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SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. MTJ-02-1417. May 27, 2004]

PETER BEJARASCO, JR. and ISABELITA BEJARASCO, complainants, vs. JUDGE


ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO, Municipal Trial Court, Dalaguete, Cebu,
SECUNDINO PIEDAD, Clerk of Court, and LEONISA GONZALES, Court
Stenographer, Municipal Trial Court, Argao, Cebu, respondents.

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

The instant administrative complaint stemmed from a Letter-Complaint dated January


22, 2001 filed by Peter Bejarasco, Jr. and Isabelita Bejarasco charging Judge Alfredo
Buenconsejo, Clerk of Court Secundino Piedad, and Court Stenographer Leonisa
Gonzales of the Municipal Trial Court of Dalaguete, Cebu, with dereliction of duty,
ignorance of the law, grave misconduct and serious irregularity relative to Criminal Cases
Nos. R-04171 and R-4172.[1]

The complainants alleged that they were charged by a certain Dr. Edwin Fonghe with
grave threats and grave oral defamation before the Municipal Trial Court of Dalaguete,
Cebu.According to the complainants, the respondent judge inhibited himself from the said
cases on the ground of delicadeza and that Executive Judge Epifanio Llanos of the
Regional Trial Court of Argao, Cebu, Branch 26, designated Judge Palmacio Calderon of
the MTC of Argao, Cebu, to hear and try the said cases. [2] Judge Calderon conducted
continuous and simultaneous trials, and the cases were submitted for decision on June
29, 1999. Unfortunately, Judge Calderon died on December 31, 1999 without having
rendered judgment on the said cases.

The complainants alleged that they were surprised to receive a notice from the MTC of
Argao, Cebu, that Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 had been set for promulgation
on May 15, 2000 by the respondent judge, who was then designated as presiding judge of
the said court.

The complainants alleged, thus:

9. That after I (affiant husband) received the notice, I immediately proceeded to the house
of Judge Buenconsejo at Poblacion, Dalaguete, Cebu, and told him about my late receipt
of notice, but Judge Buenconsejo told me that the promulgation was reset by the lawyer;

10. That I (affiant husband) then inquired from Judge Buenconsejo why would he
promulgate the decision he had already inhibited himself from (trying) my cases, and why
would the promulgation be only on two (2) criminal cases instead of five (5) cases which
were all submitted for decision;

11. That Judge Buenconsejo answered me (affiant husband) in the following manner:
Tikboy, miadto mi kuyog sa akong mga clerks sa ilang Judge Calderon. Wala koy mahimo,
order ni sa akong superior Judge Llanos. Huwata lang ang sunod nga notice. which in
English means: Tikboy, my clerks and I went to the house of Judge Calderon. There
is nothing I can do, this is the order of my superior Judge Llanos. Just wait for the
next notice.;

12. That on May 16, 2000, at about 10:00 A.M., I (affiant husband) went to the MTC of
Argao, Cebu, passed by the office of my PAO lawyer Atty. Quindala, and we both went to
Secundino Piedad of the MTC, and upon inquiry by Atty. Quindala, Mr. Piedad informed us
that I was convicted in the decision to be promulgated;[3]

The complainants, thereafter, received another notice of promulgation at 10:00 a.m. of


May 29, 2000. On the said date, the complainants counsel argued that the respondent
judge could not promulgate the decision since he had earlier inhibited himself from trying
the said cases, and that the judge who actually heard the case had already died. The
respondent judge, however, ignored these arguments and proceeded with the
promulgation of the Decision[4] dated November 19, 1999, convicting both complainants.

Thereafter, the complainants counsel filed a motion to nullify the decision. The
respondent judge denied the motion, and ordered the arrest of the complainants. The
latters counsel filed a petition for certiorari with the Regional Trial Court of Argao, Cebu,
Branch 26, questioning the validity of the decision in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-
4172 and its promulgation.

During the pendency of their petition for certiorari, the complainants requested for an
expert examination of the signatures of the late Judge Calderon in his decisions with the
PNP Crime Laboratory.[5] The complainants submitted a copy of Questioned Document
Report No. 098-2000[6] where the document examiner of the PNP Crime Laboratory made
the following findings:

FINDINGS:

Comparative examination ans (sic) analysis of the questioned signatures marked Q-1 to
Q-3 inclusive and the standard signatures marked S-1 and S-14 inclusive reveal
significant differences in formation, construction and other individual handwriting
characteristics.

**** **** ****

CONCLUSION:
The questioned signatures of Judge Palmacio L. Calderon appearing in the three copies
of page 6 of the Decision in Criminal Cases Nos. 4171 and 4172 all dated 19 November
1999 marked Q-1 to Q-3 inclusive are forged.[7]

On January 3, 2001, Judge Raphael B. Yrastorza, Sr. rendered his Resolution on the
petition for certiorari, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, all the foregoing premises considering, this Court resolves to GRANT the
Petition MODIFIED as follows:

1. Issuing a preliminary mandatory injunction in favor of the petitioners herein ordering


public respondent Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO from having the warrant of arrest
he earlier issued enforced; the said warrant of arrest is, thus, ordered QUASHED, UNTIL
and UNLESS a new decision/judgment is rendered and promulgated;

2. Ordering the Hon. EMILIO T. REYES, Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court of
Sibonga, Cebu, to take over these cases from Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO and
render a decision/judgment on these cases and have the same promulgated without
further delay.

3. Ordering public respondent Hon. ALFREDO D. BUENCONSEJO to make available


and turn over the records of these cases, including the stenographic notes duly
transcribed unto the Clerk of Court of Hon. EMILIO T. REYES.

4. Ordering the Clerk of Court of this Court to return the records of these cases to the
court of origin.

IT IS SO RESOLVED.[8]

The complainants contended that the respondent judge is guilty of ignorance of the
law, grave misconduct and serious irregularity, and is presumed to be the author of the
forged signature of Judge Palmacio Calderon. The favorable resolution of their petition for
certiorari in the RTC further showed the respondent judges ignorance of the law and
misconduct. They, thus, prayed that the respondent judge be dismissed from the service
with forfeiture of all benefits.

In his comment, the respondent judge denied the charges and accusations against
him. He averred, thus:

a) The Decision dated November 19, 1999 in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-
4172 was personally and directly prepared and signed by the late Judge Palmacio
Calderon during his lifetime;

b) The said decision was left and deposited by Judge Calderon with his Clerk of Court
of MTC Argao, Cebu;
c) Unfortunately, however, Judge Calderon fell ill and was hospitalized for sometime
until his demise on December 31, 1999, and for which reason the subject
questioned decision was not promulgated during his lifetime;

d) When I assumed office as Acting Judge Designate of the MTC of Argao, Cebu, the
Clerk of Court informed me about the decision which was left and entrusted to him
by Judge Calderon, and consequently, I directed the Clerk of Court to set the same
for promulgation which was actually made in open court in the presence of the
complainants as the accused therein and their counsel in the morning of May 29,
2001;

e) Under the above circumstances, I honestly believe in good faith that there was no
irregularity in the promulgation of the questioned subject decision as my only
participation on this matter was merely an exercise of a ministerial duty to enforce
the said decision which was already long rendered by the judge who actually and
completely heard the above-mentioned criminal cases on the merits, basing my
actuation on the express pertinent provision of Section 6, Rule 120 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure which states as follows: The Judgment is promulgated
by reading it in the presence of the accused and the judge of the court in which it
was rendered (Underlining ours);

f) At any rate, if there was ever an error on my part, it was never done with malice in
order to prejudice the substantial rights of the complainant.[9]

The respondent alleged that he denied the complainants motion to nullify the decision
in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 as the same was not the proper remedy
available under the particular circumstances of the case, but rather an appeal, or a motion
for new trial as the case may be. Consequently, the said decision became final and
executory after the lapse of the reglementary period within which the complainants might
have availed of any of the said legal remedies. Thus, according to the respondent, he
issued an order of arrest against the complainants so that they could serve their sentence.

The respondent also pointed out that the complainants had already filed a
complaint[10] before the Office of the Ombudsman, docketed as OMB-VIS-CRIM-98-0166,
and that such complaint was dismissed.[11] The respondent averred that the instant
complaint was in the nature of a harassment suit in order to exact leverage on him and
antagonize him, which has been frowned upon by the Court.

For her part, Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales alleged that the late Judge
Calderon directed her to submit all the transcripts of stenographic notes within a period of
fifteen days from the time the case was submitted for decision. She denied having
conversed with the parties in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172. She could not,
however, attest to the correctness or erroneousness of the charges against the
respondent judge. She also averred that she did not witness the signing of the questioned
decision, whether by the late Judge Calderon or the respondent judge.[12]

Clerk of Court Secundino Piedad attested[13] that sometime in April 2000, he visited the
residence of the late Judge Calderon in La Paloma, Labangon, Cebu City, to verify the
serial number of a typewriter assigned to the late Judge Calderon for clearance
purposes. The wife of the late Judge Calderon, Alicia T. Calderon, thereafter, handed to
him the records of Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172, including a decision thereon
duly signed by the late judge. Consequently, he informed the respondent, then acting
presiding judge, about the decision and the latter set the same for promulgation. He was
then ordered to issue a subpoena to the complainants (accused therein) for the
promulgation of judgment, but for the latters failure to receive the said subpoena on time,
another was issued setting the promulgation of the said judgment on May 29,
2000. Piedad averred he merely executed and implemented the legal orders of the court.

Additionally, Alicia T. Calderon executed an affidavit[14] to attest to the fact that the late
judge indeed signed the questioned decisions.

In its Report dated February 8, 2002, the Court Administrator made the following
recommendations:

1. The present case be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter;

2. The respondent judge be FINED in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos


(P10,000.00) to be deducted from the Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00)
previously set aside by the Court and to direct the Financial Management Office,
OCA, to release the balance of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00); and

3. The charges against Clerk of Court Secundino Piedad and Court Stenographer
Leonisa Gonzales be DISMISSED for lack of substantial evidence to hold them
administratively liable.[15]

Respondent Gonzales, thereafter, filed an Urgent Request for Clearance and Motion to
Resolve or Dismiss[16] the instant complaint as against her, praying that she be cleared for
retirement purposes to enable her to receive her retirement benefits. Upon the
recommendation of the Court Administrator, we granted her request and directed the
Financial Management Office to immediately release her compulsory retirement benefits
subject to the retention of the amount of P5,000 from the money value of her terminal
leave credits pending the resolution of this matter.[17] The case was, thereafter, referred to
Executive Judge Maximo A. Perez of the Regional Trial Court of Argao, Cebu, for
investigation, report and recommendation.

In his Report and Recommendation, the Executive Judge found that the respondents
actuation of promulgating the decision of the late Judge Calderon in Criminal Cases Nos.
R-4171 and R-4172, considering that he (the respondent) also inhibited himself from
presiding on the said cases, constitutes misconduct. It was recommended that the
respondent judge be fined in the amount of P10,000 and that respondents Piedad and
Gonzales be exonerated from all the charges against them for lack of substantial
evidence.

We agree that the respondent judge is administratively liable.

Section 1, Rule 120 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure defines and sets forth
the requirements for a valid judgment:

SECTION 1. Judgment; definition and form. Judgment is the adjudication by the court that
the accused is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged and the imposition on him of the
proper penalty and civil liability, if any. It must be written in the official language, personally
and directly prepared by the judge and signed by him and shall contain clearly and
distinctly a statement of the facts and law upon which it is based.

Thus, a judgment, to be valid, must have been personally and directly prepared by the
judge, and duly signed by him. Corollarily, a decision or resolution of the court becomes
such, for all legal intents and purposes, only from the moment of its
promulgation. Promulgation of judgment, in turn, signifies that on the date it was made,
the judge or judges who signed the decision continued to support it. If at the time of the
promulgation, a judge or member of a collegiate court has already vacated his office, his
vote is automatically withdrawn.[18] In criminal cases, promulgation of judgment is made by
reading it in the presence of the accused and any judge of the court in which it was
rendered. Judgment may be promulgated by the clerk of court only when the judge is
absent or outside the province or city.[19]

It is clear then, that a judge who takes over the sala of another judge who died during
office cannot validly promulgate a decision penned by the latter. In fact, decisions
promulgated after the judge who penned the same had been appointed to and qualified in
another office are null and void. To be binding, a judgment must be duly signed and
promulgated during the incumbency of the judge whose signature appears thereon. In
single courts like the regional trial courts and the municipal trial courts, a decision may no
longer be promulgated after the ponente has vacated his office.[20]

The respondent judge cannot, likewise, claim that his only participation in the
promulgation of the questioned decision was merely an exercise of a ministerial duty to
enforce the said decision which was already long rendered by the judge who actually and
completely heard the above-mentioned criminal cases on the merits. It must be stressed
that the respondent judge had earlier inhibited himself from the cases in question, and that
Judge Calderon was designated to hear and try the cases in his stead. The mere fact that
the respondent judge was designated as Presiding Judge of Branch 26 following the death
of Judge Calderon does not necessarily mean that his previous inhibition in relation to the
criminal cases in question has been lifted. That would be an absurdity, as a valid
designation presupposes that the judge so designated has not inhibited himself from the
cases assigned/raffled to the said branch.[21]

We agree with the following ratiocinations of the Court Administrator:

The clause absent or outside the province or city refers only to temporary physical
absence of the judge and his inability to be represented during the promulgation. The
clause does not refer to cessation of or removal from office. In other words, the decision of
the judge may be promulgated even without his presence so long as he is still a judge of
that court. Therefore, where the judge who signed the decision was no longer a judge of
the court at the time of the promulgation because he had already died or had retired, or
had been promoted to another position, and another judge promulgated it, the judgment is
invalid. (Jimenez v. Republic, 22 SCRA 622).

Granting arguendo that the decision in Criminal Cases Nos. R-4171 and R-4172 was
indeed signed by the late Judge Calderon, respondent Judge Buenconsejo had no
authority to promulgate the decision. Judge Calderon ceased to be the judge of that court,
thus, the judgment which he signed cannot be promulgated by another judge. Any
judgment or decision is valid and binding only if both [were] penned and promulgated by
the judge during his incumbency. (People v. Garcia, 313 SCRA 279).

Considering that the full records of the case were available for perusal, another judge
could pen the decision even if he did not hear the case in its entirety. However, since
Judge Buenconsejo previously inhibited himself from hearing the criminal cases, he
should have referred the matter to his Executive Judge and assigned another judge to
render judgment thereon.[22]

Indeed, it is the duty of a judge to so behave at all times as to promote public


confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.[23] He should avoid impropriety
and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. [24] Having previously inhibited from the
criminal cases, the respondent should have refrained from acting thereon, to avoid tainting
the Courts good name and standing as a temple of justice.

The respondent judge cannot, likewise, rely on the dismissal of the criminal charges
filed against him in the Office of the Ombudsman, as it is a settled rule that administrative
cases may proceed independently of criminal proceedings, and may continue despite the
dismissal of the latter charges. As the disciplining arm of the judiciary, it is the Courts duty
to investigate and determine the truth behind every matter in complaints against judges
and to mete the necessary penalties therefor.

In fine, the respondents actuations constitute gross misconduct and ignorance of the
law under Section 8 of Rule 141 of the Revised Rules of Court. Considering that the
respondent judge has compulsorily retired from the service, he shall be meted a fine
of P20,000.

We, likewise, agree with Executive Judge Perez that the charges against respondents
Piedad and Gonzales should be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, for gross misconduct and gross ignorance of the law, respondent
Judge Alfredo D. Buenconsejo is ORDERED to pay a fine in the amount of Twenty
Thousand Pesos (P20,000). The charges against Clerk of Court Secundino Piedad and
Court Stenographer Leonisa Gonzales of the Municipal Trial Court of Dalaguete, Cebu,
are DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Financial Management Office is ORDERED to
release the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000) withheld from the retirement
benefits of respondent Gonzales.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 158495. October 21, 2004]

ELIZABETH EUSEBIO-CALDERON, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE


PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the
Decision[1] dated April 30, 2001 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 23466, which
reversed and set aside the Decision[2] dated June 17, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of
Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 79, acquitting the accused of the crime of Estafa in the
consolidated Criminal Cases No. 1190-M-95, 1191-M-95, and 1192-M-95 but ordering her
to pay civil liability to the following: Amelia Casanova in the total amount of P130,900.00;
Teresita Eusebio in the total amount of P172,250.00; and Manolito Eusebio in the total
amount of P60,000.00.

Petitioner Elizabeth Eusebio-Calderon was charged with Estafa in three separate


Informations, to wit:

In Criminal Case No. 1190-M-95:

That in or about the months of May to November, 1994, in the municipality of Pulilan,
province of Bulacan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent
manifestations, and pretending to have sufficient funds with the Allied Bank, Planters Bank
and PCIBank, Plaridel Branch, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
prepared, issue and make out the following checks to wit:

BANK CHECK NO. DATE AMOUNT

Allied Bank 16041982 11-30-94 P100,000.00

Planters Bank 115954 12-2-94 4,500.00

-do- 115961 12-4-94 9,500.00

-do- 15109854 12-4-94 2,500.00

-do- 15109930 12-7-94 5,000.00

PCIB 214723 12-7-94 5,000.00

Planters Bank 115968 12-9-94 4,400.00

(Total Amount Supplied) P130,900.00

drawn against the said banks, and deliver the said checks to one Amelia Casanova as
exchange for cash received from the said Amelia Casanova, knowing fully well that at the
time the checks were issued, her representations were false for she had no sufficient
funds in the said bank, so much so, that upon presentation of the said checks with the
said banks for deposit or encashment, the same were dishonored and refused payment
for having been drawn against a Closed Account and inspite of repeated demands to
deposit with the said banks the total amount of P130,900.00, the said accused failed and
refused to do so, to the damage and prejudice of the said Amelia Casanova in the said
total amount of P130,900.00.[3]

In Criminal Case No. 1191-M-95:

That in or about the months of May to November 1994, in the municipality of Pulilan,
province of Bulacan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent
manifestations, and pretending to have sufficient funds with the Allied Bank, PCIBank and
Planters Bank, Plaridel Branch, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
prepared, issue and make out the following checks to wit:

BANK CHECK NO. DATE AMOUNT

Allied Bank 16076401 11-15-94 P52,500.00

-do- 16076402 11-30-94 105,000.00

PCIB 214730 11-30-94 2,500.00

PCIB 214796 11-30-94 1,750.00

Planters Bank 15109960 12-03-94 5,000.00

Allied Bank 16083156 12-03-94 2,500.00

Planters Bank 15094519 11-30-94 3,000.00

(Total Amount Supplied) P172,250.00

drawn against the said banks, and deliver the said checks to one Teresita Eusebio as
exchange for cash received from the said Teresita Eusebio, knowing fully well that at the
time the checks were issued, her representations were false for she had no sufficient
funds in the said bank, so much so, that upon presentation of the said checks with the
said banks for deposit or encashment, the same were dishonored and refused payment
for having been drawn against a Closed Account and inspite of repeated demands to
deposit with the said banks the total amount of P172,250.00, the said accused failed and
refused to do so, to the damage and prejudice of the said Teresita Eusebio in the said total
amount of P172,250.00.[4]

In Criminal Case No. 1192-M-95:

That in or about the months of June to November, 1994, in the municipality of Pulilan,
province of Bulacan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent
manifestations, and pretending to have sufficient funds with the Allied Bank and Planters
Bank, Plaridel Branch, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, prepared,
issue and make out the following checks to wit:

BANK CHECK NO. DATE AMOUNT

Allied Bank 16083115 12-3-94 P 2,500.00

-do- 16063578 12-6-94 50,000.00

-do- 16063577 12-6-94 2,500.00

-do- 16076436 12-13-94 2,500.00

Planters Bank 116202 12-13-94 2,500.00

(Total Amount Supplied) P60,000.00

drawn against the said banks, and deliver the said checks to one Manolito G. Eusebio as
exchange for cash received from the said Manolito G. Eusebio, knowing fully well that at
the time the checks were issued, her representations were false for she had no sufficient
funds in the said bank, so much so, that upon presentation of the said checks with the
said banks for deposit or encashment, the same were dishonored and refused payment
for having been drawn against a Closed Account and inspite of repeated demands to
deposit with the said banks the total amount of P60,000.00, the said accused failed and
refused to do so, to the damage and prejudice of the said Manolito G. Eusebio in the said
total amount of P60,000.00.[5]

The private complainants, Teresita Eusebio, Amelia Casanova and Manolito Eusebio,
are petitioners aunt and cousins, respectively.

On May 15, 1994, petitioner visited her Aunt Teresita in Bulacan to borrow P50,000.00,
in exchange for which she issued an Allied Bank Check No. 16076401, postdated
November 15, 1994, in the amount of P52,500.00. On May 30, 1994, petitioner again
borrowed from Teresita the amount of P100,000.00, in exchange for which she issued
Allied Bank Check No. 16076402, postdated November 14, 1994, in the amount of
P105,000.00.

Also on May 30, 1994, Amelia Casanova went to the drugstore of petitioner and lent
her the amount of P100,000.00, allegedly to be used for the expansion of her business. In
exchange, petitioner issued Allied Bank Check No. 16041982, postdated November 30,
1994, for P100,000.00 and six other checks in various amounts purportedly to cover the
interests.
Manolito Eusebio alleges that in November 1994, petitioner borrowed money from him
because she needed it for her pharmaceutical business. Manolito loaned her P50,000.00,
for which she issued Allied Bank Check No. 16063578 covering the principal amount of
the loan, dated December 6, 1994, and four other postdated checks for the interests
thereon.

According to private complainants, petitioner assured them that the checks will be
honored upon maturity. They gave her the money because she showed them her pieces of
jewelry which convinced them that she has the ability to pay the loans.

In her defense, petitioner admits that she issued the checks but alleges that it was not
done to defraud her creditors. She claims that her dealings with private complainants
started in 1987 with her uncle Alberto, the husband of complainant Teresita and the father
of Amelia and Manolito. Although her uncle died in 1989, she continued to make good the
value of the postdated checks she issued until 1990. Finally, she asserts that she is an
educated woman and she never had any intention to deceive the private complainants.

