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THIRD DIVISION

RAFAEL ARSENIO S. DIZON, in his


capacity as the Judicial Administrator of
the Estate of the deceased JOSE P.
FERNANDEZ,
Petitioner,
- versus -

G.R. No. 140944


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

COURT OF TAX APPEALS


Promulgated:
andCOMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL
REVENUE,
April 30, 2008
Respondents.
x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Civil Procedure seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA)
Decision[2] dated April 30, 1999 which affirmed the Decision[3] of the Court of Tax
Appeals (CTA) dated June 17, 1997.[4]
The Facts
On November 7, 1987, Jose P. Fernandez (Jose) died. Thereafter, a petition
for the probate of his will[5] was filed with Branch 51 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Manila (probate court).[6] The probate court then appointed retired
Supreme Court Justice Arsenio P. Dizon (Justice Dizon) and petitioner, Atty. Rafael
Arsenio P. Dizon (petitioner) as Special and Assistant Special Administrator,
respectively, of the Estate of Jose (Estate). In a letter[7] dated October 13, 1988,

Justice Dizon informed respondent Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal


Revenue (BIR) of the special proceedings for the Estate.
Petitioner alleged that several requests for extension of the period to file the
required estate tax return were granted by the BIR since the assets of the estate, as
well as the claims against it, had yet to be collated, determined and identified.
Thus, in a letter[8] dated March 14, 1990, Justice Dizon authorized Atty. Jesus M.
Gonzales (Atty. Gonzales) to sign and file on behalf of the Estate the required
estate tax return and to represent the same in securing a Certificate of Tax
Clearance. Eventually, on April 17, 1990, Atty. Gonzales wrote a letter [9] addressed
to the BIR Regional Director for San Pablo City and filed the estate tax
return[10] with the same BIR Regional Office, showing therein a NIL estate tax
liability, computed as follows:

COMPUTATION OF TAX
Conjugal Real Property (Sch. 1)
Conjugal Personal Property (Sch.2)
Taxable Transfer (Sch. 3)
Gross Conjugal Estate
Less: Deductions (Sch. 4)
Net Conjugal Estate
Less: Share of Surviving Spouse
Net Share in Conjugal Estate
xxx
Net Taxable Estate
Estate Tax Due

P10,855,020.00
3,460,591.34
14,315,611.34
187,822,576.06
NIL
NIL
NIL
NIL

NIL
.[11]

.
.

On April 27, 1990, BIR Regional Director for San Pablo City, Osmundo G.
Umali issued Certification Nos. 2052[12] and 2053[13] stating that the taxes due on
the transfer of real and personal properties [14] of Jose had been fully paid and said
properties may be transferred to his heirs. Sometime in August 1990, Justice Dizon
passed away. Thus, on October 22, 1990, the probate court appointed petitioner as
the administrator of the Estate.[15]
Petitioner requested the probate court's authority to sell several properties
forming part of the Estate, for the purpose of paying its creditors, namely:
Equitable Banking Corporation (P19,756,428.31), Banque de L'Indochine et. de
Suez (US$4,828,905.90 as of January 31, 1988), Manila Banking Corporation
(P84,199,160.46 as of February 28, 1989) and State Investment House, Inc.
(P6,280,006.21). Petitioner manifested that Manila Bank, a major creditor of
the Estate was not included, as it did not file a claim with the probate court since it
had security over several real estate properties forming part of the Estate.[16]
However, on November 26, 1991, the Assistant Commissioner for Collection
of the BIR, Themistocles Montalban, issued Estate Tax Assessment Notice No.
FAS-E-87-91-003269,[17] demanding the payment of P66,973,985.40 as deficiency
estate tax, itemized as follows:

Deficiency Estate Tax- 1987


Estate tax
25% surcharge- late filing
late payment
Interest
Compromise-non filing
non payment
no notice of death
no CPA Certificate
Total amount due & collectible

P31,868,414.48
7,967,103.62
7,967,103.62
19,121,048.68
25,000.00
25,000.00
15.00
300.00
P66,973,985.40[18]

In his letter[19] dated December 12, 1991, Atty. Gonzales moved for the
reconsideration of the said estate tax assessment. However, in her
letter[20] datedApril 12, 1994, the BIR Commissioner denied the request and
reiterated that the estate is liable for the payment of P66,973,985.40 as deficiency
estate tax. On May 3, 1994, petitioner received the letter of denial. On June 2,
1994, petitioner filed a petition for review [21] before respondent CTA. Trial on the
merits ensued.
As found by the CTA, the respective parties presented the following pieces
of evidence, to wit:
In the hearings conducted, petitioner did not present testimonial
evidence but merely documentary evidence consisting of the following:
Nature

of

(sic)
1.

Letter dated October 13, 1988


from Arsenio P. Dizon addressed
to the Commissioner of Internal
Revenue informing the latter of
the special proceedings for the

Document
Exhibits

2.

3.

4.

settlement of the estate (p. 126,


BIR records);

"A"

Petition for the probate of the


will and issuance of letter of
administration filed with the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Manila, docketed as Sp. Proc.
No. 87-42980 (pp. 107-108, BIR
records);

"B" & "B-1

Pleading entitled "Compliance"


filed with the probate Court
submitting the final inventory
of all the properties of the
deceased (p. 106, BIR records);

"C"

Attachment to Exh. "C" which


is the detailed and complete
listing of the properties of
the deceased (pp. 89-105, BIR rec.);

"C-1" to "C-17"

5.

Claims against the estate filed


by Equitable Banking Corp. with
the probate Court in the amount
of P19,756,428.31 as of March 31,
1988, together with the Annexes
to the claim (pp. 64-88, BIR records); "D" to "D-24"

6.

Claim filed by Banque de L'


Indochine et de Suez with the
probate Court in the amount of
US $4,828,905.90 as of January 31,
1988 (pp. 262-265, BIR records);

7.

Claim of the Manila Banking


Corporation (MBC) which as of
November 7, 1987 amounts to
P65,158,023.54, but recomputed
as of February 28, 1989 at a
total amount of P84,199,160.46;

"E" to "E-3"

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

together with the demand letter


from MBC's lawyer (pp. 194-197,
BIR records);

"F" to "F-3"

Demand letter of Manila Banking


Corporation prepared by Asedillo,
Ramos and Associates Law Offices
addressed to Fernandez Hermanos,
Inc., represented by Jose P.
Fernandez, as mortgagors, in the
total amount of P240,479,693.17
as of February 28, 1989
(pp. 186-187, BIR records);

"G" & "G-1"

Claim of State Investment


House, Inc. filed with the
RTC, Branch VII of Manila,
docketed as Civil Case No.
86-38599 entitled "State
Investment House, Inc.,
Plaintiff, versus Maritime
Company Overseas, Inc. and/or
Jose P. Fernandez, Defendants,"
(pp. 200-215, BIR records);

"H" to "H-16"

Letter dated March 14, 1990


of Arsenio P. Dizon addressed
to Atty. Jesus M. Gonzales,
(p. 184, BIR records);

"I"

Letter dated April 17, 1990


from J.M. Gonzales addressed
to the Regional Director of
BIR in San Pablo City
(p. 183, BIR records);

"J"

Estate Tax Return filed by


the estate of the late Jose P.
Fernandez through its authorized
representative, Atty. Jesus M.
Gonzales, for Arsenio P. Dizon,

with attachments (pp. 177-182,


BIR records);

"K" to "K-5"

13.

14.

Certified true copy of the


Letter of Administration
issued by RTC Manila, Branch
51, in Sp. Proc. No. 87-42980
appointing Atty. Rafael S.
Dizon as Judicial Administrator
of the estate of Jose P.
Fernandez; (p. 102, CTA records)
and

"L"

Certification of Payment of
estate taxes Nos. 2052 and
2053, both dated April 27, 1990,
issued by the Office of the
Regional Director, Revenue
Region No. 4-C, San Pablo
City, with attachments
(pp. 103-104, CTA records.).

"M" to "M-5"

Respondent's [BIR] counsel presented on June 26, 1995 one


witness in the person of Alberto Enriquez, who was one of the
revenue examiners who conducted the investigation on the estate tax
case of the late Jose P. Fernandez. In the course of the direct
examination of the witness, he identified the following:

1.
2.

3.

Documents/
Signatures

BIR Record

Estate Tax Return prepared by


the BIR;

p. 138

Signatures of Ma. Anabella


Abuloc and Alberto Enriquez,
Jr. appearing at the lower
Portion of Exh. "1";

-do-

Memorandum for the Commissioner,


dated July 19, 1991, prepared by
revenue examiners, Ma. Anabella A.
Abuloc, Alberto S. Enriquez and
Raymund S. Gallardo; Reviewed by

Maximino V. Tagle
4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

pp. 143-144

Signature of Alberto S.
Enriquez appearing at the
lower portion on p. 2 of Exh. "2";

-do-

Signature of Ma. Anabella A.


Abuloc appearing at the
lower portion on p. 2 of Exh. "2";

-do-

Signature of Raymund S.
Gallardo appearing at the
Lower portion on p. 2 of Exh. "2";

-do-

Signature of Maximino V.
Tagle also appearing on
p. 2 of Exh. "2";

-do-

Summary of revenue
Enforcement Officers Audit
Report, dated July 19, 1991;

p. 139

Signature of Alberto
Enriquez at the lower
portion of Exh. "3";

-do-

Signature of Ma. Anabella A.


Abuloc at the lower
portion of Exh. "3";

-do-

Signature of Raymond S.
Gallardo at the lower
portion of Exh. "3";

-do-

Signature of Maximino
V. Tagle at the lower
portion of Exh. "3";

-do-

Demand letter (FAS-E-87-91-00),


signed by the Asst. Commissioner
for Collection for the Commissioner

14.

of Internal Revenue, demanding


payment of the amount of
P66,973,985.40; and

p. 169

Assessment Notice FAS-E-87-91-00

pp. 169-170[22]

The CTA's Ruling


On June 17, 1997, the CTA denied the said petition for review. Citing this
Court's ruling in Vda. de Oate v. Court of Appeals,[23] the CTA opined that the
aforementioned pieces of evidence introduced by the BIR were admissible in
evidence. The CTA ratiocinated:
Although the above-mentioned documents were not formally offered as
evidence for respondent, considering that respondent has been declared
to have waived the presentation thereof during the hearing on March 20,
1996, still they could be considered as evidence for respondent since
they were properly identified during the presentation of respondent's
witness, whose testimony was duly recorded as part of the records of this
case. Besides, the documents marked as respondent's exhibits formed
part of the BIR records of the case.[24]

Nevertheless, the CTA did not fully adopt the assessment made by the BIR and it
came up with its own computation of the deficiency estate tax, to wit:
Conjugal Real Property
Conjugal Personal Prop.
Gross Conjugal Estate
Less: Deductions
Net Conjugal Estate
Less: Share of Surviving Spouse
Net Share in Conjugal Estate
Add: Capital/Paraphernal
Properties P44,652,813.66
Less: Capital/Paraphernal
Deductions
Net Taxable Estate

