Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 82

G.R. No. 116692 March 21, 1997

SAMAR II ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE INCORPORATED, represented by PONCIANO R. ROSALES, General Manager, petitioner, vs. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and FROILAN RAQUIZA, respondents.

ROMERO, J.:

This petition for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order seeks the annulment of the March 10, 1994, decision of the National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC Case No. V-0307-92, as well as its order dated April 28, 1994, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit. The antecedent facts follow.

Private respondent Froilan V. Raquiza was employed by petitioner Samar II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SAMELCO II)

as probationary power plant operator on January 1, 1976, and became a regular employee on July 1, 1976. On February 9, 1980, he was appointed as switchboard operator and sometimes alternated as acting plant superintendent.

Raquiza's problems began when a major breakdown of the pielstick engine causing electric failure to the whole franchise area for a period of four months occurred during

his shift on January 21, 1988. On January 22, 1988, he was immediately asked to explain the incident, which he did the following day. After investigation, however, SAMELCO

II General Manager Ponciano Rosales found Raquiza and

his two companions in the shift, Manuel Balasbas and Pascual Martinez, guilty of gross negligence in the performance of their duty. The three were placed under preventive suspension from January 27, 1988, until their termination on February 29, 1988. Nine months later, or on December 5, 1988, Raquiza filed a complaint against petitioner for illegal dismissal, praying for reinstatement and payment of unpaid wages, unpaid overtime pay, attorney's fees, moral and exemplary damages, and the cost of suit.

Labor Arbiter Gabino A. Velasquez, Jr. rendered a decision on September 25, 1992, finding Raquiza's dismissal to be based on a just cause. On appeal, however, the NLRC reversed and set aside his ruling, and ruled as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the decision appealed from is hereby reversed and set aside, and a new one entered to wit:

1) declaring the dismissal of the complainant-appellant (Raquiza) due to gross negligence as illegal;

2) ordering respondents (herein petitioners) to reinstate the complainant- appellant to his former position with full backwages not exceeding three (3) years, without loss of seniority rights and other privileges, or in the event reinstatement is no longer feasible due to the realities of the situation, to pay him his separation pay equivalent to one (1) month for every

year of service from January 1, 1976 up to and including the three (3) years imputed service for which backwages was awarded;

3) ordering respondents further to pay attorney's fees of 10% of the total monetary award.

All other claims are hereby dismissed for

lack of sufficient basis.

SO ORDERED.

Its motion for reconsideration having likewise failed, petitioner filed the instant petition.

Petitioner's present action is premised solely on the grave abuse of discretion allegedly exercised by the NLRC in reversing the labor arbiter's decision. Its arguments, however, fail to persuade this Court, and a closer examination of the questioned judgment would reveal that the NLRC disposed of the case judiciously.

Labor Arbiter Velasquez opined that since Raquiza was not able to specifically deny the charges against him, he should be deemed to have admitted them. Technical rules of evidence are not, however, strictly followed in labor cases. The Labor Code itself affirms this liberality, viz.:

Art. 221. Technical Rules not binding and prior resort to amicable settlement. In

any proceeding before the Commission or

any of the Labor Arbiters, the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling and it is the spirit and intention of this Code that the Commission and its members and the

Labor Arbiters shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively and without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due

1

This rule is reiterated in the Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, to wit:

Rule V.

Sec. 7. Nature of Proceedings. The proceedings before a Labor Arbiter shall

be non-litigious in nature. Subject to the requirements of due process, the technicalities of law and procedure and

the rules obtaining in the courts of law

shall not strictly apply thereto. The Labor Arbiter may avail himself of all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of the controversy speedily, including ocular inspection and examination of well-

informed persons.

xxx xxx xxx

Rule VII.

Sec. 10. Technical rules not binding. The rules of procedure and evidence

Rule VII. Sec. 10. Technical rules not binding. — The rules of procedure and evidence EVIDENCE
Rule VII. Sec. 10. Technical rules not binding. — The rules of procedure and evidence EVIDENCE

prevailing in courts of law and equity shall not be controlling and the Commission shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively, without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process.

xxx xxx xxx

Raquiza's failure to specifically deny or explain the charges against him should not, therefore, be deemed fatal to his claim.

Our laws as well as this Court have consistently recognized and respected an employer's right to terminate the services of an employee for just or authorized causes. This prerogative, however, must be exercised in good faith. As we held in Mercury Drug Corp. v. NLRC, et al.: 2

Management also has its own rights, which, as such, are entitled to respect and enforcement in the interest of simple fair play. Out of its concern for those with less privileges in life, the Supreme Court has inclined more often than not toward the worker and upheld his cause in his conflicts with the employer. Such favoritism, however, has not blinded the Court to rule that justice is in every case for the deserving, to be dispensed in the light of the established facts and applicable law and doctrine. 3

Petitioner as employer is duty-bound to establish the existence of a clear, valid and just ground for dismissing Raquiza. It cannot merely allege that its employee was grossly negligent in the performance of his duty thereby causing great damage to its property and resulting in great pecuniary loss.

Raquiza's dismissal was based on three factors, namely, (a) leaving his work assignment while on duty; (b) not properly checking the engine before starting it; and (c) authorizing the continued running of pielstick (engine) no. 2 in spite of the discovery that there was an oil leakage.

In the case of Citibank, N.A. v. Gatchalian, 4 we ruled that "(g)ross negligence implies a want or absence of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire absence of care. It evinces a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.

While it is true that Raquiza left his place of work to go to the administration building to get the proceeds of his loan during the testing period of the engine, such act cannot be perceived to be so serious as would amount to gross negligence. As to the claim that he did not check the engine, the NLRC found that he actually made several inspections of the engine before actually starting it. We find no reason to disturb this finding in view of the respect and finality which this Court has constantly accorded to factual findings of quasi-judicial agencies such as the NLRC. 5 Finally, the fact that Raquiza failed to prevent the occurrence of the incident does not sufficiently show nor can it be inferred that he was grossly negligent. At most, it can be considered an error of judgment on his part when he continued to operate the engine. It must be

remembered that the purpose of the operation of said engine was to synchronize it with the National Power Corporation's Geothermal Plant in Tangonan, Leyte to augment power during the peak hours in the early evenings. 6 Stoppage of the operation would have defeated such purpose and violated the very franchise of petitioner.

The investigation conducted by petitioner revealed that "the breakdown was due to the serious error committed by Froilan V. Raquiza, Manuel Balasbas, and Pascual

Martinez, although complainant's command responsibility,

liability and negligence,

gravest." 7 Yet, despite this collective error, only Raquiza was dismissed; the other two were merely suspended. Such discrimination cannot be sanctioned by this Court.

, was most serious and the

Furthermore, the NLRC correctly pointed out from the evidence that there was no clarity or confirmation as to the cause of the pielstick engine breakdown. Thus, it stated:

More significantly, the findings of the consultant who inspected pielstick Engine No. 2 at the instance of the respondents cost (sic) a serious doubt on the alleged negligence of the complainant-appellant as the proximate cause for the damage of the said engine. It appears from the said inspection result that the said unit bogged down in September 1986, and in that incident all con/rod bearings were replaced with old sets taken from Dorelco Units. The same con/rod bearings were likewise noted to be due for replacement in (sic) December 17, 1987. Lastly, the said engine unit at the time it broke down had a total running hours [of] 21,332.1 far exceeding the tolerable maximum requirement of 18,000 hrs. The above attendant circumstances shows (sic) that Pielstick Engine No. 2 broke down last January 21, 1988 not due to the negligence of the complainant but due to worn out spare parts and its continued operation beyond the schedule of replacement of con/rod bearing on December 17, 1987. 8

Petitioner claimed below that Raquiza's dismissal was not solely attributable to the January 21, 1988, incident but was, in fact, a result of a "long string of neglect and violations of company R & R (rules and regulations)." But this is beside the point. What is significant is that the employer bears the burden of proving that the dismissal of an employee is for a just cause, failing which the dismissal cannot be deemed justified thus entitling the latter to reinstatement. 9 The decision to dismiss must be in accord with the law and the evidence and not merely the whim or caprice of the employer. 10

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the petition is DISMISSED for failing to show that respondent National Labor Relations Commission committed grave abuse of discretion in arriving at its assailed decision dated March 10, 1994, and order dated April 28, 1994.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. Nos. 141702-03

August 2, 2001

10, 1994, and order dated April 28, 1994. SO ORDERED. G.R. Nos. 141702-03 August 2, 2001
10, 1994, and order dated April 28, 1994. SO ORDERED. G.R. Nos. 141702-03 August 2, 2001

CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS, LTD., petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and MARTHA Z. SINGSON, respondents.

BELLOSILLO, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari seeks to set aside the 20 September 1999 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals declaring respondent Martha Z. Singson illegally dismissed by petitioner Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd., and thus should be reinstated with full back wages and awarded moral as well as exemplary damages.

This petition traces its origin to two (2) petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 initially filed with Supreme Court:

Martha Z. Singson v. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., SP Case No. 52104, and Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd. V. National labor Relations Commission and Martha Z. Singson, SP Case No. 52105, which were consolidated 2 and referred 3 to the Court of Appeals in consonance with the St. Martin Funeral Homes doctrine.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd. (CATHAY), is an international airline company engaged in providing international flight services while Martha Z. Singson was a cabin attendant of CATHAY hired in the Philippines on 24 September 1990 with home base in Hongkong.

On 26 August 1991 Singson was scheduled on a five (5)- day flight to London but was unable to take the flight as she was feeling fatigued and exhausted from her transfer to a new apartment with her husband. On 29 August 1991 she visited the company doctor, Dr. Emer Fahy, who examined and diagnosed her to be suffering from a moderately severe asthma attack. She was advised to take a Ventolin nebulizer and increase the medication she was currently taking, an oral Prednisone (steroid). Dr. Fahy thereafter conveyed to Dr. John G. Fowler, Principal Medical Officer, her findings regarding Singson's medical condition as a result of which she was evaluated as unfit for flying due to her medical condition.

On 3 September 1991 Singson again visited Dr. Fahy during which time the latter declared her condition to have vastly improved. However, later that day, Cabin Crew Manager Robert J. Nipperess informed Singson that CATHAY had decided to retire her on medical grounds effective immediately based on the recommendation of Dr. Fowler and Dr. Fahy.

Martha Z. Singson was surprised with the suddenness of the notification but nonetheless acknowledged it. Later, she met with Nipperess and inquired of possible employment that entailed only ground duties within the company. She was advised to meet with certain personnel who knew of the employment requirements in other departments in the company, and to await a possible offer from the company.

On 20 December 1991 Singson filed before the Labor Arbiter a complaint against CATHAY for illegal dismissal, with prayer for actual, moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees. Efforts on initial settlement having failed, trial followed.

Robert J. Nipperess and Dr. John G. Fowler appeared as witnesses for CATHAY. Nipperess confirmed that the

decision to retire respondent was made upon the recommendation of Dr. Fowler. In turn, Dr. Fowler testified that the affliction of respondent with asthma rendered her unfit to fly as it posed aviation risks, i.e., asthma disabled her from properly performing her cabin crew functions, specifically her air safety functions.

On the other hand, Singson presented herself and Dr. Benjamin Lazo, a doctor in the country specializing in internal medicine and pulmonary diseases. She denied being afflicted with asthma at any point in her life, while Dr. Lazo confirmed the same declaring that at the time of his examination of Singson he found her to be of normal condition.

On the basis of the evidence presented before him, Labor Arbiter Pablo C. Espiritu Jr. declared CATHAY liable for illegal dismissal and ordered the airline to pay Singson HK$531,150.80 representing full back wages and privileges, HK$54,137.70 for undisputed benefits due her, HK$100,000.00 as actual damages, HK$500.00 as moral damages, HK500.00 as exemplary damages, and HK$168,528,85 as attorney's fees. Furthermore, CATHAY was ordered to reinstate Singson to her former position as airline stewardess without loss of seniority rights, benefits and privileges.

On 19 March 1993 CATHAY appealed the decision of the Labor Arbiter to the National Labor Relations Commission. On 29 December 1994 the NLRC reversed the decision of the Labor Arbiter and declared valid Singson's dismissal from service. 4 Relying on the testimony of Dr. Fowler and the affidavit and medical records submitted by Dr. Fahy, admitted as newly-discovered evidence, the NLRC found Singson to be indeed afflicted with asthma that rendered her unfit to fly and perform cabin crew functions. Consequently, the NLRC withdrew the back wages, moral and exemplary damages awarded to Singson for lack of factual or legal basis. It however ordered CATHAY to retain

her services as ground stewardess, with salaries and benefits, noting that she had been reinstated therein since

12 March 1993. In turn, Singson was granted the option to

continue her employment with CATHAY.

Thereafter, both parties filed their respective motions for reconsideration 5 before the NLRC which on 31 August 1995 were denied for lack of merit. Petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 were subsequently filed by both parties before the Supreme Court which, after consolidation, were referred to the Court of Appeals for resolution. 6

Meanwhile, pursuant to the decision of the NLRC, Singson was reinstated as cabin stewardess with ground duties on

12 March 1993 pending the resolution of the petitions.

On 20 September 1999 the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of the NLRC and reinstated the decision of the Labor Arbiter declaring Singson to have been illegally terminated. The appellate court anchored its judgment on the following findings: First, Dr. Fowler's opinion about Singson's medical condition was based on the personal examination of Dr. Fahy, and not is own. The appellate court held that a personal and prolonged examination of a patient was necessary and crucial before he or she could be properly diagnosed as afflicted with asthma, 7 and thus Dr. Fowler's expert opinion was unreliable and mere hearsay. Second, CATHAY disregarded Sec. 8, Rule I, Book VI, of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code 8 which requires a certification by a competent public health

the Labor Code 8 which requires a certification by a competent public health EVIDENCE Rule 128
the Labor Code 8 which requires a certification by a competent public health EVIDENCE Rule 128

authority when disease is the reason for an employee's separation from service, since it relied merely on the diagnosis of its company doctors, Dr. Fowler and Dr. Fahy. Third, the NLRC erroneously relied on the affidavit executed by Dr. Fahy since she was not personally presented as a witness to identify and testify on its contents. Fourth, respondent passed the medical examination required of prospective flight cabin attendants, the International Labor Organization's Occupational Health and Safety in Civil Aviation examination, prior to her employment and found to be fit for flight-related service. Fifth, CATHAY failed to adequately prove the health standards required in aviation, particularly the non-qualification of flight attendants afflicted with asthma to flight-related service. 9

Consequently, the appellate court awarded respondent full back wages with reinstatement, as well as moral and exemplary damages, while deleting the award of actual damages, while deleting the award of actual damages reasoning that no undue damage inured to her since her husband nonetheless remained in Hongkong managing two (2) corporations. The appellate court however declared the option given to respondent to continue her employment as a ground stewardess with CATHAY to have been erroneously issued and consequently nullified the same.

CATHAY now argues that the Court of Appeals should have confined its inquiry to issues of want or excess of jurisdiction and grave abuse of discretion and not into the factual findings of the NLRC since the petition before it was made under Rule 65.

This Court is not persuaded. CATHAY's petition for certiorari filed before the Court of Appeals assailed specifically the judgment of the NLRC granting respondent the choice to continue her employment with CATHAY as ground stewardess as, in fact, she had been reinstated as such since 12 March 1993. On the other hand, respondent's petition attacked the NLRC decision declaring her dismissal valid and nullifying the award of damages in her favor on the basis of Dr. Fowler's testimony and not Dr. Lazo's. Consequently, it was inevitable for the Court of Appeals to examine the evidence anew to determine whether the factual findings of the NLRC were supported by the evidence presented and the conclusions derived therefrom accurately ascertained. As pointed out by the appellate court, this became even more essential in view of the fact that there was a conflict of decision between the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. We thus find no error in the appellate court's evaluation of the evidence despite the pleadings being petitions for certiorari under Rule 65.

CATHAY next argues that the Court of Appeals erred in not admitting as evidence the affidavit of Dr. Fahy. We agree. The appellate court may have overlooked the principle in labor cases that the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity are not always controlling. 10 It is not necessary that affidavits and other documents presented conform to the technical rules of evidence as the Court maintains a liberal stance regarding procedural deficiencies in labor cases. 11 Section 3, Rule V, of the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC specifically allows parties to submit position papers accompanied by all supporting documents including affidavits of their respective witnesses which take the place of their testimonies. 12 Thus, the fact that Dr. Fahy was not presented as witness to

identify and testify on the contents of her affidavit was not

a fatal procedural flaw that affected the admissibility of her affidavit as evidence.

The non-presentation of Dr. Fahy during the trial was duly explained she was no longer connected with CATHAY and had transferred residence to Ireland. It is for this same reason that we find no error in the NLRC'' admission of Dr. Fahy's written medical notes as newly-discovered evidence. Moreover, the submission of additional evidence before the NLRC is not prohibited by the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, such submissions not being prejudicial to the party for the latter could submit counter- evidence. 13

Notwithstanding the foregoing, we find Singson to have been illegally dismissed from the service. Granting without admitting that indeed respondent was suffering from asthma, this alone would not be a valid ground for CATHAY to dismiss her summarily. Section 8, Rule I, Book VI, of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code requires a certification by a competent public health authority that the disease is of such nature or at such a stage that it cannot be cured within a period of six (6) months even with proper medical treatment.

In the instant case, no certification by a competent public health authority was presented by CATHAY. It dismissed Singson based only on the recommendation of its company doctors who concluded that she was afflicted with asthma.

It did not likewise show proof that Singson's asthma could

not be cured in six (6) months even with proper medical treatment. On the contrary, when Singson returned to the company clinic on 3 September 1991 or five (5) days after her initial examination on 29 August 1991, Dr. Fahy diagnosed her condition to have vastly improved.

CATHAY could not take refuge in Clause 22 of the

Conditions of Service it entered into with Singson. Although

a certification by a competent public health authority is

not required, still CATHAY is obliged to follow several steps under the Conditions of Service before terminating its employee. The pertinent part of Clause 22 thereof provides

Clause 22. Sick Leave. x x x x In case of serious illness the Company will grant sick leave with full pay for the first three months and with 2/3 of pay for the fourth month. Consideration will be given to granting the cabin crew further sick leave, either with pay or off pay up to a further two months, or retiring the cabin crew on medical ground

x x x x

Thus, even on the assumption that asthma is a serious illness, this again would not excuse CATHAY from ignoring the procedure specified in its employment contract with Singson. Under the contract, CATHAY must first allow Singson to take a leave of absence and not to terminate her services right there and then. It is only after the employee has enjoyed four (4) months of sick leave that the option to retire the employee based on medical ground arises. In the instant case, Singson went to the company clinic on 29 August 1991. On 3 September 1991 she returned to the company clinic only to be told that "effective immediately" she was dismissed on medical grounds.