After trial, the lower court rendered a joint decision finding petitioner guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of three counts of Estafa but ruled that her liability for the interest
checks was only civil. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

In Criminal Case No. 1190-M-95:

PREMISES CONSIDERED the complainant in Criminal Case No. 1190-M-95 wherein the
complainant is one Amelia Casanova was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the
culpability of herein accused because she would not have parted with her P100,000.00 if
not for the assurance that the check issued was properly funded.

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby renders judgment finding accused ELIZABETH E.


CALDERON of Poblacion, Pulilan, Bulacan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Estafa defined and penalized under Par. 2 (d) of Art. 315, Revised Penal Code as
amended by P.D. 818 and sentencing the said accused as follows:

1. To suffer an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment of nine (9) years and one (1) day
of PRISION MAYOR as minimum to SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS FOUR (4) months and one
(1) day of RECLUSION TEMPORAL as maximum;

2. To suffer the accessory penalties provided by law;

3. To pay the cost; and

4. To indemnify the complainant Amelia Casanova the sum of P100,000.00. (Exh. A)

Necessarily, the other checks exhibits B, C, D, E, F and G in the amount of P5,000.00,


P5,000.00, P4,400.00, P4,500.00, P9,500.00 and P 2,500.00 respectively in the total
amount of P30,900.00 is hereby DISMISSED the same being civil in nature and are
interest of transaction other than the principal amount of P100,000.00.[6]

In Criminal Case No. 1191-M-95:

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the court finds accused Elizabeth Calderon guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of ESTAFA defined and penalized under Par. 2 (d) of Art.
315, Revised Penal Code as amended by P.D. 818 sentencing the said accused as
follows:

1. To suffer an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment of Ten (10) years and One (1) day
of PRISION MAYOR as minimum to seventeen (17) years FOUR (4) months and one (1)
day of RECLUSION TEMPORAL as maximum;

2. To suffer the accessory penalties provided by law;

3. To pay the cost; and

4. To indemnify the complainant Teresita Eusebio the sum of P157,500.00 representing


the two checks, exhibits A and B.[7]

In Criminal Case No. 1192-M-95:

WHEREFORE, the court hereby renders judgment finding accused Elizabeth Calderon
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the Crime of ESTAFA defined and penalized under Par.
2 (d) of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by P.D. 818 and sentencing the
said accused as follows:

1. To suffer an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment of FOUR (4) years 2 months and


one (1) day of PRISION CORRECCIONAL as minimum to eight (8) years and one (1) day
of PRISION MAYOR;

2. To suffer the accessory penalties provided by law;

3. To pay the costs; and

4. To indemnify the complainant Manolito Eusebio the sum of P50,000.00.

The other checks exhibit B to E are hereby DISMISSED.[8]

The trial court denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit. [9] Hence,
petitioner appealed the judgment of the trial court to the Court of Appeals.

In its Decision dated April 30, 2001, the Court of Appeals disposed of the appeal as
follows:
WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from in so far as it bears on the criminal liability of
the accused is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new judgment is issued ACQUITTING
the accused of the crimes charged on the ground that her guilt has not been proven
beyond reasonable doubt. However, she is held civilly liable as follows:

In Criminal Case No. 1190-M-95: To indemnify Amelia Casanova the total amount of
P130,900.00;

In Criminal Case No. 1191-M-95: To indemnify Teresita Eusebio the total amount of
P172,250.00;

In Criminal Case No. 1192-M-95: To indemnify Manolito Eusebio the total amount of
P60,000.00;

all with interest thereon at the rate of 12% per annum effective December 20, 1994, the
date of complainants demand thru their counsel, until fully paid, and to pay costs.

SO ORDERED.[10]

In the instant petition for review, petitioner raises the following errors:

1. The Honorable Court of Appeals failed to consider that on the face of the
Decision rendered by the Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 17, Malolos City,
that interest checks were dismissed but found the appellant guilty with
respect to the principal loan checks in the three cases above mentioned.

2. The Honorable Court of Appeals failed to consider that the whole transactions
that transpired between appellant and private appellees covered a period
lasting in years whereby private appellees charged appellant highly usurious
interests which under current jurisprudence maintains that usurious interests
are void.

3. With utmost due respect, the Honorable Court of Appeals failed to consider that
under the sorry state of affairs which petitioner experienced when the instant
three criminal cases were pending before RTC Branch 79, Malolos City, that
private respondents should have filed a separate civil complaint for their
alleged claim of Sum of Money.[11]

The issues for resolution are as follows: (1) Did the Court of Appeals err in finding the
appellant civilly liable to complainants with respect to the interest in the principal loan
despite the dismissal of the interest checks by the Regional Trial Court? (2) Is the interest
agreed upon by the parties usurious? (3) Should the private respondents file a separate
civil complaint for the claim of Sum of Money?
We find the petition meritorious. Since the 1st and 3rd issues are interrelated they shall
be discussed jointly.

In a criminal case, an appeal throws the whole case wide open for review. Issues
whether raised or not by the parties may be resolved by the appellate court. [12] When
petitioner appealed her conviction, the dismissal of the interest checks by the lower court
did not preclude the Court of Appeals from reviewing such decision and modifying her civil
liability. The appeal conferred upon the appellate court full jurisdiction and rendered it
competent to examine the records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the
penalty and cite the proper provision of the penal law.[13]

Under Article 29 of the Civil Code, when the accused in a criminal prosecution is
acquitted on the ground that his guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt, a
civil action for damages for the same act or omission may be instituted. The judgment of
acquittal extinguishes the liability of the accused for damages only when it includes a
declaration that the fact from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. [14] Thus,
Section 1, paragraph (a) of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. (a) When a criminal action is
instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged
shall be deemed instituted with the criminal action unless the offended party waives the
civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to
the criminal action.

In the case of Manantan v. Court of Appeals,[15] we elucidated on the two kinds of


acquittal recognized by our law as well as its different effects on the civil liability of the
accused. Thus:

x x x. First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or
omission complained of. This instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who
has been found to be not the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be
held liable for such act or omission. There being no delict, civil liability ex delicto is out of
the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on
grounds other than the delict complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111
of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on
the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not been
satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by
preponderance of evidence only. This is the situation contemplated in Article 29 of the Civil
Code, x x x.

An accused who is acquitted of Estafa may nevertheless be held civilly liable where
the facts established by the evidence so warrant. [16] Petitioner Elizabeth Calderon is clearly
liable to the private respondents for the amount borrowed. The Court of Appeals found
that the former did not employ trickery or deceit in obtaining money from the private
complainants, instead, it concluded that the money obtained was undoubtedly loans for
which petitioner paid interest. The checks issued by petitioner as payment for the principal
loan constitute evidence of her civil liability which was deemed instituted with the criminal
action.

The civil liability of petitioner includes only the principal amount of the loan. With
respect to the interest checks she issued, the same are void. There was no written proof
of the payable interest except for the verbal agreement that the loan shall earn 5% interest
per month. Under Article 1956 of the Civil Code, an agreement as to payment of interest
must be in writing, otherwise it cannot be valid.[17] Consequently, no interest is due and the
interest checks she issued should be eliminated from the computation of her civil liability.

However, while there can be no stipulated interest, there can be legal interest pursuant
to Article 2209 of the Civil Code.[18] It is elementary that in the absence of a stipulation as
to interest, the loan due will now earn interest at the legal rate of 12% per annum. [19] In the
case of Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[20] we established the guidelines
particularly for the award of interest in the concept of actual and compensatory damages,
the rate of interest, as well as the accrual thereof as follows:

When the obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of money, i.e., a
loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may have
been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest
from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence of stipulation, the rate of
interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from default, i.e., from judicial or
extrajudicial demand under and subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.
(Emphasis supplied)

Hence, petitioner is liable for the payment of legal interest per annum to be computed
from December 20, 1994, the date when she received the demand letter. After the
judgment becomes final and executory until the obligation is satisfied, the amount due
shall earn interest at 12% per year, the interim period being deemed equivalent to a
forbearance of credit.[21]

In view of our ruling that there can be no stipulated interest in this case, there is no
need to pass upon the second issue of whether or not the interests were usurious.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR No. 23466 is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner is ordered to
pay Amelia Casanova the sum of P100,00.00; Teresita Eusebio the sum of P157,500.00;
and Manolito Eusebio the sum of P50,000.00 as civil liability with legal interest of twelve
percent (12%) per annum from December 20, 1994 until its satisfaction.

Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

MANLY SPORTWEAR G.R. No. 165306


MANUFACTURING, INC., Petitioner,
Present:
Davide, Jr., C.J. (Chairman),
- versus - Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago,
Carpio, and
Azcuna, JJ.
DADODETTE ENTERPRISES
AND/OR HERMES SPORTS Promulgated:
CENTER, Respondents. September 20, 2005

x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Civil
Procedure assails the July 13, 2004 decision[2] of the Court of Appeals[3] in CA-G.R. SP
No. 79887 and its September 15, 2004 resolution[4] denying reconsideration thereof.
The facts are as follows:

On March 14, 2003, Special Investigator Eliezer P. Salcedo of the National Bureau
of Investigation (NBI) applied for a search warrant before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Quezon City, based on the information that Dadodette Enterprises and/or Hermes Sports
Center were in possession of goods, the copyright of which belonged to Manly Sportswear
Mfg., Inc. (MANLY).[5]

After finding reasonable grounds that a violation of Sections 172 and 217 of
Republic Act (RA) No. 8293[6] has been committed, Judge Estrella T. Estrada of RTC-
Quezon City, Branch 83, issued on March 17, 2003 Search Warrant No. 4044(03).[7]

Respondents thereafter moved to quash and annul the search warrant contending
that the same is invalid since the requisites for its issuance have not been complied with.
They insisted that the sporting goods manufactured by and/or registered in the name of
MANLY are ordinary and common hence, not among the classes of work protected under
Section 172 of RA 8293.

On June 10, 2003, the trial court granted the motion to quash and declared Search
Warrant No. 4044(03) null and void based on its finding that the copyrighted products of
MANLY do not appear to be original creations and were being manufactured and
distributed by different companies locally and abroad under various brands, and therefore
unqualified for protection under Section 172 of RA 8293. Moreover, MANLYs certificates of
registrations were issued only in 2002, whereas there were certificates of registrations for
the same sports articles which were issued earlier than MANLYs, thus further negating the
claim that its copyrighted products were original creations.[8]

On August 11, 2003, the trial court denied[9] MANLYs motion for reconsideration.
Hence it filed a petition for certiorari[10] before the Court of Appeals which was denied for
lack of merit. The appellate court found that the trial court correctly granted the motion to
quash and that its ruling in the ancillary proceeding did not preempt the findings of the
intellectual property court as it did not resolve with finality the status or character of the
seized items.

After denial of its motion for reconsideration on September 15, 2004, MANLY filed
the instant petition for review on certiorari raising the sole issue of whether or not the
Court of Appeals erred in finding that the trial court did not gravely abuse its discretion in
declaring in the hearing for the quashal of the search warrant that the copyrighted
products of MANLY are not original creations subject to the protection of RA 8293.
We deny the petition.

The power to issue search warrants is exclusively vested with the trial judges in the
exercise of their judicial function.[11] As such, the power to quash the same also rests
solely with them. After the judge has issued a warrant, he is not precluded to subsequently
quash the same, if he finds upon reevaluation of the evidence that no probable cause
exists.

Our ruling in Solid Triangle Sales Corp. v. Sheriff, RTC, Q.C., Br. 93[12] is instructive,
thus:

Inherent in the courts power to issue search warrants is the power to


quash warrants already issued. In this connection, this Court has ruled that
the motion to quash should be filed in the court that issued the warrant unless
a criminal case has already been instituted in another court, in which case, the
motion should be filed with the latter. The ruling has since been incorporated
in Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure[.]

In the instant case, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it
entertained the motion to quash considering that no criminal action has yet been instituted
when it was filed. The trial court also properly quashed the search warrant it earlier issued
after finding upon reevaluation of the evidence that no probable cause exists to justify its
issuance in the first place. As ruled by the trial court, the copyrighted products do not
appear to be original creations of MANLY and are not among the classes of work
enumerated under Section 172 of RA 8293. The trial court, thus, may not be faulted for
overturning its initial assessment that there was probable cause in view of its inherent
power to issue search warrants and to quash the same. No objection may be validly
posed to an order quashing a warrant already issued as the court must be provided with
the opportunity to correct itself of an error unwittingly committed, or, with like effect, to
allow the aggrieved party the chance to convince the court that its ruling is erroneous.

Moreover, the trial court was acting within bounds when it ruled, in an ancillary
proceeding, that the copyrighted products of petitioner are not original creations. This is
because in the determination of the existence of probable cause for the issuance or
quashal of a warrant, it is inevitable that the court may touch on issues properly threshed
out in a regular proceeding. In so doing, it does not usurp the power of, much less
preclude, the court from making a final judicial determination of the issues in a full-blown
trial. Consequently, MANLYs assertion that the trial courts order quashing the warrant
preempted the finding of the intellectual property court has no legal basis.

As pertinently held in Solid Triangle Sales Corp. v. Sheriff, RTC, Q.C., Br. 93:[13]
When the court, in determining probable cause for issuing or quashing a
search warrant, finds that no offense has been committed, it does not interfere
with or encroach upon the proceedings in the preliminary investigation. The
court does not oblige the investigating officer not to file an information for the
courts ruling that no crime exists is only for purposes of issuing or quashing
the warrant. This does not, as petitioners would like to believe, constitute a
usurpation of the executive function. Indeed, to shirk from this duty would
amount to an abdication of a constitutional obligation.

...

... The finding by the court that no crime exists does not preclude the
authorized officer conducting the preliminary investigation from making his
own determination that a crime has been committed and that probable cause
exists for purposes of filing the information.

As correctly observed by the Court of Appeals, the trial courts finding that the seized
products are not copyrightable was merely preliminary as it did not finally and permanently
adjudicate on the status and character of the seized items. MANLY could still file a
separate copyright infringement suit against the respondents because the order for the
issuance or quashal of a warrant is not res judicata.

Thus, in Vlasons Enterprises Corporation v. Court of Appeals[14] we held that:

The proceeding for the seizure of property in virtue of a search warrant


does not end with the actual taking of the property by the proper officers and
its delivery, usually constructive, to the court. The order for the issuance of the
warrant is not a final one and cannot constitute res judicata. Such an order
does not ascertain and adjudicate the permanent status or character of the
seized property. By its very nature, it is provisional, interlocutory. It is merely
the first step in the process to determine the character and title of the property.
That determination is done in the criminal action involving the crime or crimes
in connection with which the search warrant was issued. Hence, such a
criminal action should be prosecuted, or commenced if not yet instituted, and
prosecuted. The outcome of the criminal action will dictate the disposition of
the seized property

We have also ruled in Ching v. Salinas, Sr., et al.[15] that:

The RTC had jurisdiction to delve into and resolve the issue whether the
petitioners utility models are copyrightable and, if so, whether he is the owner
of a copyright over the said models. It bears stressing that upon the filing of
the application for search warrant, the RTC was duty-bound to determine
whether probable cause existed, in accordance with Section 4, Rule 126 of
the Rules of Criminal Procedure[.]

Further, the copyright certificates issued in favor of MANLY constitute merely prima
facie evidence of validity and ownership. However, no presumption of validity is created
where other evidence exist that may cast doubt on the copyright validity. Hence, where
there is sufficient proof that the copyrighted products are not original creations but are
readily available in the market under various brands, as in this case, validity and originality
will not be presumed and the trial court may properly quash the issued warrant for lack of
probable cause.

Besides, no copyright accrues in favor of MANLY despite issuance of the certificates


of registration and deposit[16] pursuant to Section 2, Rule 7 of the Copyrights Safeguards
and Regulations[17] which states:

Sec. 2 Effects of Registration and Deposit of Work. The registration and


deposit of the work is purely for recording the date of registration and deposit
of the work and shall not be conclusive as to copyright ownership or the term
of the copyrights or the rights of the copyright owner, including neighboring
rights.

At most, the certificates of registration and deposit issued by the National Library
and the Supreme Court Library serve merely as a notice of recording and registration of
the work but do not confer any right or title upon the registered copyright owner or
automatically put his work under the protective mantle of the copyright law. It is not a
conclusive proof of copyright ownership. As it is, non-registration and deposit of the work
within the prescribed period only makes the copyright owner liable to pay a fine.[18]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The July 13, 2004 decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 79887 and resolution dated September 15, 2004,
are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT

EN BANC

G.R. No. 167147 August 3, 2005

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
GENARO CAYABYAB y FERNANDEZ, Appellant.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Appellant Genaro Cayabyab y Fernandez was sentenced to death by the


RegionalTrialCourtofPasayCity, Branch 109, in Criminal Case No. 01-1311, for rape
committed against six-year-old Alpha Jane Bertiz.1

Alpha Jane was born on November 26, 1994, 2 and the eldest among the six children of
Conrado and Metchie Bertiz.3 She was six years and nine months old when the rape was
committed on August 7, 2001.

On that day, at around 6:00 p.m., Alpha Jane was at home in Manlunas St., Lagoon Area,
Villamor Airbase, PasayCity, taking care of her younger siblings. Her mother went to buy
kerosene, while her father was out. On the guise of teaching arithmetic, appellant went to
the victim's house and asked her to lie down on her father's bed. When she refused,
appellant removed her clothes and his own clothes, then forced her to lie down on the bed
and laid on top of her and inserted his penis into her vagina. Alpha Jane shouted in pain
which startled the appellant who sprayed her with tear gas and left.4

Her mother, Metchie arrived shortly thereafter and Alpha Jane told her what had
happened. She immediately reported the incident to the barangay officials and brought
Alpha Jane to the Philippine Air Force General Hospital for medical examination. She also
sought assistance from the police at the 521st Air Police Squadron who, after gathering
information from the victim, arrested the appellant at his house. 5 Alpha Jane was brought
to the PNP Crime Laboratory at CampCrame the following day,6 and on August 10, 2001,
to the Child Protection Unit (CPU) at UP-PGH7 for further medical examinations, which
both found hymenal abrasions and lacerations, respectively, on the victim's genitalia.8

On August 10, 2001, appellant was charged with rape before the
RegionalTrialCourtofPasayCity in an Information that reads:

That on or about the 07th day of August 2001, in Pasay City, Metro , Philippines and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, GENARO CAYABYAB
Y FERNANDEZ, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously by means of force
and intimidation have carnal knowledge of ALPHA JEAN BERTIS Y JONGCO, a minor six
(6) years of age, against her will and consent.

CONTRARY TO LAW.9

When arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial then ensued.

Appellant raised the defenses of denial and alibi. He testified that on August 7, 2001, he
was plying his normal route inside the Villamor Airbase as a tricycle driver from 6:00 a.m.
until 7:00 p.m.10 After returning the tricycle to its owner Roberto Gabo at the corner of 14th
and 15th Sts., Villamor Airbase, he reached home at around 7:30 p.m and went to sleep
after eating dinner.11 At around 9:30 p.m., he woke up to urinate at the back of their house
when three (3) policemen arrested and mauled him. 12 At the headquarters, he was forced
to admit the rape13while the victim's father asked for money in exchange for his release,
which he refused.14

The trial court gave credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. It found the
victim's testimony consistent with the medical findings of the doctors from the PNP Crime
Laboratory and CPU, UP-PGH. Moreover, it applied the rule that an unsubstantiated
defense of denial and alibi cannot prevail over a positive and categorical testimony of a
minor victim. Finally, it appreciated the qualifying circumstance of minority and imposed
the penalty of death. The dispositive portion reads:
In view of all the foregoing, the Court opines that the prosecution has proven the guilt of
the accused Genaro Cayabyab y Fernandez beyond reasonable doubt for rape as defined
and penalized under Article 335, paragraph 3 and 4 as the victim herein is only six (6)
years old and hereby sentence accused Genaro Cayabyab y Fernandez to DEATH and to
pay civil indemnity in the amount of Php 75,000.00 and moral and exemplary damages in
the amount of Php 50,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

SO ORDERED.15

The case was directly elevated to this Court for automatic review. However, pursuant to
our decision in People v. Mateo16 modifying the pertinent provisions of the Revised Rules
on Criminal Procedure insofar as direct appeals from the Regional Trial Court to the
Supreme Court in cases where the penalty imposed is death, reclusion perpetua or life
imprisonment, this case was transferred to the Court of Appeals, 17 which affirmed in
toto the decision of the trial court, thus:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision of the trial court finding accused-
appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing him to suffer
the supreme penalty of death is AFFIRMED in toto, and accordingly certifies the case
and elevate the entire records to the Supreme Court for review pursuant to Rule124,
Section 13[a] of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended by A.M. No. 00-5-
03-SC.

SO ORDERED.18

We have painstakingly reviewed the evidence on record and found no cogent reason to
disturb the findings of the trial court and the appellate court. There is no doubt that
appellant raped Alpha Jane on August 7, 2001 inside their house at Villamor Airbase,
PasayCity. This credibility given by the trial court to the rape victim is an important aspect
of evidence19 which appellate courts can rely on because of its unique opportunity to
observe the witnesses, particularly their demeanor, conduct, and attitude, during the direct
and cross-examination by counsel.

On direct examination, Alpha Jane narrated the incident and positively identified appellant
as her assailant, thus:

Fiscal Barrera:

Now at around 6:00 p.m. of August 7, 2001 where were you?

A. I was inside our house.

Q. You mean your house at lagoon area, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City?

A. Yes, sir.
Q. What about you mother and father where were they on that date and time?

A. My mother bought gas while my father was 'naglalakad ng spray gun for painting.

Q. Who were left in your house on August 7, 2001 at 6:00 p.m. while your mother bought
gas and your father was walking with his spray gun used for painting?

A. My brothers and sisters.

Q. While in your house on said date and time do you know of any unusual incident that
happened to you?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What was that unusual incident that happened to you?