P 5,062,016.00
33,021,999.93
38,084,015.93
26,250,000.00
P 11,834,015.93
5,917,007.96
P 5,917,007.96

44,652,813.66
P 50,569,821.62

============
Estate Tax Due P 29,935,342.97
Add: 25% Surcharge for Late Filing
Add: Penalties for-No notice of death
No CPA certificate
Total deficiency estate tax

7,483,835.74
15.00
300.00
P 37,419,493.71
=============

exclusive of 20% interest from due date of its payment until full payment
thereof
[Sec. 283 (b), Tax Code of 1987].[25]

Thus, the CTA disposed of the case in this wise:


WHEREFORE, viewed from all the foregoing, the Court finds
the petition unmeritorious and denies the same. Petitioner and/or the
heirs of Jose P. Fernandez are hereby ordered to pay to respondent the
amount of P37,419,493.71 plus 20% interest from the due date of its
payment until full payment thereof as estate tax liability of the estate of
Jose P. Fernandez who died on November 7, 1987.
SO ORDERED.[26]

Aggrieved, petitioner, on March 2, 1998, went to the CA via a petition for


review.[27]
The CA's Ruling

On April 30, 1999, the CA affirmed the CTA's ruling. Adopting in full the
CTA's findings, the CA ruled that the petitioner's act of filing an estate tax return
with the BIR and the issuance of BIR Certification Nos. 2052 and 2053 did not
deprive the BIR Commissioner of her authority to re-examine or re-assess the said
return filed on behalf of the Estate.[28]

On May 31, 1999, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration [29] which the
CA denied in its Resolution[30] dated November 3, 1999.
Hence, the instant Petition raising the following issues:
1. Whether or not the admission of evidence which were not formally
offered by the respondent BIR by the Court of Tax Appeals which
was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals is contrary to the
Rules of Court and rulings of this Honorable Court;
2. Whether or not the Court of Tax Appeals and the Court of Appeals
erred in recognizing/considering the estate tax return prepared and
filed by respondent BIR knowing that the probate court appointed
administrator of the estate of Jose P. Fernandez had previously filed
one as in fact, BIR Certification Clearance Nos. 2052 and 2053 had
been issued in the estate's favor;
3. Whether or not the Court of Tax Appeals and the Court of Appeals
erred in disallowing the valid and enforceable claims of creditors
against the estate, as lawful deductions despite clear and convincing
evidence thereof; and
4. Whether or not the Court of Tax Appeals and the Court of Appeals
erred in validating erroneous double imputation of values on the very
same estate properties in the estate tax return it prepared and filed
which effectively bloated the estate's assets. [31]

The petitioner claims that in as much as the valid claims of creditors against
the Estate are in excess of the gross estate, no estate tax was due; that the lack of a
formal offer of evidence is fatal to BIR's cause; that the doctrine laid down in Vda.
de Oate has already been abandoned in a long line of cases in which the Court
held that evidence not formally offered is without any weight or value; that Section
34 of Rule 132 of the Rules on Evidence requiring a formal offer of evidence is
mandatory in character; that, while BIR's witness Alberto Enriquez (Alberto) in his
testimony before the CTA identified the pieces of evidence aforementioned such
that the same were marked, BIR's failure to formally offer said pieces of evidence
and depriving petitioner the opportunity to cross-examine Alberto, render the same

inadmissible in evidence; that assuming arguendo that the ruling in Vda. de


Oate is still applicable, BIR failed to comply with the doctrine's requisites
because the documents herein remained simply part of the BIR records and were
not duly incorporated in the court records; that the BIR failed to consider that
although the actual payments made to the Estate creditors were lower than their
respective claims, such were compromise agreements reached long after the
Estate's liability had been settled by the filing of its estate tax return and the
issuance of BIR Certification Nos. 2052 and 2053; and that the reckoning date of
the claims against the Estate and the settlement of the estate tax due should be at
the time the estate tax return was filed by the judicial administrator and the
issuance of said BIR Certifications and not at the time the aforementioned
Compromise Agreements were entered into with the Estate's creditors.[32]
On the other hand, respondent counters that the documents, being part of the
records of the case and duly identified in a duly recorded testimony are considered
evidence even if the same were not formally offered; that the filing of the estate tax
return by the Estate and the issuance of BIR Certification Nos. 2052 and 2053 did
not deprive the BIR of its authority to examine the return and assess the estate tax;
and that the factual findings of the CTA as affirmed by the CA may no longer be
reviewed by this Court via a petition for review.[33]
The Issues
There are two ultimate issues which require resolution in this case:
First. Whether or not the CTA and the CA gravely erred in allowing the
admission of the pieces of evidence which were not formally offered by the BIR;
and
Second. Whether or not the CA erred in affirming the CTA in the latter's
determination of the deficiency estate tax imposed against the Estate.
The Courts Ruling
The Petition is impressed with merit.

Under Section 8 of RA 1125, the CTA is categorically described as a court


of record. As cases filed before it are litigated de novo, party-litigants shall prove
every minute aspect of their cases. Indubitably, no evidentiary value can be given
the pieces of evidence submitted by the BIR, as the rules on documentary evidence
require that these documents must be formally offered before the CTA.
[34]
Pertinent is Section 34, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence which
reads:
SEC. 34. Offer of evidence. The court shall consider no
evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose for which
the evidence is offered must be specified.

The CTA and the CA rely solely on the case of Vda. de Oate, which
reiterated this Court's previous rulings in People v. Napat-a[35] and People v.
Mate[36]on the admission and consideration of exhibits which were not formally
offered during the trial. Although in a long line of cases many of which were
decided afterVda. de Oate, we held that courts cannot consider evidence which
has not been formally offered,[37] nevertheless, petitioner cannot validly assume
that the doctrine laid down in Vda. de Oate has already been abandoned.
Recently, in Ramos v. Dizon,[38] this Court, applying the said doctrine, ruled that the
trial court judge therein committed no error when he admitted and considered the
respondents' exhibits in the resolution of the case, notwithstanding the fact that the
same were not formally offered. Likewise, in Far East Bank & Trust Company v.
Commissioner of Internal Revenue,[39] the Court made reference to said doctrine in
resolving the issues therein. Indubitably, the doctrine laid down in Vda. De
Oate still subsists in this jurisdiction. In Vda. de Oate, we held that:
From the foregoing provision, it is clear that for evidence to be
considered, the same must be formally offered. Corollarily, the mere fact
that a particular document is identified and marked as an exhibit does not
mean that it has already been offered as part of the evidence of a party.
In Interpacific Transit, Inc. v. Aviles [186 SCRA 385], we had the
occasion to make a distinction between identification of documentary
evidence and its formal offer as an exhibit. We said that the first is done
in the course of the trial and is accompanied by the marking of the
evidence as an exhibit while the second is done only when the party rests
its case and not before. A party, therefore, may opt to formally offer his
evidence if he believes that it will advance his cause or not to do so at
all. In the event he chooses to do the latter, the trial court is not
authorized by the Rules to consider the same.
However, in People v. Napat-a [179 SCRA 403] citing People v.
Mate [103 SCRA 484], we relaxed the foregoing rule and allowed
evidence not formally offered to be admitted and considered by the
trial court provided the following requirements are present, viz.:
first, the same must have been duly identified by testimony duly
recorded and, second, the same must have been incorporated in the
records of the case.[40]

From the foregoing declaration, however, it is clear that Vda. de Oate is


merely an exception to the general rule. Being an exception, it may be applied
only when there is strict compliance with the requisites mentioned therein;
otherwise, the general rule in Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court should
prevail.
In this case, we find that these requirements have not been satisfied. The
assailed pieces of evidence were presented and marked during the trial particularly
when Alberto took the witness stand. Alberto identified these pieces of evidence in
his direct testimony.[41] He was also subjected to cross-examination and re-cross
examination by petitioner.[42] But Albertos account and the exchanges between
Alberto and petitioner did not sufficiently describe the contents of the said pieces
of evidence presented by the BIR. In fact, petitioner sought that the lead examiner,
one Ma. Anabella A. Abuloc, be summoned to testify, inasmuch as Alberto was
incompetent to answer questions relative to the working papers. [43] The lead
examiner never testified. Moreover, while Alberto's testimony identifying the BIR's
evidence was duly recorded, the BIR documents themselves were not incorporated
in the records of the case.
A common fact threads through Vda. de Oate and Ramos that does not exist
at all in the instant case. In the aforementioned cases, the exhibits were marked at
the pre-trial proceedings to warrant the pronouncement that the same were duly
incorporated in the records of the case. Thus, we held in Ramos:
In this case, we find and so rule that these requirements have been
satisfied. The exhibits in question were presented and marked during
the pre-trial of the case thus, they have been incorporated into the
records. Further, Elpidio himself explained the contents of these exhibits
when he was interrogated by respondents' counsel...
xxxx
But what further defeats petitioner's cause on this issue is that
respondents' exhibits were marked and admitted during the pre-trial
stage as shown by the Pre-Trial Order quoted earlier.[44]

While the CTA is not governed strictly by technical rules of evidence, [45] as
rules of procedure are not ends in themselves and are primarily intended as tools in
the administration of justice, the presentation of the BIR's evidence is not a mere
procedural technicality which may be disregarded considering that it is the only
means by which the CTA may ascertain and verify the truth of BIR's claims against
the Estate.[46] The BIR's failure to formally offer these pieces of evidence, despite
CTA's directives, is fatal to its cause.[47] Such failure is aggravated by the fact that
not even a single reason was advanced by the BIR to justify such fatal omission.
This, we take against the BIR.
Per the records of this case, the BIR was directed to present its evidence [48] in
the hearing of February 21, 1996, but BIR's counsel failed to appear.[49] The CTA
denied petitioner's motion to consider BIR's presentation of evidence as waived,
with a warning to BIR that such presentation would be considered waived if BIR's
evidence would not be presented at the next hearing. Again, in the hearing of
March 20, 1996, BIR's counsel failed to appear.[50] Thus, in its Resolution[51]dated
March 21, 1996, the CTA considered the BIR to have waived presentation of its
evidence. In the same Resolution, the parties were directed to file their respective
memorandum. Petitioner complied but BIR failed to do so. [52] In all of these
proceedings, BIR was duly notified. Hence, in this case, we are constrained to
apply our ruling in Heirs of Pedro Pasag v. Parocha:[53]
A formal offer is necessary because judges are mandated to rest
their findings of facts and their judgment only and strictly upon the
evidence offered by the parties at the trial. Its function is to enable the
trial judge to know the purpose or purposes for which the proponent is
presenting the evidence. On the other hand, this allows opposing parties
to examine the evidence and object to its admissibility. Moreover, it
facilitates review as the appellate court will not be required to review
documents not previously scrutinized by the trial court.
Strict adherence to the said rule is not a trivial matter. The Court
in Constantino v. Court of Appeals ruled that the formal offer of one's
evidence is deemed waived after failing to submit it within a
considerable period of time. It explained that the court cannot admit
an offer of evidence made after a lapse of three (3) months because
to do so would "condone an inexcusable laxity if not non-compliance

with a court order which, in effect, would encourage needless delays


and derail the speedy administration of justice."
Applying the aforementioned principle in this case, we find that
the trial court had reasonable ground to consider that petitioners had
waived their right to make a formal offer of documentary or object
evidence. Despite several extensions of time to make their formal offer,
petitioners failed to comply with their commitment and allowed almost
five months to lapse before finally submitting it. Petitioners' failure to
comply with the rule on admissibility of evidence is anathema to the
efficient, effective, and expeditious dispensation of justice.

