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G.R. No.

138084

April 10, 2002 CO., INC., petitioner,

MALAYAN INSURANCE vs. PHILIPPINE NAILS AND WIRES CORPORATION, respondent. QUISUMBING, J.:

This petition for review seeks the reversal of the decision dated September 30, 1998, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 45547, affirming the decision dated December 10, 1993, of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Metro Manila, Branch 163, and the resolution dated March 25, 1999, of the Court of Appeals denying the petitioner's motion for reconsideration.1 Respondent Philippine Nails and Wires Corporation insured against all risks its shipment of 10,053.400 metric tons of steel billets valued at P67,156,300 with petitioner Malayan Insurance Company Inc. The shipment delivered was short by 377.168 metric tons. For this shortage, respondent claimed insurance for P2,698,637.04, representing the value of undelivered steel billets, plus customs duties, taxes and other charges paid by respondent. Petitioner refused to pay. On July 28, 1993, respondent filed a complaint against petitioner for sum of money with the RTC of Pasig representing said lost and/or undelivered cargo. Petitioner moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that it failed to state a cause of action, and that it was filed in the wrong venue. The motion was denied. It thus filed a petition for prohibition with the Court of Appeals. This was also denied. Upon motion for reconsideration, the petition was reinstated. However, it was eventually dismissed by the Court of Appeals, and its dismissal became final and executory. On September 8, 1993, respondent filed a motion to admit an amended complaint which the trial court granted. It sent petitioner summons and a copy of the complaint on October 13, 1993 and also gave petitioner until October 31, 1993 to file its answer. On November 4, 1993, respondent moved to declare petitioner in default. The trial court granted and allowed the presentation of evidence ex parte before the branch clerk of court. Respondent presented its lone witness, Jeanne King. On November 11, 1993, petitioner filed its answer with compulsory counterclaim. Upon motion by the respondent, the trial court expunged from the records the answer for late filing. On December 10, 1993, the trial court rendered a judgment by default which reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, Judgment is hereby rendered in favor of plaintiff and against defendant, ordering the latter to pay the following: 1. P2,532,926.53 representing the insured value of the lost and/or not delivered 377.168 metric tons of steel billets plus legal rate of interest from date of filing of this complaint until fully paid; 2. Fifteen (15) percent of the amount awarded to plaintiff as attorney's fees; and 3. Cost of suit. SO ORDERED.2 Respondent moved to execute judgment pending appeal. The trial court granted the motion. Meanwhile, petitioner filed its notice of appeal which was given due course. Pursuant to the grant of the motion for execution, the trial court issued the corresponding writ. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with prayer for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the implementation of the writ. The Court of Appeals granted the prayer for the temporary restraining order. The writ of execution was likewise stayed by the trial court which favorably considered petitioner's urgent motion to stay execution pending appeal and to approve the supersedeas bond. Pursuant to the notice of appeal, the entire records of the case were elevated to the Court of Appeals, where petitioner argued that the trial court erred in rendering judgment by default notwithstanding that issues were joined by petitioner's filing of an answer; in awarding damages to respondent based on unauthenticated documentary evidence and hearsay; and in admitting documentary evidence which is irregular in nature and not in accordance with the Rules of Court. The Court of Appeals concurred with the trial court and disposed the case thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, there being no reversible error committed by the lower court, the judgment appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.3 The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion nor err when it expunged the answer from the records because petitioner answered way beyond the prescribed period. It further held that respondent's witness, Jeanne King, was a competent witness because she personally prepared the documentary evidence and had personal knowledge of the allegations in the complaint. In addition, the appellate court said that conclusions and findings of fact of the trial courts were entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons, which were not present in this case. Lastly, the absence of a written report by the branch clerk of court on the ex parte proceedings did not necessarily deny petitioner due process. Nothing in the Rules of Court stated that the absence of the commissioner's written report nullified a judgment by default. The appellate court observed that if there was a defect, such was only procedural that can be waived. Besides, petitioner was declared in default because of its own failure to answer within the prescribed period. It cannot claim denial of due process because it was given the opportunity to be heard. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied, hence, this petition alleging that the Court of Appeals erred and acted contrary to existing law and jurisprudence in: I. GIVING PROBATIVE VALUE TO THE PURELY HEARSAY TESTIMONY OF RESPONDENT'S SOLE WITNESS. II. AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT WHICH WAS BASED ON DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE ADMITTED WITHOUT BEING PROPERLY AUTHENTICATED.4 For resolution now are the following issues: Was Jeanne King's testimony hearsay, thus without any probative value? Should respondent authenticate the documentary evidence it submitted at the trial? On the first issue, petitioner Malayan Insurance Co., Inc., contends that Jeanne King's testimony was hearsay because she had no personal knowledge of the execution of the documents supporting respondent's cause of action, such as the sales contract, invoice, packing list, bill of lading, SGS Report, and the Marine Cargo Policy. Petitioner avers that even though King was personally assigned to handle and monitor the importation of Philippine Nails and Wires Corporation, herein respondent, this cannot be equated with personal knowledge of the facts which gave rise to respondent's cause of action. Further, petitioner asserts, even though she personally prepared the summary of weight of steel billets received by respondent, she did not have personal knowledge of the weight of steel billets actually shipped and delivered. At the outset, we must stress that respondent's cause of action is founded on breach of insurance contract covering cargo consisting of imported steel billets. To hold petitioner liable, respondent has to prove, first, its importation of 10,053.400 metric tons of steel billets valued at P67,156,300.00, and second, the actual steel billets delivered to and received by the importer, namely the respondent. Witness Jeanne King, who was assigned to handle respondent's importations, including their insurance coverage, has personal knowledge of the volume of steel billets being imported, and therefore competent to testify thereon. Her testimony is not hearsay, as this doctrine is defined in Section 36, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.5 However, she is not qualified to testify on the shortage in the delivery of the imported steel billets. She did not have personal knowledge of the actual steel billets received. Even though she prepared the summary of the received steel billets, she based the summary only on the receipts prepared by other persons. Her testimony on steel billets received was hearsay. It has no probative value even if not objected to at the trial. 6 On the second issue, petitioner avers that King failed to properly authenticate respondent's documentary evidence. Under Section 20, Rule 132, Rules of Court,7 before a private document is admitted in evidence, it must be authenticated either by the person who executed it, the person before whom its execution was acknowledged, any person who was present and saw it executed, or who after its execution, saw it and recognized the signatures, or the person to whom the parties to the instruments had previously confessed execution thereof. In this case, respondent admits that King was none of the aforementioned persons. She merely made the summary of the weight of steel billets based on the unauthenticated bill of lading and the SGS report. Thus, the summary of steel billets actually received had no proven real basis, and King's testimony on this point could not be taken at face value. Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in giving imprimatur to the trial court's ruling with regard to the admission of documentary evidence submitted by respondent. On this score, we find petitioner's contention meritorious. Under the rules on evidence, documents are either public or private. Private documents are those that do not fall under any of the enumerations in Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. 8 Section

209 of the same law, in turn, provides that before any private document is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either by anyone who saw the document executed or written, or by evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker. Here, respondent's documentary exhibits are private documents. They are not among those enumerated in Section 19, thus, their due execution and authenticity need to be proved before they can be admitted in evidence. With the exception concerning the summary of the weight of the steel billets imported, respondent presented no supporting evidence concerning their authenticity.10 Consequently, they cannot be utilized to prove less of the insured cargo and/or the short delivery of the imported steel billets. In sum, we find no sufficient competent evidence to prove petitioner's liability. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals dated September 30, 1998 and its resolution on March 25, 1999 in CA-G.R. CV No. 45547 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. In lieu thereof, Civil Case No. 63445 is hereby ordered DISMISSED.No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

G.R. Nos. 79597-98 May 20, 1991 HEIRS OF DEMETRIA LACSA, represented by: BIENVENIDO CABAIS, VIRGINIA CABAIS, LEONOR CABAIS-PENA and DOLORES CABAIS-MAGPAYO, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, AURELIO D. SONGCO, ANGEL D. SONGCO ENCARNACION D. SONGCO, LOURDES D. SONGCO, ANGELA S. SONGCO, LUDIVINA S. SONGCO, JOSEPHINE S. SONGCO, ALBERT S. SONGCO, INOSENCIO S. SONGCO, JAIME S. SONGCO, MARTIN S. SONGCO, and BERNARD S. SONGCO, Being Heirs of Inocencio Songco, respondents. Norbin P. Dimalanta for petitioners. Dante S. David for private respondents. PADILLA, J.:p This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision * of respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV Nos. 08397-08398 dated 16 July 1987 affirming with modification the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Guagua, Pampanga, in favor of private respondents, and its resolution dated 14 August 1987 denying the motion for reconsideration. This petition which originated with the Regional Trial Court of Guagua, Pampanga involves two (2) cases, namely: Civil Case No. G-1190 and Civil Case No. G-1332. 1 Civil Case No. G-1190 is an action for recovery of possession with damages and preliminary injunction filed by herein petitioners, the heirs of Demetria Lacsa, against Aurelio Songco and John Doe based on the principal allegations that petitioners are heirs of deceased Demetria Lacsa who, during her lifetime, was the owner of a certain parcel of land consisting partly of a fishpond and partly of uncultivated open space, located in Bancal, Guagua, Pampanga, evidenced by Original Certificate of Title No. RO-1038 (11725); that the principal respondent and his predecessor-in-interest who are neither co-owners of the land nor tenants thereof, thru stealth, fraud and other forms of machination, succeeded in occupying or possessing the fishpond of said parcel of land and caused the open space therein to be cleared for expanded occupancy thereof, and refused to vacate the same despite petitioner's demands on them to vacate. 2 Civil Case No. G-1332 is an action also by herein petitioners against private respondents before the same lower court for cancellation of title, ownership with damages and preliminary injunction, based on the allegations that they are the heirs of Demetria Lacsa who was the owner of the land also involved in Civil Case No. G-1190; that the herein private respondents and their predecessors-in-interest, thru stealth, fraud and other forms of machination, succeeded in occupying or possessing the fishpond of the said parcel of land, and later abandoned the same but only after the case was filed and after all the fish were transferred to the adjoining fishpond owned by the private respondents; that on 31 October 1923 and 15 March 1924, by presenting to the Register of Deeds of Pampanga certain forged and absolutely simulated documents, namely: "TRADUCCION AL CASTELLANO DE LA ESCRITURA DE PARTICION EXTRAJUDICIAL" and "ESCRITURA DE VENTA ABSOLUTA", respectively, and by means of false pretenses and misrepresentation, Inocencio Songco, the private respondents' predecessor-in-interest, succeeded in transferring the title to said property in his name, to the damage and prejudice of the petitioners; and that a preliminary injunction was necessary to prevent the private respondents from disposing of said property. 3 Private respondents denied the material allegations of both complaints and alleged as special and affirmative defenses, petitioners' lack of cause of action, for the reason that Original Certificate of Title No. RO-1038 (11725) was merely a reconstituted copy issued in April 1983 upon petitioners' expedient claim that the owner's duplicate copy thereof had been missing when the truth of the matter was that OCT No. RO-1038 (11725) in the name of Demetria Lacsa, had long been cancelled and superseded by TCT No. 794 in the name of Alberta Guevarra and Juan Limpin by virtue of the document entitled "TRADUCCION AL CASTELLANO DE LA ESCRITURA DE PARTICION EXTRA-JUDICIAL" entered into by the heirs of Demetria Lacsa; that the latter TCT was in turn superseded by TCT No. 929 issued in the name of Inocencio Songco (father of private respondents) by virtue of a document entitled "ESCRITURA DE VENTA ABSOLUTA" executed by spouses Juan Limpin and Alberta Guevarra in favor of said Inocencio Songo. 4 Private respondents, in their answer, pleaded a counterclaim against petitioners based on allegations that the latter headed by Carlito Magpayo, by force and intimidation, took possession of a portion of the fishpond in the land and occupied a hut therein, that at that time, private respondents had 3,000 bangus fingerlings left in

the fishpond which upon petitioners' harvest thereof left private respondents deprived and damaged in the amount of P50,000.00 more or less; that such illegal occupancy caused private respondents to suffer unrealized income and profits, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and serious anxiety which entitled them to actual, moral and exemplary damages as well as attorney's fees and P500.00 appearance fee for every hearing. 5 On 20 January 1985, the parties assisted by their respective counsel filed in Civil Case No. G-1332 a joint stipulation of facts, alleging: 1. That on June 9, 1982, the plaintiffs, being heirs of Demetria Lacsa, filed Civil Case No. 1190; 2. That after the defendants filed their Answer in the said Civil Case No. G-1190, and learning the land subject of the two (2) abovementioned cases (sic), said plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to Admit Amended and/or Supplemental Complaint. 3. That the said motion was denied by the Honorable Court, hence, said plaintiffs filed Civil Case No. G-1332, the above-entitled case, with the same cause of action as that of the proposed Amended and/or Supplemental Complaint; 4. That the evidences of both parties in Civil Case No. G-1190 and in the above-entitled case are practically and literally the same; 5. That in view of the foregoing, and in order to avoid duplicity of action by repeatedly presenting the same act of evidences and same set of witnesses, the parties mutually agreed as they hereby agree and stipulate that any and all evidences presented under Civil Case No. 1190 shall be adopted as evidences for both parties in the above-entitled case, and upon submission for resolution of Civil Case No. G-1190, the above-entitled case shall likewise be deemed submitted for resolution on the basis of the evidence presented in the same Civil Case No. G-1190. 6 On the basis of this joint stipulation of facts, the lower court held that: . . . the fishpond in question was originally owned by Demetria Lacsa under Original Certificate of Title No. 11725. After Demetria Lacsa died her two daughters Alberta Guevarra and Ambrocia Guevarra with their respective husbands Juan Limpin and Damaso Cabais entered into an extrajudicial partition of the properties left by Demetria Lacsa under the document "Traduccion Al Castellano de la Escritura de Partition Extra-judicial" dated April 7, 1923 (Exhibits "3","3-A" and "3-B") wherein the fishpond in question was adjudicated to Alberta Guevarra and which deed was duly registered in the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Pampanga as evidenced by the certification of the Deputy Register of Deeds marked as Exhibit "3-C". Aside from the "Traduccion Al Castellano de la Escritura de Particion Extrajudicial" written in the Spanish language, the spouses Alberta Guevarra and Juan Limpin and the spouses Ambrosia Guevarra and Damaso Cabais executed on April 7, 1923, another deed of partition in the Pampango dialect marked as Exhibit "3-D" "wherein the fishpond in question was adjudicated to Alberta Guevarra. As a consequence, Original Certificate of Title No. 794 (Exhibit "4") was issued to spouses Alberta Guevarra and Juan Limpin. On January 20, 1924, the spouses Juan Limpin and Alberta Guevarra sold the fishpond in question to Inocencio Songco under the deed entitled "Escritura de Venta Absoluta" (Exhibits "7" and "7-A") which was duly registered in the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Pampanga as evidenced by the certification of the Deputy Register of Deeds marked Exhibit "7-B". As a result of the sale, Transfer Certificate of Title No. 794 (Exhibit "4") in the name of the spouses Alberta Guevarra and Juan Limpin was cancelled by the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Pampanga and Transfer Certificate of Title No. 929 was issued to Inocencio Songco." 7 The lower court thus held that the fishpond in question belongs to the private respondents, having been inherited by them from their deceased father Inocencio Songco. 8 The dispositive portion of the judgment in favor of private respondents reads: WHEREFORE, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered In Civil Case No. G - 1190 (A) Ordering the dismissal of the complaint in Civil Case No. G-1190; In Civil Case No. G-1332

(B) Ordering the dismissal of the complaint in Civil Case No. G-1332; In Both Civil Case No. G-1190 and Civil Case No. G-1332 (C) Ordering the cancellation of Original Certificate of Title No. RO-1038 (11725) in the name of Demetria Lacsa; (D) Ordering the plaintiffs to restore possession of the fishpond in question located in Bancal, Guagua, Pampanga, to the defendants (sic); (E) Ordering the plaintiffs to pay jointly and severally, the defendants the sum of Twenty Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, as and for moral damages; (F) Ordering the plaintiffs to pay jointly and severally, the defendants the sum of Twenty Five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, as and for exemplary damages; (G) Ordering the plaintiffs to pay jointly and severally, the defendants the sum of Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, as attorney's fees; (H) Costs against the plaintiffs. SO ORDERED. 9 Petitioners appealed the above-mentioned decision to the respondent Court of Appeals assigning the following errors allegedly committed by the lower court: I. IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF THE PLAINTIFFSAPPELLANTS THAT THE TWO DOCUMENTS (EXHS. 3 & 7 AND THEIR SUB-MARKINGS) WERE FORGED AND ABSOLUTELY SIMULATED DOCUMENTS. HENCE, NULL AND VOID; II. IN HOLDING THAT THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE SIGNATURE OF JUAN LIMPIN AND THUMBMARK OF ALBERTA GUEVARRA APPEARING ON THE EXCRITUA DE VENTA ABSOLUTA (EXHS. 7 & 7-A) WERE FORGED; III. IN APPRECIATING IN FAVOR OF THE APPELLEES THE DOCUMENTS PRESENTED BY WITNESS JESUS CRUZ WHEN THEIR SOURCES COULD NOT BE ACCOUNTED FOR AND THEIR AUTHENTICITY IS IN QUESTION; IV. IN HOLDING THAT INOCENCIO SONGCO, THE PREDECESSOR-IN-INTEREST OF THE APPELLEES WAS AN INNOCENT PURCHASER FOR VALUE; V. IN HOLDING THAT TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. 929 WAS ISSUED TO INOCENCIO SONGCO BY THE REGISTERED TRY OF DEEDS OF PAMPANGA; VI. IN HOLDING THAT ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE NO. RO-1038 (11725) WAS ISSUED BY THE COURT (CFI-III PAMPANGA) IN EXCESS OF OR WITHOUT JURISDICTION AND THEREFORE NULL AND VOID; VII. IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THAT THE VOLUNTARY ABANDONMENT OF THE FISHPOND IN QUESTION BY THE APPELLEES WAS A RECOGNITION OF APPELLANTS' TITLE TO IT; VIII. IN AWARDING DAMAGES TO THE APPELLEES. 10 The Court of Appeals rendered a decision in the appealed case, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that appellants are not liable for moral and exemplary damages as well as attorney's fees. SO ORDERED. 11 Petitioners flied a motion for reconsideration with the Court of Appeals but the same was denied in its resolution dated 14 August 1987. 12 Hence, this petition. Petitioners assign the following alleged errors to the Court of Appeals: I. IN APPLYING THE "ANCIENT DOCUMENT RULE" ON THE QUESTIONED DOCUMENT ENTITLED "ESCRITURA DE PARTICION EXTRAJUDICIAL" AND "ESCRITURA DE VENTA ABSOLUTA; AND MARKED DURING THE TRIAL AS EXHIBITS "3" AND "7", RESPECTIVELY, FOR THE RESPONDENT HEREIN;

