit 4, on the other hand, also reveals the following data, to wit: ‘Number of
Entry: 3816; Month, Day and Year: Sept. 10, 1975; Hour and Minute: 3:42 p.m.;
Nature of Contract: Sale with Right to Repurchase; Executed by: Maximo S.
Alvarez; In favor: Margarita Prodon; Date of Document: 9-9-75; Contract value:
120,000.’ (Exhibit 4-a). Under these premises the Court entertains no doubt about
the execution and existence of the controverted deed of sale with right to
repurchase.7
The RTC rejected the plaintiffs’ submission that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. could
not have executed the deed of sale with right to repurchase because of illness and
poor eyesight from cataract. It held that there was no proof that the illness had
rendered him bedridden and immobile; and that his poor eyesight could be
corrected by wearing lenses.
The RTC concluded that the original copy of the deed of sale with right to
repurchase had been lost, and that earnest efforts had been exerted to produce it
before the court. It believed Jose Camilon’s testimony that he had handed the

Page 132 of 231


original to one Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao, but that he could not anymore retrieve
such original from Atty. Lacanilao because the latter had meanwhile suffered from
a heart ailment and had been recuperating.
Ruling of the CA
On appeal, the respondents assigned the following errors, namely:
A.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DUE EXECUTION
AND EXISTENCE OF THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO
REPURCHASE HAS BEEN DULY PROVED BY THE DEFENDANT.
B.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ADMITTING THE PIECES OF EVIDENCE
PRESENTED BY THE DEFENDANTS AS PROOFS OF THE DUE EXECUTION AND
EXISTENCE OF THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO
REPURCHASE.
C.
THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE QUESTIONED
DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE HAS BEEN LOST OR
OTHERWISE COULD NOT BE PRODUCED IN COURT WITHOUT THE FAULT OF
THE DEFENDANT.
D.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN REJECTING THE PLAINTIFFS’ CLAIM
THAT THEIR FATHER COULD NOT HAVE EXECUTED THE QUESTIONED
DOCUMENT AT THE TIME OF ITS ALLEGED EXECUTION.8
On August 18, 2005, the CA promulgated its assailed decision, reversing the RTC,
and ruling as follows:
The case of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) v. Del Rosario
in GR No. 146586 (January 26, 2005) is instructive in resolving this issue. The
said case held:
"Secondary evidence of the contents of a document refers to evidence other than
the original document itself. A party may introduce secondary evidence of the
contents of a written instrument not only when the original is lost or destroyed,
but also when it cannot be produced in court, provided there is no bad faith on
the part of the offeror. However, a party must first satisfactorily explain the loss of
the best or primary evidence before he can resort to secondary evidence. A party
must first present to the court proof of loss or other satisfactory explanation for
non-production of the original instrument. The correct order of proof is as follows:
existence, execution, loss, contents, although the court in its discretion may
change this order if necessary."
It is clear, therefore, that before secondary evidence as to the contents of a
document may be admitted in evidence, the existence of [the] document must first
be proved, likewise, its execution and its subsequent loss.
In the present case, the trial court found all three (3) prerequisites ha[ve] been
established by Margarita Prodon. This Court, however, after going through the
records of the case, believes otherwise. The Court finds that the following
circumstances put doubt on the very existence of the alleged deed of sale. Evidence
on record showed that Maximo Alvarez was hospitalized between August 23, 1975

Page 133 of 231


to September 3, 1975 (Exhibit "K"). It was also established by said Exhibit "L" that
Maximo Alvarez suffered from paralysis of half of his body and blindness due to
cataract. It should further be noted that barely 6 days later, on September 15,
1975, Maximo Alvarez was again hospitalized for the last time because he died on
October of 1975 without having left the hospital. This lends credence to plaintiffs-
appellants’ assertion that their father, Maximo Alvarez, was not physically able to
personally execute the deed of sale and puts to serious doubt [on] Jose Camilion’s
testimony that Maximo Alvarez, with his wife, went to his residence on September
5, 1975 to sell the property and that again they met on September 9, 1975 to sign
the alleged deed of sale (Exhibits "A" and "1"). The Court also notes that from the
sale in 1975 to 1996 when the case was finally filed, defendant-appellee never tried
to recover possession of the property nor had she shown that she ever paid Real
Property Tax thereon. Additionally, the Transfer Certificate of Title had not been
transferred in the name of the alleged present owner. These actions put to doubt
the validity of the claim of ownership because their actions are contrary to that
expected of legitimate owners of property.
Moreover, granting, in arguendo, that the deed of sale did exist, the fact of its loss
had not been duly established. In De Vera, et al. v Sps. Aguilar (218 SCRA
602 1993), the Supreme Court held that after proof of the execution of the Deed it
must also be established that the said document had been lost or destroyed, thus:
"After the due execution of the document has been established, it must next be
proved that said document has been lost or destroyed. The destruction of the
instrument may be proved by any person knowing the fact. The loss may be shown
by any person who knew the fact of its loss, or by anyone who had made, in the
judgment of the court, a sufficient examination in the place or places where the
document or papers of similar character are usually kept by the person in whose
custody the document lost was, and has been unable to find it; or who has made
any other investigation which is sufficient to satisfy the court that the instrument
is indeed lost.
However, all duplicates or counterparts must be accounted for before using copies.
For, since all the duplicates or multiplicates are parts of the writing itself to be
proved, no excuse for non-production of the writing itself can be regarded as
established until it appears that all of its parts are unavailable (i.e. lost, retained
by the opponent or by a third person or the like).
In the case at bar, Atty. Emiliano Ibasco, Jr., notary public who notarized the
document testified that the alleged deed of sale has about four or five original
copies. Hence, all originals must be accounted for before secondary evidence can
be given of any one. This[,] petitioners failed to do. Records show that petitioners
merely accounted for three out of four or five original copies." (218 SCRA at 607-
608)
In the case at bar, Jose Camilion’s testimony showed that a copy was given to Atty.
Anacleto Lacanilao but he could not recover said copy. A perusal of the testimony
does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had exerted sufficient effort to
recover said copy. x x x
xxxx

Page 134 of 231


The foregoing testimony does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had
exerted sufficient effort to obtain the copy which he said was with Atty. Lacanilao.
It should be noted that he never claimed that Atty. Lacanilao was already too sick
to even try looking for the copy he had. But even assuming this is to be so, Jose
Camilion did not testify that Atty. Lacanilao had no one in his office to help him
find said copy. In fine, this Court believes that the trial court erred in admitting
the secondary evidence because Margarita Prodon failed to prove the loss or
destruction of the deed.
In fine, the Court finds that the secondary evidence should not have been admitted
because Margarita Prodon failed to prove the existence of the original deed of sale
and to establish its loss.
xxxx
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Manila, Branch 35 in Civil Case No. 96-78481 is hereby REVERSED and a new
one entered ordering the cancellation of Entry No. 3816/T-84797 inscribed at the
back of TCT No. 84797 in order to remove the cloud over plaintiff-appellants’ title.
SO ORDERED.9
The heirs of Margarita Prodon (who meanwhile died on March 3, 2002) filed an
Omnibus Motion for Substitution of Defendant and for Reconsideration of the
Decision,10 wherein they alleged that the CA erred: (a) in finding that the pre-
requisites for the admission of secondary evidence had not been complied with; (b)
in concluding that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been physically incapable of
personally executing the deed of sale with right to repurchase; and (c) in blaming
them for not recovering the property, for not paying the realty taxes thereon, and
for not transferring the title in their names.
On November 22, 2005, the CA issued itsresolution,11 allowing the substitution of
the heirs of Margarita Prodon, and denying their motion for reconsideration for its
lack of merit.
Hence, the heirs of Margarita Prodon (petitioners) have appealed to the Court
through petition for review on certiorari.
Issues
In this appeal, the petitioners submit the following as issues, namely: (a) whether
the pre-requisites for the admission of secondary evidence had been complied with;
(b) whether the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been physically incapable of
personally executing the deed of sale with right to repurchase;and (c) whether
Prodon’s claim of ownership was already barred by laches. 12
Ruling
The appeal has no merit.
1.
Best Evidence Rulewas not applicable herein
We focus first on an unseemly error on the part of the CA that, albeit a harmless
one, requires us to re-examine and rectify in order to carry out our essential
responsibility of educating the Bench and the Bar on the admissibility of evidence.
An analysis leads us to conclude that the CA and the RTC both misapplied the
Best Evidence Rule to this case, and their misapplication diverted the attention

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from the decisive issue in this action for quieting of title. We shall endeavor to
correct the error in order to turn the case to the right track.
Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court embodies the Best Evidence
Rule, to wit:
Section 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. — When the subject
of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other
than the original document itself, except in the following cases:
(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in
court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;
(b) When the original is in the custody or under control of the party against
whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after
reasonable notice;
(c) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents
which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact
sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole;
and
(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or
is recorded in a public office.
The Best Evidence Rule stipulates that in proving the terms of a written document
the original of the document must be produced in court. The rule excludes any
evidence other than the original writing to prove the contents thereof, unless the
offeror proves: (a) the existence or due execution of the original; (b) the loss and
destruction of the original, or the reason for its non-production in court; and (c)
the absence of bad faith on the part of the offeror to which the unavailability of the
original can be attributed.13
The primary purpose of the Best Evidence Rule is to ensure that the exact contents
of a writing are brought before the court,14 considering that (a) the precision in
presenting to the court the exact words of the writing is of more than average
importance, particularly as respects operative or dispositive instruments, such as
deeds, wills and contracts, because a slight variation in words may mean a great
difference in rights; (b) there is a substantial hazard of inaccuracy in the human
process of making a copy by handwriting or typewriting; and (c) as respects oral
testimony purporting to give from memory the terms of a writing, there is a special
risk of error, greater than in the case of attempts at describing other situations
generally.15 The rule further acts as an insurance against fraud.16Verily, if a party
is in the possession of the best evidence and withholds it, and seeks to substitute
inferior evidence in its place, the presumption naturally arises that the better
evidence is withheld for fraudulent purposes that its production would expose and
defeat.17 Lastly, the rule protects against misleading inferences resulting from the
intentional or unintentional introduction of selected portions of a larger set of
writings.18
But the evils of mistransmission of critical facts, fraud, and misleading inferences
arise only when the issue relates to the terms of the writing. Hence, the Best
Evidence Rule applies only when the terms of a writing are in issue. When the
evidence sought to be introduced concerns external facts, such as the existence,
execution or delivery of the writing, without reference to its terms, the Best

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Evidence Rule cannot be invoked.19 In such a case, secondary evidence may be
admitted even without accounting for the original.
This case involves an action for quieting of title, a common-law remedy for the
removal of any cloud or doubt or uncertainty on the title to real property by reason
of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding that is apparently
valid or effective, but is, in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or
unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title. In such an action, the
competent court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant
and other claimants to place things in their proper place and to make the one who
has no rights to said immovable respect and not disturb the other. The action is
for the benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see every cloud of doubt
over the property dissipated, and he can thereafter fearlessly introduce any desired
improvements, as well as use, and even abuse the property. For an action to quiet
title to prosper, two indispensable requisites must concur, namely: (a) the plaintiff
or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property
subject of the action; and (b) the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed
to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to be in fact invalid or inoperative
despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. 20
The action for quieting of title may be based on the fact that a deed is invalid,
ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable. The terms of the writing may or may not be
material to an action for quieting of title, depending on the ground alleged by the
plaintiff. For instance, when an action for quieting of title is based on the
unenforceability of a contract for not complying with the Statute of Frauds, Article
1403 of the Civil Code specifically provides that evidence of the agreement cannot
be received without the writing, or a secondary evidence of its contents. There is
then no doubt that the Best Evidence Rule will come into play.
It is not denied that this action does not involve the terms or contents of the deed
of sale with right to repurchase. The principal issue raised by the respondents as
the plaintiffs, which Prodon challenged head on, was whether or not the deed of
sale with right to repurchase, duly executed by the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr., had
really existed. They alleged in the complaint that:
xxxx
9. Such entry which could have been maliciously and deliberately done by the
defendant Margarita Prodon created cloud and [is] prejudicial to the title of the
property subject matter of this case, since while it is apparently valid or effective,
but in truth and in fact it is invalid, ineffective or unenforceable inasmuch that
the instrument purporting to be a Deed of Sale with right of repurchase mentioned
in the said entry does not exist.21
xxxx
On her part, Prodon specifically denied the allegation, averring in her answer that
"sometime [o]n September 9, 1975, deceased Maximo S. Alvarez lawfully entered
into a Contract of Sale with Right to Repurchase, object of which is the titled lot
located at Endaya Street, Tondo, Manila, in favor of defendant." 22 In the pre-trial
order, the RTC defined the issue to be tried as "[w]hether or not the alleged
document mentioned in the said entry is existing, valid or unenforceable," 23 and

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did not include the terms of the deed of sale with right to repurchase among the
issues.
Apparently, the parties were fully cognizant of the issues as defined, for none of
them thereafter ventured to present evidence to establish the terms of the deed of
sale with right to repurchase. In the course of the trial, however, a question was
propounded to Prodon as to who had signed or executed the deed, and the question
was objected to based on the Best Evidence Rule. The RTC then sustained the
objection.24 At that point began the diversion of the focus in the case. The RTC
should have outrightly overruled the objection because the fact sought to be
established by the requested testimony was the execution of the deed, not its
terms.25 Despite the fact that the terms of the writing were not in issue, the RTC
inexplicably applied the Best Evidence Rule to the case and proceeded to determine
whether the requisites for the admission of secondary evidence had been complied
with, without being clear as to what secondary evidence was sought to be excluded.
In the end, the RTC found in its judgment that Prodon had complied with the
requisites for the introduction of secondary evidence, and gave full credence to the
testimony of Jose Camilon explaining the non-production of the original. On
appeal, the CA seconded the RTC’s mistake by likewise applying the Best Evidence
Rule, except that the CA concluded differently, in that it held that Prodon had not
established the existence, execution, and loss of the original document as the pre-
requisites for the presentation of secondary evidence. Its application of the Best
Evidence Rule naturally led the CA to rule that secondary evidence should not
have been admitted, but like the RTC the CA did not state what excluded
secondary evidence it was referring to.
Considering that the Best Evidence Rule was not applicable because the terms of
the deed of sale with right to repurchase were not the issue, the CA did not have
to address and determine whether the existence, execution, and loss, as pre-
requisites for the presentation of secondary evidence, had been established by
Prodon’s evidence. It should have simply addressed and determined whether or
not the "existence" and "execution" of the deed as the facts in issue had been
proved by preponderance of evidence.
Indeed, for Prodon who had the burden to prove the existence and due execution
of the deed of sale with right to repurchase, the presentation of evidence other
than the original document, like the testimonies of Prodon and Jose Camilon, the
Notarial Register of Notary Eliseo Razon, and the Primary Entry Book of the
Register of Deeds, would have sufficed even without first proving the loss or
unavailability of the original of the deed.
2.
Prodon did not preponderantly establish the existence and due execution of the
deed of sale with right to repurchase
The foregoing notwithstanding, good trial tactics still required Prodon to establish
and explain the loss of the original of the deed of sale with right to repurchase to
establish the genuineness and due execution of the deed. 26 This was because the
deed, although a collateral document, was the foundation of her defense in this
action for quieting of title.27 Her inability to produce the original logically gave rise
to the need for her to prove its existence and due execution by other means that

Page 138 of 231


could only be secondary under the rules on evidence. Towards that end, however,
it was not required to subject the proof of the loss of the original to the same strict
standard to which it would be subjected had the loss or unavailability been a
precondition for presenting secondary evidence to prove the terms of a writing.
A review of the records reveals that Prodon did not adduce proof sufficient to show
the lossor explain the unavailability of the original as to justify the presentation of
secondary evidence. Camilon, one of her witnesses, testified that he had given the
original to her lawyer, Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao, but that he (Camilon) could not
anymore retrieve the original because Atty. Lacanilao had been recuperating from
his heart ailment. Such evidence without showing the inability to locate the
original from among Atty. Lacanilao’s belongings by himself or by any of his
assistants or representatives was inadequate. Moreover, a duplicate original could
have been secured from Notary Public Razon, but no effort was shown to have been
exerted in that direction.
In contrast, the records contained ample indicia of the improbability of the
existence of the deed. Camilon claimed that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had twice
gone to his residence in Meycauayan, Bulacan, the first on September 5, 1975, to
negotiate the sale of the property in question, and the second on September 9,
1975, to execute the deed of sale with right to repurchase, viz:
Q
Do you also know the deceased plaintiff in this case, Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and his
wife Valentina Clave, Mr. Witness?
A
Yes, sir.
Q
A
Q
Under what circumstance were you able to know the deceased plaintiff Maximo
Alvarez, Sr. and his wife?
When they went to our house, sir.
When was this specifically?
A
Sometime the first week of September or about September 5, 1975, sir.
Q
What was the purpose of the spouses Maximo and Valentina in meeting you on
that date?
A
They were selling a piece of land, sir.
xxxx
Q
At the time when the spouses Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave approached
you to sell their piece of land located at Endaya, Tondo, Manila, what document,
if any, did they show you?
A
The title of the land, sir.
xxxx

Page 139 of 231


Q
You said that on the first week of September or September 5, 1975 spouses
Maximo and Valentina approached you at the time, what did you tell the spouses,
if any?
A
I asked them to come back telling them that I was going to look for a buyer, sir.
xxxx
Q
You said that you told the spouse[s] Alvarez to just come back later and that you
will look for a buyer, what happened next, if any?
A
I went to see my aunt Margarita Prodon, sir.
Q
A
What did you tell your aunt Margarita Prodon?
I convinced her to buy the lot.
ATTY. REAL
Q
What was the reply of Margarita Prodon, if any?
A
She agreed, provided that she should meet the spouses, sir.
Q
After Margarita Prodon told you that[,] what happened next, if any?
A
I waited for the spouses Alvarez to bring them to my aunt, sir.
Q
Were you able to finally bring the spouses before Margarita Prodon?
A
Valentina Clave returned to our house and asked me if they can now sell the piece
of land, sir.
Q
What did you tell Valentina Clave?
A
Q
We went to the house of my aunt so she can meet her personally, sir.
And did the meeting occur?
WITNESS
A
Yes, sir.
ATTY. REAL
Q
What happened at the meeting?
A
I told Valentina Clave in front of the aunt of my wife that they, the spouses, wanted
to sell the land, sir.
Q

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What was the reply of your aunt Margarita Prodon at the time?
A
That Valentina Clave should come back with her husband because she was going
to buy the lot, sir.28
The foregoing testimony could not be credible for the purpose of proving the due
execution of the deed of sale with right to repurchase for three reasons.1âwphi1
The first is that the respondents preponderantly established that the late Maximo
Alvarez, Sr. had been in and out of the hospital around the time that the deed of
sale with right to repurchase had been supposedly executed on September 9, 1975.
The records manifested that he had been admitted to the Veterans Memorial
Hospital in Quezon City on several occasions, and had then been diagnosed with
the serious ailments or conditions, as follows:
Period of confinement Diagnosis
March 31 – May 19, 1975 • Prostatitis, chronic
• Arteriosclerotic heart
disease
• Atrial fibrillation
• Congestive heart failure
• CFC III29
June 2- June 6, 1975 • Chest pains (Atrial Flutter)
• Painful urination (Chronic
prostatitis)30
August 23-September 3, • Arteriosclerotic heart
1975 disease
• Congestive heart failure,
mild
• Atrial fibrillation
• Cardiac functional
capacity III-B31
September 15-October 2, • Arteriosclerotic heart
1975 disease
• Atrial fibrillation
• Congestive heart failure
• Pneumonia
• Urinary tract infection
• Cerebrovascular accident,
old
• Upper GI bleeding
probably secondary to
stress ulcers 32

The medical history showing the number of very serious ailments the late Maximo
Alvarez, Sr. had been suffering from rendered it highly improbable for him to travel
from Manila all the way to Meycauayan, Bulacan, where Prodon and Camilon were
Page 141 of 231
then residing in order only to negotiate and consummate the sale of the property.
This high improbability was fully confirmed by his son, Maximo, Jr., who attested
that his father had been seriously ill, and had been in and out of the hospital in
1975.33 The medical records revealed, too, that on September 12, 1975, or three
days prior to his final admission to the hospital, the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had
suffered from "[h]igh grade fever, accompanied by chills, vomiting and cough
productive of whitish sticky sputum;"had been observed to be "conscious" but
"weak" and "bedridden" with his heart having "faint" sounds, irregular rhythm, but
no murmurs; and his left upper extremity and left lower extremity had suffered
90% motor loss.34 Truly, Prodon’s allegation that the deed of sale with right to
repurchase had been executed on September 9, 1975 could not command belief.
The second is that the annotation on TCT No. 84797 of the deed of sale with right
to repurchase and the entry in the primary entry book of the Register of Deeds did
not themselves establish the existence of the deed. They proved at best that a
document purporting to be a deed of sale with right to repurchase had been
registered with the Register of Deeds. Verily, the registration alone of the deed was
not conclusive proof of its authenticity or its due execution by the registered owner
of the property, which was precisely the issue in this case. The explanation for this
is that registration, being a specie of notice, is simply a ministerial act by which
an instrument is inscribed in the records of the Register of Deeds and annotated
on the dorsal side of the certificate of title covering the land subject of the
instrument.35 It is relevant to mention that the law on land registration does not
require that only valid instruments be registered, because the purpose of
registration is only to give notice.36
By the same token, the entry in the notarial register of Notary Public Razon could
only be proof that a deed of sale with right to repurchase had been notarized by
him, but did not establish the due execution of the deed.
The third is that the respondents’ remaining in the peaceful possession of the
property was further convincing evidence demonstrating that the late Maximo
Alvarez, Sr. did not execute the deed of sale with right to repurchase. Otherwise,
Prodon would have herself asserted and exercised her right to take over the
property, legally and physically speaking, upon the expiration in 1976 of the
repurchase period stipulated under the deed, including transferring the TCT in her
name and paying the real property taxes due on the properly. Her inaction was an
index of the falsity of her claim against the respondents.
In view of the foregoing circumstances, we concur with the CA that the
respondents preponderantly, proved that the deed of sale with right to repurchase
executed by the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. did not exist in fact.
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on August 18, 2005
by the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. CV No. 58624 entitled Heirs of Maximo S.
Alvarez and Valentina Clave, represented by Rev. Maximo Alvarez, Jr. v. Margarita
Prodon and the Register of Deeds of the City Manila; and ORDERS the petitioners
to pay the costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.

Page 142 of 231


23. G.R. No. 168387, August 25, 2010
SALUN-AT MARQUEZ and NESTOR DELA CRUZ Petitioners, v. ELOISA ESPEJO,
ELENITA ESPEJO, EMERITA ESPEJO, OPHIRRO ESPEJO, OTHNIEL ESPEJO,
ORLANDO ESPEJO, OSMUNDO ESPEJO, ODELEJO ESPEJO and NEMI
FERNANDEZ, Respondents.

When the parties admit the contents of written documents but put in issue whether
these documents adequately and correctly express the true intention of the parties, the
deciding body is authorized to look beyond these instruments and into the
contemporaneous and subsequent actions of the parties in order to determine such
intent.

Well-settled is the rule that in case of doubt, it is the intention of the contracting parties
that prevails, for the intention is the soul of a contract, not its wording which is prone
to mistakes, inadequacies, or ambiguities. To hold otherwise would give life, validity,
and precedence to mere typographical errors and defeat the very purpose of agreements.
This Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assails the October 7, 2003 Decision,[2] as well as
the May 11, 2005 Resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA G.R. SP No.
69981. The dispositive portion of the appellate courts Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding reversible error committed by the Department of


Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, the instant petition for review is
GRANTED. The assailed Decision, dated 17 January 2001, rendered by the
Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board is hereby ANNULLED
and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board of Bayombong[,] Nueva Vizcaya, dated 17 March 1998,
is REINSTATED.Costs against respondents.