Having disposed of the foregoing procedural issue, we proceed to discuss the


merits of the case.
Ordinarily, the CTA's findings, as affirmed by the CA, are entitled to the
highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is shown that the lower
courts committed gross error in the appreciation of facts. [54] In this case, however,
we find the decision of the CA affirming that of the CTA tainted with palpable
error.
It is admitted that the claims of the Estate's aforementioned creditors have
been condoned. As a mode of extinguishing an obligation, [55] condonation or
remission of debt[56] is defined as:
an act of liberality, by virtue of which, without receiving any equivalent,
the creditor renounces the enforcement of the obligation, which is
extinguished in its entirety or in that part or aspect of the same to which
the remission refers. It is an essential characteristic of remission that it
be gratuitous, that there is no equivalent received for the benefit given;
once such equivalent exists, the nature of the act changes. It may become
dation in payment when the creditor receives a thing different from that
stipulated; or novation, when the object or principal conditions of the
obligation should be changed; or compromise, when the matter
renounced is in litigation or dispute and in exchange of some concession
which the creditor receives.[57]

Verily, the second issue in this case involves the construction of Section
79 of the National Internal Revenue Code[59] (Tax Code) which provides for the
allowable deductions from the gross estate of the decedent. The specific question is
whether the actual claims of the aforementioned creditors may be fully allowed as
deductions from the gross estate of Jose despite the fact that the said claims were
reduced or condoned through compromise agreements entered into by the Estate
with its creditors.
[58]

Claims against the estate, as allowable deductions from the gross estate
under Section 79 of the Tax Code, are basically a reproduction of the deductions
allowed under Section 89 (a) (1) (C) and (E) of Commonwealth Act No. 466 (CA
466), otherwise known as the National Internal Revenue Code of 1939, and which
was the first codification of Philippine tax laws. Philippine tax laws were, in turn,
based on the federal tax laws of the United States. Thus, pursuant to established
rules of statutory construction, the decisions of American courts construing the
federal tax code are entitled to great weight in the interpretation of our own tax
laws.[60]
It is noteworthy that even in the United States, there is some dispute as to
whether the deductible amount for a claim against the estate is fixed as of the
decedent's death which is the general rule, or the same should be adjusted to reflect
post-death developments, such as where a settlement between the parties results in
the reduction of the amount actually paid. [61] On one hand, the U.S. court ruled that
the appropriate deduction is the value that the claim had at the date of the
decedent's death.[62] Also, as held in Propstra v. U.S., [63] where a lien claimed
against the estate was certain and enforceable on the date of the decedent's death,
the fact that the claimant subsequently settled for lesser amount did not preclude
the estate from deducting the entire amount of the claim for estate tax
purposes. These pronouncements essentially confirm the general principle that
post-death developments are not material in determining the amount of the
deduction.
On the other hand, the Internal Revenue Service (Service) opines that postdeath settlement should be taken into consideration and the claim should be

allowed as a deduction only to the extent of the amount actually paid.


[64]
Recognizing the dispute, the Service released Proposed Regulations in 2007
mandating that the deduction would be limited to the actual amount paid.[65]
In announcing its agreement with Propstra,[66] the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of
Appeals held:
We are persuaded that the Ninth Circuit's decision...in Propstra correctly
apply the Ithaca Trust date-of-death valuation principle to enforceable
claims against the estate. As we interpret Ithaca Trust, when the
Supreme Court announced the date-of-death valuation principle, it was
making a judgment about the nature of the federal estate tax specifically,
that it is a tax imposed on the act of transferring property by will or
intestacy and, because the act on which the tax is levied occurs at a
discrete time, i.e., the instance of death, the net value of the property
transferred should be ascertained, as nearly as possible, as of that time.
This analysis supports broad application of the date-of-death valuation
rule.[67]

We express our agreement with the date-of-death valuation rule, made


pursuant to the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Ithaca Trust Co. v. United
States.[68]First. There is no law, nor do we discern any legislative intent in our tax
laws, which disregards the date-of-death valuation principle and particularly
provides that post-death developments must be considered in determining the net
value of the estate. It bears emphasis that tax burdens are not to be imposed, nor
presumed to be imposed, beyond what the statute expressly and clearly imports,
tax statutes being construed strictissimi juris against the government.[69] Any doubt
on whether a person, article or activity is taxable is generally resolved against
taxation.[70] Second. Such construction finds relevance and consistency in our Rules
on Special Proceedings wherein the term "claims" required to be presented against
a decedent's estate is generally construed to mean debts or demands of a pecuniary
nature which could have been enforced against the deceased in his lifetime, or
liability contracted by the deceased before his death.[71] Therefore, the claims
existing at the time of death are significant to, and should be made the basis of, the
determination of allowable deductions.

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is GRANTED. Accordingly, the


assailed Decision dated April 30, 1999 and the Resolution dated November 3,
1999 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. S.P. No. 46947
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Bureau of Internal Revenue's deficiency
estate tax assessment against the Estate of Jose P. Fernandez is
hereby NULLIFIED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 170338

December 23, 2008

VIRGILIO O. GARCILLANO, petitioner,


vs.
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEES ON PUBLIC INFORMATION, PUBLIC
ORDER AND SAFETY, NATIONAL DEFENSE AND SECURITY, INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY, and SUFFRAGE AND ELECTORAL
REFORMS, respondents.
x----------------------x
G.R. No. 179275

December 23, 2008

SANTIAGO JAVIER RANADA and OSWALDO D. AGCAOILI, petitioners,


vs.
THE SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY THE SENATE
PRESIDENT THE HONORABLE MANUEL VILLAR, respondents.
x----------------------x
MAJ. LINDSAY REX SAGGE, petitioner-in-intervention
x----------------------x
AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR., BENIGNO NOYNOY C. AQUINO, RODOLFO G. BIAZON,
PANFILO M. LACSON, LOREN B. LEGARDA, M.A. JAMBY A.S. MADRIGAL, and ANTONIO F.
TRILLANES, respondents-intervenors
DECISION
NACHURA, J.:
More than three years ago, tapes ostensibly containing a wiretapped conversation purportedly
between the President of the Philippines and a high-ranking official of the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) surfaced. They captured unprecedented public attention and thrust the country into a
controversy that placed the legitimacy of the present administration on the line, and resulted in the
near-collapse of the Arroyo government. The tapes, notoriously referred to as the "Hello Garci"
tapes, allegedly contained the Presidents instructions to COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio
Garcillano to manipulate in her favor results of the 2004 presidential elections. These recordings

were to become the subject of heated legislative hearings conducted separately by committees of
both Houses of Congress.1
In the House of Representatives (House), on June 8, 2005, then Minority Floor Leader Francis G.
Escudero delivered a privilege speech, "Tale of Two Tapes," and set in motion a congressional
investigation jointly conducted by the Committees on Public Information, Public Order and Safety,
National Defense and Security, Information and Communications Technology, and Suffrage and
Electoral Reforms (respondent House Committees). During the inquiry, several versions of the
wiretapped conversation emerged. But on July 5, 2005, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
Director Reynaldo Wycoco, Atty. Alan Paguia and the lawyer of former NBI Deputy Director Samuel
Ong submitted to the respondent House Committees seven alleged "original" tape recordings of the
supposed three-hour taped conversation. After prolonged and impassioned debate by the committee
members on the admissibility and authenticity of the recordings, the tapes were eventually played in
the chambers of the House.2
On August 3, 2005, the respondent House Committees decided to suspend the hearings indefinitely.
Nevertheless, they decided to prepare committee reports based on the said recordings and the
testimonies of the resource persons.3
Alarmed by these developments, petitioner Virgilio O. Garcillano (Garcillano) filed with this Court a
Petition for Prohibition and Injunction, with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of
Preliminary Injunction4docketed as G.R. No. 170338. He prayed that the respondent House
Committees be restrained from using these tape recordings of the "illegally obtained" wiretapped
conversations in their committee reports and for any other purpose. He further implored that the said
recordings and any reference thereto be ordered stricken off the records of the inquiry, and the
respondent House Committees directed to desist from further using the recordings in any of the
House proceedings.5
Without reaching its denouement, the House discussion and debates on the "Garci tapes" abruptly
stopped.
After more than two years of quiescence, Senator Panfilo Lacson roused the slumbering issue with a
privilege speech, "The Lighthouse That Brought Darkness." In his discourse, Senator Lacson
promised to provide the public "the whole unvarnished truth the whats, whens, wheres, whos and
whys" of the alleged wiretap, and sought an inquiry into the perceived willingness of
telecommunications providers to participate in nefarious wiretapping activities.
On motion of Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator Lacsons speech was referred to the Senate
Committee on National Defense and Security, chaired by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who had
previously filed two bills6 seeking to regulate the sale, purchase and use of wiretapping equipment
and to prohibit the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from performing electoral duties. 7
In the Senates plenary session the following day, a lengthy debate ensued when Senator Richard
Gordon aired his concern on the possible transgression of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 4200 8 if the body
were to conduct a legislative inquiry on the matter. On August 28, 2007, Senator Miriam DefensorSantiago delivered a privilege speech, articulating her considered view that the Constitution

absolutely bans the use, possession, replay or communication of the contents of the "Hello Garci"
tapes. However, she recommended a legislative investigation into the role of the Intelligence Service
of the AFP (ISAFP), the Philippine National Police or other government entities in the alleged illegal
wiretapping of public officials.9
On September 6, 2007, petitioners Santiago Ranada and Oswaldo Agcaoili, retired justices of the
Court of Appeals, filed before this Court a Petition for Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of a
Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writ of Preliminary Injunction, 10 docketed as G.R. No. 179275,
seeking to bar the Senate from conducting its scheduled legislative inquiry. They argued in the main
that the intended legislative inquiry violates R.A. No. 4200 and Section 3, Article III of the
Constitution.11
As the Court did not issue an injunctive writ, the Senate proceeded with its public hearings on the
"Hello Garci" tapes on September 7,12 1713 and October 1,14 2007.
Intervening as respondents,15 Senators Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., Benigno Noynoy C. Aquino,
Rodolfo G. Biazon, Panfilo M. Lacson, Loren B. Legarda, M.A. Jamby A.S. Madrigal and Antonio F.
Trillanes filed their Comment16on the petition on September 25, 2007.
The Court subsequently heard the case on oral argument. 17
On October 26, 2007, Maj. Lindsay Rex Sagge, a member of the ISAFP and one of the resource
persons summoned by the Senate to appear and testify at its hearings, moved to intervene as
petitioner in G.R. No. 179275.18
On November 20, 2007, the Court resolved to consolidate G.R. Nos. 170338 and 179275. 19
It may be noted that while both petitions involve the "Hello Garci" recordings, they have different
objectivesthe first is poised at preventing the playing of the tapes in the House and their
subsequent inclusion in the committee reports, and the second seeks to prohibit and stop the
conduct of the Senate inquiry on the wiretapped conversation.
The Court dismisses the first petition, G.R. No. 170338, and grants the second, G.R. No. 179275.
-IBefore delving into the merits of the case, the Court shall first resolve the issue on the parties
standing, argued at length in their pleadings.
In Tolentino v. COMELEC,20 we explained that "[l]egal standing or locus standi refers to a personal
and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury
because of the challenged governmental act x x x," thus,
generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally
suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the