We agree with the Court of Appeals in its award of moral and exemplary damages to respondent. CATHAY summarily dismissed Singson from the service based only

damages to respondent. CATHAY summarily dismissed Singson from the service based only EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases
damages to respondent. CATHAY summarily dismissed Singson from the service based only EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases

on the recommendation of its medical officers, in effect, failing to observe the provision of the Labor Code which requires a certification by a competent public health authority. Notably, the decision to dismiss Singson was reached after a single examination only. CATHAY's medical officers recommended Singson's dismissal even after having diagnosed her condition to have vastly improved. It

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated

SO ORDERED.

advised that someone would meet them in Singapore. True enough, they were welcomed by Victor Lim, the owner of Step-Up Employment Agency (Step-Up Agency). 6 He informed them that they would be working as fishermen with a monthly salary of US $200.00 each. Thereafter, they boarded Ruey Horn #3, a vessel owned by Min Fu Fishery Co. Ltd. of Taiwan.

did not make even a token offer for Singson to take a leave of absence as what it provided in its Contract of Service. CATHAY is presumed to know the law and the stipulation in its Contract to Service with Singson.

20 September 1999 declaring the dismissal of respondent Martha Z. Singson by petitioner CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS, LTD. as illegal and ordering her reinstatement

On board the vessel, petitioner was subjected to inhumane work conditions, like inadequate supply of food and water, maltreatment by the ship captain, and lack of medical attendance. He was also required to work for twenty-two hours a day without pay. Unable to bear his situation any longer, he joined the other Filipino workers in leaving the vessel while it was docked at Mauritius Islands on July 15,

1992.

to her former or an equivalent position without loss of seniority rights, with full back wages and benefits, and to pay her HK$500.00 as moral damages, HK$500.00 as exemplary damages plus ten percent (10%) of the total monetary award as attorney's fees, is AFFIRMED. The amounts received by respondent representing her six (6)

Upon his return to the Philippines, petitioner asked private respondents to pay his salaries. Instead of doing so, they required him to surrender his passport promising that they would procure another job for him. Later, private respondents gave him the amount of five hundred pesos

months retirement gratuity and one (1) month pay in lieu

(P500.00).

of notices should be DEDUCTED from respondent's computed back wages, with costs against petitioner.

Private respondents filed an answer 7 claiming that, petitioner, Victor Lim and Min Fee Fishery Co. Ltd are all "total strangers" to them. To bolster the claim, they offered in evidence the Joint Affidavit 8 of Efren B. Balucas and

G.R. No. 118943

September 10, 2001

Alexander C. Natura, petitioner's co-workers in Singapore,

MARIO HORNALES, petitioner, vs. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, JOSE CAYANAN AND JEAC INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT CONTRACTOR SERVICES, respondents.

stating that while they were in Singapore, petitioner admitted to them that he did not apply in any agency in the Philippines; that he came to Singapore merely as a tourist; and that, he applied directly and personally with Step-Up Agency. These statements were corroborated by the "Certification" 9 issued by Step-Up Agency.

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

It is sad enough that poverty has impelled many of our countrymen to seek greener pastures in foreign lands. But what is more lamentable is when a Filipino recruiter, after sending his unlettered countrymen to a foreign land and letting them suffer inhuman treatment in the hand of an abusive employer, connives with the foreign employer in denying them their rightful compensation. Surely, there shall be a day of reckoning for such a recruiter whose insatiable love for money made him a tyrant to his own race.

At bench is a petition for certiorari seeking to annul and set aside the (a) Decision 1 dated July 28, 1994 of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) reversing the Decision 2 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in POEA Case No. (L) 92-07- 939, 3 and (b) Resolution 4 dated October 6, 1994 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.1âwphi1.nêt

The facts as shown by the records are:

On July 15, 1992, Mario Hornales (herein petitioner) filed with the POEA a complaint 5 for non-payment of wages and recovery of damages against JEAC International Management & Contractor Services (JEAC) and its owner, Jose Cayanan (herein private respondents). As private respondents' surety, Country Bankers Insurance Corporation (Country Bankers) was later on impleaded by petitioner. The complaint alleged that on October 8, 1991, private respondents sent petitioner, together with other Filipinos, to Singapore. At their departure, they were

On January 23, 1993, petitioner filed a Supplemental Affidavit 10 claiming that he was not a "total stranger" to private respondents, and that, as a matter of fact, he knew respondent Cayanan since 1990, when they used to go to the San Lazaro Hippodrome to watch horse races. He also averred that while the vessel was docked at Mauritius Islands on June 1992, respondent Cayanan reminded him and his co-workers of their loan obligations by sending them photocopies of the PNB checks he (respondent Cayanan) issued in favor of their relatives, and the agreements whereby they authorized Victor Lim to deduct from their salaries the amount of their loan obligations.

On January 5, 1994, the POEA rendered a decision in favor of petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondents JEAC International Management and Contractor Services, Jose E. Cayanan and Travellers Insurance Corp. are hereby ordered, jointly and severally to pay complainant the amount of US DOLLARS: ONE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED FORTY SIX AND 66/100 (US$ 1, 646.66) representing his unpaid salaries and US $ 164.66 as and by way of attorney's fees. Payment shall be made in Philippine Currency at the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of payment.

For want of jurisdiction, the claim for moral and exemplary damages is denied.

All other claims and counterclaims are denied.

for moral and exemplary damages is denied. All other claims and counterclaims are denied. EVIDENCE Rule
for moral and exemplary damages is denied. All other claims and counterclaims are denied. EVIDENCE Rule

SO ORDERED." 11

Incidentally, the POEA dismissed petitioner's claim against Country Bankers on the ground that the surety bond which was effective at the time of petitioner's deployment was that of Travelers Insurance Corporation.

On appeal, respondent NLRC vacated the decision of the POEA and dismissed petitioner's complaint mainly on the ground that there was no employer-employee relationship between the parties. The NLRC ratiocinated as follows:

"At the outset, we note that the record is bereft of any showing that complainant applied with the respondent agency as a job applicant and subsequently entered into an

overseas

later

contract

with

the

latter

which

was

processed and approved by the POEA. X x x What appears is that complainant used the agency as a stepping stone to enter Singapore as a tourist and obtain employment thereat on his own. This is evidenced by Annexes "A-1 " to '"H" of Complainant's Reply (See pp. 65-72, record) which purports to show that the batch of complainant was obligated to pay back respondent Jose Cayanan the expenses for their deployment. No less than the POEA noted that the respondent agency "is a service contractor and is not authorized to deploy fishermen." Based on this fact, the respondent agency could not have deployed complainant as an overseas contract worker. What is apparent is that it obtained a tourist passport and plane ticket for complainant as a travel agent on a clearly "fly now pay later" plan.

We cannot rely on the employment agreements and checks (See pp. 66-67, record) presented by complainant to show proof of employment relations considering that his name does not appear in any of the documents, hence they are merely hearsay." 12

In reversing the POEA's finding, respondent NLRC gave considerable weight to the Joint Affidavit of Natura and Balucas.

Unsatisfied, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied.

Petitioner now comes to this Court via a petition for certiorari, imputing grave abuse of discretion to public respondent NLRC. He asserts that private respondents were the ones who deployed him to Singapore to work as fisherman; and that, respondent NLRC's conclusion that respondent JEAC was a mere "travel agency" and petitioner, a mere tourist, has no basis in fact and in law.

For their part, private respondents maintain that respondent NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it set aside the decision of the POEA, since petitioner failed to show any POEA record or document to prove that they deployed him to work in Singapore. Neither did he present a Special Power of Attorney to prove that Step-Up Agency authorized private respondents to recruit and deploy contract workers in its behalf nor an Affidavit of Responsibility to show that they (private respondents and Step-Up Agency) assumed solidary liability to petitioner. 13 Private respondents likewise insist that the photocopies of the PNB checks and agreements are hearsay and inadmissible in evidence.

The Solicitor General, in his comment, 14 joins petitioner in assailing the decision of respondent NLRC as "baseless and

erroneous." According to him, the conclusion of respondent NLRC directly contradicts private respondents' defense that petitioner was a "total stranger." Further, he contends that the Joint Affidavit of Balucas and Natura are hearsay.

The cardinal issue in this case hinges on the question - Are private respondents responsible for petitioner's recruitment and deployment to Singapore?

Let us take a closer look at the scale of evidence.

On one arm of the scale are petitioner's evidence consisting of photocopies of the PNB checks and agreementswhich were intended to disprove private respondents' claim that petitioner, Victor Lim and Step-Up Agency are "total strangers." The PNB checks represent the payments made by respondent Cayanan to the relatives of petitioner's co-workers (including Balucas and Natura). The checks show the name of LIM Chang Koo &/or Jose Cayanan, as drawers. While the agreements, denominated "For Fisherman Deployed For Work To Singapore,"constitute authorization to Victor Lim to deduct from the monthly salaries of the workers the amounts of their obligations to private respondents. Petitioner's own undertaking to private respondents reads:

"I hereby certify that my expenses abroad in going to Singapore as fisherman amounting to SIXTEEN THOUSAND PESOS (P16,000.00) shall be temporarily shouldered by JEAC INT'L MGT & CONT. SERVICES and as soon as I arrive in Singapore, said amount will be charged by MR. VICTOR LIM and will be remitted to Eng. Jose E.

(Sgd.)

Mario

Hornales

F. CREW" 15

Cayanan.

On the other side of the scale are the Joint Affidavit secured by private respondents from petitioner's co- workers, Balucas and Natura, and a Certification issued by Step-Up Agency. These evidence were intended to prove the alleged admission of petitioner to Balucas and Natura that he went as a tourist to Singapore and that he applied directly with Step-Up Agency. The Certification of Step-Up Agency re-echoes the allegations in the Joint Affidavit.

The scale of evidence must tilt in favor of petitioner.

In a catena of labor cases, this Court has consistently held that where the adverse party is deprived of the opportunity to cross-examine the affiants, affidavits are generally rejected for being hearsay, unless the affiant themselves are placed on the witness stand to testify thereon. 16 Private respondents' Joint Affidavit has no probative value. It suffers from two infirmities, first, petitioner was not given the opportunity to cross-examine the two affiants regarding the contents thereof, and second, the two affiants merely swore as to what petitioner told them but not as to the truth of the statements uttered. 17

In the same vein, the Certification must not be given weight. Private respondents not only failed to present Victor Lim before the POEA to be cross-examined by petitioner, but the Certification was also not verified or

POEA to be cross-examined by petitioner, but the Certification was also not verified or EVIDENCE Rule
POEA to be cross-examined by petitioner, but the Certification was also not verified or EVIDENCE Rule

under oath. 18 To our mind, it is just a last-ditch attempt on the part of Step-Up Agency to help private respondents free themselves from liability to petitioner. It bears noting that private respondents, Victor Lim and Step-Up Agency, as shown by petitioner's evidence, acted in concert in his deployment to Singapore. Hence, such certification is, at most, self-serving.

On the other hand, the PNB Checks and the agreements presented by petitioner strongly disprove private respondents' total strangers" theory .It may be observed that, in their attempt to exculpate themselves from monetary liability, private respondents adopted an extreme position, i.e., that they have nothing to do with petitioner, Victor Lim and Step-Up Agency. Such strategy proved to be disastrous to them. The mere presentation of documents bearing private respondents' names and that of Step-Up Agency and Victor Lim is enough to defeat their theory. More so, when the documetary evidence consist of bank checks showing the existence of a joint account, and authorization agreements revealing a contract of agency.

Private respondents' argument that petitioner's evidence are mere, photocopies and therefore cannot be considered as the best evidence on the issue does not persuade us. The best evidence rule enshrined in the Revised Rules on Evidence provides that "when the subject of an inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself." 19 This rule is not without exception. Some of the exception are when the original has been lost or destroyed; cannot be produced in court without bad faith on the part of the offeror; or 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. 20 It would be unreasonable to demand from petitioner the presentation of the original PNB Checks considering that it is a banking practice that for a check to be encashed, the same must be surrendered to the bank first. These checks are, therefore, most likely in the possession of the bank. As to the agreements, it is reasonable to conclude that respondent Cayanan was the one in possession of the originals thereof. It maybe recalled that these agreements were executed by the workers for his security and benefit. At any rate, it is worthy to note that private respondents did not disown the PNB checks nor deny the existence of the agreements.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it must be emphasized that the proceedings before the POEA is non-litigious in nature. The technicalities of law and procedure and the rules obtaining in the courts of law shall not strictly apply thereto and a hearing officer may avail himself of all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of the case. 21 On the applicability of the Rules of Court to labor cases, the Supreme Court has ruled in Shoemart, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission 22 :

"The argument cannot be sustained. Whatever merit it might have in the context of ordinary civil actions, where the rules of evidence apply with more or less strictness, disappears when adduced in connection with proceedings before Labor Arbiters and the National Labor Relations Commission; for in said proceedings, the law is explicit that 'the rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling and it is the (law's) spirit and intention that the Commission and its members and the Labor Arbiters shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and

objectively and without regard to technicalities of law or

procedure, all in the interest of due process.' Indeed, it is

not the Rules of Court enacted by the Supreme Court but

rather the regulations promulgated by the National Labor Relations Commission which govern "the hearing and disposition of cases before it and its regional branches**.' The 'Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines and prevailing jurisprudence,' the law says, may be applied to labor cases only under quite stringent limits, i.e., 'in the absence of any applicable provision (in the Rules of the Commission), and in order to effectuate the objectives of the Labor Code**, in the interest of expeditious labor justice and whenever practicable and convenient, by analogy or in a suppletory character and effect." Under these rules, the proceedings before a Labor Arbiter are 'non-litigious in nature' in which, 'subject to the requirements of due process, the technicalities of law and procedure and the rules obtaining in the courts of law ** (do not) strictly apply."

Undoutedly, the factual and legal bases of respondent NLRC's conclusions are bereft of substantial evidence - the quantum of proof in labor cases. As aptly said by the Solicitor General, its decision is "baseless and erroneous." Its disposition is manifestly a grave abuse of discretion. 23

In concluding that respondent JEAC was a mere "travel agency" and petitioner, a mere "tourist, " respondent NLRC came up with a new theory which find no support even from the evidence of private respondents, the party in whose favor the decision was rendered. First, there is nothing in the record which shows that respondent JEAC is

a mere travel agency. Even private respondents

consistently plead that respondent JEAC is a "licensed recruitment agency authorized to recruit and deploy overseas Filipino contract workers."

Second, the evidence upon which respondent NLRC based

its findings consist of agreements authorizing Victor Lim

to deduct from the salaries of petitioner and his co-

workers the amount of their obligations to respondent Cayanan. It would be too much of a coincidence to say that petitioner and his co-workers are all mere tourists who allowed a certain Victor Lim to deduct from their salaries the amount of their obligations to respondent Cayanan. What is evident here is that there is an internal arrangement between respondent Cayanan and Victor Lim brought about by the fact that the former deployed these workers to serve the latter. As correctly pointed out by the POEA, there must be a "previous arrangement" between private respondents and Victor Lim.

Significantly, from these pieces of evidence respondent NLRC could already see the falsity in private respondents' "total strangers" theory. How could there be an arrangement between two persons who do not know each other? Note how respondent NLRC conveniently closed its eye to the name of Victor Lim, as mentioned in the agreements, when it ruled that Victor Lim and Step-Up Agency are indeed " total strangers" to private respondents. We sustain the findings of the POEA, being more convincing and supported by substantial evidence, thus:

"[C]omplainant applied at the office of respondent agency and was able to seek employment in Singapore through Engineer Jose Cayanan, owner of respondent agency. Complainant's allegations are supported by the Annexes

he attached to his Reply (Annexes "'A" to "H"). These

by the Annexes he attached to his Reply (Annexes "'A" to "H"). These EVIDENCE Rule 128
by the Annexes he attached to his Reply (Annexes "'A" to "H"). These EVIDENCE Rule 128

documents readily show that it was not only complainant who was recruited by respondent agency through Engr. Cayanan and as agreed upon, the expenses in going to Singapore shall be advanced by respondents. Thus their loans payable to Engr. Cayanan and charged against their salaries. The checks representing the salaries of the complainant and his co-workers show that they are drawn from the account of Lim Chang Khoo and/or Jose Gayanan. From the foregoing, it is properly noted that complainant's salaries were taken from the funds of respondents which means that the latter had a hand or participated in his recruitment and deployment.

We cannot give credence to respondents' contentions that complainant is a total stranger to them and that MIN Fee Fishery Co. Ltd. is not its principal, neither do we believe that respondents do not know Mr. Victor Lim who met complainant in Singapore. Annex "B" in respondents' position paper belies respondents' contentions. How could respondents write to a certain Step Up Employment Agency in Singapore, complainant's employer, when the latter is not even mentioned in his complaint? We wonder where respondents got the name of this employer if the same is really not known to them.

It is very unlikely for complainant to proceed to Singapore as a tourist without knowing anybody at the site and just to apply for work. Had there not been previous arrangements with respondents, it is not all possible for complainant to land on a job in Singapore because he is only a tourist.

Respondents had to resort to this misrepresentation of allowing its recruits to leave as tourist because it is a service contractor and it is not authorized to deploy fishermen." 24

Private respondents further argue that they cannot be held liable by petitioner because no employment contract between him and Step-Up Agency had been approved by the POEA. They also claim that the absence of a Special Power of Attorney and an Affidavit of Responsibility, as required under Sections 1 and 2, Rule 1, Book III of the POEA Rules and Regulations 25 only proves that they did not deploy petitioner to Singapore.

Their argument is far from persuasive. Surely, they cannot expect us to utilize their non-compliance with the POEA Rules and Regulations as a basis in absolving them. To do so would be tantamount to giving premium to acts done in violation of established rules. At most, private respondents' act of deploying petitioner to Singapore without complying with the POEA requirements only made them susceptible to cancellation or suspension of license as provided by Section 2, Rule I, Book VI of POEA Rules and Regulations:

SEC.2.Grounds for suspension/cancellation of license.

x x x

x x x

m. Deploying workers whose employment and travel documents were not processed by the Administration;

n. Deploying workers workers or seafarers to vessels or principals not accredited by the Administration;

But of course, such violations should be threshed out in a proper administrative proceeding for suspension or cancellation of license.

Meantime, we just uphold POEA's Decision holding private respondents and Travelers Insurance Corporation jointly and severally liable to petitioner. Section 2 (e), Rule V, Book I of the Omnibus Rules lmplementing the Labor Code requires a private employment agency to assume all responsibilities for the implementation of the contract of employment of an overseas worker. 26 This provision is substantially reiterated in Section 1 (f) (3) of Rule II, Book II of the POEA Rules and Regulations which provides:

"Section 1. Requirements for Issuance of License - Every applicant for license to operate a private employment agency or manning agency shall submit a written application together with the following requirements:

x x x

x x x

f) a verified undertaking stating that the applicant:

x x x

(3) shall assume joint and solidary liability with the employer which may arise in connection with the implementation of the contract, including but not limited to payment of wages, health and disability compensation and repatriation.

