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G.R. NO.

207970

FERNANDO MEDICAL ENTERPRISES, INC., Petitioner,


vs.
WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PHILIPPINES, INC., Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

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

The Case

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

Antecedents

From January 9, 2006 until February 2, 2007, the petitioner, a domestic corporation dealing with medical equipment and
supplies, delivered to and installed medical equipment and supplies at the respondent’s hospital under the following
contracts:

a. Memorandum of Agreement dated January 9, 2006 for the supply of medical equipment in the total amount of
P18,625,000.00;3

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

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

d. Deed of Undertaking dated February 2, 2007 for the supply of furnishings and equipment worth
P32,926,650.00.6

According to the petitioner, the respondent paid only P67,357,683.23 of its total obligation of P123,901,650.00, leaving
unpaid the sum of P54,654,195.54.7 However, on February 11, 2009, the petitioner and the respondent, respectively
represented by Rafael P. Fernando and Guillermo T. Maglaya, Sr., entered into an agreement,8 whereby the former
agreed to reduce its claim to only P50,400,000.00, and allowed the latter to pay the adjusted obligation on installment
basis within 36 months.9

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

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

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

xxxx
2. On January 9, 2006, plaintiff supplied defendant with hospital medical equipment for an in consideration of
P18,625,000.00 payable in the following manner: (2.1) For nos. 1 to 9 of items to be sourced from Fernando
Medical Equipment, Inc. (FMEI) – 30% down payment of P17,475,000 or P5,242,500 with the balance of
P12,232,500 or 70% payable in 24 equal monthly instalments of P509,687.50 and (2.2.) cash transaction
amounting to P1,150,000.00 (2.3) or an initial cash payment of P6,392,500.00 with the remaining balance payable
in 24 equal monthly installments every 20th day of each month until paid, as stated in the Memorandum of
Agreement, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "A";

3. On July 5, 2006, plaintiff installed defendants medical gas pipeline system in the latter’s hospital building
complex for and in consideration of P8,500,000.00 payable upon installation thereof under a Deed of Undertaking,
copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "B";

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

5. On February 2, 2007, plaintiff supplied defendants hospital furnishings and equipment for an in consideration of
P32,926,650.00 twenty percent (20%) of which was to be paid as downpayment and the balance in 30 months
under a Deed of Undertaking, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "D";

6. Defendant’s total obligation to plaintiff was P123,901,650.00 as of February 15, 2009, but defendant was able
to pay plaintiff the sum of P67,357,683.23 thus leaving a balance P54,654,195.54 which has become overdue
and demandable;

7. On February 11, 2009, plaintiff agreed to reduce its claim to only P50,400,000.00 and extended its payment for
36 months provided defendants shall pay the same within 36 months and to issue 36 postdated checks therefor in
the amount of P1,400,000.00 each to which defendant agreed under an Agreement, copy of which is hereto
attached as Annex "E";

8. Accordingly, defendant issued in favor of plaintiff 36 postdated checks each in the [a]mount of P1,400,000.00
but after four (4) of the said checks in the sum of P5,600,000.00 were honored defendant stopped their payment
thus making the entire obligation of defendant due and demandable under the February 11, 2009 agreement;

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

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

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

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

xxxx

The respondent moved to dismiss the complaint upon the following grounds,14 namely: (a) lack of jurisdiction over the
person of the defendant; (b) improper venue; (c) litis pendentia; and (d) forum shopping. In support of the ground of litis
pendentia, it stated that it had earlier filed a complaint for the rescission of the four contracts and of the February 11, 2009
agreement in the RTC in Cabanatuan City; and that the resolution of that case would be determinative of the petitioner’s
action for collection.15
After the RTC denied the motion to dismiss on July 19, 2009,16 the respondent filed its answer (ad cautelam),17averring
thusly:

xxxx

2. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the complaint are ADMITTED subject to the special and
affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

3. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 6, 7 and 8 of the complaint are DENIED for lack of knowledge or
information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity thereof, inasmuch as the alleged transactions were
undertaken during the term of office of the past officers of defendant Wesleyan University-Philippines. At any rate,
these allegations are subject to the special and affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

4. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 9 and 10 of the complaint are ADMITTED subject to the special and
affirmative defenses hereafter pleaded;

5. The allegations in Paragraphs Nos. 11 and 12 of the complaint are DENIED for being conclusions of law.18

xxxx

The petitioner filed its reply to the answer.19

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

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

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

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

xxxx

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

xxxx

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

xxxx

SO ORDERED.22

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

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

Judgment of the CA

On July 2, 2013, the CA promulgated its decision. Although observing that the respondent had admitted the contracts as
well as the February 11, 2009 agreement, viz.:
It must be remembered that Private Respondent admitted the existence of the subject contracts, including Petitioner’s
fulfilment of its obligations under the same, but subjected the said admission to the "special and affirmative defenses"
earlier raised in its Motion to Dismiss.

xxxx

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

Not even is Private Respondent’s contention that the rescission case must take precedence over Petitioner’s Complaint
for Sum of Money tenable.1avvphi1 To begin with, Private Respondent had not yet proven that the subject contracts are
rescissible. And even if the subject contracts are indeed rescissible, it is well-settled that rescissible contracts are valid
contracts until they are rescinded. Since the subject contracts have not yet been rescinded, they are deemed valid
contracts which may be enforced in legal contemplation.

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

As regards Private Respondent’s denial by disavowal of knowledge of the Agreement dated February 11, 2009, We agree
with Petitioner that such denial was made in bad faith because such allegations are plainly and necessarily within its
knowledge.

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

"The Agreement dated 11 February 2009, in particular, was entered into by an Agent of the University without the
requisite authority from the Board of Trustees, and executed when said agent’s term of office had already expired.
Consequently, such contract is, being an unenforceable contract."

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is apparent that Private Respondent’s computation and Petitioner’s computation of the total payments made by Private
Respondent are different. Thus, Private Respondent tendered an issue as to the amount of the balance due to Petitioner
under the subject contracts.27

Hence, this appeal.

Issue

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

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

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

Ruling of the Court

The appeal is meritorious.

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

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

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

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

In the case of a written instrument or document upon which an action or defense is based, which is also known as the
actionable document, the pleader of such document is required either to set forth the substance of such instrument or
document in the pleading, and to attach the original or a copy thereof to the pleading as an exhibit, which shall then be
deemed to be a part of the pleading, or to set forth a copy in the pleading.31 The adverse party is deemed to admit the
genuineness and due execution of the actionable document unless he specifically denies them under oath, and sets forth
what he claims to be the facts, but the requirement of an oath does not apply when the adverse party does not appear to
be a party to the instrument or when compliance with an order for an inspection of the original instrument is refused. 32
In Civil Case No. 09-122116, the respondent expressly admitted paragraphs no. 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10 of the complaint. The
admission related to the petitioner’s allegations on: (a) the four transactions for the delivery and installation of various
hospital equipment; (b) the total liability of the respondent; (c) the payments made by the respondents; (d) the balance still
due to the petitioner; and (e) the execution of the February 11, 2009 agreement. The admission of the various
agreements, especially the February 11, 2009 agreement, significantly admitted the petitioner’s complaint. To recall, the
petitioner’s cause of action was based on the February 11, 2009 agreement, which was the actionable document in the
case. The complaint properly alleged the substance of the February 11, 2009 agreement, and contained a copy thereof as
an annex. Upon the express admission of the genuineness and due execution of the February 11, 2009 agreement,
judgment on the pleadings became proper.33 As held in Santos v. Alcazar:34

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO ORDERED.
PROGRAMME INCORPORATED, G.R. No. 144635
Petitioner,
Present:

PUNO, J., Chairperson,


- v e r s u s - SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CORONA,
AZCUNA and
GARCIA, JJ.

PROVINCE OF BATAAN,[1]
Respondent. Promulgated:
June 26, 2006

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

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

In this petition filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioner Programme Incorporated contests the Court of Appeals

(CA) decision[2] and resolution[3] upholding respondent Province of Bataans ownership of Piazza Hotel and the land on

which it stands. The assailed decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 49135 affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),

Branch 4, Balanga, Bataan in a suit for preliminary injunction and sum of money filed by petitioner against Bataan Shipyard

and Engineering Co., Inc. (BASECO). The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 129-ML. The dispositive portion of the trial

court decision read:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the
complaint, without pronouncement as to costs.

Similarly, [BASECOs] counterclaim is dismissed.

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

SO ORDERED.[4]

The controversy arose from the following facts.

BASECO was the owner of Piazza Hotel and Mariveles Lodge, both located in Mariveles, Bataan.

On May 14, 1986, BASECO granted petitioner a contract of lease over Piazza Hotel at a monthly rental of P6,500

for three years, i.e., from January 1, 1986 to January 1, 1989, subject to renewal by mutual agreement of the parties. After
the expiration of the three-year lease period, petitioner was allowed to continue operating the hotel on monthly extensions

of the lease.

In April 1989, however, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) issued a sequestration order

against BASECO pursuant to Executive Order No. 1 of former President Corazon C. Aquino.[5] Among the properties

provisionally seized and taken over was the lot on which Piazza Hotel stood.

On July 19, 1989, however, Piazza Hotel was sold at a public auction for non-payment of taxes to respondent

Province of Bataan. The title of the property was transferred to respondent. BASECOs Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT)

No. T-59631 was cancelled and a new one, TCT No. T-128456, was issued to the Province of Bataan.

On July 21, 1989, petitioner filed a complaint for preliminary injunction and collection of sum of money against

BASECO (Civil Case No. 129-ML).[6] Respondent, as the new owner of the property, filed a motion for leave to intervene on

November 22, 1990. After its motion was granted, respondent filed a complaint-in-intervention praying, inter alia, that

petitioner be ordered to vacate Piazza Hotel and Mariveles Lodge for lack of legal interest.

During the pre-trial of the complaint-in-intervention, the parties agreed that the case[7] be tried on the sole issue of

whether respondent province, as complainant-intervenor, was the legitimate owner of the Piazza Hotel

and Mariveles Lodge.

On February 3, 1995, after trial on the merits, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of respondent.

On appeal, the CA addressed the issue of ownership of Piazza Hotel and Mariveles Lodge as follows:

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

We agree with the appellate court.

Time and again, we have ruled that factual matters are best evaluated by trial courts which can scrutinize evidence and

hear testimony presented and offered by the parties (in this case, on the issue of ownership of the subject property). All the

more does this principle ring true in this petition since such factual determination by the RTC was upheld by the

CA.[9] Only questions of law are the proper subject of a petition for review on certiorari in this Court, unless any of the known

exceptions is extant in this case.[10] There is none.


The evidence clearly established respondents ownership of Piazza Hotel.[11] First, the title of the land on which

Piazza Hotel stands was in the name of respondent.[12]Second, Tax Declaration No. 12782 was in the name of respondent

as owner of Piazza Hotel.[13] A note at the back of the tax declaration read:

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

Third, petitioner was doubtlessly just a lessee. In the lease contract annexed to the complaint, petitioner in fact

admitted BASECOs (respondents predecessor-in-interest) ownership then of the subject property. A stipulation in the

contract read:

WHEREAS, the lessor (BASECO) is the owner of the building PIAZZA HOTEL and its outlet
MARIVELES LODGE located at BASECO, Mariveles, Bataan xxx[15] (emphasis ours)

The Rules of Court states that [a]n admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the

same case, does not require proof. The admission may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable

mistake or that no such admission was made.[16]

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

To be considered as a judicial admission, the same must be made in the same case in which it is offered. [18]

In its own complaint[19] for preliminary injunction and sum of money, petitioner acknowledged that it was not the

owner of the property when it stated that [BASECO] lease[d] to [petitioner] the building Piazza Hotel and its

outlet Mariveles Lodge xxx for monthly rentals of P6,500.00.[20] Petitioner could not possibly be the owner of a building

merely leased to it.[21]

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

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

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

Petitioners assertion that Piazza Hotel was constructed at (its) expense found no support in the records. Neither

did any document or testimony prove this claim. At best, what was confirmed was that petitioner managed and operated the

hotel. There was no evidence that petitioner was the one which spent for the construction or renovation of the property. And

since petitioners alleged expenditures were never proven, it could not even seek reimbursement of one-half of the value of

the improvements upon termination of the lease under Article 1678[24] of the Civil Code.

Finally, both the trial and appellate courts declared that the land as well as the improvement thereon (Piazza Hotel)

belonged to respondent. We find no reason to overturn this factual conclusion.

Since this petition for review on certiorari was clearly without legal and factual basis, petitioners counsel should not

have even filed this appeal. It is obvious that the intention was merely to delay the disposition of the case.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV

No. 49135 are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner. Same costs against Atty. Benito R. Cuesta I, petitioners counsel, for filing this flimsy

appeal, payable within ten (10) days from finality of this decision.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 212196 January 12, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
RAMIL DORIA DAHIL and ROMMEL CASTRO y CARLOS, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the September 27, 2013 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05707,
which affirmed the July 17, 2012 Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 57, Angeles City (RTC) in Criminal Case
Nos. DC 02-376, DC 02-377 and DC 02-378, finding accused Ramil Doria Dahil (Dahil) and Rommel Castro (Castro)
guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violating Sections 5 and 11 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165 or the Comprehensive
Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The Facts

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

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

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

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

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

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

CONTRARY TO LAW.5

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

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

Version of the Prosecution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. That the result of the laboratory examination is embodied in Chemistry Report No. D-0518-2002; and

6. The findings and conclusion thereof.8

The prosecution was ordered to formally offer its evidence on March 7, 2007.9 After much delay, the public prosecutor
was finally able to orally submit his formal offer of exhibits after almost two years, or on January 6, 2009.10 He offered the
following documentary evidence: (1) Joint Affidavit of Arrest, (2) Custodial Investigation Report, (3) Photocopy of the
marked money, (4) Brown envelope containing the subject illegal drugs, (5) Inventory of Property Seized, (6) Laboratory
Examination Request, and (7) Chemistry Report No. D-0518-2002.

Version of the Defense

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

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

RTC Ruling

In its Decision,11 dated July 17, 2012, the RTC found both accused liable for violating Sections 5 and 11 of R.A. No. 9165,
and imposed upon them the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of ₱500,000.00 each for the crime of illegal sale of
marijuana;Twelve (12) Years and One (1) Day, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) Years of Reclusion Temporal, as maximum,
and a fine of ₱300,000.00 each for the crime of illegal possession of marijuana.
The RTC was convinced that the prosecution was able to prove the case of selling and possession of illegal drugs against
the accused. All the elements of the crimes were established. To the trial court, the evidence proved that PO2 Corpuz
bought marijuana from Dahil. The latter examined the marijuana purchased and then handed the marked money to
Castro.

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

CA Ruling

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, this appeal.

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

The Court’s Ruling

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

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

The presentation of the dangerous drugs as evidence in court is material if not indispensable in every prosecution for the
illegal sale and possession of dangerous drugs. As such, the identity of the dangerous drugs should be established
beyond doubt by showing that the items offered in court were the same substances boughtduring the buy-bust operation.
This rigorous requirement, known under R.A. No. 9165 as the chain of custody, performs the function of ensuring
thatunnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed. 23 In People v. Catalan,24 the Court said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

xxx

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

xxx

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

Although the prosecution offered inevidence the Inventory of the Property Seized signed by the arresting officers and
Kagawad Pamintuan, the procedures provided in Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 were not observed. The said provision
requires the apprehending team, after seizure and confiscation, to immediately (1) conduct a physically inventory; and (2)
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated
and/orseized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the media and the DOJ, and any elected public
official who shall be required tosign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.
First,the inventory of the property was not immediately conducted after seizure and confiscation as it was only done at the
police station. Notably, Article II, Section 21(a) of the IRR allows the inventory to be done at the nearest police station or
at the nearest office of the apprehending team whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless seizures. In this case,
however, the prosecution did not even claim that the PDEA Office Region 3 was the nearest office from TB Pavilion where
the drugs were seized. The prosecution also failed to give sufficient justification for the delayed conduct of the inventory.
PO2 Corpuz testified, to wit:

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

A: The inventory of the property seized, sir.

Q: And did he sign that?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Where was he when he signed that?

A: In our office, sir.

Q: Already in your office?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Who prepared the inventory of the property seized?

A: Our investigator, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

A: Yes, sir (sic).

Q: Where did you conduct the inventory?

A: In our office, ma’am

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

A: No, ma’am.29

[Emphases supplied]
SPO1 Licu when cross-examined on the same point, testified this was:

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

A: Yes, ma’am.

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

A: No, ma’am.

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

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

[Emphasis supplied]

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

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

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

To ensure that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are preserved, the proper chain of custody of the
seized items must be shown. The Court explained in People v. Malillin 33 how the chain of custody or movement of the
seized evidence should be maintained and why this must be shown by evidence, viz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xxx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The investigator in this case was a certain SPO4 Jamisolamin.43 Surprisingly, there was no testimony from the witnesses
as to the turnover of the seized items to S

G.R. No. 202206

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
TENG MONER y ADAM, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

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

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

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

Subsequently, on May 16, 2005, Moner pleaded "NOT GUILTY" to the aforementioned charge of illegal sale of dangerous
drugs upon his arraignment.4

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

To establish the guilt of accused-appellant, the prosecution presented three (3) witnesses namely: P02 Joachim Panopio,
P03 Junnifer Tuldanes and PO3 Edwin Lirio.

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

On April 23, 2005, the police operatives of Las Piñas Police Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force
(SAIDSOTF) had arrested a certain Joel Taudil for possession of illegal drugs. Upon investigation, they gathered from
Taudil that the source of the illegal drugs was Teng Moner (herein accused-appellant) who hails from Tandang Sora,
Quezon City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEREFORE, the Court renders its Joint Decision as follows:


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

The Court finds accused TENG MONER Y ADAM "GUILTY" beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 5, Article II
of R.A. 9165 or illegal selling of three point ninety-one (3.91) grams of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a dangerous
drug and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of LIFE IMPRISONMENT and to pay a FINE of FIVE HUNDRED
THOUSAND PESOS (Php500,000.00).

2. In Criminal Case No. Q-05-133983:

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN ITS DECISION WHEN IT RELIED SOLELY ON THE
PERJURED TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES POLICE OFFICERS WHICH ARE FULL OF
INCONSISTENCIES.

C. THE COURT A QUO SERIOUSLY ERRED IN ISSUING THE ASSAILED DECISION WHEN IT FAILED TO
GIVE CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF THE DEFENSE WITNESSES WHO CLEARLY TESTIFIED THAT
THERE WAS REALLY NO BUY-BUST AND THAT APPELLANT MONER WAS NOT SELLING ANY
PROHIBITED DRUGS.

D. THE COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ISSUED THE ASSAILED DECISION DESPITE THE FACT
THAT THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY PROVISION OF
SEC. 19 OF R.A. NO. 9165, ON THE MATTER OF PHYSICAL INVENTORY, AND PICTURE TAKING OF THE
EVIDENCE ALLEGEDLY SEIZED FROM THE ACCUSED, AS WELL AS THE PROVISION OF SECTION 86
THEREOF.8

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

The appeal is without merit.


For a successful prosecution of an offense of illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following essential elements must be
proven: (1) that the transaction or ·sale took place; (2) that the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence;
and (3) that the buyer and seller were identified.9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. - The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so
confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

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

Furthermore, Section 21(a) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9165 relevantly states:

SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. - The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so
confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

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

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

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

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

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

A We brought them to the police headquarters.

Q In what headquarters did you bring the persons arrested?

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

xxxx

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

A Yes, sir.
Q What do you mean by "yes"?

A We did prepare an inventory, sir.

Q So, you are aware of that provision?

A I just forgot the Section 21, sir.

COURT: (to the witness)

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

A Yes, your Honor.

PROS.: (to the witness)

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

A Yes, sir,

Q What do you mean by "yes"?

A We made an Inventory Report, sir.

Q Where is now that Inventory Report?

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

xxxx

PROS: (to the Court)

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

COURT: (to the witness)

Q That is the original, Mr. Witness?

A Yes, your Honor.

xxxx

PROS.: (to the Court)

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

PROS.: (to the witness)

Q Who prepared this Exhibit "OOO"?

A PO3 Rufino Dalagdagan, sir.


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

A I, myself, sir.

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

A Police Officer Dalagdagan, sir.

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

A I was inside the office, sir.

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

A They were also inside the office, sir.

xxxx

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

A I turned it over, sir.

Q To whom?

A PO3 Dalagdagan, sir.

Q And before you turned it over to the investigator, PO3 Dalagdagan, that shabu subject matter of the buy-bust
operation, what did you do with it?

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

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

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

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

A Yes, sir.

xxxx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the case at bar, the records indicate that the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items had been preserved
despite the procedural infirmities that accompanied the process. On this score, we quote with approval the disquisition of
the Court of Appeals:
The record shows that upon the arrest of accused-appellant, the shabu and marked money were confiscated from him by
P02 Panopio. Accused-appellant was immediately brought to the Las Piñas Police Station where the items confiscated
from him were turned-over by P02 Panopio to P03 Dalagdagan, the investigator-on-case. The latter received the
confiscated items and marked them in the presence of P02 Panopio and accused-appellant. An inventory of the
confiscated items was also made.

Thereafter, the request for laboratory examination was prepared by P03 Dalagdagan and signed by P/C Insp. Jonathan A.
Cabal. The specimen together with the request was brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Camp Crame, Quezon City by
P02 Panopio and the other police officers. There, it was received by PSI Michael S: Holada, who delivered the specimen
and request for laboratory test to the forensic chemist PIS Maridel C. Rodis. After examination, the specimen submitted
for testing proved positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug. The result of the test was reduced to
writing and signed by the forensic chemist. It was duly noted by P/Sr. Supt. Ricardo Cacholaver. It is worth stressing that
the prosecution and defense had agreed to dispense with the testimony of the forensic chemist and stipulated among
others that she could identify the documents and the specimens she examined.20 (Emphases supplied and citations
omitted.)

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

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

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

We find it apropos to highlight this Court's discussion in Zalameda v. People, 26 which was restated in the recent case
of Saraum v. People27

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

We do not find any provision or statement in said law or in any rule that will bring about the non-admissibility of the
confiscated and/or seized drugs due to noncompliance with Section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165. The issue therefore, if
there is noncompliance with said section, is not of admissibility, but of weight - evidentiary merit or probative value - to be
given the evidence. The weight to be given by the courts on said evidence depends on the circumstances obtaining in
each case.
Stated differently, if the evidence of illegal drugs was not handled precisely in the manner prescribed by the chain of
custody rule, the consequence relates not to inadmissibility that would automatically destroy the prosecution's case but
rather to the weight of evidence presented for each particular case. In the case at bar, the trial court judge convicted
Moner on the strength of the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses despite an imperfect chain of custody concerning
the corpus delicti.

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

SEC. 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of
Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory
Equipment. - The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs,
controlled precursors and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so
confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the following manner:

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

The above-quoted provision recognizes that the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses and the admissibility of other
evidence are well within the power of trial court judges to decide. Paragraph (5), Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution vests upon the Supreme Court the following power, among others:

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

Jurisprudence explains the above-quoted constitutional provision m the following manner:

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

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

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

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

In the United States, the chain of custody rule is followed by the federal courts using the provisions of the Federal Rules of
Evidence. The Federal Court of Appeals applied this rule in United States v. Ricco30 and held as follows:
The "chain of custody" rule is found in Fed. R. Evid. 901, which requires that the admission of an exhibit must be
preceded by "evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims." x
x x.

x x x As we have pointed out, the "chain of custody' is not an iron-clad requirement, and the fact of a ‘missing link' does
not prevent the admission of real evidence, so long as there is sufficient proof that the evidence is what it purports to be
and has not been altered in any material respect." x x x.

According to Cornell University's online legal encyclopedia, "[r]ules of evidence are, as the name indicates, the rules by
which a court determines what evidence is admissible at trial. In the U.S., federal courts follow the Federal Rules of
Evidence, while state courts generally follow their own rules."31 In the U.S. State of Alaska, for example, the "chain of
custody" rule is found in Alaska Evidence Rule 901(a).32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xxxx

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

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

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

Saraum v. People37:

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

Mallillin v. People38 :

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

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

These are matters well within the powers of courts to appreciate and rule upon, and so, when the courts find appropriate,
substantial compliance with the chain of custody rule as long as the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items
have been preserved may warrant the conviction of the accused. This is the rationale, grounded on the constitutional
power of the Court, to pass upon the credibility and admissibility of evidence that underlies the proviso in Section 21(a) of
the IRR of Republic Act No. 9165.
To conclude, this Court has consistently espoused the time-honored doctrine that where the issue is one of credibility of
witnesses, the findings of the trial court are not to be disturbed unless the consideration of certain facts of substance and
value, which have been plainly overlooked, might affect the result of the case. 39 We do not believe that the explainable
deviations to the chain of custody rule demonstrated by the police officers involved in this case are reason enough to
overturn the findings of the trial court judge, who personally observed and weighed the testimony of the witnesses during
trial and examined the evidence submitted by both parties.

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

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision dated
July 27, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04399 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

EOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 179940


Plaintiff-Appellee,
Present:
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
Chairperson.
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
- versus - CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA and
REYES, JJ.

Promulgated:
NORBERTO DEL MONTE y GAPAY @ OBET,
Accused-Appellant. April 23, 2008
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Assailed before Us is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02070 dated 28 May 2007
which affirmed with modification the Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 78, in Criminal
Case No. 3437-M-02, finding accused-appellant Norberto del Monte, a.k.a. Obet, guilty of violation of Section 5,[3] Article II
of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

On 11 December 2002, accused-appellant was charged with Violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No.
9165, otherwise known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The accusatory portion of the information reads:

That on or about the 10th day of December 2002, in the municipality of Baliuag, province of Bulacan,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without authority
of law and legal justification, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell, trade, deliver, give
away, dispatch in transit and transport dangerous drug consisting of one (1) heat-sealed transparent plastic
sachet of Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride weighing 0.290 gram.[4]

The case was raffled to Branch 78 of the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan and docketed as Criminal Case No. 3437-M-02.
When arraigned on 20 January 2003, appellant, assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded Not Guilty to the
charge.[5] On 17 February 2003, the pre-trial conference was concluded.[6] Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.

The prosecution presented as its lone witness PO1 Gaudencio M. Tolentino, Jr., the poseur-buyer in the buy-bust
operation conducted against appellant, and a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned with the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Regional Office 3/Special Enforcement Unit (SEU) stationed at the Field Office,
Barangay Tarcan, Baliuag, Bulacan.

The version of the prosecution is as follows:

On 10 December 2002, at around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, a confidential informant went to the office of the
PDEA SEU in Barangay Tarcan, Baliuag, Bulacan and reported that appellant was selling shabu.Upon receipt of said
information, a briefing on a buy-bust operation against appellant was conducted. The team was composed of SPO2 Hashim
S. Maung, as team leader, PO1 Gaudencio Tolentino, Jr. as the poseur-buyer, and PO1 Antonio Barreras as back-up
operative. After the briefing, the team, together with the confidential informant, proceeded to Poblacion Dike for the
execution of the buy-bust operation.

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

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

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

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

From their collective testimonies, the defense version goes like this:
On 10 December 2002, appellant was sleeping in his sisters house in Poblacion Dike when a commotion woke him
up. His nephew, Alejandro Lim, was shouting because the latter, together with appellants common-law wife, Amelia
Mendoza, and a niece, was being punched and kicked by several police officers. When appellant tried to pacify the
policemen and ask them why they were beating up his common-law wife and other relatives, the policemen arrested him,
mauled him, punched him on the chest, slapped him and hit him with a palo-palo. He sustained swollen face, lips and
tooth. His common-law wife was likewise hit on the chest with the palo-palo.

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

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

Alejandro Lim merely corroborated the testimonies of appellant and Amelia Mendoza.

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

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

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

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

On 28 May 2007, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision but reduced the fine imposed on appellant
to P500,000.00. It disposed of the case as follows:
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the decision dated March 8, 2004 of the RTC,
Branch 78, Malolos, Bulacan, in Criminal Case No. 3437-M-02, finding accused-appellant Norberto del
Monte guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Violation of Section 5, Article II, Republic Act No. 9165, and
sentencing him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the
amount of fine imposed upon him is reduced from P5,000,000.00 to P500,000.00.[17]

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

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

Appellant makes a lone assignment of error:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE
OFFENSE CHARGED DESPITE THE INADMISSIBILITY OF THE EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM FOR
FAILURE OF THE ARRESTING OFFICERS TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 21 OF R.A. 9165. [20]

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

At the outset, it must be stated that appellant raised the police officers alleged non-compliance with Section 21[21] of Republic
Act No. 9165 for the first time on appeal. This, he cannot do. It is too late in the day for him to do so. In People v. Sta.
Maria[22] in which the very same issue was raised, we ruled:

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

In People v. Pringas,[23] we explained that non-compliance with Section 21 will not render an accuseds arrest illegal or the
items seized/confiscated from him inadmissible. What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the
evidentiary value of the seized items as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the
accused. In the case at bar, appellant never questioned the custody and disposition of the drug that was taken from him. In
fact, he stipulated that the drug subject matter of this case was forwarded to PNP Regional Crime Laboratory Office 3,
Malolos, Bulacan for laboratory examination which examination gave positive result for methamphetamine hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug. We thus find the integrity and the evidentiary value of the drug seized from appellant not to have been
compromised.

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

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

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

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

Appellant denies selling shabu to the poseur-buyer insisting that he was framed, the evidence against him being
planted, and that the police officers were exacting P15,000.00 from him.

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

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

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

To elaborate, appellant testified that it was 3 oclock in the afternoon of December 10, 2002 when he was
roused from his sleep by the policemen who barged into the house of his sister (TSN, July 7, 2003, p.
2). His common-law wife, however, testified that it was 10-11 oclock in the morning when the policemen
came to the house (TSN, Oct. 13, 2003, p. 6). On the other hand, Alejandro Lim testified that he went to
sleep at 11 oclock in the morning and it was 10 oclock in the morning when the policemen arrived (TSN,
Feb.2, 2004, p. 6). He thus tried to depict an absurd situation that the policemen arrived first before he went
to sleep with appellant.[32]

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

The sale of shabu is penalized under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. Said section reads:
SEC. 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of
Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. The penalty of life imprisonment
to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos
(P10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade,
administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous
drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall
act as a broker in any of such transactions.

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

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

SO ORDERED.
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE DELILAH A.M. No. CA-05-20-P
VIDALLON-MAGTOLIS, COURT (Formerly OCA IPI No. 05-
OF APPEALS, 81-CA-P)
Complainant,
Present:

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.,*


PUNO,*
PANGANIBAN,**
QUISUMBING,*
YNARES-SANTIAGO,*
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
- versus - CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,*
CALLEJO, SR.,
AZCUNA,*
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
GARCIA, JJ.
CIELITO M. SALUD,
CLERK IV, COURT OF APPEALS, Promulgated:
Respondent.
September 9, 2005
x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:


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

the following offenses:

1. Inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties;


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

The Facts

Melchor Lagua was found guilty of homicide in Criminal Case Nos. 118032-H and 118033-H before the Regional

Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 163.[2] On appeal, the case was assigned to the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals,

docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 27423. Lagua, who was then detained at the Bureau of Prisons National Penitentiary in

Muntinlupa City, filed a Very Urgent Petition for Bail. Finding the petition well-taken, the appellate court issued a Resolution

on October 9, 2003, directing him to post a P200,000.00 bond.

Laguas bond was approved in a Resolution[3] dated November 6, 2003, where the appellate court also directed the

issuance of an order of release in favor of Lagua. The resolution was then brought to the Office of the Division Clerk of

Court, Atty. Maria Isabel M. Pattugalan-Madarang, for promulgation.

Irma Del Rosario, Utility Worker, noticed the respondents unusual interest in the Lagua case. The respondent had

apparently been making inquiries whether the appellate court had already directed the issuance of an order of release in

the said case and was initially told there was none yet. Due to his persistence, the records of the case were eventually

found.[4] Atty. Madarang then directed the typing of the Order of Release Upon Bond,[5] and to notify the mailing section that

there were orders requiring personal service.[6] At around 4:00 p.m., the respondent then went to Atty. Madarangs office

and assisted in arranging and stapling the papers for release. He brought the said resolutions and other papers himself to

the Mailing Section.[7]

On November 7, 2003, the respondent went to the National Penitentiary to serve the resolution and order of release

in the Lagua case. The respondent left the prison compound at around 2:30 p.m. [8]

In the meantime, Atty. Madarang received a telephone call from a certain Melissa Melchor, who introduced herself

as Laguas relative. It was about 2:00 p.m. The caller asked her how much more they had to give to facilitate Laguas

provisional liberty. The caller also told Atty. Madarang that they had sought the help of a certain Rhodora Valdez of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, where the criminal case originated, but were told that they still had a balance to be

given to Justice Magtolis and Atty. Madarang through the respondent. Atty. Madarang then called the said court and asked

to speak to Ms. Valdez, pretending to be Laguas relative.

What transpired thereafter is contained in Atty. Madarangs Affidavit dated December 8, 2003, as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

3. SINO K KC NAGHIWALAY N KAMI 639204439082, 7 Nov 2003 16:40:21

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

5. NARELEASE N C MR. LAGUA. NAGKITA N B KAYO 639204439082-7 Nov 2003


19:44:52

6. Magkano b and binigay nyo sa middle nyo. Puede bang malaman 639184470111-7 Nov
2003 20:32:05

7. Gud evening. May gusto lng akong malaman. Sana alang makaalam kahit cino. Lito
6391844701117 Nov. 2003 19:54:20

8. Cno ang kausap n Rhodora. Pwede bang malaman 639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:37:57

9. May landline ka. Tawagan kta bukas nang umaga 639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:56:31

10. Wag s Court of Appeal. Txt na lang kta kung saan. 639184470111-7 Nov 2003 20:52:58

11. Gusto mo bukas nang umaga magkita tyo. 639184470111 7 Nov 2003 20:57:10

12. D ba pwede bukas tyo kita. May gusto lang ako malaman 639184470111 7 Nov 2003
21:02:41

13. D 2ngkol kay rhodora duon sa kasama ko kaninang lalakeng pinsan 639184470111 7
Nov 2003, 21:04:28
14. Ala po ako sa Lunes sa opis. Sa hapon po puede kyo 639184470111, 7 Nov 2003
21:07:23

15. Kay Melchor Lagua 639184470111 7 Nov 2003 21:08:19

16. Kasama ko cya kanina nang lumabas 639184470111 7 Nov. 2003 21:13:05

17. Ano m ba Melchor Lagua 639184470111 7 Nov 2003 21:15:52

18. Between 5 and 5:30 ng hapon. Bkit. 639184470111 7 Nov. 2003 21:54:24

19. 3 PM PUWEDE KB 639004039082 10 Nov 2003 12:09:32

20. Kilala mo b c rhodora. Nagkita na b kayo. Ala naman problema sa kanya. Ok naman
639184470111 7 Nov 2003, 21:57:13

21. MAGKITA N LANG TAYO 639204439082 10 Nov. 2003, 12:20:16

22. A, OK, NAGKITA N B KAYO NG KAMAGANAK MO 639204439082 10 Nov 2003


15:12:14

23. D TALAGA AKO DARATING DAHIL WALA AKONG KAILANGAN S IYO.


639204439082 10 Nov 2003 18:36:03

7. That Salud called me up in the morning of November 8, 2003 at around 7:33 but I purposely did not
answer him. Why did he need to call me up?

8. That I personally called up the Bureau of Prisons for the exact time the Order of Release was delivered
and when accused appellant Lagua was released. I learned that the Order of Release was received at
9:15 A.M. and that Lagua was released between 5-5:30 P.M. of November 7, 2003.

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

10. That on Tuesday, November 11, 2003, I brought Salud, accompanied by Ms. Secarro to Justice
Magtolis. Out of the confrontation, we discovered that Salud did not properly serve the copies of the
Resolution and Order of Release upon the accused-appellant and his counsel, Atty. Salvador C.
Quimpo of the Quimpo Dingayan-Quimpo and Associates. He gave them to a certain Art, allegedly
Laguas relative who he claimed approached him at the Bureau of Prisons in the morning of November
7, 2003. He told Justice Magtolis that he gave these documents to Art, who promised to take care of
them, even before he could deliver the copy addressed to the Director of Prisons. He never mentioned
that this Art was connected with the office of accused-appellants counsel. Because of this information
from Salud himself, I did not sign the Certificate of Service, Annex C.

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

On November 11, 2003, Justice Magtolis called the respondent to her office. When confronted, the respondent

denied extorting or receiving money for Laguas release, or in any other case. He, however, admitted serving the copies of

resolution and order of release intended for Lagua and his counsel to Art Baluran. [10] Justice Magtolis then called the
respondent to a meeting with Clerk of Court Atty. Tessie L. Gatmaitan, who stated that she would transfer the respondent

to another office which has nothing to do with cases.

Justice Magtolis lodged the complaint against the respondent in a Letter dated November 14, 2003, containing,

among others, the following allegations:


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

In view of the foregoing, it is respectfully requested that Cielito Salud be subjected to an


administrative investigation and disciplinary action.[11]

Attached to the complaint were the following documents to support the charges:

ANNEX A - Record of the cases received by Salud on November 6, 2003 for delivery/service the following
day, November 7, 2003. Please note that in each of the 3 cases assigned to him, there are several
parties/counsels to be served.

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

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

C-1 - Delivery Receipts for Defense Counsel Salvador Quimpo signed by someone whose signature was
identified by Salud [as] Art a cousin of appellant Melchor Lagua.

C-2 - Delivery Receipt for the accused-appellant, received by the same Art and not served thru the Director
of Prisons.

C-3 - Delivery Receipt for the OSG, showing that it was delivered/received by the said office on
November 10, 2003, not on November 7, 2003.

C-4 - Delivery Receipt for the Director of Prisons showing receipt on November 7, 2003.

ANNEX D - Record of Resolutions in 3 other cases (SP-80241, SP-65404 and SP-77957) received for
service by Salud on November 10, 2003. The resolutions/processes in these 3 cases were delivered/served
to the parties/counsel on November 10, 2003 together with undelivered resolutions left
unserved/undelivered on November 7, 2003.

ANNEX E - Certification signed by Salud showing service to parties/counsel in SP-65404 (received by


Salud on November 10, 2003) on November 10, 2003 (same date)

ANNEX F, F-1 & F-2 - Delivery Receipts for parties/counsel in SP-65404, showing service/delivery on
November 10, 2003 in contrast to his minimal delivery/services on November 7, 2003 only in Muntinlupa.

ANNEX G - Copy of the resolution dated November 6, 2003 of the 6 th Division approving the appellants
bond and directing the issuance of an order of release.

ANNEX H - Copy of the Order of Release upon Bond, which Salud was supposed to deliver, among others
on November 7, 2003 to the defense counsel, the appellant and the OSG. [12]
In his counter-affidavit,[13] the respondent vehemently denied the charges. He never demanded money from Laguas

relative; his name had been used by someone and was, thus, a mere victim of the circumstances. Moreover, the fact that

he immediately released the CA order in question was clear proof that he had no financial interest in the transaction. His

version of the events that occurred that day is as follows:

4.1 That on November 6, 2003 at around 1:38 p.m. the Acting Chief of the Mailing Section gave
me an assignment to deliver the Writ of Habeas Corpus (hearing on November 26, 2003 at RTC,
Zamboanga) for CA-G.R. SP No. 80238 for delivery to NBI, PAO, Quezon City, Muntinlupa;

4.2 That I delivered a copy of the Writ of Habeas Corpus to [the National] Bureau of Investigation
(NBI);

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

4.4 In compliance with the request, I returned to the Office and arrived at around 3:15 p.m.;

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

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

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

4.8 That because its already late, I decided to go to Atty. Madarangs office to inquire about the
Order of Release which I need to deliver to the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa;

4.9 That Atty. Madarang told me to wait a little while because the order is about to be finished. So
I waited.

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

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

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

4.13 That on November 7, 2003, I went straight to [the] New Bilibid Prison and arrived there before
8:00 [a.m.] Unfortunately, all the staff wearing white uniforms and the security guards were falling
in line in front of the building of the New Bilibid Prison. So I could not enter the administration office.