government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is
likely to be redressed by a favorable action.21
The gist of the question of standing is whether a party has "alleged such a personal stake in the
outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation
of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional
questions."22
However, considering that locus standi is a mere procedural technicality, the Court, in recent cases,
has relaxed the stringent direct injury test. David v. Macapagal-Arroyo23 articulates that a "liberal
policy has been observed, allowing ordinary citizens, members of Congress, and civic organizations
to prosecute actions involving the constitutionality or validity of laws, regulations and rulings." 24 The
fairly recent Chavez v. Gonzales25 even permitted a non-member of the broadcast media, who failed
to allege a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy, to challenge the acts of the Secretary
of Justice and the National Telecommunications Commission. The majority, in the said case, echoed
the current policy that "this Court has repeatedly and consistently refused to wield procedural
barriers as impediments to its addressing and resolving serious legal questions that greatly impact
on public interest, in keeping with the Courts duty under the 1987 Constitution to determine whether
or not other branches of government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution and
the laws, and that they have not abused the discretion given to them."26
In G.R. No. 170338, petitioner Garcillano justifies his standing to initiate the petition by alleging that
he is the person alluded to in the "Hello Garci" tapes. Further, his was publicly identified by the
members of the respondent committees as one of the voices in the recordings. 27 Obviously,
therefore, petitioner Garcillano stands to be directly injured by the House committees actions and
charges of electoral fraud. The Court recognizes his standing to institute the petition for prohibition.
In G.R. No. 179275, petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili justify their standing by alleging that they are
concerned citizens, taxpayers, and members of the IBP. They are of the firm conviction that any
attempt to use the "Hello Garci" tapes will further divide the country. They wish to see the legal and
proper use of public funds that will necessarily be defrayed in the ensuing public hearings. They are
worried by the continuous violation of the laws and individual rights, and the blatant attempt to abuse
constitutional processes through the conduct of legislative inquiries purportedly in aid of legislation. 28
Intervenor Sagge alleges violation of his right to due process considering that he is summoned to
attend the Senate hearings without being apprised not only of his rights therein through the
publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation, but also of the
intended legislation which underpins the investigation. He further intervenes as a taxpayer bewailing
the useless and wasteful expenditure of public funds involved in the conduct of the questioned
hearings.29
Given that petitioners Ranada and Agcaoili allege an interest in the execution of the laws and that
intervenor Sagge asserts his constitutional right to due process,30 they satisfy the requisite personal
stake in the outcome of the controversy by merely being citizens of the Republic.

Following the Courts ruling in Francisco, Jr. v. The House of Representatives,31 we find sufficient
petitioners Ranadas and Agcaoilis and intervenor Sagges allegation that the continuous conduct by
the Senate of the questioned legislative inquiry will necessarily involve the expenditure of public
funds.32 It should be noted that inFrancisco, rights personal to then Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide,
Jr. had been injured by the alleged unconstitutional acts of the House of Representatives, yet the
Court granted standing to the petitioners therein for, as in this case, they invariably invoked the
vindication of their own rightsas taxpayers, members of Congress, citizens, individually or in a class
suit, and members of the bar and of the legal professionwhich were also supposedly violated by the
therein assailed unconstitutional acts.33
Likewise, a reading of the petition in G.R. No. 179275 shows that the petitioners and intervenor
Sagge advance constitutional issues which deserve the attention of this Court in view of their
seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents. The issues are of transcendental and paramount
importance not only to the public but also to the Bench and the Bar, and should be resolved for the
guidance of all.34
Thus, in the exercise of its sound discretion and given the liberal attitude it has shown in prior cases
climaxing in the more recent case of Chavez, the Court recognizes the legal standing of petitioners
Ranada and Agcaoili and intervenor Sagge.
- II The Court, however, dismisses G.R. No. 170338 for being moot and academic. Repeatedly stressed
in our prior decisions is the principle that the exercise by this Court of judicial power is limited to the
determination and resolution of actual cases and controversies.35 By actual cases, we mean existing
conflicts appropriate or ripe for judicial determination, not conjectural or anticipatory, for otherwise
the decision of the Court will amount to an advisory opinion. The power of judicial inquiry does not
extend to hypothetical questions because any attempt at abstraction could only lead to dialectics and
barren legal questions and to sterile conclusions unrelated to actualities. 36 Neither will the Court
determine a moot question in a case in which no practical relief can be granted. A case becomes
moot when its purpose has become stale.37 It is unnecessary to indulge in academic discussion of a
case presenting a moot question as a judgment thereon cannot have any practical legal effect or, in
the nature of things, cannot be enforced.38
In G.R. No. 170338, petitioner Garcillano implores from the Court, as aforementioned, the issuance
of an injunctive writ to prohibit the respondent House Committees from playing the tape recordings
and from including the same in their committee report. He likewise prays that the said tapes be
stricken off the records of the House proceedings. But the Court notes that the recordings were
already played in the House and heard by its members.39 There is also the widely publicized fact that
the committee reports on the "Hello Garci" inquiry were completed and submitted to the House in
plenary by the respondent committees.40 Having been overtaken by these events, the Garcillano
petition has to be dismissed for being moot and academic. After all, prohibition is a preventive
remedy to restrain the doing of an act about to be done, and not intended to provide a remedy for an
act already accomplished.41
- III -

As to the petition in G.R. No. 179275, the Court grants the same. The Senate cannot be allowed to
continue with the conduct of the questioned legislative inquiry without duly published rules of
procedure, in clear derogation of the constitutional requirement.
Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides that "[t]he Senate or the House of
Representatives, or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in
accordance with its duly published rules of procedure." The requisite of publication of the rules is
intended to satisfy the basic requirements of due process.42 Publication is indeed imperative, for it
will be the height of injustice to punish or otherwise burden a citizen for the transgression of a law or
rule of which he had no notice whatsoever, not even a constructive one. 43 What constitutes
publication is set forth in Article 2 of the Civil Code, which provides that "[l]aws shall take effect after
15 days following the completion of their publication either in the Official Gazette, or in a newspaper
of general circulation in the Philippines."44
The respondents in G.R. No. 179275 admit in their pleadings and even on oral argument that the
Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation had been published in
newspapers of general circulation only in 1995 and in 2006. 45 With respect to the present Senate of
the 14th Congress, however, of which the term of half of its members commenced on June 30, 2007,
no effort was undertaken for the publication of these rules when they first opened their session.
Recently, the Court had occasion to rule on this very same question. In Neri v. Senate Committee on
Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations,46 we said:
Fourth, we find merit in the argument of the OSG that respondent Committees likewise
violated Section 21 of Article VI of the Constitution, requiring that the inquiry be in
accordance with the "duly published rules of procedure." We quote the OSGs
explanation:
The phrase "duly published rules of procedure" requires the Senate of every
Congress to publish its rules of procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation
because every Senate is distinct from the one before it or after it. Since Senatorial
elections are held every three (3) years for one-half of the Senates membership, the
composition of the Senate also changes by the end of each term. Each Senate may
thus enact a different set of rules as it may deem fit. Not having published
its Rules of Procedure, the subject hearings in aid of legislation conducted by
the 14th Senate, are therefore, procedurally infirm.
Justice Antonio T. Carpio, in his Dissenting and Concurring Opinion, reinforces this ruling with the
following rationalization:
The present Senate under the 1987 Constitution is no longer a continuing legislative body.
The present Senate has twenty-four members, twelve of whom are elected every three years
for a term of six years each. Thus, the term of twelve Senators expires every three years,
leaving less than a majority of Senators to continue into the next Congress. The 1987
Constitution, like the 1935 Constitution, requires a majority of Senators to "constitute a
quorum to do business." Applying the same reasoning inArnault v. Nazareno, the Senate

under the 1987 Constitution is not a continuing body because less than majority of the
Senators continue into the next Congress. The consequence is that the Rules of
Proceduremust be republished by the Senate after every expiry of the term of twelve
Senators.47
The subject was explained with greater lucidity in our Resolution48 (On the Motion for
Reconsideration) in the same case, viz.:
On the nature of the Senate as a "continuing body," this Court sees fit to issue a clarification.
Certainly, there is no debate that the Senate as an institution is "continuing," as it is not
dissolved as an entity with each national election or change in the composition of its
members. However, in the conduct of its day-to-day business the Senate of each Congress
acts separately and independently of the Senate of the Congress before it. The Rules of the
Senate itself confirms this when it states:
RULE XLIV
UNFINISHED BUSINESS
SEC. 123. Unfinished business at the end of the session shall be taken up at the
next session in the same status.
All pending matters and proceedings shall terminate upon the expiration of
one (1) Congress, but may be taken by the succeeding Congress as if present for
the first time.
Undeniably from the foregoing, all pending matters and proceedings, i.e., unpassed bills and
even legislative investigations, of the Senate of a particular Congress are
considered terminated upon the expiration of that Congress and it is merely optional on the
Senate of the succeeding Congress to take up such unfinished matters, not in the same
status, but as if presented for the first time. The logic and practicality of such a rule is
readily apparent considering that the Senate of the succeeding Congress (which will typically
have a different composition as that of the previous Congress) should not be bound by the
acts and deliberations of the Senate of which they had no part. If the Senate is a continuing
body even with respect to the conduct of its business, then pending matters will not be
deemed terminated with the expiration of one Congress but will, as a matter of course,
continue into the next Congress with the same status.
This dichotomy of the continuity of the Senate as an institution and of the opposite nature of
the conduct of its business is reflected in its Rules. The Rules of the Senate (i.e. the
Senates main rules of procedure) states:
RULE LI
AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISIONS OF, THE RULES