II. IN DISREGARDING THE MANDATORY REQUIREMENT OF THE NOTARIAL LAW WHICH TOOK EFFECT AS EARLY AS FEBRUARY 1, 1903; III. IN DISREGARDING THE RULE ON PROOF OF PUBLIC OR OFFICIAL RECORD, (SEC. 25, RULE 132, RULES OF COURT) 13 Petitioners contend that the Court of Appeals wrongfully applied the "ancient document rule" provided in Sec. 22, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. 14 The rule states that: Sec. 22. Evidence of execution not necessary. Were a private writing is more than thirty years old, is produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine, and is unblemished by any alterations or circumstances of suspicion, no other evidence of its execution and authenticity need be given. It is submitted by petitioners that under this rule, for a document to be classified as an "ancient document", it must not only be at least thirty (30) years old but it must also be found in the proper custody and is unblemished by alterations and is otherwise free from suspicion. 15 Thus, according to petitioners, exhibits "3" and "7", entitled "Traduccion Al Castellano de la Escritura de Particion Extrajudicial" and "Escritura de Venta Absoluta", respectively, can not qualify under the foregoing rule, for the reason that since the "first pages" of said documents do not bear the signatures of the alleged parties thereto, this constitutes an indelible blemish that can beget unlimited alterations. 16 We are not persuaded by the contention. Under the "ancient document rule," for a private ancient document to be exempt from proof of due execution and authenticity, it is not enough that it be more than thirty (30) years old; it is also necessary that the following requirements are fulfilled; (1) that it is produced from a custody in which it would naturally be found if genuine; and (2) that it is unblemished by any alteration or circumstances of suspicion. 17 The first document, Exhibit "3", entitled 'Traduccion Al Castellano de la Escritura de Particion Extrajudicial" was executed on 7 April 1923 whereas the second document, exhibit "7", entitled "Escritura de Venta Absoluta" was executed on 20 January 1924. These documents are, therefore, more than thirty (30) years old. Both copies of the aforementioned documents were certified as exact copies of the original on file with the Office of the Register of Deeds of Pampanga, by the Deputy Register of Deeds. There is a further certification with regard to the Pampango translation of the document of extrajudicial partition which was issued by the Archives division, Bureau of Records Management of the Department of General Services. 18 Documents which affect real property, in order that they may bind third parties, must be recorded with the appropriate Register of Deeds. The documents in question, being certified as copies of originals on file with the Register of Deeds of Pampanga, can be said to be found in the proper custody. Clearly, therefore, the first two (2) requirements of the "ancient document rule" were met. As to the last requirement that the document must on its face appear to be genuine, petitioners did not present any conclusive evidence to support their allegation of falsification of the said documents. They merely alluded to the fact that the lack of signatures on the first two (2) pages could have easily led to their substitution. We cannot uphold this surmise absent any proof whatsoever. As held in one case, a contract apparently honest and lawful on its face must be treated as such and one who assails the genuineness of such contract must present conclusive evidence of falsification. 19 Moreover, the last requirement of the "ancient document rule" that a document must be unblemished by any alteration or circumstances of suspicion refers to the extrinsic quality of the document itself. The lack of signatures on the first pages, therefore, absent any alterations or circumstances of suspicion cannot be held to detract from the fact that the documents in question, which were certified as copied of the originals on file with the Register of Deeds of Pampanga, are genuine and free from any blemish or circumstances of suspicion. The documents in question are "ancient documents" as envisioned in Sec. 22 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. Further proof of their due execution and authenticity is no longer required. Having held that the documents in question are private writings which are more than thirty (30) years old, come from the proper repository thereof, and are unblemished by any alteration or circumstances of suspicion, there is no further need for these documents to fulfill the requirements of the 1903 Notarial Law. Hence, the other contentions of the petitioners that the documents do not fulfill the mandatory requirements of the Notarial Law 20 and that the proper person or public official was not presented to testify on his certification of the documents in question, 21 need not be resolved as they would no longer serve any purpose.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The appealed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 127745

April 22, 2003

FELICITO G. SANSON, CELEDONIA SANSON-SAQUIN, ANGELES A. MONTINOLA, EDUARDO A. MONTINOLA, JR., petitioners-appellants, vs. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, FOURTH DIVISION and MELECIA T. SY, as Administratrix of the Intestate Estate of the Late Juan Bon Fing Sy, respondents-appellees. CARPIO MORALES, J.: Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Court of Appeals Decision of May 31, 1996 and Resolution of December 9, 1996. On February 7, 1990, herein petitioner-appellant Felicito G. Sanson (Sanson), in his capacity as creditor, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Iloilo City a petition, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 4497, for the settlement of the estate of Juan Bon Fing Sy (the deceased) who died on January 10, 1990. Sanson claimed that the deceased was indebted to him in the amount of P603,000.00 and to his sister Celedonia Sanson-Saquin (Celedonia) in the amount of P360,000.00.1 Petitioners-appellants Eduardo Montinola, Jr. and his mother Angeles Montinola (Angeles) later filed separate claims against the estate, alleging that the deceased owed them P50,000.00 and P150,000.00, respectively.2 By Order of February 12, 1991, Branch 28 of the Iloilo RTC to which the petition was raffled, appointed Melecia T. Sy, surviving spouse of the deceased, as administratrix of his estate, following which she was issued letters of administration.3 During the hearing of the claims against the estate, Sanson, Celedonia, and Jade Montinola, wife of claimant Eduardo Montinola, Jr., testified on the transactions that gave rise thereto, over the objection of the administratrix who invoked Section 23, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of Court otherwise known as the Dead Mans Statute which reads: SEC. 23. Disqualification by reason of death or insanity of adverse party .Parties or assignors of parties to a case, or persons in whose behalf a case is prosecuted, against an executor or administrator or other representative of a deceased person, or against a person of unsound mind, upon a claim or demand against the estate of such deceased person or against such person of unsound mind, cannot testify as to any matter of fact occurring before the death of such deceased person or before such person became of unsound mind. (Emphasis supplied) Sanson, in support of the claim of his sister Celedonia, testified that she had a transaction with the deceased which is evidenced by six checks4 issued by him before his death; before the deceased died, Celedonia tried to enforce settlement of the checks from his (the deceaseds) son Jerry who told her that his father would settle them once he got well but he never did; and after the death of the deceased, Celedonia presented the checks to the bank for payment but were dishonored5 due to the closure of his account.6 Celedonia, in support of the claim of her brother Sanson, testified that she knew that the deceased issued five checks7 to Sanson in settlement of a debt; and after the death of the deceased, Sanson presented the checks to the bank for payment but were returned due to the closure of his account.8 Jade, in support of the claims of her husband Eduardo Montinola, Jr. and mother-in-law Angeles, testified that on separate occasions, the deceased borrowed P50,000 and P150,000 from her husband and mother-in-law, respectively, as shown by three checks issued by the deceased,9 two to Angeles and the other10 to Eduardo Montinola, Jr.; before the deceased died or sometime in August 1989, they advised him that they would be depositing the checks, but he told them not to as he would pay them cash, but he never did; and after the deceased died on January 10, 1990, they deposited the checks but were dishonored as the account against which they were drawn was closed,11 hence, their legal counsel sent a demand letter 12 dated February 6, 1990 addressed to the deceaseds heirs Melicia, James, Mini and Jerry Sy, a nd Symmels I & II but the checks have remained unsettled.13 The administratrix, denying having any knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the claims, nevertheless alleged that if they ever existed, they had been paid and extinguished, are usurious and illegal and are, in any event, barred by prescription.14 And she objected to the admission of the checks and check return slips-exhibits offered in evidence by the claimants upon the ground that the witnesses who testified thereon are disqualified under the Dead Mans Statute.

Specifically with respect to the checks-exhibits identified by Jade, the administratrix asserted that they are inadmissible because Jade is the daughter-in-law of claimant Angeles and wife of claimant Eduardo Montinola, Jr., hence, she is covered by the above-said rule on disqualification. At all events, the administratrix denied that the checks-exhibits were issued by the deceased and that the return slips were issued by the depository/clearing bank.15 After the claimants rested their case, the administratrix filed four separate manifestations informing the trial court that she was dispensing with the presentation of evidence against their claims .16 Finding that the Dead Mans Statute does not apply to the witnesses who testified in support of the subject claims against the estate, the trial court issued an Order of December 8, 1993, 17 the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, Judicial Administratrix Melecia T. Sy, is hereby ordered, to pay, in due course of administration, creditors-claimants Felicito G. Sanson, in the amount of P603,500.00; Celedonia S. Saquin, in the amount of P315,000.00;18 Angeles A. Montinola, in the amount of P150,000.00 and Eduardo Montinola, Jr., in the amount of P50,000.00, from the assets and/or properties of the aboveentitled intestate estate. On appeal by the administratrix upon the following assignment of errors: I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT DISMISSING THE CLAIM[S] FOR FAILURE TO PAY THE FILING FEES THEREON II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT DISMISSING THE CLAIM[S] BECAUSE [THEY ARE] ALREADY BARRED BY THE LAW OF LIMITATIONS OR STATUTE OF NON-CLAIMS III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT CLAIMANT[S] EVIDENCE OF THE CLAIM IS INCOMPETENT UNDER THE DEAD MANS STATUTE, AND INADMISSIBLE IV. THE ALLEGED CHECKS ARE INADMISSIBLE AS PRIVATE DOCUMENTS,19 the Court of Appeals set aside the December 8, 1993 Order of the trial court, by Decision of May 31, 1996, disposing as follows: WHEREFORE, the order appealed from is hereby set aside and another order is entered dismissing the claims of: 1. Felicito G. Sanson, in the amount of P603,500.00; 2. Celdonia S. Saquin, in the amount of P315,000.00;20 3. Angeles A. Montinola, in the amount of P150,000.00; and 4. Eduardo Montinola, Jr., in the amount of P50,000.00 against the estate of the deceased JUAN BON FING SY. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. (Italics supplied) The claimants Motion for Reconsideration21 of the Court of Appeals decision having been denied by Resolution of December 9, 1996,22 they filed the present petition anchored on the following assigned errors: FIRST ASSIGNED ERROR RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS, 4TH DIVISION, ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE TESTIMONY OF JADE MONTINOLA IS INSUFFICIENT TO PROVE THE CLAIMS OF CLAIMANTS ANGELES A. MONTINOLA AND EDUARDO A. MONTINOLA, JR.. SECOND ASSIGNED ERROR

RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS, 4TH DIVISION, ERRED IN FINDING THAT CLAIMANT FELICITO G. SANSON IS DISQUALIFIED TO TESTIFY [ON] THE CLAIM OF CELEDONIA SANSON-SA[Q]UIN AND VI[C]E VERSA. (Underscoring in the original)23 With respect to the first assigned error, petitioners argue that since the administratrix did not deny the testimony of Jade nor present any evidence to controvert it, and neither did she deny the execution and genuineness of the checks issued by the deceased (as well as the check return slips issued by the clearing bank), it was error for the Court of Appeals to find the evidence of the Montinolas insufficient to prove their claims. The administratrix counters that the due execution and authenticity of the checks-exhibits of the Montinolas were not duly proven since Jade did not categorically state that she saw the filling up and signing of the checks by the deceased, hence, her testimony is self-serving; besides, as Jade had identical and unitary interest with her husband and mother-in-law, her testimony was a circumvention of the Dead Mans Statute.24 The administratrixs counter-argument does not lie. Relationship to a party has never been recognized as an adverse factor in determining either the credibility of the witness or subject only to well recognized exceptions none of which is here present the admissibility of the testimony. At most, closeness of relationship to a party, or bias, may indicate the need for a little more caution in the assessment of a witness testimony but is not necessarily a negative element which should be taken as diminishing the credit otherwise accorded to it. 25 Jades testimony on the genuineness of the deceaseds signature on the checks-exhibits of the Montinolas is clear: xxx Q: Showing to you this check dated July 16, 1989, Far East Bank and Trust Company Check No. 84262, in the amount of P100,000.00, is this the check you are referring to? A: Q: A: Q: A: Q: A: Q: A: Yes, sir. There appears a signature in the face of the check. Whose signature is this? That is the signature of Mr. Sy. Why do you know that this is the signature of Mr. Sy? Because he signed this check I was . . . I was present when he signed this check. xxx Showing to you this check dated September 8, 1989, is this the check you are referring to? Yes, sir. Why do you know that this is his signature? I was there when he signed the same. xxx Q: Showing to you this Far East Bank and Trust Company Check No. 84262 dated July 6, 1989, in the amount of P50,000.00, in the name of Eduardo Montinola, are you referring to this check? A: Q: A: Q: A: Yes, sir. Whose signature is this appearing on the face of this check? Mr. Sys signature. Why do you know that it is his signature? I was there when he signed the same. x x x26 (Emphasis supplied) The genuineness of the deceaseds signature having been shown, he is prima facie presumed to have become a party to the check for value, following Section 24 of the Negotiable Instruments Law which reads: Section 24. Presumption of Consideration. Every negotiable instrument is deemed prima facie to have been issued for a valuable consideration; and every person whose signature appears thereon to have become a party thereto for value. (Underscoring and italics in the original; emphasis supplied),

Since, with respect to the checks issued to the Montinolas, the prima facie presumption was not rebutted or contradicted by the administratrix who expressly manifested that she was dispensing with the presentation of evidence against their claims, it has become conclusive. As for the administratrixs invocation of the Dead Mans Statute, the same does not likewise lie. The rule renders incompetent: 1) parties to a case; 2) their assignors; or 3) persons in whose behalf a case is prosecuted . xxx The rule is exclusive and cannot be construed to extend its scope by implication so as to disqualify persons not mentioned therein. Mere witnesses who are not included in the above enumeration are not prohibited from testifying as to a conversation or transaction between the deceased and a third person, if he took no active part therein. x x x27 (Italics supplied) Jade is not a party to the case. Neither is she an assignor nor a person in whose behalf the case is being prosecuted. She testified as a witness to the transaction. In transactions similar to those involved in the case at bar, the witnesses are commonly family members or relatives of the parties. Should their testimonies be excluded due to their apparent interest as a result of their relationship to the parties, there would be a dearth of evidence to prove the transactions. In any event, as will be discussed later, independently of the testimony of Jade, the claims of the Montinolas would still prosper on the basis of their documentary evidence the checks. As to the second assigned error, petitioners argue that the testimonies of Sanson and Celedonia as witnesses to each others claim against the deceased are not covered by the Dead Mans Statute; 28 besides, the administratrix waived the application of the law when she cross-examined them. The administratrix, on the other hand, cites the ruling of the Court of Appeals in its decision on review, the pertinent portion of which reads: The more logical interpretation is to prohibit parties to a case, with like interest, from testifying in each others favor as to acts occurring prior to the death of the deceased. Since the law disqualifies parties to a case or assignors to a case without distinguishing between testimony in his own behalf and that in behalf of others, he should be disqualified from testifying for his co-parties. The law speaks of "parties or assignors of parties to a case." Apparently, the testimonies of Sanson and Saquin on each others behalf, as co -parties to the same case, falls under the prohibition. (Citation omitted; underscoring in the original and emphasis supplied) But Sansons and Celedonias claims against the same estate arose from separate transactions. Sanson is a third party with respect to Celedonias claim. And Celedonia is a third party with respect to Sansons claim. One is not thus disqualified to testify on the others transaction. In any event, what the Dead Mans Statute proscribes is the admission of testimonial evidence upon a claim which arose before the death of the deceased. The incompetency is confined to the giving of testimony.29 Since the separate claims of Sanson and Celedonia are supported by checksdocumentary evidence, their claims can be prosecuted on the bases of said checks. This brings this Court to the matter of the authenticity of the signature of the deceased appearing on the checks issued to Sanson and Celedonia. By Celedonias account, she "knows" the signature of the deceased. xxx Q: Showing to you these checks already marked as Exhibit "A" to "E", please go over these checks if you know the signatures of the late Juan Bon Fing Sy? on these checks? A: Q: A: Q: A: Yes, sir. Insofar as the amount that he borrowed from you, he also issued checks? Yes, sir. And therefore, you know his signature? Yes, sir. x x x30

Sanson testified too that he "knows" the signature of the deceased: xxx Q: I show you now checks which were already marked as Exhibit "A" to "G-1" Saquin, please go over this if these are the checks that you said was issued by the late Juan Bon Fing Sy in favor of your sister? A: Q: A: Q: A: Yes, these are the same che[c]ks. Do you know the signature of the late Juan Bon Fing Sy? Yes, sir. And these signatures are the same signatures that you know? Yes, sir. x x x31 While the foregoing testimonies of the Sanson siblings have not faithfully discharged the quantum of proof under Section 22, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence which reads: Section 22. How genuineness of handwriting proved. The handwriting of a person may be proved by any witness who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person write, or has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or been charged and has thus acquired knowledge of the handwriting of such person. x x x, not only did the administratrix fail to controvert the same; from a comparison 32 with the naked eye of the deceaseds signature appearing on each of the checks -exhibits of the Montinolas with that of the checksexhibits of the Sanson siblings all of which checks were drawn from the same account , they appear to have been affixed by one and the same hand. In fine, as the claimants-herein petitioners have, by their evidence, substantiated their claims against the estate of the deceased, the burden of evidence had shifted to the administratrix who, however, expressly opted not to discharge the same when she manifested that she was dispensing with the presentation of evidence against the claims. WHEREFORE, the impugned May 31, 1996 Decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby SET ASIDE and another rendered ordering the intestate estate of the late Juan Bon Fing Sy, through Administratrix Melecia T. Sy, to pay: 1) Felicito G. Sanson, the amount of P603,500.00; 2) Celedonia S. Saquin, the amount of P315.000.00;33 3) Angeles Montinola, the amount of P150,000.00; and 4) Eduardo Montinola, Jr., the amount of P50,000.00. representing unsettled checks issued by the deceased. SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. CA-02-14-P

July 31, 2002 MARIANO, complainant,

LEONOR vs. SUSAN ROXAS, CLERK III, COURT OF APPEALS, respondent. SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

The present administrative case arose from the complaint-affidavit of Leonora Mariano filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) on May 8, 2001, docketed therein as Administrative Case No. 01-01-G, charging Susan Roxas, Clerk III, assigned at the Third Division of the said court, with forgery and dishonesty. In her complaint-affidavit,1 complainant alleged that respondent refused to pay P12,110.00. This is the balance of the price of jewelry items complainant sold to respondent. The latter insists she made an overpayment as shown by 4 receipts dated (1) January 25, 2001 for P5,525.00; (2) February 15, 2001 for P6,500.00; (3) April 14, 2000 for P400.00; and (4) April 16, 2000 for P400.00. These receipts were forged. Complainant further alleged that in a letter dated February 5, 2001 addressed to the Cashier of the CA, respondent authorized complainant to collect her (respondents) benefits "on March 2 001 and so on up to the total amount of P30,000.00 more or less" as payment for her outstanding obligation. However, on April 18, 2001, respondent revoked the said authorization without informing the complainant, thus committing dishonesty. In a Memorandum dated June 5, 2001,2 Justice Cancio C. Garcia, then Acting Presiding Justice of the CA, directed respondent to file her answer and manifest if she opts for a hearing. On June 14, 2001, respondent submitted her counter-affidavit3 and manifested her desire for a full-blown hearing of the charges against her. She claimed that she had overpaid complainant in the amount of P6,425.00; that she could present witnesses to prove that she made several payments on various occasions; and that complainant issued to her the corresponding receipts. On June 19, 2001, Acting Presiding Justice Garcia designated Atty. Elisa Pilar-Longalong, Assistant Clerk of Court, to conduct an investigation and to submit a report and recommendation. On July 23, 2001, respondent submitted her supplementary affidavit,4 explaining that she revoked complainants authority to receive from the CA whatever benefit was due her (respondent) because she had made an overpayment. Respondent also explained that the receipts mentioned in the complaint are authentic as they were personally handed to her by complainant on two separate occasions within the CA premises. On October 30, 2001, complainant filed with the CA a supplemental affidavit-complaint5 showing respondents balance in the amount of P12,110.00, and denying that respondent paid her debt. After conducting an investigation, Atty. Pilar-Longalong submitted to the CA her Report and Recommendation dated January 28, 2002,6 quoted in part, thus: "On February 22, 2000, Mrs. Mariano sold to Mrs. Roxas a total of P55,700.00 worth of assorted pieces of jewelry (Exh. F), payable on installment. Mrs. Roxas paid Mrs. Mariano P2,000.00 on March 3, 2000 (Exhs. C and F) and P800.00 on March 15, 2000 (Exh. F). On an unspecified later date, Mrs. Mariano sold one 18K gold chain necklace worth P2,500.00 (Exh. F). On April 16, 2000, Mrs. Roxas paid P400.00 to Mrs. Mariano (Exhs. F and C). On an unspecified later date, Mrs. Roxas returned to Mrs. Mariano P30,900.00 worth of pieces of jewelry which were later sold to Armin Arzaga, another Court employee, also on installment basis and which has been settled (Exh. F). This left an unpaid balance of P24,100.00 of Mrs. Roxas as of March 12, 2001 (Exh. F-1). "On February 5, 2001, Mrs. Roxas executed a written authority to the Court Cashier for Mrs. Mariano to get her benefits in March, 2001 and thereafter up to payment of the total amount of P30,000.00 more or less (Exh. D). Pursuant thereto, on March 9, 2001, Mrs. Mariano received P5,000.00 from the Court Cashier Leo Ulanday (Exhs. F, C-2, and 3-b) as partial payment of Mrs. Roxas. On March 12, 2001, Mrs. Mariano again received from the Court Cashier P6,990.00 as partial payment of Mrs. Roxas (Exhs. F, C-1 and 3-a), thus leaving an unpaid balance of P12,110.00 (Exh. F-1). On April 18, 2001, Mrs. Roxas revoked the authority in favor of Mrs. Mariano by a letter to the Court Cashier on the ground that she overpaid Mrs. Mariano (Exhs. 1 and 2) by P6,425.00 (Exh. C). "The amounts Mrs. Roxas claimed as overpayments referred to alleged payments made by her on January 25, 2001 in the amount of P5,525.00, on February 15, 2001 in the amount of P6,500.00, and on an