A. Kuya Jimmy entered our house.

Q. After Kuya Jimmy entered your house, what happened next?

A. Kuya Jimmy called for me inside our house.

Q. What did you do when Kuya Jimmy called for you?

A. He asked me one plus one and I answered two.

Q. After that what else happened?

A. He asked me to lie down on my father's bed.

Q. Did you follow him?

A. No, sir, I did not follow.

Q. And so what else happened?

A. He removed my clothes 'hinubaran niya ako; he removed my shorts and panty.

Q. After Kuya Jimmy removed your shorts and panty, what happened?

A. 'Pinatungan po niya ako', he laid on top of me.

Q. What happened when he laid on top of you?

A. He inserted his penis inside my private part.


Fiscal Barrera:

What did you do when this Kuya Jimmy inserted his penis to your private part?

A. I shouted, sir.

Q. After Kuya Jimmy inserted his penis inside your vagina and you shouted, what
happened?

A. 'Pinakawalan niya ako', he released me.

Q. Then what happened?

A. 'Tinergas niya ako.

Q. After Kuya Jimmy teargas you, what happened?

A. I run away.

Q. Regarding what Kuya Jimmy did to you, did you report it to your mother?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. This Kuya Jimmy whom you said went inside your house and removed your shorts and
panty and thereafter inserted his penis inside your vagina on August 7, 2001 can you point
at him if you see him?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. If this Kuya Jimmy Cayabyab is inside the courtroom will you be able to identify him?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Is he inside the courtroom?

Interpreter:

Witness pointed to a person who answered by the name of Genaro Cayabyab.20

Despite grueling cross-examination by the defense suggesting extortion by the victim's


father, Alpha Jane remained steadfast and consistent that it was appellant who raped her.
The victim's testimony was supported by the medico-legal report of the medico-legal
experts from the PNP Crime Laboratory and CPU, UP-PGH, to wit:

ANO-GENITAL
EXAMINATION

Hymen: Tanner Stage 2, hymenal transection at 5 oclock, Type of Hymen: Anullar

...

IMPRESSIONS

Evidence of blunt force or penetrating trauma.

(Exh. 'L', p. 8, Records)

Dr. Baluyut explained that in her findings, the terms hymenal transection at 5 oclock and
laceration at 5 oclock are synonymous (TSN, November 20, 2001, p. 6). Dr. Baluyut
further explained that there was prior injury to the victim's hymen which might have been
caused by the insertion of a blunt object such as an erected penis which was compatible
with the victim's claim that she had been raped (TSN, November 20, 2001, pp. 6-7).21

The trial court correctly imposed the death penalty.

Rape, such as committed against a 'child below seven (7) years old', is a dastardly and
repulsive crime which merit no less than the penalty of death pursuant to Article 266-B of
the Revised Penal Code. This special qualifying circumstance of age must be specifically
pleaded or alleged with certainty in the information and proven during the trial; otherwise
the penalty of death cannot be imposed.

In the case of People v. Pruna,22 this Court took note of conflicting pronouncements
concerning the appreciation of minority, either as an element of the crime or as a
qualifying circumstance. There were a number of cases where no birth certificate was
presented where the Court ruled that the age of the victim was not duly proved. 23On the
other hand, there were also several cases where we ruled that the age of the rape victim
was sufficiently established despite the failure of the prosecution to present the birth
certificate of the offended party to prove her age. 24 Thus, in order to remove any
confusion, we set in Pruna the following guidelines in appreciating age, either as an
element of the crime or as a qualifying circumstance.

1. The best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true
copy of the certificate of live birth of such party.

2. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as


baptismal certificate and school records which show the date of birth of the victim would
suffice to prove age.

3. If the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or
destroyed or otherwise unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim's
mother or a member of the family either by affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to
testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or date of birth of the
offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence shall be
sufficient under the following circumstances:

a. If the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is
that she is less than 7 years old;

b. If the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is
that she is less than 12 years old;

c. If the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is
that she is less than 18 years old.

4. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document, or the testimony of the
victim's mother or relatives concerning the victim's age, the complainant's testimony will
suffice provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused.78

5. It is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended party. The
failure of the accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be
taken against him.25

To paraphrase Pruna, the best evidence to prove the age of a person is the original birth
certificate or certified true copy thereof; in their absence, similar authentic documents may
be presented such as baptismal certificates and school records. If the original or certified
true copy of the birth certificate is not available, credible testimonies of the victim's mother
or a member of the family may be sufficient under certain circumstances. In the event that
both the birth certificate or other authentic documents and the testimonies of the victim's
mother or other qualified relative are unavailable, the testimony of the victim may be
admitted in evidence provided that it is expressly and clearly admitted by the accused.

In Pruna, no birth certificate or any similar authentic document, such as the baptismal
certificate of the victim was presented to prove her age. The trial court based its finding
that Lizette was 3 years old when she was raped on the Medico-Legal Report, and the fact
that the defense did not contest her age and questioned her qualification to testify
because of her tender age. It was however noted that the Medico-Legal Report never
mentioned her age and only the testimony of her mother was presented to establish
Lizette's age. The Court found that there was uncertainty as to the victim's exact age,
hence, it required that corroborative evidence, such as her birth certificate, baptismal
certificate or any other authentic document should be introduced in evidence in order that
the qualifying circumstance of 'below seven (7) years old is appreciated.

Unlike in Pruna, the trial court in this case made a categorical finding that Alpha Jane was
only 6 years old at the time she was raped, based not only on the testimonies of the
complainant and her mother, but also on the strength of the photocopy of Alpha Jane's
birth certificate. It is well to note that the defense did not object to the presentation of the
birth certificate; on the contrary it admitted the same 'as to fact of birth.

We are not unaware of our ruling in People v. Mantis26 that a mere photocopy of the birth
certificate, in the absence of any showing that the original copy was lost or destroyed, or
was unavailable, without the fault of the prosecution, does not prove the victim's minority,
for said photocopy does not qualify as competent evidence for that purpose.

However, there are other exceptions to the 'best evidence rule as expressly provided
under Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Sec. 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. ' When the subject of
inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than
the original document itself, except in the following cases:

(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without
bad faith on the part of the offeror;

(b) When the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the
evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

(c) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be
examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from
them is only the general result of the whole; and

(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is
recorded in a public office. [Emphasis supplied]

Without doubt, a certificate of live birth is a public record in the custody of the local civil
registrar who is a public officer. Clearly, therefore, the presentation of the photocopy of the
birth certificate of Alpha Jane is admissible as secondary evidence to prove its contents.
Production of the original may be dispensed with, in the trial court's discretion, whenever
in the case at hand the opponent does not bona fide dispute the contents of the document
and no other useful purpose will be served by requiring production.27

In the case at bar, the defense did not dispute the contents of the photocopied birth
certificate; in fact it admitted the same. Having failed to raise a valid and timely objection
against the presentation of this secondary evidence the same became a primary
evidence, and deemed admitted and the other party is bound thereby.28

In fine, we find that the prosecution sufficiently proved that Alpha Jane was only six-years-
old, being born on November 26, 1994, when the rape incident happened on August 7,
2001.
Anent the award of damages, we sustain the award of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity
consistent with the prevailing jurisprudence that if the crime is qualified by circumstances
which warrant the imposition of the death penalty by applicable amendatory laws, the
accused should be ordered to pay the complainant the amount of P75,000.00 as civil
indemnity.

The Court notes that the trial court awarded P50,000.00 as moral and exemplary
damages. Moral damages is distinct from exemplary damages, hence must be awarded
separately. The award of moral damages is automatically granted in rape cases without
need of further proof other than the commission of the crime because it is assumed that a
rape victim has actually suffered moral injuries entitling her to such award. 29 However, the
award of P50,000.00 must be increased to P75,000.00 in accord with prevailing
jurisprudence.30 As regards exemplary damages, we held in People v. Catubig31 that the
presence of an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, entitles the
offended party to an award of exemplary damages. Conformably, we award the amount of
P25,000.00 as exemplary damages in accord with the prevailing jurisprudence.32

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 109, in
Criminal Case No. 01-1311, as affirmed in toto by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-
H.C. No. 00258, finding appellant Genaro Cayabyab y Fernandez guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and imposing the penalty of DEATH33 is AFFIRMED
with the MODIFICATION that appellant is further ordered to pay the victim P75,000.00 as
moral damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 117456. May 6, 2005]

GAMBOA, RODRIGUEZ, RIVERA & CO., INC., CIFRA & COMPANY, INC., AND ARCA
& COMPANY, INC., petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and PHILIPPINE
NATIONAL BANK, respondents.
DECISION

CORONA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari assails the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals dated
September 29, 1993 and its resolution[2] denying petitioners motion for reconsideration in
CA-G.R. CV No. 28808.

The uncontroverted facts of the case follow.

During the 1971-1972 crop year, the Pampanga Sugar Mills (PASUMIL) issued negotiable
sugar quedans to several planters, who had their sugar milled, representing their share in
the physical sugar. The planters negotiated/sold their quedans to several traders, among
which were plaintiffs-appellees GARORICO, CIFRA and ARCA.

In 1972, plaintiffs-appellees, upon presentation of the quedans to PASUMIL, discovered


that the quedans were issued without any physical sugar to back them up.

To solve the problem and to preserve the sanctity of sugar quedans, the Sugar Quota
Administration conducted a conference with PASUMIL and sugar traders holding 1971-
1972 outstanding quedans. It was agreed that no quedans covering the mills production
share of the 1972-1973 crop will be issued, and that the sugar shall be made available to
service said outstanding quedans.

Out of the physical sugar set aside and earmarked to service the unserviced quedans,
plaintiffs-appellees were able to make partial withdrawals. During the crop year 1973-
1974, physical sugar representing PASUMILs mill share for said crop year was again set
aside and earmarked to service the outstanding balance of the quedans.

Plaintiffs-appellees, however, were not able to withdraw their respective shares in the
earmarked physical sugar. On May 25, 1974, pursuant to Letter of Instructions No. 189-A
and 311, PNB took over the management, control, operation and assets of PASUMIL.
Consequently, the physical sugar earmarked from the mill share of PASUMIL for crop year
1973-1974 was not distributed to the creditors of PASUMIL (including herein plaintiffs-
appellees).[3]

On October 19, 1981, petitioners filed a complaint for recovery of proceeds of the sale
before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 30, Manila.

In the complaint, petitioners sought to recover the following amounts:


GARORICO[4] P1,601,283.20 for 10,008.02 piculs class A (export) sugar;
CIFRA[5]- P1,083,811.20 for 6,773.82 piculs class A (export) sugar; and
ARCA[6]- P1,577,265.60 for 9,857.91 piculs class B (domestic) sugar. The amounts were
computed based on the price of P160 per picul.
The petitioners also sought to recover from PNB P500,000 for actual damages
incurred when they were compelled to purchase sugar from other sources and moral
damages also in the amount of P500,000.

The trial court rendered a decision on October 12, 1988:[7]

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the defendant Philippine National


Bank to pay the plaintiffs as follows:

1. To plaintiff GARORICO the sum of SIX HUNDRED SIXTY THOUSAND FIVE


HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE PESOS and THIRTY-TWO CENTAVOS
(P660,529.32), with 14% interest thereon per annum from October 19, 1981
(date of the filing of the complaint) until fully paid;

2. To pay plaintiff CIFRA the sum of FOUR HUNDRED FORTY-SEVEN


THOUSAND SEVENTY-TWO PESOS and TWELVE CENTAVOS (P447,072.12),
with 14% interest thereon per annum from October 19, 1981 until fully paid;

3. To pay plaintiff ARCA the sum of FIVE HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO THOUSAND


FORTY-TWO PESOS and NINETY SIX CENTAVOS (P552,042.96), with 14%
interest thereon per annum from October 19, 1981 until fully paid;

4. To pay all the plaintiffs the sum of equivalent to TEN PERCENT (10%) of the
total amount due as and for attorneys fees; and

5. The cost of suit.

In so ruling, the trial court stated:

The computation should be revised, considering that during the conference attended by
PNB representatives it was agreed that in the event PASUMIL opts for cash payment, the
price per picul shall be P56.00 for domestic sugar and P66.00 for export sugar, with
interest at 14% per annum.[8]

On appeal by both parties, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision in
toto. Petitioners motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the appellate court.

Hence, the instant petition.

The issues raised before us are:

1) whether or not petitioners were able to establish that the liability of PNB should be
computed at P160 per picul of sugar (instead of P56 and P66 per picul);

2) whether actual and moral damages were duly proved and


3) whether the trial court was correct in ruling that the interest due petitioners should
commence from the filing of the action in the trial court on October 19, 1981.

Should PNBs Liability Be Based on P160 or P56/P66 per Picul?

Petitioners presented Francisco Gamboa, President of Gamboa, Rodriguez, Rivera


and Co., and Ernesto Santos, Vice-President of Cifra and Co., Inc. as witnesses. Both
stated that the sugar was sold for P160 per picul. But because no receipts or other
transactional documents were presented to prove their claim of P160 per picul, the trial
court gave little credence to their testimonies.

We agree. Allegations in the complaint must be duly proven by competent evidence


and the burden of proof is on the party making the allegation.

Petitioners could have easily moved for the production or inspection of documents and
papers pertaining to the sale under Section 1, Rule 27 of the Revised Rules of Court.
[9]
They chose not to.

On the other hand, what carried more weight was the memorandum of then Sugar
Quota Administrator Jose Unson, which embodied the agreement between the parties
pegging the sugar price at P56 (domestic) and P66 (export) per picul, plus interest of 14%
per annum.

The agreement or contract between the parties is the formal expression of the parties
rights, duties and obligations. It is the best evidence of the intention of the parties. [10] Thus,
when the terms of an agreement have been reduced to writing, it is considered as
containing all the terms agreed upon and there can be, between the parties and their
successors in interest, no evidence of such terms other than the contents of the written
agreement.[11]

Their agreement therefore bound the parties and P56/P66 per picul should be the
basis of PNBs liability.

Were Actual and Moral Damages Proven?

We affirm the ruling of the trial court that there was no proof to support the award of
actual and moral damages. No evidence was presented as to how much petitioners lost.

Article 2199 of the Civil Code provides:

Except as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation


only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Such compensation is
referred to as actual or compensatory damages.
The law does not require a definite degree of certainty when proving the amount of
damages claimed. It is necessary, however, to establish evidence to substantiate the
claim. To justify an award for actual damages, there must be competent proof of the actual
amount of loss. Credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by
receipts.[12]

The trial court was also correct in not granting moral damages to petitioners.
In Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. v. Court of Appeals,[13] this Court held that, in
the case of moral damages, recovery is more an exception rather than the rule. Moral
damages are not punitive in nature. They are meant to compensate and alleviate the
physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation,
wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation and similar harm unjustly caused to a
person. In order that an award for moral damages can be justified, the claimant must be
able to satisfactorily prove that he underwent such suffering and that the injury causing it
sprang from any of the cases listed in Articles 2219[14] and 2220.[15]

Although petitioners alleged that they were prevented from honoring their contractual
obligations, thus impairing their good business reputation and good will, there was no
evidence to support the same.

When Should the 14% p.a. Interest Commence to Run?

This Court holds that the stipulated 14% p.a. interest should start from the time the
complaint was filed on October 19, 1981 until finality of this decision.

In the case of Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[16] this Court, through
the Honorable Justice Jose C. Vitug, suggested the following rules of thumb:

I. When an obligation, regardless of its source, i.e., law, contracts, quasi-contracts, delicts
or quasi-delicts is breached, the contravenor can be held liable for damages. The
provisions under Title XVIII on Damages of the Civil Code govern in determining the
measure of recoverable damages.

II. With regard particularly to an award of interest in the concept of actual or compensatory
damages, the rate of interest, as well as the accrual thereof, is imposed, as follows:

1. When an obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of


money, i.e. a loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that
which may have been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall
itself earn legal interest from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence
of stipulation, the rate of interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from
default, i.e., from judicial or extrajudicial demand under and subject to the
provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.
2. When an obligation, not constituting a loan or forbearance of money, is
breached, an interest on the amount of damages awarded may be imposed at
the discretion of the court at the rate of 6% per annum. No interest, however,
shall be adjudged on unliquidated claims or damages except when or until the
demand can be established with reasonable certainty. Accordingly, where the
demand is established with reasonable certainty, the interest shall begin to run
from the time the claim is made judicially or extrajudicially (Article 1169, Civil
Code) but when such certainty cannot be so reasonably established at the time
the demand is made, the interest shall begin to run only from the date the
judgment of the court is made (at which time the quantification of damages may
be deemed to have been reasonably ascertained). The actual base for the
computation of legal interest shall, in any case, be on the amount finally
adjudged.

3. When the judgment of the court awarding a sum of money becomes final and
executory, the rate of legal interest, whether the case falls under paragraph 1 or
2 above, shall be 12% per annum from such finality until its satisfaction, this
interim period being deemed to be by then an equivalent to a forbearance of
credit.

PASUMIL reneged on its obligation when it failed to fully honor the quedans. However,
the parties gave PASUMIL an extension of the period within which to comply with its
obligation. This was crop year 1972-1973 (and the succeeding crop years) until the
quedans were paid. In the interim, no interest accrued.

But when PNB sold the sugar already earmarked for petitioners, there was a breach of
the agreement, thus entitling petitioners to payment of the stipulated interest of 14% per
annum. From then on, demand became necessary. The filing of the complaint, being a
judicial demand, reckoned the start of the accrual of interest, until finality of this decision.

Finally, as held in Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc., the legal interest of 12% per annum
shall be imposed from the time this judgment becomes final and executory, until full
satisfaction.

WHEREFORE, this petition for review on certiorari is hereby DENIED. The CA


decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED, with the following modifications: (1) the
stipulated interest of 14% per annum shall be reckoned from October 19, 1981 until finality
of this decision; and (2) PNB shall pay legal interest of 12% per annum from the time this
judgment becomes final and executory, until full satisfaction.

Cost against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

[G.R. No. 140405. March 4, 2004]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff, vs. MAJOR EMILIO COMILING, GIL


SALAGUBANG (acquitted), MARIO CLOTARIO (acquitted), GERALDO
GALINGAN, EDDIE CALDERON (at large), BALOT CABOTAJE (at large) and
RICKY MENDOZA (at large), accused.

MAJOR EMILIO COMILING and GERALDO GALINGAN, appellants.

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

This is an automatic review of the decision [1] dated September 1, 1999 of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 51, Tayug, Pangasinan, convicting Maj. Emilio Comiling, Geraldo
Galingan alias Bong and Ricky Mendoza alias Leo of the crime of robbery with homicide
and sentencing them to suffer the extreme penalty of death.

The three accused were charged under an information which alleged:

The undersigned hereby accuses MAJOR EMILIO COMILING, GIL SALAGUBANG,


BONG CLOTARIO, GERALDO GALINGAN, EDDIE CALDERON, BALOT CABOTAJE and
RICKY MENDOZA @ Leo of the crime of ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE and PHYSICAL
INJURIES, committed as follows:
That on or about the 2nd day of September, 1995, in the evening, inside the Masterline
Grocery located at Bonifacio Street corner Quezon Blvd., municipality of Tayug, province
of Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused including certain JOE, REY and PAUL, whose family names have not yet
been known, armed with firearms and handgrenade, aboard an owner-type stainless jeep
and motorized tricycle, with intent to gain and with the use of violence against or
intimidations upon persons, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously enter the Masterline Grocery pretending to be
customers and once inside, poked their guns and intimidated the owner of said grocery,
MR. INCIONG CO, and his worker to open the drawers of the tables of said grocery and
when opened, took and carried away EIGHTY ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P81,000.00)
and three (3) pieces of Chinese gold necklace worth TWENTY SIX THOUSAND PESOS
(P26,000.00), and afterwhich the above-named accused on their way out to escape with
their loot, shot and hit a responding Tayug Policeman, PO3 ERWIL V. PASTOR, mortally
wounding him on his face that subsequently led to his untimely death, and when said
accused were cornered by other responding policemen, ran and passed to an adjacent
store (Good Taste Bakery) and used it as their exit and while there also shot, hit and
mortally wounded MRS. CONCHING CO, the owner of said bakery causing her injuries,
the accused having thus performed the acts of execution which would have produced the
crime of Homicide as a consequence, but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of
causes independent of the will of the accused, and that is due to the timely and able
medical assistance rendered to the said MRS. CONCHING CO, to her damage and
prejudice and also to the heirs of PO3 ERWIL V. PASTOR.

CONTRARY to Article 294, par. 1 of the Revised Penal Code.[2]

Accused Eddie Calderon and Balot Cabotaje have remained at large to this day. The
remaining accused (Comiling, Galingan, Mendoza, Salagubang and Clotario) pleaded not
guilty during their arraignment. Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.

On March 28, 1997, Mendoza escaped from detention and was thus tried in absentia.

The records show that at sundown on September 2, 1995, Ysiong Chua, the owner of
Masterline Grocery and his helper Mario were about to close the store when someone
knocked on the door to buy some cigarettes. Masterline was located at the corner of
Quezon Blvd. and Bonifacio St. in Tayug, Pangasinan.

As soon as Mario opened the door, three masked, armed men suddenly barged into
the store and announced a hold-up. One of the robbers shoved Ysiong into the recesses
of the grocery where he threatened to kill him if he did not give them his earnings. Ysiong
retorted that he only had a small amount, which remark apparently irked the robber who
then hit Ysiongs thumb with the butt of his gun. A simultaneous kick made the grocer fall
down in pain.
As Ysiong lay prostrate on the floor, he saw the two other intruders, and a little later
the robber who hit him, ransacking the drawers of his desk. Fortunately, he was able to
quickly recover from the blows; whereupon he darted to the adjacent Good Taste Bakery
and out to the Tayug Police Station farther west along Quezon Blvd. to report the incident.