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

4.15 That I said yes, and he told me his name and said that he is a relative of MELCHOR LAGUA
(prisoner) and is connected with the office of Atty. [Quimpo].
4.16 That at around 9:30 [a.m.] I was able to enter the administrative offices but because there was
no staff inside I went to the documentation office. The staff in the documentation office told me to
submit the Order of Release to the administrative office. He said that they will prepare the
documents of MELCHOR LAGUA (prisoner) but also told me that the prisoner might be released
on Monday yet because the signatories are busy attending the ongoing 98 anniversary celebration;

4.17 That I returned to the administrative office and was able to find Mr. JUANITO TORRES,
Administrative Officer III, who received the copy for the Director but refused to receive the copy of
Mr. LAGUA. He told me to wait for his staff to receive the copy of Mr. LAGUA;

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

4.19 That Mr. ART followed me in the canteen and told me to assist in the release of Mr. LAGUA
because there were no personnel attending to the Order of Release;

4.20 That since my boss told me to insure the release of the prisoner, I waited for my staff to arrive
who will attend to the matter;

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

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

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

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

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

4.26 That I delivered the other documents on Monday, November 10, 2003, without any problem;

4.27 That I was surprised when Atty. Madarang later on accused me that I used her name and the
name of Justice Magtolis to demand money from Mr. LAGUAS relative.[14]

Considering the gravity of the charges, then Acting Presiding Justice Cancio C. Garcia [15] referred the matter to Atty.

Elisa B. Pilar-Longalong, Assistant Clerk of Court, for investigation, report, and recommendation.

The Investigation

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

Atty. Madarang affirmed the contents of her Affidavit [16] dated December 8, 2003. She testified that the respondent later

came to her office along with Ms. Secarro. Amidst his cries, he pleaded, Boss, patawad po, alang-alang sa aking mga anak.

She replied, Wait, wala ka namang kasalanan sa akin. Ikaw ang nagpasimuno ng lahat ng ito. The respondent repeated,
Boss, patawad po alang alang sa aking mga anak, and Atty. Madarang answered, Okey lang, pinatawad na kita. Hindi

naman ako galit sa iyo.[17]

Justice Magtolis testified that Atty. Madarang reported having received a telephone call from the alleged relative of

Lagua. She narrated that she gave the name Arlyn to the caller, and, thereafter, exchanged text messages with the

respondent. Justice Magtolis instructed Atty. Madarang to continue communicating with the respondent and, if possible, to

see it through a possible pay-off where a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent would be asked to assist them.

However, the entrapment did not materialize. The respondent thereafter came to her office, where he was asked why he

was unable to serve all the other papers and documents that day.[18] He also admitted that he served a copy of the resolution

to the wrong person (Baluran). Justice Magtolis also stated that she threatened to transfer the respondent, and that the

latter vehemently objected, pleaded, and cried saying, Huwag naman pong pa-transfer. When asked why, the respondent

said that he has children in school and something like, Dyan po ako kumikita.[19]

Another witness was Cristy Flores, convicted of three counts of estafa who served time at the Correctional Institute

for Women in Batangas City. She testified that the respondent was introduced to her in December 1998 by a certain Crisanta

Gamil.[20] Gamil was also detained at the correctional facility; the respondent had worked on her appeal bond papers and

asked for P20,000.00 to facilitate the issuance of the appeal bond.[21]The payment was made right in front of her, and the

respondent issued a receipt.[22] The witness also testified that Gamil told her, O, at least dyan mo ipalakad ang papel mo.

Okay ′yan, sigurado.[23] The respondent visited her in May 1999, as she had asked him to fix her appeal bond. During the

visit, the respondent took the pertinent documents from her. [24] The witness also stated that she gave the respondent a

partial payment of P7,000.00[25] on May 16, 1999 and he issued a receipt.[26] They then proceeded to the Documents Section

where they secured copies of the court decision, certificate of manifestation and her picture. She made the last payment

of P13,000.00 in June 13, 1999, and also issued a receipt. The respondent was also asking for an additional payment

of P15,000.00, which she was unable to give.

Flores narrated that she introduced another detainee to the respondent, Dalawangbayan, whom the latter was also

able to help. She stated that according to Dalawangbayan, the respondent asked for P200,000.00. She further testified that

she knew the respondent as Joselito M. Salud, and not Cielito Salud. [27] After the incident, she wrote a letter to Associate

Justice Conrado Vasquez, Jr. to ask for assistance regarding her appeal bond.

Atty. Salvador Quimpo, Laguas counsel, testified that it was Engineer Art Baluran who hired him as counsel of the

said accused. He stated that he gave an oral authorization to Baluran to get the CA resolutions or orders; Baluran was the
one who furnished him a copy of the resolution.[28] He called Mr. Baluran to say that an order for Laguas release had already

been issued by the appellate court. The witness stated, however, that he had never seen the respondent before. [29]

The respondent testified that he has been a CA employee since 1991. He admitted that he knew Flores, and met

her in January 1999 when he brought Gamils order of release in the Batangas City Jail. He claimed that he was waiting for

the relatives of Gamil as they were the ones who would pay for his fare home, and while waiting, he talked to the

jailguard/warden. Flores then approached him and asked him if he was from the CA. When the respondent answered in the

affirmative, Flores replied that Justice Vasquez was her neighbor in Bian, Laguna.

The respondent admitted that he was in the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City on May 16, 1999,

as he was then visiting Vilma Dalawangbayan. He also saw Flores.[30] When asked why he visited Dalawangbayan, the

respondent replied that Flores had written a letter to him (which he dubbed as maintrigang sulat)[31] addressed Lito Salud,

Mailing Section, Court of Appeals. In the said letter, Flores asked him to help Dalawangbayan, just like he had helped Gamil.

The respondent then showed the letter to then Chief of Office Prudencio B. Aguilar, who told him, Puntahan mo yan, Lito at

maintriga ′yang sulat na yan, baka tayo mapahamak dyan. [32] Thus, he went to the Correctional Institute in Mandaluyong

City to sort things out with Dalawangbayan and Gamil. The respondent, however, stated that he could not find the letter

anywhere and had already been lost.[33]

During his May 16, 1999 visit to the correctional facility, Flores approached him in the visiting hall, and said

suddenly, Sandali lang, Kuya, then left. He then talked to Dalawangbayan about the controversial letter, explaining that his

job in the Court of Appeals was only to remand the records and deliver the Orders for release, just like what he did in Gamils

case. [34] He again visited Dalawangbayan on June 13, 1999[35] as evidenced by the entries in the visitors logbook. He was

no longer able to speak to Flores, but made five other such visits to Dalawangbayan in the correctional facility.

The Findings of the Investigating Officer

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

the following recommendation:

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

RECOMMENDATION:

1. Rule IV, Section 52 of Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 19, S. 1999, issued
pursuant to Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, provides that the penalty for the first offense of
inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties, for conduct prejudicial to the best
interest of the service and for directly or indirectly having financial and material interest in any official
transaction is suspension for a period of 6 months, 1 day to 1 year. Pursuant to Section 55 of the same
Memorandum Circular, if the respondent is found guilty of 2 or more charges, the penalty to be imposed
should be that corresponding to the most serious charge and the rest shall be considered as aggravating
circumstances. Section 54-c of the same Memorandum Circular provides that the maximum of the penalty
shall be imposed where only aggravating and no mitigating circumstances are present. Since in this case,
the penalty is the same for all 3 offenses, the maximum of the penalty for the first offense which is
suspension for 1 year [may be] imposed on the respondent.

2. Considering that the prescribed penalty for the offense exceeds one month suspension, the
case may now be referred to the Supreme Court for appropriate action, pursuant to Circular No. 30-91 of
the Office of the Court Administrator.[36]

The Ruling of the Court

On the charge of inefficiency, the respondent is clearly administratively liable. After serving Laguas copy of the

resolution and order of release to the prison Director, he should have immediately returned to his station or served the other

resolutions and documents for personal service. As an officer of the court, the respondent plays an essential part in the

administration of justice. He is required to live up to the stringent standards of his office, and his conduct must, at all times,

be above reproach and suspicion. He must steer clear of any act which would tend to undermine his integrity, or erode

somehow the peoples faith and trust in the courts.[37] As the respondent himself admitted, he stayed on until 2:30 p.m.

without any valid reason, despite the fact that he knew he still had to serve several orders and resolutions. As pointed out

by the Investigating Officer, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties is classified as a grave

offense, and is punishable by suspension for six months and one day to one year. [38]

Indeed, the complainant in administrative proceedings has the burden of proving the allegations in the complaint

by substantial evidence. If a court employee is to be disciplined for a grave offense, the evidence against him must be

competent and derived from direct knowledge; as such, charges based on mere suspicion and speculation cannot be given

credence. Thus, if the complainant fails to substantiate a claim of corruption and bribery, relying on mere conjectures and

suppositions, the administrative complaint must be dismissed for lack of merit.[39] However, in administrative proceedings,

the quantum of proof required to establish malfeasance is not proof beyond reasonable doubt but substantial evidence, i.e.,

that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, is
required.[40] The findings of investigating magistrates on the credibility of witnesses are given great weight by reason of their

unmatched opportunity to see the deportment of the witnesses as they testified. [41]

To determine the credibility and probative weight of the testimony of a witness, such testimony must be considered

in its entirety and not in truncated parts. To determine which contradicting statements of a witness is to prevail as to the

truth, the other evidence received must be considered. [42] Thus, while it is true that there is no direct evidence that the

respondent received any money to facilitate the release of detained Lagua, the following circumstances must be taken as

contrary to the respondents plea of innocence:

First. The respondent admitted that he was the sender of the first three text messages in Atty. Madarangs cellphone:

bkit, C rhodora to; CNO KAMAGANAK AT ANONG PANGALAN MO; and SINO K KC NAGHIWALAY N KAMI. The

respondents testimony on the matter is as follows:

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

ATTY. ROSERO:

Is that the testimony of Atty. Madarang, Justice?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

ATTY. ROSERO:

I think we made an admission as to that matter, Justice. Well just check the affidavit of Atty.
Madarang.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:
Here, admitted. Basahin mo.

ATTY. ROSERO:

Yes, Justice, admitted but not the cellphone number

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Sige, ulitin natin, 6392044390[9]2.

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

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

This cellphone is yours.

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

ATTY. ROSERO:
November 7 is a Friday. Tumawag ka daw several times kay Atty. Madarang, November 7?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Texted, Im sorry I will correct that, texted.

A: Nauna po siyang magtext sa akin, Justice, hindi po ako nagtext sa kanya. Nagtext po siya sa akin
sumagot po ako sa kanya.

Q: There was an exchange several times?


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

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

ATTY. ROSERO:

No objection, Your Honor.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

Q: But the one who answered is Rhodora?


A: Ako po ′yun.

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

INVESTIGATOR:

Who is Arlene?

A: Atty. Madarang. Arlene, sa text po niya sa akin, Sir Lito, kamaganak po ito ni Mr. Lagua. Magkano pa
po ba ang kakulangang pera para ibigay ko sa inyo. Si Rhodora ba kasama? Hindi ko po sinagot
yon. Pangalawa, ′yun din po ang message nya. Ano ito? Sa akin pong kuan, sa pag-iisip ko lang
po, bakit dahil si Mr. Art Baluran kamag-anak na, ano ito? Text pa ulit pa sya ng pangatlo. Nang-
iintriga na ′to. Pang-apat, intriga ′to. Text ko nga rin ′to, lokohan lang tayo. Bkit si Rhodora ′to yun
po ang sagot ko sa kanya.

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


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

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

As pointed out by the Investigating Officer, the respondents claim of joking around (nakipaglokohan) with an

unknown sender of a text message by replying thereto is contrary to a normal persons reaction. This is made even more
apparent by the fact that the respondent even admitted that he called Atty. Madarang twice, and when asked why, gave a

vague answer, and, when further questioned, even broke down in tears.[44]

The respondents claim that the admission of the text messages as evidence against him constitutes a violation of

his right to privacy is unavailing. Text messages have been classified as ephemeral electronic communication under Section

1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence,[45] and shall be proven by the testimony of a person who was a party to

the same or has personal knowledge thereof. Any question as to the admissibility of such messages is now moot and

academic, as the respondent himself, as well as his counsel, already admitted that he was the sender of the first three

messages on Atty. Madarangs cell phone.

This was also the ruling of the Court in the recent case of Zaldy Nuez v. Elvira Cruz-Apao.[46] In that case, the Court,

in finding the respondent therein guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct, considered text messages addressed to the

complainant asking for a million pesos in exchange for a favorable decision in a case pending before the CA. The Court

had the occasion to state:

The text messages were properly admitted by the Committee since the same are now covered by
Section 1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence, which provides:

Ephemeral electronic communication refers to telephone conversations, text messages and


other electronic forms of communication the evidence of which is not recorded or retained.

Under Section 2, Rule 11 of the [said rules], Ephemeral electronic communications shall be proven
by the testimony of a person who was a party to the same or who has personal knowledge thereof . In this
case, complainant who was the recipient of the said messages and therefore had personal knowledge
thereof testified on their contents and import. Respondent herself admitted that the cellphone number
reflected in complainants cellphone from which the messages originated was hers. Moreover, any doubt
respondent may have had as to the admissibility of the text messages had been laid to rest when she and
her counsel signed and attested to the veracity of the text messages between her and complainant. It is
also well to remember that in administrative cases, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly
applied. We have no doubt as to the probative value of the text messages as evidence in determining the
guilt or lack thereof of respondent in this case.

Second. The respondents testimony during the hearings held before Investigating Officer Atty. Longalong is replete

with inconsistencies and loopholes. He claimed that he made inquiries from other CA staff and learned that there was indeed

a deal between someone in the criminal section and a certain Rhodora of the RTC, Pasig. He further claimed that the said

parties wanted to get back at him for immediately serving the release order which prevented them from demanding the

balance of the deal from Laguas relative. However, this bare claim was not corroborated by any witness. Moreover, the

respondent alleged that two anonymous callers claimed to know something about the case against him; when asked about

it, he stated that he no longer exerted efforts to find out who they were as they did not give out their names:
JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:
Q: On page 5 of your affidavit, you said in paragraph 8 That I made some inquiry and some personnel of
the Court of Appeals told me that there is indeed a deal between a staff in the Criminal Section and
Rhodora of RTC, Pasig. Can you tell us who is this staff?
A: Ah dito po Justice, hindi po siya nagpakilala, sa telephono po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Sino siya?

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

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

INVESTIGATOR:

Lalaki o babae?

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

INVESTIGATOR:

Sinong kinakausap?

A: Ako po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Hinahanap ka?

A: Hinahanap po nila ako.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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


A: Sa babae muna po?

Q: Oo, babaet lalake ba?


A: Opo.

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


A: Babae po.

Q: Were you the one who answered the phone?


A: Hindi po.

INVESTIGATOR:

Hinahanap daw siya.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

Q: Hinahanap ka, okay, when you answered the phone, what did you say?
A: Ang sabi ko po sa kanya, pupuwede mo ba akong matulungan sa paggawa ng affidavit dahil kinasuhan
nga ako ni Justice Magtolis.
Q: But you do not know who you were talking to?
A: Tinanong ko nga po kung sino siya eh tumutulong lang daw siya sa akin dahil ang naririnig niyang tsismis
din dyan eh baka po si Rhodora ang may ka-kuan sa Criminal.

Q: Saan ′yong ka-kuan?


A: Ang may kausap sa Criminal.

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


A: ′Yon pong kausap ko sa kabilang linya.

Q: The name you do not know?


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

INVESTIGATOR:

Anonymous caller.

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

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

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


A: Opo.

Q: And she wanted to help you?


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

Q: What did you answer her?

INVESTIGATOR:

Anong sagot mo raw?

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

INVESTIGATOR:

Q Ano ang sagot mo?


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

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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


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

Q: But she was the one who called you?


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

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

Dont use kuan.

ATTY. ROSERO:

Sige, Lito, ipaliwanag mo.

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

JUSTICE MAGTOLIS:

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

Q: Somebody called you that theres a phone call?


A: Opo.

Q: When you answered, what was your first word?


A: Hello!

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


A: Hello rin po.

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

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

Q: What did she say, the exact words?


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

Q: Do you know Rhodora?


A: Hindi po.

Q: You never met her?


A: Hindi po.

Q: You never talked to her?


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

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

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

Q: You did not. But I thought you wanted help from those people who can help you?
A: Eh hindi na nga po sila nagbanggit po ng pangalan dahil po sabi ng unang babae ayaw nga rin po niyang
sumabit sa kaso.[47]
This respondents actuation on this matter, if at all true, is again contrary to the normal reaction of one who has been

administratively charged, and wants to clear his name of any wrongdoing.

The respondent also admitted visiting an inmate (Vilma Dalawangbayan) at the correctional facility eight times for

no apparent reason. This admission lends some credence to the testimony of Flores, that she was the one who introduced

him to Dalawangbayan, the person he was visiting. When asked why he frequently visited, he stated that he found her

beautiful (Maganda po siya, Justice), and was on the verge of courting her (Para na nga po akong nanliligaw). The Court

believes that this allegation was concocted by the respondent as a mere afterthought, to cover up for his misdeeds.

The Investigating Officer also found that the respondent was high-strung during his testimony, and this finding must

be accorded respect. Indeed, when the issue is the credibility of witnesses, the function of evaluating it is primarily lodged

in the investigating judge. The rule which concedes due respect, and even finality, to the assessment of the credibility of

witnesses by trial judges in civil and criminal cases where preponderance of evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt,

respectively, are required, applies a fortiori in administrative cases where the quantum of proof required is only substantial

evidence. The investigating judge is in a better position to pass judgment on the credibility of witnesses, having personally

heard them when they testified, and observed their deportment and manner of testifying. [48] Thus, the following findings of

Atty. Longalong are well taken:


However, respondent denied receiving P20,000 from Gamil and P15,000 from Flores and signing
LM Salud on Flores notebooks (Exhibits E-1 and F-1) but admitted visiting Vilma at the Correctional Institute
for Women 8 times from May to August 1999. Respondents denial here appears self-serving and incredible
considering his admission of going to the Correctional Institute for Women several times for no valid official
reason. Moreover, although Flores is a convict for estafa, her
testimony on the matter was more consistent and credible. Likewise, respondent admitted seeing Flores at
the Correctional Institute for Women and that Flores mailed her letter to him on May 16, 1999 which he
called maintriga. He also admitted that he told Flores to seek the help of Justice Vasquez on her case. The
foregoing, plus the fact that Flores eventually wrote Justice Vasquez, confirms the truth of Flores testimony
on the matter.

With the aforecited admissions by respondent, the substantial evidence presented by the
complainant and her witnesses with their positive and forthright testimonies deserve more credence than
respondents self-serving denial and inconsistent and vague testimony. Even the demeanor of complainant
and her witnesses give credence to their testimonies than the nervous and [high-strung] demeanor of
respondent during his testimony. Moreover, complainant and her witnesses, including the superiors of
respondent, have no reason or motive whatsoever to testify falsely against him. Respondents defense of
denial is inherently a weak defense. It is well settled that denial, to be believed, must be buttressed by
strong evidence of non-culpability, otherwise the denial is purely self-serving and with nil evidentiary value
(People of the Philippines v. Arlee, 323 SCRA 201). Like the defense of alibi, denial crumbles in the light of
positive declarations (People of the Philippines vs. Ricafranca, 323 SCRA 652).

Indeed, the Court is looked upon by people with high respect, a sacred place where litigants are heard, rights and conflicts

settled and justice solemnly dispensed with. Misbehavior within or around the vicinity diminishes its sanctity and dignity.

The conduct and behavior required of every court personnel, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, must always be
beyond reproach and circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. Their conduct must, at all times, be

characterized by, among other things, propriety and decorum so as to earn and keep the publics respect and confidence in

the judicial service.[49] Public service requires the utmost integrity and strictest discipline. Thus, a public servant must exhibit

at all times the highest sense of honesty and integrity not only in the performance of his official duties but in his personal

and private dealings with other people.[50]

While there is no direct evidence to suggest that he actually extorted money to facilitate the issuance of the appeal

bond and release order which he himself served, the surrounding circumstances, as well as the inconsistencies in his

testimony, point towards administrative culpability. The respondents actuations fall short of the standard required of a public

servant. He is guilty of gross or grave misconduct. Misconduct is a transgression of some established and definite rule of

action, a forbidden act, a dereliction from duty, unlawful behavior, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior,[51] while

gross, has been defined as out of all measure; beyond allowance; flagrant; shameful; such conduct as is not to be

excused.[52] Under the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations, grave misconduct is punishable by dismissal from the

service even for the first offense, as it is classified as a grave offense. However, considering that the respondent has not

been previously charged nor administratively sanctioned, the Court finds that a penalty of suspension for one year and six

months will serve the purpose of disciplining the respondent.

Court personnel, from the lowliest employee to the clerk of court or any position lower than that of a judge or justice,

are involved in the dispensation of justice, and parties seeking redress from the courts for grievances look upon them as

part of the Judiciary. They serve as sentinels of justice, and any act of impropriety on their part immeasurably affect the

honor and dignity of the Judiciary and the peoples confidence in it. [53] Thus, any conduct which tends to diminish the image

of the Judiciary cannot be countenanced.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, respondent Cielito M. Salud is found GUILTY of inefficiency and gross

misconduct. He is SUSPENDED for a period of One (1) Year and Six (6) Months, effective immediately. He is

further DIRECTED to inform the Court as to the date of his receipt of this Decision to determine when his suspension shall

have taken effect.

The Office of the Court Administrator is also DIRECTED to conduct a discreet investigation on the possible

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

SO ORDERED.

PEOPLE vs. VALLEJO


EN BANC

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUL 16 2002.

G.R. No. 144656(People of the Philippines vs. Gerrico S. Vallejo.)

Accused-appellant Gerrico S. Vallejo moves for a reconsideration of the decision of the Court, dated May 9, 2002, affirming
the death sentence imposed on him by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 88, Cavite City, for the rape-slay of a nine-year old
child, Daisy D. Diolola, in Rosario, Cavite on July 10, 1999.

Accused-appellant contends (1) that he was forced by policemen to produce his bloodstained clothes and, therefore, such
evidence is inadmissible; (2) that his oral confessions made to Mayor Renato Abutan and Pet Byron Buan are inadmissible
in evidence; (3) that Atty. Lupo Leyva, who assisted him in the police investigation, was not an "independent counsel" as
required in Article III, section 12, par. (a) of the Constitution because Atty. Leyva was counsel for the Office of the Municipal
Mayor of Rosario, Cavite; (4) that the injuries sustained by accused-appellant constitute evidence of torture to which he was
subjected by policemen to make him own up to the crime; and (5) that the DNA evidence presented by the prosecution is
unreliable, the DNA test being nothing but "junk science."

Most of the issues raised by accused-appellant have already been passed upon by this Court in its decision. Nevertheless,
they will be discussed again in view of the gravity of the offense of which accused-appellant has been found guilty.

First. The allegation that accused-appellant was coerced by policemen to produce his garments, on which were found
bloodstains matching the blood found on the victim's clothing (t-shirt, short pants, andpanties), is belied by his own testimony
that it was he who accompanied the police to his house and pointed out to them the back portion of the housewhere the
garments were placed together with the other laundry (TSN, Gerrico Vallejo, February 28, 2000, pp. 46-47). Nowhere in his
testimony before the trial court did he claim that the policemen forced him to produce said clothing. As the search was made
with the consent of accused-appellant, there was no need for a judicial warrant to make the items seized admissible in
evidence.

Second. As to the admissibility of the oral confessions, the evidence shows that when Mayor Abutan questioned accused-
appellant, the latter was not under custodial interrogation. Accused-appellant freely and voluntarily made the confession.
For the same reason, his oral confession to NBI Forensic Biologist Pet Byron Buan is admissible considering that Mr. Buan
was not an investigator. The records show that Mr. Buan asked the questions, which accused-appellant freely and
spontaneously answered, out of mere personal curiosity. In accordance with the decision in People vs. Andan, 269 SCRA
95 (1997) and People vs. Mantung, 310 SCRA 819 (1999), therefore, these confessions are admissible in evidence.

Third. Nor is accused-appellant's written confession (Exh. "N") to the police inadmissible in evidence because Atty. Leyva
was allegedly not an "independent counsel" within the meaning of Article III, section 12, par. (a) of the Constitution. Atty.
Leyva testified that he had been in the private practice of law since 1986 after retiring from the Department of Foreign
Affairs. He had been a legal consultant of Mayor Abutan of Rosario, Cavite since July 1998 (TSN, Atty. Lupo Leyva,
September 10, 1999, pp. 5-6), but he was not in any way officially connected with the office of the Municipal Mayor. His
relationship with Mayor Abutan was purely private and professional. What is more, it was accused-appellant who asked for
the legal services of Atty. Leyva. When asked by Mayor Abutan if he wanted his lawyer to assist him in the police
interrogation, accused-appellant answered in the affirmative.

Fourth. Accused-appellant contends that the external injuries found in his body during physical examination, which were
all minimal, proved his claim that he had been tortured. He adds that "when hardened policemen beat and torture suspects
into submission, they make it a point not to leave any torture marks" (Motion for Reconsideration, p. 11). (Accused-appellant
made this allegation by way of refuting the statement in the decision in this case that if, as accused-appellant claimed, his
private parts had indeed been pricked with a needle and burned with a lighted cigarette and- that he had been boxed and
hit with a piece of wood (TSN, Gerrico Vallejo, February 28, 2000, pp. 23-24), Dr. Vertido would have found more than mere
abrasions and hematoma on his left finger.) Accused-appellant does not explain, however, how so serious an injury as
those he claimed to have suffered could have left no telltale signs on his body. The results of the examination would certainly
have disclosed more serious and visible injuries than those actually found. Mere allegation is not equivalent to proof.

Fifth. Accused-appellant questions the reliability of the DNA analysis done by the NBI in this case. He calls the DNA testing
in this country nothing but "junk science." This generalization about the state of DNA science in the Philippines, like accused-
appellant's fulmination against "hardened policemen who leave no marks of torture" on their victims, is without any basis.
There is at the University of the Philippines, NSRI (Natural Sciences and Research Institute) DNA Analysis Laboratory,
which has been conducting DNA typing research and analysis since 1996. No one reading the scientific papers presented
at the Third Convention and Seminar of the Philippine Judges Association on June 11, 1999 can doubt the credibility of
DNA tests done in the Philippines. As pointed out by Dr. Saturnina C. Halos, then Supervisor, UPNSRI DNA Analysis
Laboratory, in her paper entitled "Current Trends in DNA Typing and Applications in the Judicial System":

"The Philippines has now the facility and expertise in using DNA test by STR analysis for identification and for paternity
testing. It will be of tremendous help in declogging the courts of civil cases involving paternity suits if DNA tests are accepted.
DNA tests can also be used to exonerate innocent individuals in rape cases and other violent crimes where human tissues
are left in scenes of crime. It is respectfully proposed that the justice system accept DNA tests as a reliable investigative
tool for forensic purposes." (The Court Systems Journal, vol. 4, p. 47 (1999))

There is another DNA testing laboratory at the National Bureau of Investigation. As NBI Forensic Chemist Magsipoc testified,
the combined use of human resources and machines greatly minimize or eliminate the possibility of error in DNA testing
(TSN, Aida Viloria-Magsipoc, January 18, 2000, pp. 16, 30-31).

The foregoing considerations, taken together with the other circumstantial evidence pointed out at pages 14 to 16 of the
decision in this case, especially the DNA profile found in the vaginal swabs taken from the victim which matched the DNA
profile of accused-appellant, prove beyond reasonable doubt accused-appellant's guilt.

WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration of accused-appellant Gerrico S. Vallejo is DENIED with FINALITY for lack of
merit.

The Court further Resolved to (a) NOTE the Letter dated 20 May 2002 of Dr. Maria Corazon A. De Ungria, Head, DNA
Analysis Laboratory, Natural Sciences Research Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, and (b)
GRANT her request that her research staff, Mr. Chrisgel Ryan A. Cruz, be allowed access to the records of this case to be
able to read and photocopy its records and transcript of stenographic notes, considering the importance and relevance of
the decision of this case to the role of the DNA Laboratory in the administration of justice.(Davide, Jr., C.J., on leave.)

G.R. No. 150224 May 19, 2004

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
JOEL YATAR alias "KAWIT", appellant.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

On automatic review is a Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga, Branch 25, sentencing
appellant Joel Yatar alias "Kawit" to Death for the special complex crime of Rape with Homicide, and ordering him to pay
the heirs of the victim, Kathylyn D. Uba, civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00, moral damages in the amount of
P200,000.00, exemplary damages in the amount of P50,000.00, actual damages in the amount of P186,410.00, or total
damages amounting to P511,410.00, and costs of litigation.1

Appellant was charged with Rape with Homicide under the following Information:

That on or about the afternoon of June 30, 1998 at Liwan West, Rizal, Kalinga, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the accused, in order to have carnal knowledge of a certain KATHYLYN D. UBA, did then and
there wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, and with use of a bladed weapon stab the latter inflicting upon her fatal
injuries resulting in the death of the victim, and on the occasion or by reason thereof, accused, wilfully, unlawfully
and feloniously, and by means of force and violence had carnal knowledge of said Kathlyn D. Uba against her
will.

CONTRARY TO LAW.2

The facts are:


On June 30, 1998, at 8:30 a.m., Judilyn Pas-a and her first cousin, seventeen year old Kathylyn Uba, were on the
ground floor of the house of their grandmother, Isabel Dawang, in Liwan West, Rizal, Kalinga. They were talking
about the letter sent by their aunt, Luz Yatar, to her husband, appellant Joel Yatar, through Kathylyn’s friend,
Cecil Casingan. Kathylyn handed the letter to appellant earlier that morning. 3

At 9:00 a.m. of the same day, Judilyn and her husband, together with Isabel Dawang, left for their farm in Nagbitayan
some two kilometers away. Before Judilyn and her husband departed, Kathylyn told Judilyn that she intended to go to
Tuguegarao, but in the event she would not be able to leave, she would just stay home and wash her clothes or go to the
house of their aunt, Anita Wania. Kathylyn was left alone in the house. 4

Later, at 10:00 a.m., Anita Wania and fifteen year old Beverly Deneng stopped by the house of Isabel. They saw appellant
at the back of the house. They went inside the house through the back door of the kitchen to have a drink of water. Anita
asked appellant what he was doing there, and he replied that he was getting lumber to bring to the house of his mother. 5

At 12:30 p.m., while Judilyn was on her way home from Nagbitayan, she saw appellant descend the ladder from the
second floor of the house of Isabel Dawang and run towards the back of the house. 6 She later noticed appellant, who was
wearing a white shirt with collar and black pants, pacing back and forth at the back of the house. She did not find this
unusual as appellant and his wife used to live in the house of Isabel Dawang. 7

At 1:30 p.m., Judilyn again saw appellant when he called her near her house. This time, he was wearing a black shirt
without collar and blue pants. Appellant told her that he would not be getting the lumber he had stacked, and that Isabel
could use it. She noticed that appellant’s eyes were "reddish and sharp." Appellant asked her where her husband was as
he had something important to tell him. Judilyn’s husband then arrived and appellant immediately left and went towards
the back of the house of Isabel.8

In the evening of the same day, Isabel Dawang arrived home and found that the lights in her house were off. She called
out for her granddaughter, Kathylyn Uba. The door to the ground floor was open. She noticed that the water container she
asked Kathylyn to fill up earlier that day was still empty. She went up the ladder to the second floor of the house to see if
Kathylyn was upstairs. She found that the door was tied with a rope, so she went down to get a knife. While she groped in
the dark, she felt a lifeless body that was cold and rigid.9

Isabel moved her hand throughout the entire body. She found out that it was the naked body of her granddaughter,
Kathylyn. She called for help. Judilyn and her husband arrived. Isabel was given a flashlight by Judilyn. She focused the
beam and saw Kathylyn sprawled on the floor naked, with her intestines protruding out of her stomach. Meanwhile,
neighbors had arrived to offer assistance. A daughter of Isabel, Cion, called the police.10

At 9:00 that evening, SP04 Melchor Faniswa received a report that a dead woman was found in Isabel Dawang’s house.
Together with fellow police officers, Faniswa went to the house and found the naked body of Kathylyn Uba with multiple
stab wounds.

The people in the vicinity informed the police officers that appellant was seen going down the ladder of the house of Isabel
Dawang at approximately 12:30 p.m.

The police discovered the victim’s panties, brassiere, denim pants, bag and sandals beside her naked cadaver at the
scene of the crime, and they found a dirty white shirt splattered with blood within 50 meters from the house of Isabel.

When questioned by the police authorities, appellant denied any knowledge of Kathylyns’s death,11 however, he was
placed under police custody.

On July 3, 1998, appellant asked the police officers if he could relieve himself. Police Officer Cesar Abagan accompanied
him to the toilet around seven to ten meters away from the police station. They suddenly heard someone shout in the
Ilocano dialect, "Nagtaray!" (He’s running away!). Police Officer Orlando Manuel exited through the gate of the Police
Station and saw appellant running away. Appellant was approximately 70 meters away from the station when Police
Officer Abagan recaptured him.12 He was charged with Rape with Homicide. When he was arraigned on July 21, 1998,
appellant pleaded "not guilty."

After trial, appellant was convicted of the crime of Rape with Homicide, defined and penalized under Article 266-A of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 8353, otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, and was accordingly,
sentenced to Death.
Hence, this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. In his Brief, appellant
assigns the following errors:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING MUCH WEIGHT TO THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE
PROSECUTION NOTWITHSTANDING THEIR DOUBTFULNESS.

II

THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE
SERIOUS CRIME CHARGED DUE TO REASONABLE DOUBT.

Appellant’s contentions are unmeritorious.

The issue regarding the credibility of the prosecution witnesses should be resolved against appellant. This Court will not
interfere with the judgment of the trial court in determining the credibility of witnesses unless there appears in the record
some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been
misinterpreted.13 Well-entrenched is the rule that the findings of the trial court on credibility of witnesses are entitled to
great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons are presented necessitating a reexamination if not the disturbance of the
same; the reason being that the former is in a better and unique position of hearing first hand the witnesses and observing
their deportment, conduct and attitude.14 Absent any showing that the trial judge overlooked, misunderstood, or
misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight which would affect the result of the case, the trial judge’s assessment
of credibility deserves the appellate court’s highest respect. 15 Where there is nothing to show that the witnesses for the
prosecution were actuated by improper motive, their testimonies are entitled to full faith and credit.16

The weight of the prosecution’s evidence must be appreciated in light of the well-settled rule which provides that an
accused can be convicted even if no eyewitness is available, as long as sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented by
the prosecution to prove beyond doubt that the accused committed the crime. 17

Reference to the records will show that a total of eleven (11) wounds, six (6) stab and five (5) incised, were found on the
victim’s abdomen and back, causing a portion of her small intestines to spill out of her body. 18 Rigor mortis of the vicitm’s
body was complete when Dr. Bartolo examined the victim at 9:00 a.m. on July 1, 1998. According to him, the time of
death may be approximated from between nine (9) to twelve (12) hours prior to the completion of rigor mortis.19 In other
words, the estimated time of death was sometime between 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on June 30, 1998. This was within the
timeframe within which the lone presence of appellant lurking in the house of Isabel Dawang was testified to by witnesses.

It should also be noted that, although the Postmortem Report by the attending physician, Dr. Pej Evan C. Bartolo,
indicates that no hymenal lacerations, contusions or hematoma were noted on the victim,20 Dr. Bartolo discovered the
presence of semen in the vaginal canal of the victim. During his testimony, Dr. Bartolo stated that the introduction of
semen into the vaginal canal could only be done through sexual intercourse with the victim. 21 In addition, it is apparent
from the pictures submitted by the prosecution that the sexual violation of the victim was manifested by a bruise and some
swelling in her right forearm indicating resistance to the appellant’s assault on her virtue. 22

Significantly, subsequent testing showed that the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the sperm specimen from the vagina of
the victim was identical the semen to be that of appellant’s gene type.

DNA is a molecule that encodes the genetic information in all living organisms.23 A person’s DNA is the same in each cell
and it does not change throughout a person’s lifetime; the DNA in a person’s blood is the same as the DNA found in his
saliva, sweat, bone, the root and shaft of hair, earwax, mucus, urine, skin tissue, and vaginal and rectal cells.24 Most
importantly, because of polymorphisms in human genetic structure, no two individuals have the same DNA, with the
notable exception of identical twins.25

DNA print or identification technology has been advanced as a uniquely effective means to link a suspect to a crime, or to
exonerate a wrongly accused suspect, where biological evidence has been left. For purposes of criminal investigation,
DNA identification is a fertile source of both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. It can assist immensely in effecting a
more accurate account of the crime committed, efficiently facilitating the conviction of the guilty, securing the acquittal of
the innocent, and ensuring the proper administration of justice in every case.
DNA evidence collected from a crime scene can link a suspect to a crime or eliminate one from suspicion in the same
principle as fingerprints are used.26 Incidents involving sexual assault would leave biological evidence such as hair, skin
tissue, semen, blood, or saliva which can be left on the victim’s body or at the crime scene. Hair and fiber from clothing,
carpets, bedding, or furniture could also be transferred to the victim’s body during the assault. 27Forensic DNA evidence is
helpful in proving that there was physical contact between an assailant and a victim. If properly collected from the victim,
crime scene or assailant, DNA can be compared with known samples to place the suspect at the scene of the crime. 28

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

In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, courts should consider, inter alia, the following factors: how the
samples were collected, how they were handled, the possibility of contamination of the samples, the procedure followed in
analyzing the samples, whether the proper standards and procedures were followed in conducting the tests, and the
qualification of the analyst who conducted the tests.29

In the case at bar, Dr. Maria Corazon Abogado de Ungria was duly qualified by the prosecution as an expert witness on
DNA print or identification techniques.30 Based on Dr. de Ungria’s testimony, it was determined that the gene type and
DNA profile of appellant are identical to that of the extracts subject of examination. 31 The blood sample taken from the
appellant showed that he was of the following gene types: vWA 15/19, TH01 7/8, DHFRP2 9/10 and CSF1PO 10/11,
which are identical with semen taken from the victim’s vaginal canal.32 Verily, a DNA match exists between the semen
found in the victim and the blood sample given by the appellant in open court during the course of the trial.

Admittedly, we are just beginning to integrate these advances in science and technology in the Philippine criminal justice
system, so we must be cautious as we traverse these relatively uncharted waters. Fortunately, we can benefit from the
wealth of persuasive jurisprudence that has developed in other jurisdictions. Specifically, the prevailing doctrine in the
U.S. has proven instructive.

In Daubert v. Merrell Dow,33 it was ruled that pertinent evidence based on scientifically valid principles could be used as
long as it was relevant and reliable. Judges, under Daubert, were allowed greater discretion over which testimony they
would allow at trial, including the introduction of new kinds of scientific techniques. DNA typing is one such novel
procedure.

Under Philippine law, evidence is relevant when it relates directly to a fact in issue as to induce belief in its existence or
non-existence.34 Applying the Daubert test to the case at bar, the DNA evidence obtained through PCR testing and
utilizing STR analysis, and which was appreciated by the court a quo is relevant and reliable since it is reasonably based
on scientifically valid principles of human genetics and molecular biology.