SO ORDERED.[4]

The reinstated Decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board


(DARAB) of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, in turn, contained the following dispositive
portion:

Accordingly, judgment is rendered:

1. Finding [respondents] to be the owner by re-purchase from


RBBI [of] the Murong property covered by TCT No. [T-]62096 (formerly
TCT No. 43258);

2. Ordering the cancellation of TCT with CLOA Nos. 395 and 396
in the name[s] of Salun-at Marquez and Nestor de la Cruz respectively,
as they are disqualified to become tenants of the Lantap property;

Page 143 of 231


3. Directing RBBI to sell through VOS the Lantap property to its
rightful beneficiary, herein tenant-farmer Nemi Fernandez under
reasonable terms and conditions;

4. Ordering RBBI to return the amount paid to it by Nestor and


Salun-at; and ordering the latter to pay 20 cavans of palay per hectare
at 46 kilos per cavan unto [respondents] plus such accrued and unpaid
rentals for the past years as may be duly accounted for with the
assistance of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of Bagabag, Nueva
Vizcaya who is also hereby instructed to assist the parties execute their
leasehold contracts and;

5. The order to supervise harvest dated March 11, 1998 shall be


observed until otherwise modified or dissolved by the appellate body.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Factual Antecedents

Respondents Espejos were the original registered owners of two parcels of agricultural
land, with an area of two hectares each. One is located at Barangay Lantap, Bagabag,
Nueva Vizcaya (the Lantap property) while the other is located in Barangay Murong,
Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya (the Murong property). There is no dispute among the parties
that the Lantap property is tenanted by respondent Nemi Fernandez (Nemi)[6] (who is
the husband[7] of respondent Elenita Espejo (Elenita), while the Murong property is
tenanted by petitioners Salun-at Marquez (Marquez) and Nestor Dela Cruz (Dela Cruz).[8]

The respondents mortgaged both parcels of land to Rural Bank of Bayombong, Inc.
(RBBI) to secure certain loans. Upon their failure to pay the loans, the mortgaged
properties were foreclosed and sold to RBBI.RBBI eventually consolidated title to the
properties and transfer certificates of title (TCTs) were issued in the name of RBBI. TCT
No. T-62096 dated January 14, 1985 was issued for the Murong property. It contained
the following description:

Beginning at a point marked I on plan H-176292, S. 44034 W. 1656.31 m.


more or less from B.L.L.M. No 1, Bagabag Townsite, K-27,
thence N. 28 deg. 20 E., 200.00 m. to point 2;
thence S. 61 deg. 40 E., 100.00 m. to point 3;
thence S. 28 deg. 20 W., 200.00 m. to point 4;
thence N. 61 deg. 40 W., 100.00 m. to point 1; point of beginning;
Containing an area of 2.000 hectares. Bounded on the northeast, by Road;
on the southeast, and southwest by public land; and on the northwest by
Public Land, properties claimed by Hilario Gaudia and Santos

Page 144 of 231


Navarrete. Bearings true.Declination 0131 E. Points referred to are marked
on plan H-176292. Surveyed under authority of sections 12-22 Act No.
2874 and in accordance with existing regulations of the Bureau of Lands
by H.O. Bauman Public Land Surveyor, [in] December 1912-March
1913. Note: All corners are Conc. Mons. 15x15x60 cm. This is Lot No. 79-
A=Lot No. 159 of Bagabag Townsite, K-27.[9]

Subsequently, TCT No. T-62836 dated June 4, 1985 was issued for the Lantap property
and contained the following description:

Beginning at a point marked 1 on plan H-105520, N. 80 deg. 32 W.,


1150.21 m. from BLLM No. 122, Irrigation project,
thence N. 61 deg. 40E., 200.00 m. to point 2;
thence N. 28 deg. 20E, 100.00 m. to point 3;
thence S. 61 deg. 40E, 200.00 m. to point 4;
thence S. 28 deg. 20W, 100.00 m. to point 1; point of beginning; containing
an area of 2.0000 hectares. Bounded on the northeast, southeast, and
southwest by Public land; and on the northwest by Road and public
land. Bearings true.Declination 0 deg. 31E., points referred to are marked
on plan H-105520. Surveyed under authority of Section 12-22, Act No.
2874 and in accordance with existing regulations of the Bureau of Lands,
by H.O. Bauman Public Land Surveyor, [in] Dec. 1912-Mar. 1913 and
approved on January 6, 1932. Note: This is Lot No. 119-A Lot No. 225
of Bagabag Townsite K-27. All corners are B.I. Conc. Mons. 15x60 cm.[10]

Both TCTs describe their respective subjects as located in Bagabag Townsite, K-27,
without any reference to either Barangay Lantap or Barangay Murong.

On February 26, 1985, respondents Espejos bought back one of their lots from
RBBI. The Deed of Sale[11] described the property sold as follows:

x x x do hereby SELL, TRANSFER, and CONVEY, absolutely and


unconditionally x x x that certain parcel of land, situated in the Municipality
of Bagabag, Province of Nueva Vizcaya, and more particularly bounded and
described as follows, to wit:

Beginning at a point marked 1 on plan x x x x Containing an


area of 2.000 hectares. Bounded on the NE., by Road; on the
SE., and SW by Public Land; and on the NW., by Public Land,
properties claimed by Hilario Gaudia and Santos
Navarrete. Bearing true. Declination 013 B. Points referred to
are marked on plan H-176292.

Page 145 of 231


of which the Rural Bank of Bayombong (NV) Inc., is the registered owner in
fee simple in accordance with the Land Registration Act, its title thereto
being evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-62096 issued by the
Registry of Deeds of Nueva Vizcaya.

As may be seen from the foregoing, the Deed of Sale did not mention
the barangay where the property was located but mentioned the title of the property
(TCT No. T-62096), which title corresponds to the Murong property. There is no
evidence, however, that respondents took possession of the Murong property, or
demanded lease rentals from the petitioners (who continued to be the tenants of the
Murong property), or otherwise exercised acts of ownership over the Murong
property. On the other hand, respondent Nemi (husband of respondent Elenita and
brother-in-law of the other respondents), continued working on the other property -- the
Lantap property -- without any evidence that he ever paid rentals to RBBI or to any
landowner. The Deed of Sale was annotated on TCT No. T-62096 almost a decade later,
on July 1, 1994.[12]

Meanwhile, on June 20, 1990, RBBI, pursuant to Sections 20[13] and 21[14] of Republic
Act (RA) No. 6657,[15] executed separate Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer (VLTs) in favor
of petitioners Marquez and Dela Cruz, the tenants of the Murong property. Both VLTs
described the subject thereof as an agricultural land located
in Barangay Murong and covered by TCT No. T-62836 (which, however, is the title
corresponding to the Lantap property).[16]

After the petitioners completed the payment of the purchase price of P90,000.00 to
RBBI, the DAR issued the corresponding Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs)
to petitioners Marquez[17] and Dela Cruz[18] on September 5, 1991. Both CLOAs stated
that their subjects were parcels of agricultural land situated
in Barangay Murong. The CLOAs were registered in the Registry of Deeds of Nueva
[19]

Vizcaya on September 5, 1991.

On February 10, 1997 (more than 10 years after the Deed of Sale in favor of the
respondents and almost seven years after the execution of VLTs in favor of the
petitioners), respondents filed a Complaint[20] before the Regional Agrarian Reform
Adjudicator (RARAD) of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya for the cancellation of petitioners
CLOAs, the deposit of leasehold rentals by petitioners in favor of respondents, and the
execution of a deed of voluntary land transfer by RBBI in favor of respondent Nemi. The
complaint was based on respondents theory that the Murong property, occupied by the
petitioners, was owned by the respondents by virtue of the 1985 buy-back, as
documented in the Deed of Sale. They based their claim on the fact that their Deed of
Sale refers to TCT No. 62096, which pertains to the Murong property.

Petitioners filed their Answer[21] and insisted that they bought the Murong property as
farmer-beneficiaries thereof. They maintained that they have always displayed good
faith, paid lease rentals to RBBI when it became the owner of the Murong property,

Page 146 of 231


bought the same from RBBI upon the honest belief that they were buying the Murong
property, and occupied and exercised acts of ownership over the Murong
property. Petitioners also argued that what respondents Espejos repurchased from
RBBI in 1985 was actually the Lantap property, as evidenced by their continued
occupation and possession of the Lantap property through respondent Nemi.

RBBI answered[22] that it was the Lantap property which was the subject of the buy-
back transaction with respondents Espejos. It denied committing a grave mistake in the
transaction and maintained its good faith in the disposition of its acquired assets in
conformity with the rural banking rules and regulations.

OIC-RARAD Decision[23]

The OIC-RARAD gave precedence to the TCT numbers appearing on the Deed of Sale
and the VLTs. Since TCT No. T-62096 appeared on respondents Deed of Sale and the
said title refers to the Murong property, the OIC-RARAD concluded that the subject of
sale was indeed the Murong property. On the other hand, since the petitioners VLTs
referred to TCT No. T-62836, which corresponds to the Lantap property, the OIC-
RARAD ruled that petitioners CLOAs necessarily refer to the Lantap property. As for the
particular description contained in the VLTs that the subject thereof is the Murong
property, the OIC-RARAD ruled that it was a mere typographical error.
Further, since the VLTs covered the Lantap property and petitioners are not the actual
tillers thereof, the OIC-RARAD declared that they were disqualified to become tenants
of the Lantap property and ordered the cancellation of their CLOAs. It then ordered RBBI
to execute a leasehold contract with the real tenant of the Lantap property, Nemi.

The OIC-RARAD recognized that petitioners only right as the actual tillers of the Murong
property is to remain as the tenants thereof after the execution of leasehold contracts
with and payment of rentals in arrears to respondents.

DARAB Decision[24]

Upon appeal filed by petitioners, the DARAB reversed the OIC-RARAD Decision. It ruled
that in assailing the validity of the CLOAs issued to petitioners as bona fide tenant-
farmers, the burden of proof rests on the respondents. There being no evidence that the
DAR field personnel were remiss in the performance of their official duties when they
issued the corresponding CLOAs in favor of petitioners, the presumption of regular
performance of duty prevails. This conclusion is made more imperative by the
respondents admission that petitioners are the actual tillers of the Murong property,
hence qualified beneficiaries thereof.

As for respondents allegation that they bought back the Murong property from RBBI,
the DARAB ruled that they failed to support their allegation with substantial evidence. It
gave more credence to RBBIs claim that respondents repurchased the Lantap property,
not the Murong property. Respondents, as owners of the Lantap property, were ordered

Page 147 of 231


to enter into an agricultural leasehold contract with their brother-in-law Nemi, who is
the actual tenant of the Lantap property.

The DARAB ended its January 17, 2001 Decision in this wise:

We find no basis or justification to question the authenticity and validity of


the CLOAs issued to appellants as they are by operation of law qualified
beneficiaries over the landholdings; there is nothing to quiet as these titles
were awarded in conformity with the CARP program implementation; and
finally, the Board declares that all controverted claims to or against the
subject landholding must be completely and finally laid to rest.

WHEREFORE, premises considered and finding reversible errors[,] the


assailed decision is ANNULLED and a new judgment is hereby rendered,
declaring:

1. Appellants Salun-at Marquez and Nestor Dela Cruz as the


bona fide tenant-tillers over the Murong property and therefore they are the
qualified beneficiaries thereof;

2. Declaring Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. 395 and


396 issued in the name of [farmer-beneficiaries] Salun-at Marquez and
Nestor Dela Cruz respectively, covered formerly by TCT No. 62096 (TCT No.
43258) of the Murong property as valid and legal;

3. Ordering the co-[respondents] to firm-up an agricultural


leasehold contract with bona fide tenant-tiller Nemi Fernandez over the
Lantap property, [the latter] being the subject matter of the buy back
arrangement entered into between [respondents] and Rural Bank of
Bayombong, Incorporated, and other incidental matters are deemed
resolved.

SO ORDERED.[25]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In appealing to the CA, the respondents insisted that the DARAB erred in ruling that
they repurchased the Lantap property, while the petitioners were awarded the Murong
property. They were adamant that the title numbers indicated in their respective deeds
of conveyance should control in determining the subjects thereof. Since respondents
Deed of Sale expressed that its subject is the property with TCT No. T-62096, then what
was sold to them was the Murong property. On the other hand, petitioners VLTs and
CLOAs say that they cover the property with TCT No. T-62836; thus it should be
understood that they were awarded the Lantap property. Respondents added that since

Page 148 of 231


petitioners are not the actual tillers of the Lantap property, their CLOAs should be
cancelled due to their lack of qualification.

The CA agreed with the respondents. Using the Best Evidence Rule embodied in Rule
130, Section 3, the CA held that the Deed of Sale is the best evidence as to its contents,
particularly the description of the land which was the object of the sale. Since the Deed
of Sale expressed that its subject is the land covered by TCT No. T-62096 the Murong
property then that is the property that the respondents repurchased.
The CA further ruled that as for petitioners VLTs, the same refer to the property with
TCT No. T-62836; thus, the subject of their CLOAs is the Lantap property. The
additional description in the VLTs that the subject thereof is located
in Barangay Murong was considered to be a mere typographical error. The CA ruled
that the technical description contained in the TCT is more accurate in identifying the
subject property since the same particularly describes the properties metes and bounds.

Both the RBBI[26] and petitioners[27] filed their respective motions for reconsideration,
which were separately denied.[28]

On June 22, 2004, RBBI filed a separate Petition for Review on Certiorari, docketed as
G.R. No. 163320, with this Court.[29] RBBI raised the issue that the CA failed to
appreciate that respondents did not come to court with clean hands because they misled
RBBI to believe at the time of the sale that the two lots were not tenanted. RBBI also
asked that they be declared free from any liability to the parties as it did not enrich itself
at anyones expense. RBBIs petition was dismissed on July 26, 2004 for lack of
merit. The said Resolution reads:

Considering the allegations, issues[,] and arguments adduced in the


petition for review on certiorari, the Court Resolves to DENY the petition for
lack of sufficient showing that the Court of Appeals had committed any
reversible error in the questioned judgment to warrant the exercise by this
Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction in this case.[30]

Their Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied with finality.[31] Entry of judgment
was made in that case on December 15, 2004.[32]

On July 27, 2005,[33] petitioners filed the instant petition.

Issues

Rephrased and consolidated, the parties present the following issues for the Courts
determination:

I
What is the effect of the final judgment dismissing RBBIs Petition for Review
on Certiorari, which assailed the same CA Decision

Page 149 of 231


II
Whether the CA erred in utilizing the Best Evidence Rule to determine the subject of
the contracts

III
What are the subject properties of the parties respective contracts with RBBI

Our Ruling

Propriety of the Petition


Respondents maintain that the instant petition for review raises factual issues which
are beyond the province of Rule 45.[34]

The issues involved herein are not entirely factual. Petitioners assail the appellate courts
rejection of their evidence (as to the contractual intent) as inadmissible under the Best
Evidence Rule. The question involving the admissibility of evidence is a legal question
that is within the Courts authority to review.[35]

Besides, even if it were a factual question, the Court is not precluded to review the
same. The rule that a petition for review should raise only questions of law admits of
exceptions, among which are (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on
speculations, surmises, or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly
mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when
the judgment is based on a misappreciation of facts; (5) when the findings of fact
are conflicting; (6) when, in making its findings, the same are contrary to the admissions
of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial
court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the
petitioner's main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the
findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by
the evidence on record.[36]

In the instant case, we find sufficient basis to apply the exceptions to the general rule
because the appellate court misappreciated the facts of the case through its erroneous
application of the Best Evidence Rule, as will be discussed below. Moreover, the
disparate rulings of the three reviewing bodies below are sufficient for the Court to
exercise its jurisdiction under Rule 45.

First Issue
Dismissal of RBBIs appeal

Respondents maintain that the Courts earlier dismissal of RBBIs petition

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for review of the same CA Decision is eloquent proof that there is no reversible error in
the appellate courts decision in favor of the respondents.[37]

We are not persuaded. This Court dismissed RBBIs earlier petition in G.R. No. 163320
because it failed to convincingly demonstrate the alleged errors in the CA Decision. The
bank did not point out the inadequacies and errors in the appellate courts decision but
simply placed the responsibility for the confusion on the respondents for allegedly
misleading the bank as to the identity of the properties and for misrepresenting that the
two lots were not tenanted. Thus, RBBI argued that respondents did not come to court
with clean hands.

These arguments were ineffectual in convincing the Court to review the appellate courts
Decision. It is the appellants responsibility to point out the perceived errors in the
appealed decision. When a party merely raises equitable considerations such as the
clean hands doctrine without a clear-cut legal basis and cogent arguments to support
his claim, there should be no surprise if the Court is not swayed to exercise its appellate
jurisdiction and the appeal is dismissed outright. The dismissal of an appeal does not
always and necessarily mean that the appealed decision is correct, for it could simply
be the result of the appellants inadequate discussion, ineffectual arguments, or even
procedural lapses.

RBBIs failure to convince the Court of the merits of its appeal should not prejudice
petitioners who were not parties to RBBIs appeal, especially because petitioners duly
filed a separate appeal and were able to articulately and effectively present their
arguments. A party cannot be deprived of his right to appeal an adverse decision just
because another party had already appealed ahead of him,[38] or just because the other
partys separate appeal had already been dismissed.[39]

There is another reason not to bind the petitioners to the final judgment against
RBBI. RBBI executed the transfer (VLTs) in favor of petitioners prior to the
commencement of the action. Thus, when the action for cancellation of CLOA was filed,
RBBI had already divested itself of its title to the two properties involved. Under the rule
on res judicata, a judgment (in personam) is conclusive only between the parties and
their successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the
action.[40] Thus, when the vendor (in this case RBBI) has already transferred his title to
third persons (petitioners), the said transferees are not bound by any judgment which
may be rendered against the vendor.[41]

Second Issue
Is it correct to apply the Best Evidence Rule?

Citing the Best Evidence Rule in Rule 130, Section 3, the CA held that the Deed of Sale
between respondents and RBBI is the best evidence as to the property that was sold by
RBBI to the respondents. Since the Deed of Sale stated that its subject is the land
covered by TCT No. T-62096 the title for the Murong property then the property

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repurchased by the respondents was the Murong property. Likewise, the CA held that
since the VLTs between petitioners and RBBI refer to TCT No. T-62836 the title for the
Lantap property then the property transferred to petitioners was the Lantap property.

Petitioners argue that the appellate court erred in using the best evidence rule to
determine the subject of the Deed of Sale and the Deeds of Voluntary Land
Transfer. They maintain that the issue in the case is not the contents of the contracts
but the intention of the parties that was not adequately expressed in their
contracts. Petitioners then argue that it is the Parol Evidence Rule that should be
applied in order to adequately resolve the dispute.

Indeed, the appellate court erred in its application of the Best Evidence Rule. The Best
Evidence Rule states that when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, the
best evidence is the original document itself and no other evidence (such as a
reproduction, photocopy or oral evidence) is admissible as a general rule. The original is
preferred because it reduces the chance of undetected tampering with the document.[42]

In the instant case, there is no room for the application of the Best Evidence Rule
because there is no dispute regarding the contents of the documents. It is admitted by
the parties that the respondents Deed of Sale referred to TCT No. T-62096 as its subject;
while the petitioners Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer referred to TCT No. T-62836 as
its subject, which is further described as located in Barangay Murong.

The real issue is whether the admitted contents of these documents adequately and
correctly express the true intention of the parties. As to the Deed of Sale, petitioners
(and RBBI) maintain that while it refers to TCT No. T-62096, the parties actually
intended the sale of the Lantap property (covered by TCT No. T-62836).

As to the VLTs, respondents contend that the reference to TCT No. T-62836
(corresponding to the Lantap property) reflects the true intention of RBBI and the
petitioners, and the reference to Barangay Murong was a typographical error. On the
other hand, petitioners claim that the reference to Barangay Murong reflects their true
intention, while the reference to TCT No. T-62836 was a mere error. This dispute reflects
an intrinsic ambiguity in the contracts, arising from an apparent failure of the
instruments to adequately express the true intention of the parties. To resolve the
ambiguity, resort must be had to evidence outside of the instruments.

The CA, however, refused to look beyond the literal wording of the documents and
rejected any other evidence that could shed light on the actual intention of the
contracting parties. Though the CA cited the Best Evidence Rule, it appears that what
it actually applied was the Parol Evidence Rule instead, which provides:

When the terms of an agreement have been reduced to writing, it is


considered as containing all the terms agreed upon and there can be,
between the parties and their successors in interest, no evidence of such
terms other than the contents of the written agreement.[43]

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The Parol Evidence Rule excludes parol or extrinsic evidence by which a party seeks to
contradict, vary, add to or subtract from the terms of a valid agreement or
instrument. Thus, it appears that what the CA actually applied in its assailed Decision
when it refused to look beyond the words of the contracts was the Parol Evidence Rule,
not the Best Evidence Rule. The appellate court gave primacy to the literal terms of the
two contracts and refused to admit any other evidence that would contradict such
terms.

However, even the application of the Parol Evidence Rule is improper in the case at
bar. In the first place, respondents are not parties to the VLTs executed between RBBI
and petitioners; they are strangers to the written contracts. Rule 130, Section 9
specifically provides that parol evidence rule is exclusive only as between the parties
and their successors-in-interest. The parol evidence rule may not be invoked where at
least one of the parties to the suit is not a party or a privy of a party to the written
document in question, and does not base his claim on the instrument or assert a right
originating in the instrument.[44]

Moreover, the instant case falls under the exceptions to the Parol Evidence Rule, as
provided in the second paragraph of Rule 130, Section 9:

However, a party may present evidence to modify, explain or add to the


terms of the written agreement if he puts in issue in his pleading:

(1) An intrinsic ambiguity, mistake or imperfection in the


written agreement;

(2) The failure of the written agreement to express the


true intent and agreement of the parties thereto;

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Here, the petitioners VLTs suffer from intrinsic ambiguity. The VLTs described the
subject property as covered by TCT No. T-62836 (Lantap property), but they also
describe the subject property as being located in Barangay Murong. Even the
respondents Deed of Sale falls under the exception to the Parol Evidence Rule. It refers
to TCT No. T-62096 (Murong property), but RBBI contended that the true intent was to
sell the Lantap property. In short, it was squarely put in issue that the written
agreement failed to express the true intent of the parties.

Based on the foregoing, the resolution of the instant case necessitates an examination
of the parties respective parol evidence, in order to determine the true intent of the
parties. Well-settled is the rule that in case of doubt, it is the intention of the contracting
parties that prevails, for the intention is the soul of a contract,[45] not its wording which
is prone to mistakes, inadequacies, or ambiguities. To hold otherwise would give life,

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validity, and precedence to mere typographical errors and defeat the very purpose of
agreements.

In this regard, guidance is provided by the following articles of the Civil Code involving
the interpretation of contracts:

Article 1370. If the terms of a contract are clear and leave no doubt upon
the intention of the contracting parties, the literal meaning of its stipulations
shall control.

If the words appear to be contrary to the evident intention of the parties, the
latter shall prevail over the former.

Article 1371. In order to judge the intention of the contracting parties, their
contemporaneous and subsequent acts shall be principally considered.

Rule 130, Section 13 which provides for the rules on the interpretation of documents is
likewise enlightening:

Section 13. Interpretation according to circumstances. For the proper


construction of an instrument, the circumstances under which it was
made, including the situation of the subject thereof and of the parties to it,
may be shown, so that the judge may be placed in the position of those
whose language he is to interpret.

Applying the foregoing guiding rules, it is clear that the Deed of Sale was intended to
transfer the Lantap property to the respondents, while the VLTs were intended to convey
the Murong property to the petitioners. This may be seen from the contemporaneous
and subsequent acts of the parties.

Third issue
Determining the intention of the parties
regarding the subjects of their contracts

We are convinced that the subject of the Deed of Sale between RBBI and the
respondents was the Lantap property, and not the Murong property. After the execution
in 1985 of the Deed of Sale, the respondents did not exercise acts of ownership that
could show that they indeed knew and believed that they repurchased the Murong
property. They did not take possession of the Murong property. As admitted by the
parties, the Murong property was in the possession of the petitioners, who occupied and
tilled the same without any objection from the respondents. Moreover, petitioners paid
leasehold rentals for using the Murong property to RBBI, not to the respondents.

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Aside from respondents neglect of their alleged ownership rights over the Murong
property, there is one other circumstance that convinces us that what respondents
really repurchased was the Lantap property.Respondent Nemi (husband of respondent
Elenita) is the farmer actually tilling the Lantap property, without turning over the
supposed landowners share to RBBI. This strongly indicates that the respondents
considered themselves (and not RBBI) as the owners of the Lantap property. For if
respondents (particularly spouses Elenita and Nemi) truly believed that RBBI retained
ownership of the Lantap property, how come they never complied with their obligations
as supposed tenants of RBBIs land? The factual circumstances of the case simply do
not support the theory propounded by the respondents.
We are likewise convinced that the subject of the Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer
(VLTs) in favor of petitioners was the Murong property, and not the Lantap
property. When the VLTs were executed in 1990, petitioners were already the tenant-
farmers of the Murong property, and had been paying rentals to RBBI accordingly. It is
therefore natural that the Murong property and no other was the one that they had
intended to acquire from RBBI with the execution of the VLTs. Moreover, after the
execution of the VLTs, petitioners remained in possession of the Murong property,
enjoying and tilling it without any opposition from anybody. Subsequently, after the
petitioners completed their payment of the total purchase price of P90,000.00 to RBBI,
the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) officials conducted their investigation of the
Murong property which, with the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duty, did not reveal any anomaly. Petitioners were found to be in actual possession of
the Murong property and were the qualified beneficiaries thereof. Thus, the DAR officials
issued CLOAs in petitioners favor; and these CLOAs explicitly refer to the land
in Barangay Murong. All this time, petitioners were in possession of the Murong
property, undisturbed by anyone for several long years, until respondents started the
controversy in 1997.