SPO1 Rolando Torio, PO3 Erwil Pastor and SPO4 Emilio Nagui of the Tayug Police
Station rushed to the crime scene where SPO1 Torio chanced upon Sonny Rimas, a
barangay councilman, and his friend Jessie Batalla at the grocery entrance. He asked
them if they knew what was going on inside the store but the two did not answer. While
SPO1 Torio was standing outside the stores door, he heard three gunshots coming from
inside the store, all directed towards Bonifacio Street. PO3 Pastor was then on the street
while Nagui was some 50 meters away. PO3 Pastor ran and hid behind a concrete
marker, then moved westward as if to return to the police headquarters. Unfortunately, in
his attempt to flee, PO3 Pastor was shot in the face. He was rushed to the Eastern
Pangasinan District Hospital. On September 6, 1995, PO3 Pastor died from the injury he
suffered.

Meanwhile, Ysiong discovered that he lost three gold necklaces worth P26,000 and
cash amounting to P81,000.

On September 26, 1995, bothered by her conscience, prosecution witness Naty


Panimbaan decided to reveal to police authorities what she knew about the case. During
the trial, she testified that she was present in all the four meetings in which the plan to rob
the Masterline Grocery was hatched.

The first meeting was on June 30, 1995 at the Zariza Inn in Tayug, Pangasinan.
Among those present were Comiling, Galingan, Salagubang, Calderon, Clotario and
Mendoza, along with two other persons known only as Paul and Rey. Another meeting
was held by the group in July 1995 in the house of a certain Lani Galingan also in Tayug,
Pangasinan. There were two other meetings in August 1995. Finally, on September 2,
1995, the group met at Lanis house where they received their final instructions and the
firearms they were to use from Comiling and Galingan. The entire group headed for
Masterline Grocery at around 4:00 p.m. except for Naty who stayed behind in Lanis
house.

At around 8:00 p.m., she met the group in the house of a person named Joe. Galingan
blamed a companion for shooting the policeman. The group planned to escape to Manila.
She and Lani were given $50 by Galingan for their fare to Manila. Upon arrival there on
September 3, 1995, they, together with Galingan, proceeded to Comilings house in
Paraaque. They discussed where she and Lani should stay as Comiling did not want them
around. Comiling decided that the two of them should stay in Makati. It was while she was
hiding in Makati that she was able to reflect on the events that transpired, gathering
enough courage to confess the robbery to the police authorities.[3]
On the other hand, all the accused denied culpability for the felony. Each of them
claimed to be somewhere else at the time the crime happened on September 2, 1995.
The witnesses for the defense also tried to impugn the credibility of the lead witness for
the prosecution, Naty Panimbaan.

On September 1, 1999, the trial court rendered its decision, the dispositive portion of
which read:

WHEREFORE, the prosecution having failed to establish their alleged guilt beyond moral
certainty, a judgment of ACQUITTAL is hereby rendered in favor of the accused Gil
Salagubang and Mario Clotario alias Bong, and their respective bail bonds are hereby
ordered released.

However, on the basis of the evidence the prosecution has adduced, which in the Courts
perception satisfies the requisite proof beyond reasonable doubt as mandated by Section
2, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, the Court hereby renders a judgment, as to the accused
MAJ. EMILIO COMILING of Block 18, Lot 3, Camella Classic Phase II, Bicutan, Paraaque,
Metro Manila, GERALDO GALINGAN alias Bong of Iris, Brgy. B, Tayug, Pangasinan and
RICKY MENDOZA, said to be a resident of Paraaque, Metro Manila, as per records of the
BJMP district jail, Balugnao, Pangasinan, finding them GUILTY of the special complex
crime of ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE, defined and penalized under paragraph 1, Article
294 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, and pursuant to paragraph 1, Article 63,
same Code, hereby sentences them to each suffer the penalty of DEATH, and in solidum
to restitute, when possible, to private complainant Ysiong Chua his lost valuables,
otherwise to make reparation therefor and pay to him their value of P26,000.00, plus the
cash amount aggregating P81,000.00, and the heirs of PO3 Erwil Pastor, P50,000.00 for
his death, and P100,000.00 for consequential damages as naturally must have arisen
therefrom; and, to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.[4]

Appellants Comiling and Galingan filed separate appeal briefs.

Appellant Comiling, who was a major in the Philippine Army, assails his conviction by
asserting that the killing of PO3 Erwil Pastor happened after the robbery took place, hence
the homicide could not have been a necessary means of committing the robbery. Neither
could it be said that the robbery produced another offense.

The argument is specious. As correctly stressed by the Solicitor General, robbery with
homicide is a special complex crime. It is enough that in order to sustain a conviction for
this crime, the killing, which is designated as homicide, has a direct relation to the robbery,
regardless of whether the latter takes place before or after the killing. For as long as the
killing occurs during or because of the heist, even if the killing is merely accidental,
robbery with homicide is committed.
Comiling also questions the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, particularly Naty
Panimbaan, who was supposedly a polluted source since she was one of the
conspirators. The reasoning is out of line. This Court is not a trier of facts. All we have to
discern from the records to believe the trial courts findings is a reasonable basis for its
method of examining the credibility of witnesses and its assessment thereof. We do not
second-guess the court a quo for as long as it does not gravely abuse such power.

In the case at bar, there is nothing to suggest that the trial court was whimsical or
capricious in the performance of its tasks. Thus we have no recourse but to uphold its
findings on the credibility of Naty Panimbaan and of the other prosecution witnesses. In
any event, as correctly stated by the Solicitor General, Naty Panimbaan was examined
three times not only under the close scrutiny of two defense counsels but also, in some
instances, under the abrasive tirades of the trial judge who called her a whore. Yet,
despite the trial courts apparent misgivings about her character, it still gave full credence
to her testimony:

None of their dark attributes dissuades the Court from giving credence to their respective
narratives, however. The Court agrees that Panimbaan knew too much, for her open-court
testimony was abundantly detailed, generally consistent, straightforward and credible.

xxx xxx xxx

The Court believes Panimbaans testimony that finally, at around 4:00 oclock in the
afternoon of September 2, 1995 the accused Comiling, Galingan, Calderon, Clotario and
Mendoza, together with Rimas, Paul, Rey and Jose left Lanis place, while she stayed
behind.

The Court believes Panimbaans testimony that all throughout the four meetings conducted
before September 2, the accused Comiling and Galingan presided, gave instructions and
provided firearms and explosives.[5]

We find no compelling reason to disturb the factual findings and conclusions of the trial
court. Indeed, prosecution witness Naty Panimbaan proved credible during the trial. She
never wavered in her testimony on the details of the crime:

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Since when was Geraldo Galingan your boyfriend, if you can still remember?

A Since September 1994, sir.

Q You mentioned a while ago that they are going to talk (sic) their plan to rob the
Masterline Grocery, who are these people whom you refer as they?
A Maj. Comiling, Gil Salagubang, Eddie Calderon, certain Paul, Leo, Rey and
Eddy, Bong Clotario and Sonny Rimas.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q How about your boyfriend Geraldo Galingan?

Would he or would he not participate?

A He was there, sir. He was one.

Q And so Madam Witness, when you were there at Zariza Village Inn, who were
the persons whom you saw there, if any?

A We were inside the hotel. When we arrived I saw the group of Maj. Comiling.

Q You refer to a group of Maj. Comiling, will you be kind enough to enumerate their
names?

A Maj. Emilio Comiling, Bong Galingan, Eddie Calderon, Gil Salagubang, Sonny
Rimas, Bong Clotario, Rey and Paul.

Q Madam Witness, when you said that you saw this group when you arrived there,
what did you do upon arrival there?

COURT:

When you said you whom you were (sic) referring to? He or a bigger number?

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q What did you do? Specifically you, sir.

A I sat beside them.

Q Will you tell the Honorable Court your distance from the members of the group
when you sat beside them?

COURT:

That will be very difficult to answer, counsel. Since this was a group you will have
to measure the distance from one person to another and up to the last member
of the group. Why dont you refer to the group as a whole? And probably
establish who was nearest to her.

ATTY. CALPITO:
Q Madam Witness, when you said you went and sat beside the group, will you then
describe the physical arrangement of the group when you went and sat beside
them?

A I was beside Bong Galingan and the group was in a circle formation.

Q And so what transpired when you were there within the group, Madam Witness?

A Since I was beside them I overheard their conversation.

Q And what was the conversation all about, Madam Witness?

A That they are going to stage a hold-up at the Masterline Grocery, sir.

Q What was the result of that conversation?

A The others left.

Q Who specifically left?

A Eddie Calderon, Sonny Rimas.

Q Who else, if any?

A Bong Clotario.

Q And do you know the reason why these three persons left?

A Yes, sir.

Q Please tell the reasons to the Court?

A They observed the Masterline Grocery if there are policemen or people around
and when they came back they said it is not possible.

COURT:

Q How did you come to the conclusion that the three persons left in order to
observe because you told that you stayed behind?

WITNESS:

A We were all there, sir, when Maj. Comiling ordered that they must go to the
Masterline Grocery.

COURT:
Q For what purpose, if any?

A To stage a hold-up.

Q You mean Galingan and Comiling ordered them to go and hold-up Masterline at
that time when they were about to leave?

A Bong Galingan and Maj. Comiling ordered these men because they were the
brains of that hold-up.

Q And whom did they order?

A Their men, sir.

Q Who?

A Clotario, Calderon and Rimas.

Q I am referring to the three whom (sic) according to you left. Were they ordered
by Galingan and Comiling to leave?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you know what for?

A Yes, sir.

Q What?

A They will observe the Masterline grocery.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Madam Witness, you said that when the three persons you just named came
back and said it is not yet possible, what was the consensus of the group, if
any?

A They drank again.

COURT:

That was the consensus.

ATTY. CALPITO:
Q Madam Witness, you mentioned that the three left to haze (sic) the Masterline
grocery and when they came back they said it is not yet possible. With respect
to that plan what was the consensus or decision of the group then?

ATTY. STA. MARIA:

Objection, your Honor. Already answered.

COURT:

The objection is sustained not on that ground but on the ground that there is still no
premise. You are referring to a consensus when there was still no evidence that
a consensus was being set up. Lay the basis.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Madam Witness, when the three persons arrived or came back and they said
that it was not yet possible was there any reply from the group that was left?

A None, sir.

Q How about a decision or a consensus from the group was there any Madam
Witness after they learned that it is not yet possible?

ATTY. DANCEL:

Objection, your Honor. Leading.

COURT:

Sustain (sic).

Q What happened after the three allegedly reported back?

A When the three reported that it was not yet possible to stage such plan because
there were many policemen, Maj. Comiling decided to forego.

COURT:

Q To forego what?

A Not to stage the hold-up yet because there were many policemen.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q So what happened next Madam Witness after Comiling said that?


A We just tarried along but they kept on planning.

Q You said that they kept on planning how did you know that they kept on planning
after that meeting in June 1995?

A Because I was always with them whenever they talk with each other.

Q You said that you were always with them whenever they plan. Are you telling the
Honorable Court that it was not only once that they planned, Madam Witness?

A Yes, sir. They planned several times.

COURT:

Q What did they plan?

A They kept on planning about the hold-up but it was not continued.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q How many times did this group plan in your presence?

A Many times, sir.

Q Could you please give your estimate?

A Four times.

Q If you said that they planned for four times when was the second time?

A July, but I cannot remember the date.

COURT:

Q What year?

A 1995, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Where was this that the group planned sometime in July 1995?

A At the house of Lani Galingan at Iris, Tayug, Pangasinan.

Q And who were present at that second meeting at the place of Lani Galingan?
A Sonny Rimas, Eddie Calderon, Bong Clotario, Eddie Tangkad, Rey, Paul, Leo,
Gil Salagubang, Maj. Comiling and Bong Galingan.

Q You just mentioned several persons whom you claimed to be present at that
second meeting at the house of Lani Galingan. Why do you know that they
were the persons who were there, Madam Witness?

A Because I was fetched by Bong Galingan and I overheard their plan to stage a
hold-up at the Masterline.

Q In short you are saying that you were there?

A Yes, sir. I was there.

Q And did the plan materialize at that time, Madam Witness?

A No, sir.

Q And what was the reason, Madam Witness, if you know?

A Yes, sir.

Q What was the reason?

A Because there were many people at the Masterline grocery.

Q And how did the group came (sic) to know that there were a lot of people at the
Masterline grocery?

ATTY. STA. MARIA:

Incompetent, your Honor.

COURT:

If you know.

WITNESS:

A Because that was being told after Comiling and Bong Galingan ordered
somebody.

COURT:

Q And who said that?


A Eddie Calderon and Bong Clotario.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q If you said that the plan did not materialize at that second meeting when was the
third meeting then, if you know?

A August, sir. I cannot remember the date.

COURT:

Q What year?

A 1995.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Will it be first week, second week or third week or 4 th week? I am referring to the
third meeting.

A First week, sir.

Q And where was this meeting held?

A At the house of Lani Galingan, sir.

Q And who were the persons who were present at that time, Madam Witness?

A The group of Maj. Comiling, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Please enumerate them.

A Bong Galingan, Maj. Comiling, Sonny Rimas, Gil Salagubang, Eddie Calderon,
Leo, Paul and Rey.

Q And what was the result of this third meeting?

A It did not materialize yet.

COURT:

Q What did not materialize the meeting or what?

A The meeting was held but the schedule of the hold-up did not materialize.
ATTY. CALPITO:

Q And when was the fourth meeting, Madam Witness?

A In the house of Lani Galingan.

Q When?

A I cannot remember the date.

Q How about the month?

A Last week of August, sir.

COURT:

Q What year?

A 1995, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q And how do you know that this 4th meeting was held on the last week of August
1995 at the house of Lani Galingan?

A Because I was in the house of Lani Galingan, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Why? Do you usually reside there or not?

A Bong Galingan made me resign at J-5 restaurant.

Q When was that?

A August 21, sir.

COURT:

Q How far was this J-5 from Lani Galingans place?

A Not too far.

Q In other words in response to the last question propounded by the private


prosecutor you were not actually residing at Lani Galingans place?
A I was residing there at the time because Bong Galingan made me resign.

Q You resigned from your job and your boyfriend lodged you at Lani Galingans
place. Is that what you are saying?

A Yes, sir.

Q Were you such a resident at Lani Galingans place throughout the four alleged
meetings that you testified on?

A Yes, sir.

Q From the first meeting to the fourth you were already residing or lodging at Lani
Galingans place?

A No, sir.

Q So when did you start residing at Lanis place?

A August 21, 1995.

COURT:

Q What makes you remember that?

A Because that is when Bong Galingan lodged me.

xxx xxx xxx

Q Madam Witness, you enumerated some names of persons whom you claimed to
be present in the last week of August 21, 1995 at Lani Galingans residence.
Why do you know that these were the persons who were there at the time for
the 4th meeting?

A Because we usually went together.

Q So that Madam Witness during that particular time of the 4 th meeting where were
you?

A I was at the house of Lani Galingan.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q And what happened at that time Madam Witness?

A They were talking about the supposed hold-up at the Masterline.


Q And what else transpired, if any? I am referring to that 4th meeting?

A They were talking about the subject matter Masterline grocery.

Q What about the Masterline grocery?

A Their staging of a hold-up.

Q And what was the result of that 4th meeting?

A It did not yet materialize.

Q You mentioned a while ago that there were four meetings. You just mentioned
now that in that 4th meeting it resulted into the plan not pushing through. Was
there any other meeting, Madam Witness?

ATTY. STA. MARIA:

Objection, your Honor.

COURT:

Sustain (sic).

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q That was in the last week of August 25, 1995. So what happened after that?

A The staging of the hold-up pushed through.

Q If you said that the plan of the hold-up of the Masterline grocery pushed through
when was that Madam Witness?

A September 2, 1995, sir.

COURT:

Q What time?

A At 4:00 they were still at the house. Maybe that was at 6:00.

Q You mentioned 4:00 and 6:00, what was that?

A In the afternoon, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:
Q You said that at around 4:00 in the afternoon of September 2, 1995 they were
still there. Whom are you referring to as the persons still there?

A Bong Galingan, Maj. Comiling, Sonny Rimas, Eddie Calderon, Bong Clotario,
Joe, Gil Salagubang.

Q And what were these people doing there? By the way Madam Witness, where is
this place that you are referring to?

A Lani Galingans place.

Q What were these people doing there at 4:00 in the afternoon?

A They were just there waiting for the persons being sent by Maj. Comiling.

COURT:

Q You have mentioned of four alleged meetings and you even enumerated names.
Could you tell the Court if there was anybody who presided?

A Bong Galingan and Comiling.

Q How did you know that?

A I have known that and he said that all the orders of Bong are being followed.

Q The orders of who?

A Bong, sir.

COURT:

Q I am asking you who presided, if any?

A Bong Galingan and Maj. Comiling.

Q How did you know that?

A Because all the orders of Maj. Comiling and Bong Galingan are being followed
by their men.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q And what time did these people leave Lani Galingans place?

A 4:00 oclock.
Q Where did they go?

A They proceeded towards Masterline.

Q How about you Madam Witness, what did you do?

A I was just there at the house of Lani.

Q So after they left at 4:00, what happened next? What happened next as far as
you are concerned?

A After some time there were shots at the town.

Q Around what time would that be when you heard gunshots?

A 6:00 oclock.

COURT:

Q And where were you then at 6:00 oclock?

A I was at the house of Lani.

Q Did you ever stay put at Lanis place at 6:00 oclock?

A No, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q Did you personally see those people leave Lanis place before the gunshots?
Before you heard the gunshots?

A Yes, sir.

COURT:

Q About how many minutes or hours passed from the time you allegedly saw the
people leave Lanis place from the time you allegedly heard shots in town?

A I heard the gun fire at 6:30.

Q So are you saying that it was almost 2-1/2 hours?

A Yes, sir.

ATTY. CALPITO:
Q If you say Madam Witness that you saw them when they left Lani Galingans
house, did they take any ride with them or not?

ATTYS. DANCEL & STA. MARIA:

Leading.

COURT:

Answer.

WITNESS:

A Yes, sir. There was.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q How many rides were there?

A Three rides, sir.

Q And what were these rides?

A One owner-type and two tricycles.

COURT:

Q Owner type plane or what?

A Owner-type jeep.

ATTY. CALPITO:

Q And who were the persons who rode on the owner-type jeep, if you know?

A Bong Galingan, Leo, Paul and Rey.

Q And you said that there were two tricycles who rode on the two tricycles?

A Maj. Comiling and Joe.

COURT:

Q One tricycle each you mean?

A No, sir. The other tricycle were on board Sonny Rimas and Bong Clotario.
ATTY. CALPITO:

Q If I will add the persons whom you named there were 8 whom you said boarded
the three vehicles. Is that all, Madam Witness?

A Eddie Calderon and Gil Salagubang.

Q And how about them? Where did they ride?

A Tricycle.[6]

Natys tenacious insistence on the minute details of what happened suggested nothing
else except that she was telling the truth. We do not doubt her credibility.

The time-tested rule is that, between the positive assertions of prosecution witnesses
and the mere denials of the accused, the former undisputedly deserve more credence and
are entitled to greater evidentiary value.[7]

Appellant Comiling likewise contends that Natys testimony was inadmissible against
him to prove conspiracy because of the res inter alios acta rule under Section 30, Rule
130 of the Rules of Court which provides:

Admission by conspirator. The act or declaration of a conspirator relating to the conspiracy


and during its existence, may be given in evidence against the co-conspirator after the
conspiracy is shown by evidence other than such act or declaration.

This rule prescribes that any declaration made by a conspirator relating to the
conspiracy is admissible against him alone but not against his co-conspirators unless the
conspiracy is first shown by other independent evidence.

According to Comiling, Natys testimony showed that she was also a conspirator, thus,
the existence of conspiracy must be shown by evidence other than Natys admission. As
there was no independent proof of conspiracy except the testimony of Naty, the latters
testimony concerning appellants participation in the conspiracy was inadmissible against
him. This contention is misplaced. The res inter alios acta rule refers only to extrajudicial
declarations or admissions and not to testimony given on the witness stand where the
party adversely affected has the opportunity to cross-examine the declarant.[8] In the
present case, Natys admission implicating appellant Comiling was made in open court and
therefore may be taken in evidence against him.

Lastly, Comiling asserts that he cannot be held liable for robbery as he was not
physically present at the Masterline Grocery and had no ostensible participation therein.
The contention is off-tangent. Although Comiling was never tagged as one of the three
robbers who entered the store of Ysiong Chua nor the one who mauled the victim or who
shot PO3 Erwil Pastor to death, his participation was his leadership in the conspiracy to
commit robbery with homicide and his inducement to his cohorts to perpetrate the same.
As held in People vs. Assad, [9] one who plans the commission of a crime is a principal by
inducement. As testified to by Naty Panimbaan:

Q And what happened to this fourth meeting, Madam Witness?

A They talked about the projected robbery and Major Comiling decided that they
will push through on September 2.

Q What else happened during that fourth meeting?

A Major Comiling gave their respective assignments.

Q You said Major Comiling gave their respective assignments to the members of
this group, what assignments if you know was given to Bong Galingan?

A Bong Galingan should be in front of the LBC.

Q How about Sonny Rimas?

COURT:

Your answer should be one at a time.

WITNESS:

A Sonny Rimas and Bong Clotario should be at the tricycle.

ATTY. ESTRADA:

Q What about Gil Salagubang?

A Gil Salagubang and Eddie Calderon should be in front of the Masterline Grocery.

Q What about Major Comiling?

A Major Comiling should be posted at the back of the bakery including Joe.[10]

Natys testimony showed that Comiling was determined to commit the crime as early
as June 1995. The fact that the heist was finally executed only on September 2, 1995
indicated that Comiling had indomitably clung to his determination. Principalship by
inducement (or by induction) presupposes that the offender himself is determined to
commit the felony and must have persistently clung to his determination. [11] In all the
meetings prior to the commission of the crime, Comiling was seen and heard presiding
over and leading the group. He was even the one who assigned each of his men his
specific role in the robbery. Then, in the house where the perpetrators regrouped after the
commission of the crime, Comiling was handed the money and jewelry stolen from the
grocery store. It was also Comiling who instructed Naty and Lani to hide in Makati after the
incident. He paid for the monthly rental of the room where Naty and Lani stayed. All this
can only prove that Comiling was the acknowledged leader of the group.