Independently of the physical evidence of appellant’s semen found in the victim’s vaginal canal, the trial court appreciated
the following circumstantial evidence as being sufficient to sustain a conviction beyond reasonable doubt: (1) Appellant
and his wife were living in the house of Isabel Dawang together with the victim, Kathylyn Uba; (2) In June 1998,
appellant’s wife left the house because of their frequent quarrels; (3) Appellant received from the victim, Kathylyn Uba, a
letter from his estranged wife in the early morning on June 30, 1998; (4) Appellant was seen by Apolonia Wania and
Beverly Denneng at 1:00 p.m. of June 30, 1998 near the kitchen of the house of Isabel Dawang, acting strangely and
wearing a dirty white shirt with collar; (5) Judilyn Pas-a saw appellant going down the ladder of the house of Isabel at
12:30 p.m., wearing a dirty white shirt, and again at 1:30 p.m., this time wearing a black shirt; (6) Appellant hurriedly left
when the husband of Judilyn Pas-a was approaching; (7) Salmalina Tandagan saw appellant in a dirty white shirt coming
down the ladder of the house of Isabel on the day Kathylyn Uba was found dead; (8) The door leading to the second floor
of the house of Isabel Dawang was tied by a rope; (9) The victim, Kathylyn Uba, lay naked in a pool of blood with her
intestines protruding from her body on the second floor of the house of Isabel Dawang, with her stained pants, bra,
underwear and shoes scattered along the periphery; (10) Laboratory examination revealed sperm in the victim’s vagina
(Exhibit "H" and "J"); (11) The stained or dirty white shirt found in the crime scene was found to be positive with blood;
(12) DNA of slide, Exhibit "J" and "H", compared with the DNA profile of the appellant are identical; and (13) Appellant
escaped two days after he was detained but was subsequently apprehended, such flight being indicative of guilt. 35

Circumstantial evidence, to be sufficient to warrant a conviction, must form an unbroken chain which leads to a fair and
reasonable conclusion that the accused, to the exclusion of others, is the perpetrator of the crime. To determine whether
there is sufficient circumstantial evidence, three requisites must concur: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) facts
on which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a
conviction beyond reasonable doubt.36

In an attempt to exclude the DNA evidence, the appellant contends that the blood sample taken from him as well as the
DNA tests were conducted in violation of his right to remain silent as well as his right against self-incrimination under
Secs. 12 and 17 of Art. III of the Constitution.

This contention is untenable. The kernel of the right is not against all compulsion, but against testimonial
compulsion.37 The right against self- incrimination is simply against the legal process of extracting from the lips of the
accused an admission of guilt. It does not apply where the evidence sought to be excluded is not an incrimination but as
part of object evidence.

We ruled in People v. Rondero38 that although accused-appellant insisted that hair samples were forcibly taken from him
and submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation for forensic examination, the hair samples may be admitted in
evidence against him, for what is proscribed is the use of testimonial compulsion or any evidence communicative in nature
acquired from the accused under duress.

Hence, a person may be compelled to submit to fingerprinting, photographing, paraffin, blood and DNA, as there is no
testimonial compulsion involved. Under People v. Gallarde,39 where immediately after the incident, the police authorities
took pictures of the accused without the presence of counsel, we ruled that there was no violation of the right against self-
incrimination. The accused may be compelled to submit to a physical examination to determine his involvement in an
offense of which he is accused.

It must also be noted that appellant in this case submitted himself for blood sampling which was conducted in open court
on March 30, 2000, in the presence of counsel.

Appellant further argues that the DNA tests conducted by the prosecution against him are unconstitutional on the ground
that resort thereto is tantamount to the application of an ex-post facto law.

This argument is specious. No ex-post facto law is involved in the case at bar. The science of DNA typing involves the
admissibility, relevance and reliability of the evidence obtained under the Rules of Court. Whereas an ex-post facto law
refers primarily to a question of law, DNA profiling requires a factual determination of the probative weight of the evidence
presented.

Appellant’s twin defense of denial and alibi cannot be sustained. The forensic DNA evidence and bloodied shirt,
notwithstanding the eyewitness accounts of his presence at Isabel Dawang’s house during the time when the crime was
committed, undeniably link him to the June 30, 1998 incident. Appellant did not demonstrate with clear and convincing
evidence an impossibility to be in two places at the same time, especially in this case where the two places are located in
the same barangay.40 He lives within a one hundred (100) meter radius from the scene of the crime, and requires a mere
five minute walk to reach one house from the other. This fact severely weakens his alibi.

As to the second assignment of error, appellant asserts that the court a quo committed reversible error in convicting him
of the crime charged. He alleges that he should be acquitted on reasonable doubt.

Appellant’s assertion cannot be sustained.

Generally, courts should only consider and rely upon duly established evidence and never on mere conjectures or
suppositions. The legal relevancy of evidence denotes "something more than a minimum of probative value," suggesting
that such evidentiary relevance must contain a "plus value."41 This may be necessary to preclude the trial court from being
satisfied by matters of slight value, capable of being exaggerated by prejudice and hasty conclusions. Evidence without
"plus value" may be logically relevant but not legally sufficient to convict. It is incumbent upon the trial court to balance the
probative value of such evidence against the likely harm that would result from its admission.

The judgment in a criminal case can be upheld only when there is relevant evidence from which the court can properly
find or infer that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt requires moral certainty
of guilt in order to sustain a conviction. Moral certainty is that degree of certainty that convinces and directs the
understanding and satisfies the reason and judgment of those who are bound to act conscientiously upon it. It is certainty
beyond reasonable doubt.42 This requires that the circumstances, taken together, should be of a conclusive nature and
tendency; leading, on the whole, to a satisfactory conclusion that the accused, and no one else, committed the offense
charged.43 In view of the totality of evidence appreciated thus far, we rule that the present case passes the test of moral
certainty.

However, as a matter of procedure, and for the purpose of meeting the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt,
motive is essential for conviction when there is doubt as to the identity of the culprit. 44

Pertinently, it must be noted that Judilyn Pas-a, first cousin of the victim, testified that she last saw the victim alive in the
morning of June 30, 1998 at the house of Isabel Dawang.45 She witnessed the appellant running down the stairs of
Isabel’s house and proceeding to the back of the same house. 46 She also testified that a few days before the victim was
raped and killed, the latter revealed to her that "Joel Yatar attempted to rape her after she came from the school." 47 The
victim told Judilyn about the incident or attempt of the appellant to rape her five days before her naked and violated body
was found dead in her grandmother’s house on June 25, 1998.48 In addition, Judilyn also testified that when her auntie
Luz Dawang Yatar, wife of appellant, separated from her husband, "this Joel Yatar threatened to kill our
family."49 According to Judilyn, who was personally present during an argument between her aunt and the appellant, the
exact words uttered by appellant to his wife in the Ilocano dialect was, "If you leave me, I will kill all your family and your
relatives x x x."50 These statements were not contradicted by appellant.

Thus, appellant’s motive to sexually assault and kill the victim was evident in the instant case. It is a rule in criminal law
that motive, being a state of mind, is established by the testimony of witnesses on the acts or statements of the accused
before or immediately after the commission of the offense, deeds or words that may express it or from which his motive or
reason for committing it may be inferred.51

Accordingly, we are convinced that the appellant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of rape
with homicide. Appellant sexually assaulted Kathylyn Uba, and by reason or on the occasion thereof, in order to conceal
his lustful deed, permanently sealed the victim’s lips by stabbing her repeatedly, thereby causing her untimely demise.

The following are the elements constitutive of rape with homicide: (1) the appellant had carnal knowledge of a woman; (2)
carnal knowledge of a woman was achieved by means of force, threat or intimidation; and (3) by reason or on the
occasion of such carnal knowledge by means of force, threat or intimidation, appellant killed the woman. 52However, in
rape committed by close kin, such as the victim’s father, step-father, uncle, or the common-law spouse of her mother, it is
not necessary that actual force or intimidation be employed.53 Moral influence or ascendancy takes the place of violence
and intimidation.54 The fact that the victim’s hymen is intact does not negate a finding that rape was committed as mere
entry by the penis into the lips of the female genital organ, even without rupture or laceration of the hymen, suffices for
conviction of rape.55 The strength and dilatability of the hymen are invariable; it may be so elastic as to stretch without
laceration during intercourse. Absence of hymenal lacerations does not disprove sexual abuse especially when the victim
is of tender age.56

In the case at bar, appellant is the husband of the victim’s aunt. He is seven years older than the victim Kathylyn Uba.
Before he and his wife separated, appellant lived in the house of his mother-in-law, together with the victim and his wife.
After the separation, appellant moved to the house of his parents, approximately one hundred (100) meters from his
mother-in-law’s house. Being a relative by affinity within the third civil degree, he is deemed in legal contemplation to have
moral ascendancy over the victim.

Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty of death is imposed when by reason or on the occasion of the
rape, homicide is committed. Although three (3) Justices of this Court maintain their position that R.A. 7659 is
unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty, they nevertheless submit to the ruling of the majority that the
law is not unconstitutional, and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.

As to damages, civil indemnity ex delicto of P100,000.00,57 actual damages incurred by the family of the victim that have
been proved at the trial amounting to P93,190.00,58 and moral damages of P75,000.0059 should be awarded in the light of
prevailing law and jurisprudence. Exemplary damages cannot be awarded as part of the civil liability since the crime was
not committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.60

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the RTC of Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga, Branch 25 in Criminal Case
No. 35-98, sentencing appellant Joel Yatar alias "Kawit" to Death for the special complex crime of Rape with Homicide
is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he be ORDERED to pay the family of the victim Kathylyn Uba civil
indemnity ex delicto in the amount of P100,000.00, P93,190.00 in actual damages and P75,000.00 in moral damages.
The award of exemplary damages is DELETED.
Upon the finality of this Decision and in accordance with Art. 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Sec. 25 of
Rep. Act No. 7659, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the President of the Philippines for the possible
exercise of the pardoning power.

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED

JESSE U. LUCAS, G.R. No. 190710

Petitioner,
Present:

CARPIO, J.,

Chairperson,

NACHURA,
- versus -
PERALTA,

ABAD, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

Promulgated:

JESUS S. LUCAS,
June 6, 2011
Respondent.

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

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

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

The antecedents of the case are, as follows:


On July 26, 2007, petitioner, Jesse U. Lucas, filed a Petition to Establish Illegitimate Filiation (with Motion for the Submission
of Parties to DNA Testing)[2] before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 72, ValenzuelaCity. Petitioner narrated that,
sometime in 1967, his mother, Elsie Uy (Elsie), migrated to Manila from Davao and stayed with a certain Ate Belen (Belen)
who worked in a prominent nightspot in Manila. Elsie would oftentimes accompany Belen to work. On one occasion, Elsie
got acquainted with respondent, Jesus S. Lucas, at Belens workplace, and an intimate relationship developed between the
two. Elsie eventually got pregnant and, on March 11, 1969, she gave birth to petitioner, Jesse U. Lucas. The name of
petitioners father was not stated in petitioners certificate of live birth. However, Elsie later on told petitioner that his father is
respondent. On August 1, 1969, petitioner was baptized at San Isidro Parish, Taft Avenue, Pasay City. Respondent
allegedly extended financial support to Elsie and petitioner for a period of about two years. When the relationship of Elsie
and respondent ended, Elsie refused to accept respondents offer of support and decided to raise petitioner on her own.
While petitioner was growing up, Elsie made several attempts to introduce petitioner to respondent, but all attempts were in
vain.

Attached to the petition were the following: (a) petitioners certificate of live birth; (b) petitioners baptismal certificate; (c)
petitioners college diploma, showing that he graduated from Saint Louis University in Baguio City with a degree in
Psychology; (d) his Certificate of Graduation from the same school; (e) Certificate of Recognition from the University of the
Philippines, College of Music; and (f) clippings of several articles from different newspapers about petitioner, as a musical
prodigy.

Respondent was not served with a copy of the petition. Nonetheless, respondent learned of the petition to establish filiation.
His counsel therefore went to the trial court on August 29, 2007 and obtained a copy of the petition.

Petitioner filed with the RTC a Very Urgent Motion to Try and Hear the Case. Hence, on September 3, 2007, the RTC,
finding the petition to be sufficient in form and substance, issued the Order[3] setting the case for hearing and urging anyone
who has any objection to the petition to file his opposition. The court also directed that the Order be published once a week
for three consecutive weeks in any newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines, and that the Solicitor General be
furnished with copies of the Order and the petition in order that he may appear and represent the State in the case.

On September 4, 2007, unaware of the issuance of the September 3, 2007 Order, respondent filed a Special Appearance
and Comment. He manifested inter alia that: (1) he did not receive the summons and a copy of the petition; (2) the petition
was adversarial in nature and therefore summons should be served on him as respondent; (3) should the court agree that
summons was required, he was waiving service of summons and making a voluntary appearance; and (4) notice by
publication of the petition and the hearing was improper because of the confidentiality of the subject matter. [4]
On September 14, 2007, respondent also filed a Manifestation and Comment on Petitioners Very Urgent Motion to Try and
Hear the Case. Respondent reiterated that the petition for recognition is adversarial in nature; hence, he should be served
with summons.

After learning of the September 3, 2007 Order, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration.[5] Respondent averred that
the petition was not in due form and substance because petitioner could not have personally known the matters that were
alleged therein. He argued that DNA testing cannot be had on the basis of a mere allegation pointing to respondent as
petitioners father. Moreover, jurisprudence is still unsettled on the acceptability of DNA evidence.

On July 30, 2008, the RTC, acting on respondents motion for reconsideration, issued an Order [6] dismissing the case. The
court remarked that, based on the case of Herrera v. Alba,[7] there are four significant procedural aspects of a traditional
paternity action which the parties have to face: a prima facie case, affirmative defenses, presumption of legitimacy, and
physical resemblance between the putative father and the child. The court opined that petitioner must first establish these
four procedural aspects before he can present evidence of paternity and filiation, which may include incriminating acts or
scientific evidence like blood group test and DNA test results. The court observed that the petition did not show that these
procedural aspects were present. Petitioner failed to establish a prima facie case considering that (a) his mother did not
personally declare that she had sexual relations with respondent, and petitioners statement as to what his mother told him
about his father was clearly hearsay; (b) the certificate of live birth was not signed by respondent; and (c) although petitioner
used the surname of respondent, there was no allegation that he was treated as the child of respondent by the latter or his
family. The court opined that, having failed to establish a prima facie case, respondent had no obligation to present any
affirmative defenses. The dispositive portion of the said Order therefore reads:
WHEREFORE, for failure of the petitioner to establish compliance with the four procedural aspects
of a traditional paternity action in his petition, his motion for the submission of parties to DNA testing to
establish paternity and filiation is hereby DENIED. This case is DISMISSED without prejudice.

SO ORDERED.[8]

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

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

xxxx

SO ORDERED.[10]
This time, the RTC held that the ruling on the grounds relied upon by petitioner for filing the petition is premature considering
that a full-blown trial has not yet taken place. The court stressed that the petition was sufficient in form and substance. It
was verified, it included a certification against forum shopping, and it contained a plain, concise, and direct statement of the
ultimate facts on which petitioner relies on for his claim, in accordance with Section 1, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court. The
court remarked that the allegation that the statements in the petition were not of petitioners personal knowledge is a matter
of evidence. The court also dismissed respondents arguments that there is no basis for the taking of DNA test, and that
jurisprudence is still unsettled on the acceptability of DNA evidence. It noted that the new Rule on DNA Evidence [11] allows
the conduct of DNA testing, whether at the courts instance or upon application of any person who has legal interest in the
matter in litigation.

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Order dated October 20, 2008 and for Dismissal of
Petition,[12] reiterating that (a) the petition was not in due form and substance as no defendant was named in the title, and
all the basic allegations were hearsay; and (b) there was no prima facie case, which made the petition susceptible to
dismissal.

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

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

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

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

The CA held that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of respondent, as no summons had been
served on him. Respondents special appearance could not be considered as voluntary appearance because it was filed
only for the purpose of questioning the jurisdiction of the court over respondent. Although respondent likewise questioned
the courts jurisdiction over the subject matter of the petition, the same is not equivalent to a waiver of his right to object to
the jurisdiction of the court over his person.
The CA remarked that petitioner filed the petition to establish illegitimate filiation, specifically seeking a DNA testing
order to abbreviate the proceedings. It noted that petitioner failed to show that the four significant procedural aspects of a
traditional paternity action had been met. The CA further held that a DNA testing should not be allowed when the petitioner
has failed to establish a prima facie case, thus:

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

xxxx

At the risk of being repetitious, the Court would like to stress that it sees the danger of allowing an absolute DNA
testing to a compulsory recognition test even if the plaintiff/petitioner failed to establish prima facie proof. x x x If at
anytime, motu proprio and without pre-conditions, the court can indeed order the taking of DNA test in compulsory
recognition cases, then the prominent and well-to-do members of our society will be easy prey for opportunists and
extortionists. For no cause at all, or even for [sic] casual sexual indiscretions in their younger years could be used
as a means to harass them. Unscrupulous women, unsure of the paternity of their children may just be taking the
chances-just in case-by pointing to a sexual partner in a long past one-time encounter. Indeed an absolute and
unconditional taking of DNA test for compulsory recognition case opens wide the opportunities for extortionist to
prey on victims who have no stomach for scandal.[15]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration. On December 17, 2009, the CA denied the motion for lack of merit. [16]

In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioner raises the following issues:
I.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT RESOLVED THE ISSUE OF LACK
OF JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON OF HEREIN RESPONDENT ALBEIT THE SAME WAS NEVER
RAISED IN THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI.

I.A

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT RULED THAT


JURISDICTION WAS NOT ACQUIRED OVER THE PERSON OF THE RESPONDENT.

I.B

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO REALIZE


THAT THE RESPONDENT HAD ALREADY SUBMITTED VOLUNTARILY TO THE
JURISDICTION OF THE COURT A QUO.
I.C

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT ESSENTIALLY


RULED THAT THE TITLE OF A PLEADING, RATHER THAN ITS BODY, IS
CONTROLLING.

II.

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

II.A

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT ESSENTIALLY


RULED THAT DNA TESTING CAN ONLY BE ORDERED AFTER THE PETITIONER
ESTABLISHES PRIMA FACIE PROOF OF FILIATION.

III.

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

ESPECIALLY AS REGARDS THE FOUR SIGNIFICANT PROCEDURAL ASPECTS OF A TRADITIONAL


PATERNITY ACTION.[17]

Petitioner contends that respondent never raised as issue in his petition for certiorari the courts lack of jurisdiction over his
person. Hence, the CA had no legal basis to discuss the same, because issues not raised are deemed waived or
abandoned. At any rate, respondent had already voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the trial court by his filing of
several motions asking for affirmative relief, such as the (a) Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated September 3,
2007; (b) Ex Parte Motion to Resolve Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated November 6, 2007; and (c) Motion for
Reconsideration of the Order dated October 20, 2008 and for Dismissal of Petition. Petitioner points out that respondent
even expressly admitted that he has waived his right to summons in his Manifestation and Comment on Petitioners Very
Urgent Motion to Try and Hear the Case. Hence, the issue is already moot and academic.

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

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

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

The petition is meritorious.

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

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

We need not belabor the issues on whether lack of jurisdiction was raised before the CA, whether the court acquired
jurisdiction over the person of respondent, or whether respondent waived his right to the service of summons. We find that
the primordial issue here is actually whether it was necessary, in the first place, to serve summons on respondent for the
court to acquire jurisdiction over the case. In other words, was the service of summons jurisdictional? The answer to this
question depends on the nature of petitioners action, that is, whether it is an action in personam, in rem, or quasi in rem.
An action in personam is lodged against a person based on personal liability; an action in rem is directed against
the thing itself instead of the person; while an action quasi in rem names a person as defendant, but its object is to subject
that person's interest in a property to a corresponding lien or obligation. A petition directed against the "thing" itself or
the res, which concerns the status of a person, like a petition for adoption,annulment of marriage, or correction of entries in
the birth certificate, is an action in rem.[22]

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

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

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

To address respondents contention that the petition should have been adversarial in form, we further hold that the
herein petition to establish filiation was sufficient in form. It was indeed adversarial in nature despite its caption which lacked
the name of a defendant, the failure to implead respondent as defendant, and the non-service of summons upon respondent.
A proceeding is adversarial where the party seeking relief has given legal warning to the other party and afforded the latter
an opportunity to contest it.[27] In this petitionclassified as an action in remthe notice requirement for an adversarial
proceeding was likewise satisfied by the publication of the petition and the giving of notice to the Solicitor General, as
directed by the trial court.
The petition to establish filiation is sufficient in substance. It satisfies Section 1, Rule 8 of the Rules of Court, which
requires the complaint to contain a plain, concise, and direct statement of the ultimate facts upon which the plaintiff bases
his claim. A fact is essential if it cannot be stricken out without leaving the statement of the cause of action inadequate.[28] A
complaint states a cause of action when it contains the following elements: (1) the legal right of plaintiff, (2) the correlative
obligation of the defendant, and (3) the act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right. [29]

The petition sufficiently states the ultimate facts relied upon by petitioner to establish his filiation to respondent.
Respondent, however, contends that the allegations in the petition were hearsay as they were not of petitioners personal
knowledge. Such matter is clearly a matter of evidence that cannot be determined at this point but only during the trial when
petitioner presents his evidence.

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

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

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

Clearly then, it was also not the opportune time to discuss the lack of a prima facie case vis--vis the motion for DNA
testing since no evidence has, as yet, been presented by petitioner. More essentially, it is premature to discuss whether,
under the circumstances, a DNA testing order is warranted considering that no such order has yet been issued by the trial
court. In fact, the latter has just set the said case for hearing.
At any rate, the CAs view that it would be dangerous to allow a DNA testing without corroborative proof is well taken
and deserves the Courts attention. In light of this observation, we find that there is a need to supplement the Rule on DNA
Evidence to aid the courts in resolving motions for DNA testing order, particularly in paternity and other filiation cases. We,
thus, address the question of whether a prima facie showing is necessary before a court can issue a DNA testing order.

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

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

SEC. 4. Application for DNA Testing Order. The appropriate court may, at any time, either motu proprio or
on application of any person who has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, order a DNA testing. Such
order shall issue after due hearing and notice to the parties upon a showing of the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This does not mean, however, that a DNA testing order will be issued as a matter of right if, during the hearing, the
said conditions are established.
In some states, to warrant the issuance of the DNA testing order, there must be a show cause hearing wherein the
applicant must first present sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case or a reasonable possibility of paternity or
good cause for the holding of the test. [36] In these states, a court order for blood testing is considered a search, which, under
their Constitutions (as in ours), must be preceded by a finding of probable cause in order to be valid. Hence, the requirement
of a prima facie case, or reasonable possibility, was imposed in civil actions as a counterpart of a finding of probable cause.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana eloquently explained

Although a paternity action is civil, not criminal, the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches
and seizures is still applicable, and a proper showing of sufficient justification under the particular factual
circumstances of the case must be made before a court may order a compulsory blood test. Courts in
various jurisdictions have differed regarding the kind of procedures which are required, but those
jurisdictions have almost universally found that a preliminary showing must be made before a court can
constitutionally order compulsory blood testing in paternity cases. We agree, and find that, as a preliminary
matter, before the court may issue an order for compulsory blood testing, the moving party must show that
there is a reasonable possibility of paternity. As explained hereafter, in cases in which paternity is contested
and a party to the action refuses to voluntarily undergo a blood test, a show cause hearing must be held in
which the court can determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case which
warrants issuance of a court order for blood testing.[37]

The same condition precedent should be applied in our jurisdiction to protect the putative father from mere
harassment suits. Thus, during the hearing on the motion for DNA testing, the petitioner must present prima facie evidence
or establish a reasonable possibility of paternity.

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

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

SO ORDERED.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 172607


Appelle,
Present:

QUISUMBING, J.,
- versus - Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
RUFINO UMANITO,
Appellant.
Promulgated
April 16, 2009
x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

In our Resolution dated 26 October 2007, this Court resolved, for the very first time, to apply the then recently promulgated

New Rules on DNA Evidence (DNA Rules)[1] in a case pending before us this case. We remanded the case to the RTC for

reception of DNA evidence in accordance with the terms of said Resolution, and in light of the fact that the impending

exercise would be the first application of the procedure, directed Deputy Court Administrator Reuben Dela Cruz to: (a)

monitor the manner in which the court a quo carries out the DNA Rules; and (b) assess and submit periodic reports on the

implementation of the DNA Rules in the case to the Court.

To recall, the instant case involved a charge of rape. The accused Rufino Umanito (Umanito) was found by the Regional

Trial Court (RTC) of Bauang, La Union, Branch 67 guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape. Umanito was

sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordered to indemnify the private complainant in the sum

of P50,000.00. On appeal, the Court of Appeals offered the judgment of the trial court.Umanito appealed the decision of the

appellate court to this court.

In its 2007 Resolution, the Court acknowledged many incongruent assertions of the prosecution and the defense.[2] At the

same time, the alleged 1989 rape of the private complainant, AAA, had resulted in her pregnancy and the birth of a child, a

girl hereinafter identified as BBB. In view of that fact, a well as the defense of alibi raised by Umanito, the Court deemed

uncovering of whether or not Umanito is the father of BBB greatly determinative of the resolution of the appeal. The Court

then observed:

x x x With the advance in genetics and the availability of new technology, it can now be determined
with reasonable certainty whether appellant is the father of AAA's child. If he is not, his acquittal may be
ordained. We have pronounced that if it can be conclusively determined that the accused did not sire the
alleged victim's child, this may cast the shadow of reasonable doubt and allow his acquittal on this basis. If
he is found not to be the father, the finding will at least weigh heavily in the ultimate decision in this case.
Thus, we are directing appellant, AAA and her child to submit themselves to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
testing under the aegis of the New Rule on DNA Evidence (the Rules), which took effect on 15 October
2007, subject to guidelines prescribed herein.[3]
The RTC of Bauang, La Union, Branch 67, presided by Judge Ferdinand A. Fe, upon receiving the Resolution of the Court

on 9 November 2007, set the case for hearing on 27 November 2007 [4] to ascertain the feasibility of DNA testing with due

regard to the standards set in Sections 4(a), (b), (c) and (e) of the DNA Rules. Both AAA and BBB (now 17 years old)

testified during the hearing. They also manifested their willingness to undergo DNA examination to determine whether

Umanito is the father of BBB.[5]

A hearing was conducted on 5 December 2007, where the public prosecutor and the counsel for Umanito manifested their

concurrence to the selection of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the institution that would conduct the DNA

testing. The RTC issued an Order on even date directing that biological samples be taken from AAA, BBB and Umanito

on 9 January 2008 at the courtroom. The Order likewise enjoined the NBI as follows:

In order to protect the integrity of the biological samples, the [NBI] is enjoined to strictly follow the measures
laid down by the Honorable Supreme Court in the instant case to wit:

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

The DNA test result shall be simultaneously disclosed to the parties in Court. The [NBI] is, therefore, enjoined
not to disclose to the parties in advance the DNA test results.

The [NBI] is further enjoined to observe the confidentiality of the DNA profiles and all results or other
information obtained from DNA testing and is hereby ordered to preserve the evidence until such time as
the accused has been acquitted or served his sentence.[6]

Present at the hearing held on 9 January 2008 were AAA, BBB, counsel for Umanito, and two representatives

from the NBI. The RTC had previously received a letter from the Officer-in-Charge of the New Bilibid Prisons informing the

trial court that Umanito would not be able to attend the hearing without an authority coming from the Supreme Court. [7] The

parties manifested in court their willingness to the taking of the DNA sample from the accused at his detention center at

the New Bilibid Prisons on 8 February 2008.[8] The prosecution then presented on the witness stand NBI forensic chemist

Mary Ann Aranas, who testified on her qualifications as an expert witness in the field of DNA testing. No objections were

posed to her qualifications by the defense. Aranas was accompanied by a laboratory technician of the NBI DNA laboratory

who was to assist in the extraction of DNA.

DNA samples were thus extracted from AAA and BBB in the presence of Judge Fe, the prosecutor, the counsel

for the defense, and DCA De la Cruz. On 8 February 2008, DNA samples were extracted from Umanito at the New Bilibid
Prisons by NBI chemist Aranas, as witnessed by Judge Fe, the prosecutor, the defense counsel, DCA De la Cruz, and

other personnel of the Court and the New Bilibid Prisons.[9]

The RTC ordered the NBI to submit the result of the DNA examination within thirty (30) days after the extraction

of biological samples of Umanito, and directed its duly authorized representatives to attend a hearing on the admissibility

of such DNA evidence scheduled for 10 March 2008. The events of the 28 March 2008 hearing, as well as the subsequent

hearing on 29 April 2008, were recounted in the Report dated 19 May 2008 submitted by Judge Fe. We quote therefrom

with approval:

2. That as previously scheduled in the order of the trial court on 09 January 2008, the case was set for
hearing on the admissibility of the result of the DNA testing.

At the hearing, Provincial Prosecutor Maria Nenita A. Opiana, presented Mary Ann T. Aranas, a
Forensic Chemist of the National Bureau of Investigation who testified on the examination she conducted,
outlining the procedure she adopted and the result thereof. She further declared that using the Powerplex
16 System, Deoxyribonuncleic acid analysis on the Buccal Swabs and Blood stained on FTA paper taken
from [AAA], [BBB], and Rufino Umanito y Millares, to determine whether or not Rufino Umanito y Millares is
the biological father of [BBB], showed that there is a Complete Match in all of the fifteen (15) loci tested
between the alleles of Rufino Umanito y Milalres and [BBB]; That based on the above findings, there is a
99.9999% probability of paternity that Rufino Umanito y Millares is the biological father of [BBB] (Exhibits A
and series and B and series).

After the cross-examination of the witness by the defense counsel, the Public Prosecutor offered in
evidence Exhibits A and sub-markings, referring to the Report of the Chemistry Division of the National
Bureau of Investigation, Manila on the DNA analysis to determine whether or not Rufino Umanito y Millares
is the biological father of [BBB] and Exhibit B and sub-markings, referring to the enlarged version of the table
of Exhibit A, to establish that on the DNA examination conducted on [AAA], [BBB] and the accused Rufino
Umanito for the purpose of establishing paternity, the result is 99.9999% probable. Highly probable.

The defense did not interpose any objection, hence, the exhibits were admitted.

1. That considering that under Section 9, A.M. No. 06-11-5-SC, if the value of the
Probability of Paternity is 99.9% or higher, there shall be a disputable presumption of paternity, the instant
case was set for reception of evidence for the accused on April 29, 2008 to controvert the presumption that
he is the biological father of [BBB].

During the hearing on April 29, 2008, the accused who was in court manifested through his counsel
that he will not present evidence to dispute the findings of the Forensic Chemistry Division of the National
Bureau of Investigation.

The DNA samples were collected by the forensic chemist of the National Bureau of Investigation
whose qualifications as an expert was properly established adopting the following procedure:

a) The subject sources were asked to gargle and to fill out the reference sample form.
Thereafter, the chemists informed them that buccal swabs will be taken from their mouth and five (5) droplets
of blood will also be taken from the ring finger of their inactive hand;
b) Pictures of the subject sources were taken by the NBI Chemist;
c) Buccal swabs were taken from the subject sources three (3) times;
d) Subject sources were made to sign three (3) pieces of paper to serve as label of the
three buccal swabs placed inside two (2) separate envelopes that bear their names;
e) Blood samples were taken from the ring finger of the left hand of the subject sources;
f) Subject sources were made to sign the FTA card of their blood samples.

The buccal swabs and the FTA cards were placed in a brown envelope for air drying for at least
one hour.

g) Finger prints of the subject sources were taken for additional identification;
h) The subject sources were made to sign their finger prints.
i) Atty. Ramon J. Gomez, Deputy Court Administrator Reuben dela Cruz and Prosecutor
Maria Nenita A. Oplana, in that order, were made to sign as witnesses to the reference sample forms and
the finger prints of the subject sources.
j) After one hour of air drying, the Buccal Swabs and the FTA papers were placed inside
a white envelope and sealed with a tape by the NBI Chemists;
k) The witnesses, Atty. Ramon J. Gomez, Deputy Court Administrator Reuben dela Cruz,
Prosecutor Maria Nenita A. Opiana including the NBI Chemist, affixed their signatures on the sealed white
envelope;
l) The subjects sources were made to sign and affix their finger prints on the sealed white
envelope;
m) The chemists affixed their signatures on the sealed envelope and placed it in a separate
brown envelope;
n) The subjects sources were made to affix their finger prints on their identification places
and reference forms.

The same procedure was adopted by the Forensic Chemists of the NBI in the taking of DNA
samples from the accused, Rufino Umanito at the New Bilibid Prison in the afternoon of February 8, 2008.

Mary Ann Aranas, the expert witness testified that at the NBI the sealed envelope was presented
to Ms. Demelen dela Cruz, the supervisor of the Forensic Chemistry Division to witness that the envelope
containing the DNA specimens was sealed as it reached the NBI. Photographs of the envelope in sealed
form were taken prior to the conduct of examination.

With the procedure adopted by the Forensic Chemist of the NBI, who is an expert and whose
integrity and dedication to her work is beyond reproach the manner how the biological samples were
collected, how they were handled and the chain of custody thereof were properly established the court is
convinced that there is no possibility of contamination of the DNA samples taken from the parties.

At the Forensic Laboratory of the National Bureau of Investigation, the envelopes containing the
DNA samples were opened and the specimens were subjected to sampling, extraction, amplification and
analysis. Duplicate analysis were made. The Forensic Chemist, Mary Ann Aranas caused the examination
of the blood samples and the buccal swabs were separately processed by Mrs. Demelen dela Cruz.

In order to arrive at a DNA profile, the forensic chemists adopted the following procedure: (1)
Sampling which is the cutting of a portion from the media (swabs and FTA paper); (2) then subjected the
cut portions for extraction to release the DNA; (3) After the DNA was released into the solution, it was further
processed using the formarine chain reaction to amplify the DNA samples for analysis of using the
Powerplex 16 System, which allows the analysis of 16 portions of the DNA samples. The Powerplex 16
System are reagent kits for forensic purposes; (3) After the target, DNA is multiplied, the amplified products
are analyzed using the genetic analyzer. The Powerplex 16 System has 16 markers at the same time. It is
highly reliable as it has already been validated for forensic use. It has also another function which is to
determine the gender of the DNA being examined.

Mary Ann Aranas, the Forensic Chemist, in her testimony explained that the DNA found in all cells
of a human being come in pairs except the mature red blood cells. These cells are rolled up into minute
bodies called chromosomes, which contain the DNA of a person. A human has 23 pairs of chromosomes.
For each pair of chromosome, one was found to have originated from the mother, the other must have came
from the father. Using the Powerplex 16 System Results, the variable portions of the DNA called loci, which
were used as the basis for DNA analysis or typing showed the following: under loci D3S1358, the genotype
of the locus of [AAA] is 15, 16, the genotype of [BBB] is 15, 16, one of the pair of alleles must have originated
and the others from the father. The color for the allele of the mother is red while the father is blue. On
matching the allele which came from the mother was first determined [AAA], has alleles of 15 or 16 but in
the geno type of [BBB], 15 was colored blue because that is the only allele which contain the genotype of
the accused Rufino Umanito, the 16 originated from the mother, [AAA]. In this marker [BBB] has a genotype
of 15, 16, 16 is from the mother and 15 is from the father.

The whole process involved the determination which of those alleles originated from the mother
and the rest would entail looking on the genotype or the profile of the father to determine if they matched
with those of the child.

In the analysis of the 16 loci by the Forensic Chemists, amel on the 13th row was not included
because this is the marker that determines the gender of the source of the loci. The pair XX represents a
female and XY for a male. Rufino Umanito has XY amel and [BBB] and [AAA] have XX amel. For matching
paternity purposes only 15 loci were examined. Of the 15 loci, there was a complete match between the
alleles of the loci of [BBB] and Rufino (Exhibits A and B).

To ensure reliable results, the Standard Operating Procedure of the Forensic Chemistry Division of
the NBI in paternity cases is to use buccal swabs taken from the parties and blood as a back up source.

The said Standard Operating Procedure was adopted in the instant case.

As earlier mentioned, DNA samples consisted of buccal swabs and blood samples taken from the
parties by the forensic chemists who adopted reliable techniques and procedure in collecting and handling
them to avoid contamination. The method that was used to secure the samples were safe and reliable. The
samples were taken and handled by an expert, whose qualifications, integrity and dedication to her work is
unquestionable, hence, the possibility of substitution or manipulation is very remote.

The procedure adopted by the DNA section, Forensic Chemistry Division of the National Bureau of
Investigation in analyzing the samples was in accordance with the standards used in modern technology.
The comparative analysis of DNA prints of the accused Rufino Umanito and his alleged child is a simple
process called parentage analysis which was made easier with the use of a DNA machine called Genetic
Analyzer. To ensure a reliable result, the NBI secured two (2) DNA types of samples from the parties, the
buccal swabs as primary source and blood as secondary source. Both sources were separately processed
and examined and thereafter a comparative analysis was conducted which yielded the same result.

The National Bureau of Investigation DNA Section, Forensic Division is an accredited DNA testing
laboratory in the country which maintains a multimillion DNA analysis equipment for its scientific criminal
investigation unit. It is manned by qualified laboratory chemists and technicians who are experts in the field,
like Mary Ann Aranas, the expert witness in the instant case, who is a licensed chemists, has undergone
training on the aspects of Forensic Chemistry fro two (2) years before she was hired as forensic chemists
of the NBI and has been continuously attending training seminars, and workshops which are field related
and who has handled more than 200 cases involving DNA extraction or collection or profiling.

The accused did not object to the admission of Exhibits A and B inclusive of their sub-markings. He
did not also present evidence to controvert the results of the DNA analysis.

Section 6. A.M. No. 06-11-5-SC provides that: If the value of the Probability of Paternity is 99.9%
or higher, there shall be a disputable presumption of paternity.

DNA analysis conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation Forensic Division on the buccal
swabs and blood stained on FTA paper taken from [AAA], [BBB] and Rufino Umanito y MillAres for DNA
analysis to determine whether or not Rufino Umanito y Millares is the biological father of [BBB] gave the
following result:

FINDINGS: Deoxyribonuncleic acid analysis using the


Powerplex 16 System conducted on the
above-mentioned, specimens gave the
following profiles;

xxx
xxx

There is a COMPLETE MATCH in all the fifteen (15) loci tested between the alleles of Rufino
Umanito y Millares and [BBB].

REMARKS: Based on the above findings, there is a


99.9999% Probability of Paternity that
Rufino Umanito y Millares is the biological
Father of [BBB]

Disputable presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted but may be contradicted and overcome
by other evidence (Rule 131, Section 3, Rules of Court).

The disputable presumption that was established as a result of the DNA testing was not contradicted
and overcome by other evidence considering that the accused did not object to the admission of the results
of the DNA testing (Exhibits A and B inclusive of sub-markings) nor presented evidence to rebut the same.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the trial court rules that based on the result of the DNA
analysis conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation, Forensic Division, RUFINO UMANITO y
MILLARES is the biological father of [BBB].[10]

Umanitos defense of alibi, together with his specific assertion that while he had courted AAA they were not sweethearts,

lead to a general theory on his part that he did not engage in sexual relations with the complainant. The DNA testing has

evinced a contrary conclusion, and that as testified to by AAA, Umanito had fathered the child she gave birth to on 5 April

1990, nine months after the day she said she was raped by Umanito.