All of these contemporaneous and subsequent actions of RBBI and petitioners support
their position that the subject of their contract (VLTs) is the Murong property, not the
Lantap property. Conversely, there has been no contrary evidence of the parties
actuations to indicate that they intended the sale of the Lantap property. Thus, it
appears that the reference in their VLT to TCT No. T-62836 (Lantap property) was due
to their honest but mistaken belief that the said title covers the Murong property. Such
a mistake is not farfetched considering that TCT No. T-62836 only refers to the
Municipality of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, and does not indicate the
particular barangay where the property is located. Moreover, both properties are
bounded by a road and public land. Hence, were it not for the detailed technical
description, the titles for the two properties are very similar.
The respondents attempt to discredit petitioners argument that their VLTs were
intrinsically ambiguous and failed to express their true intention by asking why
petitioners never filed an action for the reformation of their contract.[46] A cause of action
for the reformation of a contract only arises when one of the contracting parties
manifests an intention, by overt acts, not to abide by the true agreement of the
parties.[47] It seems fairly obvious that petitioners had no cause to reform their VLTs
because the parties thereto (RBBI and petitioners) never had any dispute as to the

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interpretation and application thereof. They both understood the VLTs to cover the
Murong property (and not the Lantap property). It was only much later, when strangers
to the contracts argued for a different interpretation, that the issue became relevant for
the first time.

All told, we rule that the Deed of Sale dated February 26, 1985 between respondents
and RBBI covers the Lantap property under TCT No. T-62836, while the Deeds of
Voluntary Land Transfer and TCT Nos. CLOA-395 and CLOA-396 of the petitioners
cover the Murong property under TCT No. T-62096. In consequence, the CAs ruling
against RBBI should not be executed as such execution would be inconsistent with our
ruling herein. Although the CAs decision had already become final and executory as
against RBBI with the dismissal of RBBIs petition in G.R. No. 163320, our ruling herein
in favor of petitioners is a supervening cause which renders the execution of the
CA decision against RBBI unjust and inequitable.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The assailed October
7, 2003 Decision, as well as the May 11, 2005 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. SP No. 69981 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The January 17, 2001 Decision of
the DARAB Central Office is REINSTATED. The Deed of Sale dated February 26, 1985
between respondents and Rural Bank of Bayombong, Inc. covers the Lantap property
under TCT No. T-62836, while the Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer and TCT Nos.
CLOA-395 and CLOA-396 of the petitioners cover the Murong property under TCT No.
T-62096. The Register of Deeds of Nueva Vizcaya is directed to make the necessary
corrections to the titles of the said properties in accordance with this Decision. Costs
against respondents.
SO ORDERED.

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24. [G.R. No. 152881. August 17, 2004]
ENGR. BAYANI MAGDAYAO, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
respondent.

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioner Engr. Bayani Magdayao
of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20549 affirming the
Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court, Dipolog City, Branch 8, convicting the petitioner
of violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 22.

The Antecedents

An Information was filed charging petitioner with violation of B.P. Blg. 22 on September
16, 1993, the accusatory portion of which reads:

On or about September 30, 1991, at Dipolog City, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, knowing fully well that
he did not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank, Philippine National
Bank, Dipolog Branch, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make,
draw, issue and deliver to one RICKY OLVIS, in payment of his obligation to the latter,
PNB Check No. 399967 dated September 30, 1991 in the amount of SIX HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS (P600,000.00), Philippine Currency, which check, however, when
presented for payment with PNB-Dipolog Branch, was dishonored and refused payment
for the reason that it was drawn against insufficient funds, and despite repeated
demands made by the private complainant on the accused, the latter, failed to make
good the checks value, to the damage and prejudice of RICKY OLVIS in the aforestated
amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

When arraigned, the petitioner, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty.

When the case for trial was called on June 7, 1995 for the prosecution to adduce its
evidence, the petitioner and his counsel were absent. On motion of the prosecution, the
court allowed it to adduce evidence. The prosecution presented the private complainant,
Ricky Olvis, who testified on direct examination that on September 30, 1991, the
petitioner drew and issued to him Philippine National Bank (PNB) Check No. 399967
dated September 30, 1991 in the amount of P600,000.00. The said check was drawn
against the latters account with the PNB, Dipolog City Branch, and issued in payment
of the petitioners obligation with Olvis. The latter deposited the check on October 1,
1991 in his account with the BPI-Family Bank, Dipolog City Branch, but the drawee
bank dishonored the check for the reason Drawn Against Insufficient Funds stamped
on the dorsal portion of the check. Olvis testified that when informed that his check was
dishonored, the petitioner pleaded for time to pay the amount thereof, but reneged on
his promise. Olvis then filed a criminal complaint against the petitioner for violation of
B.P. Blg. 22 on September 4, 1992, docketed as I.S. No. 92-368. The petitioner again
offered to repay Olvis the amount of the obligation by retrieving the dishonored check

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and replacing the same with two other checks: one for P400,000.00 and another for
P200,000.00 payable to Olvis. Taking pity on the petitioner, he agreed. He then returned
the original copy of the check to the petitioner, but the latter again failed to make good
on his promise and failed to pay the P600,000.00.

The prosecution wanted Olvis to identify the petitioner as the drawer of the check, but
because of the latters absence and that of his counsel, the direct examination on the
witness could not be terminated. The prosecution moved that such direct examination
of Olvis be continued on another date, and that the petitioner be ordered to appear
before the court so that he could be identified as the drawer of the subject check. The
trial court granted the motion and set the continuation of the trial on June 13, 1997. In
the meantime, the prosecution marked a photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967 as
Exhibit A, and the dorsal portion thereof as Exhibit A-1.

After several postponements at the instance of the petitioner, he and his counsel failed
to appear before the court for continuation of trial. They again failed to appear when the
case was called for continuation of trial on November 21, 1995. The prosecution offered
in evidence the photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967, which the court admitted. The
trial court, thereafter, issued an Order declaring the case submitted for decision.[4] The
petitioner filed a motion for a reconsideration of the Order, which the trial court denied
on January 26, 1996.

The petitioner then filed an Omnibus Supplemental Motion and to Allow Him to Adduce
Evidence alleging, inter alia, that:

h) Despite the absence of the original, with only a xerox copy of the PNB Check worth
P600,000.00, and further stressing that the same was paid, the prosecutor insisted,
against the vigorous objection of accused, in filing the case in Court. Plenty of water
passed under the bridge since then;[5]

In its Opposition to the said motion, the prosecution averred that it dispensed with the
presentation of the original of the dishonored check because the same had been
returned to the petitioner. It also pointed out that the petitioner failed to object to the
presentation of the photocopy of the dishonored check.

In a Special Manifestation, the petitioner insisted that the photocopy of the subject
check was inadmissible in evidence because of the prosecutions failure to produce the
original thereof. On July 8, 1996, the trial court issued an Order denying the petitioners
motion. The petitioners motion for reconsideration thereon was, likewise, denied by the
trial court.

On January 29, 1996, the trial court rendered judgment convicting the petitioner of the
crime charged. The fallo of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding the guilt of the accused established beyond reasonable doubt,
the herein accused, Engr. Bayani Magdayao is convicted of the crime charged against

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him for Violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, as principal by direct participation, and
pursuant to Section 1 thereof sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a
period of six (6) months of arresto mayor and to pay the costs. The accused is further
ordered to pay the private complainant the sum of P600,000.00 corresponding to his
obligation due to the private offended party.

SO ORDERED.[6]

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the petitioner assigned the following errors:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED OF THE CRIME


CHARGED SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF THE FOLLOWING EVIDENCE:

A. MACHINE OR PHOTOSTATIC COPY OF PNB CHECK NO. 399967 DATED


SEPTEMBER 30, 1991;

B. WORD DAIF AT THE BACK OF THE PHOTOSTATIC COPY OF SAID CHECK;

C. UNCORROBORATED ORAL TESTIMONY OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED WITHOUT HIM BEING
POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY THE COMPLAINANT OR OTHER WITNESS.

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED WHEN IT RENDERED THE DECISION WITH ALLEGED
FINDINGS OF FACTS NOT SUFFICIENTLY SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE.

IV

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN AWARDING CIVIL INDEMNITY TO PRIVATE


COMPLAINANT IN THE AMOUNT OF SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS.[7]

On December 21, 2001, the CA rendered judgment affirming the decision of the trial
court. The appellate court also denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration.

In his petition at bar, the petitioner merely reiterates the errors he ascribed to the RTC
in his appeal before the CA, and prays that the decisions of the trial and appellate courts
be set aside.

The Ruling of the Court

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The petition has no merit.

On the first three assignments of error, the petitioner avers that the prosecution failed
to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged because of the following:
(a) the photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967, adduced in evidence by the prosecution, is
inadmissible in evidence under Rule 129, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Evidence;
hence, has no probative weight; b) the prosecution failed to present the BPI-Family Bank
teller to testify on the presentment of PNB Check No. 399967 and the dishonor thereof;
and (c) the prosecution failed to prove that it was he who drew and delivered the
dishonored check to the private complainant, and that he was properly notified of the
dishonor of the said check. The petitioner also asserts that there was no legal basis for
the award of the amount of P6,000.00 as civil indemnity.

We rule against the petitioner.

Section 1 of B.P. Blg. 22 for which the petitioner was charged, reads:

Section 1. Checks without sufficient funds. Any person who makes or draws and issues
any check to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does
not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such in
full upon presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for
insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had
not the drawer without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment, shall be
punished by imprisonment of not less than thirty (30) days but not more than one (1)
year or by a fine of not less than but not more than double the amount of the check
which fine shall in no case exceed Two Hundred Thousand Pesos, or both such fine and
imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

To warrant the petitioners conviction of the crime charged, the prosecution was
burdened to prove the following essential elements thereof:

(1) The making, drawing and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;

(2) The knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue he does not
have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check
in full upon its presentment; and

(3) The subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds
or credit or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause,
ordered the bank to stop payment.[8]

The gravamen of the offense is the act of making or issuing a worthless check or a check
that is dishonored upon presentment for payment.[9] As to the second element,
knowledge on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of the
funds in or credit with the bank to cover the check upon its presentment refers to the
state of mind of the drawer; hence, it is difficult for the prosecution to prove. The law

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creates a prima facie knowledge on the insufficiency of funds or credit, coincidental with
the attendance of the two other elements. As such, Section 2 provides:

SEC. 2. Evidence of knowledge of insufficient funds. The making, drawing and issuance
of a check payment of which is refused by the drawee because of insufficient funds in
or credit with such bank, when presented within ninety (90) days from the date of the
check, shall be prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds or credit
unless such maker or drawer pays the holder thereof the amount due thereon, or makes
arrangements for payment in full by the drawee of such check within five (5) banking
days after receiving notice that such check has not been paid by the drawee.

We agree with the petitioner that it was incumbent upon the prosecution to adduce in
evidence the original copy of PNB Check No. 399967 to prove the contents thereof, more
specifically the names of the drawer and endorsee, the date and amount and the
dishonor thereof, as well as the reason for such dishonor. Section 3, Rule 129 of the
Revised Rules on Evidence specifically provides that when the subject of inquiry is the
contents of the document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original
thereof. The purpose of the rule requiring the production by the offeror of the best
evidence is the prevention of fraud, because if a party is in possession of such evidence
and withholds it and presents inferior or secondary evidence in its place, the
presumption is that the latter evidence is withheld from the court and the adverse party
for a fraudulent or devious purpose which its production would expose and defeat.[10]
As long as the original evidence can be had, the court should not receive in evidence
that which is substitutionary in nature, such as photocopies, in the absence of any clear
showing that the original writing has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in
court. Such photocopies must be disregarded, being inadmissible evidence and barren
of probative weight.[11]

Furthermore, under Section 3(b), Rule 130 of the said Rules, secondary evidence of a
writing may be admitted when the original is in the custody or under the control of the
party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after
reasonable notice. To warrant the admissibility of secondary evidence when the original
of a writing is in the custody or control of the adverse party, Section 6 of Rule 130
provides that the adverse party must be given reasonable notice, that he fails or refuses
to produce the same in court and that the offeror offers satisfactory proof of its existence:

When original document is in adverse partys custody or control. If the document is in


the custody or under the control of the adverse party, he must have reasonable notice
to produce it. If after such notice and after satisfactory proof of its existence, he fails to
produce the document, secondary evidence may be presented as in the case of its loss.

The mere fact that the original of the writing is in the custody or control of the party
against whom it is offered does not warrant the admission of secondary evidence. The
offeror must prove that he has done all in his power to secure the best evidence by giving
notice to the said party to produce the document.[12] The notice may be in the form of
a motion for the production of the original or made in open court in the presence of the

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adverse party or via a subpoena duces tecum, provided that the party in custody of the
original has sufficient time to produce the same. When such party has the original of
the writing and does not voluntarily offer to produce it or refuses to produce it,
secondary evidence may be admitted.[13]

In this case, Olvis, the private complainant, testified that after the check was dishonored
by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds, he returned it to the petitioner upon the
latters offer to pay the amount of the check by drawing and issuing two checks, one for
P400,000.00 and the other for P200,000.00. However, the petitioner still failed to satisfy
his obligation to Olvis:

Q Sometime in the month of May 1991, do you remember that (sic) you have any
transaction with the accused?

A Yes, Sir.

Q What was the transaction about?

A It was about our joint venture in Ipil.

Q What did the accused in this case issue to you?

A He issued me a check worth six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00).

Q If the photostatic copy of the check [would] be presented to you, would you be able to
identify it?

A Yes, Sir.

Q I am showing to you a photostatic copy of PNB Dipolog Branch Check # 399967 with
a maturity date on September 30, 1991 in the amount of six hundred thousand pesos
(P600,000.00), is this the check issued to you?

A Yes, Sir.

Q Here is a signature at the bottom corner of this check, whose signature is this?

A Bayani Magdayao[s].

Q In other words, this check was issued for a valuable consideration in connection with
the project you have in Ipil?

A Yes, Sir.

Q What did you do with the check?

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A I deposited this in BPI-Family Bank, but it was drawn against insufficient fund.

Q When did you deposit the check?

A Sometime in October.

Q October, what year?

A In 1991, Sir.

Q Within a reasonable period from the maturity date of the check, you caused it to be
deposited?

A Yes, Sir.

Q And this check was dishonored by the depository bank, that the account to which it
was drawn does not have sufficient fund, is that indicated in this check?

A Yes, Sir.

Q Where is that indication of dishonor for lack of sufficient fund?

A Here, Sir.

INTERPRETER: Witness pointing to the check.

ATTY. CO:

We pray, Your Honor, that the photostatic copy of the check be marked as Exhibit A.
The reason why it was dishonored, found at the back of this check, indicated as DAIF
meaning to say: Drawn Against Insufficient Fund be marked as Exhibit A-1.

Q After being informed that the check was dishonored by the drawee bank, what did
you do?

A I went to Magdayaos house and asked for payment but he refused to pay.

Q When you say Magdayao, are you referring to the accused in this case, Bayani
Magdayao?

A Yes, Sir.

Q It appears that this is merely a photostatic copy of the check, where is the original of
the check?

Page 163 of 231


A Magdayao replaced the original check worth six hundred thousand pesos
(P600,000.00), and he gave me another check worth four hundred thousand pesos
(P400,000.00) and two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).

Q At the time the accused in this case replaced this check worth six hundred thousand
(P600,000.00), was the case already pending before the City Fiscals Office or before this
Honorable Court?

A Yes, Sir, it is pending.

Q Until now the amount of six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00) has not been
paid to you?

A Yes, Sir.[14]

In his Motion to Suspend Proceedings in the trial court, the petitioner admitted that he
received the original copy of the dishonored check from the private complainant[15] and
that he caused the non-payment of the dishonored check.[16] The petitioner cannot
feign ignorance of the need for the production of the original copy of PNB Check No.
399967, and the fact that the prosecution was able to present in evidence only a
photocopy thereof because the original was in his possession. In fact, in the Omnibus
Supplemental Motion dated February 8, 1996, and in his Special Manifestation filed on
May 28, 1996, the petitioner complained of the prosecutions violation of the best
evidence rule. The petitioner, however, never produced the original of the check, much
less offered to produce the same. The petitioner deliberately withheld the original of the
check as a bargaining chip for the court to grant him an opportunity to adduce evidence
in his defense, which he failed to do following his numerous unjustified postponements
as shown by the records.

There was no longer a need for the prosecution to present as witness the employee of
the drawee bank who made the notation at the dorsal portion of the dishonored
check[17] to testify that the same was dishonored for having been drawn against
insufficient funds. The petitioner had already been informed of such fact of dishonor
and the reason therefor when Olvis returned the original of the check to him. In fact, as
shown by the testimony of Olvis, the petitioner drew and issued two other separate
checks, one for P400,000.00 and the other for P200,000.00, to replace the dishonored
check.

Because of his dilatory tactics, the petitioner failed to adduce evidence to overcome that
of the prosecutions.

The petitioners contention that Olvis failed to identify him as the drawer of the subject
check is nettlesome. It bears stressing that Olvis was ready to identify the petitioner
after his direct examination, but the latter and his counsel inexplicably failed to appear.
The direct examination of Olvis had to be continued to enable him to point to and

Page 164 of 231


identify the petitioner as the drawer of the check. This is shown by the transcript of the
stenographic notes taken during the trial, viz:

ATTY. CO:

Considering that the accused is not present, Your Honor, I would like to manifest that
the private offended party be given the opportunity to identify the accused for purposes
of this case.[18]

The trial court issued an Order on June 7, 1995, directing the petitioner, under pain of
contempt, to appear before it to enable Olvis to identify him:

After the declaration of the first and only witness for the prosecution, the private
prosecutor prayed to set the case for continuation of the trial, and ordering the
defendant to appear to allow the prosecution to establish his identity.

Set the case for continuation of the trial on June 13, 1995, ordering the accused to
appear personally for purposes of his identification in court under pain of contempt if
he fails to comply unjustifiably with this order. The defense shall be allowed to cross
examine the witness for the prosecution if desired, otherwise, his right of cross-
examination shall be considered waived completely.

SO ORDERED.[19]

The petitioner defied the Order of the court and failed to appear as directed, and as
gleaned from the records

(14) June 7, 1995 The accused and counsel did not appear; hence, the prosecution was
allowed to present its evidence ex-parte. The private complainant was presented to
testify in the direct-examination, reserving the right of cross-examination on the part of
the accused, and setting the case for the purpose on June 13, 1995.

(15) June 13, 1995 The accused did not appear, but the defense counsel requested for
a resetting of the cross-examination to be conducted. The request was granted over the
objection of the prosecution, and set the continuation of the trial to August 31, 1995.

(16) August 31, 1995 As in previous occasions, the accused did not appear and defense
counsel requested for another resetting, and despite the vigorous opposition by the
prosecution, the trial was postponed to October 3, 1995, with the understanding that if
the accused will not appear, it would be taken to mean that he waived his right to cross-
examination and to present evidence in his defense.

(17) October 3, 1995 Atty. Narciso Barbaso appeared as a new counsel for the accused
but requested that he be allowed to read first the transcript of the direct testimony of
the plaintiffs witness to be cross-examined. The request was granted, and the trial was
reset to November 21, 1995.

Page 165 of 231


(18) November 21, 1995 The accused and his counsel both did not appear. The
prosecution formally offered Exh. A in evidence, and upon its admission, the
prosecution rested its case, and prayed that as stated in the previous order of the court
dated August 31, 1995, the case shall be considered submitted for judgment, which
request was granted.

(19) December 7, 1995 The defense filed a motion for reconsideration of the order dated
November 21, 1995. The court required the defense to file a supplemental motion stating
the nature of its evidence to be presented if allowed to enable the court to determine the
merit of the motion for reconsideration, but despite the lapsed (sic) of the period set by
the court, the accused did not comply; hence, the denial of the motion for
reconsideration, and set the case for promulgation of the judgment on February 19,
1996.

(20) Then came the Omnibus Supplemental Motion, etc., by the accused dated February
8, 1996, and by reason thereof, the promulgation of the judgment set on February 19,
1996, was held in abeyance.

(21) The defense counsel filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the accused dated
February 27, 1996, and which was granted by the order of the court dated March 1,
1996.

[(22)] May 28, 1996 A Special Manifestation dated May 21, 1996 in support of the
Omnibus Supplemental Motion filed thru another lawyer appearing as a new counsel
for the accused, now under consideration.[20]

Contrary to the petitioners claim, the trial court did not award P6,000.00 as civil
indemnity in favor of Olvis; it ordered the petitioner to pay him P600,000.00, the amount
of the subject check. Having failed to pay the amount of the check, the petitioner is liable
therefor and should be ordered to pay the same to the private complainant in this
case.[21]

On the second assigned error, the petitioner faulted the trial court for imposing a penalty
of imprisonment instead of a penalty of fine, and cites SC Circular No. 12-2000 to bolster
his contention. He suggests that since he is merely a first offender, he should be
sentenced to pay a fine double the amount of the check.

The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, objects to the petitioners plea on
the ground that when the latter drew and issued the dishonored check to the private
complainant, he knew that the residue of his funds in the drawee bank was insufficient
to pay the amount thereof.

Considering the facts and circumstances attendant in this case, we find the petitioners
plea to be barren of merit. Administrative Circular No. 13-2001 provides:

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It is, therefore, understood that:

1. Administrative Circular 12-2000 does not remove imprisonment as an alternative


penalty for violations of BP 22;

2. The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into
consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the
imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interest of justice, or whether forbearing
to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence
on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice;

3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no
legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code on subsidiary
imprisonment.[22]

The records show that despite the numerous opportunities given to him by the trial
court, the petitioner refused to adduce any evidence in his behalf. Moreover, the Court
of Appeals found the petitioners appeal to be devoid of merit. Considering the factual
milieu in this case, there is every reason for the Court to reject the plea for a penalty of
fine and maintain the penalty of imprisonment the trial court imposed on the petitioner.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED DUE COURSE. The
assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Page 167 of 231


25. G.R. No. 160855, April 16, 2008
CONCEPCION CHUA GAW v. SUY BEN CHUA and
FELISA CHUA

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari from the Decision[1] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 66790 and Resolution[2] denying the motion for
reconsideration. The assailed decision affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) in a Complaint for Sum of Money in favor of the plaintiff.

The antecedents are as follows:

Spouses Chua Chin and Chan Chi were the founders of three business
enterprises[3] namely: Hagonoy Lumber, Capitol Sawmill Corporation, and
Columbia Wood Industries. The couple had seven children, namely, Santos Chua;
Concepcion Chua; Suy Ben Chua; Chua Suy Phen; Chua Sioc Huan; Chua Suy
Lu; and Julita Chua. On June 19, 1986, Chua Chin died, leaving his wife Chan
Chi and his seven children as his only surviving heirs. At the time of Chua Chins
death, the net worth of Hagonoy Lumber was P415,487.20.[4]

On December 8, 1986, his surviving heirs executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial


Partition and Renunciation of Hereditary Rights in Favor of a Co-Heir[5] (Deed of
Partition, for brevity), wherein the heirs settled their interest in Hagonoy Lumber
as follows: one-half (1/2) thereof will pertain to the surviving spouse, Chan Chi,
as her share in the conjugal partnership; and the other half, equivalent
to P207,743.60, will be divided among Chan Chi and the seven children in
equal pro indiviso shares equivalent to P25,967.00 each.[6] In said document,
Chan Chi and the six children likewise agreed to voluntarily renounce and waive
their shares over Hagonoy Lumber in favor of their co-heir, Chua Sioc Huan.

In May 1988, petitioner Concepcion Chua Gaw and her husband, Antonio
Gaw, asked respondent, Suy Ben Chua, to lend them P200,000.00 which they will
use for the construction of their house in Marilao, Bulacan. The parties agreed
that the loan will be payable within six (6) months without interest. [7] On June 7,
1988, respondent issued in their favor China Banking Corporation Check No.
240810[8] for P200,000.00 which he delivered to the couples house in Marilao,
Bulacan. Antonio later encashed the check.

On August 1, 1990, their sister, Chua Sioc Huan, executed a Deed of Sale
over all her rights and interests in Hagonoy Lumber for a consideration
of P255,000.00 in favor of respondent.[9]

Meantime, the spouses Gaw failed to pay the amount they borrowed from
respondent within the designated period. Respondent sent the couple a demand
letter,[10] dated March 25, 1991, requesting them to settle their obligation with the
warning that he will be constrained to take the appropriate legal action if they fail
to do so.