SEC. 136. At the start of each session in which the Senators elected in the preceding
elections shall begin their term of office, the President may endorse the Rules to the
appropriate committee for amendment or revision.
The Rules may also be amended by means of a motion which should be presented
at least one day before its consideration, and the vote of the majority of the Senators
present in the session shall be required for its approval.
RULE LII
DATE OF TAKING EFFECT
SEC. 137. These Rules shall take effect on the date of their adoption and shall
remain in force until they are amended or repealed.
Section 136 of the Senate Rules quoted above takes into account the new composition of
the Senate after an election and the possibility of the amendment or revision of the Rules at
the start of each session in which the newly elected Senators shall begin their term.
However, it is evident that the Senate has determined that its main rules are intended to be
valid from the date of their adoption until they are amended or repealed. Such language is
conspicuously absent from theRules. The Rules simply state "(t)hese Rules shall take effect
seven (7) days after publication in two (2) newspapers of general circulation." The latter does
not explicitly provide for the continued effectivity of such rules until they are amended or
repealed. In view of the difference in the language of the two sets of Senate rules, it cannot
be presumed that the Rules (on legislative inquiries) would continue into the next Congress.
The Senate of the next Congress may easily adopt different rules for its legislative inquiries
which come within the rule on unfinished business.
The language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution requiring that the inquiry be
conducted in accordance with the duly published rules of procedure is categorical. It is
incumbent upon the Senate to publish the rules for its legislative inquiries in each Congress
or otherwise make the published rules clearly state that the same shall be effective in
subsequent Congresses or until they are amended or repealed to sufficiently put public on
notice.
If it was the intention of the Senate for its present rules on legislative inquiries to be effective
even in the next Congress, it could have easily adopted the same language it had used in its
main rules regarding effectivity.
Respondents justify their non-observance of the constitutionally mandated publication by arguing
that the rules have never been amended since 1995 and, despite that, they are published in booklet
form available to anyone for free, and accessible to the public at the Senates internet web page. 49
The Court does not agree. The absence of any amendment to the rules cannot justify the Senates
defiance of the clear and unambiguous language of Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution. The
organic law instructs, without more, that the Senate or its committees may conduct inquiries in aid of

legislation only in accordance with duly published rules of procedure, and does not make any
distinction whether or not these rules have undergone amendments or revision. The constitutional
mandate to publish the said rules prevails over any custom, practice or tradition followed by the
Senate.
Justice Carpios response to the same argument raised by the respondents is illuminating:
The publication of the Rules of Procedure in the website of the Senate, or in pamphlet form
available at the Senate, is not sufficient under the Taada v. Tuvera ruling which requires
publication either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation. The Rules
of Procedure even provide that the rules "shall take effect seven (7) days after publication in
two (2) newspapers of general circulation," precluding any other form of publication.
Publication in accordance with Taada is mandatory to comply with the due process
requirement because the Rules of Procedure put a persons liberty at risk. A person who
violates the Rules of Procedure could be arrested and detained by the Senate.
The invocation by the respondents of the provisions of R.A. No. 8792, 50 otherwise known as the
Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, to support their claim of valid publication through the internet is all
the more incorrect. R.A. 8792 considers an electronic data message or an electronic document as
the functional equivalent of a written document only for evidentiary purposes.51 In other words, the
law merely recognizes the admissibility in evidence (for their being the original) of electronic data
messages and/or electronic documents.52 It does not make the internet a medium for publishing
laws, rules and regulations.
Given this discussion, the respondent Senate Committees, therefore, could not, in violation of the
Constitution, use its unpublished rules in the legislative inquiry subject of these consolidated cases.
The conduct of inquiries in aid of legislation by the Senate has to be deferred until it shall have
caused the publication of the rules, because it can do so only "in accordance with its duly published
rules of procedure."
Very recently, the Senate caused the publication of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing
Inquiries in Aid of Legislation in the October 31, 2008 issues of Manila Bulletin and Malaya. While we
take judicial notice of this fact, the recent publication does not cure the infirmity of the inquiry sought
to be prohibited by the instant petitions. Insofar as the consolidated cases are concerned, the
legislative investigation subject thereof still could not be undertaken by the respondent Senate
Committees, because no published rules governed it, in clear contravention of the Constitution.
With the foregoing disquisition, the Court finds it unnecessary to discuss the other issues raised in
the consolidated petitions.
WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 170338 is DISMISSED, and the petition in G.R. No. 179275
is GRANTED. Let a writ of prohibition be issued enjoining the Senate of the Republic of the
Philippines and/or any of its committees from conducting any inquiry in aid of legislation centered on
the "Hello Garci" tapes.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 176389

December 14, 2010

ANTONIO LEJANO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
G.R. No. 176864
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,
vs.
HUBERT JEFFREY P. WEBB, ANTONIO LEJANO, MICHAEL A. GATCHALIAN, HOSPICIO
FERNANDEZ, MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, PETER ESTRADA and GERARDO BIONG, Appellants.
DECISION
ABAD, J.:
Brief Background
On June 30, 1991 Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela, nineteen years old, and Jennifer,
seven, were brutally slain at their home in Paraaque City. Following an intense investigation, the
police arrested a group of suspects, some of whom gave detailed confessions. But the trial court
smelled a frame-up and eventually ordered them discharged. Thus, the identities of the real
perpetrators remained a mystery especially to the public whose interests were aroused by the
gripping details of what everybody referred to as the Vizconde massacre.
Four years later in 1995, the National Bureau of Investigation or NBI announced that it had solved
the crime. It presented star-witness Jessica M. Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed that she
witnessed the crime. She pointed to accused Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio "Tony Boy" Lejano,
Artemio "Dong" Ventura, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio "Pyke" Fernandez, Peter Estrada, Miguel
"Ging" Rodriguez, and Joey Filart as the culprits. She also tagged accused police officer, Gerardo
Biong, as an accessory after the fact. Relying primarily on Alfaro's testimony, on August 10, 1995 the
public prosecutors filed an information for rape with homicide against Webb, et al. 1
The Regional Trial Court of Paraaque City, Branch 274, presided over by Judge Amelita G.
Tolentino, tried only seven of the accused since Artemio Ventura and Joey Filart remained at
large.2 The prosecution presented Alfaro as its main witness with the others corroborating her
testimony. These included the medico-legal officer who autopsied the bodies of the victims, the

security guards of Pitong Daan Subdivision, the former laundrywoman of the Webbs household,
police officer Biongs former girlfriend, and Lauro G. Vizconde, Estrellitas husband.
For their part, some of the accused testified, denying any part in the crime and saying they were
elsewhere when it took place. Webbs alibi appeared the strongest since he claimed that he was
then across the ocean in the United States of America. He presented the testimonies of witnesses as
well as documentary and object evidence to prove this. In addition, the defense presented witnesses
to show Alfaro's bad reputation for truth and the incredible nature of her testimony.
But impressed by Alfaros detailed narration of the crime and the events surrounding it, the trial court
found a credible witness in her. It noted her categorical, straightforward, spontaneous, and frank
testimony, undamaged by grueling cross-examinations. The trial court remained unfazed by
significant discrepancies between Alfaros April 28 and May 22, 1995 affidavits, accepting her
explanation that she at first wanted to protect her former boyfriend, accused Estrada, and a relative,
accused Gatchalian; that no lawyer assisted her; that she did not trust the investigators who helped
her prepare her first affidavit; and that she felt unsure if she would get the support and security she
needed once she disclosed all about the Vizconde killings.
In contrast, the trial court thought little of the denials and alibis that Webb, Lejano, Rodriguez, and
Gatchalian set up for their defense. They paled, according to the court, compared to Alfaros
testimony that other witnesses and the physical evidence corroborated. Thus, on January 4, 2000,
after four years of arduous hearings, the trial court rendered judgment, finding all the accused guilty
as charged and imposing on Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, and Rodriguez the
penalty of reclusion perpetua and on Biong, an indeterminate prison term of eleven years, four
months, and one day to twelve years. The trial court also awarded damages to Lauro Vizconde. 3
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision, modifying the penalty imposed on
Biong to six years minimum and twelve years maximum and increasing the award of damages to
Lauro Vizconde.4 The appellate court did not agree that the accused were tried by publicity or that
the trial judge was biased. It found sufficient evidence of conspiracy that rendered Rodriguez,
Gatchalian, Fernandez, and Estrada equally guilty with those who had a part in raping and killing
Carmela and in executing her mother and sister.
On motion for reconsideration by the accused, the Court of Appeals' Special Division of five
members voted three against two to deny the motion, 5 hence, the present appeal.
On April 20, 2010, as a result of its initial deliberation in this case, the Court issued a Resolution
granting the request of Webb to submit for DNA analysis the semen specimen taken from Carmelas
cadaver, which specimen was then believed still under the safekeeping of the NBI. The Court
granted the request pursuant to section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence 6 to give the accused and the
prosecution access to scientific evidence that they might want to avail themselves of, leading to a
correct decision in the case.
Unfortunately, on April 27, 2010 the NBI informed the Court that it no longer has custody of the
specimen, the same having been turned over to the trial court. The trial record shows, however, that

the specimen was not among the object evidence that the prosecution offered in evidence in the
case.
This outcome prompted accused Webb to file an urgent motion to acquit on the ground that the
governments failure to preserve such vital evidence has resulted in the denial of his right to due
process.
Issues Presented
Accused Webbs motion to acquit presents a threshold issue: whether or not the Court should acquit
him outright, given the governments failure to produce the semen specimen that the NBI found on
Carmelas cadaver, thus depriving him of evidence that would prove his innocence.
In the main, all the accused raise the central issue of whether or not Webb, acting in conspiracy with
Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, Ventura, and Filart, raped and killed Carmela
and put to death her mother and sister. But, ultimately, the controlling issues are:
1. Whether or not Alfaros testimony as eyewitness, describing the crime and identifying
Webb, Lejano, Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and two others as the persons
who committed it, is entitled to belief; and
2. Whether or not Webb presented sufficient evidence to prove his alibi and rebut Alfaros
testimony that he led the others in committing the crime.
The issue respecting accused Biong is whether or not he acted to cover up the crime after its
commission.
The Right to Acquittal
Due to Loss of DNA Evidence
Webb claims, citing Brady v. Maryland,7 that he is entitled to outright acquittal on the ground of
violation of his right to due process given the States failure to produce on order of the Court either
by negligence or willful suppression the semen specimen taken from Carmela.
The medical evidence clearly established that Carmela was raped and, consistent with this, semen
specimen was found in her. It is true that Alfaro identified Webb in her testimony as Carmelas rapist
and killer but serious questions had been raised about her credibility. At the very least, there exists a
possibility that Alfaro had lied. On the other hand, the semen specimen taken from Carmela cannot
possibly lie. It cannot be coached or allured by a promise of reward or financial support. No two
persons have the same DNA fingerprint, with the exception of identical twins. 8 If, on examination, the
DNA of the subject specimen does not belong to Webb, then he did not rape Carmela. It is that
simple. Thus, the Court would have been able to determine that Alfaro committed perjury in saying
that he did.
Still, Webb is not entitled to acquittal for the failure of the State to produce the semen specimen at
this late stage. For one thing, the ruling in Brady v. Maryland 9 that he cites has long be overtaken by