Still, Umanito filed a Motion to Withdraw Appeal dated 16 February 2009. By filing such motion, Umanito is deemed to have

acceded to the rulings of the RTC and the Court of Appeals finding him guilty of the crime of rape, and sentencing him to

suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and the indemnification of the private complainant in the sum of P50,000.00. Given

that the results of the Court-ordered DNA testing conforms with the conclusions of the lower courts, and that no cause is

presented for us to deviate from the penalties imposed below, the Court sees no reason to deny Umanitos Motion to

Withdraw Appeal. Consequently, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 15 February 2006 would otherwise

be deemed final if the appeal is not withdrawn.

WHEREFORE, the Motion to Withdraw Appeal dated 16 February 2009 is GRANTED. The instant case is

now CLOSED and TERMINATED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 170604 September 2, 2013


HEIRS OF MARGARITA PRODON, PETITIONERS,
vs.
HEIRS OF MAXIMO S. ALVAREZ AND VALENTINA CLAVE, REPRESENTED BY REV. MAXIMO ALVAREZ,
JR.,RESPONDENTS.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The Best Evidence Rule applies only when the terms of a written document are the subject of the inquiry. In an action for
quieting of title based on the inexistence of a deed of sale with right to repurchase that purportedly cast a cloud on the title
of a property, therefore, the Best Evidence Rule does not apply, and the defendant is not precluded from presenting
evidence other than the original document.

The Case

This appeal seeks the review and reversal of the decision promulgated on August 18, 2005,1 whereby the Court of
Appeals (CA) reversed the judgment rendered on November 5, 1997 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 35, in
Manila in Civil Case No. 96-78481 entitled Heirs of Maximo S Alvarez and Valentina Clave, represented by Rev. Maximo
S. Alvarez and Valentina Clave, represented by Rev. Maximo Alvarez, Jr. v. Margarita Prodon and the Register of Deeds
of the City of Manila dismissing the respondents’ action for quieting of title. 2

Antecedents

In their complaint for quieting of title and damages against Margarita Prodon,3 the respondents averred as the plaintiffs
that their parents, the late spouses Maximo S. Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave, were the registered owners of that parcel
of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 84797 of the Register of Deeds of Manila; that their parents had
been in possession of the property during their lifetime; that upon their parents’ deaths, they had continued the
possession of the property as heirs, paying the real property taxes due thereon; that they could not locate the owner’s
duplicate copy of TCT No. 84797, but the original copy of TCT No. 84797 on file with the Register of Deeds of Manila was
intact; that the original copy contained an entry stating that the property had been sold to defendant Prodon subject to the
right of repurchase; and that the entry had been maliciously done by Prodon because the deed of sale with right to
repurchase covering the property did not exist. Consequently, they prayed that the entry be cancelled, and that Prodon be
adjudged liable for damages.

The entry sought to be cancelled reads:

ENTRY NO. 3816/T-84797 – SALE W/ RIGHT TO REPURCHASE IN FAVOR OF: MARGARITA PRODON, SINGLE,
FOR THE SUM OF ₱120,000.00, THE HEREIN REGISTERED OWNER RESERVING FOR HIMSELF THE RIGHTS TO
REPURCHASE SAID PROPERTY FOR THE SAME AMOUNT WITHIN THE PERIOD OF SIX MONTH (sic) FROM
EXECUTION THEREOF. OTHER CONDITION SET FORTH IN (DOC. NO. 321, PAGE 66, BOOK NO. VIII OF LISEO A.
RAZON, NOT.PUB. OF MANILA)

DATE OF INSTRUMENT – SEPT. 9, 1975

DATE OF INSCRIPTION – SEPT. 10, 1975,


AT 3:42 P.M.4

In her answer,5 Prodon claimed that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had executed on September 9, 1975 the deed of sale
with right to repurchase; that the deed had been registered with the Register of Deeds and duly annotated on the title; that
the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been granted six months from September 9, 1975 within which to repurchase the
property; and that she had then become the absolute owner of the property due to its non-repurchase within the given 6-
month period.

During trial, the custodian of the records of the property attested that the copy of the deed of sale with right to repurchase
could not be found in the files of the Register of Deeds of Manila.

On November 5, 1997, the RTC rendered judgment,6 finding untenable the plaintiffs’ contention that the deed of sale with
right to repurchase did not exist. It opined that although the deed itself could not be presented as evidence in court, its
contents could nevertheless be proved by secondary evidence in accordance with Section 5, Rule 130 of the Rules of
Court, upon proof of its execution or existence and of the cause of its unavailability being without bad faith. It found that
the defendant had established the execution and existence of the deed, to wit:

In the case under consideration, the execution and existence of the disputed deed of sale with right to repurchase
accomplished by the late Maximo Alvarez in favor of defendant Margarita Prodon has been adequately established by
reliable and trustworthy evidences (sic). Defendant Prodon swore that on September 9, 1975 she purchased the land
covered by TCT No. 84747 (Exhibit 1) from its registered owners Maximo S. Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave (TSN, Aug.
1, 1997, pp.5-7); that the deed of sale with right to repurchase was drawn and prepared by Notary Public Eliseo Razon
(Ibid., p. 9); and that on September 10, 1975, she registered the document in the Register of Deeds of Manila (Ibid.,
pp.18-19).

The testimony of Margarita Prodon has been confirmed by the Notarial Register of Notary Public Eliseo Razon dated
September 10, 1975 (Exhibit 2), and by the Primary Entry Book of the Register of Deeds of Manila (Exhibit 4).

Page 66 of Exhibit 2 discloses, among others, the following entries, to wit: "No. 321; Nature of Instrument: Deed of Sale
with Right to Repurchase; Name of Persons: Maximo S. Alvarez and Valentina Alvarez (ack.); Date and Month: 9 Sept."
(Exhibit 2-a).

Exhibit 4, on the other hand, also reveals the following data, to wit: ‘Number of Entry: 3816; Month, Day and Year: Sept.
10, 1975; Hour and Minute: 3:42 p.m.; Nature of Contract: Sale with Right to Repurchase; Executed by: Maximo S.
Alvarez; In favor: Margarita Prodon; Date of Document: 9-9-75; Contract value: 120,000.’ (Exhibit 4-a). Under these
premises the Court entertains no doubt about the execution and existence of the controverted deed of sale with right to
repurchase.7

The RTC rejected the plaintiffs’ submission that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. could not have executed the deed of sale
with right to repurchase because of illness and poor eyesight from cataract. It held that there was no proof that the illness
had rendered him bedridden and immobile; and that his poor eyesight could be corrected by wearing lenses.

The RTC concluded that the original copy of the deed of sale with right to repurchase had been lost, and that earnest
efforts had been exerted to produce it before the court. It believed Jose Camilon’s testimony that he had handed the
original to one Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao, but that he could not anymore retrieve such original from Atty. Lacanilao because
the latter had meanwhile suffered from a heart ailment and had been recuperating.

Ruling of the CA

On appeal, the respondents assigned the following errors, namely:

A.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DUE EXECUTION AND EXISTENCE OF THE
QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE HAS BEEN DULY PROVED BY THE DEFENDANT.

B.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ADMITTING THE PIECES OF EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE
DEFENDANTS AS PROOFS OF THE DUE EXECUTION AND EXISTENCE OF THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE
WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE.

C.

THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO
REPURCHASE HAS BEEN LOST OR OTHERWISE COULD NOT BE PRODUCED IN COURT WITHOUT THE FAULT
OF THE DEFENDANT.

D.

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN REJECTING THE PLAINTIFFS’ CLAIM THAT THEIR FATHER COULD NOT
HAVE EXECUTED THE QUESTIONED DOCUMENT AT THE TIME OF ITS ALLEGED EXECUTION.8
On August 18, 2005, the CA promulgated its assailed decision, reversing the RTC, and ruling as follows:

The case of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) v. Del Rosario in GR No. 146586 (January 26,
2005) is instructive in resolving this issue. The said case held:

"Secondary evidence of the contents of a document refers to evidence other than the original document itself. A party may
introduce secondary evidence of the contents of a written instrument not only when the original is lost or destroyed, but
also when it cannot be produced in court, provided there is no bad faith on the part of the offeror. However, a party must
first satisfactorily explain the loss of the best or primary evidence before he can resort to secondary evidence. A party
must first present to the court proof of loss or other satisfactory explanation for non-production of the original instrument.
The correct order of proof is as follows: existence, execution, loss, contents, although the court in its discretion may
change this order if necessary."

It is clear, therefore, that before secondary evidence as to the contents of a document may be admitted in evidence, the
existence of [the] document must first be proved, likewise, its execution and its subsequent loss.

In the present case, the trial court found all three (3) prerequisites ha[ve] been established by Margarita Prodon. This
Court, however, after going through the records of the case, believes otherwise. The Court finds that the following
circumstances put doubt on the very existence of the alleged deed of sale. Evidence on record showed that Maximo
Alvarez was hospitalized between August 23, 1975 to September 3, 1975 (Exhibit "K"). It was also established by said
Exhibit "L" that Maximo Alvarez suffered from paralysis of half of his body and blindness due to cataract. It should further
be noted that barely 6 days later, on September 15, 1975, Maximo Alvarez was again hospitalized for the last time
because he died on October of 1975 without having left the hospital. This lends credence to plaintiffs-appellants’ assertion
that their father, Maximo Alvarez, was not physically able to personally execute the deed of sale and puts to serious doubt
[on] Jose Camilion’s testimony that Maximo Alvarez, with his wife, went to his residence on September 5, 1975 to sell the
property and that again they met on September 9, 1975 to sign the alleged deed of sale (Exhibits "A" and "1"). The Court
also notes that from the sale in 1975 to 1996 when the case was finally filed, defendant-appellee never tried to recover
possession of the property nor had she shown that she ever paid Real Property Tax thereon. Additionally, the Transfer
Certificate of Title had not been transferred in the name of the alleged present owner. These actions put to doubt the
validity of the claim of ownership because their actions are contrary to that expected of legitimate owners of property.

Moreover, granting, in arguendo, that the deed of sale did exist, the fact of its loss had not been duly established. In De
Vera, et al. v Sps. Aguilar (218 SCRA 602 1993), the Supreme Court held that after proof of the execution of the Deed it
must also be established that the said document had been lost or destroyed, thus:

"After the due execution of the document has been established, it must next be proved that said document has been lost
or destroyed. The destruction of the instrument may be proved by any person knowing the fact. The loss may be shown
by any person who knew the fact of its loss, or by anyone who had made, in the judgment of the court, a sufficient
examination in the place or places where the document or papers of similar character are usually kept by the person in
whose custody the document lost was, and has been unable to find it; or who has made any other investigation which is
sufficient to satisfy the court that the instrument is indeed lost.

However, all duplicates or counterparts must be accounted for before using copies. For, since all the duplicates or
multiplicates are parts of the writing itself to be proved, no excuse for non-production of the writing itself can be regarded
as established until it appears that all of its parts are unavailable (i.e. lost, retained by the opponent or by a third person or
the like).

In the case at bar, Atty. Emiliano Ibasco, Jr., notary public who notarized the document testified that the alleged deed of
sale has about four or five original copies. Hence, all originals must be accounted for before secondary evidence can be
given of any one. This[,] petitioners failed to do. Records show that petitioners merely accounted for three out of four or
five original copies." (218 SCRA at 607-608)

In the case at bar, Jose Camilion’s testimony showed that a copy was given to Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao but he could not
recover said copy. A perusal of the testimony does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had exerted sufficient effort
to recover said copy. x x x

xxxx

The foregoing testimony does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had exerted sufficient effort to obtain the copy
which he said was with Atty. Lacanilao. It should be noted that he never claimed that Atty. Lacanilao was already too sick
to even try looking for the copy he had. But even assuming this is to be so, Jose Camilion did not testify that Atty.
Lacanilao had no one in his office to help him find said copy. In fine, this Court believes that the trial court erred in
admitting the secondary evidence because Margarita Prodon failed to prove the loss or destruction of the deed.

In fine, the Court finds that the secondary evidence should not have been admitted because Margarita Prodon failed to
prove the existence of the original deed of sale and to establish its loss.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35 in Civil Case No.
96-78481 is hereby REVERSED and a new one entered ordering the cancellation of Entry No. 3816/T-84797 inscribed at
the back of TCT No. 84797 in order to remove the cloud over plaintiff-appellants’ title.

SO ORDERED.9

The heirs of Margarita Prodon (who meanwhile died on March 3, 2002) filed an Omnibus Motion for Substitution of
Defendant and for Reconsideration of the Decision,10 wherein they alleged that the CA erred: (a) in finding that the pre-
requisites for the admission of secondary evidence had not been complied with; (b) in concluding that the late Maximo
Alvarez, Sr. had been physically incapable of personally executing the deed of sale with right to repurchase; and (c) in
blaming them for not recovering the property, for not paying the realty taxes thereon, and for not transferring the title in
their names.

On November 22, 2005, the CA issued itsresolution,11 allowing the substitution of the heirs of Margarita Prodon, and
denying their motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit.

Hence, the heirs of Margarita Prodon (petitioners) have appealed to the Court through petition for review on certiorari.

Issues

In this appeal, the petitioners submit the following as issues, namely: (a) whether the pre-requisites for the admission of
secondary evidence had been complied with; (b) whether the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been physically incapable of
personally executing the deed of sale with right to repurchase;and (c) whether Prodon’s claim of ownership was already
barred by laches.12

Ruling

The appeal has no merit.

1.

Best Evidence Rulewas not applicable herein

We focus first on an unseemly error on the part of the CA that, albeit a harmless one, requires us to re-examine and
rectify in order to carry out our essential responsibility of educating the Bench and the Bar on the admissibility of evidence.
An analysis leads us to conclude that the CA and the RTC both misapplied the Best Evidence Rule to this case, and their
misapplication diverted the attention from the decisive issue in this action for quieting of title. We shall endeavor to correct
the error in order to turn the case to the right track.

Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court embodies the Best Evidence

Rule, to wit:

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

(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of
the offeror;
(b) When the original is in the custody or under control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the
latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

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

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

The Best Evidence Rule stipulates that in proving the terms of a written document the original of the document must be
produced in court. The rule excludes any evidence other than the original writing to prove the contents thereof, unless the
offeror proves: (a) the existence or due execution of the original; (b) the loss and destruction of the original, or the reason
for its non-production in court; and (c) the absence of bad faith on the part of the offeror to which the unavailability of the
original can be attributed.13

The primary purpose of the Best Evidence Rule is to ensure that the exact contents of a writing are brought before the
court,14 considering that (a) the precision in presenting to the court the exact words of the writing is of more than average
importance, particularly as respects operative or dispositive instruments, such as deeds, wills and contracts, because a
slight variation in words may mean a great difference in rights; (b) there is a substantial hazard of inaccuracy in the human
process of making a copy by handwriting or typewriting; and (c) as respects oral testimony purporting to give from
memory the terms of a writing, there is a special risk of error, greater than in the case of attempts at describing other
situations generally.15 The rule further acts as an insurance against fraud.16Verily, if a party is in the possession of the
best evidence and withholds it, and seeks to substitute inferior evidence in its place, the presumption naturally arises that
the better evidence is withheld for fraudulent purposes that its production would expose and defeat. 17 Lastly, the rule
protects against misleading inferences resulting from the intentional or unintentional introduction of selected portions of a
larger set of writings.18

But the evils of mistransmission of critical facts, fraud, and misleading inferences arise only when the issue relates to the
terms of the writing. Hence, the Best Evidence Rule applies only when the terms of a writing are in issue. When the
evidence sought to be introduced concerns external facts, such as the existence, execution or delivery of the writing,
without reference to its terms, the Best Evidence Rule cannot be invoked. 19 In such a case, secondary evidence may be
admitted even without accounting for the original.

This case involves an action for quieting of title, a common-law remedy for the removal of any cloud or doubt or
uncertainty on the title to real property by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding that is
apparently valid or effective, but is, in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be
prejudicial to said title. In such an action, the competent court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the
complainant and other claimants to place things in their proper place and to make the one who has no rights to said
immovable respect and not disturb the other. The action is for the benefit of both, so that he who has the right would see
every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he can thereafter fearlessly introduce any desired improvements,
as well as use, and even abuse the property. For an action to quiet title to prosper, two indispensable requisites must
concur, namely: (a) the plaintiff or complainant has a legal or an equitable title to or interest in the real property subject of
the action; and (b) the deed, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding claimed to be casting cloud on his title must be shown to
be in fact invalid or inoperative despite its prima facie appearance of validity or legal efficacy. 20

The action for quieting of title may be based on the fact that a deed is invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable. The
terms of the writing may or may not be material to an action for quieting of title, depending on the ground alleged by the
plaintiff. For instance, when an action for quieting of title is based on the unenforceability of a contract for not complying
with the Statute of Frauds, Article 1403 of the Civil Code specifically provides that evidence of the agreement cannot be
received without the writing, or a secondary evidence of its contents. There is then no doubt that the Best Evidence Rule
will come into play.

It is not denied that this action does not involve the terms or contents of the deed of sale with right to repurchase. The
principal issue raised by the respondents as the plaintiffs, which Prodon challenged head on, was whether or not the deed
of sale with right to repurchase, duly executed by the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr., had really existed. They alleged in the
complaint that:

xxxx
9. Such entry which could have been maliciously and deliberately done by the defendant Margarita Prodon created cloud
and [is] prejudicial to the title of the property subject matter of this case, since while it is apparently valid or effective, but in
truth and in fact it is invalid, ineffective or unenforceable inasmuch that the instrument purporting to be a Deed of Sale with
right of repurchase mentioned in the said entry does not exist.21

xxxx

On her part, Prodon specifically denied the allegation, averring in her answer that "sometime [o]n September 9, 1975,
deceased Maximo S. Alvarez lawfully entered into a Contract of Sale with Right to Repurchase, object of which is the
titled lot located at Endaya Street, Tondo, Manila, in favor of defendant." 22 In the pre-trial order, the RTC defined the issue
to be tried as "[w]hether or not the alleged document mentioned in the said entry is existing, valid or unenforceable," 23 and
did not include the terms of the deed of sale with right to repurchase among the issues.

Apparently, the parties were fully cognizant of the issues as defined, for none of them thereafter ventured to present
evidence to establish the terms of the deed of sale with right to repurchase. In the course of the trial, however, a question
was propounded to Prodon as to who had signed or executed the deed, and the question was objected to based on the
Best Evidence Rule. The RTC then sustained the objection.24 At that point began the diversion of the focus in the case.
The RTC should have outrightly overruled the objection because the fact sought to be established by the requested
testimony was the execution of the deed, not its terms.25 Despite the fact that the terms of the writing were not in issue,
the RTC inexplicably applied the Best Evidence Rule to the case and proceeded to determine whether the requisites for
the admission of secondary evidence had been complied with, without being clear as to what secondary evidence was
sought to be excluded. In the end, the RTC found in its judgment that Prodon had complied with the requisites for the
introduction of secondary evidence, and gave full credence to the testimony of Jose Camilon explaining the non-
production of the original. On appeal, the CA seconded the RTC’s mistake by likewise applying the Best Evidence Rule,
except that the CA concluded differently, in that it held that Prodon had not established the existence, execution, and loss
of the original document as the pre-requisites for the presentation of secondary evidence. Its application of the Best
Evidence Rule naturally led the CA to rule that secondary evidence should not have been admitted, but like the RTC the
CA did not state what excluded secondary evidence it was referring to.

Considering that the Best Evidence Rule was not applicable because the terms of the deed of sale with right to
repurchase were not the issue, the CA did not have to address and determine whether the existence, execution, and loss,
as pre-requisites for the presentation of secondary evidence, had been established by Prodon’s evidence. It should have
simply addressed and determined whether or not the "existence" and "execution" of the deed as the facts in issue had
been proved by preponderance of evidence.

Indeed, for Prodon who had the burden to prove the existence and due execution of the deed of sale with right to
repurchase, the presentation of evidence other than the original document, like the testimonies of Prodon and Jose
Camilon, the Notarial Register of Notary Eliseo Razon, and the Primary Entry Book of the Register of Deeds, would have
sufficed even without first proving the loss or unavailability of the original of the deed.

2.

Prodon did not preponderantly establish the existence and due execution of the deed of sale with right to repurchase

The foregoing notwithstanding, good trial tactics still required Prodon to establish and explain the loss of the original of the
deed of sale with right to repurchase to establish the genuineness and due execution of the deed. 26 This was because the
deed, although a collateral document, was the foundation of her defense in this action for quieting of title. 27 Her inability to
produce the original logically gave rise to the need for her to prove its existence and due execution by other means that
could only be secondary under the rules on evidence. Towards that end, however, it was not required to subject the proof
of the loss of the original to the same strict standard to which it would be subjected had the loss or unavailability been a
precondition for presenting secondary evidence to prove the terms of a writing.

A review of the records reveals that Prodon did not adduce proof sufficient to show the lossor explain the unavailability of
the original as to justify the presentation of secondary evidence. Camilon, one of her witnesses, testified that he had given
the original to her lawyer, Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao, but that he (Camilon) could not anymore retrieve the original because
Atty. Lacanilao had been recuperating from his heart ailment. Such evidence without showing the inability to locate the
original from among Atty. Lacanilao’s belongings by himself or by any of his assistants or representatives was inadequate.
Moreover, a duplicate original could have been secured from Notary Public Razon, but no effort was shown to have been
exerted in that direction.
In contrast, the records contained ample indicia of the improbability of the existence of the deed. Camilon claimed that the
late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had twice gone to his residence in Meycauayan, Bulacan, the first on September 5, 1975, to
negotiate the sale of the property in question, and the second on September 9, 1975, to execute the deed of sale with
right to repurchase, viz:

Do you also know the deceased plaintiff in this case, Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and his wife Valentina Clave, Mr. Witness?

Yes, sir.

Under what circumstance were you able to know the deceased plaintiff Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and his wife?

When they went to our house, sir.

When was this specifically?

Sometime the first week of September or about September 5, 1975, sir.

What was the purpose of the spouses Maximo and Valentina in meeting you on that date?

They were selling a piece of land, sir.

xxxx

At the time when the spouses Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave approached you to sell their piece of land located
at Endaya, Tondo, Manila, what document, if any, did they show you?

The title of the land, sir.

xxxx

You said that on the first week of September or September 5, 1975 spouses Maximo and Valentina approached you at
the time, what did you tell the spouses, if any?

A
I asked them to come back telling them that I was going to look for a buyer, sir.

xxxx

You said that you told the spouse[s] Alvarez to just come back later and that you will look for a buyer, what happened
next, if any?

I went to see my aunt Margarita Prodon, sir.

What did you tell your aunt Margarita Prodon?

I convinced her to buy the lot.

ATTY. REAL

What was the reply of Margarita Prodon, if any?

She agreed, provided that she should meet the spouses, sir.

After Margarita Prodon told you that[,] what happened next, if any?

I waited for the spouses Alvarez to bring them to my aunt, sir.

Were you able to finally bring the spouses before Margarita Prodon?

Valentina Clave returned to our house and asked me if they can now sell the piece of land, sir.

What did you tell Valentina Clave?

We went to the house of my aunt so she can meet her personally, sir.
And did the meeting occur?

WITNESS

Yes, sir.

ATTY. REAL

What happened at the meeting?

I told Valentina Clave in front of the aunt of my wife that they, the spouses, wanted to sell the land, sir.

What was the reply of your aunt Margarita Prodon at the time?

That Valentina Clave should come back with her husband because she was going to buy the lot, sir. 28

The foregoing testimony could not be credible for the purpose of proving the due execution of the deed of sale with right to
repurchase for three reasons.1âwphi1

The first is that the respondents preponderantly established that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been in and out of the
hospital around the time that the deed of sale with right to repurchase had been supposedly executed on September 9,
1975. The records manifested that he had been admitted to the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City on several
occasions, and had then been diagnosed with the serious ailments or conditions, as follows:

Period of confinement Diagnosis

March 31 – May 19, 1975 • Prostatitis, chronic


• Arteriosclerotic heart disease
• Atrial fibrillation
• Congestive heart failure
• CFC III29

June 2- June 6, 1975 • Chest pains (Atrial Flutter)


• Painful urination (Chronic prostatitis)30

August 23-September 3, 1975 • Arteriosclerotic heart disease


• Congestive heart failure, mild
• Atrial fibrillation
• Cardiac functional capacity III-B31

September 15-October 2, 1975 • Arteriosclerotic heart disease


• Atrial fibrillation
• Congestive heart failure
• Pneumonia
• Urinary tract infection
• Cerebrovascular accident, old
• Upper GI bleeding probably secondary
to stress ulcers32

The medical history showing the number of very serious ailments the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been suffering from
rendered it highly improbable for him to travel from Manila all the way to Meycauayan, Bulacan, where Prodon and
Camilon were then residing in order only to negotiate and consummate the sale of the property. This high improbability
was fully confirmed by his son, Maximo, Jr., who attested that his father had been seriously ill, and had been in and out of
the hospital in 1975.33 The medical records revealed, too, that on September 12, 1975, or three days prior to his final
admission to the hospital, the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had suffered from "[h]igh grade fever, accompanied by chills,
vomiting and cough productive of whitish sticky sputum;"had been observed to be "conscious" but "weak" and "bedridden"
with his heart having "faint" sounds, irregular rhythm, but no murmurs; and his left upper extremity and left lower extremity
had suffered 90% motor loss.34 Truly, Prodon’s allegation that the deed of sale with right to repurchase had been
executed on September 9, 1975 could not command belief.

The second is that the annotation on TCT No. 84797 of the deed of sale with right to repurchase and the entry in the
primary entry book of the Register of Deeds did not themselves establish the existence of the deed. They proved at best
that a document purporting to be a deed of sale with right to repurchase had been registered with the Register of Deeds.
Verily, the registration alone of the deed was not conclusive proof of its authenticity or its due execution by the registered
owner of the property, which was precisely the issue in this case. The explanation for this is that registration, being a
specie of notice, is simply a ministerial act by which an instrument is inscribed in the records of the Register of Deeds and
annotated on the dorsal side of the certificate of title covering the land subject of the instrument.35 It is relevant to mention
that the law on land registration does not require that only valid instruments be registered, because the purpose of
registration is only to give notice.36

By the same token, the entry in the notarial register of Notary Public Razon could only be proof that a deed of sale with
right to repurchase had been notarized by him, but did not establish the due execution of the deed.

The third is that the respondents’ remaining in the peaceful possession of the property was further convincing evidence
demonstrating that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. did not execute the deed of sale with right to repurchase. Otherwise,
Prodon would have herself asserted and exercised her right to take over the property, legally and physically speaking,
upon the expiration in 1976 of the repurchase period stipulated under the deed, including transferring the TCT in her
name and paying the real property taxes due on the properly. Her inaction was an index of the falsity of her claim against
the respondents.

In view of the foregoing circumstances, we concur with the CA that the respondents preponderantly, proved that the deed
of sale with right to repurchase executed by the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. did not exist in fact.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on August 18, 2005 by the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R.
CV No. 58624 entitled Heirs of Maximo S. Alvarez and Valentina Clave, represented by Rev. Maximo Alvarez, Jr. v.
Margarita Prodon and the Register of Deeds of the City Manila; and ORDERS the petitioners to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

SALUN-AT MARQUEZ and NESTOR DELA G.R. No. 168387


CRUZ,
Petitioners,
Present:
- versus -
CORONA, C. J., Chairperson,
ELOISA ESPEJO, ELENITA ESPEJO, EMERITA VELASCO, JR.,
ESPEJO, OPHIRRO ESPEJO, OTHNIEL LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
ESPEJO, ORLANDO ESPEJO, OSMUNDO DEL CASTILLO, and
ESPEJO, ODELEJO ESPEJO and NEMI PEREZ, J.
FERNANDEZ,
Promulgated:
Respondents. August 25, 2010
x--------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.

When the parties admit the contents of written documents but put in issue whether these documents adequately and correctly express
the true intention of the parties, the deciding body is authorized to look beyond these instruments and into the contemporaneous and
subsequent actions of the parties in order to determine such intent.

Well-settled is the rule that in case of doubt, it is the intention of the contracting parties that prevails, for the intention is the soul of a
contract, not its wording which is prone to mistakes, inadequacies, or ambiguities. To hold otherwise would give life, validity, and
precedence to mere typographical errors and defeat the very purpose of agreements.
This Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assails the October 7, 2003 Decision,[2] as well as the May 11, 2005 Resolution[3] of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA G.R. SP No. 69981. The dispositive portion of the appellate courts Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding reversible error committed by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, the
instant petition for review is GRANTED. The assailed Decision, dated 17 January 2001, rendered by the Department
of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Department of
Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board of Bayombong[,] Nueva Vizcaya, dated 17 March 1998, is REINSTATED. Costs
against respondents.

SO ORDERED.[4]

The reinstated Decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, in turn,
contained the following dispositive portion:

Accordingly, judgment is rendered:

1. Finding [respondents] to be the owner by re-purchase from RBBI [of] the Murong property covered by
TCT No. [T-]62096 (formerly TCT No. 43258);

2. Ordering the cancellation of TCT with CLOA Nos. 395 and 396 in the name[s] of Salun-at Marquez and
Nestor de la Cruz respectively, as they are disqualified to become tenants of the Lantap property;

3. Directing RBBI to sell through VOS the Lantap property to its rightful beneficiary, herein tenant-farmer
Nemi Fernandez under reasonable terms and conditions;

4. Ordering RBBI to return the amount paid to it by Nestor and Salun-at; and ordering the latter to pay 20
cavans of palay per hectare at 46 kilos per cavan unto [respondents] plus such accrued and unpaid rentals for
the past years as may be duly accounted for with the assistance of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of
Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya who is also hereby instructed to assist the parties execute their leasehold contracts
and;

5. The order to supervise harvest dated March 11, 1998 shall be observed until otherwise modified or
dissolved by the appellate body.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Factual Antecedents
Respondents Espejos were the original registered owners of two parcels of agricultural land, with an area of two hectares each. One is
located at Barangay Lantap, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya (the Lantap property) while the other is located in Barangay Murong, Bagabag,
Nueva Vizcaya (the Murong property). There is no dispute among the parties that the Lantap property is tenanted by respondent Nemi
Fernandez (Nemi)[6](who is the husband[7] of respondent Elenita Espejo (Elenita), while the Murong property is tenanted by petitioners
Salun-at Marquez (Marquez) and Nestor Dela Cruz (Dela Cruz).[8]

The respondents mortgaged both parcels of land to Rural Bank of Bayombong, Inc. (RBBI) to secure certain loans. Upon their failure
to pay the loans, the mortgaged properties were foreclosed and sold to RBBI. RBBI eventually consolidated title to the properties and
transfer certificates of title (TCTs) were issued in the name of RBBI. TCT No. T-62096 dated January 14, 1985 was issued for the
Murong property. It contained the following description:

Beginning at a point marked I on plan H-176292, S. 44034 W. 1656.31 m. more or less from B.L.L.M. No 1, Bagabag
Townsite, K-27,
thence N. 28 deg. 20 E., 200.00 m. to point 2;
thence S. 61 deg. 40 E., 100.00 m. to point 3;
thence S. 28 deg. 20 W., 200.00 m. to point 4;
thence N. 61 deg. 40 W., 100.00 m. to point 1; point of beginning;
Containing an area of 2.000 hectares. Bounded on the northeast, by Road; on the southeast, and southwest by public
land; and on the northwest by Public Land, properties claimed by Hilario Gaudia and Santos Navarrete. Bearings
true. Declination 0131 E. Points referred to are marked on plan H-176292.Surveyed under authority of sections 12-
22 Act No. 2874 and in accordance with existing regulations of the Bureau of Lands by H.O. Bauman Public Land
Surveyor, [in] December 1912-March 1913. Note: All corners are Conc. Mons. 15x15x60 cm. This is Lot No. 79-A=Lot
No. 159 of Bagabag Townsite, K-27.[9]

Subsequently, TCT No. T-62836 dated June 4, 1985 was issued for the Lantap property and contained the following description:

Beginning at a point marked 1 on plan H-105520, N. 80 deg. 32 W., 1150.21 m. from BLLM No. 122, Irrigation project,
thence N. 61 deg. 40E., 200.00 m. to point 2;
thence N. 28 deg. 20E, 100.00 m. to point 3;
thence S. 61 deg. 40E, 200.00 m. to point 4;
thence S. 28 deg. 20W, 100.00 m. to point 1; point of beginning; containing an area of 2.0000 hectares. Bounded on
the northeast, southeast, and southwest by Public land; and on the northwest by Road and public land. Bearings
true. Declination 0 deg. 31E., points referred to are marked on plan H-105520. Surveyed under authority of Section
12-22, Act No. 2874 and in accordance with existing regulations of the Bureau of Lands, by H.O. Bauman Public Land
Surveyor, [in] Dec. 1912-Mar. 1913 and approved on January 6, 1932. Note: This is Lot No. 119-A Lot No. 225
of Bagabag Townsite K-27.All corners are B.I. Conc. Mons. 15x60 cm.[10]

Both TCTs describe their respective subjects as located in Bagabag Townsite, K-27, without any reference to either Barangay Lantap
or Barangay Murong.

On February 26, 1985, respondents Espejos bought back one of their lots from RBBI. The Deed of Sale[11] described the property sold
as follows:

x x x do hereby SELL, TRANSFER, and CONVEY, absolutely and unconditionally x x x that certain parcel of land,
situated in the Municipality of Bagabag, Province of Nueva Vizcaya, and more particularly bounded and described as
follows, to wit:
Beginning at a point marked 1 on plan x x x x Containing an area of 2.000 hectares. Bounded on
the NE., by Road; on the SE., and SW by Public Land; and on the NW., by Public Land, properties
claimed by Hilario Gaudia and Santos Navarrete. Bearing true. Declination 013 B.Points referred to
are marked on plan H-176292.

of which the Rural Bank of Bayombong (NV) Inc., is the registered owner in fee simple in accordance with the Land
Registration Act, its title thereto being evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-62096 issued by the Registry of
Deeds of Nueva Vizcaya.

As may be seen from the foregoing, the Deed of Sale did not mention the barangay where the property was located but mentioned the
title of the property (TCT No. T-62096), which title corresponds to the Murong property. There is no evidence, however, that respondents
took possession of the Murong property, or demanded lease rentals from the petitioners (who continued to be the tenants of the Murong
property), or otherwise exercised acts of ownership over the Murong property. On the other hand, respondent Nemi (husband of
respondent Elenita and brother-in-law of the other respondents), continued working on the other property -- the Lantap property -- without
any evidence that he ever paid rentals to RBBI or to any landowner. The Deed of Sale was annotated on TCT No. T-62096 almost a
decade later, on July 1, 1994.[12]

Meanwhile, on June 20, 1990, RBBI, pursuant to Sections 20[13] and 21[14] of Republic Act (RA) No. 6657,[15] executed separate Deeds
of Voluntary Land Transfer (VLTs) in favor of petitioners Marquez and Dela Cruz, the tenants of the Murong property. Both VLTs
described the subject thereof as an agricultural land located in Barangay Murong and covered by TCT No. T-62836 (which, however,
is the title corresponding to the Lantap property).[16]

After the petitioners completed the payment of the purchase price of P90,000.00 to RBBI, the DAR issued the corresponding Certificates
of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to petitioners Marquez[17] and Dela Cruz[18] on September 5, 1991. Both CLOAs stated that their
subjects were parcels of agricultural land situated in Barangay Murong.[19] The CLOAs were registered in the Registry of Deeds of Nueva
Vizcaya on September 5, 1991.

On February 10, 1997 (more than 10 years after the Deed of Sale in favor of the respondents and almost seven years after the execution
of VLTs in favor of the petitioners), respondents filed a Complaint[20] before the Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (RARAD) of
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya for the cancellation of petitioners CLOAs, the deposit of leasehold rentals by petitioners in favor of
respondents, and the execution of a deed of voluntary land transfer by RBBI in favor of respondent Nemi. The complaint was based on
respondents theory that the Murong property, occupied by the petitioners, was owned by the respondents by virtue of the 1985 buy-
back, as documented in the Deed of Sale. They based their claim on the fact that their Deed of Sale refers to TCT No. 62096, which
pertains to the Murong property.

Petitioners filed their Answer[21] and insisted that they bought the Murong property as farmer-beneficiaries thereof. They maintained that
they have always displayed good faith, paid lease rentals to RBBI when it became the owner of the Murong property, bought the same
from RBBI upon the honest belief that they were buying the Murong property, and occupied and exercised acts of ownership over the
Murong property. Petitioners also argued that what respondents Espejos repurchased from RBBI in 1985 was actually the Lantap
property, as evidenced by their continued occupation and possession of the Lantap property through respondent Nemi.
RBBI answered[22] that it was the Lantap property which was the subject of the buy-back transaction with respondents Espejos. It denied
committing a grave mistake in the transaction and maintained its good faith in the disposition of its acquired assets in conformity with
the rural banking rules and regulations.

OIC-RARAD Decision[23]

The OIC-RARAD gave precedence to the TCT numbers appearing on the Deed of Sale and the VLTs. Since TCT No. T-62096
appeared on respondents Deed of Sale and the said title refers to the Murong property, the OIC-RARAD concluded that the subject of
sale was indeed the Murong property. On the other hand, since the petitioners VLTs referred to TCT No. T-62836, which corresponds
to the Lantap property, the OIC-RARAD ruled that petitioners CLOAs necessarily refer to the Lantap property. As for the particular
description contained in the VLTs that the subject thereof is the Murong property, the OIC-RARAD ruled that it was a mere typographical
error.
Further, since the VLTs covered the Lantap property and petitioners are not the actual tillers thereof, the OIC-RARAD declared that they
were disqualified to become tenants of the Lantap property and ordered the cancellation of their CLOAs. It then ordered RBBI to execute
a leasehold contract with the real tenant of the Lantap property, Nemi.

The OIC-RARAD recognized that petitioners only right as the actual tillers of the Murong property is to remain as the tenants thereof
after the execution of leasehold contracts with and payment of rentals in arrears to respondents.

DARAB Decision[24]

Upon appeal filed by petitioners, the DARAB reversed the OIC-RARAD Decision. It ruled that in assailing the validity of the CLOAs
issued to petitioners as bona fide tenant-farmers, the burden of proof rests on the respondents. There being no evidence that the DAR
field personnel were remiss in the performance of their official duties when they issued the corresponding CLOAs in favor of petitioners,
the presumption of regular performance of duty prevails. This conclusion is made more imperative by the respondents admission that
petitioners are the actual tillers of the Murong property, hence qualified beneficiaries thereof.

As for respondents allegation that they bought back the Murong property from RBBI, the DARAB ruled that they failed to support their
allegation with substantial evidence. It gave more credence to RBBIs claim that respondents repurchased the Lantap property, not the
Murong property. Respondents, as owners of the Lantap property, were ordered to enter into an agricultural leasehold contract with
their brother-in-law Nemi, who is the actual tenant of the Lantap property.

The DARAB ended its January 17, 2001 Decision in this wise:

We find no basis or justification to question the authenticity and validity of the CLOAs issued to appellants as they are
by operation of law qualified beneficiaries over the landholdings; there is nothing to quiet as these titles were awarded
in conformity with the CARP program implementation; and finally, the Board declares that all controverted claims to
or against the subject landholding must be completely and finally laid to rest.

WHEREFORE, premises considered and finding reversible errors[,] the assailed decision is ANNULLED and a new
judgment is hereby rendered, declaring:
1. Appellants Salun-at Marquez and Nestor Dela Cruz as the bona fide tenant-tillers over the Murong
property and therefore they are the qualified beneficiaries thereof;

2. Declaring Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) Nos. 395 and 396 issued in the name of [farmer-
beneficiaries] Salun-at Marquez and Nestor Dela Cruz respectively, covered formerly by TCT No. 62096 (TCT No.
43258) of the Murong property as valid and legal;

3. Ordering the co-[respondents] to firm-up an agricultural leasehold contract with bona fide tenant-
tiller Nemi Fernandez over the Lantap property, [the latter] being the subject matter of the buy back arrangement
entered into between [respondents] and Rural Bank of Bayombong, Incorporated, and other incidental matters are
deemed resolved.