Page 168 of 231


Failing to heed his demand, respondent filed a Complaint for Sum of Money
against the spouses Gaw with the RTC. The complaint alleged that on June 7,
1988, he extended a loan to the spouses Gaw for P200,000.00, payable within six
months without interest, but despite several demands, the couple failed to pay
their obligation.[11]

In their Answer (with Compulsory Counterclaim), the spouses Gaw


contended that the P200,000.00 was not a loan but petitioners share in the profits
of Hagonoy Lumber, one of her familys businesses. According to the spouses, when
they transferred residence to Marilao, Bulacan, petitioner asked respondent for an
accounting, and payment of her share in the profits, of Capital Sawmills
Corporation, Columbia Wood Industries Corporation, and Hagonoy Lumber. They
claimed that respondent persuaded petitioner to temporarily forego her demand
as it would offend their mother who still wanted to remain in control of the family
businesses. To insure that she will defer her demand, respondent allegedly gave
her P200,000.00 as her share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber.[12]

In his Reply, respondent averred that the spouses Gaw did not demand from
him an accounting of Capitol Sawmills Corporation, Columbia Wood Industries,
and Hagonoy Lumber. He asserted that the spouses Gaw, in fact, have no right
whatsoever in these businesses that would entitle them to an accounting thereof.
Respondent insisted that the P200,000.00 was given to and accepted by them as
a loan and not as their share in Hagonoy Lumber. [13]

With leave of court, the spouses Gaw filed an Answer (with Amended
Compulsory Counterclaim) wherein they insisted that petitioner, as one of the
compulsory heirs, is entitled to one-sixth (1/6) of Hagonoy Lumber, which the
respondent has arrogated to himself. They claimed that, despite repeated
demands, respondent has failed and refused to account for the operations of
Hagonoy Lumber and to deliver her share therein. They then prayed that
respondent make an accounting of the operations of Hagonoy Lumber and to
deliver to petitioner her one-sixth (1/6) share thereof, which was estimated to be
worth not less than P500,000.00.[14]

In his Answer to Amended Counterclaim, respondent explained that his


sister, Chua Sioc Huan, became the sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber when the heirs
executed the Deed of Partition on December 8, 1986. In turn, he became the sole
owner of Hagonoy Lumber when he bought it from Chua Sioc Huan, as evidenced
by the Deed of Sale dated August 1, 1990.[15]

Defendants, in their reply,[16] countered that the documents on which


plaintiff anchors his claim of ownership over Hagonoy Lumber were not true and
valid agreements and do not express the real intention of the parties. They claimed
that these documents are mere paper arrangements which were prepared only

Page 169 of 231


upon the advice of a counsel until all the heirs could reach and sign a final and
binding agreement, which, up to such time, has not been executed by the heirs.[17]

During trial, the spouses Gaw called the respondent to testify as


adverse witness under Section 10, Rule 132. On direct examination, respondent
testified that Hagonoy Lumber was the conjugal property of his parents Chua Chin
and Chan Chi, who were both Chinese citizens. He narrated that, initially, his
father leased the lots where Hagonoy Lumber is presently located from his
godfather, Lu Pieng, and that his father constructed the two-storey concrete
building standing thereon. According to respondent, when he was in high school,
it was his father who managed the business but he and his other siblings were
helping him. Later, his sister, Chua Sioc Huan, managed Hogonoy Lumber
together with their other brothers and sisters. He stated that he also managed
Hagonoy Lumber when he was in high school, but he stopped when he got married
and found another job. He said that he now owns the lots where Hagonoy Lumber
is operating.[18]

On cross-examination, respondent explained that he ceased to be a


stockholder of Capitol Sawmill when he sold his shares of stock to the other
stockholders on January 1, 1991. He further testified that Chua Sioc Huan
acquired Hagonoy Lumber by virtue of a Deed of Partition, executed by the heirs
of Chua Chin. He, in turn, became the owner of Hagonoy Lumber when he bought
the same from Chua Sioc Huan through a Deed of Sale dated August 1, 1990. [19]

On re-direct examination, respondent stated that he sold his shares of stock


in Capitol Sawmill for P254,000.00, which payment he received in cash. He also
paid the purchase price of P255,000.00 for Hagonoy Lumber in cash, which
payment was not covered by a separate receipt as he merely delivered the same to
Chua Sioc Huan at her house in Paso de Blas, Valenzuela. Although he maintains
several accounts at Planters Bank, Paluwagan ng Bayan, and China Bank, the
amount he paid to Chua Sioc Huan was not taken from any of them. He kept the
amount in the house because he was engaged in rediscounting checks of people
from the public market. [20]

On December 10, 1998, Antonio Gaw died due to cardio vascular and
respiratory failure.[21]

On February 11, 2000, the RTC rendered a Decision in favor of the


respondent, thus:

WHEREFORE, in the light of all the foregoing, the Court hereby


renders judgement ordering defendant Concepcion Chua Gaw to pay
the [respondent] the following:
1. P200,000.00 representing the principal obligation
with legal interest from judicial demand or the institution
of the complaint on November 19, 1991;

Page 170 of 231


2. P50,000.00 as attorneys fees; and
3. Costs of suit.
The defendants counterclaim is hereby dismissed for being
devoid of merit.

SO ORDERED.[22]

The RTC held that respondent is entitled to the payment of the amount
of P200,000.00 with interest. It noted that respondent personally issued Check
No. 240810 to petitioner and her husband upon their request to lend them the
aforesaid amount. The trial court concluded that the P200,000.00 was a loan
advanced by the respondent from his own funds and not remunerations for
services rendered to Hagonoy Lumber nor petitioners advance share in the profits
of their parents businesses.

The trial court further held that the validity and due execution of the Deed
of Partition and the Deed of Sale, evidencing transfer of ownership of Hagonoy
Lumber from Chua Sioc Huan to respondent, was never impugned. Although
respondent failed to produce the originals of the documents, petitioner judicially
admitted the due execution of the Deed of Partition, and even acknowledged her
signature thereon, thus constitutes an exception to the best evidence rule. As for
the Deed of Sale, since the contents thereof have not been put in issue, the non-
presentation of the original document is not fatal so as to affect its authenticity as
well as the truth of its contents. Also, the parties to the documents themselves do
not contest their validity. Ultimately, petitioner failed to establish her right to
demand an accounting of the operations of Hagonoy Lumber nor the delivery of
her 1/6 share therein.

As for petitioners claim that an accounting be done on Capitol Sawmill


Corporation and Columbia Wood Industries, the trial court held that respondent
is under no obligation to make such an accounting since he is not charged with
operating these enterprises.[23]

Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the CA, alleging that the trial court erred (1) when
it considered the amount of P200,000.00 as a loan obligation and not Concepcions
share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber; (2) when it considered as evidence for the
defendant, plaintiffs testimony when he was called to testify as an adverse party
under Section 10 (e), Rule 132 of the Rules of Court; and (3) when it considered
admissible mere copies of the Deed of Partition and Deed of Sale to prove that
respondent is now the owner of Hagonoy Lumber.[24]

On May 23, 2003, the CA affirmed the Decision of the RTC. [25] The appellate
court found baseless the petitioners argument that the RTC should not have
included respondents testimony as part of petitioners evidence. The CA noted that

Page 171 of 231


the petitioner went on a fishing expedition, the taking of respondents testimony
having taken up a total of eleven hearings, and upon failing to obtain favorable
information from the respondent, she now disclaims the same. Moreover, the CA
held that the petitioner failed to show that the inclusion of respondents testimony
in the statement of facts in the assailed decision unduly prejudiced her defense
and counterclaims. In fact, the CA noted that the facts testified to by respondent
were deducible from the totality of the evidence presented.

The CA likewise found untenable petitioners claim that Exhibits H (Deed of


Sale) and Exhibit I (Deed of Partition) were merely temporary paper arrangements.
The CA agreed with the RTC that the testimony of petitioner regarding the matter
was uncorroborated she should have presented the other heirs to attest to the
truth of her allegation. Instead, petitioner admitted the due execution of the said
documents. Since petitioner did not dispute the due execution and existence of
Exhibits H and I, there was no need to produce the originals of the documents in
accordance with the best evidence rule.[26]

On December 2, 2003, the CA denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration


for lack of merit.[27]

Petitioner is before this Court in this petition for review on certiorari, raising
the following errors:

I. THAT ON THE PRELIMINARY IMPORTANT RELATED


ISSUE, CLEAR AND PALPABLE LEGAL ERROR HAS BEEN
COMMITTED IN THE APPLICATION AND LEGAL SIGNIFICANCE
OF THE RULE ON EXAMINATION OF ADVERSE PARTY OR
HOSTILE WITNESS UNDER SECTION 10 (d) AND (e) OF RULE
132, CAUSING SERIOUS DOUBT ON THE LOWER COURTS
APPEALED DECISIONS OBJECTIVITY, ANNEX C.

II. THAT ON THE IMPORTANT LEGAL ISSUE RELATIVE TO


THE AFORESAID TWO OPPOSING CLAIMS OF RESPONDENT
AND PETITIONER, CLEAR AND PALPABLE LEGAL ERROR HAS
BEEN COMMITTED UNDER THE LOWER COURTS
DECISION ANNEX C AND THE QUESTIONED DECISION OF
MAY 23, 2003 (ANNEX A) AND THE RESOLUTION OF
DECEMBER 2, 2003, (ANNEX B) IN DEVIATING FROM AND
DISREGARDING ESTABLISHED SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
ENJOINING COURTS NOT TO OVERLOOK OR MISINTERPRET
IMPORTANT FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, SUPPORTED BY
CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE ON RECORD, AND
WHICH ARE OF GREAT WEIGHT AND VALUE, WHICH WOULD

Page 172 of 231


CHANGE THE RESULT OF THE CASE AND ARRIVE AT A JUST,
FAIR AND OBJECTIVE DECISION. (Citations omitted)

III. THAT FINALLY, AS TO THE OTHER LEGAL IMPORTANT


ISSUE RELATIVE TO CLAIM OR OWNERSHIP OF
THE HAGONOY LUMBER FAMILY BUSINESS, CLEAR AND
PALPABLE LEGAL ERROR HAS BEEN COMMITTED ON THE
REQUIREMENTS AND CORRECT APPLICATION OF THE BEST
EVIDENCE RULE UNDER SECTION 3, RULE 130 OF THE
REVISED RULES OF COURT.[28]

The petition is without merit.

Petitioner contends that her case was unduly prejudiced by the RTCs
treatment of the respondents testimony as adverse witness during cross-
examination by his own counsel as part of her evidence. Petitioner argues that the
adverse witness testimony elicited during cross-examination should not be
considered as evidence of the calling party. She contends that the examination of
respondent as adverse witness did not make him her witness and she is not bound
by his testimony, particularly during cross-examination by his own counsel.[29] In
particular, the petitioner avers that the following testimony of the respondent as
adverse witness should not be considered as her evidence:

(11.a) That RESPONDENT-Appellee became owner of the HAGONOY


LUMBER business when he bought the same from Chua Sioc
Huan through a Deed of Sale dated August 1, 1990 (EXH.H);

(11.b) That the HAGONOY LUMBER, on the other hand, was acquired
by the sister Chua Sioc Huan, by virtue of Extrajudicial Partition
and Renunciation of Hereditary Rights in favor of a Co-Heir (EXH.
I);

(11.c) That the 3 lots on which the HAGONOY LUMBER business is


located were acquired by Lu Pieng from the Santos family under
the Deed of Absolute Sale (EXH. J); that Lu Pieng sold the Lots
to Chua Suy Lu in 1976 (EXHS. K, L, & M.); that Chua Siok Huan
eventually became owner of the 3 Lots; and in 1989 Chua Sioc
Huan sold them to RESPONDENT-Appellee (EXHS. Q and P); that
after he acquired the 3 Lots, he has not sold them to anyone and
he is the owner of the lots.[30]

We do not agree that petitioners case was prejudiced by the RTCs treatment
of the respondents testimony during cross-examination as her evidence.

Page 173 of 231


If there was an error committed by the RTC in ascribing to the petitioner the
respondents testimony as adverse witness during cross-examination by his own
counsel, it constitute a harmless error which would not, in any way, change the
result of the case.

In the first place, the delineation of a piece of evidence as part of the evidence
of one party or the other is only significant in determining whether the party on
whose shoulders lies the burden of proof was able to meet the quantum of evidence
needed to discharge the burden. In civil cases, that burden devolves upon the
plaintiff who must establish her case by preponderance of evidence. The rule is
that the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not upon the
weakness of the defendants evidence. Thus, it barely matters who with a piece of
evidence is credited. In the end, the court will have to consider the entirety of the
evidence presented by both parties. Preponderance of evidence is then determined
by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, culled from the
evidence, regardless of who actually presented it.[31]

That the witness is the adverse party does not necessarily mean that the
calling party will not be bound by the formers testimony. The fact remains that it
was at his instance that his adversary was put on the witness stand. Unlike an
ordinary witness, the calling party may impeach an adverse witness in all respects
as if he had been called by the adverse party,[32] except by evidence of his bad
character.[33] Under a rule permitting the impeachment of an adverse witness,
although the calling party does not vouch for the witness veracity, he is
nonetheless bound by his testimony if it is not contradicted or remains
unrebutted.[34]

A party who calls his adversary as a witness is, therefore, not bound by the
latters testimony only in the sense that he may contradict him by introducing other
evidence to prove a state of facts contrary to what the witness testifies on.[35] A rule
that provides that the party calling an adverse witness shall not be bound by his
testimony does not mean that such testimony may not be given its proper weight,
but merely that the calling party shall not be precluded from rebutting his
testimony or from impeaching him.[36] This, the petitioner failed to do.

In the present case, the petitioner, by her own testimony, failed to discredit
the respondents testimony on how Hagonoy Lumber became his sole property. The
petitioner admitted having signed the Deed of Partition but she insisted that the
transfer of the property to Chua Siok Huan was only temporary. On cross-
examination, she confessed that no other document was executed to indicate that
the transfer of the business to Chua Siok Huan was a temporary arrangement.
She declared that, after their mother died in 1993, she did not initiate any action
concerning Hagonoy Lumber, and it was only in her counterclaim in the instant
that, for the first time, she raised a claim over the business.

Page 174 of 231


Due process requires that in reaching a decision, a tribunal must consider
the entire evidence presented.[37] All the parties to the case, therefore, are
considered bound by the favorable or unfavorable effects resulting from the
evidence.[38] As already mentioned, in arriving at a decision, the entirety of the
evidence presented will be considered, regardless of the party who offered them in
evidence. In this light, the more vital consideration is not whether a piece of
evidence was properly attributed to one party, but whether it was accorded the
apposite probative weight by the court. The testimony of an adverse witness is
evidence in the case and should be given its proper weight, and such evidence
becomes weightier if the other party fails to impeach the witness or contradict his
testimony.

Significantly, the RTCs finding that the P200,000.00 was given to the
petitioner and her husband as a loan is supported by the evidence on record.
Hence, we do not agree with the petitioners contention that the RTC has overlooked
certain facts of great weight and value in arriving at its decision. The RTC merely
took into consideration evidence which it found to be more credible than the self-
serving and uncorroborated testimony of the petitioner.
At this juncture, we reiterate the well-entrenched doctrine that the findings
of fact of the CA affirming those of the trial court are accorded great respect, even
finality, by this Court. Only errors of law, not of fact, may be reviewed by this Court
in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45.[39] A departure from the general
rule may be warranted where the findings of fact of the CA are contrary to the
findings and conclusions of the trial court, or when the same is unsupported by
the evidence on record.[40] There is no reason to apply the exception in the instant
case because the findings and conclusions of the CA are in full accord with those
of the trial court. These findings are buttressed by the evidence on
record. Moreover, the issues and errors alleged in this petition are substantially
the very same questions of fact raised by petitioner in the appellate court.

On the issue of whether the P200,000.00 was really a loan, it is well to


remember that a check may be evidence of indebtedness.[41] A check, the entries
of which are in writing, could prove a loan transaction.[42] It is pure naivet to insist
that an entrepreneur who has several sources of income and has access to
considerable bank credit, no longer has any reason to borrow any amount.

The petitioners allegation that the P200,000.00 was advance on her share in
the profits of Hagonoy Lumber is implausible. It is true that Hagonoy Lumber was
originally owned by the parents of petitioner and respondent. However, on
December 8, 1986, the heirs freely renounced and waived in favor of their sister
Chua Sioc Huan all their hereditary shares and interest therein, as shown by the
Deed of Partition which the petitioner herself signed. By virtue of this deed, Chua
Sioc Huan became the sole owner and proprietor of Hagonoy Lumber. Thus, when
the respondent delivered the check for P200,000.00 to the petitioner on June 7,
1988, Chua Sioc Huan was already the sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber. At that
time, both petitioner and respondent no longer had any interest in the business

Page 175 of 231


enterprise; neither had a right to demand a share in the profits of the business.
Respondent became the sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber only after Chua Sioc Huan
sold it to him on August 1, 1990. So, when the respondent delivered to the
petitioner the P200,000.00 check on June 7, 1988, it could not have been given
as an advance on petitioners share in the business, because at that moment in
time both of them had no participation, interest or share in Hagonoy Lumber. Even
assuming, arguendo, that the check was an advance on the petitioners share in
the profits of the business, it was highly unlikely that the respondent would deliver
a check drawn against his personal, and not against the business enterprises
account.

It is also worthy to note that both the Deed of Partition and the Deed of Sale
were acknowledged before a Notary Public. The notarization of a private document
converts it into a public document, and makes it admissible in court without
further proof of its authenticity.[43] It is entitled to full faith and credit upon its
face.[44] A notarized document carries evidentiary weight as to its due execution,
and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the
presumption of regularity. Such a document must be given full force and effect
absent a strong, complete and conclusive proof of its falsity or nullity on account
of some flaws or defects recognized by law.[45] A public document executed and
attested through the intervention of a notary public is, generally, evidence of the
facts therein express in clear unequivocal manner.[46]

Petitioner, however, maintains that the RTC erred in admitting in evidence a


mere copy of the Deed of Partition and the Deed of Sale in violation of the best
evidence rule. In addition, petitioner insists that the Deed of Sale was not the
result of bona fide negotiations between a true seller and buyer.

The best evidence rule as encapsulated in Rule 130, Section 3,[47] of the
Revised Rules of Civil Procedure applies only when the content of such document
is the subject of the inquiry. Where the issue is only as to whether such document
was actually executed, or exists, or on the circumstances relevant to or
surrounding its execution, the best evidence rule does not apply and testimonial
evidence is admissible. Any other substitutionary evidence is likewise admissible
without need to account for the original.[48] Moreover, production of the original
may be dispensed with, in the trial courts discretion, whenever the opponent does
not bona fide dispute the contents of the document and no other useful purpose will
be served by requiring production.[49]

Accordingly, we find that the best evidence rule is not applicable to the
instant case. Here, there was no dispute as to the terms of either deed; hence, the
RTC correctly admitted in evidence mere copies of the two deeds. The petitioner
never even denied their due execution and admitted that she signed the Deed of
Partition.[50] As for the Deed of Sale, petitioner had, in effect, admitted its
genuineness and due execution when she failed to specifically deny it in the
manner required by the rules.[51] The petitioner merely claimed that said

Page 176 of 231


documents do not express the true agreement and intention of the parties since
they were only provisional paper arrangements made upon the advice of
counsel.[52] Apparently, the petitioner does not contest the contents of these deeds
but alleges that there was a contemporaneous agreement that the transfer of
Hagonoy Lumber to Chua Sioc Huan was only temporary.

An agreement or the contract between the parties is the formal expression of


the parties rights, duties and obligations. It is the best evidence of the intention of
the parties.[53] The parties intention is to be deciphered from the language used in
the contract, not from the unilateral post facto assertions of one of the parties, or
of third parties who are strangers to the contract. [54] Thus, when the terms of an
agreement have been reduced to writing, it is deemed to contain all the terms
agreed upon and there can be, between the parties and their successors in interest,
no evidence of such terms other than the contents of the written agreement. [55]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of


the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 66790 dated May 23, 2003 and Resolution
dated December 2, 2003are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Page 177 of 231


26. G.R. No. 170633, October 17, 2007
MCC INDUSTRIAL SALES CORPORATION v. SSANGYONG CORPORATION

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision[1] of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 82983 and its Resolution[2] denying the motion for
reconsideration thereof.

Petitioner MCC Industrial Sales (MCC), a domestic corporation with office at


Binondo, Manila, is engaged in the business of importing and wholesaling
stainless steel products.[3] One of its suppliers is the Ssangyong Corporation
(Ssangyong),[4] an international trading company[5] with head office
in Seoul, South Korea and regional headquarters in Makati
City, Philippines.[6] The two corporations conducted business through telephone
calls and facsimile or telecopy transmissions. [7] Ssangyong would send the pro
forma invoices containing the details of the steel product order to MCC; if the latter
conforms thereto, its representative affixes his signature on the faxed copy and
sends it back to Ssangyong, again by fax.[8]

On April 13, 2000, Ssangyong Manila Office sent, by fax, a letter [9] addressed to
Gregory Chan, MCC Manager [also the President[10] of Sanyo Seiki Stainless Steel
Corporation], to confirm MCCs and Sanyo Seikis order of 220 metric tons (MT) of
hot rolled stainless steel under a preferential rate of US$1,860.00 per MT. Chan,
on behalf of the corporations, assented and affixed his signature on
the conforme portion of the letter.[11]

On April 17, 2000, Ssangyong forwarded to MCC Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-
POSTSO401[12] containing the terms and conditions of the transaction. MCC sent
back by fax to Ssangyong the invoice bearing the conformity signature [13] of Chan.
As stated in the pro forma invoice, payment for the ordered steel products would
be made through an irrevocable letter of credit (L/C) at sight in favor of
Ssangyong.[14] Following their usual practice, delivery of the goods was to be made
after the L/C had been opened.

In the meantime, because of its confirmed transaction with MCC, Ssangyong


placed the order with its steel manufacturer, Pohang Iron and Steel Corporation
(POSCO), in South Korea[15] and paid the same in full.

Because MCC could open only a partial letter of credit, the order for 220MT of steel
was split into two,[16] one for 110MT covered by Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-
POSTS0401-1[17] and another for 110MT covered by ST2-POSTS0401-2,[18] both
dated April 17, 2000.
On June 20, 2000, Ssangyong, through its Manila Office, informed Sanyo Seiki
and Chan, by way of a fax transmittal, that it was ready to ship 193.597MT of
stainless steel from Korea to the Philippines. It requested that the opening of the

Page 178 of 231


L/C be facilitated.[19] Chan affixed his signature on the fax transmittal and
returned the same, by fax, to Ssangyong.[20]

Two days later, on June 22, 2000, Ssangyong Manila Office informed Sanyo Seiki,
thru Chan, that it was able to secure a US$30/MT price adjustment on the
contracted price of US$1,860.00/MT for the 200MT stainless steel, and that the
goods were to be shipped in two tranches, the first 100MT on that day and the
second 100MT not later than June 27, 2000. Ssangyong reiterated its request for
the facilitation of the L/Cs opening.[21]

Ssangyong later, through its Manila Office, sent a letter, on June 26, 2000, to the
Treasury Group of Sanyo Seiki that it was looking forward to receiving the L/C
details and a cable copy thereof that day.[22] Ssangyong sent a separate letter of
the same date to Sanyo Seiki requesting for the opening of the L/C covering
payment of the first 100MT not later than June 28, 2000.[23] Similar letters were
transmitted by Ssangyong Manila Office on June 27, 2000.[24] On June 28, 2000,
Ssangyong sent another facsimile letter to MCC stating that its principal
in Korea was already in a difficult situation[25] because of the failure of Sanyo Seiki
and MCC to open the L/Cs.

The following day, June 29, 2000, Ssangyong received, by fax, a letter signed by
Chan, requesting an extension of time to open the L/C because MCCs credit line
with the bank had been fully availed of in connection with another transaction,
and MCC was waiting for an additional credit line.[26] On the same date, Ssangyong
replied, requesting that it be informed of the date when the L/C would be opened,
preferably at the earliest possible time, since its Steel Team 2 in Korea was having
problems and Ssangyong was incurring warehousing costs.[27] To maintain their
good business relationship and to support MCC in its financial predicament,
Ssangyong offered to negotiate with its steel manufacturer, POSCO, another
US$20/MT discount on the price of the stainless steel ordered. This was intimated
in Ssangyongs June 30, 2000 letter to MCC.[28] On July 6, 2000, another follow-
up letter[29] for the opening of the L/C was sent by Ssangyong to MCC.

However, despite Ssangyongs letters, MCC failed to open a letter of


credit.[30] Consequently, on August 15, 2000, Ssangyong, through counsel, wrote
Sanyo Seiki that if the L/Cs were not opened, Ssangyong would be compelled to
cancel the contract and hold MCC liable for damages for breach thereof amounting
to US$96,132.18, inclusive of warehouse expenses, related interests and
charges.[31]

Later, Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-1[32] and ST2-POSTS080-


2[33] dated August 16, 2000 were issued by Ssangyong and sent via fax to MCC.
The invoices slightly varied the terms of the earlier pro forma invoices (ST2-
POSTSO401, ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2), in that the quantity was
now officially 100MT per invoice and the price was reduced to US$1,700.00 per
MT. As can be gleaned from the photocopies of the said August 16, 2000 invoices

Page 179 of 231


submitted to the court, they both bear the conformity signature of MCC Manager
Chan.