With respect to private respondents' surety, its liability is founded on Section 4, Rule II, Book II of the POEA Rules and Regulations. Cash and surety bonds are required by the POEA from recruitment and employment companies precisely as a means of ensuring prompt and effective recourse against such companies when held liable for applicant's or worker's claims. The cash and surety bonds shall answer for all valid and legal claims arising from violations of the conditions for the grant and use of the license, and/or accreditations and contracts of employment. The bonds shall likewise guarantee compliance with the provisions of the Code and its implementing rules and regulations relating to recruitment and placement, the POEA Rules and relevant issuances of the Department and all liabilities which the POEA may impose. 27

Accordingly, we find it proper to reinstate the Decision dated January 5, 1994 of the POEA subject to the modification that the amount of P16,000, the amount which petitioner admitted to have been advanced by respondent JEAC for his expenses in going to Singapore 28 be deducted from the total amount to be awarded to him which includes a) US$ 1,646.66 corresponding to his unpaid salaries and b) attorney's fees. The award of attorney's fees amounting to ten percent (10%) of the total award is justified under Article 111 (a) of the Labor Code. The solidary liability of Travelers Insurance Corp., as surety of respondent JEAC, is maintained.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED and the respondent NLRC's a) Decision dated July 28, 1994, and b) Resolution dated October 6, 1994 are SET ASIDE. The Decision of POEA Administrator Felicisimo O. Joson in POEA Case No. (L) 92-07-939 is REINSTATED with the MODIFICATION that the sum of P16,000.00 be deducted from the total amount to be awarded to petitioner.

1âwphi1.nêt

P16,000.00 be deducted from the total amount to be awarded to petitioner. 1âwphi1.nêt EVIDENCE Rule 128
P16,000.00 be deducted from the total amount to be awarded to petitioner. 1âwphi1.nêt EVIDENCE Rule 128

Payment should be made in Philippine currency at the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of payment.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 126625 September 18, 1997

KANLAON CONSTRUCTION ENTERPRISES CO., INC., petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, 5TH DIVISION, and BENJAMIN RELUYA, JR., EDGARDO GENAYAS, ERNESTO CANETE, PROTACIO ROSALES, NESTOR BENOYA, RODOLFO GONGOB, DARIO BINOYA, BENJAMIN BASMAYOR, ABELARDO SACURA, FLORENCIO SACURA, ISABELO MIRA, NEMESIO LACAR, JOSEPH CABIGKIS, RODRIGO CILLON, VIRGILIO QUIZON, GUARINO EVANGELISTA, ALEJANDRO GATA, BENEDICTO CALAGO, NILO GATA, DIONISIO PERMACIO, JUANITO SALUD, ADOR RIMPO, FELIPE ORAEZ, JULIETO TEJADA, TEOTIMO LACIO, ONOFRE QUIZON, RUDY ALVAREZ, CRESENCIO FLORES, ALFREDO PERMACIO, CRESENCIO ALVIAR, HERNANI SURILLA, DIOSDADO SOLON, CENON ALBURO, ZACARIAS ORTIZ, EUSEBIO BUSTILLO, GREGORIO BAGO, JERRY VARGAS, EDUARDO BUENO, PASCUAL HUDAYA, ROGELIO NIETES, and REYNALDO NIETES, respondents.

PUNO, J.:

In this petition for certiorari, petitioner Kanlaon Construction Enterprises Co., Inc. seeks to annul the decision of respondent National Labor Relations Commission, Fifth Division and remand the cases to the Arbitration Branch for a retrial on the merits.

Petitioner is a domestic corporation engaged in the construction business nationwide with principal office at No. 11 Yakan St., La Vista Subdivision, Quezon City. In 1988, petitioner was contracted by the National Steel Corporation to construct residential houses for its plant employees in Steeltown, Sta. Elena, Iligan City. Private respondents were hired by petitioner as laborers in the project and worked under the supervision of Engineers Paulino Estacio and Mario Dulatre. In 1989, the project neared its completion and petitioner started terminating the services of private respondents and its other employees.

In 1990, private respondents filed separate complaints against petitioner before Sub-Regional Arbitration Branch XII, Iligan City. Numbering forty-one (41) in all, they claimed that petitioner paid them wages below the minimum and sought payment of their salary differentials and thirteenth-month pay. Engineers Estacio and Dulatre were named co-respondents.

Some of the cases were assigned to Labor Arbiter Guardson A. Siao while the others were assigned to Labor Arbiter Nicodemus G. Palangan. Summonses and notices of preliminary conference were issued and served on the two engineers and petitioner through Engineer Estacio. The preliminary conferences before the labor arbiters were attended by Engineers Estacio and Dulatre and private respondents. At the conference of June 11, 1990 before Arbiter Siao, Engineer Estacio admitted petitioner's liability to private respondents and agreed to pay their wage differentials and thirteenth-month pay on June 19, 1990. As a result of this agreement, Engineer Estacio

allegedly waived petitioner's right to file its position paper. 1 Private respondents declared that they, too, were dispensing with their position papers and were adopting their complaints as their position paper. 2

On June 19, 1990, Engineer Estacio appeared but requested for another week to settle the claims. Labor Arbiter Siao denied this request. On June 21, 1990, Arbiter Siao issued an order granting the complaint and directing petitioner to pay private respondents' claims. Arbiter Siao held:

xxx xxx xxx

Considering the length of time that has elapsed since these cases were filed, and what the complainants might think as

to how this branch operates and/or conducts its

proceedings as they are now restless, this Arbiter has no

other alternative or recourse but to order the respondent

to pay the claims of the complainants, subject of course to

the computation of the Fiscal Examiner II of this Branch

pursuant to the oral manifestation of respondent. The Supreme Court ruled: "Contracts though orally made are binding on the parties." (Lao Sok v. Sabaysabay, 138 SCRA

134).

Similarly, this Branch would present in passing that "a court cannot decide a case without facts either admitted or agreed upon by the parties or proved by evidence." (Yu Chin Piao v. Lim Tuaco, 33 Phil. 92; Benedicto v. Yulo, 26 Phil. 160)

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the respondent is hereby ordered to pay the individual claims of the above- named complainants representing their wage differentials within ten (10) days from receipt of this order.

The Fiscal Examiner II of this Branch is likewise hereby ordered to compute the individual claims of the herein complainants.

SO ORDERED. 3

On June 29, 1990, Arbiter Palangan issued a similar order,

thus:

When the above-entitled cases were called for hearing on June 19, 1990 at 10:00 a.m. respondent thru their representative manifested that they were willing to pay

the claims of the complainants and promised to pay the

same on June 28, 1990 at 10:30 a.m.

However, when these cases were called purposely to materialize the promise of the respondent, the latter failed to appear without any valid reason.

Considering therefore that the respondent has already admitted the claims of the complainants, we believe that

the issues raised herein have become moot and academic.

WHEREFORE premises considered, the above-entitled cases are hereby ordered Closed and Terminated, however, the respondent is hereby ordered to pay the complainants their differential pay and 13th-month pay within a period of ten (10) days from receipt hereof based on the employment record on file with the respondent.

SO ORDERED. 4

receipt hereof based on the employment record on file with the respondent. SO ORDERED. 4 EVIDENCE
receipt hereof based on the employment record on file with the respondent. SO ORDERED. 4 EVIDENCE

Petitioner appealed to respondent National Labor Relations Commission. It alleged that it was denied due process and that Engineers Estacio and Dulatre had no authority to represent and bind petitioner. Petitioner's appeal was filed by one Atty. Arthur Abundiente.

In a decision dated April 27, 1992, respondent Commission affirmed the orders of the Arbiters.

Petitioner interposed this petition alleging that the decision of respondent Commission was rendered without jurisdiction and in grave abuse of discretion. Petitioner claims that:

I

THE QUESTIONED DECISION RENDERED BY THE HONORABLE COMMISSION IS A NULLITY, IT HAVING BEEN ISSUED WITHOUT JURISDICTION;

II

PUBLIC RESPONDENT NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ARBITRARILY, CAPRICIOUSLY AND WHIMSICALLY MAKING THE FOLLOWING CONCLUSIONS BASED NOT ON FACTS AND BUT ON SPECULATION, SURMISE AND EVIDENCE CONJECTURE:

A. Petitioner was deprived of the constitutional right to

due process of law when it was adjudged by the NLRC liable without trial on the merits and without its

knowledge;

B. The NLRC erroneously, patently and unreasonably

interpreted the principle that the NLRC and its Arbitration Branch are not strictly bound by the rules of evidence;

C. There is no legal nor actual basis in the NLRC's ruling

that petitioner is already in estoppel to disclaim the

authority of its alleged representatives.

D. The NLRC committed manifest error in relying merely

on private, respondents' unsubstantiated complaints to

hold petitioner liable for damages. 5

In brief, petitioner alleges that the decisions of the labor arbiters and respondent Commission are void for the following reasons: (1) there was no valid service of summons; (2) Engineers Estacio and Dulatre and Atty. Abundiente had no authority to appear and represent petitioner at the hearings before the arbiters and on appeal to respondent Commission; (3) the decisions of the arbiters and respondent Commission are based on unsubstantiated and self-serving evidence and were rendered in violation of petitioner's right to due process.

Service of summons in cases filed before the labor arbiters is governed by Sections 4 and 5 of Rule IV of the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC. They provide:

Sec. 4. Service of Notices and Resolutions. (a) Notices or summons and copies of orders, resolutions or decisions shall be served on the parties to the case personally by the bailiff or duly authorized public officer within three (3) days from receipt thereof or by registered mail; Provided that where a party is represented by counsel or authorized representative, service shall be made on such counsel or authorized representative; provided further that in cases of

decision and final awards, copies thereof shall be served

on both the parties and their counsel; provided finally, that

in case where the parties are so numerous, service shall be

made on counsel and upon such number of complainants

as may be practicable, which shall be considered

substantial compliance with Article 224 (a) of the Labor Code, as amended.

xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 5. Proof and completeness of service. The return is prima facie proof of the facts indicated therein. Service by registered mail is complete upon receipt by the addressee or his

Under the NLRC Rules of Procedure, summons on the respondent shall be served personally or by registered mail on the party himself. If the party is represented by counsel or any other authorized representative or agent, summons shall be served on such person.

It has been established that petitioner is a private domestic

corporation with principal address in Quezon City. The complaints against petitioner were filed in Iligan City and summonses therefor served on Engineer Estacio in Iligan City. The question now is whether Engineer Estacio was an agent and authorized representative of petitioner.

To determine the scope or meaning of the term "authorized representative" or "agent" of parties on whom summons may be served, the provisions of the Revised Rules of Court may be resorted to. 6

Under the Revised Rules of Court, 7 service upon a private domestic corporation or partnership must be made upon

its officers, such as the president, manager, secretary,

cashier, agent, or any of its directors. These persons are

deemed so integrated with the corporation that they know their responsibilities and immediately discern what to do with any legal papers served on them. 8

In the case at bar, Engineer Estacio, assisted by Engineer Dulatre, managed and supervised the construction project. 9 According to the Solicitor General and private respondents, Engineer Estacio attended to the project in Iligan City and supervised the work of the employees thereat. As manager, he had sufficient responsibility and discretion to realize the importance of the legal papers served on him and to relay the same to the president or other responsible officer of petitioner. Summons for petitioner was therefore validly served on him.

Engineer Estacio's appearance before the labor arbiters

and his promise to settle the claims of private respondents

is another matter.

The general rule is that only lawyers are allowed to appear before the labor arbiter and respondent Commission in cases before them. The Labor Code and the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, nonetheless, lists three (3) exceptions to the rule, viz:

Sec. 6. Appearances.

A non-lawyer may appear before the Commission or any

Labor Arbiter only if:

(a) he represents himself as party to the case;

Commission or any Labor Arbiter only if: (a) he represents himself as party to the case;
Commission or any Labor Arbiter only if: (a) he represents himself as party to the case;

(b) he represents the organization or its members, provided that he shall be made to present written proof that he is properly authorized; or

(c) he is a duly-accredited member of any legal aid office duly recognized by the Department of Justice or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in cases referred thereto by the

10

A non-lawyer may appear before the labor arbiters and the NLRC only if: (a) he represents himself as a party to the case; (b) he represents an organization or its members, with written authorization from them: or (c) he is a duly- accredited member of any legal aid office duly recognized by the Department of Justice or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in cases referred to by the latter. 11

Engineers Estacio and Dulatre were not lawyers. Neither were they duly-accredited members of a legal aid office. Their appearance before the labor arbiters in their capacity as parties to the cases was authorized under the first exception to the rule. However, their appearance on behalf of petitioner required written proof of authorization. It was incumbent upon the arbiters to ascertain this authority especially since both engineers were named co-respondents in the cases before the arbiters. Absent this authority, whatever statements and declarations Engineer Estacio made before the arbiters could not bind petitioner.

The appearance of Atty. Arthur Abundiente in the cases appealed to respondent Commission did not cure Engineer Estacio's representation. Atty. Abundiente, in the first place, had no authority to appear before the respondent Commission. The appellants' brief he filed was verified by him, not by petitioner. 12 Moreover, respondent Commission did not delve into the merits of Atty. Abundiente's appeal and determine whether Engineer Estacio was duly authorized to make such promise. It dismissed the appeal on the ground that notices were served on petitioner and that the latter was estopped from denying its promise to pay.

ordinarily requires a reciprocal obligation from the plaintiff to withdraw the complaint and discharge the defendant from liability. 15 In effect, the offer to pay was an offer to compromise the cases.

In civil cases, an offer to compromise is not an admission

of any liability, and is not admissible in evidence against

the offeror. 16 If this rule were otherwise, no attempt to

settle litigation could safely be made. 17 Settlement of disputes by way of compromise is an accepted and desirable practice in courts of law and administrative tribunals. 18 In fact, the Labor Code mandates the labor arbiter to exert all efforts to enable the parties to arrive at an amicable settlement of the dispute within his jurisdiction on or before the first hearing. 19

Clearly, respondent Commission gravely abused its discretion in affirming the decisions of the labor arbiters which were not only based on unauthorized representations, but were also made in violation of petitioner's right to due process.

Section

provides:

3

of

Rule

V

of

the NLRC

Rules

of

Procedure

Sec. 3. Submission of Position Papers/Memorandum. Should the parties fail to agree upon an amicable settlement, in whole or in part, during the conferences, the Labor Arbiter shall issue an order stating therein the matters taken up and agreed upon during the conferences and directing the parties to simultaneously file their respective verified position papers

xxx xxx xxx

After petitioner's alleged representative failed to pay the workers' claims as promised, Labor Arbiters Siao and Palangan did not order the parties to file their respective position papers. The arbiters forthwith rendered a decision on the merits without at least requiring private respondents to substantiate their complaints. The parties may have earlier waived their right to file position papers

 

but

petitioner's waiver was made by Engineer Estacio on

Nevertheless, even assuming that Engineer Estacio and

Sec. 7. Authority to bind party. Attorneys and other

the

premise that petitioner shall have paid and settled the

Atty. Abundiente were authorized to appear as

claims of private respondents at the scheduled conference.

representatives of petitioner, they could bind the latter only in procedural matters before the arbiters and respondent Commission. Petitioner's liability arose from Engineer Estacio's alleged promise to pay. A promise to

Since petitioner reneged on its "promise," there was a failure to settle the case amicably. This should have prompted the arbiters to order the parties to file their position papers.

pay amounts to an offer to compromise and requires a special power of attorney or the express consent of petitioner. The authority to compromise cannot be lightly presumed and should be duly established by evidence. 13 This is explicit from Section 7 of Rule III of the NLRC Rules of Procedure, viz:

representatives of parties shall have authority to bind their clients in all matters of procedure; but they cannot, without a special power of attorney or express consent,

Article 221 of the Labor Code mandates that in cases before labor arbiters and respondent Commission, they "shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively and without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process." The rule that respondent Commission and the Labor Arbiters are not bound by technical rules of evidence and procedure should not be

interpreted so as to dispense with the fundamental and essential right of due process. 20 And this right is satisfied,

at

the very least, 'when the parties are given the

enter into a compromise agreement with the opposing party in full or partial discharge of a client's claim.

The promise to pay allegedly made by Engineer Estacio was made at the preliminary conference and constituted an offer to settle the case amicably. The promise to pay could not be presumed to be a single unilateral act, contrary to the claim of the Solicitor General. 14 A defendant's promise to pay and settle the plaintiff's claims

opportunity to submit position papers. 21 Labor Arbiters Siao and Palangan erred in dispensing with this requirement.

Indeed, the labor arbiters and the NLRC must not, at the expense of due process, be the first to arbitrarily disregard specific provisions of the Rules which are precisely intended to assist the parties in obtaining the just,

of the Rules which are precisely intended to assist the parties in obtaining the just, EVIDENCE
of the Rules which are precisely intended to assist the parties in obtaining the just, EVIDENCE

expeditious and inexpensive settlement of labor disputes.

22

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition for certiorari is granted. The decision of the National Labor Relations Commission, Fifth Division, is annulled and set aside and the case is remanded to the Regional Arbitration Branch, Iligan City for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 166556

July 31, 2006

GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, petitioner, vs. LUZ M. BAUL, respondent.

D E C I S I O N

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari to set aside the May 31, 2004 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 76461 which reversed the Decision 2 of the Employees' Compensation Commission (ECC) in ECC Case No. GM-12984-202 denying the claim for compensation benefits of Luz M. Baul under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 626, as amended.

Luz M. Baul was employed by the Department of Education and Culture and Sports (DECS), Tarlac South District, as an elementary school teacher on August 1, 1962.

Medical records show that due to extreme dizziness, headache, chest pain, slurred speech, vomiting and general body weakness, she was admitted to the St. Martin de Porres Hospital inside Hacienda Luisita, San Miguel, Tarlac from July 1 to 9, 1993. Dr. Salvador A. Fontanilla, the medical director of the hospital, diagnosed her illness as Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease (HCVD)-Essential Hypertension. Prognosis was "poor" and "guarded." 3 To monitor her health condition, she had frequent consultation and treatment as an outpatient until her compulsory retirement on May 2, 1998. 4

On January 19 to 20, 1999, Luz was confined at the Ramos General Hospital in Ligtasan, Tarlac City. Dr. Conrado M. Orquiola, a cardiologist, corroborated the earlier findings of Dr. Fontanilla that she had a HCVD. On May 17, 1999, she consulted Dr. Ernesto Cunanan, an internal medicine specialist, and the doctor noted that her hypertension had worsened to Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), Essential Hypertension Stage III (moderate to severe hypertension). Eventually, on April 17, 2000, she suffered from a Cerebro- Vascular Accident (CVA), i.e., stroke, and was rushed to the Ramos General Hospital where she stayed for four days under the medical supervision of Dr. Orquiola and Dr. Albert Lapid, a neurologist. 5 The CT Scan result revealed the impression "ischemic infarct, right occipital lobe." 6

Convinced that her hypertension supervened by reason and in the course of her employment with the DECS and persisted even after her retirement, she filed a claim on June 10, 1999 before the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Tarlac Branch, for disability and hospital medical benefits under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 626, as amended. 7

On August 15, 2001, GSIS Tarlac Branch Manager Amando A. Inocentes denied petitioner's claim due to the alleged absence of proof to confirm that there was a resulting permanent disability due to hypertension prior to retirement. 8

In

the

conclusions of the GSIS, 9 holding that although hypertension is among the listed compensable illnesses in Annex "A" of the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation, its compensability is qualified. The ECC declared that petitioner failed to establish that her hypertension had caused an impairment of body organ functions resulting in permanent disability. In the same way, even if her CVA is an occupational disease under No. 19 of Annex "A" of the Amended Rules of the ECC, she failed to show the existence of such conditions as required by the Rules.