SO ORDERED.[25]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In appealing to the CA, the respondents insisted that the DARAB erred in ruling that they repurchased the Lantap property, while the
petitioners were awarded the Murong property. They were adamant that the title numbers indicated in their respective deeds of
conveyance should control in determining the subjects thereof. Since respondents Deed of Sale expressed that its subject is the property
with TCT No. T-62096, then what was sold to them was the Murong property. On the other hand, petitioners VLTs and CLOAs say that
they cover the property with TCT No. T-62836; thus it should be understood that they were awarded the Lantap property. Respondents
added that since petitioners are not the actual tillers of the Lantap property, their CLOAs should be cancelled due to their lack of
qualification.

The CA agreed with the respondents. Using the Best Evidence Rule embodied in Rule 130, Section 3, the CA held that the Deed of
Sale is the best evidence as to its contents, particularly the description of the land which was the object of the sale. Since the Deed of
Sale expressed that its subject is the land covered by TCT No. T-62096 the Murong property then that is the property that the
respondents repurchased.
The CA further ruled that as for petitioners VLTs, the same refer to the property with TCT No. T-62836; thus, the subject of their CLOAs
is the Lantap property. The additional description in the VLTs that the subject thereof is located in Barangay Murong was considered to
be a mere typographical error. The CA ruled that the technical description contained in the TCT is more accurate in identifying the
subject property since the same particularly describes the properties metes and bounds.

Both the RBBI[26] and petitioners[27] filed their respective motions for reconsideration, which were separately denied.[28]

On June 22, 2004, RBBI filed a separate Petition for Review on Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 163320, with this Court.[29] RBBI raised
the issue that the CA failed to appreciate that respondents did not come to court with clean hands because they misled RBBI to believe
at the time of the sale that the two lots were not tenanted. RBBI also asked that they be declared free from any liability to the parties as
it did not enrich itself at anyones expense. RBBIs petition was dismissed on July 26, 2004 for lack of merit. The said Resolution reads:

Considering the allegations, issues[,] and arguments adduced in the petition for review on certiorari, the Court
Resolves to DENY the petition for lack of sufficient showing that the Court of Appeals had committed any reversible
error in the questioned judgment to warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction in this
case.[30]
Their Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied with finality.[31] Entry of judgment was made in that case on December 15, 2004.[32]

On July 27, 2005,[33] petitioners filed the instant petition.

Issues

Rephrased and consolidated, the parties present the following issues for the Courts determination:

I
What is the effect of the final judgment dismissing RBBIs Petition for Review on Certiorari, which assailed the same CA Decision

II
Whether the CA erred in utilizing the Best Evidence Rule to determine the subject of the contracts

III
What are the subject properties of the parties respective contracts with RBBI

Our Ruling

Propriety of the Petition


Respondents maintain that the instant petition for review raises factual issues which are beyond the province of Rule 45.[34]

The issues involved herein are not entirely factual. Petitioners assail the appellate courts rejection of their evidence (as to the contractual
intent) as inadmissible under the Best Evidence Rule. The question involving the admissibility of evidence is a legal question that is
within the Courts authority to review.[35]

Besides, even if it were a factual question, the Court is not precluded to review the same. The rule that a petition for review should raise
only questions of law admits of exceptions, among which are (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or
conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4)
when the judgment is based on a misappreciation of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when, in making its findings,
the same are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (8)
when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition
as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised
on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.[36]

In the instant case, we find sufficient basis to apply the exceptions to the general rule because the appellate court misappreciated the
facts of the case through its erroneous application of the Best Evidence Rule, as will be discussed below. Moreover, the disparate rulings
of the three reviewing bodies below are sufficient for the Court to exercise its jurisdiction under Rule 45.

First Issue
Dismissal of RBBIs appeal

Respondents maintain that the Courts earlier dismissal of RBBIs petition


for review of the same CA Decision is eloquent proof that there is no reversible error in the appellate courts decision in favor of the
respondents.[37]

We are not persuaded. This Court dismissed RBBIs earlier petition in G.R. No. 163320 because it failed to convincingly demonstrate
the alleged errors in the CA Decision. The bank did not point out the inadequacies and errors in the appellate courts decision but simply
placed the responsibility for the confusion on the respondents for allegedly misleading the bank as to the identity of the properties and
for misrepresenting that the two lots were not tenanted. Thus, RBBI argued that respondents did not come to court with clean hands.

These arguments were ineffectual in convincing the Court to review the appellate courts Decision. It is the appellants responsibility to
point out the perceived errors in the appealed decision. When a party merely raises equitable considerations such as the clean hands
doctrine without a clear-cut legal basis and cogent arguments to support his claim, there should be no surprise if the Court is not swayed
to exercise its appellate jurisdiction and the appeal is dismissed outright. The dismissal of an appeal does not always and necessarily
mean that the appealed decision is correct, for it could simply be the result of the appellants inadequate discussion, ineffectual
arguments, or even procedural lapses.

RBBIs failure to convince the Court of the merits of its appeal should not prejudice petitioners who were not parties to RBBIs appeal,
especially because petitioners duly filed a separate appeal and were able to articulately and effectively present their arguments. A party
cannot be deprived of his right to appeal an adverse decision just because another party had already appealed ahead of him,[38] or just
because the other partys separate appeal had already been dismissed.[39]

There is another reason not to bind the petitioners to the final judgment against RBBI. RBBI executed the transfer (VLTs) in favor of
petitioners prior to the commencement of the action. Thus, when the action for cancellation of CLOA was filed, RBBI had already
divested itself of its title to the two properties involved. Under the rule on res judicata, a judgment (in personam) is conclusive only
between the parties and their successors-in-interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action.[40] Thus, when the vendor
(in this case RBBI) has already transferred his title to third persons (petitioners), the said transferees are not bound by any judgment
which may be rendered against the vendor.[41]

Second Issue
Is it correct to apply the Best Evidence Rule?

Citing the Best Evidence Rule in Rule 130, Section 3, the CA held that the Deed of Sale between respondents and RBBI is the best
evidence as to the property that was sold by RBBI to the respondents. Since the Deed of Sale stated that its subject is the land covered
by TCT No. T-62096 the title for the Murong property then the property repurchased by the respondents was the Murong
property. Likewise, the CA held that since the VLTs between petitioners and RBBI refer to TCT No. T-62836 the title for the Lantap
property then the property transferred to petitioners was the Lantap property.

Petitioners argue that the appellate court erred in using the best evidence rule to determine the subject of the Deed of Sale and the
Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer. They maintain that the issue in the case is not the contents of the contracts but the intention of the
parties that was not adequately expressed in their contracts. Petitioners then argue that it is the Parol Evidence Rule that should be
applied in order to adequately resolve the dispute.
Indeed, the appellate court erred in its application of the Best Evidence Rule. The Best Evidence Rule states that when the subject of
inquiry is the contents of a document, the best evidence is the original document itself and no other evidence (such as a reproduction,
photocopy or oral evidence) is admissible as a general rule. The original is preferred because it reduces the chance of undetected
tampering with the document.[42]

In the instant case, there is no room for the application of the Best Evidence Rule because there is no dispute regarding the contents of
the documents. It is admitted by the parties that the respondents Deed of Sale referred to TCT No. T-62096 as its subject; while the
petitioners Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer referred to TCT No. T-62836 as its subject, which is further described as located
in Barangay Murong.

The real issue is whether the admitted contents of these documents adequately and correctly express the true intention of the parties. As
to the Deed of Sale, petitioners (and RBBI) maintain that while it refers to TCT No. T-62096, the parties actually intended the sale of the
Lantap property (covered by TCT No. T-62836).

As to the VLTs, respondents contend that the reference to TCT No. T-62836 (corresponding to the Lantap property) reflects the true
intention of RBBI and the petitioners, and the reference to Barangay Murong was a typographical error. On the other hand, petitioners
claim that the reference to Barangay Murong reflects their true intention, while the reference to TCT No. T-62836 was a mere error. This
dispute reflects an intrinsic ambiguity in the contracts, arising from an apparent failure of the instruments to adequately express the true
intention of the parties. To resolve the ambiguity, resort must be had to evidence outside of the instruments.

The CA, however, refused to look beyond the literal wording of the documents and rejected any other evidence that could shed light on
the actual intention of the contracting parties. Though the CA cited the Best Evidence Rule, it appears that what it actually applied was
the Parol Evidence Rule instead, which provides:

When the terms of an agreement have been reduced to writing, it is considered as containing all the terms agreed
upon and there can be, between the parties and their successors in interest, no evidence of such terms other than
the contents of the written agreement.[43]

The Parol Evidence Rule excludes parol or extrinsic evidence by which a party seeks to contradict, vary, add to or subtract from the
terms of a valid agreement or instrument. Thus, it appears that what the CA actually applied in its assailed Decision when it refused to
look beyond the words of the contracts was the Parol Evidence Rule, not the Best Evidence Rule. The appellate court gave primacy to
the literal terms of the two contracts and refused to admit any other evidence that would contradict such terms.

However, even the application of the Parol Evidence Rule is improper in the case at bar. In the first place, respondents are not parties
to the VLTs executed between RBBI and petitioners; they are strangers to the written contracts. Rule 130, Section 9 specifically provides
that parol evidence rule is exclusive only as between the parties and their successors-in-interest. The parol evidence rule may not be
invoked where at least one of the parties to the suit is not a party or a privy of a party to the written document in question, and does not
base his claim on the instrument or assert a right originating in the instrument.[44]
Moreover, the instant case falls under the exceptions to the Parol Evidence Rule, as provided in the second paragraph of Rule 130,
Section 9:

However, a party may present evidence to modify, explain or add to the terms of the written agreement if he puts in
issue in his pleading:

(1) An intrinsic ambiguity, mistake or imperfection in the written agreement;

(2) The failure of the written agreement to express the true intent and agreement of the parties
thereto;

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Here, the petitioners VLTs suffer from intrinsic ambiguity. The VLTs described the subject property as covered by TCT No. T-62836
(Lantap property), but they also describe the subject property as being located in Barangay Murong. Even the respondents Deed of
Sale falls under the exception to the Parol Evidence Rule. It refers to TCT No. T-62096 (Murong property), but RBBI contended that the
true intent was to sell the Lantap property. In short, it was squarely put in issue that the written agreement failed to express the true intent
of the parties.

Based on the foregoing, the resolution of the instant case necessitates an examination of the parties respective parol evidence, in order
to determine the true intent of the parties. Well-settled is the rule that in case of doubt, it is the intention of the contracting parties that
prevails, for the intention is the soul of a contract,[45] not its wording which is prone to mistakes, inadequacies, or ambiguities. To hold
otherwise would give life, validity, and precedence to mere typographical errors and defeat the very purpose of agreements.

In this regard, guidance is provided by the following articles of the Civil Code involving the interpretation of contracts:

Article 1370. If the terms of a contract are clear and leave no doubt upon the intention of the contracting parties, the
literal meaning of its stipulations shall control.

If the words appear to be contrary to the evident intention of the parties, the latter shall prevail over the former.

Article 1371. In order to judge the intention of the contracting parties, their contemporaneous and subsequent acts
shall be principally considered.

Rule 130, Section 13 which provides for the rules on the interpretation of documents is likewise enlightening:

Section 13. Interpretation according to circumstances. For the proper construction of an instrument, the circumstances
under which it was made, including the situation of the subject thereof and of the parties to it, may be shown, so that
the judge may be placed in the position of those whose language he is to interpret.

Applying the foregoing guiding rules, it is clear that the Deed of Sale was intended to transfer the Lantap property to the respondents,
while the VLTs were intended to convey the Murong property to the petitioners. This may be seen from the contemporaneous and
subsequent acts of the parties.

Third issue
Determining the intention of the parties
regarding the subjects of their contracts
We are convinced that the subject of the Deed of Sale between RBBI and the respondents was the Lantap property, and not the Murong
property. After the execution in 1985 of the Deed of Sale, the respondents did not exercise acts of ownership that could show that they
indeed knew and believed that they repurchased the Murong property. They did not take possession of the Murong property. As
admitted by the parties, the Murong property was in the possession of the petitioners, who occupied and tilled the same without any
objection from the respondents. Moreover, petitioners paid leasehold rentals for using the Murong property to RBBI, not to the
respondents.

Aside from respondents neglect of their alleged ownership rights over the Murong property, there is one other circumstance that
convinces us that what respondents really repurchased was the Lantap property. Respondent Nemi (husband of respondent Elenita)
is the farmer actually tilling the Lantap property, without turning over the supposed landowners share to RBBI. This strongly indicates
that the respondents considered themselves (and not RBBI) as the owners of the Lantap property. For if respondents (particularly
spouses Elenita and Nemi) truly believed that RBBI retained ownership of the Lantap property, how come they never complied with
their obligations as supposed tenants of RBBIs land? The factual circumstances of the case simply do not support the theory
propounded by the respondents.
We are likewise convinced that the subject of the Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer (VLTs) in favor of petitioners was the Murong
property, and not the Lantap property. When the VLTs were executed in 1990, petitioners were already the tenant-farmers of the Murong
property, and had been paying rentals to RBBI accordingly. It is therefore natural that the Murong property and no other was the one
that they had intended to acquire from RBBI with the execution of the VLTs. Moreover, after the execution of the VLTs, petitioners
remained in possession of the Murong property, enjoying and tilling it without any opposition from anybody. Subsequently, after the
petitioners completed their payment of the total purchase price of P90,000.00 to RBBI, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
officials conducted their investigation of the Murong property which, with the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty,
did not reveal any anomaly. Petitioners were found to be in actual possession of the Murong property and were the qualified beneficiaries
thereof. Thus, the DAR officials issued CLOAs in petitioners favor; and these CLOAs explicitly refer to the land in Barangay Murong. All
this time, petitioners were in possession of the Murong property, undisturbed by anyone for several long years, until respondents started
the controversy in 1997.

All of these contemporaneous and subsequent actions of RBBI and petitioners support their position that the subject of their contract
(VLTs) is the Murong property, not the Lantap property. Conversely, there has been no contrary evidence of the parties actuations to
indicate that they intended the sale of the Lantap property. Thus, it appears that the reference in their VLT to TCT No. T-62836 (Lantap
property) was due to their honest but mistaken belief that the said title covers the Murong property. Such a mistake is not farfetched
considering that TCT No. T-62836 only refers to the Municipality of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, and does not indicate the
particular barangay where the property is located.Moreover, both properties are bounded by a road and public land. Hence, were it not
for the detailed technical description, the titles for the two properties are very similar.
The respondents attempt to discredit petitioners argument that their VLTs were intrinsically ambiguous and failed to express their true
intention by asking why petitioners never filed an action for the reformation of their contract.[46] A cause of action for the reformation of a
contract only arises when one of the contracting parties manifests an intention, by overt acts, not to abide by the true agreement of the
parties.[47] It seems fairly obvious that petitioners had no cause to reform their VLTs because the parties thereto (RBBI and petitioners)
never had any dispute as to the interpretation and application thereof. They both understood the VLTs to cover the Murong property
(and not the Lantap property). It was only much later, when strangers to the contracts argued for a different interpretation, that the issue
became relevant for the first time.

All told, we rule that the Deed of Sale dated February 26, 1985 between respondents and RBBI covers the Lantap property under TCT
No. T-62836, while the Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer and TCT Nos. CLOA-395 and CLOA-396 of the petitioners cover the Murong
propertyunder TCT No. T-62096. In consequence, the CAs ruling against RBBI should not be executed as such execution would be
inconsistent with our ruling herein. Although the CAs decision had already become final and executory as against RBBI with the
dismissal of RBBIs petition in G.R. No. 163320, our ruling herein in favor of petitioners is a supervening cause which renders the
execution of the CA decision against RBBI unjust and inequitable.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The assailed October 7, 2003 Decision, as well as the May 11, 2005
Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 69981 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The January 17, 2001 Decision of the
DARAB Central Office is REINSTATED. The Deed of Sale dated February 26, 1985 between respondents and Rural Bank of
Bayombong, Inc. covers the Lantap property under TCT No. T-62836, while the Deeds of Voluntary Land Transfer and TCT Nos.
CLOA-395 and CLOA-396 of the petitioners cover the Murong property under TCT No. T-62096. The Register of Deeds of Nueva
Vizcaya is directed to make the necessary corrections to the titles of the said properties in accordance with this Decision. Costs against
respondents.
SO ORDERED.
ENGR. BAYANI MAGDAYAO, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioner Engr. Bayani Magdayao of the Decision[1] of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20549 affirming the Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court, Dipolog City, Branch 8, convicting
the petitioner of violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 22.

The Antecedents

An Information was filed charging petitioner with violation of B.P. Blg. 22 on September 16, 1993, the accusatory portion
of which reads:

On or about September 30, 1991, at Dipolog City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, knowing fully well that he did not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank, Philippine
National Bank, Dipolog Branch, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make, draw, issue and deliver to
one RICKY OLVIS, in payment of his obligation to the latter, PNB Check No. 399967 dated September 30, 1991 in the
amount of SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P600,000.00), Philippine Currency, which check, however, when
presented for payment with PNB-Dipolog Branch, was dishonored and refused payment for the reason that it was drawn
against insufficient funds, and despite repeated demands made by the private complainant on the accused, the latter,
failed to make good the checks value, to the damage and prejudice of RICKY OLVIS in the aforestated amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

When arraigned, the petitioner, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty.
When the case for trial was called on June 7, 1995 for the prosecution to adduce its evidence, the petitioner and his
counsel were absent. On motion of the prosecution, the court allowed it to adduce evidence. The prosecution presented the
private complainant, Ricky Olvis, who testified on direct examination that on September 30, 1991, the petitioner drew and
issued to him Philippine National Bank (PNB) Check No. 399967 dated September 30, 1991 in the amount of P600,000.00.
The said check was drawn against the latters account with the PNB, Dipolog City Branch, and issued in payment of the
petitioners obligation with Olvis. The latter deposited the check on October 1, 1991 in his account with the BPI-Family Bank,
Dipolog City Branch, but the drawee bank dishonored the check for the reason Drawn Against Insufficient Funds stamped
on the dorsal portion of the check. Olvis testified that when informed that his check was dishonored, the petitioner pleaded
for time to pay the amount thereof, but reneged on his promise. Olvis then filed a criminal complaint against the petitioner
for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 on September 4, 1992, docketed as I.S. No. 92-368. The petitioner again offered to repay Olvis
the amount of the obligation by retrieving the dishonored check and replacing the same with two other checks: one
for P400,000.00 and another for P200,000.00 payable to Olvis. Taking pity on the petitioner, he agreed. He then returned
the original copy of the check to the petitioner, but the latter again failed to make good on his promise and failed to pay
the P600,000.00.
The prosecution wanted Olvis to identify the petitioner as the drawer of the check, but because of the latters absence
and that of his counsel, the direct examination on the witness could not be terminated. The prosecution moved that such
direct examination of Olvis be continued on another date, and that the petitioner be ordered to appear before the court so
that he could be identified as the drawer of the subject check. The trial court granted the motion and set the continuation of
the trial on June 13, 1997. In the meantime, the prosecution marked a photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967 as Exhibit A,
and the dorsal portion thereof as Exhibit A-1.
After several postponements at the instance of the petitioner, he and his counsel failed to appear before the court for
continuation of trial. They again failed to appear when the case was called for continuation of trial on November 21, 1995.
The prosecution offered in evidence the photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967, which the court admitted. The trial court,
thereafter, issued an Order declaring the case submitted for decision. [4] The petitioner filed a motion for a reconsideration
of the Order, which the trial court denied on January 26, 1996.
The petitioner then filed an Omnibus Supplemental Motion and to Allow Him to Adduce Evidence alleging, inter alia,
that:

h) Despite the absence of the original, with only a xerox copy of the PNB Check worth P600,000.00, and further stressing
that the same was paid, the prosecutor insisted, against the vigorous objection of accused, in filing the case in Court.
Plenty of water passed under the bridge since then;[5]

In its Opposition to the said motion, the prosecution averred that it dispensed with the presentation of the original of
the dishonored check because the same had been returned to the petitioner. It also pointed out that the petitioner failed to
object to the presentation of the photocopy of the dishonored check.
In a Special Manifestation, the petitioner insisted that the photocopy of the subject check was inadmissible in evidence
because of the prosecutions failure to produce the original thereof. On July 8, 1996, the trial court issued an Order denying
the petitioners motion. The petitioners motion for reconsideration thereon was, likewise, denied by the trial court.
On January 29, 1996, the trial court rendered judgment convicting the petitioner of the crime charged. The fallo of the
decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding the guilt of the accused established beyond reasonable doubt, the herein accused, Engr. Bayani
Magdayao is convicted of the crime charged against him for Violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, as principal by direct
participation, and pursuant to Section 1 thereof sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a period of six (6)
months of arresto mayor and to pay the costs. The accused is further ordered to pay the private complainant the sum
of P600,000.00 corresponding to his obligation due to the private offended party.

SO ORDERED.[6]

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the petitioner assigned the following errors:
I

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED OF THE CRIME CHARGED SOLELY ON THE BASIS
OF THE FOLLOWING EVIDENCE:

A. MACHINE OR PHOTOSTATIC COPY OF PNB CHECK NO. 399967 DATED SEPTEMBER 30, 1991;

B. WORD DAIF AT THE BACK OF THE PHOTOSTATIC COPY OF SAID CHECK;


C. UNCORROBORATED ORAL TESTIMONY OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.

II

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED WITHOUT HIM BEING POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY
THE COMPLAINANT OR OTHER WITNESS.

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED WHEN IT RENDERED THE DECISION WITH ALLEGED FINDINGS OF FACTS NOT
SUFFICIENTLY SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE.

IV

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN AWARDING CIVIL INDEMNITY TO PRIVATE COMPLAINANT IN THE AMOUNT OF
SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS.[7]

On December 21, 2001, the CA rendered judgment affirming the decision of the trial court. The appellate court also
denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration.
In his petition at bar, the petitioner merely reiterates the errors he ascribed to the RTC in his appeal before the CA, and
prays that the decisions of the trial and appellate courts be set aside.

The Ruling of the Court

The petition has no merit.


On the first three assignments of error, the petitioner avers that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged because of the following: (a) the photocopy of PNB Check No. 399967, adduced in
evidence by the prosecution, is inadmissible in evidence under Rule 129, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Evidence;
hence, has no probative weight; b) the prosecution failed to present the BPI-Family Bank teller to testify on the presentment
of PNB Check No. 399967 and the dishonor thereof; and (c) the prosecution failed to prove that it was he who drew and
delivered the dishonored check to the private complainant, and that he was properly notified of the dishonor of the said
check. The petitioner also asserts that there was no legal basis for the award of the amount of P6,000.00 as civil indemnity.
We rule against the petitioner.
Section 1 of B.P. Blg. 22 for which the petitioner was charged, reads:

Section 1. Checks without sufficient funds. Any person who makes or draws and issues any check to apply on account
or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the
payment of such in full upon presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of
funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer without any valid reason, ordered
the bank to stop payment, shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than thirty (30) days but not more than one (1)
year or by a fine of not less than but not more than double the amount of the check which fine shall in no case exceed
Two Hundred Thousand Pesos, or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

To warrant the petitioners conviction of the crime charged, the prosecution was burdened to prove the following
essential elements thereof:

(1) The making, drawing and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;

(2) The knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds in or credit
with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and

(3) The subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or dishonor for the same
reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment.[8]
The gravamen of the offense is the act of making or issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon
presentment for payment.[9] As to the second element, knowledge on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the
insufficiency of the funds in or credit with the bank to cover the check upon its presentment refers to the state of mind of the
drawer; hence, it is difficult for the prosecution to prove. The law creates a prima facie knowledge on the insufficiency of
funds or credit, coincidental with the attendance of the two other elements. As such, Section 2 provides:

SEC. 2. Evidence of knowledge of insufficient funds. The making, drawing and issuance of a check payment of which is
refused by the drawee because of insufficient funds in or credit with such bank, when presented within ninety (90) days
from the date of the check, shall be prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds or credit unless such
maker or drawer pays the holder thereof the amount due thereon, or makes arrangements for payment in full by the
drawee of such check within five (5) banking days after receiving notice that such check has not been paid by the drawee.

We agree with the petitioner that it was incumbent upon the prosecution to adduce in evidence the original copy of
PNB Check No. 399967 to prove the contents thereof, more specifically the names of the drawer and endorsee, the date
and amount and the dishonor thereof, as well as the reason for such dishonor. Section 3, Rule 129 of the Revised Rules on
Evidence specifically provides that when the subject of inquiry is the contents of the document, no evidence shall be
admissible other than the original thereof. The purpose of the rule requiring the production by the offeror of the best evidence
is the prevention of fraud, because if a party is in possession of such evidence and withholds it and presents inferior or
secondary evidence in its place, the presumption is that the latter evidence is withheld from the court and the adverse party
for a fraudulent or devious purpose which its production would expose and defeat. [10] As long as the original evidence can
be had, the court should not receive in evidence that which is substitutionary in nature, such as photocopies, in the absence
of any clear showing that the original writing has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in court. Such photocopies
must be disregarded, being inadmissible evidence and barren of probative weight.[11]
Furthermore, under Section 3(b), Rule 130 of the said Rules, secondary evidence of a writing may be admitted when
the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to
produce it after reasonable notice. To warrant the admissibility of secondary evidence when the original of a writing is in the
custody or control of the adverse party, Section 6 of Rule 130 provides that the adverse party must be given reasonable
notice, that he fails or refuses to produce the same in court and that the offeror offers satisfactory proof of its existence:

When original document is in adverse partys custody or control. If the document is in the custody or under the control of
the adverse party, he must have reasonable notice to produce it. If after such notice and after satisfactory proof of its
existence, he fails to produce the document, secondary evidence may be presented as in the case of its loss.

The mere fact that the original of the writing is in the custody or control of the party against whom it is offered does not
warrant the admission of secondary evidence. The offeror must prove that he has done all in his power to secure the best
evidence by giving notice to the said party to produce the document. [12] The notice may be in the form of a motion for the
production of the original or made in open court in the presence of the adverse party or via a subpoena duces tecum,
provided that the party in custody of the original has sufficient time to produce the same. When such party has the original
of the writing and does not voluntarily offer to produce it or refuses to produce it, secondary evidence may be admitted. [13]
In this case, Olvis, the private complainant, testified that after the check was dishonored by the drawee bank for
insufficiency of funds, he returned it to the petitioner upon the latters offer to pay the amount of the check by drawing and
issuing two checks, one for P400,000.00 and the other for P200,000.00. However, the petitioner still failed to satisfy his
obligation to Olvis:
Q Sometime in the month of May 1991, do you remember that (sic) you have any transaction with the accused?
A Yes, Sir.
Q What was the transaction about?
A It was about our joint venture in Ipil.
Q What did the accused in this case issue to you?
A He issued me a check worth six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00).
Q If the photostatic copy of the check [would] be presented to you, would you be able to identify it?
A Yes, Sir.
Q I am showing to you a photostatic copy of PNB Dipolog Branch Check # 399967 with a maturity date on
September 30, 1991 in the amount of six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00), is this the check issued
to you?
A Yes, Sir.
Q Here is a signature at the bottom corner of this check, whose signature is this?
A Bayani Magdayao[s].
Q In other words, this check was issued for a valuable consideration in connection with the project you have in
Ipil?
A Yes, Sir.
Q What did you do with the check?
A I deposited this in BPI-Family Bank, but it was drawn against insufficient fund.
Q When did you deposit the check?
A Sometime in October.
Q October, what year?
A In 1991, Sir.
Q Within a reasonable period from the maturity date of the check, you caused it to be deposited?
A Yes, Sir.
Q And this check was dishonored by the depository bank, that the account to which it was drawn does not have
sufficient fund, is that indicated in this check?
A Yes, Sir.
Q Where is that indication of dishonor for lack of sufficient fund?
A Here, Sir.
INTERPRETER: Witness pointing to the check.
ATTY. CO:
We pray, Your Honor, that the photostatic copy of the check be marked as Exhibit A. The reason why it was
dishonored, found at the back of this check, indicated as DAIF meaning to say: Drawn Against Insufficient
Fund be marked as Exhibit A-1.
Q After being informed that the check was dishonored by the drawee bank, what did you do?
A I went to Magdayaos house and asked for payment but he refused to pay.
Q When you say Magdayao, are you referring to the accused in this case, Bayani Magdayao?
A Yes, Sir.
Q It appears that this is merely a photostatic copy of the check, where is the original of the check?
A Magdayao replaced the original check worth six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00), and he gave me
another check worth four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00) and two hundred thousand pesos
(P200,000.00).
Q At the time the accused in this case replaced this check worth six hundred thousand (P600,000.00), was the
case already pending before the City Fiscals Office or before this Honorable Court?
A Yes, Sir, it is pending.
Q Until now the amount of six hundred thousand pesos (P600,000.00) has not been paid to you?
A Yes, Sir.[14]
In his Motion to Suspend Proceedings in the trial court, the petitioner admitted that he received the original copy of the
dishonored check from the private complainant[15] and that he caused the non-payment of the dishonored check.[16] The
petitioner cannot feign ignorance of the need for the production of the original copy of PNB Check No. 399967, and the fact
that the prosecution was able to present in evidence only a photocopy thereof because the original was in his possession.
In fact, in the Omnibus Supplemental Motion dated February 8, 1996, and in his Special Manifestation filed on May 28,
1996, the petitioner complained of the prosecutions violation of the best evidence rule. The petitioner, however, never
produced the original of the check, much less offered to produce the same. The petitioner deliberately withheld the original
of the check as a bargaining chip for the court to grant him an opportunity to adduce evidence in his defense, which he
failed to do following his numerous unjustified postponements as shown by the records.
There was no longer a need for the prosecution to present as witness the employee of the drawee bank who made the
notation at the dorsal portion of the dishonored check [17] to testify that the same was dishonored for having been drawn
against insufficient funds. The petitioner had already been informed of such fact of dishonor and the reason therefor when
Olvis returned the original of the check to him. In fact, as shown by the testimony of Olvis, the petitioner drew and issued
two other separate checks, one for P400,000.00 and the other for P200,000.00, to replace the dishonored check.
Because of his dilatory tactics, the petitioner failed to adduce evidence to overcome that of the prosecutions.
The petitioners contention that Olvis failed to identify him as the drawer of the subject check is nettlesome. It bears
stressing that Olvis was ready to identify the petitioner after his direct examination, but the latter and his counsel inexplicably
failed to appear. The direct examination of Olvis had to be continued to enable him to point to and identify the petitioner as
the drawer of the check. This is shown by the transcript of the stenographic notes taken during the trial, viz:

ATTY. CO:

Considering that the accused is not present, Your Honor, I would like to manifest that the private offended party be given
the opportunity to identify the accused for purposes of this case.[18]

The trial court issued an Order on June 7, 1995, directing the petitioner, under pain of contempt, to appear before it to
enable Olvis to identify him:

After the declaration of the first and only witness for the prosecution, the private prosecutor prayed to set the case for
continuation of the trial, and ordering the defendant to appear to allow the prosecution to establish his identity.

Set the case for continuation of the trial on June 13, 1995, ordering the accused to appear personally for purposes of his
identification in court under pain of contempt if he fails to comply unjustifiably with this order. The defense shall be allowed
to cross examine the witness for the prosecution if desired, otherwise, his right of cross-examination shall be considered
waived completely.

SO ORDERED.[19]

The petitioner defied the Order of the court and failed to appear as directed, and as gleaned from the records

(14) June 7, 1995 The accused and counsel did not appear; hence, the prosecution was allowed to present its
evidence ex-parte. The private complainant was presented to testify in the direct-examination, reserving the right of cross-
examination on the part of the accused, and setting the case for the purpose on June 13, 1995.

(15) June 13, 1995 The accused did not appear, but the defense counsel requested for a resetting of the cross-
examination to be conducted. The request was granted over the objection of the prosecution, and set the continuation of
the trial to August 31, 1995.

(16) August 31, 1995 As in previous occasions, the accused did not appear and defense counsel requested for another
resetting, and despite the vigorous opposition by the prosecution, the trial was postponed to October 3, 1995, with the
understanding that if the accused will not appear, it would be taken to mean that he waived his right to cross-examination
and to present evidence in his defense.

(17) October 3, 1995 Atty. Narciso Barbaso appeared as a new counsel for the accused but requested that he be allowed
to read first the transcript of the direct testimony of the plaintiffs witness to be cross-examined. The request was granted,
and the trial was reset to November 21, 1995.

(18) November 21, 1995 The accused and his counsel both did not appear. The prosecution formally offered Exh. A in
evidence, and upon its admission, the prosecution rested its case, and prayed that as stated in the previous order of the
court dated August 31, 1995, the case shall be considered submitted for judgment, which request was granted.

(19) December 7, 1995 The defense filed a motion for reconsideration of the order dated November 21, 1995. The court
required the defense to file a supplemental motion stating the nature of its evidence to be presented if allowed to enable
the court to determine the merit of the motion for reconsideration, but despite the lapsed (sic) of the period set by the
court, the accused did not comply; hence, the denial of the motion for reconsideration, and set the case for promulgation
of the judgment on February 19, 1996.

(20) Then came the Omnibus Supplemental Motion, etc., by the accused dated February 8, 1996, and by reason thereof,
the promulgation of the judgment set on February 19, 1996, was held in abeyance.

(21) The defense counsel filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the accused dated February 27, 1996, and which was
granted by the order of the court dated March 1, 1996.

[(22)] May 28, 1996 A Special Manifestation dated May 21, 1996 in support of the Omnibus Supplemental Motion filed
thru another lawyer appearing as a new counsel for the accused, now under consideration. [20]

Contrary to the petitioners claim, the trial court did not award P6,000.00 as civil indemnity in favor of Olvis; it ordered
the petitioner to pay him P600,000.00, the amount of the subject check. Having failed to pay the amount of the check, the
petitioner is liable therefor and should be ordered to pay the same to the private complainant in this case. [21]
On the second assigned error, the petitioner faulted the trial court for imposing a penalty of imprisonment instead of a
penalty of fine, and cites SC Circular No. 12-2000 to bolster his contention. He suggests that since he is merely a first
offender, he should be sentenced to pay a fine double the amount of the check.
The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, objects to the petitioners plea on the ground that when the latter
drew and issued the dishonored check to the private complainant, he knew that the residue of his funds in the drawee bank
was insufficient to pay the amount thereof.
Considering the facts and circumstances attendant in this case, we find the petitioners plea to be barren of merit.
Administrative Circular No. 13-2001 provides:

It is, therefore, understood that:

1. Administrative Circular 12-2000 does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for violations of BP 22;

2. The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into consideration the peculiar
circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interest of justice, or
whether forbearing to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social
order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice;

3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of
the Revised Penal Code on subsidiary imprisonment.[22]

The records show that despite the numerous opportunities given to him by the trial court, the petitioner refused to
adduce any evidence in his behalf. Moreover, the Court of Appeals found the petitioners appeal to be devoid of merit.
Considering the factual milieu in this case, there is every reason for the Court to reject the plea for a penalty of fine and
maintain the penalty of imprisonment the trial court imposed on the petitioner.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED DUE COURSE. The assailed decision of the Court of
Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
CONCEPCION CHUA GAW,
Petitioner, G.R. No. 160855

Present:
- versus -
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
SUY BEN CHUA and
REYES, JJ.
FELISA CHUA,
Respondents.

Promulgated:
April 16, 2008

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

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari from the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 66790

and Resolution[2] denying the motion for reconsideration. The assailed decision affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial

Court (RTC) in a Complaint for Sum of Money in favor of the plaintiff.

The antecedents are as follows:

Spouses Chua Chin and Chan Chi were the founders of three business enterprises [3] namely: Hagonoy Lumber,

Capitol Sawmill Corporation, and Columbia Wood Industries. The couple had seven children, namely, Santos Chua;

Concepcion Chua; Suy Ben Chua; Chua Suy Phen; Chua Sioc Huan; Chua Suy Lu; and Julita Chua. On June 19, 1986,

Chua Chin died, leaving his wife Chan Chi and his seven children as his only surviving heirs. At the time of Chua Chins

death, the net worth of Hagonoy Lumber was P415,487.20.[4]

On December 8, 1986, his surviving heirs executed a Deed of Extra-Judicial Partition and Renunciation of

Hereditary Rights in Favor of a Co-Heir[5] (Deed of Partition, for brevity), wherein the heirs settled their interest in Hagonoy

Lumber as follows: one-half (1/2) thereof will pertain to the surviving spouse, Chan Chi, as her share in the conjugal

partnership; and the other half, equivalent to P207,743.60, will be divided among Chan Chi and the seven children in
equal pro indiviso shares equivalent to P25,967.00 each.[6]In said document, Chan Chi and the six children likewise agreed

to voluntarily renounce and waive their shares over Hagonoy Lumber in favor of their co-heir, Chua Sioc Huan.

In May 1988, petitioner Concepcion Chua Gaw and her husband, Antonio Gaw, asked respondent, Suy Ben Chua,

to lend them P200,000.00 which they will use for the construction of their house in Marilao, Bulacan. The parties agreed

that the loan will be payable within six (6) months without interest.[7] On June 7, 1988, respondent issued in their favor China

Banking Corporation Check No. 240810[8] for P200,000.00 which he delivered to the couples house in Marilao, Bulacan.

Antonio later encashed the check.

On August 1, 1990, their sister, Chua Sioc Huan, executed a Deed of Sale over all her rights and interests in

Hagonoy Lumber for a consideration of P255,000.00 in favor of respondent.[9]

Meantime, the spouses Gaw failed to pay the amount they borrowed from respondent within the designated period.

Respondent sent the couple a demand letter,[10] dated March 25, 1991, requesting them to settle their obligation with the

warning that he will be constrained to take the appropriate legal action if they fail to do so.

Failing to heed his demand, respondent filed a Complaint for Sum of Money against the spouses Gaw with the RTC.

The complaint alleged that on June 7, 1988, he extended a loan to the spouses Gaw for P200,000.00, payable within six

months without interest, but despite several demands, the couple failed to pay their obligation. [11]

In their Answer (with Compulsory Counterclaim), the spouses Gaw contended that the P200,000.00 was not a loan

but petitioners share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber, one of her familys businesses. According to the spouses, when they

transferred residence to Marilao, Bulacan, petitioner asked respondent for an accounting, and payment of her share in the

profits, of Capital Sawmills Corporation, Columbia Wood Industries Corporation, and Hagonoy Lumber. They claimed that

respondent persuaded petitioner to temporarily forego her demand as it would offend their mother who still wanted to remain

in control of the family businesses. To insure that she will defer her demand, respondent allegedly gave her P200,000.00

as her share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber.[12]

In his Reply, respondent averred that the spouses Gaw did not demand from him an accounting of Capitol Sawmills

Corporation, Columbia Wood Industries, and Hagonoy Lumber. He asserted that the spouses Gaw, in fact, have no right

whatsoever in these businesses that would entitle them to an accounting thereof. Respondent insisted that the P200,000.00

was given to and accepted by them as a loan and not as their share in Hagonoy Lumber. [13]
With leave of court, the spouses Gaw filed an Answer (with Amended Compulsory Counterclaim) wherein they

insisted that petitioner, as one of the compulsory heirs, is entitled to one-sixth (1/6) of Hagonoy Lumber, which the

respondent has arrogated to himself. They claimed that, despite repeated demands, respondent has failed and refused to

account for the operations of Hagonoy Lumber and to deliver her share therein. They then prayed that respondent make an

accounting of the operations of Hagonoy Lumber and to deliver to petitioner her one-sixth (1/6) share thereof, which was

estimated to be worth not less than P500,000.00.[14]

In his Answer to Amended Counterclaim, respondent explained that his sister, Chua Sioc Huan, became the sole

owner of Hagonoy Lumber when the heirs executed the Deed of Partition on December 8, 1986. In turn, he became the

sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber when he bought it from Chua Sioc Huan, as evidenced by the Deed of Sale dated August

1, 1990.[15]

Defendants, in their reply,[16] countered that the documents on which plaintiff anchors his claim of ownership over

Hagonoy Lumber were not true and valid agreements and do not express the real intention of the parties. They claimed that

these documents are mere paper arrangements which were prepared only upon the advice of a counsel until all the heirs

could reach and sign a final and binding agreement, which, up to such time, has not been executed by the heirs. [17]

During trial, the spouses Gaw called the respondent to testify as adverse witness under Section 10, Rule 132. On

direct examination, respondent testified that Hagonoy Lumber was the conjugal property of his parents Chua Chin and Chan

Chi, who were both Chinese citizens. He narrated that, initially, his father leased the lots where Hagonoy Lumber is presently

located from his godfather, Lu Pieng, and that his father constructed the two-storey concrete building standing thereon.