unspecified date in the amount of P400.00 (Exh. C), evidenced by receipts purportedly signed by Mrs. Mariano. The latter denied she received said amounts on said dates and that she signed and issued those receipts since those signatures are forgeries. She also claimed that she never issues typewritten receipts as the one Mrs. Roxas presented evidencing her alleged payment on January 25, 2001 and on February 15, 2001. This fact was corroborated by her witness, Lorna Caraga, a friend and former officemate who affirmed that the signature on the aforementioned receipts are not Mrs. Marianos whose signature she is familiar with and whom she knows as one who does not issue typewritten receipts. Moreover, Mrs. Mariano presented a medical certificate (Exh. G) that on January 25, 2001 when she was supposed to have been paid the amount of P5,525.00 for which she purportedly issued a typewritten receipt, she was in fact sick in Bulacan and went to her doctors clinic (Exhs. E, G, and G -1). The foregoing belies Mrs. Roxas uncorroborated claim that she paid Mrs. Mariano on January 25, 2001 at the Court Canteen for which the latter issued the typewritten receipt (Exhs. C-4 and 3-d). "With respect to the alleged payment on February 15, 2001 in front of the Court Auditorium for which another signed typewritten receipt was issued (Exhs. C-3 and 3-c), the same is not credible as said date is only a few days after Mrs. Roxas issued on February 5, 2001 and authority to Mrs, Mariano to get her benefits from the Court Cashier (Exhs. D and E). The testimony of Mrs. Roxas friend Mercy Valencia on the payment and issuance of the typewritten receipt on said date is not credible since despite claiming being present, she did not know the alleged amount paid by Mrs. Roxas, did not read the alleged receipt issued, did not know the alleged contents thereof and did not see Mrs. Mariano signed the alleged receipt. Besides, she erroneously claimed that she saw the prints and signature written in blue ballpen when in fact the alleged receipt was typewritten with only the alleged signature in blue ink (Exhs. C-3 and 3-c). With respect to the alleged receipt for the payment of P400.00, the same, although handwritten, did not bear any signature of Mrs. Mariano (Exhs. C-6 and 3-f), hence, can not be considered as proof of her receipt of payment. "Moreover, an examination of the receipts which Mrs. Mariano claims to be forged (Exhs. C-3 and 3-C, C-4 and 3-d) show to the naked eye that there are differences from her genuine signatures, thus supporting Mrs. Marianos and Mrs. Caragas statements that those signatures are forged and not those of Mrs. Mariano. "Hence, Mrs. Mariano has established by sufficient evidence that Mrs. Roxas still has an unpaid balance ofP12,110.00 (Exh. F-1) and that the two receipts she presented whose signatures Mrs. Mariano disowns and the other unsigned receipt are not accurate records of the transactions between them and do not prove that Mrs. Roxas had overpaid complainant. Mrs. Mariano would not have wasted her time, effort and money hiring a lawyer and commuting from Bulacan several times if she been fully paid the amount due her. xxx xxx xxx "However, the charge of forgery is a criminal offense which should have been filed in the proper forum, not in an administrative proceeding. The proper administrative offense for the act complained of is misconduct, for which Mrs. Roxas maybe found liable. "Mrs. Roxas action in unilaterally revoking the authority of Mrs. Mariano to collect her benefits does not constitute dishonesty. Her act more properly constitutes the administrative offense of refusal to pay her debts. Her cancellation of the authority to collect her benefits was deliberately done in bad faith for the purpose of avoiding payment, which is tantamount to willful failure to pay just debts. x x x. "In view of all the foregoing, it is recommended that: "1. The complaint for forgery be dismissed. Instead, Mrs. Roxas be found guilty of misconduct, and since this is her first offense, the penalty of suspension for one month and one day be imposed on her; and "2. Mrs. Roxas be reprimanded for her willful failure to pay her debts and that she be ordered to pay Mrs. Mariano the balance of her debt in the amount of P12,110.00 thru payroll deduction by the Court Cashier by equal weekly deductions from the salaries and benefits due her until the total amount of P12,110.00 is fully paid. In this connection, the Court Cashier may be ordered to deduct and deliver the said weekly payments direct to Mrs. Mariano." Finding the Report and Recommendation of Atty. Pilar-Longalong in order, then CA Presiding Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez7 issued an Order dated February 6, 2002,8 quoted as follows:

"WHEREFORE, Susan Roxas is hereby found guilty of misconduct and since this is her first offense, the penalty of suspension for one month and one day is hereby imposed on her. She is also hereby reprimanded for her willful failure to pay just debts to Mrs. Mariano. Mrs. Roxas is hereby ordered to pay Mrs. Mariano the balance of her debt in the amount of P12, 110.00." Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied in an Order dated March 26, 2002.9 In a letter dated April 1, 2002, the CA transmitted to this Court the records of this case. In administrative proceedings, such as the one at bar, the quantum of proof required to establish the administrative liability of respondent is substantial evidence, not proof beyond reasonable doubt. 10 Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.11 Based on the evidence on record, we hold that respondent is administratively liable. As correctly found by the CA, respondent has still an unpaid balance of P12,110.00. The receipts she presented to prove that she overpaid complainant P6,425.00 were forged. As found by the CA, there are marked differences between the signatures in the receipts and complainants specimen signature which are easily discernible by the naked eye. That the receipts are not genuine was confirmed by Lorna Caraga. 12 She testified that she is familiar with the signature of complainant who was her officemate for a period of 5 years in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 130, Caloocan City. In many occasions, complainant signed documents in her presence. Her opinion as to complainants genuine signature is admissible in evidence pursuant to Sectio n 50, Rule 130 of the Revised Rules on Evidence which provides: "Sec. 50. Opinion of ordinary witnesses. The opinion of a witness for which proper basis is given, may be received in evidence regarding xxx (b) A handwriting with which he has sufficient familiarity; and x x x" (Emphasis ours) Corollarily, Section 22, Rule 132 of the same Rules provides that: "Sec. 22. How genuineness of handwriting proved. The handwriting of a person may be proved by any witness who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person write, or has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or been charged, and has thus acquired knowledge of the handwriting of such person . Evidence respecting the handwriting may also be given by a comparison, made by the witness or the court , with writings admitted or treated as genuine by the party against whom the evidence is offered, or proved to be genuine to the satisfaction of the judge." (Emphasis ours) Respondents act of forging those receipts to avoid her contractual obligation affects not only her integrity as a public servant but more importantly, the integrity of the Judiciary where she is connected. As a court employee, respondent should bear in mind that the court is regarded by the public with respect. For this reason, the conduct of every court personnel should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility and must at all times be characterized by, among other things, uprightness, propriety and decorum. Respondent failed to meet this exacting standard. Her actuation, although arising from a private transaction, has tarnished the image of her public office. Respondents offense constitutes conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, not misconduct as held by the CA. As an administrative offense, misconduct must have direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duty,13 which circumstance is absent in this case. Pursuant to Section 52, Rule IV of the Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 1999, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service is classified as a grave administrative offense punishable by suspension of six (6) months and 1 day to one (1) year if committed for the first time, as in this case. Considering that the value involved in the forged receipts is minimal, this Court deems that the penalty of six (6) months suspension is in order. With respect to respondents act of revoking the authority of complainant to collect her (respondents ) benefits in payment of her debt, we agree with the CA that the same is tantamount to a willful failure to pay just debt. Such offense, under the same CSC Circular, is classified as a light administrative offense which carries a penalty

of reprimand if committed for the first time, as in this case. In addition, respondent should pay complainant her indebtedness.14 It may not be amiss to state that respondent, like any other member of the Judiciary, is expected to be a model of fairness and honesty not only in all her official conduct but also in her personal actuations, including business and commercial transactions. Any conduct that would be a bane to the public trust and confidence reposed on the Judiciary shall not be countenanced.15 WHEREFORE, respondent Susan Roxas is adjudged GUILTY of CONDUCT PREJUDICIAL TO THE BEST INTEREST OF THE SERVICE and WILLFUL FAILURE TO PAY HER JUST DEBT. She is SUSPENDED for SIX (6) MONTHS and is REPRIMANDED. Respondent is further ordered to PAY complainant the sum of P12,110.00, representing her unpaid debt, through payroll deductions. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 116599 September 27, 1999 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. DOMINGO PAGPAGUITAN, alias "PINGKONG" and ROBERTO SALAZAR alias "OPAW", accused-appellants. QUISUMBING, J.: On appeal is the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Butuan City, Branch I, finding appellants Domingo Pagpaguitan and Roberto Salazar guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay private complainant Evelyn Nalam, jointly and severally, the amount of P30,000.00 as moral damages. Assisted by her father, Federico Nalam, complainant on March 24, 1992, filed before the Butuan City Prosecutor a complaint stating that: The undersigned complainant accuses DOMINGO PAGPAGUITAN alias Pingkong and ROBERTO SALAZAR alias Opaw of the crime of Rape committed as follows. That on or about January 31, 1992 at Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another, with the use of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously had sexual intercourse with the undersigned complainant, who is 14 years old, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice. CONTRARY TO LAW (Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code). The pertinent facts as found by the trial court are as follows: Roberto Salazar is Evelyn's neighbor at barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City and Domingo Pagpaguitan is his gang mate. In the evening of January 30, 1992, both of them went to see Evelyn at her employer's house at Montilla Boulevard, Butuan City, and told her that they met her father who was very angry with her and swore to come and get her, if not kill her, if she will not go home to Bitan-agan. Although Evelyn wondered why her father should feel that way as she asked permission before she left home, she nevertheless went with the two accused boarding a jeep for San Vicente where the two accused left her things, then proceeded towards Bitan-agan. The accused told her that they would seek the assistance of Commander Coz to help pacify her father's anger. But instead of going to the residence of Commander Coz, the accused brought her to the uninhabited farmhouse of Roberto Salazar's grandfather. With knives it their hands, they threatened to kill her if she would not go with them up the mountain; they held her by her hands.1wphi1.nt Upon entering the house, Roberto stayed by the door and Domingo started embracing and kissing her several times; she pleaded with him but he answered that if she could not be taken "harmlessly", then it would have to be by force; she kicked Domingo and continued to plead with him, but the latter boxed him (sic) on her chest and thighs many times as she fought back, until she fell to the floor, whereupon Domingo removed his pants and her panties as she continued pleading and weeping telling Domingo not to do it as she considered him a brother; Domingo placed himself on top of her, spread her legs and inserted his penis into her vagina and she felt great pain for this was her first intercourse; he made the motions of pushing and pulling his penis within her vagina . . . . Her body was in pain and her vagina was bleeding. While Pagpaguitan was doing this to her, Salazar was watching them. The following morning the accused brought her to the house of Domingo in the mountain where his mother was. As Domingo and Roberto agreed that evening to bring her to Leyte, Domingo's mother left to sell a carabao to earn money for their fare to Leyte. In the absence of Domingo's mother and in the presence of Roberto Salazar, Domingo again forced himself upon her. 2 The complainant's relatives, meantime, had gone out looking for her. They found her with Pagpaguitan. A meeting was then held on February 2, 1992 before the purok president and the barangay captain between the parents of Pagpaguitan and the parents of the private complainant. Pagpaguitan and the complainant were both present. At the meeting, Pagpaguitan proposed marriage to the complainant, but the latter rejected the proposal.
1

On February 10, 1992, complainant went to a doctor for a physical examination. The examination was conducted by Dr. Rowena T. Catipay, Medical Officer III of the Butuan City General Hospital and Medical Center. Her findings were as follows: Examined a patient who was conscious, coherent, ambulatory. SKIN: Fair, Hematoma noted on both thighs, left lateral and right lateral portions. xxx xxx xxx Genetalia (sic): No vaginal laceration noted on the mucosa HYMEN: Not intact; Caruncula in appearance. xxx xxx xxx Vaginal Smear taken for spermatozia Negative. 3 On February 19, 1992, complainant and her father executed affidavits at the police station, and later filed the complaint for rape with the Butuan City Prosecutor. Pagpaguitan and Salazar were arrested on August 16, 1992. 4 They were arraigned on October 2, 1992. Both pleaded "Not Guilty." Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. Pagpaguitan admitted having sex with complainant, but insisted that it was consensual. He claimed they had eloped and that truly they were actually sweethearts. As narrated by the trial court, his version of the facts follows: [O]n January 3, 1992, [Evelyn] went to his and Roberto's place of work at RGS Bakery, Obrero, Butuan City, to tell him that his (sic) father was angry with her as somebody reported to him that she and Domingo often met at the plaza; he told Evelyn that her father would be angrier if he knew she came to his place of work, to which Evelyn charged that he did not love her; his pride was pricked so he invited her to his house at Bitan-agan; Roberto Salazar went with them; he and Evelyn lived together in his parent's house as husband and wife; on January 5, 1992, he told Evelyn to go home and he and his parents would follow to ask for her hand, but her parents did not entertain them; in the dawn of January 6, 1992, Evelyn went to his house which was one kilometer away from her house and from then on lived with him until March 15, 1992 when her parents went to his house and pulled their daughter and maltreated her in front of him and his parents; . . . they met again on March 16, 1992 before the purok president of Purok 2; from there they proceeded to the barangay captain of Bitan-agan; when they went out of the office of the barangay captain, Evelyn told him to bring her personal belongings because she would look for a way to follow him wherever he would go; Evelyn admonished him to leave Bitan-agan as her parents are looking for a way to kill him and his parents so he left for Leyte; while in Leyte, he and Evelyn exchanged letters (Exh. 2); he received three letters from Evelyn; he is willing to marry Evelyn because he loves her; . . . [F]rom January 3 to 5, he and Evelyn had sexual intercourse 4 times; from January 6 to March 15, 1992, he could no longer remember how many times he had sex with Evelyn . . . 5 The trial court, however, disbelieved Pagpaguitan's version. Finding the prosecution's evidence convincing, the court convicted Pagpaguitan and Salazar and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua. Both appealed. Before us they raise the following errors: I THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF RAPE DESPITE UNTRUSTWORTHY AND FLIP-FLOPPING UNCORROBORATED TESTIMONY OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT/VICITIM. II THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE TESTIMONIES OF THE PUROK PRESIDENT AND THE BARANGAY CAPTAIN THAT THE SUBJECT OF THE INSTANT COMPLAINT WAS INITIALLY ELOPEMENT. III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ARROGATING UNTO ITSELF THE SPECIAL TASK OF DETERMINING THE GENUINESS OF THE HANDWRITING OF THE COMPLAINANT WHICH RESULT IT HEAVILY RELIED UPON IN ITS VERDICT AGAINST THE ACCUSED. 6 We find the appeal without merit. Regarding the first error, it must be pointed out that in a prosecution for rape, the evaluation of the evidence presented during trial ultimately revolves around the credibility of the complaining witness. 7 If found positive and credible by the trial court, her testimony suffices to support a conviction. 8 Complainant's testimony in the present case never "flip-flopped", contrary to the appellant's claim. On direct testimony, complainant categorically stated that she was boxed, mauled, and forced to submit to accused's carnal desire. She testified, thus: Q: In that house; what happened if any when you arrived there together with the two accused? A: Upon arriving there, they took me to the room while Roberto Salazar stayed at the door. Q: What happened, if any? A: Domingo Pagpaguitan embraced me and kissed me several times. Q: What did you do when you were embraced and kissed by Domingo Pagpaguitan? A: I pleaded with him not to do that because I considered him as my brother. Q: What was his reply, if any? A: He said that since I could not be taken harmlessly; he will get me by force. Q: What happened after that? A: When he tried to get near me and embrace me and kiss me, I tried to resist and kicked Domingo Pagpaguitan and pleaded (with him) not do that to me I considered them as my brothers. Q: When you said you kicked him did you hit him? A: Yes, sir. Q: What was his reaction when you kicked him? A: Domingo Pagpaguitan again embraced me and kissed me. Q: And what was your reaction again? A: I resisted him but I could not overpower him because he mauled me. Q: When you said Domingo Pagpaguitan mauled you, where in particular, in relation to your body did he maul you. A: I was boxed here (witness indicating her chest) and also my thighs. Q: How many times were you boxed? A: Many times because I fought back. Q: What happened to you, if any, when you were boxed on the thighs by Domingo Pagpaguitan? A: I fell to (sic) a lying down position. xxx xxx xxx Q: When you fell down upon being boxed at the thigh and chest by Domingo Pagpaguitan, what else did he do to you, if any? A: He removed my pants and also removed my panties.

Q: When he was removing your panties, what did you do, if any? A: I continued pleading and weeping. xxx xxx xxx Q: After removing your panty, what else, if any, did Domingo Pagpaguitan do to you? A: He placed himself on top of me. Q: After that, what did he do when he was on top of you? A: He spread my legs. Q: Then what else happened if any? A: He inserted his penis into my vagina. Q: What did you feel when he inserted his penis into your vagina? A: Very painful. Q: You said it was very painful, did you have any experience before about sex? A: None, sir. Q: When he was on top of you and you said he inserted his penis into your vagina and you felt pain, what was he doing? Atty. Jalad: There is no answer, your honor, it is a very simple question. Court: If it is true that she has no experience, it will not be easy to answer that. The Court understands that. Answer. Witness: He made push and pull movements on top of me. 9 Her testimony under cross-examination remained firm. She was mauled and boxed on her thighs and stomach, and "deflowered by Domingo Pagpaguitan" against her will. 10 The only difference in her account concerns where she was hit. On direct examination, she said in the chest; on cross-examination, she said in the stomach. We have ruled that the credibility of a rape victim is not destroyed by the few minor inconsistencies in her testimony. 11 After all, a victim of violent sexual abuse cannot and is not expected to keep an accurate account of her traumatic experience. 12 Here, complainant's account was straightforward and candid. It is settled doctrine that a victim who says she has been raped almost always says all there is to be said. 13 Given the candor of complainant's testimony and her lack of motive to testify falsely against the accused, the trial court could not be said to err in finding the Pagpaguitan guilty as charged. Moreover, we have ruled that the findings of the trial court are entitled to the highest respect by the appellate courts, particularly where the prosecution and the defense have contradictory versions of the facts. 14 On the second error, during the proceedings before the purok president and the barangay captain, elopement was indeed mentioned. However, Pagpaguitan's tale of elopement rang with far too many inconsistencies to be credible. If he and complainant had eloped and were never apart from January 6, 1992 to March 15, 1992, how would he explain the proceedings before the purok president and the barangay captain on February 2, 1992? 15 It is established that he and complainant, with their respective parents, appeared before their purok and barangay officials on February 2, 1992, and not, as he claimed, on March 16, 1992. If they were indeed living together and never separated for over two months, how would he explain the fact that complainant underwent medical examination on February 10, 1992, 16 and executed an affidavit before the police authorities of Butuan City on February 19, 1992, 17 without his knowledge? Pagpaguitan suggests that the hematoma on the complainant's thighs could have been due to the maltreatment inflicted by complainant's father upon her when she returned home on March 16, 1992. But where did complainant get the hematoma found by the doctor on her thighs when she was examined on February 10, 1992? Mere assertion of a "love relationship" would not necessarily rule out the use of force to consummate it. 18 Much more so where such relationship was denied by the victim, who resisted the brutal suitor. 1wphi1.nt

In rape the prosecution must rule out the victim's consent to the sexual act. 19 Here, the testimony of private complainant was clear and convincing: she did not consent to penile invasion. Again appellant Pagpaguitan sought to prove he and complainant were lovers by citing her testimony which ran as follows: Q: After Domingo Pagpaguitan was through with you, did you say anything to him? A: Yes. Q: What did you say? A: I told him "Why did you do this to me when I have not committed any wrong against you?" Q: What else, if any? A: When I said that, Domingo said that he would marry me. Q: What was your reply if any? A: I said, "If you were going to marry me would you do an evil act first?" Q: What did he say if any? A: He asked me why I won't accept him and I answered. "How could I accept you when I saw that a pig was taken from you and if I marry you, what will you feed me?" 20 Pagpaguitan claimed the above dialogue clearly showed their "sweet" relationship with each other and revealed intimacy in their relationship even before the sexual act. 21 However, as correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General, the cited dialogue merely revealed familiarity rather than intimacy. 22 Even assuming for argument's sake, that they were sweethearts, nevertheless, rape was committed because by force, appellant had sex with the victim against her will. 23 The claim that they were sweethearts could not prove complainant's consent 24 nor undermine her complaint. The findings of the examining physician, Dr. Rowena T. Catipay, support the accusation for rape. The medical certificate issued on February 10, 1992 noted hematoma on complainant's thighs. Her hymen was no longer intact and caruncula were noted. Both phenomena the cause of the hematoma and the caruncula appearance of complainant's hymen were explained by the examining physician, as follows: Q: As a doctor, will you please explain to this Honorable Court what could have caused the hematoma on both thighs of Evelyn Nalam? A: It may have been caused by the application of a blunt instrument. Q: How about a hard blow like a hard fist, can it cause hematoma? A: Yes, Sir. Q: What else is (sic) you findings, Doctor? A: I examined the genitalia, the hymen was not intact; the hymen is no longer intact and the caruncula was noted. Caruncula means remnants of an intact hymen. Q: When you said that the hymen is no longer intact, what do you mean by that, Doctor? A: It means that there was penile entry to (sic) the vagina. It means there was an (sic) intercourse. 25 In response to clarificatory questions from the trial court, Dr. Catipay further explained that from the appearance of complainant's hymen, the only possible explanation for her non-virgin state was sexual intercourse and nothing else: Q: And in this particular victim, how would you describe her hymen? A: Fimbriated hymen.