On August 17, 2000, MCC finally opened an L/C with PCIBank for US$170,000.00
covering payment for 100MT of stainless steel coil under Pro Forma Invoice
No. ST2-POSTS080-2.[34] The goods covered by the said invoice were then shipped
to and received by MCC.[35]

MCC then faxed to Ssangyong a letter dated August 22, 2000 signed by Chan,
requesting for a price adjustment of the order stated in Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-
POSTS080-1, considering that the prevailing price of steel at that time was
US$1,500.00/MT, and that MCC lost a lot of money due to a recent strike. [36]

Ssangyong rejected the request, and, on August 23, 2000, sent a demand
letter[37] to Chan for the opening of the second and last L/C of US$170,000.00 with
a warning that, if the said L/C was not opened by MCC on August 26, 2000,
Ssangyong would be constrained to cancel the contract and hold MCC liable for
US$64,066.99 (representing cost difference, warehousing expenses, interests and
charges as of August 15, 2000) and other damages for breach. Chan failed to reply.

Exasperated, Ssangyong through counsel wrote a letter to MCC, on September 11,


2000, canceling the sales contract under ST2-POSTS0401-1 /ST2-POSTS0401-
2, and demanding payment of US$97,317.37 representing losses, warehousing
expenses, interests and charges.[38]

Ssangyong then filed, on November 16, 2001, a civil action for damages due to
breach of contract against defendants MCC, Sanyo Seiki and Gregory Chan before
the Regional Trial Court of MakatiCity. In its complaint,[39] Ssangyong alleged that
defendants breached their contract when they refused to open the L/C in the
amount of US$170,000.00 for the remaining 100MT of steel under Pro
Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2.

After Ssangyong rested its case, defendants filed a Demurrer to


Evidence[40] alleging that Ssangyong failed to present the original copies of the pro
forma invoices on which the civil action was based. In an Order dated April 24,
2003, the court denied the demurrer, ruling that the documentary evidence
presented had already been admitted in the December 16, 2002 Order [41] and their
admissibility finds support in Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8792, otherwise known as
the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000. Considering that both testimonial and
documentary evidence tended to substantiate the material allegations in the
complaint, Ssangyongs evidence sufficed for purposes of a prima facie case.[42]

After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered its Decision[43] on March 24, 2004, in
favor of Ssangyong. The trial court ruled that when plaintiff agreed to sell and
defendants agreed to buy the 220MT of steel products for the price of US$1,860
per MT, the contract was perfected. The subject transaction was evidenced by Pro

Page 180 of 231


Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2, which were later
amended only in terms of reduction of volume as well as the price per MT,
following Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-1 and ST2-POSTS080-2. The
RTC, however, excluded Sanyo Seiki from liability for lack of competent evidence.
The fallo of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judgment is hereby rendered


ordering defendants MCC Industrial Sales Corporation and Gregory
Chan, to pay plaintiff, jointly and severally the following:

1) Actual damages of US$93,493.87 representing the outstanding


principal claim plus interest at the rate of 6% per annum from March
30, 2001.

2) Attorneys fees in the sum of P50,000.00 plus P2,000.00 per


counsels appearance in court, the same being deemed just and
equitable considering that by reason of defendants breach of their
obligation under the subject contract, plaintiff was constrained to
litigate to enforce its rights and recover for the damages it sustained,
and therefore had to engage the services of a lawyer.

3) Costs of suit.

No award of exemplary damages for lack of sufficient basis.

SO ORDERED.[44]

On April 22, 2004, MCC and Chan, through their counsel of record, Atty. Eladio
B. Samson, filed their Notice of Appeal.[45] On June 8, 2004, the law office of
Castillo Zamora & Poblador entered its appearance as their collaborating counsel.

In their Appeal Brief filed on March 9, 2005,[46] MCC and Chan raised before the
CA the following errors of the RTC:

I. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN FINDING


THAT APPELLANTS VIOLATED THEIR CONTRACT WITH
APPELLEE

A. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN


FINDING THAT APPELLANTS AGREED TO PURCHASE
200 METRIC TONS OF STEEL PRODUCTS FROM
APPELLEE, INSTEAD OF ONLY 100 METRIC TONS.

1. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY


ERRED IN ADMITTING IN EVIDENCE THE PRO

Page 181 of 231


FORMA INVOICES WITH REFERENCE NOS. ST2-
POSTS0401-1 AND ST2-POSTS0401-2.

II. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN AWARDING


ACTUAL DAMAGES TO APPELLEE.

III. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN AWARDING


ATTORNEYS FEES TO APPELLEE.

IV. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN FINDING


APPELLANT GREGORY CHAN JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY LIABLE
WITH APPELLANT MCC.[47]

On August 31, 2005, the CA rendered its Decision[48] affirming the ruling of the
trial court, but absolving Chan of any liability. The appellate court ruled, among
others, that Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-
2 (Exhibits E, E-1 and F) were admissible in evidence, although they were mere
facsimile printouts of MCCs steel orders.[49] The dispositive portion of the appellate
courts decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court holds:

(1) The award of actual damages, with interest, attorneys fees and costs
ordered by the lower court is hereby AFFIRMED.

(2) Appellant Gregory Chan is hereby ABSOLVED from any liability.

SO ORDERED.[50]

A copy of the said Decision was received by MCCs and Chans principal counsel,
Atty. Eladio B. Samson, on September 14, 2005.[51] Their collaborating counsel,
Castillo Zamora & Poblador,[52]likewise, received a copy of the CA decision
on September 19, 2005.[53]

On October 4, 2005, Castillo Zamora & Poblador, on behalf of MCC, filed a


motion for reconsideration of the said decision.[54] Ssangyong opposed the motion
contending that the decision of the CA had become final and executory on account
of the failure of MCC to file the said motion within the reglementary period. The
appellate court resolved, on November 22, 2005, to deny the motion on its
merits,[55] without, however, ruling on the procedural issue raised.

Aggrieved, MCC filed a petition for review on certiorari[56] before this Court,
imputing the following errors to the Court of Appeals:

Page 182 of 231


THE COURT OF APPEALS DECIDED A LEGAL QUESTION NOT IN
ACCORDANCE WITH JURISPRUDENCE AND SANCTIONED A
DEPARTURE FROM THE USUAL AND ACCEPTED COURSE OF
JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS BY REVERSING THE COURT A QUOS
DISMISSAL OF THE COMPLAINT IN CIVIL CASE NO. 02-124
CONSIDERING THAT:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE


ADMISSIBILITY IN EVIDENCE OF THE PRO-FORMA
INVOICES WITH REFERENCE NOS. ST2-POSTSO401-1
AND ST2-POSTSO401-2, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE
SAME WERE MERE PHOTOCOPIES OF FACSIMILE
PRINTOUTS.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS FAILED TO APPRECIATE THE


OBVIOUS FACT THAT, EVEN ASSUMING PETITIONER
BREACHED THE SUPPOSED CONTRACT, THE FACT IS
THAT PETITIONER FAILED TO PROVE THAT IT SUFFERED
ANY DAMAGES AND THE AMOUNT THEREOF.

III. THE AWARD OF ACTUAL DAMAGES IN THE AMOUNT


OF US$93,493.87 IS SIMPLY UNCONSCIONABLE AND
SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT LEAST REDUCED, IF NOT
DELETED BY THE COURT OF APPEALS.[57]

In its Comment, Ssangyong sought the dismissal of the petition, raising the
following arguments: that the CA decision dated 15 August 2005 is already final
and executory, because MCCs motion for reconsideration was filed beyond the
reglementary period of 15 days from receipt of a copy thereof, and that, in any
case, it was a pro forma motion; that MCC breached the contract for the purchase
of the steel products when it failed to open the required letter of credit; that the
printout copies and/or photocopies of facsimile or telecopy transmissions were
properly admitted by the trial court because they are considered original
documents under R.A. No. 8792; and that MCC is liable for actual damages and
attorneys fees because of its breach, thus, compelling Ssangyong to litigate.

The principal issues that this Court is called upon to resolve are the following:

I Whether the CA decision dated 15 August 2005 is already final and executory;

II Whether the print-out and/or photocopies of facsimile transmissions are


electronic evidence and admissible as such;

Page 183 of 231


III Whether there was a perfected contract of sale between MCC and Ssangyong,
and, if in the affirmative, whether MCC breached the said contract; and

IV Whether the award of actual damages and attorneys fees in favor of Ssangyong
is proper and justified.

-I-

It cannot be gainsaid that in Albano v. Court of Appeals,[58] we held that receipt of


a copy of the decision by one of several counsels on record is notice to all, and the
period to appeal commences on such date even if the other counsel has not yet
received a copy of the decision. In this case, when Atty. Samson received a copy of
the CA decision on September 14, 2005, MCC had only fifteen (15) days within
which to file a motion for reconsideration conformably with Section 1, Rule 52 of
the Rules of Court, or to file a petition for review on certiorari in accordance with
Section 2, Rule 45.The period should not be reckoned from September 29,
2005 (when Castillo Zamora & Poblador received their copy of the decision)
because notice to Atty. Samson is deemed notice to collaborating counsel.

We note, however, from the records of the CA, that it was Castillo Zamora &
Poblador, not Atty. Samson, which filed both MCCs and Chans Brief and Reply
Brief. Apparently, the arrangement between the two counsels was for the
collaborating, not the principal, counsel to file the appeal brief and subsequent
pleadings in the CA. This explains why it was Castillo Zamora & Poblador which
filed the motion for the reconsideration of the CA decision, and they did so
on October 5, 2005, well within the 15-day period from September 29, 2005, when
they received their copy of the CA decision. This could also be the reason why the
CA did not find it necessary to resolve the question of the timeliness of petitioners
motion for reconsideration, even as the CA denied the same.

Independent of this consideration though, this Court assiduously reviewed the


records and found that strong concerns of substantial justice warrant the
relaxation of this rule.

In Philippine Ports Authority v. Sargasso Construction and Development


Corporation,[59] we ruled that:

In Orata v. Intermediate Appellate Court, we held that where strong


considerations of substantive justice are manifest in the petition, this
Court may relax the strict application of the rules of procedure in the
exercise of its legal jurisdiction. In addition to the basic merits of the
main case, such a petition usually embodies justifying circumstance
which warrants our heeding to the petitioners cry for justice in spite of
the earlier negligence of counsel. As we held in Obut v. Court of Appeals:

Page 184 of 231


[W]e cannot look with favor on a course of action which
would place the administration of justice in a straight
jacket for then the result would be a poor kind of justice if
there would be justice at all. Verily, judicial orders, such as
the one subject of this petition, are issued to be obeyed,
nonetheless a non-compliance is to be dealt with as the
circumstances attending the case may warrant. What
should guide judicial action is the principle that a party-
litigant is to be given the fullest opportunity to establish the
merits of his complaint or defense rather than for him to
lose life, liberty, honor or property on technicalities.

The rules of procedure are used only to secure and not override or
frustrate justice. A six-day delay in the perfection of the appeal, as in
this case, does not warrant the outright dismissal of the appeal.
In Development Bank of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, we gave
due course to the petitioners appeal despite the late filing of its brief in
the appellate court because such appeal involved public interest. We
stated in the said case that the Court may exempt a particular case
from a strict application of the rules of procedure where the appellant
failed to perfect its appeal within the reglementary period, resulting in
the appellate courts failure to obtain jurisdiction over the
case. In Republic vs. Imperial, Jr., we also held that there is more
leeway to exempt a case from the strictness of procedural rules when
the appellate court has already obtained jurisdiction over the appealed
case. We emphasize that:

[T]he rules of procedure are mere tools intended to facilitate


the attainment of justice, rather than frustrate it. A strict
and rigid application of the rules must always be eschewed
when it would subvert the rules primary objective of
enhancing fair trials and expediting justice. Technicalities
should never be used to defeat the substantive rights of the
other party. Every party-litigant must be afforded the
amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination
of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.[60]

Moreover, it should be remembered that the Rules were promulgated to set


guidelines in the orderly administration of justice, not to shackle the hand that
dispenses it. Otherwise, the courts would be consigned to being mere slaves to
technical rules, deprived of their judicial discretion. Technicalities must take a
backseat to substantive rights. After all, it is circumspect leniency in this respect
that will give the parties the fullest opportunity to ventilate the merits of their
respective causes, rather than have them lose life, liberty, honor or property on
sheer technicalities.[61]

Page 185 of 231


The other technical issue posed by respondent is the alleged pro forma nature of
MCCs motion for reconsideration, ostensibly because it merely restated the
arguments previously raised and passed upon by the CA.

In this connection, suffice it to say that the mere restatement of arguments in a


motion for reconsideration does not per se result in a pro forma motion. In Security
Bank and Trust Company, Inc. v. Cuenca,[62] we held that a motion for
reconsideration may not be necessarily pro forma even if it reiterates the
arguments earlier passed upon and rejected by the appellate court. A movant may
raise the same arguments precisely to convince the court that its ruling was
erroneous. Furthermore, the pro forma rule will not apply if the arguments were
not sufficiently passed upon and answered in the decision sought to be
reconsidered.

- II -

The second issue poses a novel question that the Court welcomes. It provides the
occasion for this Court to pronounce a definitive interpretation of the equally
innovative provisions of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (R.A. No. 8792) vis-
-vis the Rules on Electronic Evidence.

Although the parties did not raise the question whether the original facsimile
transmissions are electronic data messages or electronic documents within the
context of the Electronic Commerce Act (the petitioner merely assails as
inadmissible evidence the photocopies of the said facsimile transmissions), we
deem it appropriate to determine first whether the said fax transmissions are
indeed within the coverage of R.A. No. 8792 before ruling on whether the
photocopies thereof are covered by the law. In any case, this Court has ample
authority to go beyond the pleadings when, in the interest of justice or for the
promotion of public policy, there is a need to make its own findings in order to
support its conclusions.[63]

Petitioner contends that the photocopies of the pro forma invoices


presented by respondent Ssangyong to prove the perfection of their supposed
contract of sale are inadmissible in evidence and do not fall within the ambit of
R.A. No. 8792, because the law merely admits as the best evidence
the original fax transmittal. On the other hand, respondent posits that, from a
reading of the law and the Rules on Electronic Evidence, the original facsimile
transmittal of the pro forma invoice is admissible in evidence since it is an
electronic document and, therefore, the best evidence under the law and the
Rules. Respondent further claims that the photocopies of these fax transmittals
(specifically ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2) are admissible under
the Rules on Evidence because the respondent sufficiently explained the non-
production of the original fax transmittals.

Page 186 of 231


In resolving this issue, the appellate court ruled as follows:

Admissibility of Pro Forma


Invoices; Breach of Contract
by Appellants

Turning first to the appellants argument against the admissibility


of the Pro Forma Invoices with Reference Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and
ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits E, E-1 and F, pp. 215-218, Records),
appellants argue that the said documents are inadmissible (sic) being
violative of the best evidence rule.

The argument is untenable.

The copies of the said pro-forma invoices submitted by the


appellee are admissible in evidence, although they are mere electronic
facsimile printouts of appellants orders. Such facsimile printouts are
considered Electronic Documents under the New Rules on Electronic
Evidence, which came into effect on August 1, 2001. (Rule 2, Section 1
[h], A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC).

(h) Electronic document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or
other modes of written expression, described or however
represented, by which a right is established or an obligation
extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and
affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes
digitally signed documents and any printout or output,
readable by sight or other means, which accurately reflects
the electronic data message or electronic document. For
purposes of these Rules, the term electronic document may
be used interchangeably with electronic data message.

An electronic document shall be regarded as the equivalent of an


original document under the Best Evidence Rule, as long as it is a
printout or output readable by sight or other means, showing to reflect
the data accurately. (Rule 4, Section 1, A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC)

The ruling of the Appellate Court is incorrect. R.A. No. 8792,[64] otherwise
known as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, considers an electronic data
message or an electronic document as the functional equivalent of a written
document for evidentiary purposes.[65] The Rules on Electronic Evidence[66] regards
an electronic document as admissible in evidence if it complies with the rules on
admissibility prescribed by the Rules of Court and related laws, and is

Page 187 of 231


authenticated in the manner prescribed by the said Rules.[67] An electronic
document is also the equivalent of an original document under the Best Evidence
Rule, if it is a printout or output readable by sight or other means, shown to reflect
the data accurately.[68]

Thus, to be admissible in evidence as an electronic data message or to be


considered as the functional equivalent of an original document under the Best
Evidence Rule, the writing must foremost be an electronic data message or an
electronic document.

The Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 defines electronic data message and
electronic document as follows:

Sec. 5. Definition of Terms. For the purposes of this Act, the following
terms are defined, as follows:

xxx

c. Electronic Data Message refers to information


generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or similar
means.

xxx

f. Electronic Document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other modes of
written expression, described or however represented, by which a right
is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be
proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 8792,[69] which
was signed on July 13, 2000 by the then Secretaries of the Department of Trade
and Industry, the Department of Budget and Management, and then Governor
of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, defines the terms as:

Sec. 6. Definition of Terms. For the purposes of this Act and these
Rules, the following terms are defined, as follows:

xxx

(e) Electronic Data Message refers to information generated, sent,


received or stored by electronic, optical or similar means, but not
limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram,
telex or telecopy. Throughout these Rules, the term electronic data

Page 188 of 231


message shall be equivalent to and be used interchangeably with
electronic document.

xxxx

(h) Electronic Document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other modes of
written expression, described or however represented, by which a right
is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be
proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. Throughout these
Rules, the term electronic document shall be equivalent to and be used
interchangeably with electronic data message.

The phrase but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic
mail, telegram, telex or telecopy in the IRRs definition of electronic data message
is copied from the Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted by the United
Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), [70] from which
majority of the provisions of R.A. No. 8792 were taken.[71] While Congress
deleted this phrase in the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, the drafters of the
IRR reinstated it. The deletion by Congress of the said phrase is significant and
pivotal, as discussed hereunder.

The clause on the interchangeability of the terms electronic data message


and electronic document was the result of the Senate of
the Philippines adoption, in Senate Bill 1902, of the phrase electronic data
message and the House of Representatives employment, in House Bill 9971, of
the term electronic document.[72] In order to expedite the reconciliation of the
two versions, the technical working group of the Bicameral Conference
Committee adopted both terms and intended them to be the equivalent of each
one.[73] Be that as it may, there is a slight difference between the two terms.
While data message has reference to information electronically sent, stored or
transmitted, it does not necessarily mean that it will give rise to a right or
extinguish an obligation,[74]unlike an electronic document. Evident from the law,
however, is the legislative intent to give the two terms the same construction.

The Rules on Electronic Evidence promulgated by this Court defines the


said terms in the following manner:

SECTION 1. Definition of Terms. For purposes of these Rules, the


following terms are defined, as follows:

xxxx

Page 189 of 231


(g) Electronic data message refers to information
generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or similar
means.

(h) Electronic document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other modes of
written expression, described or however represented, by which a right
is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be
proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally
signed documents and print-out or output, readable by sight or other
means, which accurately reflects the electronic data message or
electronic document. For purposes of these Rules, the term electronic
document may be used interchangeably with electronic data message.

Given these definitions, we go back to the original question: Is an original


printout of a facsimile transmission an electronic data message or electronic
document?

The definitions under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, its IRR and
the Rules on Electronic Evidence, at first glance, convey the impression
that facsimile transmissions are electronic data messages or electronic
documents because they are sent by electronic means. The expanded definition
of an electronic data message under the IRR, consistent with the UNCITRAL
Model Law, further supports this theory considering that the enumeration xxx
[is] not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram,
telex or telecopy. And to telecopy is to send a document from one place to another
via a fax machine.[75]

As further guide for the Court in its task of statutory construction, Section
37 of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 provides that

Unless otherwise expressly provided for, the interpretation of this


Act shall give due regard to its international origin and the need to
promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith
in international trade relations. The generally accepted principles of
international law and convention on electronic commerce shall likewise
be considered.

Obviously, the international origin mentioned in this section can only


refer to the UNCITRAL Model Law, and the UNCITRALs definition of data
message:

Page 190 of 231


Data message means information generated, sent, received or
stored by electronic, optical or similar means including, but not limited
to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or
telecopy.[76]

is substantially the same as the IRRs characterization of an electronic data


message.

However, Congress deleted the phrase, but not limited to, electronic data
interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or telecopy, and replaced the
term data message (as found in the UNCITRAL Model Law ) with electronic data
message. This legislative divergence from what is assumed as the terms
international origin has bred uncertainty and now impels the Court to make an
inquiry into the true intent of the framers of the law. Indeed, in the construction
or interpretation of a legislative measure, the primary rule is to search for and
determine the intent and spirit of the law.[77] A construction should be rejected
that gives to the language used in a statute a meaning that does not accomplish
the purpose for which the statute was enacted, and that tends to defeat the
ends which are sought to be attained by the enactment.[78]

Interestingly, when Senator Ramon B. Magsaysay, Jr., the principal


author of Senate Bill 1902 (the predecessor of R.A. No. 8792), sponsored the
bill on second reading, he proposed to adopt the term data message as
formulated and defined in the UNCITRAL Model Law.[79] During the period of
amendments, however, the term evolved into electronic data message, and the
phrase but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail,
telegram, telex or telecopy in the UNCITRAL Model Law was deleted.
Furthermore, the term electronic data message, though maintaining its
description under the UNCITRAL Model Law, except for the aforesaid deleted
phrase, conveyed a different meaning, as revealed in the following proceedings:

xxxx

Senator Santiago. Yes, Mr. President. I will furnish a copy


together with the explanation of this proposed amendment.

And then finally, before I leave the Floor, may I please be allowed
to go back to Section 5; the Definition of Terms. In light of the
acceptance by the good Senator of my proposed amendments, it will
then become necessary to add certain terms in our list of terms to be
defined. I would like to add a definition on what is data, what is
electronic record and what is an electronic record system.

Page 191 of 231


If the gentleman will give me permission, I will proceed with the
proposed amendment on Definition of Terms, Section 5.

Senator Magsaysay. Please go ahead, Senator Santiago.

Senator Santiago. We are in Part 1, short title on the Declaration


of Policy, Section 5, Definition of Terms.

At the appropriate places in the listing of these terms that have


to be defined since these are arranged alphabetically, Mr. President, I
would like to insert the term DATA and its definition. So, the
amendment will read: DATA MEANS REPRESENTATION, IN ANY
FORM, OF INFORMATION OR CONCEPTS.

The explanation is this: This definition of data or data as it is now


fashionably pronounced in America - - the definition of data ensures
that our bill applies to any form of information in an electronic record,
whether these are figures, facts or ideas.

So again, the proposed amendment is this: DATA MEANS


REPRESENTATIONS, IN ANY FORM, OF INFORMATION OR
CONCEPTS.

Senator Magsaysay. May I know how will this affect the definition
of Data Message which encompasses electronic records, electronic
writings and electronic documents?

Senator Santiago. These are completely congruent with each


other. These are compatible. When we define data, we are simply
reinforcing the definition of what is a data message.

Senator Magsaysay. It is accepted, Mr. President.

Senator Santiago. Thank you. The next term is ELECTRONIC


RECORD. The proposed amendment is as follows:

ELECTRONIC RECORD MEANS DATA THAT IS RECORDED OR


STORED ON ANY MEDIUM IN OR BY A COMPUTER SYSTEM OR
OTHER SIMILAR DEVICE, THAT CAN BE READ OR PERCEIVED BY A
PERSON OR A COMPUTER SYSTEM OR OTHER SIMILAR DEVICE. IT
INCLUDES A DISPLAY, PRINTOUT OR OTHER OUTPUT OF THAT
DATA.

The explanation for this term and its definition is as follows: The
term ELECTRONIC RECORD fixes the scope of our bill. The record is

Page 192 of 231


the data. The record may be on any medium. It is electronic because it
is recorded or stored in or by a computer system or a similar device.

The amendment is intended to apply, for example, to data on


magnetic strips on cards or in Smart cards. As drafted, it would not
apply to telexes or faxes, except computer-generated faxes,
unlike the United Nations model law on electronic commerce. It
would also not apply to regular digital telephone conversations since the
information is not recorded. It would apply to voice mail since the
information has been recorded in or by a device similar to a computer.
Likewise, video records are not covered. Though when the video is
transferred to a website, it would be covered because of the involvement
of the computer. Music recorded by a computer system on a compact disc
would be covered.

In short, not all data recorded or stored in digital form is covered.