According to respondent, when he was in high school, it was his father who managed the business but he and his other

siblings were helping him. Later, his sister, Chua Sioc Huan, managed Hogonoy Lumber together with their other brothers

and sisters. He stated that he also managed Hagonoy Lumber when he was in high school, but he stopped when he got

married and found another job. He said that he now owns the lots where Hagonoy Lumber is operating. [18]

On cross-examination, respondent explained that he ceased to be a stockholder of Capitol Sawmill when he sold

his shares of stock to the other stockholders on January 1, 1991. He further testified that Chua Sioc Huan acquired Hagonoy

Lumber by virtue of a Deed of Partition, executed by the heirs of Chua Chin. He, in turn, became the owner of Hagonoy

Lumber when he bought the same from Chua Sioc Huan through a Deed of Sale dated August 1, 1990. [19]

On re-direct examination, respondent stated that he sold his shares of stock in Capitol Sawmill for P254,000.00,

which payment he received in cash. He also paid the purchase price of P255,000.00 for Hagonoy Lumber in cash, which

payment was not covered by a separate receipt as he merely delivered the same to Chua Sioc Huan at her house in Paso
de Blas, Valenzuela. Although he maintains several accounts at Planters Bank, Paluwagan ng Bayan, and China Bank, the

amount he paid to Chua Sioc Huan was not taken from any of them. He kept the amount in the house because he was

engaged in rediscounting checks of people from the public market. [20]

On December 10, 1998, Antonio Gaw died due to cardio vascular and respiratory failure. [21]

On February 11, 2000, the RTC rendered a Decision in favor of the respondent, thus:

WHEREFORE, in the light of all the foregoing, the Court hereby renders judgement ordering
defendant Concepcion Chua Gaw to pay the [respondent] the following:
1. P200,000.00 representing the principal obligation with legal interest from judicial
demand or the institution of the complaint on November 19, 1991;
2. P50,000.00 as attorneys fees; and
3. Costs of suit.
The defendants counterclaim is hereby dismissed for being devoid of merit.

SO ORDERED.[22]

The RTC held that respondent is entitled to the payment of the amount of P200,000.00 with interest. It noted that respondent

personally issued Check No. 240810 to petitioner and her husband upon their request to lend them the aforesaid amount.

The trial court concluded that the P200,000.00 was a loan advanced by the respondent from his own funds and not

remunerations for services rendered to Hagonoy Lumber nor petitioners advance share in the profits of their parents

businesses.

The trial court further held that the validity and due execution of the Deed of Partition and the Deed of Sale,

evidencing transfer of ownership of Hagonoy Lumber from Chua Sioc Huan to respondent, was never impugned. Although

respondent failed to produce the originals of the documents, petitioner judicially admitted the due execution of the Deed of

Partition, and even acknowledged her signature thereon, thus constitutes an exception to the best evidence rule. As for the

Deed of Sale, since the contents thereof have not been put in issue, the non-presentation of the original document is not

fatal so as to affect its authenticity as well as the truth of its contents. Also, the parties to the documents themselves do not

contest their validity. Ultimately, petitioner failed to establish her right to demand an accounting of the operations of Hagonoy

Lumber nor the delivery of her 1/6 share therein.

As for petitioners claim that an accounting be done on Capitol Sawmill Corporation and Columbia Wood Industries,

the trial court held that respondent is under no obligation to make such an accounting since he is not charged with operating

these enterprises.[23]
Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the CA, alleging that the trial court erred (1) when it considered the amount of P200,000.00

as a loan obligation and not Concepcions share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber; (2) when it considered as evidence for

the defendant, plaintiffs testimony when he was called to testify as an adverse party under Section 10 (e), Rule 132 of the

Rules of Court; and (3) when it considered admissible mere copies of the Deed of Partition and Deed of Sale to prove that

respondent is now the owner of Hagonoy Lumber.[24]

On May 23, 2003, the CA affirmed the Decision of the RTC. [25] The appellate court found baseless the petitioners

argument that the RTC should not have included respondents testimony as part of petitioners evidence. The CA noted that

the petitioner went on a fishing expedition, the taking of respondents testimony having taken up a total of eleven hearings,

and upon failing to obtain favorable information from the respondent, she now disclaims the same. Moreover, the CA held

that the petitioner failed to show that the inclusion of respondents testimony in the statement of facts in the assailed decision

unduly prejudiced her defense and counterclaims. In fact, the CA noted that the facts testified to by respondent were

deducible from the totality of the evidence presented.

The CA likewise found untenable petitioners claim that Exhibits H (Deed of Sale) and Exhibit I (Deed of Partition)

were merely temporary paper arrangements. The CA agreed with the RTC that the testimony of petitioner regarding the

matter was uncorroborated she should have presented the other heirs to attest to the truth of her allegation. Instead,

petitioner admitted the due execution of the said documents. Since petitioner did not dispute the due execution and existence

of Exhibits H and I, there was no need to produce the originals of the documents in accordance with the best evidence

rule.[26]

On December 2, 2003, the CA denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration for lack of merit. [27]

Petitioner is before this Court in this petition for review on certiorari, raising the following errors:

I. THAT ON THE PRELIMINARY IMPORTANT RELATED ISSUE, CLEAR AND PALPABLE


LEGAL ERROR HAS BEEN COMMITTED IN THE APPLICATION AND LEGAL SIGNIFICANCE
OF THE RULE ON EXAMINATION OF ADVERSE PARTY OR HOSTILE WITNESS UNDER
SECTION 10 (d) AND (e) OF RULE 132, CAUSING SERIOUS DOUBT ON THE LOWER COURTS
APPEALED DECISIONS OBJECTIVITY, ANNEX C.

II. THAT ON THE IMPORTANT LEGAL ISSUE RELATIVE TO THE AFORESAID TWO
OPPOSING CLAIMS OF RESPONDENT AND PETITIONER, CLEAR AND PALPABLE LEGAL
ERROR HAS BEEN COMMITTED UNDER THE LOWER COURTS DECISION ANNEX C AND
THE QUESTIONED DECISION OF MAY 23, 2003 (ANNEX A) AND THE RESOLUTION OF
DECEMBER 2, 2003, (ANNEX B) IN DEVIATING FROM AND DISREGARDING ESTABLISHED
SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ENJOINING COURTS NOT TO OVERLOOK OR
MISINTERPRET IMPORTANT FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, SUPPORTED BY CLEAR AND
CONVINCING EVIDENCE ON RECORD, AND WHICH ARE OF GREAT WEIGHT AND VALUE,
WHICH WOULD CHANGE THE RESULT OF THE CASE AND ARRIVE AT A JUST, FAIR AND
OBJECTIVE DECISION. (Citations omitted)

III. THAT FINALLY, AS TO THE OTHER LEGAL IMPORTANT ISSUE RELATIVE TO CLAIM OR
OWNERSHIP OF THE HAGONOY LUMBER FAMILY BUSINESS, CLEAR AND PALPABLE
LEGAL ERROR HAS BEEN COMMITTED ON THE REQUIREMENTS AND CORRECT
APPLICATION OF THE BEST EVIDENCE RULE UNDER SECTION 3, RULE 130 OF THE
REVISED RULES OF COURT.[28]

The petition is without merit.

Petitioner contends that her case was unduly prejudiced by the RTCs treatment of the respondents testimony as

adverse witness during cross-examination by his own counsel as part of her evidence. Petitioner argues that the adverse

witness testimony elicited during cross-examination should not be considered as evidence of the calling party. She contends

that the examination of respondent as adverse witness did not make him her witness and she is not bound by his testimony,

particularly during cross-examination by his own counsel.[29] In particular, the petitioner avers that the following testimony

of the respondent as adverse witness should not be considered as her evidence:

(11.a) That RESPONDENT-Appellee became owner of the HAGONOY LUMBER business when he bought
the same from Chua Sioc Huan through a Deed of Sale dated August 1, 1990 (EXH.H);

(11.b) That the HAGONOY LUMBER, on the other hand, was acquired by the sister Chua Sioc Huan, by
virtue of Extrajudicial Partition and Renunciation of Hereditary Rights in favor of a Co-Heir (EXH.
I);

(11.c) That the 3 lots on which the HAGONOY LUMBER business is located were acquired by Lu Pieng
from the Santos family under the Deed of Absolute Sale (EXH. J); that Lu Pieng sold the Lots to
Chua Suy Lu in 1976 (EXHS. K, L, & M.); that Chua Siok Huan eventually became owner of the 3
Lots; and in 1989 Chua Sioc Huan sold them to RESPONDENT-Appellee (EXHS. Q and P); that
after he acquired the 3 Lots, he has not sold them to anyone and he is the owner of the lots. [30]

We do not agree that petitioners case was prejudiced by the RTCs treatment of the respondents testimony during

cross-examination as her evidence.

If there was an error committed by the RTC in ascribing to the petitioner the respondents testimony as adverse

witness during cross-examination by his own counsel, it constitute a harmless error which would not, in any way, change

the result of the case.

In the first place, the delineation of a piece of evidence as part of the evidence of one party or the other is only

significant in determining whether the party on whose shoulders lies the burden of proof was able to meet the quantum of

evidence needed to discharge the burden. In civil cases, that burden devolves upon the plaintiff who must establish her

case by preponderance of evidence. The rule is that the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not upon
the weakness of the defendants evidence. Thus, it barely matters who with a piece of evidence is credited. In the end, the

court will have to consider the entirety of the evidence presented by both parties. Preponderance of evidence is then

determined by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, culled from the evidence, regardless of who actually

presented it.[31]

That the witness is the adverse party does not necessarily mean that the calling party will not be bound by the

formers testimony. The fact remains that it was at his instance that his adversary was put on the witness stand. Unlike an

ordinary witness, the calling party may impeach an adverse witness in all respects as if he had been called by the adverse

party,[32] except by evidence of his bad character.[33] Under a rule permitting the impeachment of an adverse witness,

although the calling party does not vouch for the witness veracity, he is nonetheless bound by his testimony if it is not

contradicted or remains unrebutted.[34]

A party who calls his adversary as a witness is, therefore, not bound by the latters testimony only in the sense that

he may contradict him by introducing other evidence to prove a state of facts contrary to what the witness testifies on. [35] A

rule that provides that the party calling an adverse witness shall not be bound by his testimony does not mean that such

testimony may not be given its proper weight, but merely that the calling party shall not be precluded from rebutting his

testimony or from impeaching him.[36] This, the petitioner failed to do.

In the present case, the petitioner, by her own testimony, failed to discredit the respondents testimony on how

Hagonoy Lumber became his sole property. The petitioner admitted having signed the Deed of Partition but she insisted

that the transfer of the property to Chua Siok Huan was only temporary. On cross-examination, she confessed that no other

document was executed to indicate that the transfer of the business to Chua Siok Huan was a temporary arrangement. She

declared that, after their mother died in 1993, she did not initiate any action concerning Hagonoy Lumber, and it was only

in her counterclaim in the instant that, for the first time, she raised a claim over the business.

Due process requires that in reaching a decision, a tribunal must consider the entire evidence presented. [37] All the

parties to the case, therefore, are considered bound by the favorable or unfavorable effects resulting from the

evidence.[38] As already mentioned, in arriving at a decision, the entirety of the evidence presented will be considered,

regardless of the party who offered them in evidence. In this light, the more vital consideration is not whether a piece of

evidence was properly attributed to one party, but whether it was accorded the apposite probative weight by the court. The

testimony of an adverse witness is evidence in the case and should be given its proper weight, and such evidence becomes

weightier if the other party fails to impeach the witness or contradict his testimony.
Significantly, the RTCs finding that the P200,000.00 was given to the petitioner and her husband as a loan is

supported by the evidence on record. Hence, we do not agree with the petitioners contention that the RTC has overlooked

certain facts of great weight and value in arriving at its decision. The RTC merely took into consideration evidence which it

found to be more credible than the self-serving and uncorroborated testimony of the petitioner.

At this juncture, we reiterate the well-entrenched doctrine that the findings of fact of the CA affirming those of the

trial court are accorded great respect, even finality, by this Court. Only errors of law, not of fact, may be reviewed by this

Court in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45.[39] A departure from the general rule may be warranted where the

findings of fact of the CA are contrary to the findings and conclusions of the trial court, or when the same is unsupported by

the evidence on record.[40] There is no reason to apply the exception in the instant case because the findings and

conclusions of the CA are in full accord with those of the trial court. These findings are buttressed by the evidence on

record. Moreover, the issues and errors alleged in this petition are substantially the very same questions of fact raised by

petitioner in the appellate court.

On the issue of whether the P200,000.00 was really a loan, it is well to remember that a check may be evidence of

indebtedness.[41] A check, the entries of which are in writing, could prove a loan transaction.[42] It is pure naivet to insist that

an entrepreneur who has several sources of income and has access to considerable bank credit, no longer has any reason

to borrow any amount.

The petitioners allegation that the P200,000.00 was advance on her share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber is

implausible. It is true that Hagonoy Lumber was originally owned by the parents of petitioner and respondent. However, on

December 8, 1986, the heirs freely renounced and waived in favor of their sister Chua Sioc Huan all their hereditary shares

and interest therein, as shown by the Deed of Partition which the petitioner herself signed. By virtue of this deed, Chua Sioc

Huan became the sole owner and proprietor of Hagonoy Lumber. Thus, when the respondent delivered the check

for P200,000.00 to the petitioner on June 7, 1988, Chua Sioc Huan was already the sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber. At that

time, both petitioner and respondent no longer had any interest in the business enterprise; neither had a right to demand a

share in the profits of the business. Respondent became the sole owner of Hagonoy Lumber only after Chua Sioc Huan

sold it to him on August 1, 1990. So, when the respondent delivered to the petitioner the P200,000.00 check on June 7,

1988, it could not have been given as an advance on petitioners share in the business, because at that moment in time both

of them had no participation, interest or share in Hagonoy Lumber. Even assuming, arguendo, that the check was an

advance on the petitioners share in the profits of the business, it was highly unlikely that the respondent would deliver a

check drawn against his personal, and not against the business enterprises account.

It is also worthy to note that both the Deed of Partition and the Deed of Sale were acknowledged before a Notary

Public. The notarization of a private document converts it into a public document, and makes it admissible in court without
further proof of its authenticity.[43] It is entitled to full faith and credit upon its face.[44] A notarized document carries evidentiary

weight as to its due execution, and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the presumption of

regularity. Such a document must be given full force and effect absent a strong, complete and conclusive proof of its falsity

or nullity on account of some flaws or defects recognized by law. [45] A public document executed and attested through the

intervention of a notary public is, generally, evidence of the facts therein express in clear unequivocal manner. [46]

Petitioner, however, maintains that the RTC erred in admitting in evidence a mere copy of the Deed of Partition and

the Deed of Sale in violation of the best evidence rule. In addition, petitioner insists that the Deed of Sale was not the result

of bona fidenegotiations between a true seller and buyer.

The best evidence rule as encapsulated in Rule 130, Section 3,[47] of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure applies

only when the content of such document is the subject of the inquiry. Where the issue is only as to whether such document

was actually executed, or exists, or on the circumstances relevant to or surrounding its execution, the best evidence

rule does not apply and testimonial evidence is admissible. Any other substitutionary evidence is likewise admissible without

need to account for the original.[48] Moreover, production of the original may be dispensed with, in the trial courts discretion,

whenever the opponent does not bona fide dispute the contents of the document and no other useful purpose will be served

by requiring production.[49]

Accordingly, we find that the best evidence rule is not applicable to the instant case. Here, there was no dispute as

to the terms of either deed; hence, the RTC correctly admitted in evidence mere copies of the two deeds. The petitioner

never even denied their due execution and admitted that she signed the Deed of Partition. [50] As for the Deed of Sale,

petitioner had, in effect, admitted its genuineness and due execution when she failed to specifically deny it in the manner

required by the rules.[51] The petitioner merely claimed that said documents do not express the true agreement and intention

of the parties since they were only provisional paper arrangements made upon the advice of counsel.[52] Apparently, the

petitioner does not contest the contents of these deeds but alleges that there was a contemporaneous agreement that the

transfer of Hagonoy Lumber to Chua Sioc Huan was only temporary.

An agreement or the contract between the parties is the formal expression of the parties rights, duties and

obligations. It is the best evidence of the intention of the parties.[53] The parties intention is to be deciphered from the

language used in the contract, not from the unilateral post facto assertions of one of the parties, or of third parties who are

strangers to the contract.[54] Thus, when the terms of an agreement have been reduced to writing, it is deemed to contain

all the terms agreed upon and there can be, between the parties and their successors in interest, no evidence of such terms

other than the contents of the written agreement.[55]


WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV

No. 66790 dated May 23, 2003 and Resolution dated December 2, 2003 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 170633 October 17, 2007

MCC INDUSTRIAL SALES CORPORATION, petitioner,


vs.
SSANGYONG CORPORATION, respondents.

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 82983
and its Resolution2 denying the motion for reconsideration thereof.

Petitioner MCC Industrial Sales (MCC), a domestic corporation with office at Binondo, Manila, is engaged in the business
of importing and wholesaling stainless steel products.3 One of its suppliers is the Ssangyong Corporation
(Ssangyong),4 an international trading company5 with head office in Seoul, South Korea and regional headquarters in
Makati City, Philippines.6 The two corporations conducted business through telephone calls and facsimile or telecopy
transmissions.7 Ssangyong would send the pro forma invoices containing the details of the steel product order to MCC; if
the latter conforms thereto, its representative affixes his signature on the faxed copy and sends it back to Ssangyong,
again by fax.8

On April 13, 2000, Ssangyong Manila Office sent, by fax, a letter 9 addressed to Gregory Chan, MCC Manager [also the
President10 of Sanyo Seiki Stainless Steel Corporation], to confirm MCC's and Sanyo Seiki's order of 220 metric
tons (MT) of hot rolled stainless steel under a preferential rate of US$1,860.00 per MT. Chan, on behalf of the
corporations, assented and affixed his signature on the conforme portion of the letter.11

On April 17, 2000, Ssangyong forwarded to MCC Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTSO40112 containing the terms and
conditions of the transaction. MCC sent back by fax to Ssangyong the invoice bearing the conformity signature 13 of Chan.
As stated in the pro forma invoice, payment for the ordered steel products would be made through an irrevocable letter of
credit (L/C) at sight in favor of Ssangyong.14 Following their usual practice, delivery of the goods was to be made after the
L/C had been opened.

In the meantime, because of its confirmed transaction with MCC, Ssangyong placed the order with its steel manufacturer,
Pohang Iron and Steel Corporation (POSCO), in South Korea15 and paid the same in full.

Because MCC could open only a partial letter of credit, the order for 220MT of steel was split into two, 16 one
for 110MT covered by Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS0401-117 and another for 110MT covered by ST2-POSTS0401-
2,18 both dated April 17, 2000.

On June 20, 2000, Ssangyong, through its Manila Office, informed Sanyo Seiki and Chan, by way of a fax transmittal, that
it was ready to ship 193.597MT of stainless steel from Korea to the Philippines. It requested that the opening of the L/C be
facilitated.19 Chan affixed his signature on the fax transmittal and returned the same, by fax, to Ssangyong.20

Two days later, on June 22, 2000, Ssangyong Manila Office informed Sanyo Seiki, thru Chan, that it was able to secure a
US$30/MT price adjustment on the contracted price of US$1,860.00/MT for the 200MT stainless steel, and that the goods
were to be shipped in two tranches, the first 100MT on that day and the second 100MT not later than June 27, 2000.
Ssangyong reiterated its request for the facilitation of the L/C's opening.21

Ssangyong later, through its Manila Office, sent a letter, on June 26, 2000, to the Treasury Group of Sanyo Seiki that it
was looking forward to receiving the L/C details and a cable copy thereof that day. 22 Ssangyong sent a separate letter of
the same date to Sanyo Seiki requesting for the opening of the L/C covering payment of the first 100MT not later than
June 28, 2000.23 Similar letters were transmitted by Ssangyong Manila Office on June 27, 2000.24 On June 28, 2000,
Ssangyong sent another facsimile letter to MCC stating that its principal in Korea was already in a difficult
situation25 because of the failure of Sanyo Seiki and MCC to open the L/C's.

The following day, June 29, 2000, Ssangyong received, by fax, a letter signed by Chan, requesting an extension of time to
open the L/C because MCC's credit line with the bank had been fully availed of in connection with another transaction,
and MCC was waiting for an additional credit line.26 On the same date, Ssangyong replied, requesting that it be informed
of the date when the L/C would be opened, preferably at the earliest possible time, since its Steel Team 2 in Korea was
having problems and Ssangyong was incurring warehousing costs. 27 To maintain their good business relationship and to
support MCC in its financial predicament, Ssangyong offered to negotiate with its steel manufacturer, POSCO, another
US$20/MT discount on the price of the stainless steel ordered. This was intimated in Ssangyong's June 30, 2000 letter to
MCC.28 On July 6, 2000, another follow-up letter29 for the opening of the L/C was sent by Ssangyong to MCC.

However, despite Ssangyong's letters, MCC failed to open a letter of credit.30 Consequently, on August 15, 2000,
Ssangyong, through counsel, wrote Sanyo Seiki that if the L/C's were not opened, Ssangyong would be compelled to
cancel the contract and hold MCC liable for damages for breach thereof amounting to US$96,132.18, inclusive of
warehouse expenses, related interests and charges.31

Later, Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-132 and ST2-POSTS080-233 dated August 16, 2000 were issued by
Ssangyong and sent via fax to MCC. The invoices slightly varied the terms of the earlier pro forma invoices (ST2-
POSTSO401, ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2), in that the quantity was now officially 100MT per invoice and
the price was reduced to US$1,700.00 per MT. As can be gleaned from the photocopies of the said August 16, 2000
invoices submitted to the court, they both bear the conformity signature of MCC Manager Chan.

On August 17, 2000, MCC finally opened an L/C with PCIBank for US$170,000.00 covering payment for 100MT of
stainless steel coil under Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-2.34 The goods covered by the said invoice were then
shipped to and received by MCC.35

MCC then faxed to Ssangyong a letter dated August 22, 2000 signed by Chan, requesting for a price adjustment of the
order stated in Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-1, considering that the prevailing price of steel at that time was
US$1,500.00/MT, and that MCC lost a lot of money due to a recent strike.36

Ssangyong rejected the request, and, on August 23, 2000, sent a demand letter 37 to Chan for the opening of the second
and last L/C of US$170,000.00 with a warning that, if the said L/C was not opened by MCC on August 26, 2000,
Ssangyong would be constrained to cancel the contract and hold MCC liable for US$64,066.99 (representing cost
difference, warehousing expenses, interests and charges as of August 15, 2000) and other damages for breach. Chan
failed to reply.

Exasperated, Ssangyong through counsel wrote a letter to MCC, on September 11, 2000, canceling the sales contract
under ST2-POSTS0401-1 /ST2-POSTS0401-2, and demanding payment of US$97,317.37 representing losses,
warehousing expenses, interests and charges.38

Ssangyong then filed, on November 16, 2001, a civil action for damages due to breach of contract against defendants
MCC, Sanyo Seiki and Gregory Chan before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City. In its complaint, 39Ssangyong alleged
that defendants breached their contract when they refused to open the L/C in the amount of US$170,000.00 for the
remaining 100MT of steel under Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2.

After Ssangyong rested its case, defendants filed a Demurrer to Evidence 40 alleging that Ssangyong failed to present the
original copies of the pro forma invoices on which the civil action was based. In an Order dated April 24, 2003, the court
denied the demurrer, ruling that the documentary evidence presented had already been admitted in the December 16,
2002 Order41 and their admissibility finds support in Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8792, otherwise known as the Electronic
Commerce Act of 2000. Considering that both testimonial and documentary evidence tended to substantiate the material
allegations in the complaint, Ssangyong's evidence sufficed for purposes of a prima facie case. 42

After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered its Decision43 on March 24, 2004, in favor of Ssangyong. The trial court ruled
that when plaintiff agreed to sell and defendants agreed to buy the 220MT of steel products for the price of US$1,860 per
MT, the contract was perfected. The subject transaction was evidenced by Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1
and ST2-POSTS0401-2, which were later amended only in terms of reduction of volume as well as the price per MT,
following Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-1 and ST2-POSTS080-2. The RTC, however, excluded Sanyo Seiki
from liability for lack of competent evidence. The fallo of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendants MCC Industrial Sales
Corporation and Gregory Chan, to pay plaintiff, jointly and severally the following:

1) Actual damages of US$93,493.87 representing the outstanding principal claim plus interest at the rate of 6%
per annum from March 30, 2001.

2) Attorney's fees in the sum of P50,000.00 plus P2,000.00 per counsel's appearance in court, the same being
deemed just and equitable considering that by reason of defendants' breach of their obligation under the subject
contract, plaintiff was constrained to litigate to enforce its rights and recover for the damages it sustained, and
therefore had to engage the services of a lawyer.

3) Costs of suit.

No award of exemplary damages for lack of sufficient basis.

SO ORDERED.44

On April 22, 2004, MCC and Chan, through their counsel of record, Atty. Eladio B. Samson, filed their Notice of
Appeal.45 On June 8, 2004, the law office of Castillo Zamora & Poblador entered its appearance as their collaborating
counsel.

In their Appeal Brief filed on March 9, 2005,46 MCC and Chan raised before the CA the following errors of the RTC:

I. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT APPELLANTS VIOLATED THEIR
CONTRACT WITH APPELLEE

A. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT APPELLANTS AGREED TO
PURCHASE 200 METRIC TONS OF STEEL PRODUCTS FROM APPELLEE, INSTEAD OF ONLY 100
METRIC TONS.

1. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN ADMITTING IN EVIDENCE


THE PRO FORMA INVOICES WITH REFERENCE NOS. ST2- POSTS0401-1 AND ST2-
POSTS0401-2.

II. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN AWARDING ACTUAL DAMAGES TO APPELLEE.

III. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN AWARDING ATTORNEY'S FEES TO APPELLEE.

IV. THE HONORABLE COURT A QUO PLAINLY ERRED IN FINDING APPELLANT GREGORY CHAN JOINTLY
AND SEVERALLY LIABLE WITH APPELLANT MCC.47

On August 31, 2005, the CA rendered its Decision48 affirming the ruling of the trial court, but absolving Chan of any
liability. The appellate court ruled, among others, that Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-
2 (Exhibits "E", "E-1" and "F") were admissible in evidence, although they were mere facsimile printouts of MCC's steel
orders.49 The dispositive portion of the appellate court's decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court holds:

(1) The award of actual damages, with interest, attorney's fees and costs ordered by the lower court is hereby
AFFIRMED.

(2) Appellant Gregory Chan is hereby ABSOLVED from any liability.

SO ORDERED.50

A copy of the said Decision was received by MCC's and Chan's principal counsel, Atty. Eladio B. Samson, on September
14, 2005.51 Their collaborating counsel, Castillo Zamora & Poblador,52 likewise, received a copy of the CA decision on
September 19, 2005.53
On October 4, 2005, Castillo Zamora & Poblador, on behalf of MCC, filed a motion for reconsideration of the said
decision.54 Ssangyong opposed the motion contending that the decision of the CA had become final and executory on
account of the failure of MCC to file the said motion within the reglementary period. The appellate court resolved, on
November 22, 2005, to deny the motion on its merits,55 without, however, ruling on the procedural issue raised.

Aggrieved, MCC filed a petition for review on certiorari56 before this Court, imputing the following errors to the Court of
Appeals:

THE COURT OF APPEALS DECIDED A LEGAL QUESTION NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH JURISPRUDENCE
AND SANCTIONED A DEPARTURE FROM THE USUAL AND ACCEPTED COURSE OF JUDICIAL
PROCEEDINGS BY REVERSING THE COURT A QUO'S DISMISSAL OF THE COMPLAINT IN CIVIL CASE
NO. 02-124 CONSIDERING THAT:

I. THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE ADMISSIBILITY IN EVIDENCE OF THE


PRO-FORMA INVOICES WITH REFERENCE NOS. ST2-POSTSO401-1 AND ST2-POSTSO401-2,
DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE SAME WERE MERE PHOTOCOPIES OF FACSIMILE PRINTOUTS.

II. THE COURT OF APPEALS FAILED TO APPRECIATE THE OBVIOUS FACT THAT, EVEN
ASSUMING PETITIONER BREACHED THE SUPPOSED CONTRACT, THE FACT IS THAT
PETITIONER FAILED TO PROVE THAT IT SUFFERED ANY DAMAGES AND THE AMOUNT
THEREOF.

III. THE AWARD OF ACTUAL DAMAGES IN THE AMOUNT OF US$93,493.87 IS SIMPLY


UNCONSCIONABLE AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT LEAST REDUCED, IF NOT DELETED BY THE
COURT OF APPEALS.57

In its Comment, Ssangyong sought the dismissal of the petition, raising the following arguments: that the CA decision
dated 15 August 2005 is already final and executory, because MCC's motion for reconsideration was filed beyond the
reglementary period of 15 days from receipt of a copy thereof, and that, in any case, it was a pro formamotion; that MCC
breached the contract for the purchase of the steel products when it failed to open the required letter of credit; that the
printout copies and/or photocopies of facsimile or telecopy transmissions were properly admitted by the trial court
because they are considered original documents under R.A. No. 8792; and that MCC is liable for actual damages and
attorney's fees because of its breach, thus, compelling Ssangyong to litigate.

The principal issues that this Court is called upon to resolve are the following:

I – Whether the CA decision dated 15 August 2005 is already final and executory;

II – Whether the print-out and/or photocopies of facsimile transmissions are electronic evidence and admissible as such;

III – Whether there was a perfected contract of sale between MCC and Ssangyong, and, if in the affirmative, whether
MCC breached the said contract; and

IV – Whether the award of actual damages and attorney's fees in favor of Ssangyong is proper and justified.

-I-

It cannot be gainsaid that in Albano v. Court of Appeals,58 we held that receipt of a copy of the decision by one of several
counsels on record is notice to all, and the period to appeal commences on such date even if the other counsel has not
yet received a copy of the decision. In this case, when Atty. Samson received a copy of the CA decision on September
14, 2005, MCC had only fifteen (15) days within which to file a motion for reconsideration conformably with Section 1,
Rule 52 of the Rules of Court, or to file a petition for review on certiorari in accordance with Section 2, Rule 45. The period
should not be reckoned from September 29, 2005 (when Castillo Zamora & Poblador received their copy of the decision)
because notice to Atty. Samson is deemed notice to collaborating counsel.

We note, however, from the records of the CA, that it was Castillo Zamora & Poblador, not Atty. Samson, which filed both
MCC's and Chan's Brief and Reply Brief. Apparently, the arrangement between the two counsels was for the
collaborating, not the principal, counsel to file the appeal brief and subsequent pleadings in the CA. This explains why it
was Castillo Zamora & Poblador which filed the motion for the reconsideration of the CA decision, and they did so on
October 5, 2005, well within the 15-day period from September 29, 2005, when they received their copy of the CA
decision. This could also be the reason why the CA did not find it necessary to resolve the question of the timeliness of
petitioner's motion for reconsideration, even as the CA denied the same.

Independent of this consideration though, this Court assiduously reviewed the records and found that strong concerns of
substantial justice warrant the relaxation of this rule.

In Philippine Ports Authority v. Sargasso Construction and Development Corporation,59 we ruled that:

In Orata v. Intermediate Appellate Court, we held that where strong considerations of substantive justice are
manifest in the petition, this Court may relax the strict application of the rules of procedure in the exercise of its
legal jurisdiction. In addition to the basic merits of the main case, such a petition usually embodies justifying
circumstance which warrants our heeding to the petitioner's cry for justice in spite of the earlier negligence of
counsel. As we held in Obut v. Court of Appeals:

[W]e cannot look with favor on a course of action which would place the administration of justice in a
straight jacket for then the result would be a poor kind of justice if there would be justice at all. Verily,
judicial orders, such as the one subject of this petition, are issued to be obeyed, nonetheless a non-
compliance is to be dealt with as the circumstances attending the case may warrant. What should guide
judicial action is the principle that a party-litigant is to be given the fullest opportunity to establish the
merits of his complaint or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on
technicalities.

The rules of procedure are used only to secure and not override or frustrate justice. A six-day delay in the
perfection of the appeal, as in this case, does not warrant the outright dismissal of the appeal. In Development
Bank of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, we gave due course to the petitioner's appeal despite the late filing
of its brief in the appellate court because such appeal involved public interest. We stated in the said case that the
Court may exempt a particular case from a strict application of the rules of procedure where the appellant failed to
perfect its appeal within the reglementary period, resulting in the appellate court's failure to obtain jurisdiction over
the case. In Republic vs. Imperial, Jr., we also held that there is more leeway to exempt a case from the strictness
of procedural rules when the appellate court has already obtained jurisdiction over the appealed case. We
emphasize that:

[T]he rules of procedure are mere tools intended to facilitate the attainment of justice, rather than frustrate
it. A strict and rigid application of the rules must always be eschewed when it would subvert the rule's
primary objective of enhancing fair trials and expediting justice. Technicalities should never be used to
defeat the substantive rights of the other party. Every party-litigant must be afforded the amplest
opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities. 60

Moreover, it should be remembered that the Rules were promulgated to set guidelines in the orderly administration of
justice, not to shackle the hand that dispenses it. Otherwise, the courts would be consigned to being mere slaves to
technical rules, deprived of their judicial discretion. Technicalities must take a backseat to substantive rights. After all, it is
circumspect leniency in this respect that will give the parties the fullest opportunity to ventilate the merits of their
respective causes, rather than have them lose life, liberty, honor or property on sheer technicalities. 61

The other technical issue posed by respondent is the alleged pro forma nature of MCC's motion for reconsideration,
ostensibly because it merely restated the arguments previously raised and passed upon by the CA.

In this connection, suffice it to say that the mere restatement of arguments in a motion for reconsideration does not per se
result in a pro forma motion. In Security Bank and Trust Company, Inc. v. Cuenca,62 we held that a motion for
reconsideration may not be necessarily pro forma even if it reiterates the arguments earlier passed upon and rejected by
the appellate court. A movant may raise the same arguments precisely to convince the court that its ruling was erroneous.
Furthermore, the pro forma rule will not apply if the arguments were not sufficiently passed upon and answered in the
decision sought to be reconsidered.

- II -

The second issue poses a novel question that the Court welcomes. It provides the occasion for this Court to pronounce a
definitive interpretation of the equally innovative provisions of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 (R.A. No. 8792) vis-à-
vis the Rules on Electronic Evidence.
Although the parties did not raise the question whether the original facsimile transmissions are "electronic data messages"
or "electronic documents" within the context of the Electronic Commerce Act (the petitioner merely assails as inadmissible
evidence the photocopies of the said facsimile transmissions), we deem it appropriate to determine first whether the said
fax transmissions are indeed within the coverage of R.A. No. 8792 before ruling on whether the photocopies thereof are
covered by the law. In any case, this Court has ample authority to go beyond the pleadings when, in the interest of justice
or for the promotion of public policy, there is a need to make its own findings in order to support its conclusions. 63

Petitioner contends that the photocopies of the pro forma invoices presented by respondent Ssangyong to prove the
perfection of their supposed contract of sale are inadmissible in evidence and do not fall within the ambit of R.A. No. 8792,
because the law merely admits as the best evidence the original fax transmittal. On the other hand, respondent posits
that, from a reading of the law and the Rules on Electronic Evidence, the original facsimile transmittal of the pro
forma invoice is admissible in evidence since it is an electronic document and, therefore, the best evidence under the law
and the Rules. Respondent further claims that the photocopies of these fax transmittals (specifically ST2-POSTS0401-
1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2) are admissible under the Rules on Evidence because the respondent sufficiently explained the
non-production of the original fax transmittals.

In resolving this issue, the appellate court ruled as follows:

Admissibility of Pro Forma


Invoices; Breach of Contract
by Appellants

Turning first to the appellants' argument against the admissibility of the Pro Forma Invoices with Reference Nos.
ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits "E", "E-1" and "F", pp. 215-218, Records), appellants argue
that the said documents are inadmissible (sic) being violative of the best evidence rule.

The argument is untenable.

The copies of the said pro-forma invoices submitted by the appellee are admissible in evidence, although they are
mere electronic facsimile printouts of appellant's orders. Such facsimile printouts are considered Electronic
Documents under the New Rules on Electronic Evidence, which came into effect on August 1, 2001. (Rule 2,
Section 1 [h], A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC).

"(h) 'Electronic document' refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols
or other modes of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established
or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded,
transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally signed documents
and any printout or output, readable by sight or other means, which accurately reflects the electronic data
message or electronic document. For purposes of these Rules, the term 'electronic document' may be
used interchangeably with 'electronic data message'.

An electronic document shall be regarded as the equivalent of an original document under the Best Evidence
Rule, as long as it is a printout or output readable by sight or other means, showing to reflect the data accurately.
(Rule 4, Section 1, A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC)

The ruling of the Appellate Court is incorrect. R.A. No. 8792,64 otherwise known as the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000,
considers an electronic data message or an electronic document as the functional equivalent of a written document for
evidentiary purposes.65 The Rules on Electronic Evidence66 regards an electronic document as admissible in evidence if it
complies with the rules on admissibility prescribed by the Rules of Court and related laws, and is authenticated in the
manner prescribed by the said Rules.67 An electronic document is also the equivalent of an original document under the
Best Evidence Rule, if it is a printout or output readable by sight or other means, shown to reflect the data accurately. 68

Thus, to be admissible in evidence as an electronic data message or to be considered as the functional equivalent of an
original document under the Best Evidence Rule, the writing must foremost be an "electronic data message" or an
"electronic document."

The Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 defines electronic data message and electronic document as follows:

Sec. 5. Definition of Terms. For the purposes of this Act, the following terms are defined, as follows:
xxx

c. "Electronic Data Message" refers to information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or
similar means.

xxx

f. "Electronic Document" refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other
modes of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established or an obligation
extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 8792,69 which was signed on July 13, 2000 by the then
Secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Budget and Management, and then Governor of
the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, defines the terms as:

Sec. 6. Definition of Terms. For the purposes of this Act and these Rules, the following terms are defined, as
follows:

xxx

(e) "Electronic Data Message" refers to information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or
similar means, but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or telecopy.
Throughout these Rules, the term "electronic data message" shall be equivalent to and be used interchangeably
with "electronic document."

xxxx

(h) "Electronic Document" refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols or
other modes of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established or an
obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted,
stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. Throughout these Rules, the term "electronic document"
shall be equivalent to and be used interchangeably with "electronic data message."