Q: And in fimbriated hymen, if the remnants of a hymen which you call caruncula, upon examination, would that give you a sure conclusion that the cause of the breaking of the hymen was due to intercourse? A: Yes, Sir, because if the hymen was only broken by let us say jumping or bicycle riding, I don't think that the hymen would appear that loose. Q: So, in other words, by just examining the remnants of a broken hymen, the doctor can determine whether it was caused other than by intercourse or some other causes? A: Yes, Your Honor. 26 It has been ruled that a medical examination is not an essential prerequisite to a prosecution for rape. 27 However, when the physician's finding of penile penetration is corroborated by the testimony of the victim that the accused's genitals touched her vagina, it is sufficient to establish the essential requisite of carnal knowledge. 28 Pagpaguitan tried to debunk the charge of complainant that he raped her on January 31, 1992, by claiming the examining physician had said that complainant told her the rape took place on another date, February 6, 1992. 29 It is settled, however, that the exact date of the commission of the rape is not an essential element of the crime. 30 The fact remains that the act took place on or about the date averred in the charge. Regarding the third error, Pagpaguitan faults the judge for arrogating unto himself the task of determining the genuineness of the handwriting at the back of the picture of the accused and the complainant together (Exhibit "1") 31 and the alleged letter of complainant to him (Exhibit "2") 32 submitted by the defense to prove that he and the victim were sweethearts. During the trial, the judge had ordered complainant to write a letter under his dictation which was subsequently marked as Exhibit "X" for the court. 33 The judge found this necessary in the interest of justice as the victim had denied having written either the letter or the dedication at the back of the picture. 34 It is of record that the handwriting at the back of the picture and in the letter were very different. 35 The trial court made the following findings after comparing Exhibit "X" with Exhibits "1" and "2", thus: . . . In a letter by letter comparison, the court found that the alphabets ( sic) "g"; "k"; "p" and "y" in Exhibit 2 and Exhibit X have different writing characteristics which led the court to believe that Exhibit 2 was not written by the complainant. 36 Pagpaguitan now asks whether or not it is permissible or proper for the trial judge to receive and examine a specimen writing, written at his order by a party who alleged that she was not the writer of other documents submitted in evidence? He argues that the task of comparing the handwriting on the documents in question was one for experts and not the judge. On this point, we find the judge's comparison proper and permissible. When a writing in issue is claimed on the one hand and denied upon the other to be the writing of a particular person, any other writing of that person may be admitted in evidence for the purpose of comparison with the writing in dispute. 37 It is also recognized that a comparison of writing is a rational method of investigation; similarities and dissimilarities thus disclosed have probative value in the search for truth. 38 Thus, it has been held that, where a comparison is permissible, it may be made by the court, with or without the aid of expert witnesses. 39 The court may, in the exercise of its sound discretion, order a party to write or sign his signature as a basis for comparison. 40 For, the handwriting of a person is characteristic of the person himself. 41 Once admitted, the genuineness of other offered writings alleged to be the work of the same writer becomes a question for the trier of fact who may, but need not, be assisted in this task by experts. 42 Our rules on evidence having been drawn mainly from American sources, 43 decisions of American courts have persuasive effect. The general rule is local rule is patterned or copied from that of another country, then the decisions of the courts in such country construing the rule are entitled to great weight in interpreting the local rule. 44 Following cited precedents, we find no reversible error on this score. Coming now to appellant Salazar, his defense claimed the trial court erred in convicting him since the private complainant's own testimony showed that he was a mere on-looker during the sexual attack. His defense averred he never lent a lending hand to Pagpaguitan to ensure the success of the latter's lewd designs on complainant. 45But can we conclude that Salazar had no role in the rape of complainant? Note the trial court's findings regarding Salazar: And what about Roberto Salazar who is accused as co-conspirator? Evelyn said that he went with Domingo in fetching her and when the ravishment was done, he was watching. The farmhouse they brought her to is owned by Salazar's grandfather, and upon arrival at the foot of the mountain, the two accused threatened her with their knives and held her hands bringing her

to the farmhouse. From the choice of the farmhouse of Salazar's grandfather as the place Evelyn will be brought to, a farmhouse in the mountain with no neighbor, is evidence that Salazar knew and agreed with Pagpaguitan beforehand concerning the latter's intent to rape the complainant. But because of the theory of the case formulated by the defense that an elopement occurred on January 3, 1992, and not a rape on January 31 Salazar's counsel saw no need for him to take the stand to pledge his innocence. Throughout the trial, the defense never attempted to extricate Salazar from the muddle his friend brought him into, who, surely, must be the proponent of the crime. In fact, the defense seemed to have forgotten that Salazar is accused as co-conspirator. He just sat smugly at the audience's bench passively watching the trial the same way he watched the rape with perverse passivity. 46 It must be pointed out that direct proof of conspiracy is rarely found, for criminals do not write down their lawless plans and plots. 47 Conspiracy may, nevertheless, be proven to exist where at the time of the commission of the crime, the accused had the same purpose and was united with his co-accused in its execution. 48 Complainant's testimony showed that Salazar was instrumental in helping to bring her to the isolated and uninhabited farmhouse of his grandparents where the rape occurred and in preventing her escape from the clutches of the accused. Neither did he act to prevent his co-accused Pagpaguitan from boxing complainant and ravishing her. In fact, he was a spectator during the rape scene. 49 Complainant's testimony as to Salazar's role does not exculpate but clearly implicates him, thus: Q: Where did they bring you to Malihao? A: They brought me to the house of the grandparents of Roberto Salazar. Q: Is that house of the grandparents of Roberto Salazar inhabited? A: Uninhabited. Q: You mean to tell this Honorable Court that when you arrived there was nobody there? A: There was nobody living in that house. Q: In that house, what happened if any when you arrived in there together with with (sic) the two accused? A: Upon arriving there, they took me to the room while Roberto Salazar stayed at the door. 50 xxx xxx xxx Q: What happened to you, if any, when you were boxed on the thighs by Domingo Pagpaguitan? A: I fell to (sic) a lying down position. Q: When you were lying down did you notice where Roberto Salazar was? A: Roberto Salazar remained at the door. Q: You mean he was just there watching the two of you? A: Yes, sir. 51 xxx xxx xxx Pros. Macalawi: Q: Can you recall how many seconds or minutes did it take Domingo Pagpaguitan to do push and pull movements? Court: Let us correct that push and pull movement. Let us make it clear. When he was on top of me, he made motions of pushing it in and pulling it out. Pros. Macalawi: Q: Do you remember how many minutes or seconds did it take Domingo Pagpaguitan to do that movement?

A: I do not recall how long. Q: When he was doing that have you noticed where was Roberto Salazar? A: He was watching us. 52 As correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General, there was nothing unnatural regarding complainant's testimony that Salazar only stood by the door and watched them. It was precisely Salazar's role in the rape of complainant to stop the latter in the event that she tried to run away. 53 Thus, there was no error committed by the trial court in convicting Salazar as a co-conspirator of Pagpaguitan. It is now firmly settled that in a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. 54 One who joins in a criminal conspiracy in effect adopts as his own the criminal designs of his co-conspirators and he can no longer repudiate the conspiracy after it had already materialized. 55 Art. 335 of the Revised Penal Code, prior to its amendment by Republic Act No. 7659 and Republic Act No. 8353, provided that: Rape is committed by having carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances: 1. By using force or intimidation; 2. When the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious; and, 3. When the woman is under twelve years of age or demented. xxx xxx xxx After a thorough scrutiny of the records of this case, we find that the prosecution has adequately and satisfactorily proved the pertinent indispensable elements of the crime of rape defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code, namely: that the appellant Domingo Pagpaguitan had carnal knowledge of complainant and that the act was accomplished against her will and through the use of force. The prosecution has also proved beyond a doubt that Salazar was Pagpaguitan's confederate who ensured the success of Pagpaguitan's carnal plot. The trial court did not err at all in convicting both appellants for the outrage committed on complainant. We find no reason now to overturn their conviction. We take note, however, that the award by the trial court of P30,000.00 in moral damages is now inadequate. In accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, 56 such award ought to be increased to P50,000.00. Further, without need of additional proof, the victim should also be awarded the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity. The award of the trial court is therefore modified accordingly in this respect. WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of the trial court finding appellants Domingo Pagpaguitan and Roberto Salazar guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION that CIVIL INDEMNITY in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) and MORAL DAMAGES also in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) should be paid jointly and severally, by said appellants to private complainant, Evelyn Nalam. Costs against appellants.1wphi1.nt SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 152364

April 15, 2010

ALEJANDRA S. LAZARO, assisted by her husband, ISAURO M. LAZARO; LEONCIO D. SANTOS; ADOLFO SANTOS; NENITA S. LACAR; ANGELINA S. SAGLES, assisted by her husband, ALBERTO SANTOS, JR.; REGINA SANTOS and FABIAN SANTOS, Petitioners, vs. MODESTA AGUSTIN, FILEMON AGUSTIN, VENANCIA AGUSTIN, MARCELINA AGUSTIN, PAUL A. DALALO, NOEL A. DALALO, GREGORIO AGUSTIN and BIENVENIDO AGUSTIN, Respondents. DECISION PERALTA, J.: Assailed in the present petition for review on certiorari is the Decision1 dated February 21, 2002 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 63321. The CA had affirmed, with modification, the Decision 2 dated February 6, 2001 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 13, in Civil Case No. 11951-13, which also affirmed, with modification, the Decision3 dated January 6, 2000 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of Laoag City, Branch 1, in Civil Case No. 2834. The factual and procedural antecedents of the case are as follows: On November 4, 1998, herein petitioners filed against herein respondents a Complaint 4 for partition with the MTCC of Laoag City, alleging as follows: xxxx II That the plaintiffs and the defendants are the descendants of the late Simeon C. Santos, married to Trinidad Duldulao, who died intestate leaving a parcel of land situated in the Barrio of Natividad Nstra. Sra., Municipality of Laoag, designated as Lot No. 10675 of the Cadastral Survey of Laoag; III That Simeon C. Santos during his lifetime, married to Trinidad Duldulao, begot four (4) legitimate children, namely: Basilisa D. Santos, Alberto D. Santos, Leoncio D. Santos and Alejandra D. Santos. Basilisa D. Santos, [who] was married to Petronilo Agustin, is now deceased; Alberto Santos, married to Rizalina Guerrero, is now deceased, while Leoncio D. Santos, married to Dictinia Tabeta, and Alejandra D. Santos married to Isauro M. Lazaro, are still living; IV That in the desire of the children of Simeon C. Santos from whom the parcel of land originated as owner, his children, namely[:] Alberto, Leoncio and Alejandra, all surnamed Santos, consented that the parcel of land mentioned in paragraph II of this complaint be titled in the name of Basilisa, the latter being the eldest and so Original Certificate of Title No. 20742 in the name of Basilisa Santos was obtained although it was agreed among them that it did not and does not necessarily mean that Basilisa Santos is the sole and exclusive owner of this parcel of land, and as embodied in the Title obtained in the name of Basilisa Santos, the parcel of land is particularly described as follows: A parcel of land (Lot No. 10676 of the Cadastral survey of Laoag), with the improvements thereon, situated in the Barrio of Natividad Nstra. Sra., Municipality of Laoag. Bounded on the NE. by Lot No. 10677; on the SE. by Panganiban Street; on the SW. by Lot No. 10672; and on NW. by Lot No. 1065, containing an area of three hundred and one (301) square meters, more or less, covered by Tax Declaration No. 010-00224 for the year 1994 in the names of Modesta Agustin, et al. with a market value of P96,320.00 and an assessed value of P14,450.00. V That there is a residential house constructed on the lot described in paragraph IV of this complaint and in the construction of which plaintiff Alejandra Santos, then still single, spent the amount of P68,308.60, while Basilisa Santos and her children spent the amount of P3,495.00. Afterwards, Alejandra Santos got married to Isauro M. Lazaro who was employed in a private company and when he retired from the service, some additional constructions were made on the residential house and lot such as a bedroom, azotea, two (2) toilets, two (2) kitchens, a car garage, the money spent for these additional constructions came from the earnings of the spouses Alejandra Santos-Lazaro and Isauro M. Lazaro. The

said residential house is now covered by Tax Declaration No. 010-00225 in the names of Basilio Agustin (should be Basilisa Agustin) and Alejandra Santos for the year 1994 with a market value of P93,920.00 and an assessed value of zero; VI That without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiffs, the title of the lot described in paragraph IV of the complaint was transferred into another title which is now Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-20695 in the names of Modesta Agustin, Filemon Agustin, Venancia Agustin, Marcelina Agustin, Monica Agustin, Gregorio Agustin and Bienvenido Agustin who are the children of the late Basilisa Santos-Agustin who are herein named as defendants with Monica Agustin now deceased represented by her children Paul A. Dalalo and Noel A. Dalalo as defendants; VII That during the lifetime of Basilisa Santos-Agustin, plaintiff Alejandra Santos-Lazaro informed the former, who are sisters, that the transfer of the title covering the lot described in paragraph IV of this complaint in the name of Basilisa Santos into the names of her children would erroneously imply that the lot is solely and exclusively owned by Basilisa Santos-Agustin's children, but Basilisa Santos-Agustin replied [to] plaintiff Alejandra Santos-Lazaro not to worry because an affidavit was already executed by her recognizing and specifying that her brothers Alberto Santos and Leoncio Santos, and her sister Alejandra Santos-Lazaro would each get one fourth () share of the lot; VIII That in a move to determine if the children and the heirs of Basilisa Santos-Agustin, namely: Modesta Agustin, Filemon Agustin, Venancia Agustin, Marcelina Agustin, Paul Dalalo and Noel Dalalo who are the successors of their mother the late Monica Agustin, Gregorio Agustin and Bienvenido Agustin would follow the line of thinking of their mother and grandmother of Paul A. Dalalo and Noel A. Dalalo on the shares of the lot and residential house erected on it, the plaintiffs initiated a partition in the barangay court where the lot is situated described in paragraph IV of this complaint, but that the children of Basilisa Santos-Agustin and her grandchildren Paul A. Dalalo and Noel A. Dalalo refused and opposed the partition claiming that they are the sole and exclusive owners of the lot being that the lot is now titled in their names, and hence there was no settlement as shown by the certification of the barangay court hereto attached as annex "A"; IX That plaintiffs now invoke the intervention of the court to partition the lot in accordance with the law on intestate succession and to partition the residential house as specified below. x x x x x x x5 Petitioners also prayed for the grant of attorney's fees, moral and exemplary damages, and costs of suit. Herein respondents filed their Answer with Counterclaim, 6 raising the following as their Special/Affirmative Defenses: 1. The subject parcel of land is owned exclusively by the defendants as heirs of the late Basilisa Santos, wife of Petronilo Agustin, who was the original registered owner of the property evidenced by OCT No. 20742; the plaintiffs never became owners of said land. There was never any agreement between the ascendants of the plaintiffs and defendants, neither is there any agreement between the plaintiffs and defendants themselves that in the ownership, the plaintiffs have a share over the lot; 2. The defendants are the ones paying for the real estate taxes of said land; 3. Some of the plaintiffs were able to stay on the subject house because defendants' mother Basilisa Santos was the eldest sibling and she had to take care of her brother Leoncio and sister Alejandra when these siblings were not yet employed and Basilisa allowed them to reside in the house constructed within the lot; Alejandra Santos stayed in the house up to the present with the agreement that she will spend for the renovation of the house in lieu of monthly rentals that she has to pay when she already became financially able; 4. Prior to 1962, subject property was mortgaged by Basilisa Santos Agustin to the Philippine National Bank and the property was foreclosed by PNB when the loan was not paid, hence, TCT No. (T-9522)4495, under the name of the Philippine National Bank was issued (Annex "A"). Thereafter, Basilisa Santos-

Agustin, purchased it from the PNB and TCT No. T-5662 was issued under her name (Annex "B"); the property was later on transferred to her direct descendants, the defendants herein as evidenced by TCT No. T-20695 (Annex "C"); x x x x7 Respondents then prayed that petitioners' complaint be dismissed. In their Counterclaim, respondents asked the court to direct petitioners to pay reasonable compensation for the latter's use of the disputed property, exemplary and moral damages, attorney's fees, and costs of suit. After the issues were joined and the pre-trial was terminated, trial on the merits ensued. On January 6, 2000, the MTCC rendered its Decision8 dismissing the complaint and denying petitioners' prayer for partition. The MTCC ruled, among others, that no evidentiary value could be given to the affidavit allegedly executed by Basilisa, wherein she purportedly acknowledged her co-ownership of the subject property with her siblings Alberto, Leoncio and Alejandra, because the affiant was not presented on the witness stand, such that all the statements made in her affidavit were hearsay. Moreover, the MTCC held that two credible witnesses testified in plain, simple and straightforward manner that at the time the affidavit was supposed to have been signed and sworn to before the notary public, Basilisa was already bedridden and an invalid who could not even raise her hand to feed herself. In addition, the MTCC also gave credence to the testimony of the notary public, before whom the document was supposedly signed and sworn to, that the said affidavit was already complete and thumbmarked when the same was presented to him by a person who claimed to be Basilisa. Petitioners filed an appeal with the RTC of Laoag City. On February 6, 2001 the RTC issued a Decision 9 affirming, with modification, the judgment of the MTCC. The RTC found that the house erected on the disputed lot was built and renovated by petitioners in good faith. As a consequence, the RTC held that petitioners were entitled to indemnity representing the costs of the construction and renovation of the said house. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision, thus, reads: WHEREFORE, the decision of the lower court is hereby affirmed with the modification directing the appellees [herein respondents] to indemnify the appellants [herein petitioners] in the amount of P68,308.60 as proved by them. Considering the apparent error of the lower court in quoting the questioned lot as Lot No. 10675, the same is hereby corrected so as to reflect the correct lot number as Lot No. 10676 to conform to the evidence presented. SO ORDERED.10 Aggrieved by the RTC Decision, petitioners filed a petition for review with the CA. On February 21, 2002, the CA issued its presently assailed Decision disposing as follows: WHEREFORE, the decision dated February 6, 2001 rendered in Civil Case No. 11951-13 is hereby AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATION that appellees [herein respondents] pay the amount of P68,308.60 in indemnity solely to appellant Alejandra Santos-Lazaro. SO ORDERED.11 Hence, the instant petition based on the following grounds: I. THE SWORN STATEMENT OF BASILISA S. AGUSTIN IS A DECLARATION AGAINST INTEREST WHICH ESTABLISHES THE CO-OWNERSHIP OF LOT NO. 10676 BY AND AMONG THE PETITIONERS AND RESPONDENTS AS HEIRS OF THE LATE SIMEON C. SANTOS.12 II. THE CO-OWNERSHIP OF LOT NO. 10676 BY AND AMONG BASILISA S. AGUSTIN, ALBERTO D. SANTOS, ALEJANDRA S. LAZARO AND LEONCIO D. SANTOS DID NOT TERMINATE AS A RESULT OF THE TRANSFER OF THE LOT'S OWNERSHIP PRECIPITATED BY ACTS OF BASILISA S. AGUSTIN WITH RESPECT TO THE SUBJECT PROPERTY. 13 III. PETITIONER ALEJANDRA S. LAZARO IS A CO-OWNER OF THE RESIDENTIAL HOUSE ON LOT NO. 10676 NOT MERELY A BUILDER IN GOOD FAITH WITH RESPECT THERETO AND AS SUCH, IS ENTITLED TO A PARTITION OF THE SUBJECT HOUSE.14 In their first assigned error, petitioners contend that Basilisa's sworn statement which recognizes her siblings' share in the disputed property is a declaration against interest which is one of the recognized exceptions to the

hearsay rule. Petitioners argue that since the sworn statement was duly notarized, it should be admitted in court without further proof of its due execution and authenticity; that the testimonies of Basilisa's nurse and physician cannot qualify as clear and convincing evidence which could overthrow such notarized document; that the notary public cannot impugn the same document which he notarized for to do so would render notarized documents worthless and unreliable resulting in prejudice to the public. As to the second assigned error, petitioners aver that their co-ownership of the questioned property with Basilisa did not cease to exist when the Philippine National Bank (PNB) consolidated its ownership over the said parcel of land. Petitioners assert that they did not lose their share in the property co-owned when their share was mortgaged by Basilisa without their knowledge and consent; that the mortgage was limited only to the portion that may be allotted to Basilisa upon termination of their co-ownership; that PNB acquired ownership only of the share pertaining to Basilisa; that when Basilisa bought back the property from PNB, she simply re-acquired the portion pertaining to her and simply resumed co-ownership of the property with her siblings. Petitioners also contend that Basilisa's children did not acquire ownership of the subject lot by prescription, and that neither Basilisa nor respondents repudiated their co-ownership. Anent the third assignment of error, petitioners argue that Alejandra Lazaro, being a co-owner of the disputed parcel of land and not simply a builder in good faith, is entitled to a partition of the subject residential house. At the outset, it bears to point out that it is wrong for petitioners to argue that Basilisa's alleged sworn statement is a declaration against interest. It is not a declaration against interest. Instead, it is an admission against interest.1avvphi1 Indeed, there is a vital distinction between admissions against interest and declarations against interest. Admissions against interest are those made by a party to a litigation or by one in privity with or identified in legal interest with such party, and are admissible whether or not the declarant is available as a witness.15 Declarations against interest are those made by a person who is neither a party nor in privity with a party to the suit, are secondary evidence, and constitute an exception to the hearsay rule. They are admissible only when the declarant is unavailable as a witness. 16 In the present case, since Basilisa is respondents' predecessor-in-interest and is, thus, in privity with the latter's legal interest, the former's sworn statement, if proven genuine and duly executed, should be considered as an admission against interest. A cursory reading of the subject sworn statement also reveals that it refers to a parcel of land denominated as Lot No. 10678 while the property being disputed is Lot No. 10676. 17 On this basis, it cannot be concluded with certainty that the property being referred to in the sworn statement is the same property claimed by petitioners. Having made the foregoing observations and discussions, the question that arises is whether the subject sworn statement, granting that it refers to the property being disputed in the present case, can be given full faith and credence in view of the issues raised regarding its genuineness and due execution. The Court rules in the negative. Settled is the rule that generally, a notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution, and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the presumption of regularity.18 However, this presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.19 Moreover, not all notarized documents are exempted from the rule on authentication.20 Thus, an affidavit does not automatically become a public document just because it contains a notarial jurat. 21 The presumptions that attach to notarized documents can be affirmed only so long as it is beyond dispute that the notarization was regular.22 However, a question involving the regularity of notarization as well as the due execution of the subject sworn statement of Basilisa would require an inquiry into the appreciation of evidence by the trial court. It is not the function of this Court to review, examine and evaluate or weigh the probative value of the evidence presented. A question of fact would arise in such event. Settled is the rule that questions of fact cannot be raised in an appeal via certiorari before the Supreme Court and are not proper for its consideration.23 The rationale behind this doctrine is that a review of the findings of fact of the trial courts and the appellate tribunal is not a function this Court normally undertakes.24 The Court will not weigh the evidence all over again unless there is a showing that the findings of the lower courts are totally devoid of support or are clearly erroneous so as to constitute serious abuse of discretion.25 Although there are recognized exceptions26 to this rule, none exists in the present case to justify a departure therefrom.