A computer or a similar device has to be involved in its creation or
storage. The term similar device does not extend to all devices that create
or store data in digital form. Although things that are not recorded or
preserved by or in a computer system are omitted from this bill, these
may well be admissible under other rules of law. This provision focuses
on replacing the search for originality proving the reliability of systems
instead of that of individual records and using standards to show
systems reliability.

Paper records that are produced directly by a computer system


such as printouts are themselves electronic records being just the means
of intelligible display of the contents of the record. Photocopies of the
printout would be paper record subject to the usual rules about copies,
but the original printout would be subject to the rules of admissibility of
this bill.

However, printouts that are used only as paper records and whose
computer origin is never again called on are treated as paper records. In
that case, the reliability of the computer system that produces the record
is irrelevant to its reliability.

Senator Magsaysay. Mr. President, if my memory does not fail


me, earlier, the lady Senator accepted that we use the term Data
Message rather than ELECTRONIC RECORD in being consistent with
the UNCITRAL term of Data Message. So with the new amendment of
defining ELECTRONIC RECORD, will this affect her accepting of the use
of Data Message instead of ELECTRONIC RECORD?

Page 193 of 231


Senator Santiago. No, it will not. Thank you for reminding
me. The term I would like to insert is ELECTRONIC DATA MESSAGE in
lieu of ELECTRONIC RECORD.

Senator Magsaysay. Then we are, in effect, amending the term


of the definition of Data Message on page 2A, line 31, to which
we have no objection.

Senator Santiago. Thank you, Mr. President.

xxxx

Senator Santiago. Mr. President, I have proposed all the


amendments that I desire to, including the amendment on the effect of
error or change. I will provide the language of the amendment together
with the explanation supporting that amendment to the distinguished
sponsor and then he can feel free to take it up in any session without
any further intervention.

Senator Magsaysay. Before we end, Mr. President, I understand


from the proponent of these amendments that these are based on
the Canadian E-commerce Law of 1998. Is that not right?

Senator Santiago. That is correct.[80]

Thus, when the Senate consequently voted to adopt the term electronic
data message, it was consonant with the explanation of Senator Miriam
Defensor-Santiago that it would not apply to telexes or faxes, except computer-
generated faxes, unlike the United Nations model law on electronic commerce. In
explaining the term electronic record patterned after the E-Commerce Law of
Canada, Senator Defensor-Santiago had in mind the term electronic data
message. This term then, while maintaining part of the UNCITRAL Model Laws
terminology of data message, has assumed a different context, this time,
consonant with the term electronic record in the law of Canada. It accounts for
the addition of the word electronic and the deletion of the phrase but not limited
to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or
telecopy. Noteworthy is that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, explains
the term electronic record, as drafted in the Uniform Electronic Evidence Act,
in a manner strikingly similar to Sen. Santiagos explanation during the Senate
deliberations:

Electronic record fixes the scope of the Act. The record is the data.
The record may be any medium. It is electronic because it is recorded
or stored in or by a computer system or similar device. The Act is
intended to apply, for example, to data on magnetic strips on cards, or

Page 194 of 231


in smart cards. As drafted, it would not apply to telexes or faxes (except
computer-generated faxes), unlike the United Nations Model Law on
Electronic Commerce. It would also not apply to regular digital
telephone conversations, since the information is not recorded. It
would apply to voice mail, since the information has been recorded in
or by a device similar to a computer. Likewise video records are not
covered, though when the video is transferred to a Web site it would
be, because of the involvement of the computer. Music recorded by a
computer system on a compact disk would be covered.

In short, not all data recorded or stored in digital form is covered.


A computer or similar device has to be involved in its creation or
storage. The term similar device does not extend to all devices that
create or store data in digital form. Although things that are not
recorded or preserved by or in a computer system are omitted from this
Act, they may well be admissible under other rules of law. This Act
focuses on replacing the search for originality, proving the reliability of
systems instead of that of individual records, and using standards to
show systems reliability.

Paper records that are produced directly by a computer system,


such as printouts, are themselves electronic records, being just the
means of intelligible display of the contents of the record. Photocopies
of the printout would be paper records subject to the usual rules about
copies, but the original printout would be subject to the rules of
admissibility of this Act.

However, printouts that are used only as paper records, and


whose computer origin is never again called on, are treated as paper
records. See subsection 4(2). In this case the reliability of the computer
system that produced the record is relevant to its reliability.[81]

There is no question then that when Congress formulated the term


electronic data message, it intended the same meaning as the term electronic
record in the Canada law. This construction of the term electronic data
message, which excludes telexes or faxes, except computer-generated faxes, is
in harmony with the Electronic Commerce Laws focus on paperless
communications and the functional equivalent approach[82] that it espouses. In
fact, the deliberations of the Legislature are replete with discussions on
paperless and digital transactions.

Facsimile transmissions are not, in this sense, paperless, but verily are
paper-based.

Page 195 of 231


A facsimile machine, which was first patented in 1843 by Alexander
Bain,[83] is a device that can send or receive pictures and text over a telephone
line. It works by digitizing an imagedividing it into a grid of dots. Each dot is
either on or off, depending on whether it is black or white. Electronically, each
dot is represented by a bit that has a value of either 0 (off) or 1 (on). In this way,
the fax machine translates a picture into a series of zeros and ones (called a bit
map) that can be transmitted like normal computer data. On the receiving side,
a fax machine reads the incoming data, translates the zeros and ones back into
dots, and reprints the picture.[84] A fax machine is essentially an image scanner,
a modem and a computer printer combined into a highly specialized package.
The scanner converts the content of a physical document into a digital image,
the modem sends the image data over a phone line, and the printer at the other
end makes a duplicate of the original document.[85] Thus, in Garvida v. Sales,
Jr.,[86] where we explained the unacceptability of filing pleadings through fax
machines, we ruled that:

A facsimile or fax transmission is a process involving the


transmission and reproduction of printed and graphic matter by
scanning an original copy, one elemental area at a time, and
representing the shade or tone of each area by a specified amount of
electric current. The current is transmitted as a signal over regular
telephone lines or via microwave relay and is used by the receiver to
reproduce an image of the elemental area in the proper position and
the correct shade. The receiver is equipped with a stylus or other device
that produces a printed record on paper referred to as a facsimile.

x x x A facsimile is not a genuine and authentic pleading. It is, at


best, an exact copy preserving all the marks of an original. Without the
original, there is no way of determining on its face whether the facsimile
pleading is genuine and authentic and was originally signed by the
party and his counsel. It may, in fact, be a sham pleading.[87]

Accordingly, in an ordinary facsimile transmission, there exists an


original paper-based information or data that is scanned, sent through a phone
line, and re-printed at the receiving end. Be it noted that in enacting the
Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, Congress intended virtual or
paperless writings to be the functional equivalent and to have the same legal
function as paper-based documents.[88] Further, in a virtual or paperless
environment, technically, there is no original copy to speak of, as all direct
printouts of the virtual reality are the same, in all respects, and are considered
as originals.[89] Ineluctably, the laws definition of electronic data message,
which, as aforesaid, is interchangeable with electronic document, could not
have included facsimile transmissions, which have an original paper-
based copy as sent and a paper-based facsimile copy as received. These two
copies are distinct from each other, and have different legal effects. While

Page 196 of 231


Congress anticipated future developments in communications and computer
technology[90] when it drafted the law, it excluded the early forms of technology,
like telegraph, telex and telecopy (except computer-generated faxes, which is a
newer development as compared to the ordinary fax machine to fax machine
transmission), when it defined the term electronic data message.

Clearly then, the IRR went beyond the parameters of the law when it
adopted verbatim the UNCITRAL Model Laws definition of data message,
without considering the intention of Congress when the latter deleted the
phrase but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail,
telegram, telex or telecopy. The inclusion of this phrase in the IRR offends a
basic tenet in the exercise of the rule-making power of administrative
agencies. After all, the power of administrative officials to promulgate rules in
the implementation of a statute is necessarily limited to what is found in the
legislative enactment itself. The implementing rules and regulations of a law
cannot extend the law or expand its coverage, as the power to amend or repeal
a statute is vested in the Legislature.[91] Thus, if a discrepancy occurs between
the basic law and an implementing rule or regulation, it is the former that
prevails, because the law cannot be broadened by a mere administrative
issuancean administrative agency certainly cannot amend an act of
Congress.[92] Had the Legislature really wanted ordinary fax transmissions to be
covered by the mantle of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, it could have
easily lifted without a bit of tatter the entire wordings of the UNCITRAL Model
Law.

Incidentally, the National Statistical Coordination Board Task Force on the


Measurement of E-Commerce,[93] on November 22, 2006, recommended a working
definition of electronic commerce, as [a]ny commercial transaction conducted
through electronic, optical and similar medium, mode, instrumentality and
technology. The transaction includes the sale or purchase of goods and services,
between individuals, households, businesses and governments conducted over
computer-mediated networks through the Internet, mobile phones, electronic data
interchange (EDI) and other channels through open and closed networks. The
Task Forces proposed definition is similar to the Organization of Economic
Cooperation and Developments (OECDs) broad definition as it covers transactions
made over any network, and, in addition, it adopted the following provisions of the
OECD definition: (1) for transactions, it covers sale or purchase of goods and
services; (2) for channel/network, it considers any computer-mediated network
and NOT limited to Internet alone; (3) it excludes transactions received/placed
using fax, telephone or non-interactive mail; (4) it considers payments done online
or offline; and (5) it considers delivery made online (like downloading of purchased
books, music or software programs) or offline (deliveries of goods). [94]

We, therefore, conclude that the terms electronic data message and
electronic document, as defined under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, do
not include a facsimile transmission. Accordingly, a facsimile

Page 197 of 231


transmission cannot be considered as electronic evidence. It is not the
functional equivalent of an original under the Best Evidence Rule and is not
admissible as electronic evidence.

Since a facsimile transmission is not an electronic data message or an


electronic document, and cannot be considered as electronic evidence by the
Court, with greater reason is a photocopy of such a fax transmission not
electronic evidence. In the present case, therefore, Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-
POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits E and F), which are mere
photocopiesof the original fax transmittals, are not electronic evidence,
contrary to the position of both the trial and the appellate courts.

- III -

Nevertheless, despite the pro forma invoices not being electronic evidence,
this Court finds that respondent has proven by preponderance of evidence the
existence of a perfected contract of sale.

In an action for damages due to a breach of a contract, it is essential that


the claimant proves (1) the existence of a perfected contract, (2) the breach
thereof by the other contracting party and (3) the damages which he/she
sustained due to such breach. Actori incumbit onus probandi. The burden of
proof rests on the party who advances a proposition affirmatively. [95] In other
words, a plaintiff in a civil action must establish his case by a preponderance
of evidence, that is, evidence that has greater weight, or is more convincing than
that which is offered in opposition to it.[96]

In general, contracts are perfected by mere consent,[97] which is manifested by the


meeting of the offer and the acceptance upon the thing and the cause which are
to constitute the contract. The offer must be certain and the acceptance
absolute.[98] They are, moreover, obligatory in whatever form they may have been
entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are
present.[99] Sale, being a consensual contract, follows the general rule that it is
perfected at the moment there is a meeting of the minds upon the thing which is
the object of the contract and upon the price.From that moment, the parties may
reciprocally demand performance, subject to the provisions of the law governing
the form of contracts.[100]

The essential elements of a contract of sale are (1) consent or meeting of the minds,
that is, to transfer ownership in exchange for the price, (2) object certain which is
the subject matter of the contract, and (3) cause of the obligation which is
established.[101]

In this case, to establish the existence of a perfected contract of sale between the
parties, respondent Ssangyong formally offered in evidence the testimonies of its
witnesses and the following exhibits:

Page 198 of 231


Exhibit Description Purpose
E Pro forma Invoice To show that defendants
dated 17 April contracted with plaintiff for
2000 with Contract the delivery of 110 MT of
No. ST2-POSTS0401- stainless steel
1, photocopy from Koreapayable by way of
an irrevocable letter of credit
in favor of plaintiff, among
other conditions.
E-1 Pro forma Invoice To show that defendants sent
dated 17 April their confirmation of the (i)
2000 with Contract delivery to it of the specified
No. ST2- stainless steel products, (ii)
POSTS0401, contained defendants payment thereof
in facsimile/thermal by way of an irrevocable letter
paper faxed by of credit in favor of plaintiff,
defendants to plaintiff among other conditions.
showing the printed
transmission details on
the upper portion of said
paper as coming from
defendant MCC on 26
Apr 00 08:41AM
E-2 Conforme signature of To show that defendants sent
Mr. Gregory their confirmation of the (i)
Chan, contained in delivery to it of the total of
facsimile/thermal paper 220MT specified stainless
faxed by defendants to steel products, (ii) defendants
plaintiff showing the payment thereof by way of an
printed transmission irrevocable letter of credit in
details on the upper favor of plaintiff, among other
portion of said paper as conditions.
coming from defendant
MCC on 26 Apr
0008:41AM
F Pro forma Invoice
To show that defendants
dated 17 April
contracted with plaintiff for
2000 with Contract
delivery of another 110 MT of
No. ST2-POSTSO401- stainless steel
2, photocopy from Korea payable by way of
an irrevocable letter of credit
in favor of plaintiff, among
other conditions.
G Letter to defendant To prove that defendants were
SANYO SEIKE dated 20 informed of the date of L/C
Page 199 of 231
June 2000, contained in opening and
facsimile/thermal paper defendants conforme/approval
G-1 Signature of defendant thereof.
Gregory
Chan, contained in
facsimile/thermal paper.
H Letter to defendants To prove that defendants were
dated 22 June informed of the successful
2000, original price adjustments secured by
plaintiff in favor of former and
were advised of the schedules
of its L/C opening.
I Letter to defendants To prove that plaintiff
dated 26 June repeatedly requested
2000, original defendants for the agreed
J Letter to opening of the Letters of
defendants dated 26 Credit, defendants failure and
June 2000, original refusal to comply with their
K Letter to defendants obligations and the problems
dated 27 June of plaintiff is incurring by
2000, original reason of defendants failure
L Facsimile message to and refusal to open the L/Cs.
defendants dated 28
June 2000, photocopy
M Letter from defendants To prove that defendants
dated 29 June admit of their liabilities to
2000, contained in plaintiff, that they requested
facsimile/thermal paper for more extension of time for
faxed by defendants to the opening of the Letter of
plaintiff showing the Credit, and begging for
printed transmission favorable understanding and
details on the upper consideration.
portion of said paper as
coming from defendant
MCC on 29 June
00 11:12 AM
M-1 Signature of defendant
Gregory
Chan, contained in
facsimile/thermal paper
faxed by defendants to
plaintiff showing the
printed transmission
details on the upper
portion of said paper as
coming from defendant
Page 200 of 231
MCC on June 00 11:12
AM
N Letter to defendants
dated 29 June
2000, original
O Letter to defendants To prove that
dated 30 June plaintiff reiterated its request
2000, photocopy for defendants to L/C opening
after the latter's request for
extension of time was granted,
defendants failure and refusal
to comply therewith extension
of time notwithstanding.
P Letter to defendants
dated 06 July
2000, original
Q Demand letter to To prove that plaintiff was
defendants dated 15 constrained to engaged
Aug 2000, original services of a lawyer for
collection efforts.
R Demand letter to To prove that defendants
defendants dated 23 opened the first L/C in favor of
Aug 2000, original plaintiff, requested for further
postponement of the final L/C
and for minimal amounts,
were urged to open the final
L/C on time, and were
informed that failure to
comply will cancel the
contract.
S Demand letter to To show defendants refusal
defendants dated 11 and failure to open the final
Sept 2000, original L/C on time, the cancellation
of the contract as a
consequence thereof, and final
demand upon defendants to
remit its obligations.
W Letter from plaintiff To prove that there was a
SSANGYONG to perfected sale and purchase
defendant SANYO SEIKI agreement between the parties
dated 13 April 2000, for 220 metric tons of steel
with fax back from products at the price of
defendants SANYO US$1,860/ton.
SEIKI/MCC to plaintiff
SSANGYONG, contained
in facsimile/thermal
Page 201 of 231
paper with back-up
photocopy
W-1 Conforme signature ofTo prove that defendants,
defendant Gregory
acting through Gregory Chan,
Chan, contained in
agreed to the sale and
facsimile/thermal paper
purchase of 220 metric tons of
steel products at the price of
with back-up photocopy
US$1,860/ton.
W-2 Name of sender MCC To prove that defendants sent
Industrial Sales their conformity to the sale
Corporation and purchase agreement by
facsimile transmission.

Pro forma Invoice To prove that defendant


dated 16 August MCC agreed to adjust and
X 2000, photocopy split the confirmed purchase
order into 2 shipments at
100 metric tons each at the
discounted price of
US$1,700/ton.
X-1 Notation To prove that the present Pro
1/2, photocopy formaInvoice was the first of
2 pro formainvoices.
X-2 Ref. No. ST2- To prove that the present Pro
POSTS080- formaInvoice was the first of
1, photocopy 2 pro formainvoices.
X-3 Conforme signature of To prove that defendant
defendant Gregory MCC, acting through
Chan, photocopy Gregory Chan, agreed to the
sale and purchase of the
balance of 100 metric tons at
the discounted price of
US$1,700/ton, apart from
the other order and
shipment of 100 metric tons
which was delivered by
plaintiff SSANGYONG and
paid for by defendant MCC.
DD Letter from defendant To prove that there was a
MCC to plaintiff perfected sale and purchase
SSANGYONG agreement between plaintiff
dated 22 August SSANGYONG and defendant
2000, contained in MCC for the balance of 100
facsimile/thermal metric tons, apart from the
Page 202 of 231
paper with back-up other order and shipment of
photocopy 100 metric tons which was
delivered by plaintiff
SSANGYONG and paid for
by defendant MCC.
DD-1 Ref. No. ST2- To prove that there was a
POSTS080- perfected sale and purchase
1, contained in agreement between plaintiff
facsimile/thermal SSANGYONG and defendant
paper with back-up MCC for the balance of 100
photocopy metric tons, apart from the
other order and shipment of
100 metric tons which was
delivered by plaintiff
SSANGYONG and paid for
by defendant MCC.
DD-2 Signature of To prove that defendant
defendant Gregory MCC, acting through
Chan, contained in Gregory Chan, agreed to the
facsimile/thermal sale and purchase of the
paper with back-up balance of 100 metric tons,
photocopy apart from the other order
and shipment of 100 metric
tons which was delivered by
plaintiff Ssangyong and paid
for by defendant MCC.[102]

Significantly, among these documentary evidence presented by respondent, MCC,


in its petition before this Court, assails the admissibility only of Pro Forma Invoice
Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits E and F). After sifting
through the records, the Court found that these invoices are mere photocopies of
their original fax transmittals. Ssangyong avers that these documents were
prepared after MCC asked for the splitting of the original order into two, so that
the latter can apply for an L/C with greater facility. It, however, failed to explain
why the originals of these documents were not presented.

To determine whether these documents are admissible in evidence, we apply the


ordinary Rules on Evidence, for as discussed above we cannot apply the Electronic
Commerce Act of 2000 and the Rules on Electronic Evidence.

Because these documents are mere photocopies, they are simply secondary
evidence, admissible only upon compliance with Rule 130, Section 5, which states,
[w]hen the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced
in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or existence and the cause of its
unavailability without bad faith on his part, may prove its contents by a copy, or
Page 203 of 231
by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony of
witnesses in the order stated. Furthermore, the offeror of secondary evidence must
prove the predicates thereof, namely: (a) the loss or destruction of the original
without bad faith on the part of the proponent/offeror which can be shown by
circumstantial evidence of routine practices of destruction of documents; (b) the
proponent must prove by a fair preponderance of evidence as to raise a reasonable
inference of the loss or destruction of the original copy; and (c) it must be shown
that a diligent and bona fide but unsuccessful search has been made for the
document in the proper place or places. It has been held that where the missing
document is the foundation of the action, more strictness in proof is required than
where the document is only collaterally involved.[103]

Given these norms, we find that respondent failed to prove the existence of the
original fax transmissions of Exhibits E and F, and likewise did not sufficiently
prove the loss or destruction of the originals. Thus, Exhibits E and F cannot be
admitted in evidence and accorded probative weight.

It is observed, however, that respondent Ssangyong did not rely merely on Exhibits
E and F to prove the perfected contract. It also introduced in evidence a variety of
other documents, as enumerated above, together with the testimonies of its
witnesses. Notable among them are Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-
1 and ST2-POSTS080-2 which were issued by Ssangyong and sent via fax to
MCC. As already mentioned, these invoices slightly varied the terms of the earlier
invoices such that the quantity was now officially 100MT per invoice and the price
reduced to US$1,700.00 per MT. The copies of the said August 16, 2000 invoices
submitted to the court bear the conformity signature of MCC Manager Chan.

Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-1 (Exhibit X), however, is a mere


photocopy of its original. But then again, petitioner MCC does not assail the
admissibility of this document in the instant petition. Verily, evidence not objected
to is deemed admitted and may be validly considered by the court in arriving at its
judgment.[104] Issues not raised on appeal are deemed abandoned.

As to Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-2 (Exhibits 1-A and 2-C), which
was certified by PCIBank as a true copy of its original,[105] it was, in fact, petitioner
MCC which introduced this document in evidence. Petitioner MCC paid for the
order stated in this invoice. Its admissibility, therefore, is not open to question.

These invoices (ST2-POSTS0401, ST2-POSTS080-1 and ST2-POSTS080-


2), along with the other unchallenged documentary evidence of respondent
Ssangyong, preponderate in favor of the claim that a contract of sale was perfected
by the parties.

This Court also finds merit in the following observations of the trial court:

Page 204 of 231


Defendants presented Letter of Credit (Exhibits 1, 1-A to 1-R) referring
to Pro Forma Invoice for Contract No. ST2POSTS080-2, in the amount
of US$170,000.00, and which bears the signature of Gregory Chan,
General Manager of MCC. Plaintiff, on the other hand, presented Pro
Forma Invoice referring to Contract No. ST2-POSTS080-1, in the
amount of US$170,000.00, which likewise bears the signature of
Gregory Chan, MCC. Plaintiff accounted for the notation 1/2 on the
right upper portion of the Invoice, that is, that it was the first of two (2)
pro forma invoices covering the subject contract between plaintiff and
the defendants. Defendants, on the other hand, failed to account for
the notation 2/2 in its Pro Forma Invoice (Exhibit 1-A). Observably
further, both Pro Forma Invoices bear the same date and details, which
logically mean that they both apply to one and the same
transaction.[106]

Indeed, why would petitioner open an L/C for the second half of the transaction if
there was no first half to speak of?

The logical chain of events, as gleaned from the evidence of both parties, started
with the petitioner and the respondent agreeing on the sale and purchase of
220MT of stainless steel at US$1,860.00 per MT. This initial contract
was perfected. Later, as petitioner asked for several extensions to pay, adjustments
in the delivery dates, and discounts in the price as originally agreed, the parties
slightly varied the terms of their contract, without necessarily novating it, to the
effect that the original order was reduced to 200MT, split into two deliveries, and
the price discounted to US$1,700 per MT. Petitioner, however, paid only half of its
obligation and failed to open an L/C for the other 100MT. Notably, the conduct of
both parties sufficiently established the existence of a contract of sale, even if the
writings of the parties, because of their contested admissibility, were not as explicit
in establishing a contract.[107] Appropriate conduct by the parties may be sufficient
to establish an agreement, and while there may be instances where the exchange
of correspondence does not disclose the exact point at which the deal was closed,
the actions of the parties may indicate that a binding obligation has been
undertaken.[108]

With our finding that there is a valid contract, it is crystal-clear that when
petitioner did not open the L/C for the first half of the transaction (100MT), despite
numerous demands from respondent Ssangyong, petitioner breached its
contractual obligation. It is a well-entrenched rule that the failure of a buyer to
furnish an agreed letter of credit is a breach of the contract between buyer and
seller. Indeed, where the buyer fails to open a letter of credit as stipulated, the
seller or exporter is entitled to claim damages for such breach. Damages for failure
to open a commercial credit may, in appropriate cases, include the loss of profit
which the seller would reasonably have made had the transaction been carried
out.[109]

Page 205 of 231


- IV -

This Court, however, finds that the award of actual damages is not in accord with
the evidence on record. It is axiomatic that actual or compensatory damages
cannot be presumed, but must be proven with a reasonable degree of
certainty.[110] In Villafuerte v. Court of Appeals,[111] we explained that:

Actual or compensatory damages are those awarded in order to


compensate a party for an injury or loss he suffered. They arise out of
a sense of natural justice and are aimed at repairing the wrong done.
Except as provided by law or by stipulation, a party is entitled to an
adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss as he has duly
proven. It is hornbook doctrine that to be able to recover actual
damages, the claimant bears the onus of presenting before the court
actual proof of the damages alleged to have been suffered, thus:

A party is entitled to an adequate compensation for


such pecuniary loss actually suffered by him as he has duly
proved. Such damages, to be recoverable, must not only be
capable of proof, but must actually be proved with a
reasonable degree of certainty. We have emphasized that
these damages cannot be presumed and courts, in making
an award must point out specific facts which could afford a
basis for measuring whatever compensatory or actual
damages are borne.[112]

In the instant case, the trial court awarded to respondent Ssangyong


US$93,493.87 as actual damages. On appeal, the same was affirmed by the
appellate court. Noticeably, however, the trial and the appellate courts, in making
the said award, relied on the following documents submitted in evidence by the
respondent: (1) Exhibit U, the Statement of Account dated March 30, 2001; (2)
Exhibit U-1, the details of the said Statement of Account); (3) Exhibit V, the
contract of the alleged resale of the goods to a Korean corporation; and (4) Exhibit
V-1, the authentication of the resale contract from the Korean Embassy and
certification from the Philippine Consular Office.