The phrase "but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or telecopy" in the IRR's
definition of "electronic data message" is copied from the Model Law on Electronic Commerce adopted by the United
Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL),70 from which majority of the provisions of R.A. No. 8792
were taken.71 While Congress deleted this phrase in the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, the drafters of the IRR
reinstated it. The deletion by Congress of the said phrase is significant and pivotal, as discussed hereunder.

The clause on the interchangeability of the terms "electronic data message" and "electronic document" was the result of
the Senate of the Philippines' adoption, in Senate Bill 1902, of the phrase "electronic data message" and the House of
Representative's employment, in House Bill 9971, of the term "electronic document."72 In order to expedite the
reconciliation of the two versions, the technical working group of the Bicameral Conference Committee adopted both
terms and intended them to be the equivalent of each one.73 Be that as it may, there is a slight difference between the two
terms. While "data message" has reference to information electronically sent, stored or transmitted, it does not necessarily
mean that it will give rise to a right or extinguish an obligation,74 unlike an electronic document. Evident from the law,
however, is the legislative intent to give the two terms the same construction.

The Rules on Electronic Evidence promulgated by this Court defines the said terms in the following manner:

SECTION 1. Definition of Terms. – For purposes of these Rules, the following terms are defined, as follows:

xxxx

(g) "Electronic data message" refers to information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or
similar means.
(h) "Electronic document" refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other
modes of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established or an obligation
extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally signed documents and print-out or output,
readable by sight or other means, which accurately reflects the electronic data message or electronic document.
For purposes of these Rules, the term "electronic document" may be used interchangeably with "electronic data
message."

Given these definitions, we go back to the original question: Is an original printout of a facsimile transmission an electronic
data message or electronic document?

The definitions under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, its IRR and the Rules on Electronic Evidence, at first glance,
convey the impression that facsimile transmissions are electronic data messages or electronic documents because they
are sent by electronic means. The expanded definition of an "electronic data message" under the IRR, consistent with the
UNCITRAL Model Law, further supports this theory considering that the enumeration "xxx [is] not limited to, electronic
data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or telecopy." And to telecopy is to send a document from one
place to another via a fax machine.75

As further guide for the Court in its task of statutory construction, Section 37 of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000
provides that

Unless otherwise expressly provided for, the interpretation of this Act shall give due regard to its international
origin and the need to promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith in international trade
relations. The generally accepted principles of international law and convention on electronic commerce shall
likewise be considered.

Obviously, the "international origin" mentioned in this section can only refer to the UNCITRAL Model Law, and the
UNCITRAL's definition of "data message":

"Data message" means information generated, sent, received or stored by electronic, optical or similar
means including, but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or
telecopy.76

is substantially the same as the IRR's characterization of an "electronic data message."

However, Congress deleted the phrase, "but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram,
telex or telecopy," and replaced the term "data message" (as found in the UNCITRAL Model Law ) with "electronic data
message." This legislative divergence from what is assumed as the term's "international origin" has bred uncertainty and
now impels the Court to make an inquiry into the true intent of the framers of the law. Indeed, in the construction or
interpretation of a legislative measure, the primary rule is to search for and determine the intent and spirit of the law.77 A
construction should be rejected that gives to the language used in a statute a meaning that does not accomplish the
purpose for which the statute was enacted, and that tends to defeat the ends which are sought to be attained by the
enactment.78

Interestingly, when Senator Ramon B. Magsaysay, Jr., the principal author of Senate Bill 1902 (the predecessor of R.A.
No. 8792), sponsored the bill on second reading, he proposed to adopt the term "data message" as formulated and
defined in the UNCITRAL Model Law.79 During the period of amendments, however, the term evolved into "electronic data
message," and the phrase "but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or
telecopy" in the UNCITRAL Model Law was deleted. Furthermore, the term "electronic data message," though maintaining
its description under the UNCITRAL Model Law, except for the aforesaid deleted phrase, conveyed a different meaning,
as revealed in the following proceedings:

xxxx

Senator Santiago. Yes, Mr. President. I will furnish a copy together with the explanation of this proposed
amendment.

And then finally, before I leave the Floor, may I please be allowed to go back to Section 5; the Definition of Terms.
In light of the acceptance by the good Senator of my proposed amendments, it will then become necessary to add
certain terms in our list of terms to be defined. I would like to add a definition on what is "data," what is "electronic
record" and what is an "electronic record system."

If the gentleman will give me permission, I will proceed with the proposed amendment on Definition of Terms,
Section 5.

Senator Magsaysay. Please go ahead, Senator Santiago.

Senator Santiago. We are in Part 1, short title on the Declaration of Policy, Section 5, Definition of Terms.

At the appropriate places in the listing of these terms that have to be defined since these are arranged
alphabetically, Mr. President, I would like to insert the term DATA and its definition. So, the amendment will read:
"DATA" MEANS REPRESENTATION, IN ANY FORM, OF INFORMATION OR CONCEPTS.

The explanation is this: This definition of "data" or "data" as it is now fashionably pronounced in America - - the
definition of "data" ensures that our bill applies to any form of information in an electronic record, whether these
are figures, facts or ideas.

So again, the proposed amendment is this: "DATA" MEANS REPRESENTATIONS, IN ANY FORM, OF
INFORMATION OR CONCEPTS.

Senator Magsaysay. May I know how will this affect the definition of "Data Message" which encompasses
electronic records, electronic writings and electronic documents?

Senator Santiago. These are completely congruent with each other. These are compatible. When we define
"data," we are simply reinforcing the definition of what is a data message.

Senator Magsaysay. It is accepted, Mr. President.

Senator Santiago. Thank you. The next term is "ELECTRONIC RECORD." The proposed amendment is as
follows:

"ELECTRONIC RECORD" MEANS DATA THAT IS RECORDED OR STORED ON ANY MEDIUM IN OR BY A


COMPUTER SYSTEM OR OTHER SIMILAR DEVICE, THAT CAN BE READ OR PERCEIVED BY A PERSON
OR A COMPUTER SYSTEM OR OTHER SIMILAR DEVICE. IT INCLUDES A DISPLAY, PRINTOUT OR OTHER
OUTPUT OF THAT DATA.

The explanation for this term and its definition is as follows: The term "ELECTRONIC RECORD" fixes the scope
of our bill. The record is the data. The record may be on any medium. It is electronic because it is recorded or
stored in or by a computer system or a similar device.

The amendment is intended to apply, for example, to data on magnetic strips on cards or in Smart cards. As
drafted, it would not apply to telexes or faxes, except computer-generated faxes, unlike the United
Nations model law on electronic commerce. It would also not apply to regular digital telephone conversations
since the information is not recorded. It would apply to voice mail since the information has been recorded in or by
a device similar to a computer. Likewise, video records are not covered. Though when the video is transferred to
a website, it would be covered because of the involvement of the computer. Music recorded by a computer
system on a compact disc would be covered.

In short, not all data recorded or stored in digital form is covered. A computer or a similar device has to be
involved in its creation or storage. The term "similar device" does not extend to all devices that create or store
data in digital form. Although things that are not recorded or preserved by or in a computer system are omitted
from this bill, these may well be admissible under other rules of law. This provision focuses on replacing the
search for originality proving the reliability of systems instead of that of individual records and using standards to
show systems reliability.

Paper records that are produced directly by a computer system such as printouts are themselves electronic
records being just the means of intelligible display of the contents of the record. Photocopies of the printout would
be paper record subject to the usual rules about copies, but the original printout would be subject to the rules of
admissibility of this bill.

However, printouts that are used only as paper records and whose computer origin is never again called on are
treated as paper records. In that case, the reliability of the computer system that produces the record is irrelevant
to its reliability.

Senator Magsaysay. Mr. President, if my memory does not fail me, earlier, the lady Senator accepted that we use
the term "Data Message" rather than "ELECTRONIC RECORD" in being consistent with the UNCITRAL term of
"Data Message." So with the new amendment of defining "ELECTRONIC RECORD," will this affect her accepting
of the use of "Data Message" instead of "ELECTRONIC RECORD"?

Senator Santiago. No, it will not. Thank you for reminding me. The term I would like to insert is ELECTRONIC
DATA MESSAGE in lieu of "ELECTRONIC RECORD."

Senator Magsaysay. Then we are, in effect, amending the term of the definition of "Data Message" on page
2A, line 31, to which we have no objection.

Senator Santiago. Thank you, Mr. President.

xxxx

Senator Santiago. Mr. President, I have proposed all the amendments that I desire to, including the amendment
on the effect of error or change. I will provide the language of the amendment together with the explanation
supporting that amendment to the distinguished sponsor and then he can feel free to take it up in any session
without any further intervention.

Senator Magsaysay. Before we end, Mr. President, I understand from the proponent of these amendments that
these are based on the Canadian E-commerce Law of 1998. Is that not right?

Senator Santiago. That is correct.80

Thus, when the Senate consequently voted to adopt the term "electronic data message," it was consonant with the
explanation of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that it would not apply "to telexes or faxes, except computer-generated
faxes, unlike the United Nations model law on electronic commerce." In explaining the term "electronic record" patterned
after the E-Commerce Law of Canada, Senator Defensor-Santiago had in mind the term "electronic data message." This
term then, while maintaining part of the UNCITRAL Model Law's terminology of "data message," has assumed a different
context, this time, consonant with the term "electronic record" in the law of Canada. It accounts for the addition of the word
"electronic" and the deletion of the phrase "but not limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram,
telex or telecopy." Noteworthy is that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, explains the term "electronic record," as
drafted in the Uniform Electronic Evidence Act, in a manner strikingly similar to Sen. Santiago's explanation during the
Senate deliberations:

"Electronic record" fixes the scope of the Act. The record is the data. The record may be any medium. It is
"electronic" because it is recorded or stored in or by a computer system or similar device. The Act is intended to
apply, for example, to data on magnetic strips on cards, or in smart cards. As drafted, it would not apply to telexes
or faxes (except computer-generated faxes), unlike the United Nations Model Law on Electronic Commerce. It
would also not apply to regular digital telephone conversations, since the information is not recorded. It would
apply to voice mail, since the information has been recorded in or by a device similar to a computer. Likewise
video records are not covered, though when the video is transferred to a Web site it would be, because of the
involvement of the computer. Music recorded by a computer system on a compact disk would be covered.

In short, not all data recorded or stored in "digital" form is covered. A computer or similar device has to be
involved in its creation or storage. The term "similar device" does not extend to all devices that create or store
data in digital form. Although things that are not recorded or preserved by or in a computer system are omitted
from this Act, they may well be admissible under other rules of law. This Act focuses on replacing the search for
originality, proving the reliability of systems instead of that of individual records, and using standards to show
systems reliability.
Paper records that are produced directly by a computer system, such as printouts, are themselves electronic
records, being just the means of intelligible display of the contents of the record. Photocopies of the printout would
be paper records subject to the usual rules about copies, but the "original" printout would be subject to the rules of
admissibility of this Act.

However, printouts that are used only as paper records, and whose computer origin is never again called on, are
treated as paper records. See subsection 4(2). In this case the reliability of the computer system that produced
the record is relevant to its reliability.81

There is no question then that when Congress formulated the term "electronic data message," it intended the same
meaning as the term "electronic record" in the Canada law. This construction of the term "electronic data message,"
which excludes telexes or faxes, except computer-generated faxes, is in harmony with the Electronic Commerce Law's
focus on "paperless" communications and the "functional equivalent approach" 82 that it espouses. In fact, the deliberations
of the Legislature are replete with discussions on paperless and digital transactions.

Facsimile transmissions are not, in this sense, "paperless," but verily are paper-based.

A facsimile machine, which was first patented in 1843 by Alexander Bain,83 is a device that can send or receive pictures
and text over a telephone line. It works by digitizing an image—dividing it into a grid of dots. Each dot is either on or off,
depending on whether it is black or white. Electronically, each dot is represented by a bit that has a value of either 0 (off)
or 1 (on). In this way, the fax machine translates a picture into a series of zeros and ones (called a bit map) that can be
transmitted like normal computer data. On the receiving side, a fax machine reads the incoming data, translates the zeros
and ones back into dots, and reprints the picture.84 A fax machine is essentially an image scanner, a modem and a
computer printer combined into a highly specialized package. The scanner converts the content of a physical document
into a digital image, the modem sends the image data over a phone line, and the printer at the other end makes a
duplicate of the original document.85 Thus, in Garvida v. Sales, Jr.,86where we explained the unacceptability of filing
pleadings through fax machines, we ruled that:

A facsimile or fax transmission is a process involving the transmission and reproduction of printed and graphic
matter by scanning an original copy, one elemental area at a time, and representing the shade or tone of each
area by a specified amount of electric current. The current is transmitted as a signal over regular telephone lines
or via microwave relay and is used by the receiver to reproduce an image of the elemental area in the proper
position and the correct shade. The receiver is equipped with a stylus or other device that produces a printed
record on paper referred to as a facsimile.

x x x A facsimile is not a genuine and authentic pleading. It is, at best, an exact copy preserving all the marks of
an original. Without the original, there is no way of determining on its face whether the facsimile pleading is
genuine and authentic and was originally signed by the party and his counsel. It may, in fact, be a sham
pleading.87

Accordingly, in an ordinary facsimile transmission, there exists an original paper-based information or data that is
scanned, sent through a phone line, and re-printed at the receiving end. Be it noted that in enacting the Electronic
Commerce Act of 2000, Congress intended virtual or paperless writings to be the functional equivalent and to have the
same legal function as paper-based documents.88 Further, in a virtual or paperless environment, technically, there is no
original copy to speak of, as all direct printouts of the virtual reality are the same, in all respects, and are considered as
originals.89 Ineluctably, the law's definition of "electronic data message," which, as aforesaid, is interchangeable with
"electronic document," could not have included facsimile transmissions, which have an original paper-based copy as
sent and a paper-based facsimile copy as received. These two copies are distinct from each other, and have different
legal effects. While Congress anticipated future developments in communications and computer technology 90 when it
drafted the law, it excluded the early forms of technology, like telegraph, telex and telecopy (except computer-generated
faxes, which is a newer development as compared to the ordinary fax machine to fax machine transmission), when it
defined the term "electronic data message."

Clearly then, the IRR went beyond the parameters of the law when it adopted verbatim the UNCITRAL Model Law's
definition of "data message," without considering the intention of Congress when the latter deleted the phrase "but not
limited to, electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic mail, telegram, telex or telecopy." The inclusion of this phrase in
the IRR offends a basic tenet in the exercise of the rule-making power of administrative agencies. After all, the power of
administrative officials to promulgate rules in the implementation of a statute is necessarily limited to what is found in the
legislative enactment itself. The implementing rules and regulations of a law cannot extend the law or expand its
coverage, as the power to amend or repeal a statute is vested in the Legislature. 91 Thus, if a discrepancy occurs between
the basic law and an implementing rule or regulation, it is the former that prevails, because the law cannot be broadened
by a mere administrative issuance—an administrative agency certainly cannot amend an act of Congress. 92 Had the
Legislature really wanted ordinary fax transmissions to be covered by the mantle of the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000,
it could have easily lifted without a bit of tatter the entire wordings of the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Incidentally, the National Statistical Coordination Board Task Force on the Measurement of E-Commerce,93 on November
22, 2006, recommended a working definition of "electronic commerce," as "[a]ny commercial transaction conducted
through electronic, optical and similar medium, mode, instrumentality and technology. The transaction includes the sale or
purchase of goods and services, between individuals, households, businesses and governments conducted over
computer-mediated networks through the Internet, mobile phones, electronic data interchange (EDI) and other channels
through open and closed networks." The Task Force's proposed definition is similar to the Organization of Economic
Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) broad definition as it covers transactions made over any network, and, in
addition, it adopted the following provisions of the OECD definition: (1) for transactions, it covers sale or purchase of
goods and services; (2) for channel/network, it considers any computer-mediated network and NOT limited to Internet
alone; (3) it excludes transactions received/placed using fax, telephone or non-interactive mail; (4) it considers payments
done online or offline; and (5) it considers delivery made online (like downloading of purchased books, music or software
programs) or offline (deliveries of goods).94

We, therefore, conclude that the terms "electronic data message" and "electronic document," as defined under the
Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, do not include a facsimile transmission. Accordingly, a facsimile transmissioncannot be
considered as electronic evidence. It is not the functional equivalent of an original under the Best Evidence Rule and is
not admissible as electronic evidence.

Since a facsimile transmission is not an "electronic data message" or an "electronic document," and cannot be considered
as electronic evidence by the Court, with greater reason is a photocopy of such a fax transmission not electronic
evidence. In the present case, therefore, Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits
"E" and "F"), which are mere photocopies of the original fax transmittals, are not electronic evidence, contrary to the
position of both the trial and the appellate courts.

- III -

Nevertheless, despite the pro forma invoices not being electronic evidence, this Court finds that respondent has proven by
preponderance of evidence the existence of a perfected contract of sale.

In an action for damages due to a breach of a contract, it is essential that the claimant proves (1) the existence of a
perfected contract, (2) the breach thereof by the other contracting party and (3) the damages which he/she sustained due
to such breach. Actori incumbit onus probandi. The burden of proof rests on the party who advances a proposition
affirmatively.95 In other words, a plaintiff in a civil action must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence, that is,
evidence that has greater weight, or is more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it.96

In general, contracts are perfected by mere consent,97 which is manifested by the meeting of the offer and the acceptance
upon the thing and the cause which are to constitute the contract. The offer must be certain and the acceptance
absolute.98 They are, moreover, obligatory in whatever form they may have been entered into, provided all the essential
requisites for their validity are present. 99 Sale, being a consensual contract, follows the general rule that it is perfected at
the moment there is a meeting of the minds upon the thing which is the object of the contract and upon the price. From
that moment, the parties may reciprocally demand performance, subject to the provisions of the law governing the form of
contracts.100

The essential elements of a contract of sale are (1) consent or meeting of the minds, that is, to transfer ownership in
exchange for the price, (2) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract, and (3) cause of the obligation which
is established.101

In this case, to establish the existence of a perfected contract of sale between the parties, respondent Ssangyong formally
offered in evidence the testimonies of its witnesses and the following exhibits:

Exhibit Description Purpose


E Pro forma Invoice dated 17 April To show that defendants contracted with
2000 with Contract No. ST2- plaintiff for the delivery of 110 MT of
POSTS0401-1, photocopy stainless steel from Korea payable by way
of an irrevocable letter of credit in favor of
plaintiff, among other conditions.
E-1 Pro forma Invoice dated 17 April To show that defendants sent their
2000 with Contract No. ST2- confirmation of the (i) delivery to it of the
POSTS0401, contained in specified stainless steel products, (ii)
facsimile/thermal paper faxed by defendants' payment thereof by way of an
defendants to plaintiff showing irrevocable letter of credit in favor of
the printed transmission details plaintiff, among other conditions.
on the upper portion of said
paper as coming from defendant
MCC on 26 Apr 00 08:41AM
E-2 Conforme signature of Mr. To show that defendants sent their
Gregory Chan, contained in confirmation of the (i) delivery to it of the
facsimile/thermal paper faxed by total of 220MT specified stainless steel
defendants to plaintiff showing products, (ii) defendants' payment thereof
the printed transmission details by way of an irrevocable letter of credit in
on the upper portion of said favor of plaintiff, among other conditions.
paper as coming from defendant
MCC on 26 Apr 00 08:41AM
F Pro forma Invoice dated 17 April To show that defendants contracted with
2000 with Contract No. ST2- plaintiff for delivery of another 110 MT of
POSTSO401-2, photocopy stainless steel from Korea payable by way
of an irrevocable letter of credit in favor of
plaintiff, among other conditions.
G Letter to defendant SANYO To prove that defendants were informed
SEIKE dated 20 June of the date of L/C opening and
2000, contained in defendant's conforme/approval thereof.
facsimile/thermal paper
G-1 Signature of defendant Gregory
Chan, contained in
facsimile/thermal paper.
H Letter to defendants dated 22 To prove that defendants were informed
June 2000, original of the successful price adjustments
secured by plaintiff in favor of former and
were advised of the schedules of its L/C
opening.
I Letter to defendants dated 26 To prove that plaintiff repeatedly
June 2000, original requested defendants for the agreed
J Letter to defendants dated 26 opening of the Letters of Credit,
June 2000, original defendants' failure and refusal to comply
with their obligations and the problems of
K Letter to defendants dated 27
plaintiff is incurring by reason of
June 2000, original
defendants' failure and refusal to open the
L Facsimile message to defendants L/Cs.
dated 28 June 2000, photocopy
M Letter from defendants dated 29 To prove that defendants admit of their
June 2000, contained in liabilities to plaintiff, that they requested
facsimile/thermal paper faxed by for "more extension" of time for the
defendants to plaintiff showing opening of the Letter of Credit, and
the printed transmission details begging for favorable understanding and
on the upper portion of said consideration.
paper as coming from defendant
MCC on 29 June 00 11:12 AM
M-1 Signature of defendant Gregory
Chan, contained in
facsimile/thermal paper faxed by
defendants to plaintiff showing
the printed transmission details
on the upper portion of said
paper as coming from defendant
MCC on June 00 11:12 AM
N Letter to defendants dated 29
June 2000, original
O Letter to defendants dated 30 To prove that plaintiff reiterated its request
June 2000, photocopy for defendants to L/C opening after the
latter's request for extension of time was
granted, defendants' failure and refusal to
comply therewith extension of time
notwithstanding.
P Letter to defendants dated 06
July 2000, original
Q Demand letter to defendants To prove that plaintiff was constrained to
dated 15 Aug 2000, original engaged services of a lawyer for
collection efforts.
R Demand letter to defendants To prove that defendants opened the first
dated 23 Aug 2000, original L/C in favor of plaintiff, requested for
further postponement of the final L/C and
for minimal amounts, were urged to open
the final L/C on time, and were informed
that failure to comply will cancel the
contract.
S Demand letter to defendants To show defendants' refusal and failure to
dated 11 Sept 2000, original open the final L/C on time, the
cancellation of the contract as a
consequence thereof, and final demand
upon defendants to remit its obligations.
W Letter from plaintiff SSANGYONG To prove that there was a perfected sale
to defendant SANYO SEIKI dated and purchase agreement between the
13 April 2000, with fax back from parties for 220 metric tons of steel
defendants SANYO SEIKI/MCC products at the price of US$1,860/ton.
to plaintiff
SSANGYONG, contained in
facsimile/thermal paper with
back-up photocopy
W-1 Conforme signature of defendant To prove that defendants, acting through
Gregory Chan, contained in Gregory Chan, agreed to the sale and
facsimile/thermal paper with purchase of 220 metric tons of steel
back-up photocopy products at the price of US$1,860/ton.
W-2 Name of sender MCC Industrial To prove that defendants sent their
Sales Corporation conformity to the sale and purchase
agreement by facsimile transmission.
X Pro forma Invoice dated 16 To prove that defendant MCC agreed to
August 2000, photocopy adjust and split the confirmed purchase
order into 2 shipments at 100 metric tons
each at the discounted price of
US$1,700/ton.
X-1 Notation "1/2", photocopy To prove that the present Pro forma
Invoice was the first of 2 pro forma
invoices.
X-2 Ref. No. ST2-POSTS080- To prove that the present Pro
1, photocopy formaInvoice was the first of 2 pro
formainvoices.
X-3 Conforme signature of defendant To prove that defendant MCC, acting
Gregory Chan, photocopy through Gregory Chan, agreed to the sale
and purchase of the balance of 100 metric
tons at the discounted price of
US$1,700/ton, apart from the other order
and shipment of 100 metric tons which
was delivered by plaintiff SSANGYONG
and paid for by defendant MCC.
DD Letter from defendant MCC to To prove that there was a perfected sale
plaintiff SSANGYONG dated 22 and purchase agreement between plaintiff
August 2000, contained in SSANGYONG and defendant MCC for the
facsimile/thermal paper with balance of 100 metric tons, apart from the
back-up photocopy other order and shipment of 100 metric
tons which was delivered by plaintiff
SSANGYONG and paid for by defendant
MCC.
DD-1 Ref. No. ST2-POSTS080- To prove that there was a perfected sale
1, contained in facsimile/thermal and purchase agreement between plaintiff
paper with back-up photocopy SSANGYONG and defendant MCC for the
balance of 100 metric tons, apart from the
other order and shipment of 100 metric
tons which was delivered by plaintiff
SSANGYONG and paid for by defendant
MCC.
DD-2 Signature of defendant Gregory To prove that defendant MCC, acting
Chan, contained in through Gregory Chan, agreed to the sale
facsimile/thermal paper with and purchase of the balance of 100 metric
back-up photocopy tons, apart from the other order and
shipment of 100 metric tons which was
delivered by plaintiff Ssangyong and paid
for by defendant MCC.102

Significantly, among these documentary evidence presented by respondent, MCC, in its petition before this Court, assails
the admissibility only of Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS0401-1 and ST2-POSTS0401-2 (Exhibits "E" and "F"). After
sifting through the records, the Court found that these invoices are mere photocopies of their original fax transmittals.
Ssangyong avers that these documents were prepared after MCC asked for the splitting of the original order into two, so
that the latter can apply for an L/C with greater facility. It, however, failed to explain why the originals of these documents
were not presented.

To determine whether these documents are admissible in evidence, we apply the ordinary Rules on Evidence, for as
discussed above we cannot apply the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 and the Rules on Electronic Evidence.

Because these documents are mere photocopies, they are simply secondary evidence, admissible only upon compliance
with Rule 130, Section 5, which states, "[w]hen the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced
in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or existence and the cause of its unavailability without bad faith on his
part, may prove its contents by a copy, or by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony of
witnesses in the order stated." Furthermore, the offeror of secondary evidence must prove the predicates thereof, namely:
(a) the loss or destruction of the original without bad faith on the part of the proponent/offeror which can be shown by
circumstantial evidence of routine practices of destruction of documents; (b) the proponent must prove by a fair
preponderance of evidence as to raise a reasonable inference of the loss or destruction of the original copy; and (c) it
must be shown that a diligent and bona fide but unsuccessful search has been made for the document in the proper place
or places. It has been held that where the missing document is the foundation of the action, more strictness in proof is
required than where the document is only collaterally involved. 103

Given these norms, we find that respondent failed to prove the existence of the original fax transmissions of Exhibits E
and F, and likewise did not sufficiently prove the loss or destruction of the originals. Thus, Exhibits E and F cannot be
admitted in evidence and accorded probative weight.

It is observed, however, that respondent Ssangyong did not rely merely on Exhibits E and F to prove the perfected
contract. It also introduced in evidence a variety of other documents, as enumerated above, together with the testimonies
of its witnesses. Notable among them are Pro Forma Invoice Nos. ST2-POSTS080-1 and ST2-POSTS080-2 which were
issued by Ssangyong and sent via fax to MCC. As already mentioned, these invoices slightly varied the terms of the
earlier invoices such that the quantity was now officially 100MT per invoice and the price reduced to US$1,700.00 per MT.
The copies of the said August 16, 2000 invoices submitted to the court bear the conformity signature of MCC Manager
Chan.
Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-1 (Exhibit "X"), however, is a mere photocopy of its original. But then again,
petitioner MCC does not assail the admissibility of this document in the instant petition. Verily, evidence not objected to is
deemed admitted and may be validly considered by the court in arriving at its judgment. 104 Issues not raised on appeal are
deemed abandoned.

As to Pro Forma Invoice No. ST2-POSTS080-2 (Exhibits "1-A" and "2-C"), which was certified by PCIBank as a true copy
of its original,105 it was, in fact, petitioner MCC which introduced this document in evidence. Petitioner MCC paid for the
order stated in this invoice. Its admissibility, therefore, is not open to question.

These invoices (ST2-POSTS0401, ST2-POSTS080-1 and ST2-POSTS080-2), along with the other unchallenged
documentary evidence of respondent Ssangyong, preponderate in favor of the claim that a contract of sale was perfected
by the parties.

This Court also finds merit in the following observations of the trial court:

Defendants presented Letter of Credit (Exhibits "1", "1-A" to "1-R") referring to Pro Forma Invoice for Contract No.
ST2POSTS080-2, in the amount of US$170,000.00, and which bears the signature of Gregory Chan, General
Manager of MCC. Plaintiff, on the other hand, presented Pro Forma Invoice referring to Contract No. ST2-
POSTS080-1, in the amount of US$170,000.00, which likewise bears the signature of Gregory Chan, MCC.
Plaintiff accounted for the notation "1/2" on the right upper portion of the Invoice, that is, that it was the first of two
(2) pro forma invoices covering the subject contract between plaintiff and the defendants. Defendants, on the
other hand, failed to account for the notation "2/2" in its Pro Forma Invoice (Exhibit "1-A"). Observably further,
both Pro Forma Invoices bear the same date and details, which logically mean that they both apply to one and the
same transaction.106

Indeed, why would petitioner open an L/C for the second half of the transaction if there was no first half to speak of?

The logical chain of events, as gleaned from the evidence of both parties, started with the petitioner and the respondent
agreeing on the sale and purchase of 220MT of stainless steel at US$1,860.00 per MT. This initial contract was perfected.
Later, as petitioner asked for several extensions to pay, adjustments in the delivery dates, and discounts in the price as
originally agreed, the parties slightly varied the terms of their contract, without necessarily novating it, to the effect that the
original order was reduced to 200MT, split into two deliveries, and the price discounted to US$1,700 per MT. Petitioner,
however, paid only half of its obligation and failed to open an L/C for the other 100MT. Notably, the conduct of both parties
sufficiently established the existence of a contract of sale, even if the writings of the parties, because of their contested
admissibility, were not as explicit in establishing a contract. 107 Appropriate conduct by the parties may be sufficient to
establish an agreement, and while there may be instances where the exchange of correspondence does not disclose the
exact point at which the deal was closed, the actions of the parties may indicate that a binding obligation has been
undertaken.108

With our finding that there is a valid contract, it is crystal-clear that when petitioner did not open the L/C for the first half of
the transaction (100MT), despite numerous demands from respondent Ssangyong, petitioner breached its contractual
obligation. It is a well-entrenched rule that the failure of a buyer to furnish an agreed letter of credit is a breach of the
contract between buyer and seller. Indeed, where the buyer fails to open a letter of credit as stipulated, the seller or
exporter is entitled to claim damages for such breach. Damages for failure to open a commercial credit may, in
appropriate cases, include the loss of profit which the seller would reasonably have made had the transaction been
carried out.109

- IV -

This Court, however, finds that the award of actual damages is not in accord with the evidence on record. It is axiomatic
that actual or compensatory damages cannot be presumed, but must be proven with a reasonable degree of
certainty.110 In Villafuerte v. Court of Appeals,111 we explained that:

Actual or compensatory damages are those awarded in order to compensate a party for an injury or loss he
suffered. They arise out of a sense of natural justice and are aimed at repairing the wrong done. Except as
provided by law or by stipulation, a party is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss as
he has duly proven. It is hornbook doctrine that to be able to recover actual damages, the claimant bears the onus
of presenting before the court actual proof of the damages alleged to have been suffered, thus:
A party is entitled to an adequate compensation for such pecuniary loss actually suffered by him as he
has duly proved. Such damages, to be recoverable, must not only be capable of proof, but must actually
be proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. We have emphasized that these damages cannot be
presumed and courts, in making an award must point out specific facts which could afford a basis for
measuring whatever compensatory or actual damages are borne.112

In the instant case, the trial court awarded to respondent Ssangyong US$93,493.87 as actual damages. On appeal, the
same was affirmed by the appellate court. Noticeably, however, the trial and the appellate courts, in making the said
award, relied on the following documents submitted in evidence by the respondent: (1) Exhibit "U," the Statement of
Account dated March 30, 2001; (2) Exhibit "U-1," the details of the said Statement of Account); (3) Exhibit "V," the contract
of the alleged resale of the goods to a Korean corporation; and (4) Exhibit "V-1," the authentication of the resale contract
from the Korean Embassy and certification from the Philippine Consular Office.

The statement of account and the details of the losses sustained by respondent due to the said breach are, at best, self-
serving. It was respondent Ssangyong itself which prepared the said documents. The items therein are not even
substantiated by official receipts. In the absence of corroborative evidence, the said statement of account is not sufficient
basis to award actual damages. The court cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork as to the fact and
amount of damages, but must depend on competent proof that the claimant had suffered, and on evidence of, the actual
amount thereof.113

Furthermore, the sales contract and its authentication certificates, Exhibits "V" and "V-1," allegedly evidencing the resale
at a loss of the stainless steel subject of the parties' breached contract, fail to convince this Court of the veracity of its
contents. The steel items indicated in the sales contract114 with a Korean corporation are different in all respects from the
items ordered by petitioner MCC, even in size and quantity. We observed the following discrepancies:

List of commodities as stated in Exhibit "V":

COMMODITY: Stainless Steel HR Sheet in Coil, Slit Edge


SPEC: SUS304 NO. 1
SIZE/Q'TY:
2.8MM X 1,219MM X C 8.193MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.736MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.885MT
3.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.629MT
4.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.307MT
4.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.247MT
4.5MM X 1,219MM X C 8.450MT
4.5MM X 1,219MM X C 8.870MT
5.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.391MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 6.589MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 7.878MT
6.0MM X 1,219MM X C 8.397MT
TOTAL: 95.562MT115

List of commodities as stated in Exhibit "X" (the invoice that was not paid):

DESCRIPTION: Hot Rolled Stainless Steel Coil SUS 304


SIZE AND QUANTITY:

2.6 MM X 4' X C 10.0MT


3.0 MM X 4' X C 25.0MT
4.0 MM X 4' X C 15.0MT
4.5 MM X 4' X C 15.0MT
5.0 MM X 4' X C 10.0MT
6.0 MM X 4' X C 25.0MT
TOTAL: 100MT116

From the foregoing, we find merit in the contention of MCC that Ssangyong did not adequately prove that the items resold
at a loss were the same items ordered by the petitioner. Therefore, as the claim for actual damages was not proven, the
Court cannot sanction the award.

Nonetheless, the Court finds that petitioner knowingly breached its contractual obligation and obstinately refused to pay
despite repeated demands from respondent. Petitioner even asked for several extensions of time for it to make good its
obligation. But in spite of respondent's continuous accommodation, petitioner completely reneged on its contractual duty.
For such inattention and insensitivity, MCC must be held liable for nominal damages. "Nominal damages are 'recoverable
where a legal right is technically violated and must be vindicated against an invasion that has produced no actual present
loss of any kind or where there has been a breach of contract and no substantial injury or actual damages whatsoever
have been or can be shown.'"117 Accordingly, the Court awards nominal damages of P200,000.00 to respondent
Ssangyong.

As to the award of attorney's fees, it is well settled that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate and not every
winning party is entitled to an automatic grant of attorney's fees. The party must show that he falls under one of the
instances enumerated in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. 118 In the instant case, however, the Court finds the award of
attorney's fees proper, considering that petitioner MCC's unjustified refusal to pay has compelled respondent Ssangyong
to litigate and to incur expenses to protect its rights.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the appeal is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CV No. 82983 is MODIFIED in that the award of actual damages is DELETED. However, petitioner
is ORDERED to pay respondent NOMINAL DAMAGES in the amount of P200,000.00, and the ATTORNEY'S FEES as
awarded by the trial court.

SO ORDERED.

NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION, G.R. No. 170491


Petitioner,
Present:

- versus - YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,


Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
HON. RAMON G. CODILLA, JR., Presiding CALLEJO, SR.,
Judge, RTC of Cebu, Br.19, BANGPAI CHICO-NAZARIO, and
SHIPPING COMPANY, and WALLEM NACHURA, JJ.
SHIPPING, INCORPORATED,
Respondents. Promulgated:

April 4, 2007
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the
Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-SP No. 00848, dated 9 November 2005, which dismissed the Petition
for Certiorari filed by the National Power Corporation seeking to set aside the Order [2] issued by the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Cebu, Branch 19 dated 16 November 2004, denying admission and excluding from the records plaintiffs (herein
petitioner) Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J, and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its
sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R and S and its sub-markings.
On 20 April 1996, M/V Dibena Win, a vessel of foreign registry owned and operated by private
respondent Bangpai Shipping, Co., allegedly bumped and damaged petitioners Power Barge 209 which was then moored
at the Cebu International Port. Thus, on 26 April 1996, petitioner filed before the Cebu RTC a complaint for damages
against private respondent Bangpai Shipping Co., for the alleged damages caused on petitioners power barges.

Thereafter, petitioner filed an Amended Complaint dated 8 July 1996 impleading herein private
respondent Wallem Shipping, Inc., as additional defendant, contending that the latter is a ship agent of Bangpai Shipping
Co. On 18 September 1996, WallemShipping, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss which was subsequently denied by public
respondent Judge in an Order dated 20 October 1998. Bangpai Shipping Co. likewise filed a Motion to Dismiss which was
also denied by public respondent Judge in an Order issued on 24 January 2003.

Petitioner, after adducing evidence during the trial of the case, filed a formal offer of evidence before the lower court
on 2 February 2004 consisting of Exhibits A to V together with the sub-marked portions thereof. Consequently, private
respondents Bangpai Shipping Co. and Wallem Shipping, Inc. filed their respective objections to petitioners formal offer of
evidence.

On 16 November 2004, public respondent judge issued the assailed order denying the admission and excluding
from the records petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-
markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R and S and its sub-
markings. According to the court a quo:

The Court finds merit in the objections raised and the motion to strike out filed respectively by the
defendants. The record shows that the plaintiff has been given every opportunity to present the originals of
the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it offered. It never produced the originals. The plaintiff attempted
to justify the admission of the photocopies by contending that the photocopies offered are equivalent to the
original of the document on the basis of the Electronic Evidence (Comment to
Defendant Wallem Philippines Objections and Motion to Strike). But as rightly pointed out in
defendant Wallems Reply to the Comment of Plaintiff, the Xerox copies do not constitute the electronic
evidence defined in Section 1 of Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence as follows:

(h) Electronic document refers to information or the representation of information,


data, figures, symbols or other models of written expression, described or however
represented, by which a right is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a
fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally signed documents and
any printout, readable by sight or other means which accurately reflects the electronic data
message or electronic document. For the purpose of these Rules, the term electronic
document may be used interchangeably with electronic data message.

The information in those Xerox or photocopies was not received, recorded, retrieved or produced
electronically. Moreover, such electronic evidence must be authenticated (Sections 1 and 2, Rule 5, Rules
on Electronic Evidence), which the plaintiff failed to do. Finally, the required Affidavit to prove the
admissibility and evidentiary weight of the alleged electronic evidence (Sec. 1, Rule 9, Ibid) was not
executed, much less presented in evidence.

The Xerox or photocopies offered should, therefore, be stricken off the record. Aside from their being
not properly identified by any competent witness, the loss of the principals thereof was not established by
any competent proof.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J, and its sub-markings, K, L,


M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, and
R are hereby DENIED admission and excluded from the records.However, these excluded evidence should
be attached to the records of this case to enable the appellate court to pass upon them should an appeal
be taken from the decision on the merits to be rendered upon the termination of the trial of this case.

Exhibits S and its sub-markings are also DENIED admission for lack of proper identification since the
witness who brought these pictures expressly admitted that he was not present when the photos were taken
and had not knowledge when the same where taken.[3]
Upon denial of petitioners Motion for Reconsideration in an Order dated 20 April 2005, petitioner filed a Petition
for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure before the Court of Appeals maintaining that public respondent
Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in denying the admission of its
Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings,
O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R, and S and its sub-markings.

On 9 November 2005, the appellate court issued a Decision dismissing petitioners petition for certiorari, the
pertinent portions of which elucidate:

After a judicious scrutiny of the record of the case on hand, together with the rules and
jurisprudence which are applicable in the premises, we have come up with a finding that the petition for
certiorari filed in this case is not meritorious.

It appears that there is no sufficient showing by the petitioner that the respondent judge acted with
grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed orders in Civil Case No. CEB-18662. As what our
jurisprudence tells us, grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of
judgment as would be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction x x x.