the decision in Arizona v. Youngblood,10 where the U.S. Supreme Court held that due process does
not require the State to preserve the semen specimen although it might be useful to the accused
unless the latter is able to show bad faith on the part of the prosecution or the police. Here, the State
presented a medical expert who testified on the existence of the specimen and Webb in fact sought
to have the same subjected to DNA test.
For, another, when Webb raised the DNA issue, the rule governing DNA evidence did not yet exist,
the country did not yet have the technology for conducting the test, and no Philippine precedent had
as yet recognized its admissibility as evidence. Consequently, the idea of keeping the specimen
secure even after the trial court rejected the motion for DNA testing did not come up. Indeed, neither
Webb nor his co-accused brought up the matter of preserving the specimen in the meantime.
Parenthetically, after the trial court denied Webbs application for DNA testing, he allowed the
proceeding to move on when he had on at least two occasions gone up to the Court of Appeals or
the Supreme Court to challenge alleged arbitrary actions taken against him and the other
accused.11 They raised the DNA issue before the Court of Appeals but merely as an error committed
by the trial court in rendering its decision in the case. None of the accused filed a motion with the
appeals court to have the DNA test done pending adjudication of their appeal. This, even when the
Supreme Court had in the meantime passed the rules allowing such test. Considering the accuseds
lack of interest in having such test done, the State cannot be deemed put on reasonable notice that
it would be required to produce the semen specimen at some future time.
Now, to the merit of the case.
Alfaros Story
Based on the prosecutions version, culled from the decisions of the trial court and the Court of
Appeals, on June 29, 1991 at around 8:30 in the evening, Jessica Alfaro drove her Mitsubishi
Lancer, with boyfriend Peter Estrada as passenger, to the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center parking
lot to buy shabu from Artemio "Dong" Ventura. There, Ventura introduced her to his friends: Hubert
Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio "Tony Boy" Lejano, Miguel "Ging" Rodriguez, Hospicio "Pyke" Fernandez,
Michael Gatchalian, and Joey Filart. Alfaro recalled frequently seeing them at a shabu house in
Paraaque in January 1991, except Ventura whom she had known earlier in December 1990.
As Alfaro smoked her shabu, Webb approached and requested her to relay a message for him to a
girl, whom she later identified as Carmela Vizconde. Alfaro agreed. After using up their shabu, the
group drove to Carmelas house at 80 Vinzons Street, Pitong Daan Subdivision, BF Homes,
Paraaque City. Riding in her car, Alfaro and Estrada trailed Filart and Rodriguez who rode a Mazda
pick-up and Webb, Lejano, Ventura, Fernandez, and Gatchalian who were on a Nissan Patrol car.
On reaching their destination, Alfaro parked her car on Vinzons Street, alighted, and approached
Carmelas house. Alfaro pressed the buzzer and a woman came out. Alfaro queried her about
Carmela. Alfaro had met Carmela twice before in January 1991. When Carmela came out, Alfaro
gave her Webbs message that he was just around. Carmela replied, however, that she could not go
out yet since she had just arrived home. She told Alfaro to return after twenty minutes. Alfaro relayed
this to Webb who then told the group to drive back to the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center.

The group had another shabu session at the parking lot. After sometime, they drove back but only
Alfaro proceeded to Vinzons Street where Carmela lived. The Nissan Patrol and the Mazda pick-up,
with their passengers, parked somewhere along Aguirre Avenue. Carmela was at their garden. She
approached Alfaro on seeing her and told the latter that she (Carmela) had to leave the house for a
while. Carmela requested Alfaro to return before midnight and she would leave the pedestrian gate,
the iron grills that led to the kitchen, and the kitchen door unlocked. Carmela also told Alfaro to blink
her cars headlights twice when she approached the pedestrian gate so Carmela would know that
she had arrived.
Alfaro returned to her car but waited for Carmela to drive out of the house in her own car. Alfaro
trailed Carmela up to Aguirre Avenue where she dropped off a man whom Alfaro believed was
Carmelas boyfriend. Alfaro looked for her group, found them, and relayed Carmelas instructions to
Webb. They then all went back to the Ayala Alabang Commercial Center. At the parking lot, Alfaro
told the group about her talk with Carmela. When she told Webb of Carmelas male companion,
Webbs mood changed for the rest of the evening ("bad trip").
Webb gave out free cocaine. They all used it and some shabu, too. After about 40 to 45 minutes,
Webb decided that it was time for them to leave. He said, "Pipilahan natin siya [Carmela] at ako ang
mauuna." Lejano said, "Ako ang susunod" and the others responded "Okay, okay." They all left the
parking lot in a convoy of three vehicles and drove into Pitong Daan Subdivision for the third time.
They arrived at Carmelas house shortly before midnight.
Alfaro parked her car between Vizcondes house and the next. While waiting for the others to alight
from their cars, Fernandez approached Alfaro with a suggestion that they blow up the transformer
near the Vizcondes residence to cause a brownout ("Pasabugin kaya natin ang transformer na ito").
But Alfaro shrugged off the idea, telling Fernandez, "Malakas lang ang tama mo." When Webb,
Lejano, and Ventura were already before the house, Webb told the others again that they would line
up for Carmela but he would be the first. The others replied, "O sige, dito lang kami, magbabantay
lang kami."
Alfaro was the first to pass through the pedestrian gate that had been left open. Webb, Lejano, and
Ventura followed her. On entering the garage, Ventura using a chair mounted the hood of the
Vizcondes Nissan Sentra and loosened the electric bulb over it ("para daw walang ilaw"). The small
group went through the open iron grill gate and passed the dirty kitchen. Carmela opened the
aluminum screen door of the kitchen for them. She and Webb looked each other in the eyes for a
moment and, together, headed for the dining area.
As she lost sight of Carmela and Webb, Alfaro decided to go out. Lejano asked her where she was
going and she replied that she was going out to smoke. As she eased her way out through the
kitchen door, she saw Ventura pulling out a kitchen drawer. Alfaro smoked a cigarette at the garden.
After about twenty minutes, she was surprised to hear a womans voice ask, "Sino yan?" Alfaro
immediately walked out of the garden to her car. She found her other companions milling around it.
Estrada who sat in the car asked her, "Okay ba?"
After sitting in the car for about ten minutes, Alfaro returned to the Vizconde house, using the same
route. The interior of the house was dark but some light filtered in from outside. In the kitchen, Alfaro

saw Ventura searching a ladys bag that lay on the dining table. When she asked him what he was
looking for, he said: "Ikaw na nga dito, maghanap ka ng susi." She asked him what key he wanted
and he replied: "Basta maghanap ka ng susi ng main door pati na rin ng susi ng kotse." When she
found a bunch of keys in the bag, she tried them on the main door but none fitted the lock. She also
did not find the car key.
Unable to open the main door, Alfaro returned to the kitchen. While she was at a spot leading to the
dining area, she heard a static noise (like a television that remained on after the station had signed
off). Out of curiosity, she approached the masters bedroom from where the noise came, opened the
door a little, and peeked inside. The unusual sound grew even louder. As she walked in, she saw
Webb on top of Carmela while she lay with her back on the floor. Two bloodied bodies lay on the
bed. Lejano was at the foot of the bed about to wear his jacket. Carmela was gagged, moaning, and
in tears while Webb raped her, his bare buttocks exposed.
Webb gave Alfaro a meaningful look and she immediately left the room. She met Ventura at the
dining area. He told her, "Prepare an escape. Aalis na tayo." Shocked with what she saw, Alfaro
rushed out of the house to the others who were either sitting in her car or milling on the sidewalk.
She entered her car and turned on the engine but she did not know where to go. Webb, Lejano, and
Ventura came out of the house just then. Webb suddenly picked up a stone and threw it at the main
door, breaking its glass frame.
As the three men approached the pedestrian gate, Webb told Ventura that he forgot his jacket in the
house. But Ventura told him that they could not get in anymore as the iron grills had already locked.
They all rode in their cars and drove away until they reached Aguirre Avenue. As they got near an
old hotel at the Tropical Palace area, Alfaro noticed the Nissan Patrol slow down. Someone threw
something out of the car into the cogonal area.
The convoy of cars went to a large house with high walls, concrete fence, steel gate, and a long
driveway at BF Executive Village. They entered the compound and gathered at the lawn where the
"blaming session" took place. It was here that Alfaro and those who remained outside the Vizconde
house learned of what happened. The first to be killed was Carmelas mother, then Jennifer, and
finally, Carmella. Ventura blamed Webb, telling him, "Bakit naman pati yung bata?" Webb replied
that the girl woke up and on seeing him molesting Carmela, she jumped on him, bit his shoulders,
and pulled his hair. Webb got mad, grabbed the girl, pushed her to the wall, and repeatedly stabbed
her. Lejano excused himself at this point to use the telephone in the house. Meanwhile, Webb called
up someone on his cellular phone.
At around 2:00 in the morning, accused Gerardo Biong arrived. Webb ordered him to go and clean
up the Vizconde house and said to him, "Pera lang ang katapat nyan." Biong answered, "Okay lang."
Webb spoke to his companions and told them, "We dont know each other. We havent seen each
otherbaka maulit yan." Alfaro and Estrada left and they drove to her fathers house. 12
1. The quality of the witness
Was Alfaro an ordinary subdivision girl who showed up at the NBI after four years, bothered by her
conscience or egged on by relatives or friends to come forward and do what was right? No. She

was, at the time she revealed her story, working for the NBI as an "asset," a stool pigeon, one who
earned her living by fraternizing with criminals so she could squeal on them to her NBI handlers. She
had to live a life of lies to get rewards that would pay for her subsistence and vices.
According to Atty. Artemio Sacaguing, former head of the NBI Anti-Kidnapping, Hijacking, and Armed
Robbery Task Force (AKHAR) Section, Alfaro had been hanging around at the NBI since November
or December 1994 as an "asset." She supplied her handlers with information against drug pushers
and other criminal elements. Some of this information led to the capture of notorious drug pushers
like Christopher Cruz Santos and Orlando Bacquir. Alfaros tip led to the arrest of the leader of the
"Martilyo gang" that killed a police officer. Because of her talent, the task force gave her "very special
treatment" and she became its "darling," allowed the privilege of spending nights in one of the rooms
at the NBI offices.
When Alfaro seemed unproductive for sometime, however, they teased her about it and she was
piqued. One day, she unexpectedly told Sacaguing that she knew someone who had the real story
behind the Vizconde massacre. Sacaguing showed interest. Alfaro promised to bring that someone
to the NBI to tell his story. When this did not happen and Sacaguing continued to press her, she told
him that she might as well assume the role of her informant. Sacaguing testified thus:
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. Atty. Sacaguing, how did Jessica Alfaro become a witness in the Vizconde murder case?
Will you tell the Honorable Court?
xxxx
A. She told me. Your Honor, that she knew somebody who related to her the circumstances, I
mean, the details of the massacre of the Vizconde family. Thats what she told me, Your
Honor.
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. And what did you say?
xxxx
A. I was quite interested and I tried to persuade her to introduce to me that man and she
promised that in due time, she will bring to me the man, and together with her, we will try to
convince him to act as a state witness and help us in the solution of the case.
xxxx
Q. Atty. Sacaguing, were you able to interview this alleged witness?
WITNESS SACAGUING:

A. No, sir.
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. Why not?
WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. Because Jessica Alfaro was never able to comply with her promise to bring the man to
me. She told me later that she could not and the man does not like to testify.
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. All right, and what happened after that?
WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. She told me, "easy lang kayo, Sir," if I may quote, "easy lang Sir, huwag kayong"
COURT:
How was that?
WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. "Easy lang, Sir. Sir, relax lang, Sir, papapelan ko, papapelan ko na lang yan."
xxxx
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. All right, and what was your reaction when Ms. Alfaro stated that "papapelan ko na lang
yan?"
WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. I said, "hindi puwede yan, kasi hindi ka naman eye witness."
ATTY. ONGKIKO:
Q. And what was the reply of Ms. Alfaro?
WITNESS SACAGUING:
A. Hindi siya nakakibo, until she went away.