Moreover, another witness for the prosecution, Sonny Rimas, testified that while
serving beer to the accused at Zariza Inn, he heard that Comiling was planning the
robbery of Masterline. He even heard Comiling say, We will enter the place of Isko,
referring to Ysiong Chuas store. Indeed, appellant Comiling was the undisputable
mastermind. The judgment of conviction of Emilio Comiling must therefore be affirmed.

For his part, appellant Galingan interposed the defense of alibi. He claimed that he
was in the house of his uncle in Novaliches, Metro Manila when the incident happened on
September 2, 1995. He was in Manila because his wife was scheduled to arrive from
Hong Kong on September 4, 1995.

For the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must show that he was in another
place for such period of time that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the
place where the crime was committed at the time of its commission.[12]

In this case, Galingan did not meet the settled requirements of time and place. He
failed to prove that he was indeed in Novaliches at the time of the commission of the
crime; his alleged presence therein was not established by a positive declaration from an
independent witness. Likewise, the place where he claimed to be on the night of the crime
was not of such distance that it was impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime at
the time of its commission considering that either place could be reached in just about four
hours by land. The fact that he met his wife upon arrival on September 4, 1995 was
likewise inconsequential as it was two days after September 2, 1995, the date material to
this case. Alibi, in order to be given full faith and credit, must be clearly established and
must not leave any room for doubt as to its plausibility and verity.[13]

It should also be noted that Rimas testified that, while he was standing near the door
of Masterline Grocery at around 6:30 p.m. on September 2, 1995, he noticed the arrival of
an owner-type jeep. Rimas positively identified appellant Galingan as the driver thereof.

Galingans invocation of alibi should be disregarded not only because of its inherent
weakness but also because of the circumstances pointing to its contrived nature and his
positive identification by prosecution witness Rimas as one of those present during the
Masterline Grocery robbery on September 2, 1995.

Appellant Galingan also impugns the credibility of prosecution witness Naty


Panimbaan. He denies Natys claim that they were lovers. He maintains that Naty was a
woman of ill-repute whom he paid P700 everytime they had sex. Galingan insists that the
only reason why Naty implicated him in the offense was because she wanted him to leave
his wife which he did not want to do. Furthermore, according to Galingan, Naty was a drug
user and this supposedly tainted her credibility.

These attacks on Natys character and reputation are too flimsy and irrelevant to
deserve serious consideration. The fact that a witness is a person of unchaste character
or even a drug dependent does not per se affect her credibility. Character is frequently
used to refer to ones reputation in the neighborhood. It means the estimate attached to
the individual by the community and not the qualities of the individual as conceived by one
person.[14] With respect to a witness in both criminal and civil cases, evidence of his
character, in order to affect his credibility, must refer to his general reputation for truth,
honesty or integrity.[15] Thus, testimonies attacking the character of a witness for the
purpose of impugning his credibility must relate and be confined to the general reputation
which such witness has in the community or neighborhood where he lives or has lived.
Personal opinions on the moral character of a witness, being usually too general,
sweeping or subjective, are excluded.

Measured against the foregoing standard, appellant Galingans testimony on the


alleged bad character and unreliability as a witness of Naty Panimbaan deserves no merit.
Other than his adverse testimony, Galingan never credibly established that Naty was
reputed in the community or neighborhood to be a woman of loose morals or a drug user.
Clearly, Galingans testimony and evidence concerning Natys character was based solely
on his own self-serving claim or private opinion, and did not at all reflect the general
reputation by which Naty was held by the community. We therefore remain convinced of
Natys credibility as a witness.

Besides, the credibility of a witness is left primarily to the judgment of the trial judge.
Given the direct opportunity to observe the witness on the stand, the trial judge is in a
vantage position to assess the witness demeanor, conduct and attitude under grueling
examination.[16]

In People vs. De Guzman, we held that:

In the resolution of the factual issues, the Court relies heavily on the trial court for its
evaluation of the witnesses and their credibility. Having the opportunity to observe them
on the stand, the trial judge is able to detect that sometimes thin line between fact and
prevarication that will determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. That line may not
be discernible from a mere reading of the impersonal record by the reviewing court. The
record will not reveal those tell-tale signs that will affirm the truth or expose the
contrivance, like the angry flush of an insisted assertion or the sudden pallor of a
discovered lie or the tremulous mutter of a reluctant answer or the forthright tone of a
ready reply. The record will not show if the eyes have darted in evasion or looked down in
confession or gazed steadily with a serenity that has nothing to distort or conceal. The
record will not show if tears were shed in anger, or in shame, or in remembered pain, or in
feigned innocence. Only the judge trying the case can see all these and on the basis of his
observations arrive at an informed and reasoned verdict.[17] (italics ours)

Moreover, Galingan failed to substantiate his claim that Naty was driven by ill will or
false motive in testifying against him. His vain attempt to portray Naty as a woman
scorned by her lover certainly did not constitute sufficient reason for Naty to accuse him of
a very serious crime where the possible penalty could either be death or life imprisonment.
In fact, the trial court did not perceive such improper motivation on the part of Naty and the
other prosecution witnesses as would make them falsely implicate appellants in the
commission of the very serious crime. To us, the only plausible motivation for Naty was
her honest desire to speak the truth.

Our established doctrine is that the witness testimony deserves full faith and credit
where there exists no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why he
should testify falsely against the accused, or why he should implicate the accused in a
serious offense.[18]

More importantly, PO3 Erwil Pastor identified Galingan as the robber who shot him. In
the emergency room of the Eastern Pangasinan District Hospital, at around 7:00 p.m. on
September 2, 1995, Pastor moaned I might die. I might die. in the presence of SPO1
Conrado Hidalgo and SPO4 Emilio Nagui. Hence, PO3 Pastors statements were taken
down by SPO1 Hidalgo who assisted PO3 Pastor in affixing his thumbmark with his own
blood:

Q Who shot you?

A Bong Galingan, x x x [19]

Under Rule 130, Section 37 of the Rules of Court, the declaration of a dying person
with the consciousness of impending death may be received in any case wherein his
death is the subject of inquiry, as evidence of the cause and the surrounding
circumstances of such death. There are four requisites which must concur in order that a
dying declaration may be admissible: (1) it must concern the crime and surrounding
circumstances of the declarants death; (2) at the time it was made, the declarant was
under the consciousness of an impending death; (3) the declarant was competent as a
witness; and (4) the declaration is offered in any criminal case for homicide, murder or
parricide in which the declarant was the victim.[20]

(1) The first requisite is present in the ante-mortem statements of deceased PO3
Pastor. Certainly, the narration made by Pastor at the hospitals emergency room before
SPO1 Hidalgo and SPO4 Nagui concerned the cause and surrounding circumstances of
the declarants death. The two policemen heard from the declarants own lips his utterance
of the name Bong Galingan as his assailant. This fact was even testified to by these
policemen.
(2) The declarant, at the time he gave the dying declaration, was conscious of his
impending death. PO3 Pastor knew at the time he was being questioned that his chances
of recovery were nil. In fact, he uttered the words, I might die. I might die. to signify his
perception that death was forthcoming.

(3) PO3 Pastor, at the time he uttered the dying declaration, was competent as a
witness. This fact is too obvious to warrant further discussion.

(4) The dying declaration of PO3 Pastor was offered as evidence in a criminal case for
robbery with homicide in which the declarant was the victim.

Indubitably, PO3 Pastors dying declaration is complete in the sense that it was a full
expression of all that he wanted to say with regard to the circumstances of his death.
An ante-mortem statement is evidence of the highest order.[21] It is doctrinal that, when a
person is at the point of death, every motive of falsehood is silenced. [22] The mind is
induced by the strongest of reasons to speak the truth the declarants impending meeting
with his Creator.

Insofar as Ricky Mendoza is concerned, the evidence likewise confirms his


responsibility for the offense. He was positively identified by prosecution witness Rimas as
one of the men who alighted from the jeep, barged into the Masterline Grocery and shot
his way out therefrom. Naty Panimbaan also positively confirmed his participation in the
crime. More than that, as shown by the records, Mendoza flew the coop after he was
arraigned and remains at large up to the present. Flight from justice is evidence of guilt.

The existence of conspiracy in this case cannot be doubted. The rule is, whenever
homicide is committed as a consequence or on the occasion of a robbery, all those who
take part as principals in the robbery will also be held guilty as principals of the special
complex crime of robbery with homicide.[23]

While we are convinced that appellants are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of robbery
with homicide, we cannot impose the penalty of death on them. Under Article 294 (1) of
the Revised Penal Code,[24] the crime of robbery carries the penalty of reclusion
perpetua to death. In imposing the death penalty, the trial court appreciated the
aggravating circumstances of band, evident premeditation, craft and disguise against
appellants. However, these circumstances were not specifically alleged in the information
as required under Rule 110, Section 8 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Hence,
inasmuch as no aggravating and mitigating circumstances can be deemed to have
attended the commission of the offense, the lower penalty of reclusion perpetua should be
imposed on them.

On the award of damages, this Court modifies the amounts as well as the designations
thereof. Thus, appellants Emilio Comiling, Geraldo Galingan alias Bong and accused
Ricky Mendoza alias Leo must in solidum restore to Ysiong Chua his lost valuables, and if
impossible to do so, must pay him as reparation the amount of P26,000, plus the P81,000
in cash he lost, as actual damages. They should also pay the heirs of PO3 Erwil
Pastor P50,000 as civil indemnity for his death as this is in accord with prevailing
jurisprudence.[25] In addition, the heirs of PO3 Pastor are entitled to P25,000 as temperate
damages in lieu of actual damages, pursuant to the case of People vs. Abrazaldo.
[26]
However, we cannot award moral damages to the heirs of PO3 Pastor because of their
failure to present any proof or testimony that they suffered anguish and distress as a result
of his death.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is hereby AFFIRMED with


MODIFICATION. Appellants Emilio Comiling, Geraldo Galingan and accused Ricky
Mendoza are hereby found guilty of robbery with homicide and sentenced to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua.

They are also ordered to return to Ysiong Chua his lost valuables, and if this cannot be
done, to pay him in solidum its value of P26,000 as reparation, plus P81,000 which was
the amount of the cash stolen, as actual damages, and to pay the heirs of PO3 Erwil
Pastor P50,000 as civil indemnity and P25,000 as temperate damages.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 154852. October 21, 2004]

MULTINATIONAL VILLAGE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. and DANILO F.


CUNETA, petitioners, vs. ARA SECURITY & SURVEILLANCE AGENCY,
INC., Represented by THERESA C. MAMAED, President and General
Manager, respondent.

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J.:
Basic is the rule that a contract constitutes the law between the parties. The mere
grant to one party of the right to terminate the agreement because of the nonpayment of
an obligation established therein does not ipso facto give the other party the same right to
end the contract on the ground of allegedly unsatisfactory service. Concededly, parties
may validly stipulate the unilateral rescission of a contract.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, challenging
the October 11, 2001 Decision[2] and the August 12, 2002 Resolution[3] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 62431. The assailed Decision disposed as follows:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED
with MODIFICATION to read as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the


[respondent] and as against the [petitioners], ordering the latter to pay the [respondent]
jointly and severally the following amounts:

1. P591,250.00, as actual damages;

2. P30,000.00, as attorneys fees; and

3. Costs of the suit.[4]

The assailed Resolution denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.

The Facts

The antecedents are summarized by the appellate court as follows:

In the Complaint filed below, it is alleged that Ara Security and Surveillance, Inc. [(Ara)]
was hired by Multinational Village Homeowners Association, Inc. [(Multinational)] to
provide security services at the Multinational Village, Paraaque, Metro Manila. Their
agreement was embodied in a document, entitled Contract of Guards Services dated May
30, 1994. The contract was to take effect for a period of one (1) year from May 25, 1994
up to May 25, 1995 on a monthly fee of One Hundred Seven Thousand Five Hundred
(P107,500.00) Pesos, payable every 15th and end of the month without need of demand.
Under the same contract, Ara will provide Multinational with thirty (30) guards.

Not long after, on August 29, 1994, Danilo F. Cuneta, President of Multinational, wrote Ara
a letter terminating the aforesaid contract effective 1900 hours of August 31, 1994, having
found the guards services to be unsatisfactory, for repeated violations of the Security
Guards Code of Ethics and Conduct, and total disregard of the General Order causing
loss of confidence in the ability of the security guards to comply with the terms of the
contract. Ara replied requesting Multinational to reconsider its position, which fell on deaf
ears. Thus, on September 13, 1994, Ara commenced the present suit for injunction with
preliminary injunction, preliminary mandatory injunction and temporary restraining order
with damages.

On September 15, 1994, a temporary restraining order was issued enjoining Multinational,
their agents and all persons acting in their behalf from enforcing the letter dated August
29, 1994 and [from] replacing the guards with another agency. The injunctive relief was
then set for hearing.

Summons having been served properly, Multinational submitted an Answer together with
an opposition to the injunction claiming that it has the right to pre-terminate the contract
under paragraph 5 thereof stating:

5. MODE OF PAYMENT:

For and in consideration of the above services and during the effectivity of this Contract,
the CLIENT shall pay the SECURITY COMPANY the sum indicated in the hereto attached
cost analysis per month which consideration shall be paid every 15 th and end of the month
without need of demand.

The CLIENT hereby agrees that it shall pay interest on accounts covered by billings
received by the CLIENT and unpaid for thirty (30) days or more at the rate of 24 per cent
per annum. This shall be without prejedice (sic) to the right of the SECURITY COMPANY
to terminate this contract immediately, for failure of CLIENT to pay the aforestated
consideration in accordance with its terms without notice.

The SECURITY COMPANY shall be entitled to an automatic adjustment of its stipulated


contract price in (sic) event that the minimum wage increase[s] (sic) or in favor of the
guards are promulgated by law, executive order, decree or wage order subsequent to the
execution of this contract. Said adjustments shall be equivalent to the amount of increase
in the minimum wage of the amount benefits promulgated or both as the case may be.

Billing shall be every fifteen (15) days. After three (3) months of satisfactory
performance, the parties may negotiate for the extension of this contract and other
matters that might be advantageous to both parties.

Meantime, after hearing the trial court denied the prayer for the issuance of a writ of
preliminary injunction on February 16, 1995.

Finally, on December 14, 1998, the court a quo rendered its decision.[5]

Ruling in favor of Ara, the trial court ordered Multinational to pay the following:

1. P701,137.50 as actual damages


2. P200,000.00 as exemplary damages

3. P50,000.00 as attorneys fees

4. P20,000.00 as and for costs of suit and expenses of litigation

Unsatisfied, petitioners appealed to the CA.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA held that petitioners had breached their Contract when they pre-terminated it
on the basis of paragraph 5 thereof. According to the appellate court, the said provision
did not provide for a pre-termination option, but was a mere superfluity with no clear
meaning.

Furthermore, the CA ruled that petitioners had no good and valid ground to pre-
terminate the Contract, because the documentary evidence [6] they had presented was
hearsay and of no probative value.[7]

Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the lower courts findings, but reduced the
award of actual damages to P591,250 representing payment for services rendered for five
and a half months at P107,500 per month. It also deleted the award of exemplary
damages, saying that respondent had failed to present evidence justifying the grant
thereof.[8]

Hence, this Petition.[9]

The Issues

In their Memorandum, petitioners raise the following issues for our consideration:

1. Whether or not the lower erred in finding respondents position as the more acceptable
interpretation of the contract in question that the contract cannot be terminated even after
three months of unsatisfactory performance.

2. Whether or not the lower court erred in ruling that petitioners failed to establish that the
termination of the contract was for legal cause.

3. Whether or not the lower court erred in declaring that [petitioners] committed breach of
contract.[10]

The issue is simply whether the pre-termination of the Contract was valid.

The Courts Ruling


The Petition has no merit.

Main Issue:

Interpretation of Paragraph 5

The last portion of paragraph 5 of the Contract of Guard Services between petitioners
and respondent provides:

Billing shall be every fifteen (15) days. After three (3) months of satisfactory performance,
the parties may negotiate for the extension of this contract and other matters that might be
advantageous to both parties.[11] (Italics supplied)

Petitioners argue that the above stipulation in the Contract of Guard Services is a
resolutory condition. They allege that under this paragraph, the Contract can no longer be
enforced after the three-month period if the guards performance is unsatisfactory.[12]

They further theorize that since respondent was given the option to end the Contract
upon their failure to pay in accordance with the specified terms, they are likewise entitled
to the option of terminating the agreement on the basis of allegedly unsatisfactory
performance.[13] They add that it would be unjust to compel respondent to continue with
this Contract despite the security guards ineptitude, which poses a danger to the lives and
properties of the home owners.[14]

Petitioners contentions are not convincing. A reading of paragraph 5 yields the simple
and natural meaning that the parties may extend the Contracts life upon mutual
agreement. The appellate court was correct in holding that the provision was a mere
superfluity. The parties need not provide that they may extend the Contract should they
mutually agree, because they may do so with or without this benign provision. Although
paragraph 5 mentions extensions, it is ominously and significantly silent on the matter of
pre-termination.

True, parties may validly provide for resolutory conditions and unilateral rescission in
their contract. However, paragraph 5 is not a resolutory condition, as it is not one that
constitutes a future and uncertain event[,] upon the happening or fulfillment of which rights
which are already acquired by virtue of the obligation are extinguished or lost.[15]

Under paragraph 5, the clause satisfactory performance is expressly and clearly a


consideration for extending the life of the Contract. However, in the same paragraph, there
is no mention of the effect of unsatisfactory performance.

In the absence of any stipulation or provision of law on the matter, petitioners cannot
be deemed to have the contractual right to pre-terminate the Contract unilaterally as of
August 31, 1994, on the ground of the allegedly unsatisfactory performance of the security
guards. Such interpretation is a direct contravention of paragraph 12, which clearly states
that the term of the Contract shall be one year:

12. TERM OF CONTRACT:

This Contract shall take effect on May 25, 1994 and shall be for a period of One (1) Year
from said date. Thereafter, it shall be deemed renewed for the same period unless either
party notifies the other in writing not later than one (1) month before the expiry of its intent
not to renew.

xxxxxxxxx

14. Either party may terminate this contract for legal cause by written notice given to the
other party not later than thirty (30) days prior to the expiry date.[16]

The cases -- Pamintuan v. CA[17] and Viray v. Intermediate Appellate Court[18] -- cited by
petitioners to support the alleged existence of a resolutory condition are not applicable to
the present controversy. In the cited Decisions, the obligations under the lease Contracts
as well as the consequences of the lessees failure to comply with those obligations --
particularly, rescission and the landlords taking possession of the leased premises -- were
clearly set forth in the law and in the Contracts, respectively. Thus, it was clearly
discernible in those cases that the failure to comply with the contractual obligations
constituted a resolutory condition.

The foregoing situation does not obtain in the present case. The consequence of
unsatisfactory performance is not specified in the Contract of Guard Services. There is no
stipulation permitting petitioners to terminate the Contract upon an unsatisfactory
performance of the security guards. Paragraph 5 cannot be deemed to be a resolutory
condition.

The contention of petitioners that the grant to respondent of the option to terminate
gives them the same right is a non sequitur. As they themselves argue, parties may validly
provide for unilateral rescission in a contract.

Next, petitioners contend that the court a quo did not comply with Section 11 of Rule
130 of the Rules of Court, because it failed to give effect to paragraph 5. They further
invoke Section 12[19] of the same Rule, arguing that relative to the provision of the Contract
on the duration of its effectivity, which is one year, paragraph 5 is a particular provision.
[20]
They conclude that since the two provisions are inconsistent, paragraph 5 -- being the
particular provision -- should prevail.

Section 11 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court states that [i]n the construction of an
instrument where there are several provisions or particulars, such a construction is, if
possible, to be adopted as will give effect to all. Contrary to petitioners contention,
paragraph 5 is not inconsistent with paragraph 12. More important, the former does not in
any way deal with the termination of the Contract. Neither does it provide for a right to
rescind.

At this point, we stress that the right to rescind is implied in reciprocal obligations, as
provided for in Article 1191 of the Civil Code, which states:

ART. 1191. The power to rescind obligations is implied in reciprocal ones, in case one of
the obligors should not comply with what is incumbent upon him.

x x x x x x x x x.

Therefore, absent any provision providing for a right to rescind, the parties may
nevertheless rescind the contract should the other obligor fail to comply with its
obligations.

As correctly held by the CA in the instant case, petitioners failed to produce evidence
of the alleged breach of obligation by respondent. The investigation made by Petitioner
Danilo F. Cuneta cannot stand as competent evidence. The Letter-Complaints presented
in court were neither identified, nor were their contents affirmed, by their authors.
Therefore, insofar as they purport to prove that the security guards were remiss in their
duties, the Letter-Complaints are hearsay and inadmissible evidence.[21] In Desierto v.
Estrada, we held as follows:

Evidence is called hearsay when its probative force depends, in whole or in part, on the
competency and credibility of some persons other than the witness by whom it is sought to
produce it. There are three reasons for excluding hearsay evidence: (1) absence of cross
examination; (2) absence of demeanor evidence, and (3) absence of the oath.

Finally, it is a settled principle of law that rescission will not be permitted for a slight or
casual breach of a contract, but only for such breaches as are so substantial and
fundamental as to defeat the object of the parties in entering into the agreement.
[22]
Petitioners failed to produce evidence of any substantial and fundamental breach that
would warrant the rescission of the Contract.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED and the assailed Decision AFFIRMED. Costs
against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 116918. June 19, 1997]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. BONFILO MARTINEZ y DE LA


ROSA, JOHN DOE and PETER DOE, accused.

BONFILO MARTINEZ y DELA ROSA, accused-appellant.