In the case at bench, what has been shown to the contrary by the totality of the record on hand is
that the respondent judge acted correctly and within the pale of his sound discretion in issuing the assailed
order, dated November 16, 2004, in Civil Case No. CEB-18662.

Indeed, it appears that the pieces of petitioners documentary evidence which were denied
admission by the respondent judge were not properly identified by any competent witness. As pointed out
by the respondent Bangpai Shipping Company in its comment on the petition filed in this case which
reproduces some excerpts of the testimonies in the court a quo of Atty. Marianito De Los Santos, Engr.
Nestor Enriquez, Jr. and Mr. Rodulfo I. Pagaling, the said witnesses did not have personal knowledge of
and participation in the preparation and making of the pieces of documentary evidence denied admission
by respondent judge x x x. In other words, there was lack of proper identification of said pieces of
documentary evidence. x x x.

Then another ground for denying admission of petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O,


P, Q, R, and S by the respondent judge is that said pieces of documentary evidence were merely
photocopies of purported documents or papers. There is no gainsaying the fact that the respondent judge
acted within the pale of his discretion when he denied admission of said documentary evidence.Section 3
of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court of the Philippines is very explicit in providing that, when the subject of
inquiry are the contents of documents, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original documents
themselves, except in certain cases specifically so enumerated therein, and the petitioner has not shown
that the non-presentation or non-production of its original documentary pieces of evidence falls under such
exceptions. As aptly pointed out by the respondent judge in the order issued by him on November 16, 2004:

x x x The record shows that the plaintiff (petitioner herein) has been given every
opportunity to present the originals of the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it
offered. It never produced said originals.

So, the petitioner has only itself to blame for the respondent judges denial of admission of its
aforementioned documentary evidence.

Of course, the petitioner tries to contend that the photocopies of documents offered by it are
equivalent to the original documents that it sought to offer in evidence, based on the Rules on Electronic
Evidence which were in force and effect since August 1, 2001. However, such a contention is devoid of
merit. The pieces of documentary evidence offered by the petitioner in Civil Case CEB-18662 which were
denied admission by the respondent judge do not actually constitute as electronic evidence as defined in
the Rules on Electronic Evidence.The informations therein were not received, retrieved or produced
electronically. The petitioner has not adequately established that its documentary evidence were electronic
evidence. it has not properly authenticated such evidence as electronic documents,
assuming arguendo that they are. Lastly, the petitioner has not properly established by affidavit pursuant
to Rule 9 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence the admissibility and evidentiary weight of said documentary
evidence.

Thus, by any legal yardstick, it is manifest that the respondent judge did not commit grave abuse
of discretion in denying admission of the aforementioned documentary evidence of petitioner.

But even if it be granted just for the sake of argument that the respondent judge committed an error
in denying the aforementioned documentary evidence of the petitioner, still the petition for certiorari filed in
this case must fail. Such error would at most be only an error of law and not an error of jurisdiction. In Lee
vs. People, 393 SCRA 397, the Supreme Court of the Philippines said that certiorari will not lie in case of
an error of law. x x x.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DISMISSING


the petition filed in this case and AFFIRMING the assailed orders issued by respondent judge in Civil Case
No. CEB-18662.[4]

Aggrieved by the aforequoted decision, petitioner filed the instant petition.

The focal point of this entire controversy is petitioners obstinate contention that the photocopies it offered as formal
evidence before the trial court are the functional equivalent of their original based on its inimitable interpretation of the Rules
on Electronic Evidence.

Petitioner insists that, contrary to the rulings of both the trial court and the appellate court, the photocopies it
presented as documentary evidence actually constitute electronic evidence based on its own premise that an electronic
document as defined under Section 1(h), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence is not limited to information that is
received, recorded, retrieved or produced electronically. Rather, petitioner maintains that an electronic document can also
refer to other modes of written expression that is produced electronically, such as photocopies, as included in the sections
catch-all proviso: any print-out or output, readable by sight or other means.

We do not agree.

In order to shed light to the issue of whether or not the photocopies are indeed electronic documents as
contemplated in Republic Act No. 8792 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Electronic Commerce Act, as
well as the Rules on Electronic Evidence, we shall enumerate the following documents offered as evidence by the petitioner,
to wit:

1. Exhibit A is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by a certain Jose C. Troyo, with RECEIVED stamped thereon,
together with a handwritten date;

2. Exhibit C is a photocopy of a list of estimated cost of damages of petitioners power barges 207 and 209 prepared
by Hopewell Mobile Power Systems Corporation and manually signed by Messrs. Rex Malaluan and Virgilio Asprer;

3. Exhibit D is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by a certain Nestor G. Enriquez, Jr., with RECEIVED stamped
thereon, together with a handwritten notation of the date it was received;

4. Exhibit E is a photocopy of a Standard Marine Protest Form which was filled up and accomplished by Rex Joel
C. Malaluan in his own handwriting and signed by him. Portions of the Jurat were handwritten, and manually signed
by the Notary Public;

5. Exhibit H is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by Mr. Nestor G. Enriquez, Jr. with RECEIVED stamped thereon,
together with a handwritten notation of the date it was received;
6. Exhibit I is a photocopy of a computation of the estimated energy loss allegedly suffered by petitioner which was
manually signed by Mr. Nestor G. Enriquez, Jr.;

7. Exhibit J is a photocopy of a letter containing the breakdown of the cost estimate, manually signed by Mr. Nestor
G. Enriquez, Jr., with RECEIVED stamped thereon, together with a handwritten notation of the date it was received,
and other handwritten notations;

8. Exhibit K is a photocopy of the Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum written using a manual typewriter, signed
manually by Atty. Ofelia Polo-De Los Reyes, with a handwritten notation when it was received by the party;

9. Exhibit L is a photocopy of a portion of the electricity supply and operation and maintenance agreement between
petitioner and Hopewell, containing handwritten notations and every page containing three unidentified manually
placed signatures;

10. Exhibit M is a photocopy of the Notice of Termination with attachments addressed to Rex Joel C. Malaluan,
manually signed by Jaime S. Patinio, with a handwritten notation of the date it was received. The sub-markings also
contain manual signatures and/or handwritten notations;

11. Exhibit N is a photocopy of a letter of termination with attachments addressed to VIrgilio Asprer and manually signed
by Jaime S. Patino. The sub-markings contain manual signatures and/or handwritten notations;

12. Exhibit O is the same photocopied document marked as Annex C;

13. Exhibit P is a photocopy of an incident report manually signed by Messrs. Malaluan and Bautista and by the Notary
Public, with other handwritten notations;

14. Exhibit Q is a photocopy of a letter manually signed by Virgilio Asprer and by a Notary Public, together with other
handwritten notations.

On the other hand, an electronic document refers to information or the representation of information, data,
figures, symbols or other models of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is
established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded,
transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. [5] It includes digitally signed documents and any
printout, readable by sight or other means which accurately reflects the electronic data message or electronic document. [6]

The rules use the word information to define an electronic document received, recorded, transmitted, stored,
processed, retrieved or produced electronically. This would suggest that an electronic document is relevant only in terms
of the information contained therein, similar to any other document which is presented in evidence as proof of its
contents.[7] However, what differentiates an electronic document from a paper-based document is the manner by which the
information is processed; clearly, the information contained in an electronic document is received, recorded, transmitted,
stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically.

A perusal of the information contained in the photocopies submitted by petitioner will reveal that not all of the
contents therein, such as the signatures of the persons who purportedly signed the documents, may be recorded or
produced electronically. By no stretch of the imagination can a persons signature affixed manually be considered as
information electronically received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced. Hence, the argument
of petitioner that since these paper printouts were produced through an electronic process, then these photocopies are
electronic documents as defined in the Rules on Electronic Evidence is obviously an erroneous, if not preposterous,
interpretation of the law. Having thus declared that the offered photocopies are not tantamount to electronic documents, it
is consequential that the same may not be considered as the functional equivalent of their original as decreed in the law.

Furthermore, no error can be ascribed to the court a quo in denying admission and excluding from the
records petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N
and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, and R. The trial court was correct in rejecting
these photocopies as they violate the best evidence rule and are therefore of no probative value being incompetent pieces
of evidence. Before the onset of liberal rules of discovery, and modern technique of electronic copying, the best evidence
rule was designed to guard against incomplete or fraudulent proof and the introduction of altered copies and the withholding
of the originals.[8] But the modern justification for the rule has expanded from the prevention of fraud to a recognition that
writings occupy a central position in the law.[9] The importance of the precise terms of writings in the world of legal relations,
the fallibility of the human memory as reliable evidence of the terms, and the hazards of inaccurate or incomplete duplicate
are the concerns addressed by the best evidence rule. [10]

Moreover, as mandated under Section 2, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court:

"SECTION 2. Original writing must be produced; exceptions. There can be no evidence of a writing the
contents of which is the subject of inquiry, other than the original writing itself, except in the following cases:
(a) When the original has been lost, destroyed, or cannot be produced in court;
(b) When the original is in the possession of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter
fails to produce it after reasonable notice;
(c) When the original is a record or other document in the custody of a public officer;
(d) When the original has been recorded in an existing record a certified copy of which is made evidence
by law;
(e) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in
court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result
of the whole."

When the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, the offeror, upon proof of
its execution or existence and the cause of its unavailability without bad faith on his part, may prove its contents by a copy,
or by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony of witnesses in the order
stated.[11] The offeror of secondary evidence is burdened to prove the predicates thereof: (a) the loss or destruction of the
original without bad faith on the part of the proponent/offeror which can be shown by circumstantial evidence of routine
practices of destruction of documents;[12] (b) the proponent must prove by a fair preponderance of evidence as to raise a
reasonable inference of the loss or destruction of the original copy; and (c) it must be shown that a diligent and bona fide
but unsuccessful search has been made for the document in the proper place or places.[13] However, in the case at bar,
though petitioner insisted in offering the photocopies as documentary evidence, it failed to establish that such offer was
made in accordance with the exceptions as enumerated under the abovequoted rule.Accordingly, we find no error in the
Order of the court a quo denying admissibility of the photocopies offered by petitioner as documentary evidence.

Finally, it perplexes this Court why petitioner continued to obdurately disregard the opportunities given by the trial
court for it to present the originals of the photocopies it presented yet comes before us now praying that it be allowed to
present the originals of the exhibits that were denied admission or in case the same are lost, to lay the predicate for the
admission of secondary evidence. Had petitioner presented the originals of the documents to the court instead of the
photocopies it obstinately offered as evidence, or at the very least laid the predicate for the admission of said photocopies,
this controversy would not have unnecessarily been brought before the appellate court and finally to this Court for
adjudication. Had it not been for petitioners intransigence, the merits of petitioners complaint for damages would have been
decided upon by the trial court long ago. As aptly articulated by the Court of Appeals, petitioner has only itself to blame for
the respondent judges denial of admission of its aforementioned documentary evidence and consequently, the denial of its
prayer to be given another opportunity to present the originals of the documents that were denied admission nor to lay the
predicate for the admission of secondary evidence in case the same has been lost.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CEB-SP No. 00848, dated 9 November 2005 is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 164273 March 28, 2007

EMMANUEL B. AZNAR, Petitioner,


vs.
CITIBANK, N.A., (Philippines), Respondent.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 62554
dated January 30, 2004 which set aside the November 25, 1998 Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10, Cebu
City and reinstated the Decision of RTC Branch 20 of Cebu City dated May 29, 1998 in Civil Case No. CEB-16474; and
the CA Resolution dated May 26, 2004 denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

The facts are as follows:

Emmanuel B. Aznar (Aznar), a known businessman2 in Cebu, is a holder of a Preferred Master Credit Card (Mastercard)
bearing number 5423-3920-0786-7012 issued by Citibank with a credit limit of ₱150,000.00. As he and his wife, Zoraida,
planned to take their two grandchildren, Melissa and Richard Beane, on an Asian tour, Aznar made a total advance
deposit of ₱485,000.00 with Citibank with the intention of increasing his credit limit to ₱635,000.00.3

With the use of his Mastercard, Aznar purchased plane tickets to Kuala Lumpur for his group worth ₱237,000.00. On July
17, 1994, Aznar, his wife and grandchildren left Cebu for the said destination.4

Aznar claims that when he presented his Mastercard in some establishments in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, the
same was not honored.5 And when he tried to use the same in Ingtan Tour and Travel Agency (Ingtan Agency) in
Indonesia to purchase plane tickets to Bali, it was again dishonored for the reason that his card was blacklisted by
Citibank. Such dishonor forced him to buy the tickets in cash.6 He further claims that his humiliation caused by the denial
of his card was aggravated when Ingtan Agency spoke of swindlers trying to use blacklisted cards. 7 Aznar and his group
returned to the Philippines on August 10, 1994.8

On August 26, 1994, Aznar filed a complaint for damages against Citibank, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-16474 and
raffled to RTC Branch 20, Cebu City, claiming that Citibank fraudulently or with gross negligence blacklisted his
Mastercard which forced him, his wife and grandchildren to abort important tour destinations and prevented them from
buying certain items in their tour.9 He further claimed that he suffered mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings,
besmirched reputation and social humiliation due to the wrongful blacklisting of his card.10 To prove that Citibank
blacklisted his Mastercard, Aznar presented a computer print-out, denominated as ON-LINE AUTHORIZATIONS
FOREIGN ACCOUNT ACTIVITY REPORT, issued to him by Ingtan Agency (Exh. "G") with the signature of one Victrina
Elnado Nubi (Nubi)11 which shows that his card in question was "DECL OVERLIMIT" or declared over the limit.12

Citibank denied the allegation that it blacklisted Aznar’s card. It also contended that under the terms and conditions
governing the issuance and use of its credit cards, Citibank is exempt from any liability for the dishonor of its cards by any
merchant affiliate, and that its liability for any action or incident which may be brought against it in relation to the issuance
and use of its credit cards is limited to ₱1,000.00 or the actual damage proven whichever is lesser. 13

To prove that they did not blacklist Aznar’s card, Citibank’s Credit Card Department Head, Dennis Flores, presented
Warning Cancellation Bulletins which contained the list of its canceled cards covering the period of Aznar’s trip. 14

On May 29, 1998, RTC Branch 20, Cebu City, through Judge Ferdinand J. Marcos, rendered its decision dismissing
Aznar’s complaint for lack of merit.15 The trial court held that as between the computer print-out16 presented by Aznar and
the Warning Cancellation Bulletins17 presented by Citibank, the latter had more weight as their due execution and
authenticity were duly established by Citibank.18 The trial court also held that even if it was shown that Aznar’s credit card
was dishonored by a merchant establishment, Citibank was not shown to have acted with malice or bad faith when the
same was dishonored.19
Aznar filed a motion for reconsideration with motion to re-raffle the case saying that Judge Marcos could not be impartial
as he himself is a holder of a Citibank credit card.20 The case was re-raffled21 and on November 25, 1998, the RTC, this
time through Judge Jesus S. De la Peña of Branch 10 of Cebu City, issued an Order granting Aznar’s motion for
reconsideration, as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby GRANTED. The DECISION dated May 29, 1998 is hereby
reconsidered, and consequently, the defendant is hereby condemned liable to pay the following sums of money:

a) ₱10,000,000.00 as moral damages;

b) ₱5,000,000.00 as exemplary damages;

c) ₱1,000,000.00 as attorney’s fees; and

d) ₱200,000.00 as litigation expenses.22

Judge De la Peña ruled that: it is improbable that a man of Aznar’s stature would fabricate Exh. "G" or the computer print-
out which shows that Aznar’s Mastercard was dishonored for the reason that it was declared over the limit; Exh. "G" was
printed out by Nubi in the ordinary or regular course of business in the modern credit card industry and Nubi was not able
to testify as she was in a foreign country and cannot be reached by subpoena; taking judicial notice of the practice of
automated teller machines (ATMs) and credit card facilities which readily print out bank account status, Exh. "G" can be
received as prima facie evidence of the dishonor of Aznar’s Mastercard; no rebutting evidence was presented by Citibank
to prove that Aznar’s Mastercard was not dishonored, as all it proved was that said credit card was not included in the
blacklisted cards; when Citibank accepted the additional deposit of ₱485,000.00 from Aznar, there was an implied
novation and Citibank was obligated to increase Aznar’s credit limit and ensure that Aznar will not encounter any
embarrassing situation with the use of his Mastercard; Citibank’s failure to comply with its obligation constitutes gross
negligence as it caused Aznar inconvenience, mental anguish and social humiliation; the fine prints in the flyer of the
credit card limiting the liability of the bank to ₱1,000.00 or the actual damage proven, whichever is lower, is a contract of
adhesion which must be interpreted against Citibank.23

Citibank filed an appeal with the CA and its counsel filed an administrative case against Judge De la Peña for grave
misconduct, gross ignorance of the law and incompetence, claiming among others that said judge rendered his decision
without having read the transcripts. The administrative case was held in abeyance pending the outcome of the appeal
filed by Citibank with the CA.24lawphi1.net

On January 30, 2004, the CA rendered its Decision granting Citibank’s appeal thus:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The assailed order of the Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial Region,
Branch 10, Cebu City, in Civil Case No. CEB-16474, is hereby SET ASIDE and the decision, dated 29 May 1998 of the
Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial Region, Branch 20, Cebu City in this case is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.25

The CA ruled that: Aznar had no personal knowledge of the blacklisting of his card and only presumed the same when it
was dishonored in certain establishments; such dishonor is not sufficient to prove that his card was blacklisted by
Citibank; Exh. "G" is an electronic document which must be authenticated pursuant to Section 2, Rule 5 of the Rules on
Electronic Evidence26 or under Section 20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court27 by anyone who saw the document executed
or written; Aznar, however, failed to prove the authenticity of Exh. "G", thus it must be excluded; the unrefuted testimony
of Aznar that his credit card was dishonored by Ingtan Agency and certain establishments abroad is not sufficient to justify
the award of damages in his favor, absent any showing that Citibank had anything to do with the said dishonor; Citibank
had no absolute control over the actions of its merchant affiliates, thus it should not be held liable for the dishonor of
Aznar’s credit card by said establishments.28

Aznar filed a motion for reconsideration which the CA dismissed in its Resolution dated May 26, 2004.29

Parenthetically, the administrative case against Judge De la Peña was activated and on April 29, 2005, the Court’s Third
Division30 found respondent judge guilty of knowingly rendering an unjust judgment and ordered his suspension for six
months. The Court held that Judge De la Peña erred in basing his Order on a manifestation submitted by Aznar to support
his Motion for Reconsideration, when no copy of such manifestation was served on the adverse party and it was filed
beyond office hours. The Court also noted that Judge De la Peña made an egregiously large award of damages in favor
of Aznar which opened himself to suspicion.31

Aznar now comes before this Court on a petition for review alleging that: the CA erroneously made its own factual finding
that his Mastercard was not blacklisted when the matter of blacklisting was already a non-issue in the November 25, 1998
Order of the RTC; the RTC found that Aznar’s Mastercard was dishonored for the reason that it was declared over the
credit limit; this factual finding is supported by Exh. "G" and by his (Aznar’s) testimony; the issue of dishonor on the
ground of ‘DECL OVERLIMIT’, although not alleged in the complaint, was tried with the implied consent of the parties and
should be treated as if raised in the pleadings pursuant to Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure; 32 Exh. "G"
cannot be excluded as it qualifies as an electronic evidence following the Rules on Electronic Evidence which provides
that print-outs are also originals for purposes of the Best Evidence Rule; Exh. "G" has remained complete and unaltered,
apart from the signature of Nubi, thus the same is reliable for the purpose for which it was generated; the RTC judge
correctly credited the testimony of Aznar on the issuance of the computer print-out as Aznar saw that it was signed by
Nubi; said testimony constitutes the "other evidence showing the integrity and reliability of the print-out to the satisfaction
of the judge" which is required under the Rules on Electronic Evidence; the trial court was also correct in finding that
Citibank was grossly negligent in failing to credit the additional deposit and make the necessary entries in its systems to
prevent Aznar from encountering any embarrassing situation with the use of his Mastercard. 33

Citibank, in its Comment, contends that: Aznar never had personal knowledge that his credit card was blacklisted as he
only presumed such fact; the issue of dishonor on the ground that the card was declared over the limit was also never
tried with the implied consent of both parties; Aznar’s self-serving testimony is not sufficient to prove the integrity and
reliability of Exh. "G"; Aznar did not declare that it was Nubi who printed the document and that said document was
printed in his presence as he merely said that the print-out was provided him; there is also no annotation on Exh. "G" to
establish that it was Nubi who printed the same; assuming further that Exh. "G" is admissible and Aznar’s credit card was
dishonored, Citibank still cannot be held liable for damages as it only shows that Aznar’s credit card was dishonored for
having been declared over the limit; Aznar’s cause of action against Citibank hinged on the alleged blacklisting of his card
which purportedly caused its dishonor; dishonor alone, however, is not sufficient to award Aznar damages as he must
prove that the dishonor was caused by a grossly negligent act of Citibank; the award of damages in favor of Aznar was
based on Article 117034 of the Civil Code, i.e., there was fraud, negligence or delay in the performance of its obligation;
there was no proof, however that Citibank committed fraud or delay or that it contravened its obligations towards Aznar;
the terms and conditions of the credit card cannot be considered as a contract of adhesion since Aznar was entirely free
to reject the card if he did not want the conditions stipulated therein; a person whose stature is such that he is expected to
be more prudent with respect to his transactions cannot later on be heard to complain for being ignorant or having been
forced into merely consenting to the contract.35

In his Reply, Aznar contended that to a layman, the term "blacklisting" is synonymous with the words "hot list" or "declared
overlimit"; and whether his card was blacklisted or declared over the limit, the same was dishonored due to the fault or
gross negligence of Citibank.36

Aznar also filed a Memorandum raising as issues the following:

I. Whether or not the augmentation deposit in the amount of ₱485,000.00 of the Petitioner constitutes relative
extinctive novation;

II. Whether or not the purchases made by Petitioner were beyond his credit limit;

III. Whether or not the issues of dishonor by reason of overlimit was tried with the consent of the parties;

IV. Whether or not the "On Line Authorization Report" is an electronic document."

V. Whether or not the "On Line Authorization Report" constitutes electronic evidence;

VI. Whether or not the agreement between the parties is a contract of adhesion;

VII. Whether or not the Respondent is negligent in not crediting the deposits of the Respondent. 37

Aznar further averred in his Memorandum that Citibank assured him that with the use of his Mastercard, he would never
be turned down by any merchant store, and that under Section 43, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, Exh. "G" is admissible
in evidence.38
Citibank also filed a Memorandum reiterating its earlier arguments.39

Stripped to its essentials, the only question that needs to be answered is: whether Aznar has established his claim against
Citibank.

The answer is no.

It is basic that in civil cases, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff to establish his case based on a preponderance of
evidence. The party that alleges a fact also has the burden of proving it.40

In the complaint Aznar filed before the RTC, he claimed that Citibank blacklisted his Mastercard which caused its dishonor
in several establishments in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, particularly in Ingtan Agency in Indonesia where he was
humiliated when its staff insinuated that he could be a swindler trying to use a blacklisted card.

As correctly found by the RTC in its May 29, 1998 Decision, Aznar failed to prove with a preponderance of evidence that
Citibank blacklisted his Mastercard or placed the same on the "hot list."41

Aznar in his testimony admitted that he had no personal knowledge that his Mastercard was blacklisted by Citibank and
only presumed such fact from the dishonor of his card.

Q Now, paragraph 12 also states and I quote: "its entry in the "hot" list was confirmed to be authentic".

Now, who confirmed that the blacklisting of your Preferred Citibank Mastercard was authentic?

A. Okey. When I presented this Mastercard, my card rather, at the Merchant’s store, I do not know, they called up
somebody for verification then later they told me that "your card is being denied". So, I am not in a position to answer that.
I do not know whom they called up; where they verified. So, when it is denied that’s presumed to be blacklisted.

Q. So the word that was used was denied?

A. Denied.

Q. And after you were told that your card was denied you presumed that it was blacklisted?

A. Definitely.

Q. So your statement that your card was allegedly blacklisted is only your presumption drawn from the fact, from
your allegations, that it was denied at the merchandise store?

A. Yes, sir.42 (Emphasis supplied)

The dishonor of Aznar’s Mastercard is not sufficient to support a conclusion that said credit card was blacklisted by
Citibank, especially in view of Aznar’s own admission that in other merchant establishments in Kuala Lumpur and
Singapore, his Mastercard was accepted and honored.43

Aznar puts much weight on the ON-LINE AUTHORIZATION FOREIGN ACCOUNT ACTIVITY REPORT, a computer print-
out handed to Aznar by Ingtan Agency, marked as Exh. "G", to prove that his Mastercard was dishonored for being
blacklisted. On said print-out appears the words "DECL OVERLIMIT" opposite Account No. 5423-3920-0786-7012.

As correctly pointed out by the RTC and the CA, however, such exhibit cannot be considered admissible as its
authenticity and due execution were not sufficiently established by petitioner.

The prevailing rule at the time of the promulgation of the RTC Decision is Section 20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. It
provides that whenever any private document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and
authenticity must be proved either by (a) anyone who saw the document executed or written; or (b) by evidence of the
genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker.
Aznar, who testified on the authenticity of Exh. "G," did not actually see the document executed or written, neither was he
able to provide evidence on the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of Nubi, who handed to him said computer
print-out. Indeed, all he was able to allege in his testimony are the following:

Q I show to you a Computer Print Out captioned as On Line Authorization Activity Report where it is shown that the
Preferred Master Card Number 5423392007867012 was denied as per notation on the margin of this Computer Print Out,
is this the document evidencing the dishonor of your Preferred Master Card?

xxxx

A Yes sir, after that Ingtan incident, I went straight to the Service Agency there and on the left hand side you will be able
to see the name of the person in-charged [sic] there certifying that really my card is being blacklisted and there is the
signature there of the agency.

ATTY. NAVARRO:

The witness, your honor, is pointing to the signature over the handwritten name of Victrina Elnado Nubi which I pray, your
honor, that the Computer Print Out be marked as our Exhibit "G" and the remarks at the left hand bottom portion of
Victorina Elnado Nubi with her signature thereon be encircled and be marked as our Exhibit "G-1".

xxxx

Q Mr. Aznar, where did you secure this Computer Print Out marked as Exhibit "G"?

A This is provided by that Agency, your honor. They were the ones who provided me with this. So what the lady
did, she gave me the Statement and I requested her to sign to show proof that my Preferred Master Card has
been rejected.44 (Emphasis supplied).

Even if examined under the Rules on Electronic Evidence, which took effect on August 1, 2001, and which is being
invoked by Aznar in this case, the authentication of Exh. "G" would still be found wanting.

Pertinent sections of Rule 5 read:

Section 1. Burden of proving authenticity. – The person seeking to introduce an electronic document in any legal
proceeding has the burden of proving its authenticity in the manner provided in this Rule.

Section 2. Manner of authentication. – Before any private electronic document offered as authentic is received in
evidence, its authenticity must be proved by any of the following means:

(a) by evidence that it had been digitally signed by the person purported to have signed the same;

(b) by evidence that other appropriate security procedures or devices as may be authorized by the Supreme
Court or by law for authentication of electronic documents were applied to the document; or

(c) by other evidence showing its integrity and reliability to the satisfaction of the judge.

Aznar claims that his testimony complies with par. (c), i.e., it constitutes the "other evidence showing integrity and
reliability of Exh. "G" to the satisfaction of the judge." The Court is not convinced. Aznar’s testimony that the person from
Ingtan Agency merely handed him the computer print-out and that he thereafter asked said person to sign the same
cannot be considered as sufficient to show said print-out’s integrity and reliability. As correctly pointed out by Judge
Marcos in his May 29, 1998 Decision, Exh. "G" does not show on its face that it was issued by Ingtan Agency as Aznar
merely mentioned in passing how he was able to secure the print-out from the agency; Aznar also failed to show the
specific business address of the source of the computer print-out because while the name of Ingtan Agency was
mentioned by Aznar, its business address was not reflected in the print-out.45

Indeed, Aznar failed to demonstrate how the information reflected on the print-out was generated and how the said
information could be relied upon as true. In fact, Aznar to repeat, testified as follows:
ATTY. NERI

Q Now, paragraph 12 also states and I quote: "its entry in the "hot" list was confirmed to be authentic"

Now, who confirmed that the blacklisting of your Preferred Citibank Mastercard was authentic?

A Okey. When I presented this Mastercard, my card rather, at the Merchant’s store, I do not know, they called up
somebody for verification then later they told me that "your card is being denied". So, I am not in a position to answer
that. I do not know whom they called up; where they verified. So, when it is denied that’s presumed to be
blacklisted.46 (Emphasis supplied)

Aznar next invokes Section 43 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which pertains to entries in the course of business, to
support Exh. "G". Said provision reads:

Sec. 43. Entries in the course of business. – Entries made at, or near the time of the transactions to which they refer, by a
person deceased or unable to testify, who was in a position to know the facts therein stated, may be received as prima
facie evidence, if such person made the entries in his professional capacity or in the performance of duty and in the
ordinary or regular course of business or duty.

Under this rule, however, the following conditions are required:

1. the person who made the entry must be dead, or unable to testify;

2. the entries were made at or near the time of the transactions to which they refer;

3. the entrant was in a position to know the facts stated in the entries;

4. the entries were made in his professional capacity or in the performance of a duty, whether legal, contractual,
moral or religious; and

5. the entries were made in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty. 47

As correctly pointed out by the RTC in its May 29, 1998 Decision, there appears on the computer print-out the name of a
certain "Victrina Elnado Nubi" and a signature purportedly belonging to her, and at the left dorsal side were handwritten
the words "Sorry for the delay since the records had to be retrieved. Regards. Darryl Mario." It is not clear therefore if it
was Nubi who encoded the information stated in the print-out and was the one who printed the same. The handwritten
annotation signed by a certain Darryl Mario even suggests that it was Mario who printed the same and only handed the
print-out to Nubi. The identity of the entrant, required by the provision above mentioned, was therefore not established.
Neither did petitioner establish in what professional capacity did Mario or Nubi make the entries, or whether the entries
were made in the performance of their duty in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty.

And even if Exh. "G" is admitted as evidence, it only shows that the use of the credit card of petitioner was denied
because it was already over the limit. There is no allegation in the Complaint or evidence to show that there was gross
negligence on the part of Citibank in declaring that the credit card has been used over the limit.

The Court is also perplexed that stated on Exh. "G" is the amount of "6,289,195.10" opposite petitioner's account number,
which data, petitioner did not clarify.48 As plaintiff in this case, it was incumbent on him to prove that he did not actually
incur the said amount which is above his credit limit. As it is, the Court cannot see how Exh. "G" could help petitioner's
claim for damages.

The claim of petitioner that Citibank blacklisted his card through fraud or gross negligence is likewise effectively negated
by the evidence of Citibank which was correctly upheld by the RTC and the CA, to wit:

xxx Mr. Dennis Flores, the Head of the Credit Card Department of defendant Bank, presented documents known as
Warning Cancellation Bulletin for July 10, 17, 24, and 31, 1994 (Exhibits ‘3’, ‘3-1’ to ‘3-38’, ‘4’, ‘4-1’ to ‘4-38’ ‘5’, ‘5-1’ to ‘5-
39’ and ‘6’, ‘6-1’ to ‘6-39’), for August 7, 1994 (Exhibit[s] ‘7’, ‘7-1’ to ‘7-37’), for August 8, 1994 (Exhibit[s] ‘8’, ‘8-1’ to ‘8-20’)
which show that plaintiff’s Citibank preferred mastercard was not placed in a hot list or was not blacklisted.
The Warning Cancellation Bulletins (WCB) (Exhibits ‘3’, ‘4’, ‘5’, ‘6’, ‘7’, ‘8’ and their submarkings) which covered the period
of four (4) days in July 1994 (from July 10, 17, 24 and 31, 1994), and two (2) days in August 1994, (August 7 and 8,
1994), when plaintiff traveled in the aforementioned Asian countries showed that said Citibank preferred mastercard had
never been placed in a ‘hot list’ or the same was blacklisted, let alone the fact that all the credit cards which had been
cancelled by the defendant bank were all contained, reported and listed in said Warning Cancellation Bulletin which were
issued and released on a regular basis.

These three hundred (300) Warning Cancellation Bulletins pieces of documentary proofs, all in all, adduced by defendant
pointed to the fact that said plaintiff’s credit car (sic) was not among those found in said bulletins as having been cancelled
for the period for which the said bulletins had been issued.

Between said computer print out (Exhibit ‘G’) and the Warning Cancellation Bulletins (Exhibits ‘3’ to ‘8’ and their
submarkings) the latter documents adduced by defendant are entitled to greater weight than that said computer print out
presented by plaintiff that bears on the issue of whether the plaintiff’s preferred master card was actually placed in the ‘hot
list’ or blacklisted for the following reasons:

The first reason is that the due execution and authentication of these Warning Cancellation Bulletins (or WCB) have been
duly established and identified by defendant’s own witness, Dennis Flores, one of the bank’s officers, who is the head of
its credit card department, and, therefore, competent to testify on the said bulletins as having been issued by the
defendant bank showing that plaintiff’s preferred master credit card was never blacklisted or placed in the Bank’s ‘hot list’.
But on the other hand, plaintiff’s computer print out (Exhibit ‘G’) was never authenticated or its due execution had never
been duly established. Thus, between a set of duly authenticated commercial documents, the Warning Cancellation
Bulletins (Exhibits ‘3’ to ‘8’ and their submarkings), presented by defendants (sic) and an unauthenticated private
document, plaintiff’s computer print out (Exhibit ‘G’), the former deserves greater evidentiary weight supporting the
findings of this Court that plaintiff’s preferred master card (Exhibit ‘1’) had never been blacklisted at all or placed in a so-
called ‘hot list’ by defendant.49

Petitioner next argues that with the additional deposit he made in his account which was accepted by Citibank, there was
an implied novation and Citibank was under the obligation to increase his credit limit and make the necessary entries in its
computerized systems in order that petitioner may not encounter any embarrassing situation with the use of his credit
card. Again, the Court finds that petitioner's argument on this point has no leg to stand on.

Citibank never denied that it received petitioner’s additional deposit. 50 It even claimed that petitioner was able to purchase
plane tickets from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur in the amount of ₱237,170.00, which amount was beyond his ₱150,000.00 limit,
because it was able to credit petitioner’s additional deposit to his account. Flores of Citibank testified:

COURT:

Q When was this ticket purchased, after the account was augmented

or before?

A After the account was augmented, Your Honor, because there is no way we can approve a P250,000.00 purchase with
a P150,000.00 credit limit.51

xxx

ATTY. NERI:

For the record, your honor, the deposit of P450,000.00 was made as per exhibit of the plaintiff on June 28. The
purchase of the tickets amount to P237,000.00 was approved and debited on the account of Mr. Aznar on July 20,
your honor. The deposit was made about a month before the purchase of the tickets as per documentary
exhibits, your honor.

COURT:

So, Atty. Navarro, what do you say to that explanation?

ATTY. NAVARRO [counsel of petitioner]:


That is correct, your honor, that is borne out by the records, your honor. (Emphasis supplied)

COURT: (to witness)

Q So, I think Atty. Navarro is only after whether a credit line could be extended?

A Yes, your honor.

Q Even if there is no augmenting?

A No, sir, it is not possible. So, the only way the ₱237,000.00 transaction could be approved was by way of advance
payment which actually happened in this case because there is no way that the ₱237,000.00 can be approved
with the ₱150,000.00 credit limit.52 (Emphasis supplied)

The allegations of blacklisting not having been proved, is Citibank liable for damages for the dishonor of Aznar’s
Mastercard?

Again, the answer is no.

Citibank, in its attempt to evade liability, invokes paragraphs 7 and 15 of the terms and conditions governing the issuance
of its Mastercard which read:

7. MERCHANT AFFILIATES. [Citibank is] not responsible if the Card is not honored by any merchant affiliate for any
reason. Furthermore, [the cardholder] will not hold [Citibank] responsible for any defective product or service purchased
through the Card.

xxxx

15. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. In any action arising from this agreement or any incident thereto which [the cardholder] or
any other party may file against [Citibank], [Citibank’s] liability shall not exceed One Thousand Pesos [₱1,000.00] or the
actual damages proven, whichever is lesser.53

On this point, the Court agrees with Aznar that the terms and conditions of Citibank’s Mastercard constitute a contract of
adhesion. It is settled that contracts between cardholders and the credit card companies are contracts of adhesion, so-
called, because their terms are prepared by only one party while the other merely affixes his signature signifying his
adhesion thereto.54

In this case, paragraph 7 of the terms and conditions states that "[Citibank is] not responsible if the Card is not honored by
any merchant affiliate for any reason x x x". While it is true that Citibank may have no control of all the actions of its
merchant affiliates, and should not be held liable therefor, it is incorrect, however, to give it blanket freedom from liability if
its card is dishonored by any merchant affiliate for any reason. Such phrase renders the statement vague and as the said
terms and conditions constitute a contract of adhesion, any ambiguity in its provisions must be construed against the party
who prepared the contract,55 in this case Citibank.

Citibank also invokes paragraph 15 of its terms and conditions which limits its liability to ₱1,000.00 or the actual damage
proven, whichever is lesser.

Again, such stipulation cannot be considered as valid for being unconscionable as it precludes payment of a larger
amount even though damage may be clearly proven. This Court is not precluded from ruling out blind adherence to the
terms of a contract if the attendant facts and circumstances show that they should be ignored for being obviously too one-
sided.56

The invalidity of the terms and conditions being invoked by Citibank, notwithstanding, the Court still cannot award
damages in favor of petitioner.

It is settled that in order that a plaintiff may maintain an action for the injuries of which he complains, he must establish
that such injuries resulted from a breach of duty which the defendant owed to the plaintiff – a concurrence of injury to the
plaintiff and legal responsibility by the person causing it. The underlying basis for the award of tort damages is the
premise that an individual was injured in contemplation of law; thus there must first be a breach before damages may be
awarded and the breach of such duty should be the proximate cause of the injury. 57

It is not enough that one merely suffered sleepless nights, mental anguish or serious anxiety as a result of the actuations
of the other party. It is also required that a culpable act or omission was factually established, that proof that the wrongful
act or omission of the defendant is shown as the proximate cause of the damage sustained by the claimant and that the
case is predicated on any of the instances expressed or envisioned by Arts. 2219 58 and 222059 of the Civil Code.60

In culpa contractual or breach of contract, moral damages are recoverable only if the defendant has acted fraudulently or
in bad faith, or is found guilty of gross negligence amounting to bad faith, or in wanton disregard of his contractual
obligations. The breach must be wanton, reckless, malicious or in bad faith, oppressive or abusive.61

While the Court commiserates with Aznar for whatever undue embarrassment he suffered when his credit card was
dishonored by Ingtan Agency, especially when the agency’s personnel insinuated that he could be a swindler trying to use
blacklisted cards, the Court cannot grant his present petition as he failed to show by preponderance of evidence that
Citibank breached any obligation that would make it answerable for said suffering.

As the Court pronounced in BPI Express Card Corporation v. Court of Appeals,62

We do not dispute the findings of the lower court that private respondent suffered damages as a result of the cancellation
of his credit card. However, there is a material distinction between damages and injury. Injury is the illegal invasion of a
legal right; damage is the loss, hurt, or harm which results from the injury; and damages are the recompense or
compensation awarded for the damage suffered. Thus, there can be damage without injury to those instances in which
the loss or harm was not the result of a violation of a legal duty. In such cases, the consequences must be borne by the
injured person alone, the law affords no remedy for damages resulting from an act which does not amount to a legal injury
or wrong. These situations are often called damnum absque injuria.63

WHEREFORE, the petition is denied for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

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