(TSN, May 28, 1996, pp. 49-50, 58, 77-79)


Quite significantly, Alfaro never refuted Sacaguings above testimony.
2. The suspicious details
But was it possible for Alfaro to lie with such abundant details some of which even tallied with the
physical evidence at the scene of the crime? No doubt, yes.
Firstly, the Vizconde massacre had been reported in the media with dizzying details. Everybody was
talking about what the police found at the crime scene and there were lots of speculations about
them.
Secondly, the police had arrested some "akyat-bahay" group in Paraaque and charged them with
the crime. The police prepared the confessions of the men they apprehended and filled these up
with details that the evidence of the crime scene provided. Alfaros NBI handlers who were doing
their own investigation knew of these details as well. Since Alfaro hanged out at the NBI offices and
practically lived there, it was not too difficult for her to hear of these evidentiary details and gain
access to the documents.
Not surprisingly, the confessions of some members of the Barroso "akyat bahay" gang, condemned
by the Makati RTC as fabricated by the police to pin the crime on them, shows how crime
investigators could make a confession ring true by matching some of its details with the physical
evidence at the crime scene. Consider the following:
a. The Barroso gang members said that they got into Carmelas house by breaking the glass panel
of the front door using a stone wrapped in cloth to deaden the noise. Alfaro could not use this line
since the core of her story was that Webb was Carmelas boyfriend. Webb had no reason to smash
her front door to get to see her.
Consequently, to explain the smashed door, Alfaro had to settle for claiming that, on the way out of
the house, Webb picked up some stone and, out of the blue, hurled it at the glass-paneled front door
of the Vizconde residence. His action really made no sense. From Alfaros narration, Webb appeared
rational in his decisions. It was past midnight, the house was dark, and they wanted to get away
quickly to avoid detection. Hurling a stone at that glass door and causing a tremendous noise was
bizarre, like inviting the neighbors to come.
b. The crime scene showed that the house had been ransacked. The rejected confessions of the
Barroso "akyat-bahay" gang members said that they tried to rob the house. To explain this physical
evidence, Alfaro claimed that at one point Ventura was pulling a kitchen drawer, and at another point,
going through a handbag on the dining table. He said he was looking for the front-door key and the
car key.
Again, this portion of Alfaros story appears tortured to accommodate the physical evidence of the
ransacked house. She never mentioned Ventura having taken some valuables with him when they
left Carmelas house. And why would Ventura rummage a bag on the table for the front-door key,

spilling the contents, when they had already gotten into the house. It is a story made to fit in with the
crime scene although robbery was supposedly not the reason Webb and his companions entered
that house.
c. It is the same thing with the garage light. The police investigators found that the bulb had been
loosened to turn off the light. The confessions of the Barroso gang claimed that one of them climbed
the parked cars hood to reach up and darken that light. This made sense since they were going to
rob the place and they needed time to work in the dark trying to open the front door. Some
passersby might look in and see what they were doing.
Alfaro had to adjust her testimony to take into account that darkened garage light. So she claimed
that Ventura climbed the cars hood, using a chair, to turn the light off. But, unlike the Barroso "akyatbahay" gang, Webb and his friends did not have anything to do in a darkened garage. They
supposedly knew in advance that Carmela left the doors to the kitchen open for them. It did not
make sense for Ventura to risk standing on the cars hood and be seen in such an awkward position
instead of going straight into the house.
And, thirdly, Alfaro was the NBIs star witness, their badge of excellent investigative work. After
claiming that they had solved the crime of the decade, the NBI people had a stake in making her
sound credible and, obviously, they gave her all the preparations she needed for the job of becoming
a fairly good substitute witness. She was their "darling" of an asset. And this is not pure speculation.
As pointed out above, Sacaguing of the NBI, a lawyer and a ranking official, confirmed this to be a
cold fact. Why the trial court and the Court of Appeals failed to see this is mystifying.
lavvphil

At any rate, did Alfaro at least have a fine memory for faces that had a strong effect on her, given the
circumstances? Not likely. She named Miguel "Ging" Rodriguez as one of the culprits in the
Vizconde killings. But when the NBI found a certain Michael Rodriguez, a drug dependent from the
Bicutan Rehabilitation Center, initially suspected to be Alfaros Miguel Rodriguez and showed him to
Alfaro at the NBI office, she ran berserk, slapping and kicking Michael, exclaiming: "How can I forget
your face. We just saw each other in a disco one month ago and you told me then that you will kill
me." As it turned out, he was not Miguel Rodriguez, the accused in this case. 13
Two possibilities exist: Michael was really the one Alfaro wanted to implicate to settle some score
with him but it was too late to change the name she already gave or she had myopic vision, tagging
the wrong people for what they did not do.
3. The quality of the testimony
There is another thing about a lying witness: her story lacks sense or suffers from inherent
inconsistencies. An understanding of the nature of things and the common behavior of people will
help expose a lie. And it has an abundant presence in this case.
One. In her desire to implicate Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and Filart, who were
supposed to be Webbs co-principals in the crime, Alfaro made it a point to testify that Webb
proposed twice to his friends the gang-rape of Carmela who had hurt him. And twice, they (including,

if one believes Alfaro, her own boyfriend Estrada) agreed in a chorus to his proposal. But when they
got to Carmelas house, only Webb, Lejano, Ventura, and Alfaro entered the house.
Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, and Rodriguez supposedly stayed around Alfaros car, which was
parked on the street between Carmelas house and the next. Some of these men sat on top of the
cars lid while others milled on the sidewalk, visible under the street light to anyone who cared to
watch them, particularly to the people who were having a drinking party in a nearby house.
Obviously, the behavior of Webbs companions out on the street did not figure in a planned gangrape of Carmela.
Two. Ventura, Alfaros dope supplier, introduced her for the first time in her life to Webb and his
friends in a parking lot by a mall. So why would she agree to act as Webbs messenger, using her
gas, to bring his message to Carmela at her home. More inexplicably, what motivated Alfaro to stick
it out the whole night with Webb and his friends?
They were practically strangers to her and her boyfriend Estrada. When it came to a point that Webb
decided with his friends to gang-rape Carmela, clearly, there was nothing in it for Alfaro. Yet, she
stuck it out with them, as a police asset would, hanging in there until she had a crime to report, only
she was not yet an "asset" then. If, on the other hand, Alfaro had been too soaked in drugs to think
clearly and just followed along where the group took her, how could she remember so much details
that only a drug-free mind can?
Three. When Alfaro went to see Carmela at her house for the second time, Carmella told her that
she still had to go out and that Webb and his friends should come back around midnight. Alfaro
returned to her car and waited for Carmela to drive out in her own car. And she trailed her up to
Aguirre Avenue where she supposedly dropped off a man whom she thought was Carmelas
boyfriend. Alfaros trailing Carmela to spy on her unfaithfulness to Webb did not make sense since
she was on limited errand. But, as a critical witness, Alfaro had to provide a reason for Webb to freak
out and decide to come with his friends and harm Carmela.
Four. According to Alfaro, when they returned to Carmelas house the third time around midnight,
she led Webb, Lejano, and Ventura through the pedestrian gate that Carmela had left open. Now,
this is weird. Webb was the gang leader who decided what they were going to do. He decided and
his friends agreed with him to go to Carmelas house and gang-rape her. Why would Alfaro, a
woman, a stranger to Webb before that night, and obviously with no role to play in the gang-rape of
Carmela, lead him and the others into her house? It made no sense. It would only make sense if
Alfaro wanted to feign being a witness to something she did not see.
Five. Alfaro went out of the house to smoke at the garden. After about twenty minutes, a woman
exclaimed, "Sino yan?" On hearing this, Alfaro immediately walked out of the garden and went to her
car. Apparently, she did this because she knew they came on a sly. Someone other than Carmela
became conscious of the presence of Webb and others in the house. Alfaro walked away because,
obviously, she did not want to get involved in a potential confrontation. This was supposedly her
frame of mind: fear of getting involved in what was not her business.

But if that were the case, how could she testify based on personal knowledge of what went on in the
house? Alfaro had to change that frame of mind to one of boldness and reckless curiosity. So that is
what she next claimed. She went back into the house to watch as Webb raped Carmela on the floor
of the masters bedroom. He had apparently stabbed to death Carmelas mom and her young sister
whose bloodied bodies were sprawled on the bed. Now, Alfaro testified that she got scared (another
shift to fear) for she hurriedly got out of the house after Webb supposedly gave her a meaningful
look.
Alfaro quickly went to her car, not minding Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada, Rodriguez, and Filart
who sat on the car or milled on the sidewalk. She did not speak to them, even to Estrada, her
boyfriend. She entered her car and turned on the engine but she testified that she did not know
where to go. This woman who a few minutes back led Webb, Lejano, and Ventura into the house,
knowing that they were decided to rape and harm Carmela, was suddenly too shocked to know
where to go! This emotional pendulum swing indicates a witness who was confused with her own
lies.
4. The supposed corroborations
Intending to provide corroboration to Alfaros testimony, the prosecution presented six additional
witnesses:
Dr. Prospero A. Cabanayan, the NBI Medico-Legal Officer who autopsied the bodies of the victims,
testified on the stab wounds they sustained14 and the presence of semen in Carmelas
genitalia,15 indicating that she had been raped.
Normal E. White, Jr., was the security guard on duty at Pitong Daan Subdivision from 7 p.m. of
June 29 to 7 a.m. of June 30, 1991. He got a report on the morning of June 30 that something
untoward happened at the Vizconde residence. He went there and saw the dead bodies in the
masters bedroom, the bag on the dining table, as well as the loud noise emanating from a television
set.16
White claimed that he noticed Gatchalian and his companions, none of whom he could identify, go in
and out of Pitong Daan Subdivision. He also saw them along Vinzons Street. Later, they entered
Pitong Daan Subdivision in a three-car convoy. White could not, however, describe the kind of
vehicles they used or recall the time when he saw the group in those two instances. And he did not
notice anything suspicious about their coming and going.
But Whites testimony cannot be relied on. His initial claim turned out to be inaccurate. He actually
saw Gatchalian and his group enter the Pitong Daan Subdivision only once. They were not going in
and out. Furthermore, Alfaro testified that when the convoy of cars went back the second time in the
direction of Carmelas house, she alone entered the subdivision and passed the guardhouse without
stopping. Yet, White who supposedly manned that guardhouse did not notice her.
Surprisingly, White failed to note Biong, a police officer, entering or exiting the subdivision on the
early morning of June 30 when he supposedly "cleaned up" Vizconde residence on Webbs orders.
What is more, White did not notice Carmela arrive with her mom before Alfaros first visit that night.