The statement of account and the details of the losses sustained by respondent
due to the said breach are, at best, self-serving. It was respondent Ssangyong itself
which prepared the said documents. The items therein are not even substantiated
by official receipts. In the absence of corroborative evidence, the said statement of
account is not sufficient basis to award actual damages. The court cannot simply
rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork as to the fact and amount of
damages, but must depend on competent proof that the claimant had suffered, and
on evidence of, the actual amount thereof.[113]

Page 206 of 231


Furthermore, the sales contract and its authentication certificates, Exhibits V and
V-1, allegedly evidencing the resale at a loss of the stainless steel subject of the
parties breached contract, fail to convince this Court of the veracity of its contents.
The steel items indicated in the sales contract[114] with a Korean corporation are
different in all respects from the items ordered by petitioner MCC, even in size and
quantity. We observed the following discrepancies:

List of commodities as stated in Exhibit V:

COMMODITY: Stainless Steel HR Sheet in Coil, Slit Edge


SPEC: SUS304 NO. 1
SIZE/QTY:
2.8MM X 1,219MM X C 8.193MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.736MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.885MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.629MT
4.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.307MT
4.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.247MT
4.5MM X 1,219MM X C 8.450MT
4.5MM X 1,219MM X C 8.870MT
5.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.391MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 6.589MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.878MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.397MT
_______________________________

TOTAL: 95.562MT[115]

List of commodities as stated in Exhibit X (the invoice that was not paid):

DESCRIPTION: Hot Rolled Stainless Steel Coil SUS 304


SIZE AND QUANTITY:
2.6 MM X 4 X C 10.0MT
3.0 MM X 4 X C 25.0MT
4.0 MM X 4 X C 15.0MT
4.5 MM X 4 X C 15.0MT
5.0 MM X 4 X C 10.0MT
6.0 MM X 4 X C 25.0MT
_______________________________

TOTAL: 100MT[116]

From the foregoing, we find merit in the contention of MCC that Ssangyong did
not adequately prove that the items resold at a loss were the same items ordered

Page 207 of 231


by the petitioner. Therefore, as the claim for actual damages was not proven, the
Court cannot sanction the award.

Nonetheless, the Court finds that petitioner knowingly breached its contractual
obligation and obstinately refused to pay despite repeated demands from
respondent. Petitioner even asked for several extensions of time for it to make good
its obligation. But in spite of respondents continuous accommodation, petitioner
completely reneged on its contractual duty. For such inattention and insensitivity,
MCC must be held liable for nominal damages. Nominal damages are recoverable
where a legal right is technically violated and must be vindicated against an
invasion that has produced no actual present loss of any kind or where there has
been a breach of contract and no substantial injury or actual damages whatsoever
have been or can be shown.[117] Accordingly, the Court awards nominal damages
of P200,000.00 to respondent Ssangyong.
As to the award of attorneys fees, it is well settled that no premium should be
placed on the right to litigate and not every winning party is entitled to an
automatic grant of attorneys fees. The party must show that he falls under one of
the instances enumerated in Article 2208 of the Civil Code.[118] In the instant case,
however, the Court finds the award of attorneys fees proper, considering that
petitioner MCCs unjustified refusal to pay has compelled respondent Ssangyong
to litigate and to incur expenses to protect its rights.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appeal is PARTIALLY GRANTED.


The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 82983 is MODIFIED in
that the award of actual damages is DELETED. However, petitioner
is ORDERED to pay respondent NOMINAL DAMAGES in the amount
of P200,000.00, and the ATTORNEYS FEES as awarded by the trial court.

SO ORDERED.

Page 208 of 231


27. G.R. No. 170491, April 4, 2007
NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION, Petitioner v. HON. RAMON G. CODILLA,
JR., Presiding Judge, RTC of Cebu, Br.19, BANGPAI SHIPPING COMPANY, and
WALLEM SHIPPING, INCORPORATED, Respondents.

Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of


Civil Procedure, assailing the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-
SP No. 00848, dated 9 November 2005, which dismissed the Petition
for Certiorari filed by the National Power Corporation seeking to set aside the
Order[2] issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu, Branch 19 dated 16
November 2004, denying admission and excluding from the records plaintiffs
(herein petitioner) Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J, and its sub-
markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its
sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R and S and its sub-markings.

On 20 April 1996, M/V Dibena Win, a vessel of foreign registry owned and
operated by private respondent Bangpai Shipping, Co., allegedly bumped and
damaged petitioners Power Barge 209 which was then moored at
the Cebu International Port. Thus, on 26 April 1996, petitioner filed before
the Cebu RTC a complaint for damages against private
respondent Bangpai Shipping Co., for the alleged damages caused on petitioners
power barges.

Thereafter, petitioner filed an Amended Complaint dated 8 July


1996 impleading herein private respondent Wallem Shipping, Inc., as additional
defendant, contending that the latter is a ship agent of Bangpai Shipping
Co. On 18 September 1996, Wallem Shipping, Inc. filed a Motion
to Dismiss which was subsequently denied by public respondent Judge in an
Order dated 20 October 1998. Bangpai Shipping Co. likewise filed a Motion
to Dismiss which was also denied by public respondent Judge in an Order issued
on 24 January 2003.

Petitioner, after adducing evidence during the trial of the case, filed a formal
offer of evidence before the lower court on 2 February 2004 consisting of Exhibits
A to V together with the sub-marked portions thereof. Consequently, private
respondents Bangpai Shipping Co. and Wallem Shipping, Inc. filed their
respective objections to petitioners formal offer of evidence.

On 16 November 2004, public respondent judge issued the assailed order


denying the admission and excluding from the records petitioners Exhibits A, C,
D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-
markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-
markings, R and S and its sub-markings. According to the court a quo:

The Court finds merit in the objections raised and the motion to
strike out filed respectively by the defendants. The record shows that

Page 209 of 231


the plaintiff has been given every opportunity to present the originals
of the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it offered. It never
produced the originals. The plaintiff attempted to justify the admission
of the photocopies by contending that the photocopies offered are
equivalent to the original of the document on the basis of the Electronic
Evidence (Comment to Defendant Wallem Philippines Objections and
Motion to Strike). But as rightly pointed out in
defendant Wallems Reply to the Comment of Plaintiff, the Xerox copies
do not constitute the electronic evidence defined in Section 1 of Rule 2
of the Rules on Electronic Evidence as follows:

(h) Electronic document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or
other models of written expression, described or however
represented, by which a right is established or an obligation
extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and
affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes
digitally signed documents and any printout, readable by
sight or other means which accurately reflects the
electronic data message or electronic document. For the
purpose of these Rules, the term electronic document may
be used interchangeably with electronic data message.

The information in those Xerox or photocopies was not received,


recorded, retrieved or produced electronically. Moreover, such
electronic evidence must be authenticated (Sections 1 and 2, Rule 5,
Rules on Electronic Evidence), which the plaintiff failed to do. Finally,
the required Affidavit to prove the admissibility and evidentiary weight
of the alleged electronic evidence (Sec. 1, Rule 9, Ibid) was not
executed, much less presented in evidence.

The Xerox or photocopies offered should, therefore, be stricken off


the record. Aside from their being not properly identified by any
competent witness, the loss of the principals thereof was not
established by any competent proof.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-


markings, I, J, and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N
and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-
markings, and R are hereby DENIED admission and excluded from the
records. However, these excluded evidence should be attached to the
records of this case to enable the appellate court to pass upon them

Page 210 of 231


should an appeal be taken from the decision on the merits to be
rendered upon the termination of the trial of this case.

Exhibits S and its sub-markings are also DENIED admission for


lack of proper identification since the witness who brought these
pictures expressly admitted that he was not present when the photos
were taken and had not knowledge when the same where taken.[3]
Upon denial of petitioners Motion for Reconsideration in an Order dated 20
April 2005, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Civil Procedure before the Court of Appeals maintaining that public respondent
Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in denying the admission of its Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-
markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-
markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R, and S and its
sub-markings.

On 9 November 2005, the appellate court issued a Decision dismissing


petitioners petition for certiorari, the pertinent portions of which elucidate:

After a judicious scrutiny of the record of the case on hand,


together with the rules and jurisprudence which are applicable in the
premises, we have come up with a finding that the petition for certiorari
filed in this case is not meritorious.

It appears that there is no sufficient showing by the petitioner


that the respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion in
issuing the assailed orders in Civil Case No. CEB-18662. As what our
jurisprudence tells us, grave abuse of discretion is meant such
capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as would be equivalent
to lack of jurisdiction x x x.

In the case at bench, what has been shown to the contrary by the
totality of the record on hand is that the respondent judge acted
correctly and within the pale of his sound discretion in issuing the
assailed order, dated November 16, 2004, in Civil Case No. CEB-
18662.

Indeed, it appears that the pieces of petitioners documentary


evidence which were denied admission by the respondent judge were
not properly identified by any competent witness. As pointed out by the
respondent Bangpai Shipping Company in its comment on the petition
filed in this case which reproduces some excerpts of the testimonies in
the court a quo of Atty. Marianito De Los Santos, Engr. Nestor
Enriquez, Jr. and Mr. Rodulfo I. Pagaling, the said witnesses did not
have personal knowledge of and participation in the preparation and
making of the pieces of documentary evidence denied admission by

Page 211 of 231


respondent judge x xx. In other words, there was lack of proper
identification of said pieces of documentary evidence. x x x.

Then another ground for denying admission of petitioners


Exhibits A, C, D, E, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, and S by the
respondent judge is that said pieces of documentary evidence were
merely photocopies of purported documents or papers. There is no
gainsaying the fact that the respondent judge acted within the pale of
his discretion when he denied admission of said documentary
evidence. Section 3 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court of the Philippines
is very explicit in providing that, when the subject of inquiry are the
contents of documents, no evidence shall be admissible other than the
original documents themselves, except in certain cases specifically so
enumerated therein, and the petitioner has not shown that the non-
presentation or non-production of its original documentary pieces of
evidence falls under such exceptions. As aptly pointed out by the
respondent judge in the order issued by him on November 16, 2004:

x x x The record shows that the plaintiff (petitioner


herein) has been given every opportunity to present the
originals of the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it
offered. It never produced said originals.

So, the petitioner has only itself to blame for the respondent
judges denial of admission of its aforementioned documentary
evidence.

Of course, the petitioner tries to contend that the photocopies of


documents offered by it are equivalent to the original documents that
it sought to offer in evidence, based on the Rules on Electronic
Evidence which were in force and effect since August 1, 2001. However,
such a contention is devoid of merit. The pieces of documentary
evidence offered by the petitioner in Civil Case CEB-18662 which were
denied admission by the respondent judge do not actually constitute
as electronic evidence as defined in the Rules on Electronic
Evidence. The informations therein were not received, retrieved or
produced electronically.The petitioner has not adequately established
that its documentary evidence were electronic evidence. it has not
properly authenticated such evidence as electronic documents,
assuming arguendo that they are. Lastly, the petitioner has not
properly established by affidavit pursuant to Rule 9 of the Rules on
Electronic Evidence the admissibility and evidentiary weight of said
documentary evidence.

Page 212 of 231


Thus, by any legal yardstick, it is manifest that the respondent
judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying admission
of the aforementioned documentary evidence of petitioner.

But even if it be granted just for the sake of argument that the
respondent judge committed an error in denying the aforementioned
documentary evidence of the petitioner, still the petition for certiorari
filed in this case must fail. Such error would at most be only an error
of law and not an error of jurisdiction. In Lee vs. People, 393 SCRA 397,
the Supreme Court of the Philippines said that certiorari will not lie in
case of an error of law. x x x.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is


hereby rendered by us DISMISSING the petition filed in this case and
AFFIRMING the assailed orders issued by respondent judge in Civil
Case No. CEB-18662.[4]

Aggrieved by the aforequoted decision, petitioner filed the instant petition.

The focal point of this entire controversy is petitioners obstinate contention


that the photocopies it offered as formal evidence before the trial court are the
functional equivalent of their original based on its inimitable interpretation of the
Rules on Electronic Evidence.

Petitioner insists that, contrary to the rulings of both the trial court and the
appellate court, the photocopies it presented as documentary evidence actually
constitute electronic evidence based on its own premise that an electronic
document as defined under Section 1(h), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic
Evidence is not limited to information that is received, recorded, retrieved or
produced electronically. Rather, petitioner maintains that an electronic document
can also refer to other modes of written expression that is produced electronically,
such as photocopies, as included in the sections catch-all proviso: any print-out
or output, readable by sight or other means.

We do not agree.

In order to shed light to the issue of whether or not the photocopies are
indeed electronic documents as contemplated in Republic Act No. 8792 or the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Electronic Commerce Act, as well as
the Rules on Electronic Evidence, we shall enumerate the following documents
offered as evidence by the petitioner, to wit:

1. Exhibit A is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by a certain Jose


C. Troyo, with RECEIVED stamped thereon, together with a handwritten
date;

Page 213 of 231


2. Exhibit C is a photocopy of a list of estimated cost of damages of petitioners
power barges 207 and 209 prepared by Hopewell Mobile Power Systems
Corporation and manually signed by Messrs.
Rex Malaluan and VirgilioAsprer;

3. Exhibit D is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by a certain Nestor G.


Enriquez, Jr., with RECEIVED stamped thereon, together with a handwritten
notation of the date it was received;

4. Exhibit E is a photocopy of a Standard Marine Protest Form which was filled


up and accomplished by Rex Joel C. Malaluan in his own handwriting and
signed by him. Portions of the Jurat were handwritten, and manually signed
by the Notary Public;

5. Exhibit H is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by Mr. Nestor G.


Enriquez, Jr. with RECEIVED stamped thereon, together with a handwritten
notation of the date it was received;

6. Exhibit I is a photocopy of a computation of the estimated energy loss


allegedly suffered by petitioner which was manually signed by Mr. Nestor G.
Enriquez, Jr.;

7. Exhibit J is a photocopy of a letter containing the breakdown of the cost


estimate, manually signed by Mr. Nestor G. Enriquez, Jr., with RECEIVED
stamped thereon, together with a handwritten notation of the date it was
received, and other handwritten notations;

8. Exhibit K is a photocopy of the


Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum written using a manual
typewriter, signed manually by Atty. Ofelia Polo-De Los Reyes, with a
handwritten notation when it was received by the party;

9. Exhibit L is a photocopy of a portion of the electricity supply and operation


and maintenance agreement between petitioner and Hopewell, containing
handwritten notations and every page containing three unidentified
manually placed signatures;

10. Exhibit M is a photocopy of the Notice of Termination with attachments


addressed to Rex Joel C. Malaluan, manually signed by Jaime S. Patinio,
with a handwritten notation of the date it was received. The sub-markings
also contain manual signatures and/or handwritten notations;

11. Exhibit N is a photocopy of a letter of termination with attachments


addressed to VIrgilio Asprer and manually signed by Jaime S. Patino. The
sub-markings contain manual signatures and/or handwritten notations;

Page 214 of 231


12. Exhibit O is the same photocopied document marked as Annex C;

13. Exhibit P is a photocopy of an incident report manually signed by


Messrs. Malaluan and Bautista and by the Notary Public, with other
handwritten notations;

14. Exhibit Q is a photocopy of a letter manually signed


by Virgilio Asprer and by a Notary Public, together with other handwritten
notations.

On the other hand, an electronic document refers to information or the


representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other models of
written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is
established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and
affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed,
retrieved or produced electronically.[5] It includes digitally signed documents
and any printout, readable by sight or other means which accurately reflects the
electronic data message or electronic document.[6]

The rules use the word information to define an electronic


document received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or
produced electronically. This would suggest that an electronic document is
relevant only in terms of the information contained therein, similar to any other
document which is presented in evidence as proof of its contents.[7] However, what
differentiates an electronic document from a paper-based document is the manner
by which the information is processed; clearly, the information contained in an
electronic document is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed,
retrieved or produced electronically.

A perusal of the information contained in the photocopies submitted by


petitioner will reveal that not all of the contents therein, such as the signatures of
the persons who purportedly signed the documents, may be recorded or produced
electronically. By no stretch of the imagination can a persons signature affixed
manually be considered as information electronically received, recorded,
transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced. Hence, the argument of
petitioner that since these paper printouts were produced through an electronic
process, then these photocopies are electronic documents as defined in the Rules
on Electronic Evidence is obviously an erroneous, if not preposterous,
interpretation of the law. Having thus declared that the offered photocopies are
not tantamount to electronic documents, it is consequential that the same may
not be considered as the functional equivalent of their original as decreed in the
law.

Furthermore, no error can be ascribed to the court a quo in denying


admission and excluding from the records petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and
its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and

Page 215 of 231


its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, and R. The
trial court was correct in rejecting these photocopies as they violate the best
evidence rule and are therefore of no probative value being incompetent pieces of
evidence. Before the onset of liberal rules of discovery, and modern technique of
electronic copying, the best evidence rule was designed to guard against
incomplete or fraudulent proof and the introduction of altered copies and the
withholding of the originals.[8] But the modern justification for the rule has
expanded from the prevention of fraud to a recognition that writings occupy a
central position in the law.[9] The importance of the precise terms of writings in the
world of legal relations, the fallibility of the human memory as reliable evidence of
the terms, and the hazards of inaccurate or incomplete duplicate are the concerns
addressed by the best evidence rule.[10]

Moreover, as mandated under Section 2, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court:

"SECTION 2. Original writing must be produced; exceptions. There can


be no evidence of a writing the contents of which is the subject of
inquiry, other than the original writing itself, except in the following
cases:
(a) When the original has been lost, destroyed, or cannot be
produced in court;
(b) When the original is in the possession of the party against whom the
evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable
notice;
(c) When the original is a record or other document in the custody of
a public officer;
(d) When the original has been recorded in an existing record a certified
copy of which is made evidence by law;
(e) When the original consists of numerous accounts or
other documents which cannot be examined in court without great
loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only
the general result of the whole."

When the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be


produced in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or existence and the
cause of its unavailability without bad faith on his part, may prove its contents by
a copy, or by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the
testimony of witnesses in the order stated. [11] The offeror of secondary evidence is
burdened to prove the predicates thereof: (a) the loss or destruction of the original
without bad faith on the part of the proponent/offeror which can be shown by
circumstantial evidence of routine practices of destruction of documents; [12] (b) the
proponent must prove by a fair preponderance of evidence as to raise a reasonable
inference of the loss or destruction of the original copy; and (c) it must be shown
that a diligent and bona fide but unsuccessful search has been made for the
document in the proper place or places.[13] However, in the case at bar, though
petitioner insisted in offering the photocopies as documentary evidence, it failed

Page 216 of 231


to establish that such offer was made in accordance with the exceptions as
enumerated under the abovequoted rule. Accordingly, we find no error in the
Order of the court a quo denying admissibility of the photocopies offered by
petitioner as documentary evidence.

Finally, it perplexes this Court why petitioner continued to obdurately


disregard the opportunities given by the trial court for it to present the originals
of the photocopies it presented yet comes before us now praying that it be allowed
to present the originals of the exhibits that were denied admission or in case the
same are lost, to lay the predicate for the admission of secondary evidence.Had
petitioner presented the originals of the documents to the court instead of the
photocopies it obstinately offered as evidence, or at the very least laid the predicate
for the admission of said photocopies, this controversy would not have
unnecessarily been brought before the appellate court and finally to this Court for
adjudication. Had it not been for petitioners intransigence, the merits of
petitioners complaint for damages would have been decided upon by the trial court
long ago. As aptly articulated by the Court of Appeals, petitioner has only itself to
blame for the respondent judges denial of admission of its aforementioned
documentary evidence and consequently, the denial of its prayer to be given
another opportunity to present the originals of the documents that were denied
admission nor to lay the predicate for the admission of secondary evidence in case
the same has been lost.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is


hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-SP No.
00848, dated 9 November 2005 is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Page 217 of 231


28. G.R. No. 164273, March 28, 2007
EMMANUEL B. AZNAR v. CITIBANK, N.A., (Philippines),

Before this Court is a Petition for Review assailing the Decision [1] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 62554 dated January 30, 2004 which set aside
the November 25, 1998 Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch
10, Cebu City and reinstated the Decision of RTC Branch 20 of Cebu City dated
May 29, 1998 in Civil Case No. CEB-16474; and the CA Resolution dated May 26,
2004 denying petitioners motion for reconsideration.