Petitioners rely heavily on the presumption of regularity accorded by law to notarized documents. While indeed, a notarized document enjoys this presumption, the fact that a deed is notarized is not a guarantee of the validity of its contents.27 As earlier discussed, the presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.28 The presumption cannot be made to apply to the present case because the regularity in the execution of the sworn statement was challenged in the proceedings below where its prima facie validity was overthrown by the highly questionable circumstances under which it was supposedly executed, as well as the testimonies of witnesses who testified on the improbability of execution of the sworn statement, as well as on the physical condition of the signatory, at the time the questioned document was supposedly executed. The trial and appellate courts were unanimous in giving credence to the testimonies of these witnesses. The Court has repeatedly held that it will not interfere with the trial court's determination of the credibility of witnesses, unless there appears on record some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been misinterpreted. 29 The reason for this is that the trial court was in a better position to do so, because it heard the witnesses testify before it and had every opportunity to observe their demeanor and deportment on the witness stand. 30 Considering the foregoing, the Court finds no reason to reverse the rulings of the MTCC, the RTC and the CA. Although the questioned sworn statement is a public document having in its favor the presumption of regularity, such presumption was adequately refuted by competent witnesses. The Court further agrees with the ruling of the RTC that: The testimony of [the notary public] Atty. Angel Respicio did not suffice to rebut the evidence of the appellees considering his admission that the affidavit was already thumbmarked when presented to him by one who claimed to be Basilisa Santos and whom, the witness said he did not know personally. Further, what makes the documents suspect is the fact that it was subscribed on the same date as the financial statement of Alejandra Santos. It may not be amiss to point out, at this juncture, that the principal function of a notary public is to authenticate documents.31 When a notary public certifies to the due execution and delivery of a document under his hand and seal, he gives the document the force of evidence.32 Indeed, one of the purposes of requiring documents to be acknowledged before a notary public, in addition to the solemnity which should surround the execution and delivery of documents, is to authorize such documents to be given without further proof of their execution and delivery.33 A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment executed before a notary public and appended to a private instrument.34 Hence, a notary public must discharge his powers and duties, which are impressed with public interest, with accuracy and fidelity. 35 A notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein.36 In the instant case, the notary public should have exercised utmost diligence in ascertaining the true identity of the person executing the said sworn statement. However, the notary public did not comply with this requirement. He simply relied on the affirmative answers of the person appearing before him attesting that she was Basilisa Santos; that the contents of the sworn statement are true; and that the thumbmark appearing on the said document was hers. However, this would not suffice. He could have further asked the person who appeared before him to produce any identification to prove that she was indeed Basilisa Santos, considering that the said person was not personally known to him, and that the thumbmark appearing on the document sought to be notarized was not affixed in his presence. But he did not. Thus, the lower courts did not commit any error in not giving evidentiary weight to the subject sworn statement. The second and third assigned errors proceed on the presumption that petitioners are co-owners of the disputed property. Since the Court has already ruled that the lower courts did not err in finding that petitioners failed to prove their claim that they were co-owners of the said property, there is no longer any need to discuss the other assigned errors. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The February 21, 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 63321 is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 125283

February 10, 2006 CO., INC., Petitioner,

PAN PACIFIC INDUSTRIAL SALES vs. COURT OF APPEALS and NICOLAS CAPISTRANO, Respondents. DECISION TINGA, J.:

Petitioner Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc. (Pan Pacific) filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari1assailing the Decision2 dated 4 June 1996 of the Court of Appeals Fourteenth Division in C.A. G.R. No. CV-41112. The challenged Decision affirmed in toto the Decision3 dated 24 April 1992 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 18 in Civil Case No. 88-46720. The case arose when on 22 December 1988, private respondent Nicolas Capistrano (Capistrano) filed an Amended Complaint4 before the RTC of Manila against Severo C. Cruz III (Cruz), his spouse Lourdes Yap Miranda, and Atty. Alicia Guanzon,5 pleading two causes of action.6 The first cause of action is for the nullification, or alternatively, for the "rescission," of a Deed of Absolute Sale7covering a parcel of land that Capistrano owned, located at 1821 (Int.), Otis Street (now Paz Guanzon Street), Paco, Manila, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 143599 to Cruz.8 This is the subject lot. Capistrano denied having executed the deed. The second cause of action is for the rescission of another agreement with an alternative prayer for specific performance. Capistrano alleged that he agreed to sell another parcel of land in the same vicinity to Cruz. According to Capistrano, Cruz only paid P100,000.00 of the stipulated purchase price, thereby leavingP250,000.00 still unpaid.9 The operative facts follow. On 10 September 1982, Capistrano executed a Special Power of Attorney 10 authorizing Cruz to mortgage the subject lot in favor of Associated Bank (the Bank) as security for the latters loan accommodation. 11 Shortly, by virtue of the Special Power of Attorney, Cruz obtained a loan in the amount of P500,000.00 from the Bank. Thus, he executed a Real Estate Mortgage12 over the subject lot in favor of the Bank.13 Capistrano and Cruz then executed a letter-agreement dated 23 September 1982 whereby Cruz agreed to buy the subject lot for the price of P350,000.00, of which P200,000.00 would be paid out of the loan secured by Cruz, and the balance of P150,000.00 in eight (8) quarterly payments of P18,750.00 within two (2) years from 30 October 1982, without need of demand and with interest at 18% in case of default.14 On 15 March 1983, Capistrano executed the Deed of Absolute Sale 15 over the subject lot in favor of Cruz. Two (2) days later, on 17 March 1983, Notary Public Vicente J. Benedicto (Benedicto) notarized the deed. However, it was earlier or on 9 March 1983 that Capistranos wife, Josefa Borromeo Capistrano, signed the Marital Consent16evidencing her conformity in advance to the sale. The Marital Consent was also sworn to before Benedicto. Following the execution of the deed of sale, Cruz continued payments to Capistrano for the subject lot. Sometime in October 1985, Capistrano delivered to Cruz a Statement of Account 17 signed by Capistrano, showing that as of 30 October 1985, Cruzs balance stood at P19,561.00 as principal, and P3,520.98 as interest, or a total ofP23,081.98. Thus, in May 1987, with the mortgage on the subject lot then being in danger of foreclosure by the Bank, Cruz filed a case with the RTC of Manila, Branch 11, docketed as Civil Case No. 87-40647, to enjoin the foreclosure. Cruz impleaded Capistrano and his spouse Josefa Borromeo Capistrano as defendants, the title to the subject lot not having been transferred yet to his name.18 Cruz also devised a way to save the subject lot from foreclosure by seeking a buyer for it and eventually arranging for the buyer to pay the mortgage debt. Towards this end, Cruz succeeded in engaging Pan Pacific. Thus, on 22 September 1988, Pan Pacific paid off Cruzs debt in the amount of P1,180,000.00.19 Consequently, on 23 September 1988, the Bank executed a Cancellation of Real Estate Mortgage. 20 On even date, Cruz executed a Deed of Absolute Sale21 over the subject lot in favor of Pan Pacific, attaching thereto the previous Deed of Absolute Saleexecuted by Capistrano in favor of Cruz.

Surprisingly, on 20 October 1988, Capistrano filed a Revocation of Special Power of Attorney 22 with the Register of Deeds of Manila. Less than a week later, Capistrano sent the Register of Deeds another letter informing said officer of his having come to know of the sale of the subject lot by Cruz to Pan Pacific and requesting the officer to withhold any action on the transaction.23 Before long, in November 1988, Capistrano filed the precursory complaint before the Manila RTC in Civil Case No. 88-46720. Pan Pacific, which bought the subject lot from the Cruz spouses, was allowed to intervene in the proceedings and joined Cruz, et al. in resisting the complaint insofar as the first cause of action on the subject lot is concerned.24 Then on 24 April 1992, a Decision was rendered by the trial court in favor of Capistrano on both causes of action, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant, Severo E. (sic) Cruz III, his spouse, Lourdes Miranda Cruz, and the intervenor, Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc., as follows: 1. Declaring the Letter-Agreement, dated September 23, 1982, Exhibit "C", as resolved and/or rescinded; 2. Declaring both the Deed of Absolute Sale, Exhibit "H", and the document entitled, "Marital Consent", Exhibit "K", null and void; 3. Declaring the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by the spouses Severo C. Cruz, III and Lourdes Miranda Cruz in favor of the intervenor, Pan Pacific Industrial Sales, Co., Inc., Exhibit "8", null and void; 4. Making the writ of preliminary injunction issued by this Court on November 23, 1988, permanent; 5. Ordering the intervenor, thru its legal counsel and corporate secretary, Atty. Senen S. Burgos, who has possession of the owners copy of TCT No. 143599 of the Register of Deeds of Manila, in the name of the plaintiff, to surrender the same to this Court within ten days from finality of the decision for turn over to the plaintiff; 6. Ordering Defendant Register of Deeds of Manila to reject and not give due course to the documents submitted to it, which have for their purpose the transfer of the real estate property covered by TCT No. 143599 from the name of the plaintiff to Defendant Cruz and/or to the intervenor; and 7. Ordering the spouses Severo C. Cruz, III and Lourdes Miranda Cruz to pay the plaintiff the sum ofP69,561.00 as net amount due to the latter as per the computation in the end-part of this decision. The counterclaims of both Severo C. Cruz, III and spouse, and of the intervenor, Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc., are both dismissed, for lack of merit. Double costs against the defendants-Cruz spouses. SO ORDERED.25 To arrive at the conclusion that the first Deed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent are spurious, the trial court mainly relied on Capistranos disavowal of his signature and that of his wifes, together with extrinsic factors which in its opinion evinced the spuriousness. Pan Pacific and the Cruz spouses interposed separate appeals to the Court of Appeals, their common concern being the trial courts finding that the D eed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent were spurious.26 In assailing this finding, Pan Pacific and the Cruz spouses contended that Capistrano failed to present clear and convincing evidence to overturn the presumption of regularity of public documents like the documents in question.27 The Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC Decision. Concerning the subject lot, it held that while a notarial document cannot be disproved by the mere denial of the signer, the denial in this case should be taken together with the other circumstances of the case which in sum constitute clear and convincing evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption of regularity of the documents.28 The Cruz spouses did not elevate the Court of Appeals Decisio n to this Court. Thus, the RTC Decision became final as to them. Pan Pacific, however, filed the instant Petition solely concerning the first cause of action in the Amended Complaint. Pan Pacific contends that the genuineness and due execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale and

Marital Consent cannot be overridden by the self-serving testimony of Capistrano. It stresses that the trial court cannot rely on irrelevant extrinsic factors to rule against the genuineness of the deed. 29 Finally, it points out that Capistrano cannot contest the sale of the subject lot to Cruz, as the sale had already been consummated. 30 For his part, Capistrano posits in his Memorandum 31 that Pan Pacific is not an innocent purchaser for value and in good faith as Cruz was never the registered owner of the subject lot. Pan Pacific was bound at its peril to investigate the right of Cruz to transfer the property to it. Moreover, Capistrano asserts that the legal presumption of regularity of public documents does not obtain in this case as the documents in question were not properly notarized. He adds that the parties never appeared before the notary public as in fact the deed had only been delivered by Capistrano to the house of Cruzs mother. Furthermore, Capistrano maintains that his spouses signature on the Marital Consent is a forgery as it was virtually impossible for her to have signed the same. Lastly, Capistrano disputes Cruzs assertion that the sale had been consummated, pointing out that the Amended Complaint consisted of two (2) causes of action pertaining to two (2) separate lots, and Cruz had only paid P100,000.00 of the total price of the lot subject of the second cause of action.1avvphil.net The petition is imbued with merit. Pan Pacific disputes the common conclusion reached by the courts below that the presumption of regularity of the Deed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent, which in its estimation are both public documents, has been rebutted by Capistranos countervailing evidence. The cor rectness of the conclusions on the alleged spuriousness of the documents in question drawn by the courts below from the facts on record is before this Court. The issue is a question of law cognizable by the Court.32 Deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is the rule that notarial documents celebrated with all the legal requisites under the safeguard of a notarial certificate is evidence of a high character and to overcome its recitals, it is incumbent upon the party challenging it to prove his claim with clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence.33 A notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution, and it has in its favor the presumption of regularity which may only be rebutted by evidence so clear, strong and convincing as to exclude all controversy as to the falsity of the certificate. Absent such, the presumption must be upheld. The burden of proof to overcome the presumption of due execution of a notarial document lies on the one contesting the same. Furthermore, an allegation of forgery must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, and whoever alleges it has the burden of proving the same.34 Evidently, as he impugns the genuineness of the documents, Capistrano has the burden of making out a clearcut case that the documents are bogus. The courts below both concluded that Capistrano had discharged this burden. However, this Court does not share the conclusion. Indeed, Capistrano failed to present evidence of the forgery that is enough to overcome the presumption of authenticity. To support the allegation of the spuriousness of his signature on the Deed of Absolute Sale and that of his wife on the Marital Consent, Capistrano relied heavily on his bare denial, at the same time taking sanctuary behind other circumstances which supposedly cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents. Capistrano did not bother to present corroborating witnesses much less an independent expert witness who could declare with authority and objectivity that the challenged signatures are forged. It befuddles the Court why both the courts below did not find this irregular considering that the Court has previously declared in Sy Tiangco v. Pablo and Apao,,35 "that the execution of a document that has been ratified before a notary public cannot be disproved by the mere denial of the alleged signer." The case of Chilianchin v. Coquinco36 also finds application in this regard wherein we stated that: As the lower court correctly said, the plaintiff did not even present a sample of his authentic signature to support his contention that it is not his the (sic) signature appearing in said document. He did not call a handwriting expert to prove his assertion. His attorney, at the beginning of the trial, made it of record that if the defendant present an expert in hand-writing to show that the signature in question is genuine, the plaintiff will also present an expert to the contrary, as if it were incumbent upon the defendant to show that the signature of the plaintiff in Exhibit A is genuine . . . .37 Corollarily, he who disavows the authenticity of his signature on a public document bears the responsibility to present evidence to that effect. Mere disclaimer is not sufficient. At the very least, he should present corroborating witnesses to prove his assertion. At best, he should present an expert witness.

On the other hand, the Court cannot understand why an unfavorable inference arose not from Capistranos but from Cruzs failure to have the documents examined by an expert witness of the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) and to present the notary public as witness. Specifically, the courts below took Cruzs inability to obtain the NBI examination of the documents as he had somehow undertaken as an indication that the documents are counterfeit.38 The courts below may have forgotten that on Capistrano lies the burden to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the notarized documents are spurious. Nothing in law or jurisprudence reposes on Cruz the obligation to prove that the documents are genuine and duly executed. Hence it is not incumbent upon Cruz to call the notary public or an expert witness. In contrast, Capistrano should have called the expert witness, the notary public himself or the witnesses to the document to prove his contention that he never signed the deed of sale, that its subscribing witnesses never saw him sign the same, and that he never appeared before the notary public before whom the acknowledgment was made. In fact, there is no evidence that the notarization of the documents did not take place. All that Capistrano could say on this matter was that he had not seen Benedicto, the notary public.39 The assertion that the parties to the deednever appeared before the notary public is not supported by evidence either. The courts below drew an inference to that effect from Cruzs testimony that the deed of sale was dropped or delivered to his mothers house.40 That is not a reasonable deduction to make as it is plainly conjectural. No conclusion can be derived therefrom which could destroy the genuineness of the deed. The testimony means what it declares: that the copy of the deed was dropped at the house of Cruzs mothe r. That is all. Nor can the Court lend credence to the thinking of the courts below that since Cruz had a balance of P132,061.00 owing to Capistrano as of the date of the deed of sale, the latter could not have possibly executed the deed. This is plain guesswork. From the existence of Cruzs outstanding balance, the non existence of the deed of sale does not necessarily follow. Indeed, a vendor may agree to a deed of absolute sale even before full payment of the purchase price. Article 1478 of the Civil Code states that "the parties may stipulate that ownership in the thing shall not pass to the purchaser until he has fully paid the price." A sensu contrario, the parties may likewise stipulate that the ownership of the property may pass even if the purchaser has not fully paid the price. The courts below also assigned an adverse connotation to Cruzs impleading of the Capistrano spouses as party-defendants in the action against the Bank to enjoin the foreclosure of the mortgage on the subject lot. Cruzs move is congruent with both his strong desire to protect his interest in the subject lot and the reality that there was an existing deed of sale in his favor. Precisely, his interest in the lot is borne out and had arisen from the deed of sale. As purchaser of the lot, he had to avert the foreclosure of the mortgage thereon. And to ensure against the dismissal of the action for failure to join a real party-in-interest, he had to implead Capistrano in whose name the title to the subject lot was registered still. Apart from Capistranos abject failure to overcome the presumption of regularity and genuineness with which the Deed of Absolute Sale is impressed as a public document, Capistranos cause is eviscerated by his own acts in writing before and after the execution of the deed. Said written acts constitute indelible recognition of the existence and genuineness of the Deed of Absolute Sale. First is the letter-agreement41 dated 23 September 1982 made and signed by Capistrano in favor of Cruz, which the latter also signed subsequently, stating that Cruz will, as he did, purchase the subject lot for P350,000.00 to be paid according to the terms provided therein. Second is the Statement of Account42 signed by Capistrano, which he delivered to Cruz, showing that as of 30 October 1985, Cruzs balance of the stipulated purchase pri ce consisted of P19,561.00 as principal andP3,520.98 as interest, or a total of P23,081.98. Third is Capistranos Amended Complaint itself which illustrates his own manifest uncertainty as to the relief he was seeking in court. He demanded that the Deed of Absolute Sale be nullified yet he prayed in the same breath for the "rescission" of the same43 evidently, a self-defeating recognition of the contract. In asking for "rescission," Capistrano obviously was invoking Article 1191 of the Civil Code which provides that the "power to rescind," which really means to resolve or cancel, is implied in reciprocal obligations "in case one of the obligors should not comply with what is incumbent upon him." When a party asks for the resolution or cancellation of a contract it is implied that he recognizes its existence. A non-existent contract need not be cancelled. These are unmistakable written admissions of Capistrano that he really intended to sell the subject lot to Cruz and that he received payments for it from the latter as late as the year 1985. It is thus a little baffling why in