2003 decision, the Employees'

Compensation

its

January

23,

Commission

(ECC)

sustained

Luz filed a petition for review with the CA for the reversal of the ECC decision. On May 31, 2004, the appellate court reversed the ECC ruling and ordered the GSIS to pay petitioner the benefits corresponding to permanent partial disability before retirement and permanent total disability after retirement benefits. 10 The CA ruled that probability, not certainty, is the touchstone of workmen's compensation. Since hypertension is listed as a compensable occupational disease, it is presumed that such illness is reasonably work-connected. Petitioner had proved by substantial evidence that her hypertension was work-related; it emanated from the stress caused by the mental strain of teaching many pupils aside from the loads of obligations and responsibilities appurtenant to the profession.

The ECC filed a denied. 12

Motion for Reconsideration, 11 which the CA

The GSIS, now petitioner, sought relief in this Court via a petition for review on certiorari. Petitioner insists that the ruling of the CA rests on mere presumptions, and points out that an award of disability benefits cannot depend on surmises and conjectures. The beneficiary must present evidence to prove that the illness was caused by employment or that the working conditions increased the risk of contracting the disease. Also, there is no showing that respondent's ailment is at all considered permanent partial or total disability by the GSIS and approved by the ECC medical groups.

Petitioner also claims that the Court must respect the findings of quasi-judicial agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under their special technical knowledge and training. In this case, respondent failed to file the claim before retirement and adduce evidence to prove compensability of her illness; there was no such finding of permanent partial or total disability at the time of her retirement. Moreover, her sickness, which developed after her retirement, could not be attributed to her former occupation but to factors independent thereof.

The petition is denied.

Cerebro-vascular accident and essential hypertension are considered as occupational diseases under Nos. 19 and 29, respectively, of Annex "A" of the Implementing Rules of P.D. No. 626, as amended. Thus, it is not necessary that there be proof of causal relation between the work and the

it is not necessary that there be proof of causal relation between the work and the
it is not necessary that there be proof of causal relation between the work and the

illness which resulted in the respondent's disability. The open-ended Table of Occupational Diseases requires no proof of causation. In general, a covered claimant suffering from an occupational disease is automatically paid benefits. 13

However, although cerebro-vascular accident and essential hypertension are listed occupational diseases, their compensability requires compliance with all the conditions set forth in the Rules. In short, both are qualified occupational diseases. For cerebro-vascular accident, the claimant must prove the following: (1) there must be a history, which should be proved, of trauma at work (to the head specifically) due to unusual and extraordinary physical or mental strain or event, or undue exposure to noxious gases in industry; (2) there must be a direct connection between the trauma or exertion in the course of the employment and the cerebro-vascular attack; and (3) the trauma or exertion then and there caused a brain hemorrhage. On the other hand, essential hypertension is compensable only if it causes impairment of function of body organs like kidneys, heart, eyes and brain, resulting in permanent disability, provided that, the following documents substantiate it: (a) chest X-ray report; (b) ECG report; (c) blood chemistry report; (d) funduscopy report; and (e) C-T scan.

The degree of proof required to validate the concurrence of the above-mentioned conditions under P.D. No. 626 is merely substantial evidence, that is, such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. What the law requires is a reasonable work-connection and not direct causal relation. It is enough that the hypothesis on which the workmen's claim is based is probable. 14 As correctly pointed out by the CA, probability, not the ultimate degree of certainty, is the test of proof in compensation proceedings. 15 For, in interpreting and carrying out the provisions of the Labor Code and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, the primordial and paramount consideration is the employee's welfare. To safeguard the worker's rights, any doubt as to the proper interpretation and application must be resolved in their favor. 16

In the instant case, medical reports and drug prescriptions of respondent's attending physicians sufficiently support her claim for disability benefits. Neither the GSIS nor the ECC convincingly deny their genuineness and due execution. The reports are made part of the record and there is no showing that they are false or erroneous, or resorted to as a means of deceiving the Court, hence, are entitled to due probative weight. The failure of respondent to submit to a full medical examination, as required by the rules, to substantiate her essential hypertension, is of no moment. The law is that laboratory reports such as X-ray and ECG are not indispensable prerequisites to compensability, 17 the reason being that the strict rules of evidence need not be observed in claims for compensation. 18 Medical findings of the attending physician may be received in evidence and used as proof of the fact in dispute. 19 The doctor's certification as to the nature of claimant's disability may be given credence as he or she normally would not make untruthful certification. Indeed, no physician in his right mind and who is aware of the far reaching and serious effect that his or her statements would cause on a money claim against a government agency would vouch indiscriminately without regarding his own interests and protection. 20

Significantly, even medical authorities have established that the exact etiology of essential hypertension cannot be accurately traced:

The term essential hypertension has been employed to indicate those cases of hypertension for which a specific endocrine or renal basis cannot be found, and in which the neural element may be only a mediator of other influences. Since even this latter relationship is not entirely clear, it is more properly listed for the moment in the category of unknown etiology. The term essential hypertension defines simply by failing to define; hence, it is of limited use except as an expression of our inability to understand adequately the forces at work. 21

It bears stressing, however, that medical experiments tracing the etiology of essential hypertension show that there is a relationship between the sickness and the nature and conditions of work. 22 In this jurisdiction, we have already ruled in a number of cases 23 the strenuous office of a public school teacher. The case of Makabali v. Employees' Compensation Commission, 24 which we have re-affirmed in the subsequent cases of De Vera v. Employees' Compensation Commission, 25 Antiporda v. Workmen's Compensation Commission, 26 and De la Torre v. Employees' Compensation Commission, 27 amply summarized, thus:

We are well aware of the fact that only a handful of public elementary school teachers are fortunate enough to be assigned in urban areas where the working conditions are comparatively much better than those in the rural areas. A large majority of public elementary school teachers, as in the case of the petitioner, work in remote places such as sitios and barrios under poor working conditions. Thus, the daily task of conducting classes (normally composed of 40 to 50 pupils in urban areas and up to 70 pupils in rural areas) in an atmosphere that is, by any standard, not conducive to learning becomes even more physically taxing to the teachers. Tremendous amount of paper work during and after office hours (from correcting examination papers, assignments, school projects and reports to writing lesson plans and the computation and recording of grades) can be very physically draining especially to the senior members of the teaching profession such as the petitioner. Such and other related school activities of a teacher, aggravated by substandard, if not adverse, working conditions, give rise to increased tension, if not emotional and psychological disturbance on the part of the teachers. This is especially true in the case of public elementary school teachers whose pupils, being of tender age and immature, need to be disciplined and to be taught good manners and right conduct, as well as to be assisted in their formal school lessons

[We] must not also neglect to mention the fact that public elementary school teachers are the lowest paid government workers, considering the nature and importance of the services they render. They are the most reliable and dedicated public servants being constantly called upon by officials of the local and national government to assist in various extra-curricular and civic activities which contribute to the welfare of the community and the country. Their responsibility in molding the values and character of the young generations of the country, cannot be overestimated.

Significantly, even Republic Act No. 4670, otherwise known as the Magna Charta for Public School Teachers, mandates in one of its provisions that 'teachers shall be

Public School Teachers, mandates in one of its provisions that 'teachers shall be EVIDENCE Rule 128
Public School Teachers, mandates in one of its provisions that 'teachers shall be EVIDENCE Rule 128

protected against the consequences of employment injury in accordance with existing laws. The effects of the physical and nervous strain on the teacher's health shall be recognized as compensable occupational diseases in accordance with existing laws.' (Calvero v. ECC, et al., 117 SCRA 462 [1982]. 28

The fact that the essential hypertension of respondent worsened and resulted in a CVA at the time she was already out of service is inconsequential. The main consideration for its compensability is that her illness was contracted during and by reason of her employment, and any non-work related factor that contributed to its aggravation is immaterial. 29

Indeed, an employee's disability may not manifest fully at one precise moment in time but rather over a period of time. It is possible that an injury which at first was considered to be temporary may later on become permanent or one who suffers a partial disability becomes totally and permanently disabled from the same cause. 30 The right to compensation extends to disability due to disease supervening upon and proximately and naturally resulting froma compensable injury. Where the primary injury is shown to have arisen in the course of employment, every natural consequence that flows from the injury likewise arises out of the employment, unless it is the result of an independent intervening cause attributable to claimant's own negligence or misconduct. Simply stated, all medical consequences that flow from the primary injury are compensable. 31

P.D. No. 626, as amended, is said to have abandoned the presumption of compensability and the theory of aggravation prevalent under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Nonetheless, we ruled in Employees' Compensation Commission v. Court of Appeals, 32 that:

Despite the abandonment of the presumption of compensability established by the old law, the present law has not ceased to be an employees' compensation law or a social legislation; hence, the liberality of the law in favor of the working man and woman still prevails, and the official agency charged by law to implement the constitutional guarantee of social justice should adopt a liberal attitude in favor of the employee in deciding claims for compensability, especially in light of the compassionate policy towards labor which the 1987 Constitution vivifies and enhances. Elsewise stated, a humanitarian impulse, dictated by no less than the Constitution itself under the social justice policy, calls for a liberal and sympathetic approach to legitimate appeals of disabled public servants; or that all doubts to the right to compensation must be resolved in favor of the employee or laborer. Verily, the policy is to extend the applicability of the law on employees' compensation to as many employees who can avail of the benefits thereunder. 33

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 76461 is AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-55624 November 19, 1982 BAGUIO COUNTRY CLUB CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, FIRST

DIVISION, LABOR ARBITER BENIGNO AYSON and JIMMY SAJONAS, respondents.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:

On August 18, 1978, the Baguio Country Club Corporation filed with the Ministry of Labor office at Baguio City an application for clearance to terminate the services of respondent Jimmy Sajonas for willful breach of trust, telling lies in an investigation, taking money paid by customers, threatening a fellow employee, committing dishonesty against guests and committing four violations of the club rules and regulations which would constitute valid grounds for dismissal.

On August 28, 1978, Jimmy Sajonas filed his opposition alleging that his dismissal was without justifiable grounds to support it and that it would contravene his constitutional right to security of tenure.

After a notice of investigation was issued, the case was referred to a conciliator who recommended the preventive suspension of the respondent.

The Regional Director suspended Sajonas and indorsed the case for compulsory arbitration to Labor Arbiter Benigno Ayson.

On December 11, 1978, the labor arbiter came out with a decision denying the application for clearance to dismiss Jimmy Sajonas for insufficiency of evidence. The petitioner was ordered to reinstate Sajonas with backwages from the time of suspension up to reinstatement and without loss of seniority rights.

The case was appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission. On January 17, 1980, the Commission rendered a decision dismissing the appeal and affirming the decision of the labor arbiter.

The petitioner charges the public respondents with grave abuse of discretion for, having rendered an "unlawful, unconstitutional, and unprecedented decision."

The main issue in this petition is the contention of the petitioner that it was denied due process because its evidence was not considered by both the labor arbiter and the NLRC. The petitioner states that as a result of this ignoring of its evidence, the decisions of the public respondents are contrary to the facts and the applicable law.

A careful consideration of the records of this petition convinces us that there is merit in this petition. The summary procedures used by the public respondents were too summary to satisfy the requirements of justice and fair play.

The decision of the respondent Commission which affirmed the order to reinstate Mr. Sajonas with full backwages was based on two grounds - First, the evidence available to the labor arbiter when he decided this case was such that the respondent had not sufficiently shown a just cause for the complainant's dismissal. Second, the evidence to support the application for clearance to dismiss the complainant was submitted too late because it was submitted only on appeal.

dismiss the complainant was submitted too late because it was submitted only on appeal. EVIDENCE Rule
dismiss the complainant was submitted too late because it was submitted only on appeal. EVIDENCE Rule

The respondent Commission committed grave abuse of discretion when it affirmed the irregular and one-sided procedure adopted by the labor arbiter in arriving at his finding of insufficiency of evidence and when it decided to uphold a decision not only contrary to the facts but obviously unfair and unjust.

When the Baguio office of the Ministry of Labor issued as part of the conciliation process a notice of investigation for September 7, 1978 and September 15, 1978, the petitioner Baguio Country Club submitted a position paper accompanied by copies of the application to terminate employment and the sworn statements of witnesses taken during the investigation of the alleged anomalies. Jimmy Sajonas did not submit any position paper. No position paper was served on the petitioner or its counsel. The only document submitted was one with a short two paragraphs comprising the grounds for opposition.

As a result of the conciliator's recommendation, the case was indorsed for arbitration to the labor arbiter. Noting that Mr. Sajonas did not appear at the arbitration proceedings and did not present any position paper but left it to some union members to speak for him and allegedly because Mr. Sajonas had promised to quietly resign, the petitioner merely adopted the position paper filed during the conciliation proceedings.

The irregular procedures used by the labor arbiter started at this point.

The labor arbiter allowed a last minute position paper of respondent Sajonas to be filed and without requiring a copy to be served upon the Baguio Country Club and without affording the latter an opportunity to refute or rebut the contents of the paper, forthwith decided the case.

The public respondents now argue in their comment that "it is of no moment that petitioner was not furnished with a copy of Sajonas' position paper" because as early as the conciliation stage it was already apprised of the position of the employee, having been furnished Sajonas' opposition and that it cannot feign ignorance. This stand of the public respondents is erroneous. Since the case was decided on the basis of position papers, the petitioner had a right to be served a copy of the respondent's position paper admitted and considered by the arbiter and an opportunity to introduce evidence to refute it. As explained by the petitioner, it had been lulled into thinking that because the private respondent had offered to resign and the employer had agreed to forego the prosecution of criminal charges, there would no longer be any complete or full-scale arbitration proceedings Mr. Sajonas denies that he promised to resign and contends that criminal proceedings were an afterthought to harass the poor laborer. The fact that there were two divergent and clashing allegations before them, not only on this point but also on the 'Principal issues of dishonesty and intimidation of co- employees, the public respondents should have adopted fairer and more accurate methods of ascertaining truth.

As pointed out by the petitioner, "while an administrative tribunal possesed of quasi-judicial powers is free from the rigidity of certain procedural requirements, it does not mean that it can in justiciable cases coming before it entirely ignore or disregard the fundamental and essential requirements of due process." (Serrano v. PSC, 24 SCRA 867; and Singco v. COMELEC, 101 SCRA 420).

The petitioner's position paper, passed upon by the labor arbiter, stated that the petitioner had furnished the oppositor (Jimmy Sajonas) and the ALU (the union of

workers in the club) copies of the application to terminate,

as well as the investigations of witnesses against Jimmy

Sajonas, which distinctly show the infractions committed

by oppositor, particularly that of the incident of August 6,

1978 wherein Sajonas was supposed to have pocketed a cash payment of a customer of the BCC, constituting qualified theft. The petitioner specifically stressed to the arbiter that it was "adopting the investigations which were enclosed with the application to terminate, which are now parts of the record of the Ministry of Labor, as part and parcel of this position paper. "

In other words, the petitioner submitted its case on the

basis of the complete records of the conciliation proceedings.

The position paper was before the arbiter but minus sworn statements comprising the investigations which formed part of the records of the same labor office.

Inexplicably, the arbiter came out with the conclusion that "there is thus no document nor statement of evidence value or of evidencing character which we can consider as evidence to support, the enumerated violations for which Sajonas is supposed to be dismissed . " Instead of calling

for the records submitted to the concilliator in the same

small Baguio office, the arbiter denied the application for the clearance on the ground that all that was before it was

a position paper with mere quotations about an investigation conducted by Major Pagala.

The error could have been corrected by the respondent Commission when the petitioner urged that the sworn statements thus ignored by the labor arbiter should be considered on appeal.

In the appeal to the commission, the petitioner argued that " submitted with this application to terminate are the investigation of Erdulfo Pagala on Bernadette Saliquio, Alma Jean Quidasol, Cristina Rico, and Clarissa Adalla.

The respondent Commission may not have committed grave abuse of discretion when it rejected the affidavits of these witnesses, the information for estafa against Jimmy

Sajonas filed by the assistant city fiscal, did the resolution of the fiscal's office on the complaint for grave threats, on

the ground that "evidence cannot be submitted for the first

time on appeal." However, it was a denial of elementary principles of fair play for the Commission not to have ordered the elevation of the entire records of the case with

the affidavits earlier submitted as part of the position paper but completely ignored by the labor arbiter. Or at the very least, the case should have been remanded to the labor arbiter consonant with the requirements of administrative due process.

The ever increasing scope of administrative jurisdiction and the statutory grant of expansive powers in the exercise of discretion by administrative agencies illustrate our nation's faith in the administrative process as an efficient and effective mode of public control over sensitive areas of private activity. Because of the specific constitutional mandates on social justice and protection to labor, and the fact that major labor management controversies are highly intricate and complex, the legislature and executive have reposed uncommon

are highly intricate and complex, the legislature and executive have reposed uncommon EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases
are highly intricate and complex, the legislature and executive have reposed uncommon EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases

reliance upon what they believe is the expertise, the rational and efficient modes of ascertaining facts, and the unbiased and discerning adjudicative techniques of the Ministry of Labor and Employment and its instrumentalities.

Fiscal "arrived at the indubitable conclusion that the respondent indeed uttered threatened., remarks" was dismissed for having prescribed. We agree with the petitioner that the loss of trust and confidence and the wedge driven into the relationship of the private

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby granted. The

Experience has shown this faith to be justified. In the great majority of petitions for ' review of decisions from the Ministry of Labor and Employment, we have sustained agency determinations and denied due course to the petitions. However, we have never hesitated to exercise our corrective powers and to reverse labor ministry decisions where the ministry or a labor tribunal like the respondent commission has sustained irregular procedures and through the invocation of summary methods, including rules on appeal, has affirmed an order which tolerates a violation of due process. This Court will reverse or modify an administrative decision where the rights of a party were prejudiced because the

respondent with both management and his co-employees warrant the grant of clearance to terminate his employment. We likewise note the petitioner's statement that Mr. Sajonas has been working as bartender for a hotel in Pangasinan since March, 1979 and was about to be promoted to a hotel in Manila in November, 1979.

decision dated January 17, 1980 of the National Labor Relations Commission affirming the December 11, 1978 decision of the labor arbiter is set aside. The appropriate office of the Ministry of Labor and Employment is ordered to give the petitioner a clearance to terminate the employment of the private respondent.

administrative findings, conclusions, or decisions are in violation of constitutional provisions; in excess of statutory authority, or jurisdiction; made upon irregular

SO ORDERED.

procedure; vitiated by fraud, imposition or mistake; not

G.R. No. 139368

November 21, 2002]

supported by substantial evidence adduced at the hearing or contained in the records or disclosed to the parties; or arbitrary, capricious, or issued with grave abuse of discretion, (Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. Castaneda v. Court of Appeals, 26 SCRA 186; Manuel v. Villena, 37 SCRA 745; Asprec v. Itchon, 16 SCRA 921; Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 6 SCRA 1; Air Manila v. Balatbat, 38 SCRA 489; Sichangco v. Board of Commissioners, 94 SCRA 61).