DECISION

REGALADO, J.:

In an information filed before Branch 121 of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City
on March 8, 1994, accused-appellant Bonfilo Martinez and two other unidentified persons
were charged with the special complex crime of robbery with rape allegedly committed as
follows:

That on or about the 28th of December, 1991 in Kalookan City, Metro Manila and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together
and mutually helping with (sic) one another, with intent of gain and by means of violence
and intimidation employed upon the persons of MICHAEL BUENVINIDA Y SOLMAYOR,
POL BONGGAT, SHERWIN SOLMAYOR, JONATHAN BONGGAT, JUNIOR SOLMAYOR,
GLORIA SOLMAYOR and GLORIVIC BANDAYANON Y QUIAJO while the aforesaid
persons were inside the house of ERNESTO BUENVINIDA viewing television program,
said accused, all armed with guns of unknown caliber, tied the hands of the occupants of
the house, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, rob and carry away
the following articles belonging to ERNESTO BUENVINIDA, to wit:

1. Radio Cassette Recorder worth P3,000.00

2. Assorted imported perfumes 30,000.00

3. Assorted imported canned goods 5,000.00

4. Cash money amounting to 8,000.00

5. Cash money in U.S. Dollar $1,000.00

that in the course of said robbery, said accused, with the use of force, violence and
intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have sexual
intercourse with one GLORIVIC BANDAYON Y QUIAJO, against the latters will and
without her consent.[1]

Although the two Does remained unknown and at large, appellant was arrested on
March 3, l994 for soliciting funds for a fictitious volleyball competition. [2] After his arrest, he
was confined at the Bagong Silang Sub-station detention cell for an hour and was later
transferred to the Caloocan City Jail.[3] Appellant entered a plea of not guilty during his
arraignment in Criminal Case No. C-46704 (94) on March 21, 1994.[4]

As collated from the transcripts of the testimonies of prosecution eyewitnesses Glorivic


Bandayanon[5] and Michael Buenvinida,[6] the indicated coverage of which yield the
particular facts hereunder narrated, the circumstances attendant to the crime charged are
detailed in the paragraphs that follow.

Michael Buenvinida, Michelle Buenvinida, Gloria Solmayor, Sherwin Solmayor, Junior


(JR) Solmayor, Paul Bonggat, Jonathan Bonggat and Glorivic Bandayanon were in
Ernesto and Cornelia Buenvinidas house situated at Lot 25, Block 20, Wallnut St.,
Rainbow Village, Caloocan City when the crime was committed on December 28, 1991.

Michael and Michelle are the children of Ernesto and Cornelia. Gloria is a sister-in-law
of Cornelia who was in the house for a visit, while Sherwin, Junior, Paul and Jonathan are
Cornelias nephews. Glorivic is a friend of Cornelia who volunteered to look after the latters
children while she is in Sweden. Ernesto was at the office at the time of the commission of
the crime.

While the occupants of the house were watching a television show in the living room at
around 6:30 P.M., Michael noticed a man wearing short pants and holding a handgun
jump over the low fence of their house. The man entered the house through its unlocked
front door and introduced himself to the surprised group as a policeman. The intruder then
told them that Michaels father got involved in a stabbing incident in the local basketball
court. As if on cue, two men followed the first man in entering the house and promptly
thereafter covered their faces with handkerchiefs. These two were wearing long pants and
also carried handguns. The first man who entered the house did not cover his face.

With guns pointed at them, the occupants of the house were brought to the masters
bedroom where they were tied and detained by the three intruders.

Later, one of the armed men, identified by Michael as herein appellant, untied Michael
and ordered him to pull out the plugs of the appliances in the house, such as the television
set, the V.H.S. player and the radio cassette recorder. Appellant and the other masked
man then began to search the house for valuables in the living room and in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, the first man remained in the masters bedroom and found cash money, in
pesos and dollars, and bottles of perfume. The men then placed in a big bag the radio
cassette player, canned goods, money and perfumes that they had found inside the
house.

Thereafter, the first intruder, whom Glorivic referred to as the mastermind of the group,
returned to the masters bedroom and asked the terrified group for jewelries. Unable to get
any jewelry, he brought Glorivic to the childrens (Michael and Michelles) bedroom
opposite the masters bedroom. Upon entering the room, the man turned on the lights
there. In the meanwhile, his two masked companions continued looking around the house
for other valuables.

Inside the bedroom, the ostensible leader of the gang untied Glorivic and ordered her
to search the room for jewelries. After Glorivic failed to find any, the man directed her to
remove her clothes and pointed his gun at Glorivics head. Despite her pleas and cries, the
man removed the shirt, long pants and underwear of Glorivic while keeping the gun
leveled at her. Shortly after, the man put the gun on top of the ironing board beside the
bed, then pushed Glorivic towards the bed and lay on top of her. Glorivics resistance
proved to be futile as the man was able to violate her chastity.

Before the first man could leave the room, another member of the group entered and
pushed Glorivic again to the bed when she was just about to put on her dress. Upon
entering the room, the second mans cloth cover tied around his face fell and hang around
his neck. After threatening to kill her, the man put a pillow on her face, forcibly spread
Glorivics legs and has sexual congress with her. Glorivic would later point to appellant
during the trial as this second man.

After the second man was through, the third man came in. While Glorivic was still
sitting on the bed and crying, the third man took the bed sheet and covered her face with
it. Just like what his companions did before him, the third man had sexual intercourse with
Glorivic through force and intimidation, but not without first removing the handkerchief tied
over his face.
Michael was able to see the three malefactors enter and leave the room one after the
other as the door of the masters bedroom was left open. He was also able to hear Glorivic
crying and her implorations to her tormentors in the opposite room.

After the consummation of the odious act, the third man told Glorivic to dress
up. Glorivic felt blood flowing down her thighs as she put on her clothes. Thereafter, the
third man tied her up and brought her back to the company of the other occupants of the
house. Michael saw Glorivic with disheveled hair and wearing her pants turned inside out,
with blood on the lower parts.

The felons left after intimating to the group by way of a threat that they were going to
explode a hand grenade. Around five minutes later, after ascertaining that the culprits had
left, Michael and the others untied each other. Thereafter, they went to the house of his
fathers friend located two blocks away and, from there, they proceeded to the Urduja
police detachment.

Glorivic met appellant again on March 7, 1994. Policemen came to her place of work
and asked her to come with them as they had a person in custody whom they suspected
to be herein appellant. At the Caloocan City Jail, Glorivic was made to face eight
detainees. She was able to readily recognize appellant among the group because of the
mole on his right cheek.Before she picked him out from the other men, she carefully saw
to it that the one she pointed out was really appellant.

On the part of Michael, he stated that he was fetched by policemen on March 7, 1994
at his school to make an identification at the Dagat-Dagatan police station. Appellant was
with six other inmates when they arrived at the station. Michael pointed to appellant as
one of the robbers who entered their house, after readily remembering that he was the
one who ordered him to unplug the appliances. Michael could never be mistaken in
appellants identity because he could not forget the prominent mole and its location on
appellants right cheek.

Testifying at the trial,[7] appellant denied any participation in the robbery with rape
committed in the Buenvinida residence. Appellant claimed that it was only on March 7,
1994 that he first met Glorivic Bandayanon and insisted that he does not know Michael
Buenvinida.

He claimed that he was in his house in Wawa, Paraaque together with his wife and
children the whole day of December 28, 1991. He moved to Bagong Silang, Caloocan City
in 1993 after he was able to find work as a mason under his brother who lives in the same
district. On cross-examination, appellant denied having visited his brother at Bagong
Silang from 1991 to 1992. However, upon further questioning by the public prosecutor,
appellant admitted that he made several visits to his brother in 1991. Moreover, he
explained that it usually took him three hours to travel to Caloocan City from Paraaque by
public utility bus.
Giving credence to the testimonies of the witnesses of the prosecution and rejecting
appellants defense of alibi, the trial court [8] found appellant guilty of the composite crime of
robbery with rape. Although the proper imposable penalty is death, [9] considering the lower
courts finding of two aggravating circumstances of nocturnidad and use of a deadly
weapon, appellant was sentenced to reclusion perpetua in observance of the then
constitutional prohibition against the imposition of capital punishment. With regard to his
civil liabilities, appellant was ordered to indemnify Ernesto Buenvinida in the sum
of P73,000.00 as the value of his stolen and unrecovered personal properties, and to pay
Glorivic Bandaya P30,000.00 by way of moral damages, plus the costs of suit.[10]

In this present appellate review, appellant inceptively faults the lower court for
convicting him despite the supposedly undependable and untrustworthy identification
made by the eyewitnesses. He claims that Glorivic Bandayanon and Michael Buenvinida
could have been mistaken in their identification [11]because (l) of the long interval of time
before they were able to confront him; (2) his face was covered with a handkerchief as
they themselves narrated in court; and (3) they could have been so gravely terrified by the
criminal act as to have their mental faculties impaired.

When an accused assails the identification made by witnesses, he is in effect attacking


the credibility of those witnesses who referred to him as the perpetrator of the crime
alleged to have been committed.[12] The case then turns on the question of credibility.

It has long been a well-entrenched rule of evidence and procedure that the issue of
credibility of witnesses is almost invariably within the exclusive province of a trial court to
determine, under the principle that the findings of trial courts deserve respect from
appellate tribunals.[13] The foregoing rule notwithstanding, we expended considerable time
and effort to thoroughly examine the records and objectively assay the evidence before
us, considering the gravity of the offense charged. However, we find no compelling
reasons to overturn the lower courts conclusion on the accuracy and correctness of the
witnesses identification of appellant as one of the persons who robbed the house of the
Buenvinidas and raped Glorivic.

The testimonies of the principal witnesses for the prosecution were not only consistent
with and corroborative of each other. The transcripts of stenographic notes which we have
conscientiously reviewed, further reveal that their narrations before the lower court were
delivered in a clear, coherent and unequivocal manner.

There was no perceptible hesitation or uncertainty on the part of Glorivic and Michael
when they unerringly identified appellant during the trial. The unhurried, studious and
deliberate manner in which appellant was identified by them in court added strength to
their credibility[14] and immeasurably fortified the case of the prosecution.

The records also show that the memory of these witnesses were not in any way
affected by the passage of two years and three months since the tragedy. Glorivic
categorically stated on the witness stand that the lapse of those years did not impair her
memory and she could still identify those who raped her.[15] Michael asserted that he could
still positively identify appellant because of the latters mole, as well as the several
opportunities of the former to take a good look at appellants face during the robbery,
[16]
and the same is true with Glorivic.Appellants mole on his right cheek provided a
distinctive mark for recollection and which, coupled with the emotional atmosphere during
the incident, would be perpetually etched in the minds of the witnesses.

It is the most natural reaction for victims of criminal violence to strive to ascertain the
appearance of their assailants and observe the manner in which the crime was
committed. Most often, the face and body movements of the assailants create a lasting
impression on the victims minds which cannot be easily erased from their memory.[17]

While appellant claims that his face was covered during the commission of the crime,
there were providential points in time when the two witnesses were able to freely see his
face and scan his facial features closely to as to enable them to identify him later on.

Although appellant placed a pillow on her face. Glorivic declared that when the latter
two offenders raped her, their faces were no longer covered. In the case of appellant, the
handkerchief on his face fell upon his entering the room and he left it that way while he
raped Glorivic.[18] And when the latter two transgressors entered the house, their faces
were then exposed and it was only when they were already inside the house that they
covered their faces with handkerchiefs.[19] These circumstances gave Michael and Glorivic
sufficient time and unimpeded opportunity to recognize and identify appellant.

There is no evidence to show that the two eyewitnesses were so petrified with fear as
to result in subnormal sensory functions on their part. Contrarily, in a recently decided
case, we held that fear for ones life may even cause the witness to be more observant of
his surroundings.[20] The ample opportunity to observe and the compelling reason to
identify the wrongdoer are invaluable physiognonomical and psychological factors for
accuracy in such identification.

The records do not disclose any improper motive on the part of the witnesses to falsely
point to appellant as one of the robber-rapists. Appellant even admitted that he did not
know Glorivic and Michael prior to the commission of the crime. It is doctrinally settled that
in the absence of evidence showing that the prosecution witnesses were actuated by
improper motive, their identification of the accused as the assailant should be given full
faith and credit.[21]

Where conditions of visibility are favorable, as those obtaining in the Buenvinida


residence when the crimes were committed, and the witnesses do not appear to be
biased, their assertions as to the identity of the malefactor should be accepted as
trustworthy.[22]
For his second assignment of error, appellant contends that the lower court should not
have ordered him to pay the value of the unrecovered personalties to Ernesto Buenvinida,
damages to Glorivic Bandayanon, and the costs of suit because he is not criminally liable
as shown by the failure of the witnesses to properly identify him.

We find speciosity in this second contention of appellant because such argument flows
from the premise that he is not guilty. As the trial court found, and with which we resolutely
agree as already explained, appellant is culpable beyond reasonable doubt for the special
complex crime of robbery with rape committed in the early evening of December 28, l99l
at Caloocan City.

However, we deem worthy of elucidation the matter of the value of the items
established to have been stolen from the house of the Buenvinidas. Incidentally, appellant
claims in his brief that the amounts alleged in the information as the bases of his civil
liability for robbery were just concocted and founded on speculation and conjectures.[23]

To prove the value of the burglarized properties, the prosecution presented an affidavit
executed by Ernesto Buenvinida[24] on March 7, 1994, containing a list of the stolen
movables and with their corresponding values, as now found in the information. This
affidavit was identified and marked as Exhibit H [25] for the prosecution during the testimony
of SPO4 Abner Castro,[26] the police officer who conducted an investigation of the incident
on December 28, 1991. In addition to testifying on the arrest and investigation of
appellant, Castro repeated in open court the respective values of the personal properties
as explained to him by Ernesto Buenvinida and how he helped Ernesto in the preparation
thereof.[27] The same was formally offered in evidence [28] to prove, among others, the facts
and amounts contained therein and as testified to by witness Castro. Although objected to
by appellant as self-serving,[29] the lower court admitted said document for the purpose for
which it was offered and as part of the testimony of said witness. [30]

It may be theorized, and in fact appellant in effect so postulates, that the prosecution
has failed to prove the value of the stolen properties and, for lack of evidence thereon, the
civil liability therefor as adjudged by the court below may not be sustained. It is true that
the evidence presented thereon consisted of the testimony of the investigator, Abner
Castro, who based his evaluation on the report to him by Ernesto Buenvinida. These are
legal aspects worth discussing for future guidance.

While it is claimed that hearsay testimony was involved, it is actually and not
necessarily so. The rule that hearsay evidence has no probative value does not apply
here, since SPO4 Abner Castro was presented as a witness and testified on two
occasions, during which he explained how the value of the stolen properties was arrived at
for purposes of the criminal prosecution. During his testimony on his investigation report
and the affidavit of Ernesto Buenvinida on the amounts involved, appellant had all the
opportunity to cross-examine him on the correctness thereof; and it was this opportunity to
cross-examine which negates the claim that the matters testified to by the witness are
hearsay. And, said documents having been admitted as part of testimony of the
policeman, they shall accordingly be given the same weight as that to which his testimony
may be entitled.

Again, even under the rule on opinions of ordinary witnesses, the value of the stolen
items was established. It is a standing doctrine that the opinion of a witness is admissible
in evidence on ordinary matters known to all men of common perception, such as the
value of ordinary household articles.[31] Here, the witness is not just an ordinary witness,
but virtually an expert, since his work as an investigator of crimes against property has
given him both the exposure to and experience in fixing the current value of such ordinary
articles subject of the crime at bar. Incidentally, it is significant that appellant never dared
to cross-examine on the points involved, which opportunity to cross-examine takes the
testimony of Castro out of the hearsay rule, while the lack of objection to the value placed
by Castro bolsters his testimony under the cited exception to the opinion rule.

Also not to be overlooked is the fact that the trial court has the power to take judicial
notice, in this case of the value of the stolen goods, because these are matter of public
knowledge or are capable of unquestionable demonstration.[32] The lower court may, as it
obviously did, take such judicial notice motu proprio.[33] Judicial cognizance, which is
based on considerations of expediency and convenience, displace evidence since, being
equivalent to proof, it fulfills the object which the evidence is intended to achieve. [34] Surely,
matters like the value of the appliances, canned goods and perfume (especially since the
trial court was presided by a lady judge) are undeniably within public knowledge and
easily capable of unquestionable demonstration.

Finally, as a matter of law and not on the excuse that after all appellant cannot satisfy
his civil liability, the real value of the asported properties would nonetheless be irrelevant
to the criminal liability of appellant. Insofar as the component crime of robbery is
concerned, the same was committed through violence against or intimidation of persons,
and not through force upon things, hence the value of the property subject of the crime is
immaterial.[35] The special complex crime of robbery with rape has, therefore, been
committed by the felonious acts of appellant and his cohorts, with all acts of rape on that
occasion being integrated in one composite crime. The value of the objects of
the apoderamiento relates only to the civil aspect, which we have already resolved.

One final complementary disposition is called for. Victim Glorivic Bandayanon was
subjected by appellant and his co-conspirators to multiple rape, and under humiliating
circumstances equivalent to augmented ignominy since she was abused by the three
accused successively and virtually in the presence of one after the other. The award
of P30,000.00 for moral damages made by the court below should accordingly be
amended.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of the trial court is hereby AFFIRMED in full,
with the sole MODIFICATION that the damages awarded to the offended party, Glorivic
Bandayanon, is hereby increased to P50,000.00.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 132164. October 19, 2004]

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, petitioner, vs. ALLYSON BELAGAN, respondent.

DECISION

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

When the credibility of a witness is sought to be impeached by proof of his reputation,


it is necessary that the reputation shown should be that which existed before the
occurrence of the circumstances out of which the litigation arose, [1] or at the time of the
trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the commencement of the suit.
[2]
This is because a person of derogatory character or reputation can still change or
reform himself.

For our resolution is the petition for review on certiorari of the Court of Appeals
Decision[3] dated January 8, 1998, in CA-G.R. SP. No. 44180, the dispositive portion of
which reads:
WHEREFORE, Resolution No. 966213 dated September 23, 1996 and Resolution No.
972423 dated April 11, 1997 of the respondent Civil Service Commission are hereby set
aside. The complaint against petitioner Allyson Belagan filed by Magdalena Gapuz is
hereby DISMISSED.

The dismissal of petitioner Belagan is lifted and he is hereby ordered to be immediately


reinstated to his position without loss of seniority, retirement, backwages and other rights
and benefits.

SO ORDERED.

The instant case stemmed from two (2) separate complaints filed respectively by
Magdalena Gapuz, founder/directress of the Mother and Child Learning Center, and
Ligaya Annawi, a public school teacher at Fort Del Pilar Elementary School, against
respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the Department of Education, Culture
and Sports (DECS), all from Baguio City. Magdalena charged respondent with sexual
indignities and harassment, while Ligaya accused him of sexual harassment and various
malfeasances.

Magdalenas sworn complaint alleges that sometime in March 1994, she filed an
application with the DECS Office in Baguio City for a permit to operate a pre-school. One
of the requisites for the issuance of the permit was the inspection of the school premises
by the DECS Division Office. Since the officer assigned to conduct the inspection was not
present, respondent volunteered his services. Sometime in June 1994, respondent and
complainant visited the school. In the course of the inspection, while both were
descending the stairs of the second floor, respondent suddenly placed his arms around
her shoulders and kissed her cheek. Dumbfounded, she muttered, Sir, is this part of the
inspection? Pati ba naman kayo sa DECS wala ng values? Respondent merely sheepishly
smiled. At that time, there were no other people in the area.

Fearful that her application might be jeopardized and that her husband might harm
respondent, Magdalena just kept quiet.

Several days later, Magdalena went to the DECS Division Office and asked
respondent, Sir, kumusta yung application ko? His reply was Mag-date muna tayo. She
declined, explaining that she is married. She then left and reported the matter to DECS
Assistant Superintendent Peter Ngabit.

Magdalena never returned to the DECS Division Office to follow up her application.
However, she was forced to reveal the incidents to her husband when he asked why the
permit has not yet been released. Thereupon, they went to the office of the respondent.
He merely denied having a personal relationship with Magdalena.
Thereafter, respondent forwarded to the DECS Regional Director his recommendation
to approve Magdalenas application for a permit to operate a pre-school.

Sometime in September 1994, Magdalena read from a local newspaper that certain
female employees of the DECS in Baguio City were charging a high-ranking DECS official
with sexual harassment. Upon inquiry, she learned that the official being complained of
was respondent. She then wrote a letter-complaint for sexual indignities and harassment
to former DECS Secretary Ricardo Gloria.

On October 4, 1994, respondent was placed under suspension.

On the part of Ligaya Annawi, she alleged in her complaint that on four separate
occasions, respondent touched her breasts, kissed her cheek, touched her groins,
embraced her from behind and pulled her close to him, his organ pressing the lower part
of her back.

Ligaya also charged respondent with: (1) delaying the payment of the teachers
salaries; (2) failing to release the pay differentials of substitute teachers; (3) willfully
refusing to release the teachers uniforms, proportionate allowances and productivity pay;
and (4) failing to constitute the Selection and Promotion Board, as required by the DECS
rules and regulations.

The DECS conducted a joint investigation of the complaints of Magdalena and Ligaya.
In his defense, respondent denied their charge of sexual harassment. However, he
presented evidence to disprove Ligayas imputation of dereliction of duty.

On January 9, 1995, the DECS Secretary rendered a Joint Decision [4] finding
respondent guilty of four (4) counts of sexual indignities or harassments committed
against Ligaya; and two (2) counts of sexual advances or indignities against Magdalena.
He was ordered dismissed from the service. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision
reads:

WHEREFORE, foregoing disquisitions duly considered, decision is hereby rendered in the


two above-entitled cases, finding:

a) Respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the DECS Baguio City


Schools Division GUILTY of the four counts of sexual indignities or
harassments committed against the person and honor of complainant Miss
Ligaya Annawi, a Baguio City public school teacher, while in the performance of
his official duties and taking advantage of his office. He is, however, ABSOLVED
of all the other charges of administrative malfeasance or dereliction of
duty.
b) Respondent Baguio City Superintendent Allyson Belagan likewise GUILTY of
the two counts of sexual advances or indignities committed against the
person and honor of complainant Mrs. Magdalena Gapuz, a private school
teacher of Baguio City, while in the performance of his official duties and taking
advantage of his office.