1988, he decided to disown the Deed of Absolute Sale. The most plausible explanation for his sudden change of mind would be his belated realization that he parted with the subject lot for too small an amount (P350,000.00), compared to the price pegged by Cruz (P1,800,000.00) in the sale to Pan Pacific. Now, to the Marital Consent. The fact that the document contains a jurat, not an acknowledgment, should not affect its genuineness or that of the related document of conveyance itself, the Deed of Absolute Sale . In this instance, a jurat suffices as the document only embodies the manifestation of the spouses consent,44 a mere appendage to the main document. The use of a jurat, instead of an acknowledgement does not elevate the Marital Consent to the level of a public document but instead consigns it to the status of a private writing. 45 The lack of acknowledgment, however, does not render a deed invalid. The necessity of a public document for contracts which transmit or extinguish real rights over immovable property, as mandated by Article 1358 of the Civil Code, is only for convenience; it is not essential for validity or enforceability.46 From the perspective of the law on evidence, however, the presumption of regularity does not hold true with respect to the Marital Consent which is a private writing. It is subject to the requirement of proof under Section 20, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which states: Section 20. Proof of private document.- Before any private document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either: (a) By anyone who saw the document executed or written; or (b) By evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker. Any other private document need only be identified as that which is claimed to be. The requirement of proof of the authenticity of the Marital Consent was adequately met, in this case, through the testimony of Cruz to the effect that, together with the other witnesses to the document, he was present when Capistranos wife affixed her signature thereon before notary public Benedicto.47 Viewed against this positive declaration, Capistranos negative and self -serving assertions that his wifes signature on the documen t was forged because "(i)t is too beautiful" and that his wife could not have executed the Marital Consent because it was executed on her natal day and she was somewhere else, crumble and become unworthy of belief. That the Marital Consent was executed prior to the Deed of Absolute Sale also does not indicate that it is phoney. A fair assumption is that it was executed in anticipation of the Deed of Absolute Sale which was accomplished a scant six (6) days later. With respect to whatever balance Cruz may still owe to Capistrano, the Court believes that this is not a concern of Pan Pacific as the latter is not a party to the Deed of Absolute Sale between Capistrano and Cruz. But of course, Pan Pacific should enjoy full entitlement to the subject lot as it was sold to him by Cruz who earlier had acquired title thereto absolutely and unconditionally by virtue of the Deed of Absolute Sale. Otherwise laid down, Cruz had the right to sell the subject lot to Pan Pacific in 1988, as he in fact did. Thus, the question of whether or not Pan Pacific is a purchaser in good faith should be deemed irrelevant. 1avvphil.net WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated 4 June 1996 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 41112 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent Nicolas Capistrano is ordered to surrender the owners duplicate certificate of Transfer of Certificate of Title No. 143599 to the Register of Deeds of Manila to enable the issuance of a new title over the subject lot in the name of petitioner Pan Pacific Industrial Sales, Inc. Costs against respondent Nicolas Capistrano. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 146550

March 17, 2006

FELIPA DELFIN, GINA MAALAT, SHIRLEY TAMAYO, RECIO DAOS, and ROBERTO DELFIN, Petitioners, vs. PRESENTACION D. BILLONES, ROSARIO D. DEMONARCA (accompanied by husband Pedro and Demonarca), WENEFREDO DEGALA (representing Pedro Degala), RAMON DELA CRUZ (representing his deceased wife Maria Daradar dela Cruz), TERESITA DALIVA DEVIENTE (daughter of Esperanza Daradar Daliva), and JOLLY DATAR (representing his deceased mother Trinidad D. Datar) and the COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents. DECISION TINGA, J.: This treats of the petition for review on certiorari assailing the Decision 1 and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 54035 entitled Presentacion D. Billones, et al. v. Felipa Delfin, et al., promulgated on 13 October 2000 and 26 December 2000, respectively, which reversed the 27 May 1996 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 15 of Roxas City. The antecedents are as follows: On 29 July 1960, a Deed of Absolute Sale2 over Lot No. 213, covered by RO-5563 (14516) of the Cadastral Survey of Panitan, Capiz, was executed by Teresa Daos, Esperanza Daradar, Estrella Daradar and Maria Daradar, with the marital consent of Cipriano Degala, husband of Teresa Daos, in favor of the spouses Rodolfo Delfin and Felipa Belo (spouses Delfin). The document, so it appears, bore the signatures of Esperanza and Estrella, as well as the thumb marks of Teresa, Maria, and Cipriano, and was acknowledged before a notary public. On 18 November 1980, the spouses Delfin registered the Deed of Absolute Sale with the Register of Deeds of the Province of Capiz. Thereupon, a new title, Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-17071, was issued in the name of the spouses Delfin.3 Meanwhile, on 26 March 1965, an Extra-Judicial Partition and Absolute Deed of Sale4 involving Lot No. 3414 then covered by TCT No. T-16804 was made between Teresa Daos, Trinidad Degala, Leopoldo Degala, Presentacion Degala, Rosario Degala and Pedro Degala, on one part, and the spouses Delfin, on the other. The deed, bearing either the thumb marks or the signatures of the sellers, was likewise notarized. Said document was registered by the spouses Delfin on 24 June 1980. Thus, TCT No. T-16804 covering Lot No. 3414 was cancelled and a new one, TCT No. T-16805, was issued in the names of the spouses Delfin on 24 June 1980.5 The spouses Delfin then consolidated Lots No. 213 and No. 3414 and subdivided the resulting lot into six (6) smaller lots.6 Lot No. 1, covered by TCT No. T-19618, was sold to Roberto Delfin on 21 October 1989; Lot No. 2 covered by TCT No. T-19619 to Recio Daos on 25 April 1985; Lot No. 3 covered by TCT No. T-19620 to Gina Maalat on 14 June 1989, and; Lot No. 4 covered by TCT No. T-19621 to Shirley Tamayo on 11 August 1989. Lot No. 5 remained with the spouses Delfin, while Lot No. 6 was used as an access road.7 On 12 April 1994, herein respondents, claiming to be the heirs of the former owners of Lots No. 213 and No. 3414, filed an action for annulment, reconveyance, recovery of ownership and possession and damages. 8 According to them, it was only in 19899 when they discovered that Teresa Daos, sick and in dire need of money, was constrained to mortgage the one-half (1/2) portion of Lot No. 3414 to the spouses Delfin for P300.00 sometime in 1965.10 Taking advantage of her condition, the spouses Delfin made her sign a document purporting to be a mortgage, but which turned out to be an extrajudicial partition with deed of absolute sale. As to Lot No. 213, respondents averred that the Deed of Sale covering the property was fictitious and the signatures and thumb marks contained therein were all forged because three (3) of the signatories therein died before the alleged sale in 1960, namely: Estrella Daradar, who died in 1934, and Esperanza Daradar and Cipriano Degala, who both died in 1946.11 As proof thereof, respondents presented certifications12 on the deaths of Esperanza Daradar and Cipriano Degala by the Local Civil Registrar of Panitan, Capiz. To counter respondents arguments, petitioners alleged that respondents action was already barred by prescription and laches. Further, they argued that the spouses Delfin, as well as the subsequent owners of the subject properties, are innocent purchasers for value and in good faith, whose titles to the lots at the time of the purchase were all clean and free from liens and encumbrances.13 The documents

evidencing the conveyance of the properties were personally and unilaterally executed by the vendorssignatories therein without any intervention from the spouses Delfin, and duly acknowledged before a notary public, petitioners averred.14 Giving credence to the claims of petitioners, the trial cou rt ruled that respondents claim of ownership over the subject properties was not established by a preponderance of evidence. Compared to respondents verbal claims of ownership, the spouses Delfin were able to prove that they bought the properties from the original owners, the trial court added. The trial court held that the deeds of sale being duly executed notarial and public documents, they enjoy the presumption of regularity which can only be contradicted by clear and convincing evidence. In addition, respondents claims based on fraud were barred by prescription, having been filed more than four (4) years from the time the instruments were registered with the Register of Deeds, and they are estopped from annulling the documents by reason of laches, the action having been filed 15 years after the deeds were registered. The trial court also denied respondents claims for damages. 15 Respondents elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the ruling of the trial court. In its Decision,16 the Court of Appeals ruled that while an action for reconveyance based on implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten (10) years from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property, such prescriptive period does not apply if the person claiming to be the owner of the property is in possession thereof, such as respondents in this case.17 Moreover, considering that a similar action for reconveyance was filed by respondents as early as 1989 which was eventually dismissed without prejudice, respondents action to annul the two (2) deeds on the ground of fraud has not yet prescribed, according to the Court of Appeals. 18 The appellate court annulled the Extra-Judicial Partition and Deed of Sale covering Lot No. 3414. The appellate court noted that: (i) Teresa Daos was a very old and sickly woman; (ii) she and her children lacked formal education to fully comprehend the document to which they affixed their signatures and/or thumb marks; (iii)P300.00 was inadequate consideration for a lot consisting of 1,565 square meters even in 1965; (iv) respondents were allowed to remain in the subject properties; and (v) the questioned document was registered in the name of the spouses Delfin 15 years after the alleged date of its execution, when most of the alleged vendors have already died. These circumstances surrounding the execution of the said document show that the real intention was merely to secure the loan of P300.00. Thus, what took place was in fact, an equitable mortgage and not a sale.19 As for Lot No. 213, the Court of Appeals held that the Deed of Absolute Sale could not have been executed on 9 July 1960. Relying on the certifications of death presented by respondents, the Court of Appeals ruled that the defense of due execution cannot prevail over the fact that two (2) of the signatories therein have already died prior to said date.20 Roberto Delfin, Recio Daos, Gina Maalat, and Shirley Tamayo, buyers of the subdivided lot, could not be considered as purchasers in good faith nor entitled to be protected in their rights because they were informed by respondents prior to the purchase that they, and not the spouses Delfin, are the real owners of the lots, the appellate court added.21 The Court of Appeals thus ruled: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated May 27, 1996 of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Capiz, Branch 15 presided over by Judge Roger B. Patricio is hereby REVERSED and SET SIDE and a new one entered: (1) Annulling the Extra-Judicial Partition and Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 26, 1965 and Deed of Absolute Sale dated July 9, 1960; (2) Reinstating OCT No. RO-5563 (14516) referring to Lot 213 registered in the names of Teresa Daos (1/2 portion), and the children of Lucia Daos, namely: Esperanza Daradar, Estrella Daradar and Maria Daradar (1/2 pro-indiviso) and OCT No. (4650) RO-5529 referring to Lot 3414 registered in the names of the late spouses Cipriano Degala and Teresa Daos, and canceling the TCTs issued thereafter; (3) Ordering plaintiffs-appellants, jointly and severally, to pay defendant Felipa Belo Delfin the amount ofP300.00 within thirty (30) days from the date of finality of this decision; (4) Ordering defendants-appellees to free Lots 3414 and 213 from any and all obligations and encumbrances that may have been attached to both lots and thereafter to deliver possession of the same to plaintiffs-appellants; and (5) Ordering defendants-appellees, jointly and severally, to pay plaintiffs-appellants P10,000.00 as exemplary damages, and [sic] for attorneys fees and P10,000.00 as litigation expenses.

Costs against defendants-appellees. SO ORDERED.22 In the present petition for review under Rule 45, petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals erred in finding that respondents retained possession of the subject properties. Moreover, petitioners posit that respondents allegations of fraud and forgery confine their action to a four (4)-year prescriptive period which has long expired. Additionally, they argue that respondents failed to: (i) prove the inadequacy of the selling price of Lot No. 3414; (ii) prove the frail condition of Teresa Daos; (iii) show that fraud attended the sale of Lot No. 213; (iv) show that Roberto Delfin, Recio Daos, Gina Maalat and Shirley Tamayo are not purchasers in good faith; and (v) overcome the presumption of regularity enjoyed by the notarized deeds of sale. Petitioners also question the award of exemplary damages and attorneys fees in favor of respondents. 23 On the other hand, respondents for the most part merely reiterated the ruling of the Court of Appeals.24 The complete resolution of the issues presented before the Court requires a determination of facts, which this Court, not being a trier of facts, does not normally exercise in an appeal by certiorari. 25 This rule, however, is subject to exceptions, such as where the factual findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are conflicting or contradictory,26 as in the instant case. When ones property is registered in anothers name without the formers consent, an implied trust is created by law in favor of the true owner.27 Implied trusts are those which, without being expressed, are deducible from the nature of the transaction by operation of law as matters of equity, independently of the particular intention of the parties. Meanwhile, constructive trusts are created in order to satisfy the demands of justice and prevent unjust enrichment. They arise against one who, by fraud, duress or abuse of confidence, obtains or holds the legal right to property which he ought not, in equity and good conscience, to hold.28 An action for reconveyance based upon an implied or constructive trust prescribes in ten (10) years from the registration of the deed or from the issuance of the title, registration being constructive notice to all persons. 29 However, an action for reconveyance based on fraud is imprescriptible where the plaintiff is in possession of the property subject of the acts.30 In essence, petitioners insist that respondents failed to prove that fraud attended the sale of Lots No. 213 and No. 3414. The Court agrees. A contract or conduct apparently honest and lawful must be treated as such until it is shown to be otherwise by either positive or circumstantial evidence.31 A duly executed contract carries with it the presumption of validity. The party who impugns its regularity has the burden of proving its simulation. 32 A notarized document is executed to lend truth to the statements contained therein and to the authenticity of the signatures. Notarized documents enjoy the presumption of regularity which can be overturned only by clear and convincing evidence.33 As plaintiffs in the action before the trial court, respondents have the burden to establish their case by a preponderance of evidence, or evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it. Hence, parties who have the burden of proof must produce such quantum of evidence, with plaintiffs having to rely on the strength of their own evidence, not on the weakness of the defendants.34 As regards Lot No. 3414, respondents specifically alleged that the spouses Delfin "tricked the plaintiffs and their late mother into signing a fictitious and simulated document," and that "TCT No. T-16805 was the product of a fictitious and simulated transaction [that] was obtained through fraud, the same should be declared null and void".35 They claimed that the original owners of Lot No. 3414 did not intend to execute a deed of extra-judicial partition and absolute sale but only a mortgage instrument. However, all that respondents came out with were bare allegations that the said owners were either old and sickly or illiterate; that the purported selling price of P300.00 was unconscionable; and that petitioners failed to eject respondents from the subject land, as respondents were unable to present any evidence to substantiate their claims, much less the charge of fraud. Respondents did not present any witness to testify on the execution of the deed, nor on the condition of the signatories thereto. At best, their witnesses merely testified as to the identity of the previous owners of the property. Worse, petitioners Presentacion Degala Billones and Rosario Degala Demonarca, both signatories to the subject deed, were not presented to testify on the real circumstances surrounding the assailed transaction. As for the selling price of P300.00, suffice it to say that respondents did not even present a witness to testify as to its alleged unconscionability vis-a-vis the prevailing market value of the property at the time of the sale. Meanwhile, the belated registration of the document with the Register of Deeds can be explained by the fact

that the original of OCT No. 4650 covering Lot No. 3414 was either lost or destroyed and was reconstituted only in 1971, while the original copy of the deed of sale was lost by Felipa Delfin.36 Even respondents claim of possession of the subject properties has not been sufficiently proved. This C ourt has uniformly held that "the one who is in actual possession of a piece of land claiming to be the owner thereof may wait until his possession is disturbed or his title is attacked before taking steps to vindicate his right. His undisturbed possession gives him a continuing right to seek the aid of a court of equity to ascertain and determine the nature of the adverse claim of a third party and its effect on his own title, which right can be claimed only by one who is in possession." 37 Actual possession of land consists in the manifestation of acts of dominion over it of such a nature as those a party would naturally exercise over his own property. 38 Contrary to the appellate courts illation, respondents have not established possession of the subject properties. Save for the lone testimony of Orlando Buday, a neighbor, that Rosario Degala Daradar was the only one still residing in the properties in dispute, no other evidence was presented to show that respondents are in actual occupation and possession thereof. Not even Rosario herself testified. Doubts also arise as to the veracity of respondents claim of possession since respondents themselves averred in their complaint that the spouses Delfin had immediately taken possession of the subject properties in the same year that the sale was made, and appropriated the produce found in the subject lots from then on.39 Admissions made in the complaint are judicial admissions which are binding on the party who made them and cannot be contradicted40 absent any showing that it was made through palpable mistake. No amount of rationalization can offset such admission.41 By their very own admissions, it can be inferred that respondents or their predecessors-in-interest did not exercise actual occupancy, as they had ceased to perform acts of dominion over the property upon the sale thereof. Fraud may be, and often is, proved by or inferred from circumstances, and the circumstances proved may in some cases raise a presumption of its existence. However, while fraud may be proved by circumstances or presumed from them, it cannot be demonstrated by mere construction, but must be proven in all cases.42 Respondents indeed failed to prove that fraud attended the execution of the Extra-Judicial Partition and Deed of Absolute Sale. Their bare and unsupported allegations are not enough to overthrow the presumption of the validity of said agreement or to raise the presumption of fraud. Considering that respondents failed to establish the existence of fraud in the spouses Delfins acquisition of Lot No. 3414, it cannot be said that implied or constructive trust was created between respondents and the spouses Delfin. The action for reconveyance of Lot No. 3414 must fail. Further, in view of respondents failure to show their valid title to Lot No. 3414 or even their occupation thereof, the case cannot prosper even when it is viewed as one for quieting of title. On the other hand, the Court of Appeals annulled the Deed of Absolute Sale dated 9 July 1960 covering Lot No. 213 because "one of the vendors therein was already dead," 43 relying on the certifications issued by the Local Civil Registrar. In assailing this declaration, petitioners once more point out that the Deed of Sale, being a duly notarized document, should be given full faith and credit. Also, they argue that the appellate courts conclusion is based on the disputable presumption that identity of names means identity of persons. Documents consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated.44 Public documents are (i) the written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country; (ii) documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and (iii) public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein.45 Public documents may be proved by the original copy, an official publication thereof, or a certified true copy thereof;46and when a copy of a document or record is attested for the purpose of evidence, the attestation by the officer having legal custody of the record must state that the copy is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be.47 A duly-registered death certificate is considered a public document and the entries found therein are presumed correct, unless the party who contests its accuracy can produce positive evidence establishing otherwise.48 Nevertheless, this presumption is disputable and is satisfactory only if uncontradicted, and may be overcome by other evidence to the contrary. The documents presented by respondents were mere certifications and not the certified copies or duly authenticated reproductions of the purported death certificates of Esperanza Daradar and Cipriano Degala. They are not the public documents referred to by the Rules of Court, nor even records of public documents; thus, they do not enjoy the presumption granted by the Rules. Respondents did not even present the local civil registrar who supposedly issued the certifications to authenticate and identify the same.