ROBIN M. CANO, petitioner, vs. THE CHIEF, PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, EDGAR C. GALVANTE, as Police Director for Personnel and Records Management, PNP, and the DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT, respondents.

The instant petition is a timely reminder to labor arbiters and all who wield quasi-judicial power to ever bear in mind that evidence is the means, sanctioned by rules, of ascertaining in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, the truth respecting a matter of fact. (Section 1, Rule 128) The object of evidence is to establish the truth by the use of perceptive and reasoning faculties. (See Martin, Rules of Court, Vol. 5 on Evidence, p. 2 citing Chamberlayne on Trial Evidence and Thayer on Prelim. Treat.) The statutory grant of power to use summary procedures should heighten a concern for due process, for judicial perspective in administrative decision making, and for maintaining the visions which led to the creation of the administrative office.

From the records which form part of the position paper submitted to the labor arbiter and those raised on appeal to the respondent commission, the following have been establish.

At about 10:30 in the morning of August 6, 1978, Miss Bernadette Saliquio, a waitress of the Baguio City Country Club served two glasses of orange juice tot he maid and the children of Mrs. Solon . Bartender Jimmy Sajonas pocketed the cash payment of P7.00 for the juice and utilized Chit No. 183100 signed by Dr. Lodzinski for two bottles of beer to cover for the order of orange juice which was changed to two beers. In other words, one chit was used twice. Miss Alma Jean Quisadol, checker, who corroborated the testimony of Miss Saliquio, who checks the orders for drinks, and who mentioned an earlier anomaly involving four loaves of raisin bread, was threatened several days later by Sajonas for reporting the incident to management. Miss Cristina Rico, nutritionist, corroborated the utterance of the threat "papatayin." An information for estafa was filed in Criminal Case No. 40292 of the Baguio City Court but the case for grave threats where the office of the City

R E S O L U T I O N

QUISUMBING, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari assails (a) the order 1 dated May 17, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 224, in Civil Case No. Q-98-36370, dismissing the complaint filed on December 21, 1998 by petitioner against respondents for payment of back salaries and allowances amounting to P301,018; and (b) the order of said court denying on July 15, 1999, his motion for reconsideration.

The factual background of the instant petition, as culled from the records of the case, is as follows:

For the alleged bungled investigation of the Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez rape-slay, a complaint for grave misconduct was filed with the National Police Commission under the Department of Interior and Local Government against petitioner, then Police Chief Inspector of the Calauan Police Station. The Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) found petitioner guilty and ordered his summary dismissal from the service, in a decision 2 dated July 12, 1995. Petitioner appealed his dismissal to the National Appellate Board of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM). On May 15, 1997, the NAPOLCOM reversed the decision of the PNP Chief:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find respondent appellant, Chief Inspector ROBIN M. CANO administratively culpable for Simple Misconduct and hereby orders (sic) his suspension for a period of three (3) months. Considering, however, that said respondent had been under suspension since August 7, 1995, pursuant to Special Order No. 1690 dated August 8, 1995, the penalty imposed is considered deemed served. Respondent-

1690 dated August 8, 1995, the penalty imposed is considered deemed served. Respondent- EVIDENCE Rule 128
1690 dated August 8, 1995, the penalty imposed is considered deemed served. Respondent- EVIDENCE Rule 128

Appellant is strongly warned to be more prudent and responsible in the exercise of his duties as a member of the PNP. 3

The NAPOLCOM decision having been allowed by both parties to become final and executory, petitioner was restored to full duty status effective May 15, 1997. He also received all benefits and emoluments pertaining to his post pursuant to PNP Special Order No. 1341. With the modification of his penalty to three (3) months suspension, petitioner filed a claim for payment of back salaries and other allowances corresponding to the period he was allegedly unjustly discharged from service until he was restored to full duty status, or from August 7, 1995 to May 15, 1997. However, this claim, computed by the PNP Regional Police Comptrollership and Finance Division to be Three Hundred One Thousand Eighteen Pesos (P301,018.00), was denied by respondent Police Director Edgar C. Galvante of the PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management (DPRM) on the strength of a Memorandum/Opinion from the PNP Legal Service. Petitioner forthwith asked for a reconsideration of the denial but the same was rejected.

On account of said denial, petitioner filed on December 23, 1998 a complaint 4 before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for the recovery of his back salaries and other allowances for the said period. The court a quo dismissed the complaint in an order dated May 17, 1999. Said the trial court:

The Court is prone to agree with the stand and position of the defendants that plaintiff's claim should not be granted because plaintiff has not shown any clear and legal right which would entitle him to back salaries, allowances and other benefits and besides, plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies no[t] discounting the fact that his claim against defendants is actually a suit against the state.

x x x

This complaint is actually a suit against the government because the ultimate liability for payment of back salaries, etc. will fall on the government. This being so, this case should be dismissed because the government cannot be sued without its consent.

Accordingly, therefore, the Court has to dismiss this case without costs against the plaintiff.

IT IS SO ORDERED. 5

remedies available to him so as to render the filing of the complaint with the trial court premature?

At the outset, we note that the principal issue raised before us is a mixed question of fact and law. There is a question of fact when doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of the alleged facts, 7 and there is a question of law where the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts. 8 Here, petitioner seeks to recover back salaries and allowances allegedly due him from August 7, 1995, when he was unjustly discharged from the service, to May 15, 1997, when he was restored to full duty status. The determination of petitioner's entitlement to said back salaries and allowances is a mixed question as it involves the determination of his duty status for the period of his claim and the resolution of whether the petitioner was acquitted by the NAPOLCOM Appellate Board in its decision finding him liable only for simple misconduct, not gross misconduct.

Under Section 1 of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, an appeal by certiorari to this Court should raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth in the petition. It is elementary that a review is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor. 9 As the error raised herein includes one of fact and law, and not a proper subject for a petition for review on certiorari, we are constrained to decline exercise of our equity jurisdiction in this case.

At any rate, petitioner also failed without justifiable cause to observe due regard for the hierarchy of courts. Even on this reason alone, we are constrained to deny the petition. The policy of this Court respecting the hierarchy of courts and, consequently, prohibiting the filing of a petition in this Court in view of the concurrent jurisdiction with the lower courts has been consistently observed in the absence of any compelling reason for departing from such policy. 10 Pursuant to Section 2, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, 11 petitioner should have taken his appeal to the Court of Appeals.

Having ruled for the denial of the petition, we need not tarry on the other issues that may have been raised in the petition.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 224, Quezon City, in Civil Case No. Q-98-36370 is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs.

On May 31, 1999, petitioner moved for the reconsideration of the trial court's decision, but his motion was denied in

SO ORDERED.

an order dated July 15, 1999.

G.R. No. 130209

March 14, 2001

Accordingly, petitioner filed the instant appeal via petition for review on certiorari, raising only one issue:

Whether or not the petitioner is entitled to his claim for back salaries and allowances under the terms of the decision of the NAPOLCOM Appellate Board. 6

Mainly involved in this controversy is petitioner's entitlement to back salaries and other allowances upon the reduction of his penalty of dismissal to mere suspension for three months. But secondarily, it should be asked whether petitioner failed to exhaust the administrative

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. LARRY LAVAPIE, SIMEON LACHANO, ARNOLD BUATES, SANTOS SAN PASCUAL, SR., SANTOS SAN PASCUAL, JR., REY SAN PASCUAL, BENIGNO CATINA, JR. and SEVERAL DOES, accused. LARRY LAVAPIE and SANTOS SAN PASCUAL, SR., accused-appellants.

BUENA, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision 1 dated December 16, 1996, of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 36, 2

1 dated December 16, 1996, of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 36, 2
1 dated December 16, 1996, of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 36, 2

finding accused-appellants Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder, sentencing each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim, Sonny Sierva, jointly and severally, the amount of P7,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as death indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages, and to pay the costs.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Accused-appellants Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr., together with Simeon Lachano, Arnold Buates, Santos San Pascual, Jr., Rey San Pascual, Benigno Catina, Jr. and several Does, were charged in an information which reads:

"That on or about the 29th day of March, 1989, at Sitio Tastas, Barangay San Vicente, (Buraburan) Municipality of Buhi, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, armed with bolos, with intent to kill and with treachery and evident premeditation, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and hack with said bolos one Sonny Sierva, thereby inflicting upon the latter [a] mortal wound which directly caused his death, to the damage and prejudice of his heirs in the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), plus other forms of damages that may be proven in court.

ACTS

CONTRARY TO LAW." 3

Upon their arraignment on October 17, 1989, accused Larry Lavapie and Rey San Pascual pleaded not guilty. 4 Subsequently, or on January 29, 1990, the other accused Benigno Catina. Jr., Santos San Pascual, Sr. and Santos San Pascual, Jr. also pleaded not guilty. 5 Accused Simeon Lachano, likewise, pleaded not guilty on July 16, 1991. 6 Accused Arnold Buates remained at large.

At the trial, the prosecution presented the following witnesses against accused Larry Lavapie, Rey San Pascual, Benigno Catina, Jr., Santos San Pascual, Sr. and Santos San Pascual, Jr. Dr. Alicia M. Mercurio, Jenny Cordial, Enrico Sierva, Domingo Samonte, Rogelio Sierva and Sgt. Jaime Patiam. The following witnesses, on the other hand, testified against accused Simeon Lachano Erlinda Sierva and Rogelio Sierva. In their defense, all of the six (6) accused, who were brought before the jurisdiction of the trial court, testified in court, in addition to Felix Lavapie, Juan Bongais and Loreto Camasis.

For the prosecution, eyewitness Domingo Samonte testified that on March 29, 1989, at around 11 p.m., he came from the dance hall in San Vicente with Rogelio Sierva and the victim Sonny Sierva. 7 While on their way, Rogelio and Sonny talked with some ladies, then, Rogelio went home ahead, and left Domingo and Sonny behind. 8 While approaching Rogelio's house, Domingo and Sonny noticed a group of persons coming towards them. Domingo stepped backwards towards Sonny. Sonny focused the flashlight, which he was holding, on accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. and accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, who was then holding a bolo. Accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. suddenly held the hands of Sonny behind his back, while accused-appellant Larry Lavapie hacked Sonny. 9 Domingo testified that Sonny was hit on the neck, the same witness pointing to the left side of his neck. 10 When Sonny fell on the ground, Domingo ran towards some pili trees. Then, Domingo saw two (2)

persons, a boy and a girl, who were following them and holding a torch which they used to lighten the fallen body of Sonny. Domingo, however, was not able to recognize these two (2) persons. On cross-examination, Domingo testified that when he witnessed the hacking incident, there were other persons at the scene of the crime but he was not able to recognize them. 11 Domingo further recounted that after he saw the hacking incident, he ran towards the back of a pili tree and stayed there until dawn of the following day. 12 At dawn, he proceeded to his house in Buraburan. 13 He did not report the incident to anybody else but a certain friend and his wife. Domingo also admitted that when accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. held the hands of Sonny behind the latter's back, he did not tell Santos San Pascual, Sr. to stop but just took a step backwards. 14

Jenny Cordial, a 15-year-old ward of Sonny Sierva's aunt, testified that on March 29, 1989, at around 11 p.m., she and Rico Sierva 15 came from a dance in San Vicente, Buraburan and were on their way home when they came upon the body of Sonny Sierva lying on the middle of the road. 16 They recognized Sonny Sierva because Cordial was then holding a torch. 17 Cordial and Enrico Sierva came upon Sonny Sierva, who was lying prostrate on the road, with a hack wound on the neck, and was almost beheaded. 18 At that instance, Cordial saw accused- appellant Larry Lavapie, who was holding a bolo, standing at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters from the body of Sonny Sierva. 19 Aside from accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, Cordial also saw other persons at the scene of the crime but she was not able to recognize them. Thereafter, Cordial and Enrico Sierva ran away and went home to inform the father of Sonny Sierva of what happened but they were told by his wife that Rogelio Sierva was also hacked. Incidentally, while on cross- examination, the prosecutor informed the trial court that Cordial actually grew up under the care of Rogelio Sierva's sister. Cordial testified on cross-examination that when she and Enrico Sierva saw the body of Sonny Sierva lying on the road, they were only about one (1) meter away from the body. When they saw accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, he was holding a bolo which was pointed downwards. Cordial clearly recognized accused-appellant Larry Lavapie because she was then holding a torch. Cordial described the bolo held by accused-appellant Larry Lavapie as "shiny and sharp," and "clear and clean." 20 Cordial also noticed that the other persons, who were at scene of the crime, were standing still, facing the body of Sonny Sierva, about a meter away from accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, and that some of these persons were smoking. 21 Cordial did not recognize these other persons because according to her "it was dark." 22 On further cross- examination, she estimated these other persons at the scene of the crime to number about seven (7) persons.

Enrico Sierva, 15-year-old cousin of the victim, Sonny Sierva, testified that on March 29, 1989, at around 11 p.m., he and Jenny Cordial came from a dance in San Vicente, Buhi and were on their way home. Near the house of the victim's father, Rogelio Sierva, they saw a man lying prostrate on the road. They went closer to the body and saw that the said man sustained a hack wound on the neck. They recognized the man lying on the road as Sonny Sierva. 23 Glancing around, Enrico saw accused-appellant Larry Lavapie holding a bolo and standing by the road with accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. 24 According to Enrico, both accused-appellants were at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters away from him when he

were at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters away from him when
were at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters away from him when

saw them. He also saw other persons at the scene of the crime but he was not able to recognize them because they were in a "dark place." 25 Thereafter, he and Jenny Cordial ran towards the house of Rogelio Sierva, located about 30 meters away, and informed Rogelio's wife, Erlinda Velasco, that her son was lying dead on the road. Erlinda Velasco told them that her husband was also hacked and was being brought to a hospital. On cross-examination, Enrico Sierva testified that he told his uncle, Rogelio Sierva, that it was the group of accused-appellant Larry Lavapie who hacked Sonny Sierva, 26 and that accused-appellants Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr. were there. 27 Enrico further testified that the torch they were carrying on the night of March 29, 1989 was made of a round bottle of gin.

Dr. Alicia M. Mercurio, Municipal Health Officer of Buhi II, Camarines Sur, conducted the autopsy on the body of Sonny Sierva and prepared an autopsy report 28 dated April 25, 1989, with the following findings:

"Lesions:

"Incised wound at the neck, right side cutting the whole neck structure with a portion of the skin only on the left side holding it in place about 3 in. long.

"Cause of Death Incised wound, neck (almost whole neck) with secondary hemorrhage (massive)." 29

Dr. Mercurio explained that due to the hack wound (or incised wound) sustained by the victim, Sonny Sierva, the victim's head was almost severed from the body, with only three (3) inches of flesh on the left side of the neck, connecting the neck to the body. 30 According to Dr. Mercurio, the hack wound could have been caused by a sharp instrument like a very sharp bolo. Dr. Mercurio further opined that the victim could have died at around 1 or 2 a.m. of March 30, 1989.

Rogelio Sierva, father of the victim, Sonny Sierva, testified that on March 29, 1989, at around 11 p.m., he came from a dance in Buraburan, San Vicente, together with his son, Sonny Sierva and his brother-in-law, Felix Buendia. 31 On their way home, they passed by the house of a certain Teresita Gaite, where Sonny Sierva was left behind with his friends. Rogelio and Felix proceeded on their way home. When they were already near his house, Rogelio saw six (6) of the seven (7) identified accused. 32 Rogelio continued to testify that he was hacked on his right ear by accused Arnold Buates. Rogelio and Felix then ran towards Rogelio's house. When Rogelio was about to open the door of his house, he was hacked on the right arm by accused Santos San Pascual, Jr. Rogelio then entered the house and got a bolo but his assailants already retreated to the place where he was first hacked. Thereafter, Rogelio sought the assistance of his brother, Silvestre Sierva, whose house was located about 20 meters away, 33 and requested that he be brought to a hospital. On their way to the hospital, they saw Sonny Sierva, who was almost beheaded, lying on the road. When Rogelio discovered that Sonny was already dead, they proceeded to the San Vicente Assistance Center and reported the hacking incident. Afterwards, they proceeded to the Mediatrix Hospital where Rogelio was treated for his wounds. Rogelio also testified that he spent more or less P7,000.00 which he incurred due to the death of Sonny Sierva. 34 On cross-examination, Rogelio admitted that he was previously charged for the attempted rape of the daughter of accused Santos San Pascual, Sr. 35

Because accused Simeon Lachano was arrested only after the prosecution had already presented the foregoing witnesses against the five (5) other accused, the prosecution presented anew, Rogelio Sierva and an additional witness, Erlinda Sierva, to testify against accused Simeon Lachano.

Erlinda Sierva, mother of the victim, Sonny Sierva, testified that she spent less than P10,000.00 as burial and funeral expenses on account of the death of Sonny Sierva. 36

Rogelio Sierva, in testifying against accused Simeon Lachano, merely reiterated his previous testimony against the five (5) other accused.

For the defense, on the other hand, all of the six (6) accused, who were brought before the jurisdiction of the trial court, testified together with Felix Lavapie, Juan Bongais and Loreto Camasis.

Accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, in his defense, interposed denial and alibi. Lavapie testified that on March 29, 1989, at around 8 p.m., he was at a dance in San Vicente, Buhi, 37 with accused Santos San Pascual, Jr., a certain Santiago Sanorjo and Danny Belardo. 38 Lavapie, Santos San Pascual, Jr., Santiago Sanorjo 39 and Danny Belardo left the dance hall at past 11:30 p.m. and went to the barn of Santiago Sanorjo, arriving thereat at around 1 a.m. 40 They slept in the said barn and went to their respective houses on the following day.