Consequently, respondent Allyson Belagan is HEREBY ORDERED DISMISSED from


the government service, with prejudice to reinstatement and all his retirement benefits and
other remunerations due him are HEREBY DECLARED FORFEITED in favor of the
government.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Upon appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), on September 23, 1996,
promulgated Resolution No. 966213[6] affirming the Decision of the DECS Secretary in the
case filed by Magdalena but dismissing the complaint of Ligaya. The CSC ruled that
respondents transgression against Magdalena constitutes grave misconduct. Thus:

The acts of Belagan are serious breach of good conduct since he was holding a position
which requires the incumbent thereof to maintain a high degree of moral uprightness. As
Division Superintendent, Belagan represents an institution tasked to mold the character of
children. Furthermore, one of his duties is to ensure that teachers in his division conduct
themselves properly and observe the proper discipline. Any improper behavior on his part
will seriously impair his moral ascendancy over the teachers and students which can not
be tolerated. Therefore, his misconduct towards an applicant for a permit to operate
a private pre-school cannot be treated lightly and constitutes the offense of grave
misconduct.

WHEREFORE, respondent Allyson Belagan is hereby found guilty of grave


misconduct and imposed the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service with all the
accessory penalties. The decision of the DECS Secretary is modified accordingly.[7]

On October 29, 1996, respondent seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration,


contending that he has never been charged of any offense in his thirty-seven (37) years of
service. By contrast, Magdalena was charged with several offenses before the Municipal

Trial Court (MTC) of Baguio City, thus:

1. Criminal Case No. 43416 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION (December 3, 1980)

2. Criminal Case No. 45629 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES (May 13, 1982)

3. Criminal Case No. 45630 for GRAVE THREATS (May 13, 1982)

4. Criminal Case No. 45914 for GRAVE THREATS (June 24, 1982)
5. Criminal Case No. 51532 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (January 25, 1985)

6. Criminal Case No. 51533 for LIGHT THREATS (January 25, 1985)

7. Criminal Case No. 51556 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (January 30, 1985)

8. Criminal Case No. 51818 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION (March 18, 1985)

9. Criminal Case No. 51819 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (March 18, 1985)

10. Criminal Case No. 51820 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (March 18, 1985)

11. Criminal Case No. 51821 for UNJUST VEXATION (March 18, 1985)

12. Criminal Case No. 62173 for UNJUST VEXATION (May 29, 1991)

13. Criminal Case No. 62172 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (May 29, 1991)

14. Criminal Case No. 62754 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (December 2,
1986)

15. Criminal Case No. 55642 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (December 2,
1986)

16. Criminal Case No. 55423 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (October 24, 1986)

17. Criminal Case No. 55846 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (November 4,
1986)

18. Criminal Case No. 55800 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (January 7, 1987)

19. Criminal Case No. 57312 for UNJUST VEXATION (November 29, 1987)

20. Criminal Case No. 55643 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES (December 13,
1985)

21. Criminal Case No. 53404 for UNJUST VEXATION (December 13, 1985)

22. Criminal Case No. 55422 for UNJUST VEXATION (October 24, 1986) [8]

In addition, the following complaints against Magdalena were filed with the Barangay
Chairmen of Barangay Gabriela Silang and Barangay Hillside, both in Baguio City:

1. Ordana vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 11-19-02-A) for GRAVE THREATS, UNJUST
VEXATION, RUMOR MONGERING
2. Teresita De Los Santos vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 86-8-26-8) for GRAVE
THREATS & ORAL DEFAMATION

3. Mrs. Conchita Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 029) for ORAL
DEFAMATION and FALSE ACCUSATION

4. Mrs. Clara Baoas vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 030) for HARASSMENT and
THREATS

5. GABRIELA SILANG TANOD FORCES vs. Gapuz (Case No. 031) for HABITUAL
TROUBLE MAKER

6. Pablo Ortiz vs. Gapuz (November 1, 1979) for ORAL DEFAMATION

7. C. Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (September 11, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION

8. Mrs. Liza Ancheta vs. Gapuz (September 27, 1978) for RUMOR MONGERING

9. Mr. Pananin (Beneco Personnel) (October 8, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION

10. Mrs. Minda Valdez vs. Gapuz (November 6, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION

11. WOMENS CLUB vs. GAPUZ (February 9, 1979) for ORAL DEFAMATION

12. Vistro Salcedo case (May 8, 1979)

Where Mrs. Gapuz was spreading rumors against Barangay Captain and
Police Chief

13. Demolition Scandal (May 10, 1979)

Where she called all the residents of their Barangay for an emergency
meeting and where she shouted invectives against the residents

14. Incident of June 13, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the Barangay Sanitary Inspector

15. Incident of August 25, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the servants of Mr. De Leon

16. Incident of August 26, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz terrorized the council meeting


17. Incident of September 2, 1978

Mrs. Clara Baoas was harassed by Mrs. Gapuz

18. Incident of September 9, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz quarreled with Mrs. C. Ballesteros during the council meeting

19. Incident of September 10, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz was hurling invectives along her alley in the early morning

20. Incident of September 13, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz tapped electric wire from Mrs. Tessie de los Santos with the
latters consent

21. Incident of September 21, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz was shouting and hurling invectives scandalously around her
residence

22. Incident of September 21, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz was shouting, complaining about alleged poisoned sardines


near the premises of her residence which killed her hen.

23. Incident of September 23, 1979

Mrs. Gapuz was shouting unpleasant words around the neighborhood.


She did not like the actuations of a bayanihan group near the waiting
shed.[9]

Respondent claimed that the numerous cases filed against Magdalena cast doubt on
her character, integrity, and credibility.

In its Resolution No. 972423[10] dated April 11, 1997, the CSC denied respondents
motion for reconsideration, holding that:

The character of a woman who was the subject of a sexual assault is of minor
significance in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the person accused of
having committed the offense. This is so because even a prostitute or a woman of
ill repute may become a victim of said offense.

As such, the fact that complainant Magdalena Gapuz is shown to have had cases before
the regular courts for various offenses and was condemned by her community for wrongful
behavior does not discount the possibility that she was in fact telling the truth when she
cried about the lecherous advances made to her by the respondent. x x x

Respondent then filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review. As stated earlier,
it reversed the CSC Resolutions and dismissed Magdalenas complaint.

The Appellate Court held that Magdalena is an unreliable witness, her character being
questionable. Given her aggressiveness and propensity for trouble, she is not one whom
any male would attempt to steal a kiss. In fact, her record immediately raises an alarm in
any one who may cross her path. [11] In absolving respondent from the charges, the
Appellate Court considered his unblemished service record for 37 years.

Unsatisfied, the CSC, through the Solicitor General, filed the instant petition raising the
following assignments of error:

I. The Supreme Court may rule on factual issues raised on appeal where the
Court of Appeals misappreciated the facts. Furthermore, where the
findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are contrary to each
other, the Supreme Court may review the record and evidence. The Court
of Appeals erred in not giving credence to the testimony of complainant
Magdalena Gapuz despite convincing and overwhelming signs of its
truthfulness.

II. The Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it failed to give due
weight to the findings of the DECS, which conducted the administrative
investigation, specifically with respect to the credibility of the witnesses
presented.

III. The Court of Appeals erred in ruling that respondent should be penalized
under Sec. 22 (o) of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V and not Sec.
22 (e) of said rules.[12]

In his comment, respondent maintains that Magdalenas derogatory record undermines


the verity of her charge and that the Court of Appeals is correct in dismissing it.

The petition is impressed with merit.

The pivotal issue before us is whether complaining witness, Magdalena Gapuz, is


credible. This is a question of fact which, as a general rule, is not subject to this Courts
review.

It is a rule of long standing that factual findings of the Court of Appeals, if supported by
substantial evidence, are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by
this Court.[13] This Court is, after all, not a trier of facts. One of the exceptions, however, is
when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court or a quasi-
judicial body, like petitioner herein.[14]

Here, the Court of Appeals and the CSC are poles apart in their appreciation of
Magdalenas derogatory record. While the former considered it of vital and paramount
importance in determining the truth of her charge, the latter dismissed it as of minor
significance. This contrariety propels us to the elusive area of character and reputation
evidence.

Generally, the character of a party is regarded as legally irrelevant in determining a


controversy.[15] One statutory exception is that relied upon by respondent, i.e., Section 51
(a) 3, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, which we quote here:

SEC. 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions.

(a) In Criminal Cases:

xxxxxx

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved
if it tends to establish in any reasonable degree the probability or
improbability of the offense charged.

It will be readily observed that the above provision pertains only to criminal cases, not
to administrative offenses. And even assuming that this technical rule of evidence can be
applied here, still, we cannot sustain respondents posture.

Not every good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved under this
provision. Only those which would establish the probability or improbability of the offense
charged. This means that the character evidence must be limited to the traits and
characteristics involved in the type of offense charged.[16] Thus, on a charge of rape -
character for chastity, on a charge of assault - character for peaceableness or violence,
and on a charge of embezzlement - character for honesty.[17] In one rape case, where it
was established that the alleged victim was morally loose and apparently uncaring about
her chastity, we found the conviction of the accused doubtful.[18]

In the present administrative case for sexual harassment, respondent did not offer
evidence that has a bearing on Magdalenas chastity. What he presented are charges for
grave oral defamation, grave threats, unjust vexation, physical injuries, malicious mischief,
etc. filed against her. Certainly, these pieces of evidence are inadmissible under the above
provision because they do not establish the probability or improbability of the offense
charged.
Obviously, in invoking the above provision, what respondent was trying to establish is
Magdalenas lack of credibility and not the probability or the improbability of the charge. In
this regard, a different provision applies.

Credibility means the disposition and intention to tell the truth in the testimony given. It
refers to a persons integrity, and to the fact that he is worthy of belief. [19] A witness may be
discredited by evidence attacking his general reputation for truth, [20] honesty[21] or integrity.
[22]
Section 11, Rule 132 of the same Revised Rules on Evidence reads:

SEC. 11. Impeachment of adverse partys witness. A witness may be impeached by the
party against whom he was called, by contradictory evidence, by evidence that his
general reputation for truth, honesty, or integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has
made at other times statements inconsistent with his present testimony, but not by
evidence of particular wrongful acts, except that it may be shown by the examination of
the witness, or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an offense.

Although she is the offended party, Magdalena, by testifying in her own behalf, opened
herself to character or reputation attack pursuant to the principle that a party who
becomes a witness in his own behalf places himself in the same position as any
other witness, and may be impeached by an attack on his character or reputation.[23]

With the foregoing disquisition, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding that the
character or reputation of a complaining witness in a sexual charge is a proper subject of
inquiry. This leads us to the ultimate question is Magdalenas derogatory record
sufficient to discredit her credibility?

A careful review of the record yields a negative answer.

First, most of the twenty-two (22) cases filed with the MTC of Baguio City relate to acts
committed in the 80s, particularly, 1985 and 1986. With respect to the complaints filed with
the Chairmen of Barangay Gabriela Silang and Barangay Hillside, the acts complained of
took place in 1978 to 1979. In the instant administrative case, the offense was committed
in 1994. Surely, those cases and complaints are no longer reliable proofs of Magdalenas
character or reputation. The Court of Appeals, therefore, erred in according much weight
to such evidence. Settled is the principle that evidence of ones character or
reputation must be confined to a time not too remote from the time in question. [24] In
other words, what is to be determined is the character or reputation of the person at
the time of the trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the
commencement of the suit.[25] Hence, to say that Magdalenas credibility is diminished by
proofs of tarnished reputation existing almost a decade ago is unreasonable. It is unfair to
presume that a person who has wandered from the path of moral righteousness can never
retrace his steps again. Certainly, every person is capable to change or reform.
Second, respondent failed to prove that Magdalena was convicted in any of the
criminal cases specified by respondent. The general rule prevailing in a great majority of
jurisdictions is that it is not permissible to show that a witness has been arrested or that
he has been charged with or prosecuted for a criminal offense, or confined in jail for
the purpose of impairing his credibility.[26] This view has usually been based upon one or
more of the following grounds or theories: (a) that a mere unproven charge against the
witness does not logically tend to affect his credibility, (b) that innocent persons are often
arrested or accused of a crime, (c) that one accused of a crime is presumed to be
innocent until his guilt is legally established, and (d) that a witness may not be impeached
or discredited by evidence of particular acts of misconduct. [27] Significantly, the same
Section 11, Rule 132 of our Revised Rules on Evidence provides that a witness may not
be impeached by evidence of particular wrongful acts. Such evidence is rejected because
of the confusion of issues and the waste of time that would be involved, and because the
witness may not be prepared to expose the falsity of such wrongful acts. [28] As it happened
in this case, Magdalena was not able to explain or rebut each of the charges against her
listed by respondent.

But more than anything else, what convinces us to sustain the Resolution of the CSC
is the fact that it is supported by substantial evidence. As aptly pointed out by the Solicitor
General, Magdalena testified in a straightforward, candid and spontaneous manner. Her
testimony is replete with details, such as the number of times she and respondent
inspected the pre-school, the specific part of the stairs where respondent kissed her, and
the matter about her transient boarders during summer. Magdalena would not have
normally thought about these details if she were not telling the truth. We quote her
testimony during the cross-examination conducted by DECS Assistant Secretary Romeo
Capinpin and Undersecretary Antonio Nachura, thus:

Q Was there any conversation between you and Dr. Belagan during the inspection
on the first floor and the second floor?

A There was, sir. It was a casual conversation that we had with regard to my family,
background, how the school came about, how I started with the project. That
was all, sir.

Q Nothing about any form of sexual harassment, in words or in deeds?

A Sir, because he inspected the second floor twice, sir. We went up to the stairs
twice, sir.

Q Why?

A I really dont know what was the reason behind, sir. But on the second inspection,
sir, I told him that as of that time I had some transients with me. I was making
use of the premises for transients because that was summer then, sir. And I
already started paying the place so I said, Sir, I have some transients with me
in the evening and he said, You know Mrs. Gapuz, I am interested to stay in
one of the rooms as one your boarders. But I respectfully declined saying, Sir, I
think for delicadeza I cannot accept you. Not that I dont want you to be here but
people might think that I am keeping you here and that would prejudice my
permit, sir.

ASEC R. CAPINPIN:

Q When did the alleged kissing occur? Was it during the first time that you
went up with him or the second time?

A No, sir, on the second time, sir.

Q Second time?

A Yes, sir. We were going down, sir.

Q And you were going down?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you recall what portion of the stairs where you were during the alleged
kissing?

A Sir, on the topmost of the stairs.

Q Before you went down?

A Yes, sir. At the topmost because there is a base floor going up to the stairs
and it has 16 steps.

Q So, it was not on the 16th step but still on the topmost?

A Yes sir.

Q Part of the floor of the building?

A Yes, sir. Topmost, sir?

ASEC R. CAPINPIN:

Q Will you kindly tell us your relative position at that time?

A Sir, on the second time that we went up and I mentioned about these
transients that I had then and he wanted to stay in the place in one of the
rooms and then I declined and I was still showing the rooms
simultaneously. On the last, the biggest room that I had, he said, No.
Never mind, I am not going to see that anymore. So he waited for me
there and upon reaching the place, as I was to step down on the first step
going down, he placed his arm and held me tightly and planted the kiss
on my cheek, sir.

Q You said that he wanted to stay in one of the rooms?

A Yes, sir, as a boarder.

Q Is that room used for transients?

A During that time, sir, during the summertime, I made use of the time to get some
transients.

Q And he was telling you that he wanted to occupy one of the rooms?

A Yes, but I declined, sir for delicadeza.

Q At that time, there were no transients yet.

A When he came over for the inspection sir, nobody was there.[29]

The above testimony does not stand in isolation. It is corroborated by Peter Ngabit,
DECS Assistant Division Superintendent. Ngabit testified that Magdalena reported to him
that respondent kissed her and asked her for a date.

Q I would like to call your attention to Exhibit A which is the affidavit of Mrs.
Magdalena B. Gapuz, particularly item no. 8, and may I read for your
information That the Monday after the incident, I went to the DECS Division
Office expecting to get favorable recommendation from the DECS Regional
Office for the issuance of my permit. That I proceeded to the Superintendent
and asked him, Sir, kumusta yung application ko and he said, mag date muna
tayo but I refused and explained that I am married, after which I proceeded to
the Office of Asst. Superintendent Peter Ngabit to relate the incident and then
left the Division Office. Do you remember if Mrs. Gapuz went to your Office on
the particular day?

A Yes, sir.

Q What time was that?

A I cannot remember, sir.


Q Was it morning, afternoon?

A I think it was in the morning, sir.

Q Morning.

A Yes, sir.

Q Early morning?

A About noon, sir.

Q What transpired between you and Mrs. Gapuz in your office?

A When she came to my Office, she was relating about that and she was even
insulting me saying among others that I was a useless fixture in that Office
because I cannot do anything with the processing of her paper or application.

Q It says here that she would relate the incident to you. Did she relate any
incident?

A Yes, she did sir.

Q What was that incident all about?

A She was saying that when Mr. Belagan went to visit her school, he stole a
kiss from her and that she was saying that when she asked Supt. Belagan
for her papers, she was asked for a date before the Indorsement. After
that, she left.[30]

With Magdalenas positive testimony and that of Ngabit, how can we disregard the
findings of the DECS and the CSC? Surely, we cannot debunk it simply because of the
Court of Appeals outdated characterization of Magdalena as a woman of bad reputation.
There are a number of cases where the triers of fact believe the testimony of a witness of
bad character[31]and refuse to believe one of good character.[32] As a matter of fact, even a
witness who has been convicted a number of times is worthy of belief, when he testified in
a straightforward and convincing manner.[33]

At this juncture, it bears stressing that more than anybody else, it is the DECS
investigating officials who are in a better position to determine whether Magdalena is
telling the truth considering that they were able to hear and observe her deportment and
manner of testifying.[34]

In reversing the CSCs Resolutions, the Court of Appeals ruled that there is ample
evidence to show that Magdalena had a motive in accusing respondent, i.e., to pressure
him to issue a permit. This is unconvincing. The record shows that respondent had already
issued the permit when Magdalena filed her letter-complaint. Indeed, she had no more
reason to charge respondent administratively, except of course to vindicate her honor.

Petitioner prays that we sustain its ruling penalizing respondent for grave misconduct
and not merely for disgraceful or immoral conduct which is punishable by suspension for
six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year for the first offense. [35] Misconduct means
intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule of law or standard of behavior,
especially by a government official.[36] To constitute an administrative offense, misconduct
should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official functions and duties
of a public officer.[37] In grave misconduct as distinguished from simple misconduct,
the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of
established rule, must be manifest.[38]Corruption as an element of grave misconduct
consists in the act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his
station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to
duty and the rights of others.[39] This is apparently present in respondents case as it
concerns not only a stolen kiss but also a demand for a date, an unlawful consideration for
the issuance of a permit to operate a pre-school. Respondents act clearly constitutes
grave misconduct, punishable by dismissal.[40]

We are, however, not inclined to impose the penalty of dismissal from the service.
Respondent has served the government for a period of 37 years, during which, he made a
steady ascent from an Elementary Grade School Teacher to Schools Division
Superintendent. In devoting the best years of his life to the education department, he
received numerous awards.[41]This is the first time he is being administratively charged. He
is in the edge of retirement. In fact, he had filed his application for retirement when
Magdalena filed her complaint. Section 16, Rule XIV, of the Rules Implementing Book V of
Executive Order No. 292 provides:

SEC. 16. In the determination of penalties to be imposed, mitigating and


aggravating circumstances may be considered. x x x.

The mitigating circumstances are enumerated in Section 53, Rule IV, of the Uniform
Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,[42] which reads in part:

SEC. 53. Extenuating, Mitigating, Aggravating, or Alternative Circumstances. In the


determination of the penalties to be imposed, mitigating, aggravating and alternative
circumstances attendant to the commission of the offense shall be considered.

The following circumstances shall be appreciated:

xxxxxx

j. length of service
xxxxxx

l. and other analogous cases.

Conformably with our ruling in a similar case of sexual harassment, [43] and respondents
length of service, unblemished record in the past and numerous awards, [44] the penalty of
suspension from office without pay for one (1) year is in order.

While we will not condone the wrongdoing of public officers and employees, however,
neither will we negate any move to recognize and remunerate their lengthy service in the
government.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated
January 8, 1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 44180 is REVERSED. The CSC Resolution Nos.
966213 and 972423 are AFFIRMED, subject to the modification that respondent
ALLYSON BELAGAN is SUSPENDED from office without pay for ONE (1) YEAR, with full
credit of his preventive suspension.

SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 143721. August 31, 2005]

TERESITA E. VILLALUZ, petitioner, vs. ROLANDO R. LIGON, respondent.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before us is a petition for review seeking the reversal of the Decision [1] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) promulgated on October 1, 1999 and the Resolution [2] dated June 6, 2000
which denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.