Likewise, respondent Jolly Datar who adverted to the certifications did not testify on how the certifications were obtained, much less his role therein.49 As a consequence, the trial court did not admit the certifications as independent pieces of evidence but merely as part of the testimony of respondent Jolly Datar. 50 A document or writing which is admitted not as an independent evidence but merely as part of the testimony of a witness does not constitute proof of the facts related therein.51 Clearly then, the certifications cannot be given probative value, and their contents cannot be deemed to constitute proof of the facts therein stated. More importantly, the very exhibits of respondents dispel the presumption of regularity of the issuance of the certifications of death relied upon by the Court of Appeals. The certifications state that both Esperanza Daradar and Cipriano Degala died in 1946 at ages 24 and 63, respectively. However, a careful study of the records of the case shows that in OCT No. RO 5563 (14516),52 Esperanza Daradar was already 20 years old in 1929, making her date of birth to be sometime in 1909. This is totally incongruous with her supposed age of 24 years in 1946, which places the year of her birth in 1922. Likewise, the Court takes note of the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 31739,53 wherein the appellate court in its statement of facts found that Esperanza Daradar died on 10 August 1940, while Estrella Daradar died on 15 June 1943, contrary to the claim of respondents in this case.54 The Esperanza Daradar named in the OCT and the one referred to in the aforesaid Decision could not have been the same Esperanza Daradar in the Local Civil Registrars certification. As for the Ciprianos thumb mark on the deed, suffice it to say that his consent was not in fact needed to perfect the sale. Teresa Daos Degalas share in Lot 213 was paraphernal property and, under the provisions of the Civil Code applicable at the time of the sale, she could alienate or dispose of the said property without the permission or consent of her husband.55 Thus, with or without such thumb mark, whether it was forged or not, the Deed of Absolute Sale remains valid and effectual. Under the circumstances, therefore, respondents were unable to overthrow the presumption of validity of the Deed of Absolute Sale. Said deed, as well as the titles derived as a result thereof must be accorded respect and must remain undisturbed. Anent the charge of bad faith on the part of petitioners, the Court takes note of respondents statement in their Plaintiff-Appellants Brief,56 to wit: From the facts and circumstances of this case, Lot 213 and 3414 both of Panitan Cadastre which were consolidated, into one single lot, per consolidated plan as appearing at the back of TCT No. T-17071, and after the two lots were consolidated, and the same was subdivided, into six smaller lots, Lots 1, 4 and 5 thereof still remained in the names of appellees spouses Rodolfo Delfin and Felipa Belo, while Lots 2 and 3 thereof were transferred by the said spouses appellees to Recio Daos and Gina Maalat, respectively. These two transferees are innocent purchasers for value which appellants admit, and this appeal is only an appeal by appellants against defendant-appellees spouses Rodolfo Delfin and Felipa Belo, and not against Recio Daos and Gina Maalat.57(Emphasis supplied.) In effect, contrary to the testimony of respondents witness Myrna Degala -Distura that her mother warned petitioners against buying the subject lots,58 respondents admitted that the only persons they consider to be not innocent purchasers are the spouses Delfin. However, in view of respondents failure to prove the fraud attributed to the spouses Delfin, the Court has no choice but to declare all petitioners to be purchasers for value and in good faith. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 13 October 2000 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court dated 27 May 1996 is REINSTATED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 164457

April 11, 2012 LERIMA PATULA, Petitioner,

ANNA vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. DECISION BERSAMIN, J.:

In the trial of everycriminal case, a judge must rigidlytest the States evidence of guilt in order to ensure that such evidenceadheres to the basic rules of admissibility before pronouncing an accused guilty of the crime charged upon such evidence. Nothing less is demanded of the judge; otherwise, the guarantee of due process of law is nullified.The accused need notadduceanythingto rebut evidence that is discredited for failing the test.Acquittal should then follow. Antecedents Petitioner was charged withestafaunder DumagueteCitythat averred: an informationfiled in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in

That on or about and during the period from March 16 to 20, 1997 and for sometime prior thereto, in the City of Dumaguete, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, being then a saleswoman of Footluckers Chain of Stores, Inc., Dumaguete City, having collected and received the total sum ofP131,286.97 from several customers of said company under the express obligation to account for the proceeds of the sales and deliver the collection to the said company, but far from complying with her obligation and after a reasonable period of time despite repeated demands therefore, and with intent to defraud the said company, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously fail to deliver the said collection to the said company but instead, did, then and there willfully unlawfully and feloniously misappropriate, misapply and convert the proceeds of the sale to her own use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice of the said company in the aforesaid amount ofP131,286.97. Contrary to Art. 315, par 1 (b) of the Revised Penal Code.1 Petitioner pled not guiltyto the offense charged in the information. At pre-trial, no stipulation of factswas had, and petitioner did not avail herself of plea bargaining. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. The Prosecutions first witness was Lamberto Go, who testified that he was the branch manager of Footluckers Chain of Stores, Inc. (Footluckers) in Dumaguete City since October 8, 1994; that petitioner was an employee of Footluckers, starting as a saleslady in 1996 until she became a sales representative; that as a sales representative she was authorized to take orders from wholesale customers coming from different towns (like Bacong, Zamboanguita, Valencia, Lumbangan and Mabinay in Negros Oriental, and Siquijor), and to collect payments from them; that she could issue and sign official receipts of Footluckers for the payments, which she would then remit; that she would then submit the receipts for the payments for tallying and reconciliation; that at first her volume of sales was quite high, but later on dropped, leading him to confront her; that she responded that business was slow; that he summoned the accounting clerk to verify; that the accounting clerk discovered erasures on some collection receipts; that he decided to subject her to an audit by company auditor Karen Guivencan; that he learned from a customer of petitioners that the customers outstanding balance had already been fully paid although that balance appeared unpaid in Footluckers records; and that one night later on, petitioner and her parents went to his house to deny having misappropriated any money of Footluckers and to plead for him not to push through with a case against her, promising to settle her account on a monthly basis; and that she did not settle after that, but stopped reporting to work. 2 On March 7, 2002, Gos cross examination, re-direct examination and re-crossexamination were completed. The only other witness for the Prosecution was Karen Guivencan, whomFootluckers employed as its store auditor since November 16, 1995 until her resignation on March 31, 2001. She declared that Go had requested her to audit petitioner after some customers had told him that they had already paid their accounts but the office ledger had still reflected outstandingbalances for them; that she first conducted her audit by going to the customers in places from Mabinay to Zamboanguitain Negros Oriental, and then in Siquijor; thatshe discovered in the course of her audit that the amounts appearing on the original copies of receipts in the possession of around 50 customers varied from the amounts written on the duplicate copies of the receipts petitioner submitted to the office; that upon completing her audit, she submittedto Go a written report denominated as "List of Customers Covered by Saleswoman LERIMA PATULA w/ Differences in Records as per

Audit Duly Verified March 16-20, 1997" marked as Exhibit A; and that based on the report, petitioner had misappropriated the total amount ofP131,286.92.3 During Guivencans stint as a witness, the Prosecution marked the ledgers of petitioners various customers allegedly with discrepancies as Exhibits B to YYand their derivatives, inclusive. Each of the ledgers had a first column that contained the dates of the entries, a second that identified the invoices by the number, a third that statedthe debit, a fourth that noted the credit (or the amounts paid), and a fifth that summed the balances (debit minus credit).Only 49 of theledgerswere formally offered and admitted by the RTC because the 50thledger could no longer be found. In the course of Guivencansdirect -examination,petitioners counsel interposed a continuing objection on the ground that the figuresentered in Exhibits B to YYand their derivatives, inclusive, were hearsay because the persons who had made the entries were not themselves presented in court. 4With that, petitioners counsel did not anymore cross-examine Guivencan, apparently regarding her testimony to be irrelevant because she thereby tended to prove falsification, an offense not alleged in the information. TheProsecution thenformally offered its documentary exhibits, including Exhibits B to YYand their derivatives (like the originals and duplicates of the receipts supposedly executed and issued by petitioner), inclusive, the confirmation sheets used by Guivencan in auditing the accounts served by petitioner, and Guivencans socalled Summary (Final Report) of Discrepancies.5 After the Prosecution rested its case, the Defense decided not to file a demurrer to evidence although it had manifested the intention to do so, and instead rested itscase.The Prosecution and Defense submitted their respective memoranda, and submitted the case for decision.6 On January 28, 2004, the RTC, stating that inasmuch as petitioner had opted "not to present evidence for her defense" the Prosecutions evidence remained "unrefuted and uncontroverted," 7rendered its decision finding petitioner guilty of estafa, to wit: Wherefore, in the light of the foregoing facts and circumstances, the Court finds ANNA LERIMA PATULA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Estafa under Art. 315 par (1b) of the Revised Penal Code and accordingly, she is hereby sentenced to suffer an INDETERMINATE PENALTY of imprisonment of 8 years and 1 day of prision mayor as minimum to 18 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal as maximum with all the accessory penalties provided by law and to indemnify private complainant the amount of P131,286.92 with interest at 12% per annum until fully paid and to pay the costs. Pursuant to Sec. 2, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the cash bail put up by the accused shall be effective only until the promulgation of this judgment. SO ORDERED.8 Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, butthe RTC denied the motion on May 7, 2004.9 Issues Insisting that the RTCs judgment "grossly violated [her] Constitutional and statutory right to be informed of t he nature and cause of the accusation against her because, while the charge against her is estafa under Art. 315, par. 1 (b) of the Revised Penal Code, the evidence presented against her and upon which her conviction was based, was falsification, an offense not alleged or included in the Information under which she was arraigned and pleaded not guilty," and that said judgment likewise "blatantly ignored and manifestly disregarded the rules on admission of evidence in that the documentary evidence admitted by the trial court were all private documents, the due execution and authenticity of which were not proved in accordance with Sec. 20 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence," petitioner has directly appealed to the Court via petition for review on certiorari, positing the following issues, to wit: 1. WHETHER THE ACCUSED OR ANY ACCUSED FOR THAT MATTER , CHARGED OF ESTAFA UNDER ART. 315, PAR. 1 (B) OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE CAN BE CONVICTED UPON OR BY EVIDENCE OF FALSIFICATION WHICH IS EVEN (SIC) NOT ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION. 2. WHETHER THE ACCUSEDS CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE NATURE AND CAUSE OF THE ACCUSATION AGAINST HER WAS VIOLATED WHEN SHE WAS CONVICTED UPON OR BY EVIDENCE OF FALSIFICATION CONSIDERING THAT THE CHARGE AGAINST HER ISESTAFA THROUGH MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER ART. 315, PAR. 1 (B) OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE.

3. WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING IN EVIDENCE, EXHIBITS "B" TO "YY"-"YY-2", ALL PRIVATE DOCUMENTS, THE DUE EXECUTION AND AUTHENTICITY OF WHICH WERE NOT PROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SEC. 20, RULE 132 OF THE SAID REVISED RULES ON EVIDENCE ASIDE FROM THE FACT THAT SAID EXHIBITS TEND TO PROVE FALSIFICATION BY THE ACCUSED, A CRIME NEITHER CHARGED NOR ALLEGED IN THE INFORMATION. 4. WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING THE TESTIMONY OF KAREN GUIVENCAN DESPITE THE OBJECTION THAT SAID TESTIMONY WHICH TRIED TO PROVE THAT THE ACCUSED FALSIFIED EXHIBITS "B" TO "YY"-"YY-2"INCLUSIVE VIOLATED THE ACCUSEDS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE INFORMED OF THE NATURE AND CAUSE OF THE ACCUSATION AGAINST HER, FOR BEING IRRELEVANT AND IMMATERIAL SINCE THE CHARGE AGAINST THE ACCUSED IS ESTAFA UNDER ART. 315, PAR. 1 (B) OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE. 5. WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE EVIDENCE OF THE PROSECUTION "REMAINS UNREFUTED AND UNCONTROVERTED" DESPITE ACCUSEDS OBJECTION THAT SAID EVIDENCE IS IMMATERIAL AND IRRELEVANT TO THE CRIME CHARGED. 6. WHETHER OR NOT THE DEFENSES NOT CROSS-EXAMINING KAREN GUIVENCAN FOR THE REASON THAT HER TESTIMONY IS IMMATERIAL AND IRRELEVANT AS IT TENDED TO PROVE AN OFFENSE NOT CHARGED IN INFORMATION RESULTED IN THE ADMISSION OF SAID TESTIMONY AS BEING "UNREFUTED AND UNCONTROVERTED", AND WHETHER OR NOT THE DEFENSES OBJECTION WOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED WAIVED IF THE DEFENSE CROSS-EXAMINED SAID WITNESS. 7. WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT EXHIBIT "A", WHICH IS THE LIST OF CUSTOMERS COVERED BY SALESWOMAN LERIMA PATULA WITH DIFFERENCE IN RECORD IS NOT HEARSAY AND SELF-SERVING.10 The foregoing issues are now restatedas follows: 1. Whether or not the failure of the information for estafa to allege the falsification of the duplicate receipts issued by petitioner to her customersviolated petitioners right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; 2. Whether or not the RTC gravely erred in admitting evidence of the falsification of the duplicate receiptsdespite the information not alleging the falsification; 3. Whether or not the ledgers and receipts (Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive) were admissible as evidence of petitioners guilt for estafaas charged despite their not being duly authenticated;and 4. Whether or not Guivencanstestimony onthe ledgers and receipts (Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive) to prove petitioners misappropriation or conversion wasinadmissible for being hearsay. Ruling The petition is meritorious. I Failure of information did not violate petitioners of thenatureand cause of the accusation to right allege to be falsification informed

Petitioner contends that the RTC grossly violated her Constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation when: (a) it held that the information did not have to allege her falsification of the duplicate receipts, and (b) when it convicted her of estafa under Article 315, paragraph 1(b) of the Revised Penal Codeby relying on the evidence on falsification. The contentionof petitioner cannot be sustained. The Bill of Rights guaranteessome rightsto every person accused of a crime, among them the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, viz: Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable. Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Court, the rule then in effect when the information was filed in the RTC, contained the following provisions on the proper manner of alleging the nature and cause of the accusation in the information, to wit: Section 8.Designation of the offense. Whenever possible, a complaint or information should state the designation given to the offense by the statute, besides the statement of the acts or omissions constituting the same, and if there is no such designation, reference should be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it. (7) Section 9.Cause of accusation. The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense must be stated in ordinary and concise language without repetition, not necessarily in the terms of the statute defining the offense, but in such form as is sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged, and enable the court to pronounce proper judgment. (8) The importance of the proper manner of alleging the nature and cause of the accusation in the informationshould never be taken for granted by the State. An accused cannot be convicted of an offense that is not clearly charged in the complaint or information. To convict him of an offense other than that charged in the complaint or information would be violative of the Constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.11 Indeed, the accused cannot be convicted of a crime, even if duly proven, unless the crime is alleged or necessarily included in the information filed against him. The crime of estafacharged against petitioner was defined and penalized by Article 315, paragraph 1 (b), Revised Penal Code, viz: Article 315. Swindling (estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned hereinbelow shall be punished by: 1st. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period, if the amount of the fraud is over 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos, and if such amount exceeds the latter sum, the penalty provided in this paragraph shall be imposed in its maximum period, adding one year for each additional 10,000 pesos; but the total penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed under the provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. 2nd. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the amount of the fraud is over 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos; 3rd. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if such amount is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos; and 4th. By arresto mayor in its maximum period, if such amount does not exceed 200 pesos, provided that in the four cases mentioned, the fraud be committed by any of the following means: xxx 1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely: xxx (b) By misappropriating or converting, to the prejudice of another, money, goods, or any other personal property received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same, even though such obligation be totally or partially guaranteed by a bond; or by denying having received such money, goods, or other property. xxx The elements of the offense charged were as follows:

(a) That the offender received money, goods or other personal property in trust, or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of, or to return, the same; (b) That the offender misappropriated or converted such money, goods or other personal property, or denied his part in its receipt; (c) That the misappropriation or conversion or denial was to the prejudice of another; and (d) That the offended party made a demand on the offender for the delivery or return of such money, goods or other personal property.12 According to the theory and proof of the Prosecution, petitioner misappropriated or converted the sums paid by her customers, and later falsified the duplicates of the receipts before turning such duplicates to her employer to show that the customers had paid less than the amounts actually reflected on the original receipts. Obviously, she committed the falsification in order to conceal her misappropriation or conversion. Considering that the falsificationwas not an offense separate and distinct from the estafacharged against her, the Prosecution could legitimately prove her acts of falsification as its means of establishing her misappropriation or conversion as an essential ingredient of the crime duly alleged in the information. In that manner, her right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against her was not infringed or denied to her. We consider it inevitable to conclude that the information herein completely pleaded the estafa defined and penalized under Article 315, paragraph 1 (b), Revised Penal Codewithin the context of the substantive lawand the rules. Verily, there was no necessity for the information to allege the acts of falsification by petitioner because falsification was not an element of the estafacharged. Not surprisingly,the RTC correctly dealt in its decision with petitioners concern thuswise: In her Memorandum, it is the contention of [the] accused that [the] prosecutions evidence utterly fails to prove the crime charged. According to the defense, the essence of Karen Guivencans testimony is that the accused falsified the receipts issued to the customers served by her by changing or altering the amounts in the duplicates of the receipts and therefore, her testimony is immaterial and irrelevant as the charge is misappropriation under Art. 315, paragraph (1b) of the Revised Penal Code and there is no allegation whatsoever of any falsification or alteration of amounts in the [i]nformation under which the accused was arraigned and pleaded NOT GUILTY. Accused, thus, maintains that the testimony of Karen Guivencan should therefore not be considered at all as it tended to prove an offense not charged or included in the [i]nformation and would violate [the] accuseds constitutional and statutory right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against her. The Court is not in accord with such posture of the accused. It would seem that the accused is of the idea that because the crime charged in the [i]nformation is merely [e]stafa and not [e]stafa [t]hru [f]alsification of documents, the prosecution could not prove falsification. Such argumentation is not correct. Since the information charges accused only of misappropriation pursuant to Art. 315, par. (1b) of the Revised [P]enal Code, the Court holds that there is no necessity of alleging the falsification in the Information as it is not an element of the crime charged. Distinction should be made as to when the crimes of Estafa and Falsification will constitute as one complex crime and when they are considered as two separate offenses. The complex crime of Estafa Through Falsification of Documents is committed when one has to falsify certain documents to be able to obtain money or goods from another person. In other words, the falsification is a necessary means of committing estafa. However, if the falsification is committed to conceal the misappropriation, two separate offenses of estafa and falsification are committed. In the instant case, when accused collected payments from the customers, said collection which was in her possession was at her disposal. The falsified or erroneous entries which she made on the duplicate copies of the receipts were contrived to conceal some amount of her collection which she did not remit to the company xxx.13 II Testimonial and documentary did not prove petitioners guilt beyond reasonable doubt evidence,being hearsay,

Nonetheless, in all criminal prosecutions, the Prosecution bears the burden to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In discharging this burden, the Prosecutions duty is to prove each and every element of the crime charged in the information to warrant a finding of guilt for that crime or for any other

crime necessarily included therein.14 The Prosecution must further prove the participation of the accused in the commission of the offense.15In doing all these, the Prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence, and not anchor its success upon the weakness of the evidence of the accused. The burden of proof placed on the Prosecution arises from the presumption of innocence in favor of the accused that no less than the Constitution has guaranteed.16Conversely, as to his innocence, the accused has no burden of proof, 17that he must then be acquitted and set free should the Prosecution not overcome the presumption of innocence in his favor.In other words, the weakness of the defense put up by the accused is inconsequential in the proceedings for as long as the Prosecution has not discharged its burden of proof in establishing the commission of the crime charged and in identifying the accused as the malefactor responsible for it. Did the Prosecution adduce evidence that proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of petitioner for the estafa charged in the information? To establish the elements of estafaearlier mentioned, the Prosecution presented the testimonies of Go and Guivencan, and various documentsconsisting of: (a) the receipts allegedly issued by petitioner to each of her customers upon their payment, (b) the ledgers listing the accounts pertaining to each customer with the corresponding notations of the receipt numbers for each of the payments, and (c) the confirmation sheets accomplished by Guivencan herself.18The ledgers and receipts were marked and formally offered as Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive. On his part, Go essentially described for the trial co urt the various duties of petitioner as Footluckers sales representative. On her part, Guivencan conceded having no personal knowledge of the amounts actually received by petitioner from the customersor remitted by petitioner to Footluckers.This means th at persons other than Guivencan prepared Exhibits B to YY and their derivatives, inclusive,and that Guivencan based her testimony on the entries found in the receipts supposedly issued by petitioner and in the ledgers held by Footluckers corresponding to each customer, as well as on the unsworn statements of some of the customers. Accordingly, her being the only witness who testified on the entries effectively deprived the RTC of the reasonable opportunity to validate and test the veracity and reliability of the entries as evidence of petitioners misappropriation or conversion through cross-examination by petitioner. The denial of that opportunity rendered theentire proof of misappropriation or conversion hearsay, and thus unreliable and untrustworthy for purposes of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. To elucidate why the Prosecutions hearsay evidence was unreliable and untrustworthy, and thus devoid of probative value, reference is made toSection 36 of Rule 130, Rules of Court, a rule that states that a witness can testify only to those facts that she knows of her personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from her own perception, except as otherwise provided in the Rules of Court. The personal knowledge of a witness is a substantive prerequisite for accepting testimonial evidence that establishes the truth of a disputed fact. A witness bereft ofpersonal knowledge of the disputed fact cannot be called upon for that purpose because her testimony derives its value not from the credit accorded to her as a witness presently testifying but from the veracity and competency of the extrajudicial source of her information. In case a witness is permitted to testify based on what she has heard another person say about the facts in dispute, the person from whom the witness derived the information on the facts in dispute is not in court and under oath to be examined and cross-examined. The weight of such testimony thendepends not upon theveracity of the witness but upon the veracity of the other person giving the information to the witness without oath. The information cannot be tested because the declarant is not standing in court as a witness andcannot, therefore, be cross-examined. It is apparent, too, that a person who relates a hearsay is not obliged to enter into any particular, to answer any question, to solve any difficulties, to reconcile any contradictions, to explain any obscurities, to remove any ambiguities; and that she entrenches herself in the simple assertion that she was told so, and leaves the burden entirely upon the dead or absent author.19 Thus, the rule against hearsay testimony rests mainly on the ground that there was no opportunity to cross-examine the declarant.20 The testimony may have been given under oath and before a court of justice, but if it is offered against a party who is afforded no opportunity to crossexamine the witness, it is hearsay just the same.21 Moreover, the theory of the hearsay rule is that when a human utterance is offered as evidence of the truth of the fact asserted, the credit of the assertor becomes the basis of inference, and, therefore, the assertion can be received as evidence only when made on the witness stand, subject to the test of cross-examination. However, if an extrajudicial utterance is offered, not as an assertion to prove the matter asserted but without reference to the truth of the matter asserted, the hearsay rule does not apply. For example, in a slander case, if a prosecution witness testifies that he heard the accused say that the complainant was a thief, this testimony is

admissible not to prove that the complainant was really a thief, but merely to show that the accused uttered those words.22 This kind of utterance ishearsay in character but is not legal hearsay. 23The distinction is, therefore, between (a) the fact that the statement was made, to which the hearsay rule does not apply, and (b) the truth of the facts asserted in the statement, to which the hearsay rule applies. 24 Section 36, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court is understandably not the only rule that explains why testimony that is hearsay should be excluded from consideration. Excluding hearsay also aims to preserve the right of the opposing party to cross-examine the originaldeclarant claiming to have a direct knowledge of the transaction or occurrence.25If hearsay is allowed, the right stands to be denied because the declarant is not in court.26It is then to be stressed that the right to cross-examine the adverse partys witness, being the only means of testing the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies, is essential to the administration of justice. To address the problem of controlling inadmissible hearsay as evidence to establish the truth in a dispute while also safeguardinga partys right to cross-examine her adversarys witness,the Rules of Court offers two solutions. The firstsolution is to require that allthe witnesses in a judicial trial or hearing be examined only in courtunder oath or affirmation. Section 1, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court formalizes this solution,viz: Section 1. Examination to be done in open court . - The examination of witnesses presented in a trial or hearing shall be done in open court, and under oath or affirmation. Unless the witness is incapacitated to speak, or the question calls for a different mode of answer, the answers of the witness shall be given orally. (1a) The secondsolution is to require that all witnesses besubject to the cross-examination by the adverse party. Section 6, Rule 132 of the Rules of Courtensuresthis solutionthusly: Section 6. Cross-examination; its purpose and extent. Upon the termination of the direct examination, the witness may be cross-examined by the adverse party as to any matters stated in the direct examination, or connected therewith, with sufficient fullness and freedom to test his accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias, or the reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue. (8a) Although the second solution traces its existence to a Constitutional precept relevant to criminal cases, i.e., Section 14, (2), Article III, of the 1987 Constitution,which guarantees that: " In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall xxx enjoy the right xxx to meet the witnesses face to face xxx ," the rule requiring the crossexamination by the adverse party equally applies to non-criminal proceedings. We thus stress that the rule excluding hearsay as evidence is based upon serious concerns about the trustworthiness and reliability of hearsay evidence due to its not being given under oath or solemn affirmation and due to its not being subjected to cross-examination by the opposing counsel to test the perception, memory, veracity and articulateness of the out-of-court declarant or actor upon whose reliability the worth of the out-of-court statement depends.27 Based on the foregoing considerations, Guivencans testimony as well as Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive, must be entirely rejected as proof of petitioners misappropriation or conversion. III Lack of their Exhibits B to inadmissible as judicial evidence proper YY and authentication their rendered derivatives