Accused Santos San Pascual, Jr. corroborated the testimony of accused-appellant Larry Lavapie that they attended a dance in San Vicente, Buhi. They left the dance hall at past 12 midnight 41 and went to the house of Santiago Sanorjo where they slept until 6 o'clock of the following morning. 42

Juan Bongais testified that in the evening of March 29, 1989, he was at a dance in San Vicente, Buraburan. He arrived at the dance at 7 p.m. and left at about 12:30 a.m. of the following day. 43 He left the dance with Jenny Cordial, Rico Sierva and Liza San Pascual. 44 On their way home, they met Rogelio Sierva who was hacked and being carried by Dionesio Coronel and Felicito Conas. They continued walking for several meters until they came upon the dead body of Sonny Sierva, lying on the road. 45 On cross- examination, Bongais testified that when they were about to leave the dance at around 12:30 a.m. of March 30, 1989, accused-appellant Larry Lavapie and his co-accused Santos San Pascual, Jr. were still at the dancing hall. 46

Accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr., likewise, claimed denial and alibi. San Pascual, Sr. testified that in the evening of March 29, 1989, he was resting in his house in sitio Tastas, Labawon, Buhi. 47 He slept at 7 p.m. and awoke at 5 o'clock of the following day. 48 San Pascual, Sr. further claimed that Rogelio Sierva, father of the victim, was actuated by ill-motive to implicate him in this crime, i.e., he filed a complaint against Rogelio for the attempted rape of his daughter, Gina San Pascual. 49 On cross- examination, San Pascual, Sr. testified that sitio Labawon is adjacent to barangay San Vicente.

The three (3) other accused, Rey San Pascual, Simeon Lachano and Benigno Catina, Jr., likewise, interposed denial and alibi in their respective testimonies before the trial court.

interposed denial and alibi in their respective testimonies before the trial court. EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases
interposed denial and alibi in their respective testimonies before the trial court. EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases

On January 23, 1997, the trial court rendered a Decision dated December 16, 1996, finding accused-appellants Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr. guilty of murder qualified by treachery. The four (4) other accused, Santos San Pascual, Jr., Rey San Pascual, Benigno Catina, Jr. and Simeon Lachano were acquitted for insufficiency of evidence. The dispositive part of the said Decision reads:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds

"1. The accused, Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr., guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principal[s] of the crime of murder defined and penalized under Article [2]48 of the Revised Penal Code, prior to its amendment by Rep. Act No. 7659, as charged in the information, and there being no generic aggravating nor mitigating circumstances, [the Court] hereby sentences the said accused to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; to pay, jointly and severally the heirs of the deceased, Sonny Sierva, spouses Rogelio and Erlinda Sierva the following:

a) P7,000.00 as actual damages,

b) P50,000.00 as death indemnity,

c) P50,000.00 as moral damages, and to pay the costs;

"2. [T]he [other] accused, Santos San Pascual, Jr., Rey San Pascual, Benigno Catina, Jr., and Simeon Lachano, not guilty of the crime charged in the information and [the Court] hereby acquits them thereof for insufficiency of evidence. The bonds posted for their provisional liberty are hereby ordered cancelled and released.

"With respect to the accused, Arnold Buates, who was never brought to the jurisdiction of this [C]ourt, let the records of this case be sent to the archives to be revived as soon as this [C]ourt acquires jurisdiction over [the] said accused.

"SO ORDERED." 50

In convicting accused-appellants, Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr., the trial court relied primarily on the testimony of prosecution witness Domingo Samonte that accused-appellant Larry Lavapie was the one who hacked Sonny Sierva on the neck with the use of a bolo while accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. was at the back of Sonny Sierva, holding the latter's hands. 51 The trial court also relied heavily on the testimony of prosecution witness Jenny Cordial that she saw accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, standing about five (5) meters away from the dead body of Sonny Sierva; and on the testimony of prosecution witness Enrico Sierva that he saw accused- appellants, Larry Lavapie and Santos San Pascual, Sr., standing five (5) meters away from the dead body of Sonny Sierva. 52 The trial court further maintained that Jenny Cordial's description of Sonny Sierva's body when they came upon it, lying prostrate on the road, was supported by the medical findings stated in the autopsy report of Dr. Alicia M. Mercurio. 53 The trial court rejected the defenses of denial and alibi raised by accused-appellants, and ruled that denial and alibi cannot prevail over positive identification, and that accused-appellants' alibi was not corroborated by any credible and disinterested witness. 54 In ruling that the killing was qualified by treachery, the trial court explained that accused-appellants awaited, in ambush, for their victim;" 55 and that the suddenness of the attack on Sonny Sierva and the fact that his hands were

being held at his back by accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. while he was hacked by accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, rendered him "helpless to put up any

defense." 56 The trial court also found that conspiracy attended the commission of the crime, based on the fact

that

.they [accused-appellants] are related to each other

(uncle and nephew) and from their concerted acts in

killing Sonny Sierva." 57

On February 3, 1997, accused-appellants filed a Motion for New Trial, alleging that prosecution witnesses, Jenny Cordial and Domingo Samonte retracted their respective testimonies. 58 However, in an Order dated March 12, 1997, the trial court denied the foregoing motion, for lack of merit. 59

Hence, this appeal.

In their appellant's brief, accused-appellants raise a lone assignment of error:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE RETRACTION OF PROSECUTION WITNESS[ES] JENNY CORDIAL AND DOMINGO SAMONTE [AS] NEWLY- DISCOVERED EVIDENCE WHICH SHALL JUSTIFY THE HOLDING OF A NEW TRIAL.

We find merit in this appeal.

The conviction of accused-appellants by the trial court was predicated primarily on the testimony of prosecution witness Domingo Samonte who "positively identified [accused-appellant] Larry Lavapie as the one who hacked Sonny Sierva with a bolo at his neck while accused[- appellant] Santos San Pascual, Sr., was at the rear of Sonny Sierva, holding his hands;" 60 and on the testimonies of the two (2) witnesses who arrived at the scene of the crime shortly after the hacking incident occurred Jenny Cordial, who "saw accused[-appellant] Larry Lavapie standing about five [5] meters away from the dead body of Sonny Sierva" 61 and Enrico Sierva, who "saw and recognized the same accused[-appellant] Larry Lavapie and accused[-appellant] Santos San Pascual, Sr., standing [five] 5 meters away from the dead body of Sonny Sierva." 62 According to the trial court, Jenny Cordial's description of the condition of Sonny Sierva's body when

they came upon it,

is supported by the medical

findings" as stated in the autopsy report. 63 Furthermore, the trial court observed that accused-appellants failed to show "any improper motive on the part of the said witnesses to falsely testify against them." 64

While it is settled to the point of being elementary that on the issue of credibility of witnesses, appellate courts will not disturb the findings arrived at by the trial court, which was certainly in a better position to rate the credibility of the witnesses after hearing them and observing their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial; this rule stands absent any showing that certain facts and circumstances of weight and value have been overlooked, misinterpreted or misapplied by the trial court which, if considered, would affect the result or outcome of the case. 65 After a careful review of the records of this case, particularly, the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, the Court finds that significant facts and circumstances were overlooked and disregarded by the trial court, which, if properly considered, would have affected the result of this case. The records show that there are strong and cogent

have affected the result of this case. The records show that there are strong and cogent
have affected the result of this case. The records show that there are strong and cogent

reasons that justify a departure from the trial court's findings.

In the case at bar, prosecution eyewitness Domingo Samonte testified that accused-appellant Larry Lavapie suddenly hacked Sonny Sierva, hitting the latter on his neck; Samonte demonstrated by pointing to the left side of his neck, thus:

"Q: Mr. Sierva, on March 29, 1990 [should be 1989] at about 11 o'clock in the evening, where were you?

[WITNESS ROGELIO SIERVA]:

"A: We came from a dance at Sitio Buraburan, San Vicente, Buhi, Camarines Sur.

"PROSECUTOR:

"Q: You said we, who were your companions during that time[,] Mr. Sierva?

"Q: All right. You said Larry Lavapie suddenly hacked

"A:

My son Sonny Sierva and my brother-in-law, Felix

Sonny Sierva[,] was Sonny Sierva hit?

Buendia.

[WITNESS DOMINGO SAMONTE]:

"Q: While you together with your late son Sonny Sierva and your brother-in-law Felix Buendia were on your way

"A:

Yes, sir.

home from centro Buraburan, Buhi, Camarines Sur, do you recall of any incident that happened?

"Q:

Where was he hit?

 

"A:

Yes, sir." 75 (Emphasis supplied.)

"A:

He was hit on his neck. (Witness pointing to the left

side of his neck.)

"Q:

what happened to Sonny Sierva, Mr. Samonte?

After Sonny Sierva was hacked by Larry Lavapie[,]

"A:

He fell down, sir." 66 (Emphasis supplied.)

The foregoing testimony of Samonte is belied by the physical evidence that the deceased, Sonny Sierva sustained an "incised wound at the neck, right side cutting the whole neck structure with a portion of the skin only on the left side holding it in place about 3 in. long." 67 (Emphasis supplied.) While Samonte categorically testified that Sonny Sierva was hacked on the neck, at the same time, Samonte demonstrated by pointing to the left side of his neck; the autopsy report clearly revealed that Sonny Sierva was hacked on the right side of his neck and not on the left side. This material inconsistency, consequently, casts a serious doubt on the testimony of Samonte. As we have ruled in People vs. Vasquez, 68 since the physical evidence on record runs counter to the testimonial evidence of the prosecution witnesses, conclusions as to physical evidence should prevail. It bears reiteration that physical evidence is that mute but eloquent manifestations of truth which rate high in our hierarchy of trustworthy evidence. 69 In the light of the physical evidence obtaining in this case, contrary to oral assertions cannot normally prevail. Greater credence is given to physical evidence as evidence of the highest order because it speaks more eloquently than a hundred witnesses. 70

Moreover, Samonte's claim that on March 29, 1989, at around 11 p.m., he came from the dance hall in San Vicente with Rogelio Sierva and the victim Sonny Sierva, 71 and that while on their way, Rogelio and Sonny talked with some ladies, then, Rogelio went ahead, leaving Domingo and Sonny behind, 72 was even contradicted by Rogelio's (one of Samonte's alleged companions on that fateful night) testimony on two (2) different instances, 73 that on March 29, 1989, at about 11 p.m., he was with his son, Sonny Sierva and his brother-in-law, Felix Buendia, 74 without any reference to the alleged presence of Samonte, thus:

"ROGELIO SIERVA'S FIRST TESTIMONY WHICH WAS TAKEN ON AUGUST 16, 1990:

"PROSECUTOR:

"ROGELIO SIERVA'S SECOND TESTIMONY WHICH WAS TAKEN ON AUGUST 5, 1993:

"PROSECUTOR:

"Q: Mr. Sierva, where were you on March 29, 1989 at about 11 o'clock in the evening?

[WITNESS ROGELIO SIERVA]:

"A:

Camarines Sur.

I was then at San Vicente, Buraburan, Buhi,

"Q:

the aforesaid date and time?

Why did you happen to be there, Mr. Sierva during

"A:

I accompanied my son to the dancing hall.

"Q:

Where was this dancing hall?

"A:

At Centro San Vicente, Bura-buran.

"Q:

What were you doing at the aforesaid place during

the aforesaid date and time?

"A:

I was watching the dance.

"Q:

Who were with you, if any, during that time, Mr.

Sierva?

"A:

My son and my brother-in-law.

"xxx

xxx

xxx"

"Q:

After watching the dance, what did you do, if any?

"A:

We went home.

"Q:

You said "we went home". Who were with you?

"A:

My brother-in-law and my son.

"Q:

What is the name of your brother-in-law?

"A:

Felix Buendia.

. "Q: What is the name of your brother-in-law? "A: Felix Buendia . EVIDENCE Rule 128
. "Q: What is the name of your brother-in-law? "A: Felix Buendia . EVIDENCE Rule 128

"Q: While you were on your way home together with your brother-in-law and your son Sonny Sierva, do you recall of any incident that happened, Mr. Sierva?

"A:

Yes, sir." 76 (Emphasis supplied.)

Certainly, the foregoing testimonies of Rogelio Sierva, which we find to be consistent on material points, further cast serious doubt on the veracity of Samonte's testimony.

In addition, we find Samonte's response to the occurrence to be contrary to ordinary human experience and behavior. If indeed Samonte was present at the scene of the crime when the victim, Sonny Sierva, whose hands were held at the back by accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr., was hacked on the neck by accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, while the other accused, numbering at least five (5), were apparently merely observing the incident; it was then unnatural and against common experience that Samonte ran away towards some pilitrees and simply stayed there until dawn of the following day, even as he had already seen a boy and a girl discovered the fallen body of Sonny Sierva shortly after the incident occurred. Considering the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, Jenny Cordial and Enrico Sierva, that after discovering the dead body of Sonny Sierva lying prostrate on the ground, and seeing the several accused standing near the dead body of Sonny Sierva, they were able to run away and go to Rogelio Sierva's house to report what they saw, without the several accused following them or even attempting to threaten them in any way, it appears that the several accused posed no threat to Samonte, which could have forced him to remain near some pili trees. It is also perplexing why Samonte did not see, inform or seek the help of Rogelio Sierva, Felix Buendia, Silvestre Sierva and an unidentified person, who also happened to come upon the dead body of Sonny Sierva while on their way to the hospital. This Court finds occasion, at this point, to apply a long-held doctrine that to be credible, testimonial evidence should come not only from the mouth of a credible witness but it should also be credible, reasonable and in accord with human experience. 77 While we take judicial notice that eyewitnesses to a crime are often reluctant to report the incident, the Court finds the response of Samonte to the occurrence contrary to human experience, and his testimony not credible, thus, we reject his testimony.

In view of the resulting lack of positive identification, accused-appellants' conviction or acquittal would now depend primarily on the sufficiency of the circumstantial evidence against them, based on the testimonies of the other prosecution witnesses, particularly, Jenny Cordial and Enrico Sierva. Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court provides that circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from 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.

In the instant case, prosecution witness Jenny Cordial testified that she saw accused-appellant Larry Lavapie, who was holding a bolo, standing at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters from the body of Sonny Sierva; 78 while prosecution witness Enrico Sierva testified that after he recognized the man lying on the road as Sonny Sierva, he saw accused-appellant Larry Lavapie with a bolo, standing by the road, with accused-appellant Santos San Pascual, Sr. 79 The above circumstance, in the absence of other corroborative evidence, does not satisfy the requirements

under Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court nor point with moral certainty to the guilt of accused-appellants. As we have consistently held, the mere presence of accused- appellants at the locus criminiscannot be solely interpreted to mean that they committed the killing. The mere presence of accused appellants at the crime scene, without more, is inadequate to support the conclusion that, indeed, they committed the crime. 80 We also observe that as testified by prosecution witness Jenny Cordial, the bolo allegedly held by accused-appellant Larry Lavapie was "shiny and sharp," and "clear and clean." 81 If indeed it was accused-appellant Larry Lavapie who hacked Sonny Sierva on the neck, the bolo, which he allegedly used in hacking Sonny Sierva, would not have been "clear and clean." It should also be noted that aside from the two (2) accused- appellants, there were at least five (5) other persons who were at the scene of the crime, and who could have been responsible for the killing, but unfortunately, they were not recognized by prosecution witnesses, Jenny Cordial and Enrico Sierva. According to Jenny Cordial, the other persons, numbering about seven (7), who were at the scene of the crime, standing still and facing the body of Sonny Sierva, were only about a meter away from accused- appellant Larry Lavapie, 82 but she was not able to recognize them because "it was dark." 83 In corroboration, Enrico Sierva testified that both accused-appellants were at a distance of about five (5) to six (6) meters away from him when he saw them; and that he also saw other persons at the scene of the crime but he was not able to recognize them because they were in a "dark place." 84

In resume, considering the evidence for the prosecution and the attendant circumstances, the Court entertains reasonable doubt as to the culpability of accused- appellants.

WHEREFORE, for failure of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused-appellants are guilty of the crime charged, the Decision dated December 16, 1996, of Branch 36 of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City in Criminal Case No. IR-2639 is hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The accused-appellants are ACQUITTED, and their immediate release from confinement is ordered unless some other lawful cause warrants their further detention.

The Director of Prisons is DIRECTED to implement this Decision and to report to this Court immediately the action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-52080 May 28, 1993

GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, petitioner-appellant, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS and AGRICULTURAL CREDIT ADMINISTRATION (ACA), respondents-appellees.

MELO, J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari seeking the annulment of respondent court's resolutions dated May 7, 1979 and November 23, 1979 rendered in CA-G.R. No.

59286-R.

The facts of the case, as established by record, being undisputed, we quote with approval the following concise

as established by record, being undisputed, we quote with approval the following concise EVIDENCE Rule 128
as established by record, being undisputed, we quote with approval the following concise EVIDENCE Rule 128

summary thereof made by petitioner Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in its brief filed before respondent court:

On June 20, 1961, Fire Policy No. N-29704 (Exh. 533 and D) was issued by the Property Insurance Fund of the defendant-appellee Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to cover the insurance of various grades of Virginia leaf tobacco owned by the plaintiff-appellant and stored in Warehouse F belonging to the Philippine Tobacco Flue- Curing and Redrying Corporation (PTFC & RC), located at Baesa, Novaliches, Quezon City, with a declared value of P21,459.66 and for the period from July l, 1961 to July 2,

1962.

On November 17, 1961 another Fire Policy No. N-30871 (Exhs. 534 and H) was issued by the Property Insurance

Fund of the GSIS to cover the insurance of various grades

of Virginia leaf Tobacco belonging to the plaintiff-appellant

and stored in the said Warehouse F, with the declared value of P2,048,518.50 and for the period from September 30, 1961 to September 30, 1962.

The said insurance policies provide among other things that in the event of loss, whether total or partial the amount thereof shall be subject to appraisal and that the liability of the GSIS, if established shall be limited to the actual loss, subject to the applicable terms, conditions, warranties and clauses of the policies, and in no case to exceed the amount of the policies. This is the open policy clause of the said insurance policies. (Exhs. 533-A-1 and

534-A-1).

On February 15, 1962 at about 7:20 in the evening thereof,

a fire occurred which burned the said Warehouse F and

practically all the tobacco stored therein. As already stated,

the said warehouse was owned by the Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing and Redrying Corporation, then controlled by the well known Harry Stonehill. The said warehouse is one of the warehouses in the Baesa compound of the PTFC & RC.

Subsequently, plaintiff-appellant filed with the GSIS its fire claim, Exhs. N-1 to N-4.

Pursuant to the open policy clause of the insurance policies, the GSIS, as is the practice in the insurance business, employed three insurance adjusters to ascertain the actual loss suffered by the plaintiff-appellant. Said adjusters are the Manila Adjustment Company, H. H. Bayne Adjustment Company and the Allied Adjustment Company. The said adjusters examined the records of the plaintiff- appellant and of the Philippine Tobacco Flue-Curing and Redrying Corporation and they employed two tobacco experts to assist them in evaluating the loss of the plaintiff- appellant. Said tobacco experts were Mr. George Flagg and Edrington S. Penn. After the adjusters, with the assistance of Mr. Flagg and Penn, had verified the records of the plaintiff-appellant and of the PTFC & RC and had employed the hogshead metal strap recovery method, the said adjusters rendered a report on September 25, 1962 (Exh. 538) and a final report on September 25, 1963 (Exhs. 29 to 529-F; also marked as Exhs. Q to Q-6 and Exhs, 537 to 537- H). In said final report, the adjusters recommend as the basis for the adjustment of the appellant's claims the amount of P12,557,968.68. Their verification showed that only 15,467 hogshead of tobacco of various grades were inside the Warehouse F at the time of the fire.