The facts are as follows:

Petitioner Teresita E. Villaluz (Villaluz) and respondent Rolando R. Ligon (Ligon) were
engaged in several businesses. Sometime in 1987, Villaluz borrowed sums of money from
Ligon secured by postdated checks amounting to P1,543,586.00 which later bounced for
the reasons Drawn Against Insufficient Funds/Account Closed. Demands were made on
Villaluz but she failed to pay her debt prompting Ligon to institute criminal proceedings for
violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila.
During the hearing of said cases, Villaluz asked for the settlement of their
controversy[3] and Ligon, as the First Party, and Villaluz, as the Second Party, executed a
Memorandum of Agreement with the following terms:

WHEREAS, the SECOND PARTY is indebted to the FIRST PARTY in the amount of
THREE MILLION FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY NINE THOUSAND AND TWO HUNDRED
FIFTY TWO PESOS (P3,489,252.00) inclusive of interests, which indebtedness is now the
subject of criminal cases now pending with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 40,
and docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 89-73195 to 213 for Violation of Batas Pambansa
Blg. 22;

WHEREAS, out of the aforesaid obligation the SECOND PARTY has made a total
payment of ONE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P165,000.00) thereby
leaving a balance of THREE MILLION THREE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR THOUSAND
AND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY TWO PESOS (P3,324,252.00);
WHEREAS, on account of the desire of the parties to settle the aforementioned cases
amicably, the FIRST PARTY, by way of liberality, has agreed to condone the amount of
ONE MILLION TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIFTY
TWO PESOS (P1,324,252.00) (sic) thereby reducing the indebtedness of the SECOND
PARTY to the FIRST PARTY in the amount of TWO MILLION PESOS (P2,000,000.00);

WHEREAS, the SECOND PARTY has on the date of this instrument, paid the amount of
ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P100,000.00) thereby further reducing the
SECOND PARTYS obligation to ONE MILLION NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(P1,900,000.00);

WHEREAS, the SECOND PARTY has acknowledged her aforesaid total outstanding
obligation of ONE MILLION NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P1,900,000.00) in
favor of the FIRST PARTY and has committed to pay the same on or before 31 December
1990;

WHEREAS, on account of the aforesaid settlement agreement, the FIRST PARTY has
agreed to effect or cause the dismissal of the aforementioned criminal cases against the
SECOND PARTY;

NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing premises and the mutual
covenants hereinafter set forth, the parties hereto hereby agree as follows:

1. The FIRST PARTY hereby condones the amount of P1,324,252.00 from the total
obligation of the SECOND PARTY;

2. The SECOND PARTY hereby promises to pay her total outstanding obligation
of P1,900,000.00 to the FIRST PARTY on or before 31 December 1990;

3. In the event the SECOND PARTY is unable to pay her aforesaid obligation to the FIRST
PARTY on or before the date above stipulated, then the amount as condoned in
paragraph one (1) hereof shall be added back to the said obligation as stipulated in
paragraph two (2) hereof, and the FIRST PARTY shall have the right to enforce collection
of the entire amounts due and owing from the SECOND PARTY without need of further
demand;

4. The FIRST PARTY shall effect or cause the dismissal of the afore-mentioned criminal
cases against the SECOND PARTY as soon as practicable, preferably on or before the
next scheduled hearing of said cases.[4]

In accordance with said agreement, Villaluz issued a check dated December 31, 1990
in the amount of P1,900,000.00 which again bounced upon presentment for the reason
that it was drawn against a closed account. Ligon made several demands on Villaluz but
to no avail. Thus, Ligon, through his lawyer, sent Villaluz demand letters dated March 5,
1991 and July 1, 1991 which were allegedly duly received by her.[5]

Since no payment was made, Ligon instituted on April 2, 1992 a complaint against
Villaluz with the RTC of Makati, Branch 134, for the recovery of P3,224,252.00[6] plus legal
interest and attorneys fees.[7]

Upon failure of Villaluz and her counsel to appear at the pre-trial conference, the RTC
declared Villaluz as in default and received Ligons evidence ex-parte. The RTC rendered
a decision on October 16, 1992, ordering Villaluz to pay the amount prayed for plus
interest, P30,000.00 as attorneys fees, plus costs. [8] On November 23, 1992, Villaluz
through counsel, filed a Motion for New Trial and a Motion to Admit Answer which were
both granted by the court.[9]

Villaluz in her Answer alleged that: she is an illiterate and could not engage in any
business alone; on several occasions Ligon offered imported goods in exchange for
postdated checks to be encashed upon delivery; there were occasions when the imported
goods were not delivered and yet her checks were not returned; she requested for an
accounting but none was made; the B.P. Blg. 22 cases filed against her involving the total
amount of P1,543,586.00 were provisionally dismissed because there was a need for
accounting; efforts were then made to settle the case amicably until November 1990,
when Ligons lawyer succeeded in persuading her to sign a Memorandum of Agreement
and to issue a check in the amount of P1,900,000.00; said Memorandum of Agreement
does not express the true intent and agreement of the parties and the check for P1.9 M is
null and void; she did not receive any demand for the enforcement of the Memorandum of
Agreement nor for the payment of the check, thus the instant action is premature and
plaintiff has no cause of action. Villaluz prayed that the complaint be dismissed and the
Memorandum of Agreement and the check be declared null and void.[10]

Ligon presented evidence to support his complaint and, on March 9, 1994, filed a
Motion for Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Attachment which Villaluz opposed. On May 5,
1994, Villaluz filed a Motion to Dismiss Case on the Ground of Forum Shopping and a
Motion to Cite Atty. Paulino E. Cases, Jr. in Contempt of Court. The trial court denied the
said motions.[11]

On May 25, 1995, Villaluz filed before the RTC a Motion to Cancel Hearings pending
the resolution of this Court of the issue in G.R. No. L-119865 entitled Teresita Villaluz vs.
Court of Appeals where Villaluz questioned the validity of the reinstatement of the criminal
cases against her which were provisionally dismissed. The trial court denied the motion to
cancel hearings as well as her motion for reconsideration of the same.[12]

After the trial court ruled on Ligons offer of exhibits, the case was set for hearing on
August 29 and 31, 1995 which were reset to September 25 and 28, 1995 upon Villaluzs
request. The September 25, 1995 hearing was also reset in view of the manifestation of
the parties that they will settle the case amicably. On September 28, 1995, the parties
agreed to reset the hearing to October 11 and 24, 1995. On October 11, 1995 the hearing
was cancelled anew upon agreement of the parties. On October 24, 1995, the hearing
was cancelled and reset to November 16, 23 and December 14, 1995 in view of the
absence of Villaluz and her counsel. On November 10, 1995, Villaluzs counsel asked for
the cancellation of the November and December settings and prayed that they be moved
to January 1996. The hearings were reset to January 9 and 11, 1996, but Villaluz failed to
appear on said dates. The husband of Villaluz asked for a resetting and the case was set
anew to March 11, 14 and 19, 1996. Petitioner Villaluz and her counsel failed to appear on
March 11, 1996 which prompted plaintiff Ligons counsel to move that Villaluz be
considered to have waived the presentation of her evidence and that the case be deemed
submitted for decision. The motion was granted and on March 11, 1996, the trial court
issued an order submitting the case for decision which order was received by counsel for
Villaluz on March 15, 1996.[13]

On May 7, 1996, the RTC of Makati, Branch 134, rendered its decision, the dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the
plaintiff and against the defendant, ordering the latter to pay to the former the sum
of P3,224,252.00 (sic) plus legal interest at the rate of 12% per annum from April 2, 1992
(date of filing of the complaint) until the full amount is paid; the sum of P50,000.00 as
attorneys fees, and the costs of suit.[14]

Villaluz filed a motion for reconsideration dated May 23, 1996, stating that given the
opportunity to testify, she will re-affirm the contents of her affidavit that was submitted in
support of her Motion for New Trial, or in the alternative, she will formally offer the same.
[15]
This was denied by the RTC in its Order dated July 22, 1996.[16]

Villaluz went to the CA and claimed that the trial court erred: in not dismissing the case
on the ground of forum shopping; in not granting the defendant the opportunity to present
evidence in her behalf thereby depriving her of her fundamental right to due process; and
in not considering the evidence already on record showing that the subject checks had no
valid consideration.[17]

The CA denied the petition in its Decision dated October 1, 1999, ruling that the motion
to dismiss on the ground of forum shopping should have been filed within the time for but
before filing of an answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim, pursuant to
Section 1(e), Rule 16 of the Rules of Court; that Supreme Court Administrative Circular
No. 04-94 on Anti-Forum Shopping Rule was not yet existing at the time the instant case
was filed; that Villaluz cannot claim denial of due process as she and her counsel failed to
appear in the scheduled hearings and the fact that Villaluz failed to file a motion for
reconsideration when the RTC considered the case submitted for decision is an indication
that she slept on her right; and that the Sinumpaang Salaysay which she submitted in
support of her motion for new trial cannot be taken into consideration as the same was not
formally offered in evidence during trial.[18] The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision (dated May 7, 1996) of the
Regional Trial Court (Branch 134) in Makati City in Civil Case No. 92-914 is hereby
AFFIRMED, with costs against the appellant.

SO ORDERED.[19]

Villaluz filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied by the appellate court in its
Resolution dated June 6, 2000.[20]

Hence, the present petition raising the following issues:

I. WHETHER OR NOT HEREIN RESPONDENT COMMITTED FORUM SHOPPING IN


THIS CASE;

II. IN THE ALTERNATIVE, ASSUMING THAT THERE WAS NO FORUM SHOPPING,


WHETHER OR NOT PETITIONER WAS DEPRIVED OF HER FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
TO DUE PROCESS;

III. IN THE FURTHER ALTERNATIVE, ASSUMING THAT THERE WAS NO FORUM


SHOPPING AND THAT PETITIONER WAS NOT DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS,
WHETHER OR NOT AN ERROR WAS COMMITTED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE
EVIDENCE ALREADY ON RECORD SHOWING THAT THE SUBJECT MEMORANDUM
OF AGREEMENT AND THE CHECKS HAD NO VALID CONSIDERATION AND ARE,
THEREFORE, NULL AND VOID.[21]

As to the first issue raised, petitioner argues that: the respondent and the CA were not
correct in stating that there is no forum shopping in this case since the prohibition against
forum shopping only started with the issuance of Circular No. 28-91 as modified by Admin.
Circular No. 04-94; forum shopping has already been prohibited in Buan vs. Lopez, 145
SCRA 34, which was promulgated on October 13, 1986 and in Limpin vs. Intermediate
Appellate Court, 161 SCRA 83, promulgated on May 5, 1988;[22] petitioner did not
immediately raise the defense of forum shopping since it was a matter of trial strategy; the
defense of forum shopping may also be raised at any time because it is a matter of judicial
policy intended to unclog the court dockets and to prevent litigants from abusing the courts
processes; all the elements of litis pendentia which are also the elements of forum
shopping, are present herein, i.e., the parties, the subject matter and the reliefs sought are
the same; and the considerations for the execution of the Memorandum of Agreement
were the same checks subject matter of the criminal cases; without said checks the
Memorandum of Agreement would be null and void for want of consideration.[23]
Respondent in his Comment contends that: there is no forum shopping in the case at
bar since the present case was filed with the trial court on April 2, 1992, before Revised
Circular No. 28-91 and Admin. Circular No. 04-94 took effect; the instant case is a
collection of sum of money which sprung from the violation of the Memorandum of
Agreement between the petitioner and respondent, while Criminal Case Nos. 98-73195-
213 entitled People vs. Teresita Villaluz pertain to violation of B.P. Blg. 22 which is a penal
law; the said cases have different nature; there is also no identity of causes of action since
the first case involves a personal civil action for collection of a sum of money whereas the
second case is a criminal action wherein the State has interest.[24]

As to the second issue, petitioner claims that the CA should have been more lenient in
allowing petitioner the opportunity to present her evidence especially considering that the
delay in petitioners presentation of evidence in court was due to the need for accounting
and the efforts of the parties in trying to reach a settlement of the controversy.[25]

Respondent argues that: there were numerous postponements made by petitioner and
her counsel and respondent did not object thereto to accommodate herein petitioner; it
was only on March 11, 1996 that the counsel for the respondent moved that the petitioner
be considered to have waived the presentation of her evidence which the trial court
granted; despite receipt of the Order on March 15, 1996, granting respondents motion,
petitioner did not move to remedy said Order until it became final and executory; the
failure of petitioner to file a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated March 11, 1996
closed the door for a possible reconsideration in her favor; and petitioner ultimately waived
her right to present evidence on her behalf.[26]

As to the third issue, petitioner claims that the CA erred in rejecting petitioners plea to
have her Sinumpaang Salaysay admitted which was favorably considered by the trial
court and given evidentiary weight when petitioners motion for new trial was granted;
respondent never disputed the contents of the statement which is already part of the
records of the case; and since the trial court considered some portions of the record, there
is no valid reason not to appreciate the entire records including the statement since it
would absolve her from any liability in this case.[27]

On the other hand, respondent contends that: the trial court did not commit any
mistake in not taking into consideration said Sinumpaang Salaysay on the ground that
said affidavit was only in support of the Motion for New Trial; and said affidavit cannot be
considered by the trial court since the trial court may only consider what was formally
offered to it.[28]

Ruling of the Court

Anent the first issue: Whether there is forum shopping in this case.
We agree with petitioner that the CA and respondent were mistaken in stating that
there could be no forum shopping in this case since the case was filed prior to the
effectivity of Admin. Circular No. 04-94 which required a certification of non-forum
shopping.

Ligon filed the complaint for sum of money on April 2, 1992. While it is true that Admin.
Circular No. 04-94, entitled, Additional Requisites for Civil Complaints, Petitions and Other
Initiatory Pleadings Filed in All Courts and Agencies, Other Than The Supreme Court and
the Court of Appeals, to Prevent Forum Shopping on Multiple Filing of Such Pleadings,
took effect on April 1, 1994, or about two years after the complaint of Ligon was filed with
the RTC, Makati, the Court has condemned forum shopping even before the issuance of
said Admin. Circular No. 04-94. The splitting of causes of action was proscribed[29] in the
Limpin case cited by petitioner which was promulgated in 1988.

While petitioner is correct in stating that the rule against forum shopping existed even
prior to the issuance of Admin. Circular No. 04-94, we find that, in the present case,
respondent did not commit forum shopping.

There is forum shopping when, as a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party
seeks a favorable opinion, other than by appeal or certiorari in another.[30] There can also
be forum shopping when a party institutes two or more suits in different courts, either
simultaneously or successively, in order to ask the courts to rule on the same or related
causes and/or to grant the same or substantially the same reliefs on the supposition that
one or the other court would make a favorable disposition or increase a partys chances of
obtaining a favorable decision or action.[31] It is an act of malpractice because it trifles with
the courts, abuses their processes, degrades the administration of justice and adds to the
already congested court dockets.[32]

To determine whether a party violated the rule against forum shopping, the most
important question to ask is whether the elements of litis pendentia are present or whether
a final judgment in one case will result to res judicata in another.[33] Otherwise stated, to
determine forum shopping, the test is to see whether in the two or more cases pending,
there is identity of parties, rights or causes of action, and reliefs sought.[34]

Here, the two cases involved are the instant civil case for collection of sum of money
where petitioner is the defendant, and the B.P. Blg. 22 cases where petitioner is the
accused. Clearly, there is no identity of parties for in the criminal case, the plaintiff is the
State with Ligon only as a complaining witness. In the case at bar, Ligon himself is the
plaintiff.

There is also a difference in the causes of action. In the instant case, the cause of
action is petitioners breach of contract as embodied in the Memorandum of Agreement,
while in the criminal case, it is the violation of B.P. Blg. 22.
There is also a difference in reliefs sought because in the civil case, what is sought is
the enforcement of the terms in their Memorandum of Agreement, while in the criminal
case, it is the punishment of the offense committed against a public law.

As we explained in Go vs. Dimagiba[35] civil liability differs from criminal liability. What is
punished in the latter is not the failure to pay an obligation but the issuance of checks that
subsequently bounced or were dishonored for insufficiency or lack of funds. The issuance
of worthless checks is prohibited because of its deleterious effects on public interest and
its effects transcend the private interest of the parties directly involved in the transaction
and touches the interest of the community at large. [36] In the present civil case, no such
transcendental public interest exists.

Finally, petitioners argument on forum shopping must fail since she did not raise it at
the first opportunity in the trial court. As noted by the respondent, petitioner only raised the
issue of forum shopping two years after the institution of the civil case. If only for her
failure to invoke such ground at the first opportunity in her motion to dismiss in the trial
court, her appeal should have been given short shrift and denied outright. [37] Petitioners
claim that her failure to raise it in her motion to dismiss was a matter of trial strategy has
no persuasive effect for it is well ensconced that defenses and objections not pleaded in a
motion to dismiss or in an answer are deemed waived except the failure to state a cause
of action or that the court has no jurisdiction. [38] Herein case does not fall within said
exceptions.

Anent the second issue: Whether petitioner was denied due process by the trial court.

We have held that due process is satisfied as long as the party is accorded an
opportunity to be heard.[39] The essence of due process is that a party is given a
reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of
ones defense.[40] Where the opportunity to be heard, either through verbal arguments or
pleadings, is accorded and the party can present its side or defend its interest in due
course, there is no denial of due process.[41] Indeed, where a party was afforded an
opportunity to participate in the proceedings but failed to do so, he cannot complain of
deprivation of due process.[42] If said opportunity is not availed of, it is deemed waived or
forfeited without violating the constitutional guarantee.[43]

It cannot be said that petitioner Villaluz was not given her day in court. A judgment on
default was set aside and her motion for new trial and motion to admit answer were
granted by the trial court. After respondent Ligons presentation of evidence, the case was
set for the presentation of petitioner Villaluzs evidence. On three occasions, petitioner
asked for the postponement of the hearings and was allowed by the court. [44] The hearings
for October 24, 1995, January 9 and 11, 1996 were reset because of the absence of
Villaluz and her counsel. It was only on March 11, 1996, after several postponements, that
the trial court, upon motion of Ligon, finally resolved to submit the case for decision. While
the Court notes that the hearing was also set for March 14 and 19, 1996, the fact that
despite receipt by Villaluz on March 15, 1996 of the Order of the RTC dated March 11,
1996, submitting the case for decision, she did not file any motion for reconsideration
thereof, such that the RTC issued its judgment against her on May 7, 1996. Thus, based
on all the foregoing, petitioner is barred from claiming that she was denied due process of
law.

Anent the third issue: Whether the trial court erred in not considering the affidavit of
petitioner earlier submitted in the motion for new trial.

Petitioner submitted a Sinumpaang Salaysay stating that she is an illiterate and that
sometime in 1990, Ligons lawyer deceived her into signing a Memorandum of Agreement
and in issuing a check for P1.9 M.[45] Petitioner argues that the Sinumpaang Salaysay
which she submitted as an affidavit of merit in support of her motion for new trial should be
considered as part of the records of the case even without formal offer of the same.

We do not agree. There is a need to formally offer affidavits before the courts to afford
the opposing party the opportunity to ascertain or refute the veracity of the contents of
such statements. Courts will only consider as evidence that which has not been formally
offered. If an affidavit was never formally offered, it cannot be considered as evidence. If
petitioner neglected to offer her affidavit in evidence, however vital it may be, she only has
herself to blame.[46]

The rule is that a document, or any article for that matter, is not evidence when it is
simply marked for identification; it must be formally offered and the opposing counsel
given an opportunity to object to it or cross-examine the witness called upon to prove or
identify it. It is necessary that a formal offer is made since judges are required to base
their findings of fact and judgment only, and strictly, upon the evidence offered by the
parties at the trial. To allow a party to attach any document to his pleading and expect the
court to consider it as evidence may draw unwarranted consequences. The opposing
party will be deprived of a chance to examine the document and object to its admissibility.
The appellate court will also have difficulty reviewing the documents not previously
scrutinized by the court below. Indeed, the pertinent provisions of the Revised Rules of
Court on the inclusion on appeal of documentary evidence or exhibits in the records
cannot be stretched as to include such pleadings or documents not offered at the hearing
of the case.[47]

In this case, while the motion for new trial was granted, it cannot be said that the
contents of the affidavit attached thereto should be treated by the trial court as evidence
for the petitioner as it was not formally offered during the trial on the merits.

We now come to the determination of the amount of money that is due respondent.

The trial court in its decision, as affirmed by the CA, explained that:
From the evidence adduced, there can be no doubt that the plaintiff has established the
material allegations of the complaint by clear, convincing and competent evidence.

The terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Agreement are clear and
unmistakable. The parties agreed that in case defendant failed to pay the sum
of P1,900,000.00 on or before December 31, 1990, then the amount of P1,324,252.00
would be added to the principal account (P1,900,000.00) and the plaintiff shall have
the right to enforce collection of the entire amounts due and owing from the
SECOND PARTY (defendant) without need of further demand. (Emphasis supplied)

The Memorandum of Agreement has the force of law between the parties. From the
moment the contract is perfected, the parties are bound not only to the fulfillment of what
has been expressly stipulated but also to all consequences which according to their
nature, may be in keeping with good faith, usage and law

Defendants claim that she was merely persuaded to sign the Memorandum of Agreement
and to issue the check in the amount of P1,900,000.00 is unavailing. It is presumed that a
party, who signs a contract, had acted with due care and have signed the said contract
with full knowledge of the import and the obligation she was assuming thereby. This
presumption may not be overcome by the mere testimony of the obligor. To permit a party,
when sued upon a contract, to admit that she signed it but to deny it expresses the
agreement she had made, or to allow her to admit that she signed it solely on the verbal
assurance that she would not be liable thereon, would destroy the value of all contracts.
Indeed, it would be disastrous to give more weight and reliability to the self-serving
testimony of a party bound by the contract than to the contents thereof. [48] (citations
omitted)

Harsh as its effects may be on petitioner, we cannot but agree with the findings of the
trial court and the CA.

The Memorandum of Agreement between petitioner and respondent, while termed as


such, is actually a compromise agreement which is defined as an agreement whereby the
parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid a litigation or put an end to one already
commenced.[49]

As in any other contract, it is perfected by mere consent, the latter being manifested by
the meeting of the offer and the acceptance upon the thing and the cause which
constitutes the contract.[50] It is perfected upon the meeting of the minds and does not
need a judicial approval for its perfection.[51]

Here, petitioner claims that the Memorandum of Agreement is void since she is an
illiterate who was taken advantage of by respondents counsel.
Indeed, there exists a presumption of mistake or error to those who have not had the
benefit of a good education under Art. 1332 of the Civil Code.[52] However, one who alleges
such mistake or fraud must show that her personal circumstances warrant the application
thereof.[53] Apart from claiming in her affidavit that she is illiterate, petitioner did not make
any effort to prove in court the truthfulness of such claim, despite the many opportunities
given her to do so. We therefore cannot give credence to her allegation.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.