Petitioner also contends that the RTC grossly erred in admitting as evidence Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive, despite their being private documents that were not duly authenticated as required by Section 20, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Courtdistinguishes between a public document and a private document for the purpose of their presentation in evidence, viz: Section 19. Classes of documents. For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are either public or private. Public documents are: (a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country; (b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments, and

(c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein. All other writings are private. The nature of documents as either public or private determines how the documents may be presented as evidence in court. A public document, by virtue of its official or sovereign character, or because it has been acknowledged before a notary public (except a notarial will) or a competent public official with the formalities required by law, or because it is a public record of a private writing authorized by law, is self-authenticating and requires no further authentication in order to be presented as evidence in court.In contrast, a private document is any other writing, deed, or instrument executed by a private person without the intervention of a notary or other person legally authorized by which some disposition or agreement is proved or set forth. Lacking the official or sovereign character of a public document, or the solemnities prescribed by law, a private document requires authentication in the manner allowed by law or the Rules of Court before its acceptance as evidence in court. The requirement of authentication of a private document is excused only in four instances, specifically: (a) when the document is an ancient one within the context of Section 21,28 Rule 132 of the Rules of Court; (b) when the genuineness and authenticity of an actionable document have not been specifically denied under oath by the adverse party;29(c) when thegenuineness and authenticity of the document have been admitted;30 or (d) when the document is not being offered as genuine.31 There is no question that Exhibits B to YY and their derivatives were private documents because private individuals executed or generated them for private or business purposes or uses. Considering that none of the exhibits came under any of the four exceptions, they could not be presented and admitted as evidence against petitioner without the Prosecution dutifully seeing to their authentication in the manner provided in Section20 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court,viz: Section 20. Proof of private documents. Before any private document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either: (a) By anyone who saw the document executed or written ; or (b) By evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker. Any other private document need only be identified as that which it is claimed to be. The Prosecutionattempted to have Go authenticate the signature of petitioner in various receipts, to wit: ATTY. ABIERA: Q. Now, these receipts which you mentioned which do not tally with the original receipts, do you have copies of these receipts? A. Yes, I have a copy of these receipts, but its not now in my possession. Q. But when asked to present those receipts before this Honorable Court, can you assure this (Next Page) ATTY ABIERA (continuing): Honorable Court that you will be able to present those receipts? A. Yes. Q. You are also familiar with the signature of the accused in this case, Anna Lerima Patula? A. Yes. Q. Why are you familiar with the signature of the accused in this case? A. I used to see her signatures in the payroll and in the receipts also. Q. Okay, I have here a machine copy of a receipt which we would present this,or offer the same as soon as the original receipts can be presented, but for purposes only of your testimony, Im going to point to you a certain signature over this receipt number FLDT96 20441, a receipt from Cirila Askin, kindly go over the signature and tell the Honorable Court whether you are familiar with the signature? A. Yes, that is her signature.

INTERPRETER: Witness is pointing to a signature above the printed word "collector". (Next Page) ATTY. ABIERA: Q. Is this the only receipt wherein the name, the signature rather, of the accused in this case appears? A. That is not the only one, there are many receipts. ATTY. ABIERA: In order to save time, Your Honor, we will just be presenting the original receipts Your Honor, because its quite voluminous, so we will just forego with the testimony of the witness but we will just present the same using the testimony of another witness, for purposes of identifying the signature of the accused. We will request that this signature which has been identified to by the witness in this case be marked, Your Honor, with the reservation to present the original copy and present the same to offer as our exhibits but for the meantime, this is only for the purposes of recording, Your Honor, which we request the same, the receipt which has just been identified awhile ago be marked as our Exhibit "A" You Honor. COURT: Mark the receipt as Exhibit "A". ATTY. ABIERA: And the signature be bracketed and be marked as Exhibit "A-1". (Next Page) COURT: Bracket the signature &mark it as Exh. "A-1". What is the number of that receipt? ATTY. ABIERA: Receipt No. 20441 dated August 4, 1996 the statement that: received from Cirila Askin.32 xxx As the excerpts indicate, Gos attempt at authentication of the signature of petitioner on the receipt with serial number FLDT96 No. 20441 (a document that was marked as Exhibit A, while the purported signature of petitioner thereon was marked as Exhibit A-1) immediately fizzled out after the Prosecution admitted that the document was a meremachinecopy, not the original. Thereafter, as if to soften its failed attempt, the Prosecution expressly promised to produce at a later date the originalsof the receipt with serial number FLDT96 No. 20441 and other receipts. But that promise was not even true, because almost in the same breath the Prosecution offered to authenticate the signature of petitioner on the receiptsthrougha different witness (though then still unnamed). As matters turned out in the end, the effort to have Go authenticate both themachinecopy of the receiptwith serial number FLDT96 No. 20441 and the signature of petitioner on that receipt was wasteful because the machine copy was inexplicablyforgotten and was no longer evenincluded in the Prosecutions Offer of Documentary Evidence. It is true that the original of the receipt bearing serial number FLDT96 No. 20441was subsequentlypresented as Exhibit Bthrough Guivencan. However,the Prosecution did not establishthat the signature appearing on Exhibit B was the same signature that Go had earliersought to identify to be the signature of petitioner (Exhibit A-1) on the machine copy (Exhibit A). This is borne out by the fact that the Prosecution abandoned Exhibit A as the marking nomenclature for the machine copyof the receipt bearing serial number FLDT96 No. 20441 for all intents and purposes of this case, and used the same nomenclature to referinstead toan entirely differentdocument entitled "List of Customers covered by ANA LERIMA PATULA w/difference in Records as per Audit duly verified March 16-20, 1997." In her case, Guivencans identification of petitioners signature on two receipts based alone on the fact that the signatures contained the legible family name of Patula was ineffectual, and exposed yet another deep flaw infecting the documentary evidence against petitioner. Apparently, Guivencan could not honestly identify petitioners signature on the receipts either because she lacked familiarity with such signature, or

because she had not seen petitioner affix her signature on the receipts, as the following excerpts from her testimony bear out: ATTY. ZERNA to witness: Q. There are two (2) receipts attached here in the confirmation sheet, will you go over these Miss witness? A. This was the last payment which is fully paid by the customer. The other receipt is the one showing her payment prior to the last payment. COURT: Q. Where did you get those two (2) receipts? A. From the customer. Q. And who issued those receipts? A. The saleswoman, Miss Patula. ATTY. ZERNA: We pray, Your Honor, that this receipt identified be marked as Exhibit "B-3", receipt number 20441. (Next Page) COURT: Mark it. ATTY. ZERNA: The signature of the collector be marked as Q. By the way, there is a signature above the name of the collector, are your familiar with that signature? (shown to witness) A. Yes. Q. Whose signature is that? A. Miss Patula. Q. How do you know? A. It can be recognized because of the word Patula. Q. Are you familiar with her signature? A. Yes. ATTY. ZERNA: We pray that the signature be bracketed and marked as Exhibit "B-3-a" COURT: Mark it. ATTY. ZERNA: The other receipt number 20045 be marked as Exhibit "B-4" and the signature as Exhibit "B-4-a". COURT: Mark it.33 xxx ATTY. ZERNA: Q. Ms. Witness, here is a receipt colored white, number 26603 issued to one Divina Cadilig. Will you please identify this receipt if this is the receipt of your office? A.Yes. Q.There is a signature over the portion for the collector. Whose signature is this?

A.Ms. Patula. Q.How do you know that this is her signature? A.Because we can read the Patula.34 We also have similar impressions of lack of proper authentication as to the ledgers the Prosecution presented to prove the discrepancies between the amountspetitioner hadallegedly received from the customers and the amounts she had actually remitted to Footluckers. Guivencanexclusively relied on the entries of the unauthenticated ledgersto support her audit report on petitioners supposed misappropriation or conversion, revealing her lack of independent knowledge of the veracity of the entries, as the following excerpts of her testimony show: ATTY. ZERNA to witness: Q. What is your basis of saying that your office records showed that this Cecilia Askin has an account of P10,791.75? ATTY. DIEZ: The question answers itself, You Honor, what is the basis, office record. COURT: Let the witness answer. WITNESS: A. I made the basis on our ledger in the office. I just copied that and showed it to the customers for confirmation. ATTY. ZERNA to witness: Q. What about the receipts? COURT: Make a follow-up question and what was the result when you copied that amount in the ledger and you had it confirmed by the customers, what was the result when you had it confirmed by the customers? WITNESS: A. She has no more balance but in our office she has still a balance of P10,971.75. ATTY. ZERNA to witness: Q. Do you have a-whats the basis of saying that the balance of this customer is still P10,971.75 (Next Page) ATTY. ZERNA (continuing): [i]n your office? COURT: That was already answered paero, the office has a ledger. Q. Now, did you bring the ledger with you? A. No, Maam.35 (Continuation of Karen Guivencan on August 13, 2002) ATTY. ZERNA to witness: Q. Okay, You said there are discrepancies between the original and the duplicate, will you please enlighten the Honorable Court on that discrepancy which you said? A. Like in this case of Cirila Askin, she has already fully paid. Her ledger shows a zero balance she has fully paid while in the original (Next page) the Direct Examination of

WITNESS (continuing): [r]eceipt she has a balance of Ten Thousand Seven hundred Ninety-one Pesos and Seventy-five Centavos (10,791.75). COURT: Q. What about the duplicate receipt, how much is indicated there? A. The customer has no duplicate copy because it was already forwarded to the Manila Office. Q. What then is your basis in the entries in the ledger showing that it has already a zero balance? A. This is the copy of the customer while in the office, in the original receipt she has still a balance. xxx ATTY. ZERNA: The confirmation sheet --COURT: The confirmation sheet was the one you referred to as the receipt in your earlier testimony? Is that what you referred to as the receipts, the original receipts? A. This is what I copied from the ledger. Q. So where was that(sic) original receipt which you said showed that that particular customer still has a balance of Ten Thousand something? A. The receipt is no longer here. Q. You mean the entry of that receipt was already entered in the ledger? A. Yes.36 In the face of the palpable flaws infecting the Prosecutions evidence, it should come as no surprise that petitioners counsel interposed timely objections. Yet, the RTC mysteriously overruled the objections and allowedthe Prosecutionto present the unauthenticated ledgers, as follows: (Continuation of the Witness Karen Guivencan on September 11, 2002) ATTY. ZERNA: CONTINUATION OF DIRECT-EXAMINATION Q Ms. Witness, last time around you were showing us several ledgers. Where is it now? A It is here. Q Here is a ledger of one Divina Cadilig. This Divina Cadilig, how much is her account in your office? ATTY. DIEZ: Your Honor please before the witness will proceed to answer the question, let me interpose our objection on the ground that this ledger has not been duly identified to by the person who made the same. This witness will be testifying on hearsay matters because the supposed ledger was not identified to by the person who made the same. COURT: Those ledgers were already presented in the last hearing. I think they were already duly identified by this witness. As a matter of fact, it was she who brought them to court (Next Page) COURT (cont.): because these were the ledgers on file in their office. ATTY. DIEZ Direct Examination of

That is correct, Your Honor, but the person who made the entries is not this witness, Your Honor. How do we know that the entries there is (sic) correct on the receipts submitted to their office. COURT: Precisely, she brought along the receipts also to support that. Let the witness answer. WITNESS: A Its the office clerk in-charge. COURT: The one who prepared the ledger is the office clerk. ATTY. ZERNA: She is an auditor, Your Honor. She has been qualified and she is the auditor of Footluckers. COURT: I think, I remember in the last setting also, she testified where those entries were taken. So, you answer the query of counsel. xxx ATTY. DIEZ: Your Honor please, to avoid delay, may I interpose a continuing objection to the questions profounded(sic) on those ledgers on the ground that, as I have said, it is hearsay. COURT: Okey(sic). Let the continuing objection be noted. Q (To Witness) The clerk who allegedly was the one who prepared the entries on those ledgers, is she still connected with Footluckers? A She is no longer connected now, Your Honor, COURT: Alright proceed. (Next Page) ATTY. ZERNA: Your Honor, these are entries in the normal course of business. So, exempt from the hearsay rule. COURT: Okey(sic), proceed.37 The mystery shrouding the RTCs soft treatment of the Prosecutions flawed presentation was avoidable s imply by the RTC adhering to the instructions of the rules earlier quoted, as well as withSection 22 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court,which contains instructions on how to prove the genuineness of a handwriting in a judicial proceeding, as follows: Section 22. How genuineness of handwriting proved. The handwriting of a person may be proved by any witness who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person write, or has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or been charged, and has thus acquired knowledge of the handwriting of such person. Evidence respecting the handwriting may also be given by a comparison, made by the witness or the court, with writings admitted or treated as genuine by the party against whom the evidence is offered, or proved to be genuine to the satisfaction of the judge. (Emphases supplied) If it is already clear that Go and Guivencan had not themselves seen the execution or signing of the documents,the Prosecution surely did not authenticate Exhibits B to YY and their derivatives conformably with the aforequoted rules. Hence, Exhibits B to YY, and their derivatives, inclusive, were inescapably bereft of probative value as evidence. That was the onlyfair and just result, as the Court held in Malayan Insurance Co., Inc. v. Philippine Nails and Wires Corporation:38

On the first issue, petitioner Malayan Insurance Co., Inc., contends that Jeanne Kings testimony was hearsay because she had no personal knowledge of the execution of the documents supporting respondents cause of action, such as the sales contract, invoice, packing list, bill of lading, SGS Report, and the Marine Cargo Policy. Petitioner avers that even though King was personally assigned to handle and monitor the importation of Philippine Nails and Wires Corporation, herein respondent, this cannot be equated with personal knowledge of the facts which gave rise to respondents cause of action. Further, petitioner asserts, even though she personally prepared the summary of weight of steel billets received by respondent, she did not have personal knowledge of the weight of steel billets actually shipped and delivered. At the outset, we must stress that respondents cause of action is founded on breach of insurance contract covering cargo consisting of imported steel billets. To hold petitioner liable, respondent has to prove, first, its importation of 10,053.400 metric tons of steel billets valued at P67,156,300.00, and second, the actual steel billets delivered to and received by the importer, namely the respondent. Witness Jeanne King, who was assigned to handle respondents importations, including their insurance coverage, h as personal knowledge of the volume of steel billets being imported, and therefore competent to testify thereon. Her testimony is not hearsay, as this doctrine is defined in Section 36, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.However, she is not qualified to testify on the shortage in the delivery of the imported steel billets. She did not have personal knowledge of the actual steel billets received. Even though she prepared the summary of the received steel billets, she based the summary only on the receipts prepared by other persons. Her testimony on steel billets received was hearsay. It has no probative value even if not objected to at the trial. On the second issue, petitioner avers that King failed to properly authenticate respondents documentary evidence. Under Section 20, Rule 132, Rules of Court, before a private document is admitted in evidence, it must be authenticated either by the person who executed it, the person before whom its execution was acknowledged, any person who was present and saw it executed, or who after its execution, saw it and recognized the signatures, or the person to whom the parties to the instruments had previously confessed execution thereof. In this case, respondent admits that King was none of the aforementioned persons . She merely made the summary of the weight of steel billets based on the unauthenticated bill of lading and the SGS report. Thus, the summary of steel billets actually received had no proven real basis, and Kings testimony on this point could not be taken at face value. xxx Under the rules on evidence, documents are either public or private. Private documents are those that do not fall under any of the enumerations in Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.Section 20of the same law, in turn, provides that before any private document is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either by anyone who saw the document executed or written, or by evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker. Here, respondents documentary exhibits are private documents. They are not among those enumerated in Section 19, thus, their due execution and authenticity need to be proved before they can be admitted in evidence.With the exception concerning the summary of the weight of the steel billets imported, respondent presented no supporting evidence concerning their authenticity. Consequently, they cannot be utilized to prove less of the insured cargo and/or the short delivery of the imported steel billets. In sum, we find no sufficient competent evidence to prove petitioners liability. That the Prosecutions evidence was left uncontested because petitioner decided not to subject Guivencan to cross-examination, and did not tender her contrary evidencewas inconsequential. Although the trial court had overruled the seasonable objections to Guivencans testimony bypetitioners counsel due to the hearsay character, it could not be denied thathearsay evidence, whether objected to or not, had no probative value.39Verily, the flaws of the Prosecutions evidence were fundamental and substantive, not merely technical and procedural, and were defects that the adverse partys waiver of her cross -examination or failure to rebutcould not set right or cure. Nor did the trial courts overruling of petitioners objections imbue the flawed evidence with any virtue and value. Curiously, the RTC excepted the entries in the ledgers from the application of the hearsay rule by also terselystating that the ledgers "were prepared in the regular course of business." 40Seemingly, the RTC applied Section 43, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, to wit: Section 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.

This was another grave error of the RTC.The terse yet sweeping mannerof justifying the application of Section 43 was unacceptable due to the need to show the concurrence of the several requisites before entries in the course of business could be excepted from the hearsay rule. The requisites are as follows: (a) The person who made the entry must be dead or unable to testify; (b) The entries were made at or near the time of the transactions to which they refer; (c) The entrant was in a position to know the facts stated in the entries; (d) The entries were made in his professional capacity or in the performance of a duty, whether legal, contractual, moral, or religious; (e) The entries were made in the ordinary or regular course of business or duty.41 The Court has to acquit petitioner for failure of the State to establish her guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The Court reiterates that in the trial of every criminal case, a judge must rigidly test the States evidence of guilt in order to ensure that such evidence adhered to the basic rules of admissibility before pronouncing an accused guilty of the crime charged upon such evidence. The failure of the judge to do so herein nullified the guarantee of due of process of law in favor of the accused, who had no obligation to prove her innocence. Heracquittal should follow. IV No reliable evidence on damage Conformably with finding the evidence of guilt unreliable, the Court declares that the disposition by the RTC ordering petitioner to indemnify Footluckers in the amount of P131,286.92 with interest of 12% per annum until fully paid was not yet shown to be factually founded. Yet, she cannot now be absolved of civil liability on that basis. Heracquittal has to bedeclared as without prejudice to the filing of a civil action against her for the recovery of any amount that she may still owe to Footluckers.1wphi1 WHEREFORE, the Court SETS ASIDE ANDREVERSESthe decision convicting ANNA LERIMA PATULAof estafa as charged, and ACQUITS her for failure of the Prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, without prejudice to a civil action brought against her for the recoveryof any amount still owing in favor of Footluckers Chain of Stores, Inc. No pronouncement on costs of suit. SO ORDERED.