The facts are as follows:

Emmanuel B. Aznar (Aznar), a known businessman[2] in Cebu, is a holder of a


Preferred Master Credit Card (Mastercard) bearing number 5423-3920-0786-7012
issued by Citibank with a credit limit of P150,000.00. As he and his wife, Zoraida,
planned to take their two grandchildren, Melissa and Richard Beane, on an Asian
tour, Aznar made a total advance deposit of P485,000.00 with Citibank with the
intention of increasing his credit limit to P635,000.00.[3]

With the use of his Mastercard, Aznar purchased plane tickets to Kuala
Lumpur for his group worth P237,000.00. On July 17, 1994, Aznar, his wife and
grandchildren left Cebu for the said destination.[4]

Aznar claims that when he presented his Mastercard in some establishments


in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, the same was not honored.[5] And when he
tried to use the same in Ingtan Tour and Travel Agency (Ingtan Agency)
in Indonesia to purchase plane tickets to Bali, it was again dishonored for the
reason that his card was blacklisted by Citibank. Such dishonor forced him to buy
the tickets in cash.[6] He further claims that his humiliation caused by the denial
of his card was aggravated when Ingtan Agency spoke of swindlers trying to use
blacklisted cards.[7] Aznar and his group returned to the Philippines on August 10,
1994.[8]
On August 26, 1994, Aznar filed a complaint for damages against Citibank,
docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-16474 and raffled to RTC Branch 20, Cebu City,
claiming that Citibank fraudulently or with gross negligence blacklisted
his Mastercard which forced him, his wife and grandchildren to abort important
tour destinations and prevented them from buying certain items in their tour.[9] He
further claimed that he suffered mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded
feelings, besmirched reputation and social humiliation due to the wrongful
blacklisting of his card.[10] To prove that Citibank blacklisted
his Mastercard, Aznar presented a computer print-out, denominated as ON-LINE
AUTHORIZATIONS FOREIGN ACCOUNT ACTIVITY REPORT, issued to him
by Ingtan Agency (Exh. G) with the signature of
one Victrina Elnado Nubi (Nubi) [11] which shows that his card in question
was DECL OVERLIMIT or declared over the limit.[12]

Page 218 of 231


Citibank denied the allegation that it blacklisted Aznars card. It also contended
that under the terms and conditions governing the issuance and use of its credit
cards, Citibank is exempt from any liability for the dishonor of its cards by any
merchant affiliate, and that its liability for any action or incident which may be
brought against it in relation to the issuance and use of its credit cards is limited
to P1,000.00 or the actual damage proven whichever is lesser. [13]

To prove that they did not blacklist Aznars card, Citibanks Credit Card
Department Head, Dennis Flores, presented Warning Cancellation Bulletins which
contained the list of its canceled cards covering the period of Aznars trip.[14]

On May 29, 1998, RTC Branch 20, Cebu City, through Judge Ferdinand J.
Marcos, rendered its decision dismissing Aznars complaint for lack of merit.[15] The
trial court held that as between the computer print-out[16] presented by Aznar and
the Warning Cancellation Bulletins[17] presented by Citibank, the latter had more
weight as their due execution and authenticity were duly established by
Citibank.[18] The trial court also held that even if it was shown that Aznars credit
card was dishonored by a merchant establishment, Citibank was not shown to
have acted with malice or bad faith when the same was dishonored. [19]
Aznar filed a motion for reconsideration with motion to re-raffle the case saying
that Judge Marcos could not be impartial as he himself is a holder of a Citibank
credit card.[20] The case was re-raffled[21] and on November 25, 1998, the RTC, this
time through Judge Jesus S. De la Pea of Branch 10 of Cebu City, issued an Order
granting Aznars motion for reconsideration, as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby


GRANTED. The DECISION dated May 29, 1998 is hereby reconsidered,
and consequently, the defendant is hereby condemned liable to pay the
following sums of money:

a) P10,000,000.00 as moral damages;


b) P5,000,000.00 as exemplary damages;
c) P1,000,000.00 as attorneys fees; and
d) P200,000.00 as litigation expenses.[22]

Judge De la Pea ruled that: it is improbable that a man of Aznars stature would
fabricate Exh. G or the computer print-out which shows
that Aznars Mastercard was dishonored for the reason that it was declared over
the limit; Exh. G was printed out by Nubi in the ordinary or regular course of
business in the modern credit card industry and Nubi was not able to testify as
she was in a foreign country and cannot be reached by subpoena; taking judicial
notice of the practice of automated teller machines (ATMs) and credit card facilities
which readily print out bank account status, Exh. G can be received as prima
facie evidence of the dishonor of Aznars Mastercard; no rebutting evidence was
presented by Citibank to prove that Aznars Mastercard was not dishonored, as all
it proved was that said credit card was not included in the blacklisted cards; when

Page 219 of 231


Citibank accepted the additional deposit of P485,000.00 from Aznar, there was an
implied novation and Citibank was obligated to increase Aznars credit limit and
ensure that Aznar will not encounter any embarrassing situation with the use of
his Mastercard; Citibanks failure to comply with its obligation constitutes gross
negligence as it caused Aznar inconvenience, mental anguish and social
humiliation; the fine prints in the flyer of the credit card limiting the liability of the
bank to P1,000.00 or the actual damage proven, whichever is lower, is a contract
of adhesion which must be interpreted against Citibank. [23]
Citibank filed an appeal with the CA and its counsel filed an administrative case
against Judge De la Pea for grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law and
incompetence, claiming among others that said judge rendered his decision
without having read the transcripts. The administrative case was held in abeyance
pending the outcome of the appeal filed by Citibank with the CA. [24]

On January 30, 2004, the CA rendered its Decision granting Citibanks appeal
thus:
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The assailed order of
the Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial Region, Branch 10, Cebu City, in
Civil Case No. CEB-16474, is hereby SET ASIDE and the decision,
dated 29 May 1998 of the Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial Region,
Branch 20, Cebu City in this case is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.[25]
The CA ruled that: Aznar had no personal knowledge of the blacklisting of his card
and only presumed the same when it was dishonored in certain establishments;
such dishonor is not sufficient to prove that his card was blacklisted by
Citibank; Exh. G is an electronic document which must be authenticated
pursuant to Section 2, Rule 5 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence [26] or under
Section 20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court[27] by anyone who saw the document
executed or written; Aznar, however, failed to prove the authenticity of Exh. G,
thus it must be excluded; the unrefutedtestimony of Aznar that his credit card was
dishonored by Ingtan Agency and certain establishments abroad is not sufficient
to justify the award of damages in his favor, absent any showing that Citibank had
anything to do with the said dishonor; Citibank had no absolute control over the
actions of its merchant affiliates, thus it should not be held liable for the dishonor
of Aznars credit card by said establishments.[28]

Aznar filed a motion for reconsideration which the CA dismissed in its Resolution
dated May 26, 2004.[29]

Parenthetically, the administrative case against Judge De la Pea was activated and
on April 29, 2005, the Courts Third Division[30] found respondent judge guilty of
knowingly rendering an unjust judgment and ordered his suspension for six
months. The Court held that Judge De la Pea erred in basing his Order on a
manifestation submitted by Aznar to support his Motion for Reconsideration,
when no copy of such manifestation was served on the adverse party and it was

Page 220 of 231


filed beyond office hours. The Court also noted that Judge De la Pea made an
egregiously large award of damages in favor of Aznar which opened himself to
suspicion.[31]

Aznar now comes before this Court on a petition for review alleging that: the CA
erroneously made its own factual finding that his Mastercard was not blacklisted
when the matter of blacklisting was already a non-issue in the November 25, 1998
Order of the RTC; the RTC found that Aznars Mastercard was dishonored for the
reason that it was declared over the credit limit; this factual finding is supported
by Exh. G and by his (Aznars) testimony; the issue of dishonor on the ground
of DECL OVERLIMIT, although not alleged in the complaint, was tried with the
implied consent of the parties and should be treated as if raised in the pleadings
pursuant to Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure; [32] Exh. G cannot
be excluded as it qualifies as an electronic evidence following the Rules on
Electronic Evidence which provides that print-outs are also originals for purposes
of the Best Evidence Rule; Exh. G has remained complete and unaltered, apart
from the signature of Nubi, thus the same is reliable for the purpose for which it
was generated; the RTC judge correctly credited the testimony of Aznar on the
issuance of the computer print-out as Aznar saw that it was signed by Nubi; said
testimony constitutes the other evidence showing the integrity and reliability of
the print-out to the satisfaction of the judge which is required under the Rules on
Electronic Evidence; the trial court was also correct in finding that Citibank was
grossly negligent in failing to credit the additional deposit and make the necessary
entries in its systems to prevent Aznar from encountering any embarrassing
situation with the use of his Mastercard.[33]

Citibank, in its Comment, contends that: Aznar never had personal knowledge
that his credit card was blacklisted as he only presumed such fact; the issue of
dishonor on the ground that the card was declared over the limit was also never
tried with the implied consent of both parties; Aznars self-serving testimony is not
sufficient to prove the integrity and reliability of Exh. G; Aznar did not declare that
it was Nubi who printed the document and that said document was printed in his
presence as he merely said that the print-out was provided him; there is also no
annotation on Exh. G to establish that it was Nubi who printed the same;
assuming further that Exh. G is admissible and Aznars credit card was
dishonored, Citibank still cannot be held liable for damages as it only shows
that Aznars credit card was dishonored for having been declared over the
limit; Aznars cause of action against Citibank hinged on the alleged blacklisting of
his card which purportedly caused its dishonor; dishonor alone, however, is not
sufficient to award Aznar damages as he must prove that the dishonor was caused
by a grossly negligent act of Citibank; the award of damages in favor of Aznar was
based on Article 1170[34] of the Civil Code, i.e., there was fraud, negligence or delay
in the performance of its obligation; there was no proof, however that Citibank
committed fraud or delay or that it contravened its obligations towards Aznar; the
terms and conditions of the credit card cannot be considered as a contract of
adhesion since Aznar was entirely free to reject the card if he did not want the

Page 221 of 231


conditions stipulated therein; a person whose stature is such that he is expected
to be more prudent with respect to his transactions cannot later on be heard to
complain for being ignorant or having been forced into merely consenting to the
contract.[35]

In his Reply, Aznar contended that to a layman, the term blacklisting is


synonymous with the words hot list or declared overlimit; and whether his card
was blacklisted or declared over the limit, the same was dishonored due to the
fault or gross negligence of Citibank.[36]

Aznar also filed a Memorandum raising as issues the following:

I. Whether or not the augmentation deposit in the amount


of P485,000.00 of the Petitioner constitutes relative
extinctive novation;
II. Whether or not the purchases made by Petitioner were
beyond his credit limit;
III. Whether or not the issues of dishonor by reason
of overlimit was tried with the consent of the parties;
IV. Whether or not the On Line Authorization Report is an
electronic document.
V. Whether or not the On Line Authorization Report
constitutes electronic evidence;
VI. Whether or not the agreement between the parties is a
contract of adhesion;
VII. Whether or not the Respondent is negligent in not crediting
the deposits of the Respondent.[37]

Aznar further averred in his Memorandum that Citibank assured him that
with the use of his Mastercard, he would never be turned down by any merchant
store, and that under Section 43, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, Exh. G is
admissible in evidence.[38]

Citibank also filed a Memorandum reiterating its earlier arguments.[39]

Stripped to its essentials, the only question that needs to be answered is:
whether Aznar has established his claim against Citibank.

The answer is no.

It is basic that in civil cases, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff to
establish his case based on a preponderance of evidence. The party that alleges a
fact also has the burden of proving it.[40]

In the complaint Aznar filed before the RTC, he claimed that Citibank
blacklisted his Mastercard which caused its dishonor in several establishments

Page 222 of 231


in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, particularly in Ingtan Agency
in Indonesia where he was humiliated when its staff insinuated that he could be
a swindler trying to use a blacklisted card.

As correctly found by the RTC in its May 29, 1998 Decision, Aznar failed to
prove with a preponderance of evidence that Citibank blacklisted
his Mastercard or placed the same on the hot list.[41]

Aznar in his testimony admitted that he had no personal knowledge that


his Mastercard was blacklisted by Citibank and only presumed such fact from the
dishonor of his card.

Q Now, paragraph 12 also states and I quote: its entry in the hot list
was confirmed to be authentic.
Now, who confirmed that the blacklisting of your Preferred
Citibank Mastercard was authentic?

A. Okey. When I presented this Mastercard, my card rather, at the


Merchants store, I do not know, they called up somebody for
verification then later they told me that your card is being
denied. So, I am not in a position to answer that. I do not know
whom they called up; where they verified. So, when it is denied
thats presumed to be blacklisted.

Q. So the word that was used was denied?


A. Denied.

Q. And after you were told that your card was denied you presumed that
it was blacklisted?
A. Definitely.

Q. So your statement that your card was allegedly blacklisted is


only your presumption drawn from the fact, from your
allegations, that it was denied at the merchandise store?
A. Yes, sir.[42] (Emphasis supplied)

The dishonor of Aznars Mastercard is not sufficient to support a conclusion


that said credit card was blacklisted by Citibank, especially in view of Aznars own
admission that in other merchant establishments in Kuala
Lumpur and Singapore, his Mastercard was accepted and honored.[43]

Aznar puts much weight on the ON-LINE AUTHORIZATION FOREIGN


ACCOUNT ACTIVITY REPORT, a computer print-out handed
to Aznar by Ingtan Agency, marked as Exh. G, to prove that his Mastercard was
dishonored for being blacklisted. On said print-out appears the words DECL
OVERLIMIT opposite Account No. 5423-3920-0786-7012.

Page 223 of 231


As correctly pointed out by the RTC and the CA, however, such exhibit
cannot be considered admissible as its authenticity and due execution were not
sufficiently established by petitioner.

The prevailing rule at the time of the promulgation of the RTC Decision is
Section 20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. It provides that whenever any private
document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and
authenticity must be proved either by (a) anyone who saw the document executed
or written; or (b) by evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of
the maker.

Aznar, who testified on the authenticity of Exh. G, did not actually see the
document executed or written, neither was he able to provide evidence on the
genuineness of the signature or handwriting of Nubi, who handed to him said
computer print-out. Indeed, all he was able to allege in his testimony are the
following:

Q I show to you a Computer Print Out captioned as On Line


Authorization Activity Report where it is shown that the
Preferred Master Card Number 5423392007867012 was
denied as per notation on the margin of this Computer Print
Out, is this the document evidencing the dishonor of your
Preferred Master Card?

xxxx

A Yes sir, after that Ingtan incident, I went straight to the Service
Agency there and on the left hand side you will be able to
see the name of the person in-charged [sic] there certifying
that really my card is being blacklisted and there is the
signature there of the agency.

ATTY. NAVARRO:
The witness, your honor, is pointing to the signature over the
handwritten name of Victrina Elnado Nubi which I pray,
your honor, that the Computer Print Out be marked as our
Exhibit G and the remarks at the left hand bottom portion
of Victorina Elnado Nubi with her signature thereon be
encircled and be marked as our Exhibit G-1.
xxxx

Q Mr. Aznar, where did you secure this Computer


Print Out marked as Exhibit G?
A This is provided by that Agency, your honor. They were the ones
who provided me with this. So what the lady did,

Page 224 of 231


she gave me the Statement and I requested her to sign
to show proof that my Preferred Master Card has been
rejected.[44] (Emphasis supplied).

Even if examined under the Rules on Electronic Evidence, which took effect
on August 1, 2001, and which is being invoked by Aznar in this case, the
authentication of Exh. G would still be found wanting.

Pertinent sections of Rule 5 read:

Section 1. Burden of proving authenticity. The person seeking to


introduce an electronic document in any legal proceeding has the
burden of proving its authenticity in the manner provided in this Rule.

Section 2. Manner of authentication. Before any private electronic


document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its authenticity
must be proved by any of the following means:

(a) by evidence that it had been digitally


signed by the person purported to have signed the
same;
(b) by evidence that other appropriate
security procedures or devices as may be authorized
by the Supreme Court or by law for authentication of
electronic documents were applied to the document;
or
(c) by other evidence showing its integrity
and reliability to the satisfaction of the judge.

Aznar claims that his testimony complies with par. (c), i.e., it constitutes the
other evidence showing integrity and reliability of Exh. G to the satisfaction of the
judge. The Court is not convinced. Aznars testimony that the person
from Ingtan Agency merely handed him the computer print-out and that he
thereafter asked said person to sign the same cannot be considered as sufficient
to show said print-outs integrity and reliability. As correctly pointed out by Judge
Marcos in his May 29, 1998 Decision, Exh. G does not show on its face that it was
issued by IngtanAgency as Aznar merely mentioned in passing how he was able to
secure the print-out from the agency; Aznar also failed to show the specific
business address of the source of the computer print-out because while the name
of Ingtan Agency was mentioned by Aznar, its business address was not reflected
in the print-out.[45]

Indeed, Aznar failed to demonstrate how the information reflected on the


print-out was generated and how the said information could be relied upon as
true. In fact, Aznar to repeat, testified as follows:

Page 225 of 231


ATTY. NERI
Q Now, paragraph 12 also states and I quote: its entry in the hot list
was confirmed to be authentic

Now, who confirmed that the blacklisting of your Preferred


Citibank Mastercard was authentic?

A Okey. When I presented this Mastercard, my card rather, at the


Merchants store, I do not know, they called up somebody
for verification then later they told me that your card is
being denied. So, I am not in a position to answer that. I do
not know whom they called up; where they verified. So,
when it is denied thats presumed to be
blacklisted. [46] (Emphasis supplied)

Aznar next invokes Section 43 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which
pertains to entries in the course of business, to support Exh. G. Said provision
reads:

Sec. 43. Entries in the course of business. Entries made at, or


near the time of the transactions to which they refer, by a person
deceased or unable to testify, who was in a position to know the facts
therein stated, may be received as prima facie evidence, if such person
made the entries in his professional capacity or in the performance of
duty and in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty.

Under this rule, however, the following conditions are required:


1. the person who made the entry must be dead, or unable to
testify;
2. the entries were made at or near the time of the transactions to
which they refer;
3. the entrant was in a position to know the facts stated in the
entries;
4. the entries were made in his professional capacity or in the
performance of a duty, whether legal, contractual, moral or
religious; and
5. the entries were made in the ordinary or regular course of
business or duty.[47]

As correctly pointed out by the RTC in its May 29, 1998 Decision, there
appears on the computer print-out the name of a certain Victrina Elnado Nubi and
a signature purportedly belonging to her, and at the left dorsal side were
handwritten the words Sorry for the delay since the records had to be
retrieved. Regards. Darryl Mario. It is not clear therefore if it was Nubi who
encoded the information stated in the print-out and was the one who printed the

Page 226 of 231


same. The handwritten annotation signed by a certain Darryl Mario even suggests
that it was Mario who printed the same and only handed the print-out to Nubi. The
identity of the entrant, required by the provision above mentioned, was therefore
not established. Neither did petitioner establish in what professional capacity did
Mario or Nubi make the entries, or whether the entries were made in the
performance of their duty in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty.

And even if Exh. G is admitted as evidence, it only shows that the use of the
credit card of petitioner was denied because it was already over the limit. There is
no allegation in the Complaint or evidence to show that there was gross negligence
on the part of Citibank in declaring that the credit card has been used over the
limit.

The Court is also perplexed that stated on Exh. G is the amount of


6,289,195.10 opposite petitioner's account number, which data, petitioner did not
clarify.[48] As plaintiff in this case, it was incumbent on him to prove that he did
not actually incur the said amount which is above his credit limit. As it is, the
Court cannot see how Exh. G could help petitioner's claim for damages.

The claim of petitioner that Citibank blacklisted his card through fraud or
gross negligence is likewise effectively negated by the evidence of Citibank which
was correctly upheld by the RTC and the CA, to wit:

xxx Mr. Dennis Flores, the Head of the Credit Card Department
of defendant Bank, presented documents known as Warning
Cancellation Bulletin for July 10, 17, 24, and 31, 1994 (Exhibits 3, 3-
1 to 3-38, 4, 4-1 to 4-38 5, 5-1 to 5-39 and 6, 6-1 to 6-39), for August
7, 1994 (Exhibit[s] 7, 7-1 to 7-37), for August 8, 1994 (Exhibit[s] 8, 8-
1 to 8-20) which show that plaintiffs Citibank
preferred mastercard was not placed in a hot list or was not
blacklisted.

The Warning Cancellation Bulletins (WCB) (Exhibits 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,


8 and their submarkings) which covered the period of four (4) days in
July 1994 (from July 10, 17, 24 and 31, 1994), and two (2) days in
August 1994, (August 7 and 8, 1994), when plaintiff traveled in the
aforementioned Asian countries showed that said Citibank
preferred mastercard had never been placed in a hot list or the same
was blacklisted, let alone the fact that all the credit cards which had
been cancelled by the defendant bank were all contained, reported and
listed in said Warning Cancellation Bulletin which were issued and
released on a regular basis.

These three hundred (300) Warning Cancellation Bulletins pieces


of documentary proofs, all in all, adduced by defendant pointed to the
fact that said plaintiffs credit car (sic) was not among those found in

Page 227 of 231


said bulletins as having been cancelled for the period for which the said
bulletins had been issued.

Between said computer print out (Exhibit G) and the Warning


Cancellation Bulletins (Exhibits 3 to 8 and their submarkings) the
latter documents adduced by defendant are entitled to greater weight
than that said computer print out presented by plaintiff that bears on
the issue of whether the plaintiffs preferred master card was actually
placed in the hot list or blacklisted for the following reasons:

The first reason is that the due execution and authentication of


these Warning Cancellation Bulletins (or WCB) have been duly
established and identified by defendants own witness, Dennis Flores,
one of the banks officers, who is the head of its credit card department,
and, therefore, competent to testify on the said bulletins as having been
issued by the defendant bank showing that plaintiffs preferred master
credit card was never blacklisted or placed in the Banks hot list. But
on the other hand, plaintiffs computer print out (Exhibit G) was never
authenticated or its due execution had never been duly
established. Thus, between a set of duly authenticated commercial
documents, the Warning Cancellation Bulletins (Exhibits 3 to 8 and
their submarkings), presented by defendants (sic) and an
unauthenticated private document, plaintiffs computer print out
(Exhibit G), the former deserves greater evidentiary weight supporting
the findings of this Court that plaintiffs preferred master card (Exhibit
1) had never been blacklisted at all or placed in a so-called hot list by
defendant.[49]

Petitioner next argues that with the additional deposit he made in his
account which was accepted by Citibank, there was an implied novation and
Citibank was under the obligation to increase his credit limit and make the
necessary entries in its computerized systems in order that petitioner may not
encounter any embarrassing situation with the use of his credit card. Again, the
Court finds that petitioner's argument on this point has no leg to stand on.

Citibank never denied that it received petitioners additional deposit. [50] It


even claimed that petitioner was able to purchase plane tickets
from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur in the amount of P237,170.00, which amount was
beyond his P150,000.00 limit, because it was able to credit petitioners additional
deposit to his account. Flores of Citibank testified:

COURT:
Q When was this ticket purchased, after the account was augmented
or before?

Page 228 of 231


A After the account was augmented, Your Honor, because there is no
way we can approve a P250,000.00 purchase with a
P150,000.00 credit limit.[51]

xxx

ATTY. NERI:
For the record, your honor, the deposit of P450,000.00 was made
as per exhibit of the plaintiff on June 28. The purchase of
the tickets amount to P237,000.00 was approved and
debited on the account of Mr. Aznar on July 20, your
honor. The deposit was made about a month before the
purchase of the tickets as per documentary exhibits, your
honor.

COURT:
So, Atty. Navarro, what do you say to that explanation?

ATTY. NAVARRO [counsel of petitioner]:

That is correct, your honor, that is borne out by the records, your
honor. (Emphasis supplied)

COURT: (to witness)


Q So, I think Atty. Navarro is only after whether a credit line could be
extended?
A Yes, your honor.

Q Even if there is no augmenting?


A No, sir, it is not possible. So, the only way the P237,000.00
transaction could be approved was by way of advance
payment which actually happened in this case because there
is no way that the P237,000.00 can be approved with
the P150,000.00 credit limit.[52] (Emphasis supplied)

The allegations of blacklisting not having been proved, is Citibank liable for
damages for the dishonor of Aznars Mastercard?

Again, the answer is no.

Citibank, in its attempt to evade liability, invokes paragraphs 7 and 15 of the


terms and conditions governing the issuance of its Mastercard which read:

7. MERCHANT AFFILIATES. [Citibank is] not responsible if the


Card is not honored by any merchant affiliate for any
reason. Furthermore, [the cardholder] will not hold [Citibank]

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responsible for any defective product or service purchased through the
Card.

xxxx
15. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. In any action arising from this
agreement or any incident thereto which [the cardholder] or any other
party may file against [Citibank], [Citibanks] liability shall not exceed
One Thousand Pesos [P1,000.00] or the actual damages proven,
whichever is lesser.[53]
On this point, the Court agrees with Aznar that the terms and conditions of
Citibanks Mastercard constitute a contract of adhesion. It is settled that contracts
between cardholders and the credit card companies are contracts of adhesion, so-
called, because their terms are prepared by only one party while the other merely
affixes his signature signifying his adhesion thereto.[54]

In this case, paragraph 7 of the terms and conditions states that [Citibank
is] not responsible if the Card is not honored by any merchant affiliate for any
reason x x x. While it is true that Citibank may have no control of all the actions
of its merchant affiliates, and should not be held liable therefor, it is incorrect,
however, to give it blanket freedom from liability if its card is dishonored by any
merchant affiliate for any reason. Such phrase renders the statement vague and
as the said terms and conditions constitute a contract of adhesion, any ambiguity
in its provisions must be construed against the party who prepared the
contract,[55] in this case Citibank.

Citibank also invokes paragraph 15 of its terms and conditions which limits
its liability to P1,000.00 or the actual damage proven, whichever is lesser.

Again, such stipulation cannot be considered as valid for being


unconscionable as it precludes payment of a larger amount even though damage
may be clearly proven. This Court is not precluded from ruling out blind adherence
to the terms of a contract if the attendant facts and circumstances show that they
should be ignored for being obviously too one-sided.[56]

The invalidity of the terms and conditions being invoked by Citibank,


notwithstanding, the Court still cannot award damages in favor of petitioner.

It is settled that in order that a plaintiff may maintain an action for the
injuries of which he complains, he must establish that such injuries resulted from
a breach of duty which the defendant owed to the plaintiff a concurrence of injury
to the plaintiff and legal responsibility by the person causing it. The underlying
basis for the award of tort damages is the premise that an individual was injured
in contemplation of law; thus there must first be a breach before damages may be
awarded and the breach of such duty should be the proximate cause of the
injury.[57]

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It is not enough that one merely suffered sleepless nights, mental anguish
or serious anxiety as a result of the actuations of the other party. It is also required
that a culpable act or omission was factually established, that proof that the
wrongful act or omission of the defendant is shown as the proximate cause of the
damage sustained by the claimant and that the case is predicated on any of the
instances expressed or envisioned by Arts. 2219[58] and 2220[59] of the Civil
Code.[60]

In culpa contractual or breach of contract, moral damages are recoverable


only if the defendant has acted fraudulently or in bad faith, or is found guilty of
gross negligence amounting to bad faith, or
in wanton disregard of his contractual obligations. The breach must be wanton,
reckless, malicious or in bad faith, oppressive or abusive. [61]

While the Court commiserates with Aznar for whatever undue


embarrassment he suffered when his credit card was dishonored
by Ingtan Agency, especially when the agencys personnel insinuated that he could
be a swindler trying to use blacklisted cards, the Court cannot grant his present
petition as he failed to show by preponderance of evidence that Citibank breached
any obligation that would make it answerable for said suffering.

As the Court pronounced in BPI Express Card Corporation v. Court of


Appeals,[62]

We do not dispute the findings of the lower court that private


respondent suffered damages as a result of the cancellation of his
credit card. However, there is a material distinction between damages
and injury.Injury is the illegal invasion of a legal right; damage is the
loss, hurt, or harm which results from the injury; and damages are the
recompense or compensation awarded for the damage suffered. Thus,
there can be damage without injury to those instances in which the
loss or harm was not the result of a violation of a legal duty. In such
cases, the consequences must be borne by the injured
person alone, the law affords no remedy for damages resulting from an
act which does not amount to a legal injury or wrong. These situations
are often called damnum absque injuria.[63]

WHEREFORE, the petition is denied for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

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