Plaintiff-appellant refused to accept the correctness of the said report and so conferences were had between the officials of plaintiff-appellant and the GSIS, together with the adjusters, and as a result, the GSIS offered as final payment of the appellant's claim the amount of P13,500,000.00. Said offer was embodied in the letter of December 7, 1964 of then General Manager Ramon A. Diaz, which read as follows:

Please be advised that we are now preparing partial payment of the captioned loss in the amount of P2,295,873.21. We shall effect payment of the balance (of the P13,500,000.00 proposed settlement) as soon as possible.

We sincerely believe that the amount of P13,500,000.00 is just and fair indemnity for the loss. Inasmuch as that office refused to execute the required Sworn Statement in Proof of Loss, we wish to ask your written agreement to the following conditions (which were embodied in our letter of July 17, 1964 to the Central Bank of the Philippines) before we remit the above-mentioned partial payment and subsequent payments of the balance:

1 In the event that ACA claims for additional indemnity (in excess of the amount of P13,500,000.00) the burden of proving such additional claim shall be its own responsibility.

2 That should ACA be able to present additional proof and evidence for additional indemnity, the same shall be referred for adjudication to a competent court.

(Ex. EE; Exh. 530; pp. 13-14, tsn, May 19, 1972)

Plaintiff-appellant accepted the offer and its acceptance is embodied in the letter of Mr. Amado A. Lansang, Officer-in- Charge, dated December 16, 1964. Thus, the body of said letter, Exh. FF (also Exh. 631) reads as follows:

In attention to your letter of December 7th which was transmitted to us by the Central Bank under its 1st Indorsement dated December 14, 1964, please be advised that we agree to the following condition set by you in your aforesaid letters, viz:

1 That in the event ACA claim further indemnity in excess

of the amount of P13,500,000.00, the burden of proving such additional amount shall be of ACA's responsibility.

2 That ACA shall present additional proof and evidence for further indemnity to a competent court for adjucation.

(pp. 14-16, tsn, May 19, 1972)

Pursuant to the said agreement of the parties, the GSIS paid to the plaintiff-appellant the amount of P13,500,000.00. (p. 17, tsn, May 19, 1972).

Since it claims that its loss from the fire is P23,610,571.61, the plaintiff-appellant filed the present action in Court, praying among other things, that the defendant-appellee be ordered to pay the difference of P10,110,571.61 (p.11 Record on Appeal) (pp. 2-7, Brief for Defendant-Appellee Government Service Insurance System; p. 83, Rollo)

ACA's complaint was filed with the then Court of First Instance of Manila on September 21, 1965 and docketed as Civil Case No. 62683. On September 9,1975, the trial court

21, 1965 and docketed as Civil Case No. 62683. On September 9,1975, the trial court EVIDENCE
21, 1965 and docketed as Civil Case No. 62683. On September 9,1975, the trial court EVIDENCE

rendered a decision dismissing the complaint. ACA appealed to respondent Court of Appeals where the appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 59286-R. On December 29,1978 respondent court promulgated its decision affirming the decision of the trial court (de Castro (P), Reyes, Sundiam, JJ.). However, upon ACA's motion, respondent court issued a resolution (penned by Justice Samuel Reyes who had taken over from Justice Pacifico de Castro due to the latter's promotion to the Supreme Court; and with the addition of Justice Isidro Borromeo as third member) on May 7, 1979, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

WHREREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby Granted and consequently, the decision in this case dated December 29, 1978 is REVERSED, thus, entitling plaintiff- appellant the balance of P10,110,571.61 on the two (2) fire insurance policies issued by defendant-appellee covering its tobacco stocks stored at the PTFC & REC Warehouse "F". (p. 77, Rollo)

On July 16, 1979, GSIS filed a motion for reconsideration of the resolution of May 7, 1979, and on November 23, 1979, the respondent court issued a resolution denying the motion for reconsideration.

Hence, the present petition under the following assigned errors.

I

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in its Resolution of May 7, 1979 and November 23, 1979 in making a wrong interpretation and application of the term "additional proof and evidence for further indemnity" as stipulated in the agreement of the parties.

II

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in its Resolution of May 7, 1979 and November 23, 1979 in making a wrong interpretation and application of the said term as originally made by respondent Court of Appeals in its Decision of December 29, 1978.

III

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in refusing, and thus committed a grave abuse of discretion, to make a physical count of the withdrawals of tobacco hogsheads indicated in ACA's own evidence, Exhibits QQ to QQ-2024, in the face of the repeated protestations of petitioner GSIS that the allegation of ACA's witness, Patrocinio Torres, that the withdrawals recorded in said exhibits totaled only 12,922 hogsheads is a brazen lie.

IV

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not finding that the withdrawals recorded in ACA's Exhibits QQ to QQ-2024 totaled 15,679 hogsheads of tobacco, and not just 12,922 hogsheads.

V

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in totally ignoring and in not finding that there were additional withdrawals of 1,994 hogsheads as shown in Exhs. 134 to 368.

VI

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in concluding that ACA's evidence on the withdrawals is correct since such conclusion is not supported by the evidence on record and adduced during the trial.

VII

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in making a glaring misapprehension of fact in concluding that Joseph Singh confirmed ACA's contention that the tobacco stocks were intact at the time of the fire, as the evidence is clear that what were brought out of the warehouse were the contents of the tobacco hogsheads stored there.

VIII

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not finding that the whole contents of warehouse F were substituted with rotten tobacco before the fire.

IX

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not sustaining its original decision of December 29, 1978 and the decision of the trial court.

X

Respondent Court of Appeals erred in not dismissing the complaint of respondent-appelle Agricultural Credit Administration. (pp. 1-4, Brief for Petitioner-Appellant Government Service Insurance System; p.160, Rollo)

The decisive issue involved in the case at bar is the quantity of tobacco stored in Warehouse "F" at the time said warehouse was totally destroyed by fire on February 15, 1962. Petitioner GSIS maintains that a total of 17,623 hogsheads of tobacco were withdrawn from Warehouse "F" before the fire occurred. On the other hand, respondent ACA contends that only 12,922 hogsheads of tobacco were withdrawn.

Before resolving said issue, we shall dispose of an incidental issue which appears to preoccupy both parties i.e. whether or not the testimony of ACA's witnesses, Dorotea Toledo, Aurelio B. de Jesus, Demetrio P. Tabije, and Patrocinio Torres, is " additional proof of evidence" within the contemplation of the letter of offer of GSIS dated December 7, 1964 and the letter of acceptance of ACA dated December 16, 1964. The discussion by the parties of said issue is a futile exercise in semantics.

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines vests upon the Supreme Court the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts (par. 5 sec. 4, Art. VIII, Constitution). Even the provision in both the 1935 and the 1973 Constitutions that are the rules of court promulgated by the Supreme Court may be "repealed, altered or supplemented" by the legislature does not appear in the 1987 Constitution. Parties have, therefore, no discretion or power to alter, modify or circumscribe the rules on evidence to suit their particular needs in a case brought before the courts.

We, therefore, rule that the admissibility of the testimony of ACA's witnesses must be determined by the rules of court. Since this testimony is relevant to the facts in issue

determined by the rules of court. Since this testimony is relevant to the facts in issue
determined by the rules of court. Since this testimony is relevant to the facts in issue

and said witnesses are competent witnesses, we hold that the said testimony is admissible in evidence and we shall take it into consideration in resolving the issue involved.

delivery was actually made. As testified to by the plaintiff's witness Maria Malabanan, the weighers' tally sheets are prepared at the same time that the weighing and grading

xxx xxx xxx

As the general rule the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are binding upon this Court (De Gala-Sison vs. Manalo, 8 SCRA 595 [1963]; Chan vs. Court of Appeals, 33

The findings of facts of the Court of Appeals are conclusive

of the delivered tobacco are made in the presence of the respective grader and the weigher of FVTR and PVTA.

SCRA 416 [1970]; Evangelista & Co., vs. Santos, 51 SCRA 416 [1973]. However, said rule admits of exceptions. The exceptions, as set forth in Macadangdang vs. Court of Appeals (100 SCRA 73 [1980]) are:

on the parties and on the Supreme Court, unless (1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmise, and conjectures; (2) the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of

The best evidence available, therefore, is that which relates directly or has a direct connection with the deliver and which affirm the presence of the tobacco delivered at the FVTR warehouse. (Santiago Virginia Tobacco Planters Asso., Inc. vs. Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration, 31 SCRA 528, 538-541 [1970])

According to Exhibits QQ to QQ-2022, the withdrawals of tobacco from Warehouse "F" during the period 1955 to 1959 were as follows:

the case and its findings are contrary to the admission of

Crop

Year

1955

Number

of

Hogsheads

both appellant and appellee; (6) the findings of facts of the

Exhs.

QQ-452

to

QQ-463

87

Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court;

"

QQ-465

to

QQ-466

13

(7) said findings of facts are conclusions without citation of

"

QQ-500

to

QQ-502

23

specific evidence on which they are based; (b) the facts set

"

QQ-652

2

forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and

"

QQ-678-A

1

reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and (9)

when the finding of facts of the Court of Appeals is

Total 26

premised on the absence of evidence and is contradicted by evidence on record.

Crop Year 1956:

 

This Court retains the power to review and rectify findings

Exhs.

QQ,

QQ-1

to

QQ-35

320

of fact of the Court of Appeals where said court manifestly

"

QQ-79

to

QQ-115

276

overlooked, ignored, or misinterpreted certain facts or

"

QQ-117

to

Q-157

316

circumstances of weight and significance (Carolina

"

QQ-244

to

QQ-323

691

Industries, Inc., vs. CMS Stock Brokerage, 97 SCRA 734

"

QQ-325

to

QQ-449

980

[1980]; People vs. Arciaga, 98 SCRA 1 [1980]). Considering

"

QQ-451

22

that the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals conflict

"

QQ-464

7

with those of the trial court, the exercise of our power of

"

QQ-467

to

QQ-499

299

review over the decision of the Court of Appeals is not

"

QQ-503

to

QQ-651

1,170

unjustified.

"

QQ-653

5

"

QQ-655

to

QQ-674

162

As aforementioned, the quantity, the quantity of tobacco

The Court of Appeals, in its resolution of May 7, 1979,

"

QQ-678

184

delivered to Warehouse "F" is not dispute. The issue in

"

QQ-704

to

QQ-751

742

dispute is the quantity of tobacco withdrawn from said

"

QQ-756

to

QQ-764

122

warehouse before the fire of February 15, 1962.

"

QQ-1022

52

Withdrawals of tobacco from Warehouse "F" are recorded

in the Delivery Order and Tally-Out Sheets, Exhibits QQ to

Total 5,348

 

Q-2022 and Exhibits 134 to 368.

Crop Year 1957:

mainly based its findings, that 120,270 hogsheads of

Exhs.

QQ-36

to

QQ-78

414

tobacco were stored in Warehouse "F" immediately before

"

QQ-116

15

the fire, on Exhibit GG, a summary of the withdrawals

"

QQ-158

to

QQ-201

404

based on Exhibit QQ to Q-2022. The Court of Appeals

"

QQ-202

to

QQ-243

309

should not have merely relied on the summary but should

"

QQ-324

6

have gone to the original sources and the bases thereof

"

QQ-450

7

and should have scrutinized Exhibits QQ to QQ-2022 and

Exhibits 134 to 368, the tally-out sheets for these are the

Total 1,155

 

primary documents recording each and every withdrawal of tobacco from the warehouse at the time of delivery. These exhibits constitute the best evidence to prove the

Crop Year 1958:

withdrawal of tobacco from the warehouse.

Exhs.

QQ-654

2

"

QQ-657

to

QQ-678-B

60

Nor may the tally sheet summary be of any significance.

"

QQ-679

to

QQ-703

295

The contents of the tally sheet summary were supposed to

"

QQ-752

to

QQ-755

1,150

have been merely copied from the weighers' tally sheets

"

QQ-765

to

QQ-767

800

prepared right at the ramps. The inability of SVTPA to

"

QQ-999

5

produce the original of the weighers' tally sheets or even

"

QQ-1003

to

QQ-1021

185

explain its non-production creates the impression that no

"

QQ-1023

to

QQ-1027

336

non-production creates the impression that no " QQ-1023 to QQ-1027 336 EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases Page
non-production creates the impression that no " QQ-1023 to QQ-1027 336 EVIDENCE Rule 128 Cases Page

"

QQ-1029

to

QQ-1061

246

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,

"

QQ-1064

to

QQ-1214

1238

vs.

——

RODRIGO BALLENO Y PERNETES, appellant.

Total 4,317

 
 

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Crop Year 1959:

 

This is an appeal from the decision 1 dated January 17,

Exhs.

QQ-1215

to

QQ-1425

1,226

2001, of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 109,

"

QQ-1426

to

QQ-177

2,019

in Criminal Case No. 00-0408, finding accused-appellant

"

QQ-1771

to

QQ-2024

1,478

Rodrigo Balleno y Pernetes guilty of rape and sentencing

———

him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Total 4,723

 
 

The Information reads:

(pp. 40-41, Rollo)

 

Adding the withdrawal by crop years, we arrive at the following figures:

That on or about the 18 th day of March 2000, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the stepfather of complainant Jacquelyn Balandra y

Crop

Year

1955

126

Hogsheads

Alzate, a minor 13 years of age, with force and intimidation

Crop

Year

1956

5,348

"

did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously

Crop

Year

1957

1,155

"

have carnal knowledge with complainant against her will

Crop

Year

1958

4,317

"

and consent.

Crop

Year

1959

4,723

"

———— Total 15,669 Hogsheads

(p. 41 Rollo)

Therefore, according to ACA's own documentary evidence, 15,669 hogshead of tobacco were withdrawn from the warehouse from 1955 to 1959.

In addition thereto, Exhibits 134 to 368, delivery orders dated August 13, to 16, 1959, indicate that were further withdrawals of 1,944 hogsheads from the warehouse during said period. 15,669 hogsheads plus 1,944 additional hogsheads, gives us a total of 17,613 hogsheads of tobacco withdrawn from the warehouse. Deducting 17,613 hogsheads of tobacco from a total of 15,457 tobacco hogsheads inside the warehouse at the time of the fire on February 15, 1962. The documentary evidence on record, therefore, clearly supports the position of petitioner GSIS.

The presentation of the testimony of ACA's witnesses, Doroteo Toledo, Aurelio B. de Jesus, Demetrio P. Tabije, and Patronicio Torres is nothing but a convoluted attempt of ACA to minimize and neutralize the impact of Exhibits QQ to QQ-2022 and Exhibits 134 to 368. Their testimony consisted mainly in trying to explain away, vary, and modify the meaning and significance of Exhibits QQ to QQ- 2022 and Exhibits 134 to 368. Testimonial evidence is easy of fabrication and there is very little room for choice between testimonial evidence and documentary evidence (Marvel Building Corporation vs. David, 94 Phil. 376 [1954]). Generally, documentary evidence prevails over- testimonial evidence.

WHEREFORE, the resolution dated May 7, 1979, as well as that of November 23, 1979, of respondent Court of Appeals are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE and the complaint filed in Civil Case No. 62683 is hereby DISMISSED.

Contrary to law. 2

Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded "not guilty" to the crime charged. Trial on the merits ensued.

The facts of the case as established by the prosecution:

At 12:15 p.m. of March 18, 2000, thirteen year-old Jacquelyn Balandra was with her step-sisters, Titin and Crismarie, inside the room of their home located at Old Air Academy, ATO, Don Carlos Village, Pasay City. Appellant Rodrigo Balleno, the live-in partner of Jacquelyn’s mother, Lorna, entered the room and ordered Titin and Crismarie to go out. 3 When they were alone, appellant sat at the side of the bed where Jacquelyn was lying down. Then he touched her thighs, placed her hands on her back and covered her mouth. He then removed Jacquelyn’s shorts and panties, lay on top of her and kissed her lips. He took off his shorts and inserted his penis into Jacquelyn’s vagina who tried to push him away. 4

Jacquelyn went to her friends, Toochie, Nanette and Mylene and related to them what happened. They accompanied her to the local barangay where she reported the incident. On the same day, barangay officials Luis Alintana, Efren Bais and Rogelio Basagre arrested appellant Rodrigo Balleno. 5 Jacquelyn executed her "Sinumpaang Salaysay" 6 and submitted herself to a medical examination. 7

Dr. Estela Guerrero Manalo, a physician assigned at the Child Protection Unit of the Philippine General Hospital, Manila, conducted a physical and genital examination on Jacquelyn on March 20, 2000. Her examination showed that the victim’s external genitalia and hymen were normal. 8 There was no evidence of spermatozoa. She, however, claimed that it was possible that the victim was sexually abused even if the result of the examination showed a normal genital. 9

SO ORDERED.

In his defense, appellant denied the charge against him, and claimed that on March 18, 2000, he had a drinking

G.R. No. 149075

August 7, 2003

spree at home with his cousin Lito Balleno and Sammy Alzate, uncle of Jacquelyn, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They consumed three bottles of gin. 10 He admitted that he kissed Jacquelyn because the latter took care of his youngest

10 He admitted that he kissed Jacquelyn because the latter took care of his youngest EVIDENCE
10 He admitted that he kissed Jacquelyn because the latter took care of his youngest EVIDENCE

child. Thereafter, Jacquelyn pushed him away and left. He fell asleep and was awakened by the barangay officials who arrested him. Appellant further alleged that the crime was imputed to him because Jacquelyn wanted her real father, Charlie, to be reunited with her mother. 11

After trial, judgment was rendered against appellant, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, for failure of the prosecution to prove the qualifying circumstance of stepparent relationship between the accused and the complainant, as alleged in the information, this Court finds the accused guilty for simple rape.

It would appear therefore that accused Rodrigo Balleno y Pernetes and the mother of the victim were not married to each other and therefore not the stepfather of the victim, hence, the Court finds the accused guilty of simple rape and hereby sentences him to reclusion perpetua. He is likewise ordered to pay civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 and moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 to the victim Jacquelyn Balandra y Alzate with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

SO ORDERED. 12

In this appeal, appellant contends that:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED- APPELLANT OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

The appeal lacks merit.

Appellant assails Jacquelyn’s credibility by referring to the inconsistency between her testimony and her sworn statement. In her statement before the police, Jacquelyn stated that there was no insertion of the penis inside her vagina "Hindi ko naramdaman na naipasok niya kasi po sa may itaas po ng pepe ko ito naramdaman. Sa loob ng labi ng ari ko." 13 In open court, however, she testified that appellant inserted his penis inside her vagina. 14

It has been held that some discrepancies between the affidavit and the testimony of the witness in open court do not necessarily impair the credibility of her testimony, for affidavits are generally taken ex parte and are often incomplete or even inaccurate for lack of searching inquiries by the investigating officer. 15 An affidavit is not a complete reproduction of what the declarant has in mind because it is generally prepared by the administering officer and the affiant simply signs it after it has been read to him. In any case, open court declarations take precedence over written affidavits in the hierarchy of evidence. Unlike written statements, there is flexibility on the part of the questioner to adapt his questions to elicit the desired answer in order to ferret out the truth. 16

In the case at bar, appellant has not shown any material discrepancy between the sworn statement and testimony of the victim that would seriously taint her credibility and warrant a reversal of the trial court’s factual findings. Even assuming for the sake of argument, that there was no penile penetration of private complainant’s vagina because her legs were not spread apart, it has been consistently ruled that the mere touching of the labia of the woman consummates the crime of rape. 17 Hence, the fact that no

laceration and no ruptured hymen were found in this case, does not necessarily negate rape. The fact that the hymen was intact upon examination does not, likewise, belie rape, for a broken hymen is not an essential element of rape, nor does the fact that the victim remained a virgin exclude the crime. In a prosecution for rape, the material fact or circumstance to be considered is the occurrence of the rape, which the prosecution in this case was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt. 18 In any event, a medical examination is not essential in the prosecution of a rape case. A medical examination and a medical certificate are merely corroborative in character. They are not indispensable requirements for conviction, for what matters greatly is the clear, unequivocal and credible testimony of the victim. 19

Similarly, it must be stressed that the absence of spermatozoa in the victim’s sex organ does not disprove rape. It could be that the victim washed or urinated prior to her examination, which may well explain the absence of spermatozoa. 20

Appellant contends that he could not have possibly raped Jacquelyn inside a room in a thickly populated squatter’s area wherein a commotion can be easily heard by their neighbors and where houses were built close to each other. The argument deserves scant consideration. Lust is no respecter of time and place. Several times, we held that rape can be committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadsides, in school premises, in a house where there are other occupants, in the same room where other members of the family are also sleeping, and even in places which, to many, would appear unlikely and high risk venues for its commission. 21

Moreover, appellant’s allegation that there was no force or intimidation because private complainant did not suffer injuries and her clothes were not torn is not well taken. The testimony of Jacquelyn established the fact that, through force and intimidation, appellant pinned her hands at her back, covered her mouth and succeeded in abusing her. The absence of external signs of physical injuries does not prove that rape was not committed, for proof thereof is not an essential element of the crime of rape. 22 Settled is the rule that the force employed in rape need not be irresistible so long as it is present and brings the desired result. All that is necessary is that the force be sufficient to fulfill its evil end, or that it be successfully used; it need not be so great or be of such a character that it could not be repelled. 23 Indeed, the degree of force or intimidation required for the act to constitute rape is relative, and must be viewed in the light of the complainant's perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the offense. 24

In the case at bar, Jacquelyn’s testimony is clear, candid, straightforward and consistent. She had positively identified appellant as her malefactor. No ulterior motive was offered to explain why the victim would concoct a story charging appellant with the crime of rape. Jacquelyn testified:

Q:

the suspect in this case, as your father?

As a matter of fact, you do not treat your stepfather,

A:

I consider him as my father.

x x x

x x x

x x x

treat your stepfather, A: I consider him as my father. x x x x x x
treat your stepfather, A: I consider him as my father. x x x x x x

Q: Was it true that before this incident happened on March 18, 2000 your mother Lorna and your stepfather has a serious quarrel?

A:

No, sir.

Q: Your father Charlie Balandra is not the friend of your stepfather, am I correct?

reclusion perpetua, pursuant to Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353, otherwise known as "The Anti-Rape Law of 1997", which reads:

ART. 266-A. Rape; When and How Committed.- Rape is committed.

1) By a man who have carnal knowledge of a woman under

A:

Yes, they are friends.

any of the following circumstances:

Q:

They have quarreled before this incident, am I

a)

Through force, threat or intimidation;

correct?

x x x

x x x

x x x.

A:

None. 25

Time and again, we have consistently held that when a woman, more so if a minor, states that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed. For no woman, least of all a child, would weave a tale of sexual assaults to her person, open herself to examination of her private parts and later be subjected to public trial or ridicule if she was not, in truth, a victim of rape and impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her. 26 Hence, we find no basis to depart from the well- settled rule that trial court’s assessment of the credibility of complainant’s testimony is entitled to great weight, absent any showing that some facts were overlooked which, if considered, would affect the outcome of the case. 27

ART. 266-B. Penalties.- Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion perpetua.

Lastly, in line with the prevailing jurisprudence, the award of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity for the crime of rape should be reduced to P50,000.00. 35 Civil indemnity is separate and distinct from the award of moral damages which is automatically granted in rape cases. 36 Moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 are additionally awarded without need of pleading or proof of the basis thereof. This is because it is recognized that the victim’s injury is concomitant with and necessarily resulting from the odiousness of the crime to warrant per se the award of moral damages. 37

The Information alleged that appellant was the stepfather of the victim. This was inaccurate. The word "step", when used as prefix in conjunction with a degree of kinship, is repugnant to blood relationship and is indicative of a relationship by affinity. 28 Since appellant and the victim’s mother were not married, no such relationship by affinity existed between appellant and the victim. The records indicate that the victim’s mother, Lorna, and the appellant

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 109, in Criminal Case No. 00-0408, finding appellant Rodrigo Balleno y Pernetes guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to pay the offended party P50,000.00 as moral damages, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 is reduced to P50,000.00.

were "live-in partners," the former, in fact, lawfully married to Charlie Balandra, the victim’s father. A

Costs de oficio.

stepfather-stepdaughter relationship presupposes a legitimate relationship, i.e., the appellant should have been legally married to Lorna, the victim’s mother. A stepfather

SO ORDERED.

is the husband of one’s mother by virtue of a marriage

G.R. Nos. 146284-86

January 20, 2003

subsequent to that of which the person spoken of is the offspring. 29 A stepdaughter is a daughter of one’s spouse by previous marriage or the daughter of one of the spouses by a former marriage. 30

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, vs. ABDUL MACALABA y DIGAYON, appellant.

In People v. Fraga, 31 we held that "although the rape of a person under eighteen (18) years of age by the common- law spouse of the victim’s mother is punishable by death, this penalty cannot be imposed on accused-appellant x x x because his relationship was not what was alleged in the information. What was alleged was that he is the stepfather of the complainant." The filiation or kinship with the accused must be alleged in the information as part of the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. 32 Therefore, the failure to accurately allege the relationship

between appellant and his victim in the information bars his conviction of rape in its qualified form. 33 The appellant, having been referred to as the stepfather of the victim in the information, is thus auspiciously spared from the

supreme punishment

of death by this technical flaw. 34

Thus, the trial court correctly convicted appellant of simple rape and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

Appellant Abdul Macalaba y Digayon (hereafter ABDUL) was charged before the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna, with violations of the Presidential Decree No. 1866 1 ; Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code 2 ; and Section 16 of Article III of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 (Republic Act No. 6425), as amended, in Criminal Cases Nos. 1236, 1237 and 1238, respectively. The accusatory portions of the informations in these cases read as follows:

Criminal Case No. 1236

That on or about April 12, 1999, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused without the required permit/license from the proper authorities, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control one (1) caliber

unlawfully, and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control one (1) caliber EVIDENCE Rule 128
unlawfully, and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control one (1) caliber EVIDENCE Rule 128

.45 pistol with Serial No. 909904, and one (1) magazine with five (5) live ammunition thereof.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 3

Criminal Case No. 1237

That on or about April 12, 1999, in the Municipality of San

Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control two (2) ONE THOUSAND PESOS bill with Serial Numbers BG 021165 and BG 995998, knowing the same to be forged or otherwise falsified with the manifest intention of using such falsified

or forged instruments.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 4

Criminal Case No. 1238

That on or about April 12, 1999, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused without being authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control one (1) self-sealing transparent plastic bag of methamphetamine hydrochloride "shabu" weighing 226.67 grams (3 medium sized transparent plastic bags and 1 big heat-sealed transparent plastic bag).

CONTRARY TO LAW. 5

The three cases were consolidated and raffled to Branch 31 of said court. Upon his arraignment, ABDUL entered in each case a plea of not guilty.

At the trial, the prosecution presented as witnesses SPO1

Generoso Pandez, PO3 Ernani Mendez, Police Inspector Anacleta Cultura and Police Inspector Lorna Tria. ABDUL was the sole witness for the defense.

SPO1 Pandez, a PNP member of the Laguna Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG), testified that on 12 April 1999, at 5:15 p.m., Major R’ Win Pagkalinawan ordered the search of ABDUL, alias "Boy Muslim," based on

a verified information that the latter was driving a

carnapped Mitsubishi olive green car with Plate No. UPV 511 and was a drug-pusher in San Pedro, Laguna. Two teams were formed for the search. The first was headed by Major Pagkalinawan, with SPO4 Aberion and five others as members; and the second was led by Capt. Percival Rumbaoa, with SPO1 Pandez and PO3 Mendez as members. 6

Between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., the two groups proceeded to Barangay Nueva, San Pedro, Laguna, on board a car and a van. They went to ABDUL’s apartment where he was reportedly selling shabu, but they learned that ABDUL had already left. While looking for ABDUL, they saw the suspected carnapped car somewhere at Pacita Complex I, San Pedro, Laguna, going towards the Poblacion. When it stopped due to the red traffic light, the CIDG officers alighted from their vehicles. Capt. Rumbaoa positioned himself at the passenger side of the suspected carnapped car, while Major Pagkalinawan stood in front of the car. SPO1 Pandez, with PO3 Mendez beside him, went straight to the driver and knocked at the driver’s window. ABDUL, who was driving the car, lowered the glass

window. SPO1 Pandez introduced himself as a member of the Laguna CIDG and asked ABDUL to turn on the light and show them the car’s certificate of registration. 7

When the light was already on, SPO1 Pandez saw a black Norinco .45 caliber gun 8 inside an open black clutch/belt bag placed on the right side of the driver’s seat near the gear. He asked ABDUL for the supporting papers of the gun, apart from the car’s certificate of registration, but the latter failed to show them any. 9 When ABDUL opened the zipper of the clutch/belt bag, the CIDG officers saw inside it four plastic sachets of what appeared to be shabu. They likewise found a self-sealing plastic bag which contained the following items: two fake P1,000 bills, a list of names of persons, a magazine and five ammunitions for a .45 caliber gun. They confiscated the gun, the shabu, and the fake P1,000 bills and thereafter brought ABDUL to the CIDG office. 10

PO3 Mendez substantially corroborated the testimony of SPO1 Pandez. 11

The two P1,000 bills were found to be counterfeit after an examination conducted by Police Inspector Anacleta Cultura, 12 a document examiner at Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba, Laguna. The white crystalline substance contained in the four small plastic bags was subjected to physical and laboratory examination conducted by Police Inspector Lorna Tria, a Forensic Chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory, Region IV, Camp Vicente Lim. Her findings 13 were as follows: (a) the three small plastic sachets weighed 29.46 grams, while the big plastic sachet weighed 197.21 grams, or a total weight of 226.67 grams; (b) representative samples taken from the specimens thereof were positive for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a regulated drug; and (c) the improvised tooter and the rolled aluminum foil with residue found in the self- sealing plastic bag were also positive of the presence for shabu residue.

As expected, ABDUL had a different story to tell. He testified that on 12 April 1999, between 6:50 and 7:00 p.m., he was driving a borrowed Mitsubishi Galant Car with Plate No. UPV 501 somewhere in San Pedro, Laguna. With him was Rose, his live-in partner, whom he fetched from Angeles City, Pampanga. He had borrowed the car from his friend Ferdinand Navares, who instructed him to return it in front of the latter’s store at San Pedro Public Market. 14

ABDUL was about to park the car when a man knocked hard on the glass window on the driver’s side of the car and pointed at the former a .45 caliber pistol. Another one who was armed with an armalite rifle positioned himself in front of the car, while the third one positioned himself near the window on the passenger side and pointed a gun at his live-in partner Rose. ABDUL then lowered the car’s window. The man near him opened the door, held him, and told him to alight. When the man asked him whether he was "Boy Muslim," he answered in the negative. The same man opened the back door of the car and boarded at the back seat. Rose remained seated at the front passenger seat. 15

The other men likewise boarded the car, which was thereafter driven by one of them. While inside the car, they saw a .45 caliber pistol at the edge of the driver’s seat. They asked him whether he had a license. He showed his gun license and permit to carry. After taking his gun,

he had a license. He showed his gun license and permit to carry. After taking his
he had a license. He showed his gun license and permit to carry. After taking his

license, and permit to carry, they tried to remove his belt bag from his waist, but he did not allow them. 16

Upon reaching the headquarters, ABDUL learned that these people were C.I.S. agents. There, he was told to surrender the belt bag to the officer who would issue a receipt for it. He did as he was told, and the money inside his belt bag was counted and it amounted to P42,000. They then got his money and the cellular phone, which was also inside the bag, together with some other pieces of paper. They also took another cell phone from the car. He was never issued a receipt for these items. 17

Thereafter, a man entered the office with a white plastic bag allegedly taken from the borrowed car. ABDUL denied ownership over the plastic bag. That same man then told him that it contained shabu. ABDUL and Rose were detained at the headquarters. The next morning, Rose was allowed to get out; and in the afternoon, he was transferred to San Pedro Municipal Jail. 18

After the trial, the trial court acquitted ABDUL in Criminal Cases Nos. 1236 and 1237 for violations of Presidential Decree No. 1866 and Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code, respectively, due to insufficiency of evidence. However, it convicted him in Criminal Case No. 1238 for violation of Section 16, Article III of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 (Republic Act No. 6425), as amended, 19 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P500,000, as well as the costs of the suit.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, ABDUL interposed the present appeal, alleging that the trial court erred in (1) convicting him for violation of Section 16 of Article III of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended, despite insufficiency of evidence; and (2) admitting the evidence presented by the prosecution although it was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights.

In his first assigned error, ABDUL argues that the prosecution failed to prove the material allegations in the information. The information charges him, among other things, that "without being authorized by law, [he] did then and there willfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control … methamphetamine hydrochloride." However, the prosecution did not present any certification from the concerned government agency, like the Dangerous Drugs Board, to the effect that he was not authorized to possess shabu, which is a regulated drug. Thus, his guilt was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

In his second assigned error, ABDUL asserts that he was not committing a crime when the CIS agents boarded his car, searched the same and ultimately arrested him. He was about to park his borrowed car per instruction by the owner when he was harassed by the operatives at gunpoint. The gun seen was properly documented; thus, there was no reason for the CIS agents to bring him and his companion to the headquarters. The shabu allegedly found in the car was brought in by somebody at the time he was under interrogation. It was taken in violation of his constitutional right against illegal search and seizure. Being a "fruit of a poisonous tree" it should not have been admitted in evidence.

Moreover, the members of the CIDG merely relied on the information received from an anonymous telephone caller who said that ABDUL was driving a carnapped vehicle.

They had no personal knowledge of the veracity of the information. Consequently, there was no legal basis for his warrantless arrest.

In the Appellee’s Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) maintains that ABDUL had the burden of proving that he was authorized to possess shabu, but he failed to discharge such burden. Therefore, it is presumed that he had no authority; consequently, he is liable for violation of Section 16, Article III of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended. The OSG likewise refutes ABDUL’s argument that there was a violation of his right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The general rule is that if a criminal charge is predicated on a negative allegation, or that a negative averment is an essential element of a crime, the prosecution has the burden of proving the charge. However, this rule is not without an exception. Thus, we have held:

Where the negative of an issue does not permit of direct proof, or where the facts are more immediately within the knowledge of the accused, the onus probandi rests upon him. Stated otherwise, it is not incumbent upon the prosecution to adduce positive evidence to support a negative averment the truth of which is fairly indicated by established circumstances and which, if untrue, could readily be disproved by the production of documents or other evidence within the defendant’s knowledge or control. For example, where a charge is made that a defendant carried on a certain business without a license (as in the case at bar, where the accused is charged with the selling of a regulated drug without authority), the fact that he has a license is a matter which is peculiarly within his knowledge and he must establish that fact or suffer conviction. 20

In the instant case, the negative averment that ABDUL had no license or authority to possess methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a regulated drug, has been fairly indicated by the following facts proven by the testimonies of the CIDG officers and the forensic chemist: (a) ABDUL was driving the suspected carnapped vehicle when he was caught, and he appeared to be healthy and not indisposed as to require the use of shabu as medicine; (b) the contents of the sachets found in ABDUL’s open clutch bag inside the car were prima faciedetermined by the CIDG officers to be shabu; and (c) the said contents were conclusively found to be shabu by the forensic chemist. With these established facts, the burden of evidence was shifted to ABDUL. He could have easily disproved the damning circumstances by presenting a doctor’s prescription for said drug or a copy of his license or authority to possess the regulated drug. Yet, he offered nothing.

And now on the second issue. The Constitution enshrines in its Bill of Rights the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose. 21 To give full protection to it, the Bill of Rights also ordains the exclusionary principle that any evidence obtained in violation of said right is inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. 22

It is obvious from Section 2 of the Bill of Rights that reasonable searches and seizures are not proscribed. If conducted by virtue of a valid search warrant issued in compliance with the guidelines prescribed by the

of a valid search warrant issued in compliance with the guidelines prescribed by the EVIDENCE Rule
of a valid search warrant issued in compliance with the guidelines prescribed by the EVIDENCE Rule

Constitution and reiterated in the Rules of Court, the search and seizure is valid.

The interdiction against warrantless searches and seizures

is not absolute. The recognized exceptions established by

jurisprudence are (1) search of moving vehicles; (2) seizure in plain view; (3) customs search; (4) waiver or consented search; (5) stop and frisk situation (Terry search); and (6) search incidental to a lawful arrest. The

last includes a valid warrantless search and seizure pursuant to an equally valid warrantless arrest, for, while as a rule, an arrest is considered legitimate if effected with

a valid warrant of arrest, the Rules of Court recognize

permissible warrantless arrests, to wit: (1) arrests in flagrante delicto, (2) arrests effected in hot pursuit, and (3)

arrests of escaped prisoners. 23 Another exception is a search made pursuant to routine airport security

procedure, which is authorized under Section 9 of R.A. No.

6235. 24

The warrantless arrest of, or warrantless search and seizure conducted on, ABDUL constitute a valid exemption from the warrant requirement. The evidence clearly shows that on the basis of an intelligence information that a carnapped vehicle was driven by ABDUL, who was also a suspect of drug pushing, the members of the CIDG of Laguna went around looking for the carnapped car. 25 They spotted the suspected carnapped car, which was indeed driven by ABDUL. While ABDUL was fumbling about in his clutch bag for the registration papers of the car the CIDG agents saw four transparent sachets of shabu. 26 These sachets of shabu were therefore in "plain view" of the law enforcers.

Under the "plain view" doctrine, unlawful objects within the plain view of an officer who has the right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be presented in evidence. Nonetheless, the seizure of evidence in plain view must comply with the following requirements: (a) a prior valid intrusion in which the police are legally present in the pursuit of their official duties; (b) the evidence was inadvertently discovered by the police who had the right to be where they are; (c) the evidence must be immediately apparent; and (d) the plain view justified mere seizure of evidence without further search. 27