Carmela supposedly left with a male companion in her car at around 10:30 p.m. but White did not
notice it. He also did not notice Carmela reenter the subdivision. White actually discredited Alfaros
testimony about the movements of the persons involved.
Further, while Alfaro testified that it was the Mazda pick-up driven by Filart that led the three-vehicle
convoy,17White claimed it was the Nissan Patrol with Gatchalian on it that led the convoy since he
would not have let the convoy in without ascertaining that Gatchalian, a resident, was in it. Security
guard White did not, therefore, provide corroboration to Alfaros testimony.
1avvphi1

Justo Cabanacan, the security supervisor at Pitong Daan Subdivision testified that he saw Webb
around the last week of May or the first week of June 1991 to prove his presence in the Philippines
when he claimed to be in the United States. He was manning the guard house at the entrance of the
subdivision of Pitong Daan when he flagged down a car driven by Webb. Webb said that he would
see Lilet Sy. Cabanacan asked him for an ID but he pointed to his United BF Homes sticker and said
that he resided there. Cabanacan replied, however, that Pitong Daan had a local sticker.
Cabanacan testified that, at this point, Webb introduced himself as the son of Congressman Webb.
Still, the supervisor insisted on seeing his ID. Webb grudgingly gave it and after seeing the picture
and the name on it, Cabanacan returned the same and allowed Webb to pass without being logged
in as their Standard Operating Procedure required. 18
But Cabanacan's testimony could not be relied on. Although it was not common for a security guard
to challenge a Congressmans son with such vehemence, Cabanacan did not log the incident on the
guardhouse book. Nor did he, contrary to prescribed procedure, record the visitors entry into the
subdivision. It did not make sense that Cabanacan was strict in the matter of seeing Webbs ID but
not in recording the visit.
Mila Gaviola used to work as laundry woman for the Webbs at their house at BF Homes Executive
Village. She testified that she saw Webb at his parents house on the morning of June 30, 1991
when she got the dirty clothes from the room that he and two brothers occupied at about 4.a.m. She
saw him again pacing the floor at 9 a.m. At about 1 p.m., Webb left the house in t-shirt and shorts,
passing through a secret door near the maids quarters on the way out. Finally, she saw Webb at 4
p.m. of the same day.19
On cross-examination, however, Gaviola could not say what distinguished June 30, 1991 from the
other days she was on service at the Webb household as to enable her to distinctly remember, four
years later, what one of the Webb boys did and at what time. She could not remember any of the
details that happened in the household on the other days. She proved to have a selective
photographic memory and this only damaged her testimony.
Gaviola tried to corroborate Alfaro's testimony by claiming that on June 30, 1991 she noticed
bloodstains on Webb's t-shirt.20 She did not call the attention of anybody in the household about it
when it would have been a point of concern that Webb may have been hurt, hence the blood.
Besides, Victoria Ventoso, the Webbs' housemaid from March 1989 to May 1992, and Sgt. Miguel
Muoz, the Webbs' security aide in 1991, testified that Gaviola worked for the Webbs only from

January 1991 to April 1991. Ventoso further testified that it was not Gaviola's duty to collect the
clothes from the 2nd floor bedrooms, this being the work of the housemaid charged with cleaning the
rooms.
What is more, it was most unlikely for a laundrywoman who had been there for only four months to
collect, as she claimed, the laundry from the rooms of her employers and their grown up children at
four in the morning while they were asleep.
And it did not make sense, if Alfaros testimony were to be believed that Webb, who was so careful
and clever that he called Biong to go to the Vizconde residence at 2 a.m. to clean up the evidence
against him and his group, would bring his bloodied shirt home and put it in the hamper for
laundrywoman Gaviola to collect and wash at 4 a.m. as was her supposed habit.
Lolita De Birrer was accused Biongs girlfriend around the time the Vizconde massacre took place.
Birrer testified that she was with Biong playing mahjong from the evening of June 29, 1991 to the
early morning of June 30, when Biong got a call at around 2 a.m. This prompted him, according to
De Birrer, to leave and go to BF. Someone sitting at the backseat of a taxi picked him up. When
Biong returned at 7 a.m. he washed off what looked like dried blood from his fingernails. And he
threw away a foul-smelling handkerchief. She also saw Biong take out a knife with aluminum cover
from his drawer and hid it in his steel cabinet.21
The security guard at Pitong Daan did not notice any police investigator flashing a badge to get into
the village although Biong supposedly came in at the unholy hour of two in the morning. His
departure before 7 a.m. also remained unnoticed by the subdivision guards. Besides, if he had
cleaned up the crime scene shortly after midnight, what was the point of his returning there on the
following morning to dispose of some of the evidence in the presence of other police investigators
and on-lookers? In fact, why would he steal valuable items from the Vizconde residence on his
return there hours later if he had the opportunity to do it earlier?
At most, Birrers testimony only established Biongs theft of certain items from the Vizconde
residence and gross neglect for failing to maintain the sanctity of the crime scene by moving around
and altering the effects of the crime. Birrers testimony failed to connect Biong's acts to Webb and
the other accused.
Lauro Vizconde testified about how deeply he was affected by the loss of her wife and two
daughters. Carmella spoke to him of a rejected suitor she called "Bagyo," because he was a
Paraaque politicians son. Unfortunately, Lauro did not appear curious enough to insist on finding
out who the rejected fellow was. Besides, his testimony contradicts that of Alfaro who testified that
Carmela and Webb had an on-going relation. Indeed, if Alfaro were to be believed, Carmela wanted
Webb to come to her house around midnight. She even left the kitchen door open so he could enter
the house.
5. The missing corroboration

There is something truly remarkable about this case: the prosecutions core theory that Carmela and
Webb had been sweethearts, that she had been unfaithful to him, and that it was for this reason that
Webb brought his friends to her house to gang-rape her is totally uncorroborated!
For instance, normally, if Webb, a Congressmans son, courted the young Carmela, that would be
news among her circle of friends if not around town. But, here, none of her friends or even those
who knew either of them came forward to affirm this. And if Webb hanged around with her, trying to
win her favors, he would surely be seen with her. And this would all the more be so if they had
become sweethearts, a relation that Alfaro tried to project with her testimony.
But, except for Alfaro, the NBI asset, no one among Carmelas friends or her friends friends would
testify ever hearing of such relationship or ever seeing them together in some popular hangouts in
Paraaque or Makati. Alfaros claim of a five-hour drama is like an alien page, rudely and
unconnectedly inserted into Webb and Carmelas life stories or like a piece of jigsaw puzzle trimmed
to fit into the shape on the board but does not belong because it clashes with the surrounding
pieces. It has neither antecedent nor concomitant support in the verifiable facts of their personal
histories. It is quite unreal.
What is more, Alfaro testified that she saw Carmela drive out of her house with a male passenger,
Mr. X, whom Alfaro thought the way it looked was also Carmelas lover. This was the all-important
reason Webb supposedly had for wanting to harm her. Again, none of Carmelas relatives, friends, or
people who knew her ever testified about the existence of Mr.X in her life. Nobody has come forward
to testify having ever seen him with Carmela. And despite the gruesome news about her death and
how Mr. X had played a role in it, he never presented himself like anyone who had lost a special
friend normally would. Obviously, Mr. X did not exist, a mere ghost of the imagination of Alfaro, the
woman who made a living informing on criminals.
Webbs U.S. Alibi
Among the accused, Webb presented the strongest alibi.
a. The travel preparations
Webb claims that in 1991 his parents, Senator Freddie Webb and his wife, Elizabeth, sent their son
to the United States (U.S.) to learn the value of independence, hard work, and money.22 Gloria
Webb, his aunt, accompanied him. Rajah Tours booked their flight to San Francisco via United
Airlines. Josefina Nolasco of Rajah Tours confirmed that Webb and his aunt used their plane tickets.
Webb told his friends, including his neighbor, Jennifer Claire Cabrera, and his basketball buddy,
Joselito Orendain Escobar, of his travel plans. He even invited them to his despedida party on March
8, 1991 at Faces Disco along Makati Ave.23 On March 8,1991, the eve of his departure, he took
girlfriend Milagros Castillo to a dinner at Bunchums at the Makati Cinema Square. His basketball
buddy Rafael Jose with Tina Calma, a blind date arranged by Webb, joined them. They afterwards
went to Faces Disco for Webb's despedida party. Among those present were his friends Paulo
Santos and Jay Ortega.24

b. The two immigration checks


The following day, March 9, 1991, Webb left for San Francisco, California, with his Aunt Gloria on
board United Airlines Flight 808.25 Before boarding his plane, Webb passed through the Philippine
Immigration booth at the airport to have his passport cleared and stamped. Immigration Officer,
Ferdinand Sampol checked Webbs visa, stamped, and initialed his passport, and let him pass
through.26 He was listed on the United Airlines Flights Passenger Manifest.27
On arrival at San Francisco, Webb went through the U.S. Immigration where his entry into that
country was recorded. Thus, the U.S. Immigration Naturalization Service, checking with its Nonimmigrant Information System, confirmed Webb's entry into the U.S. on March 9, 1991. Webb
presented at the trial the INS Certification issued by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service,28 the computer-generated print-out of the US-INS indicating Webb's entry on March 9,
1991,29 and the US-INS Certification dated August 31, 1995, authenticated by the Philippine
Department of Foreign Affairs, correcting an earlier August 10, 1995 Certification. 30
c. Details of U.S. sojourn
In San Francisco, Webb and his aunt Gloria were met by the latters daughter, Maria Teresa Keame,
who brought them to Glorias house in Daly City, California. During his stay with his aunt, Webb met
Christopher Paul Legaspi Esguerra, Glorias grandson. In April 1991, Webb, Christopher, and a
certain Daphne Domingo watched the concert of Deelite Band in San Francisco. 31 In the same
month, Dorothy Wheelock and her family invited Webb to Lake Tahoe to return the Webbs
hospitality when she was in the Philippines.32
In May 1991, on invitation of another aunt, Susan Brottman, Webb moved to Anaheim Hills,
California.33 During his stay there, he occupied himself with playing basketball once or twice a week
with Steven Keeler34 and working at his cousin-in-laws pest control company.35 Webb presented the
companys logbook showing the tasks he performed, 36 his paycheck,37 his ID, and other employment
papers. On June 14, 1991 he applied for a driver's license 38 and wrote three letters to his friend
Jennifer Cabrera.39
On June 28, 1991, Webbs parents visited him at Anaheim and stayed with the Brottmans. On the
same day, his father introduced Honesto Aragon to his son when he came to visit. 40 On the following
day, June 29, Webb, in the company of his father and Aragon went to Riverside, California, to look
for a car. They bought an MR2 Toyota car.41 Later that day, a visitor at the Brottmans, Louis
Whittacker, saw Webb looking at the plates of his new car.42 To prove the purchase, Webb presented
the Public Records of California Department of Motor Vehicle43 and a car plate "LEW WEBB."44 In
using the car in the U.S., Webb even received traffic citations.45
On June 30, 1991 Webb, again accompanied by his father and Aragon, 46 bought a bicycle at Orange
Cycle Center.47 The Center issued Webb a receipt dated June 30, 1991.48 On July 4, 1991,
Independence Day, the Webbs, the Brottmans, and the Vaca family had a lakeside picnic. 49
Webb stayed with the Brottmans until mid July and rented a place for less than a month. On August
4, 1991 he left for Longwood, Florida, to stay with the spouses Jack and Sonja Rodriguez. 50 There,

he met Armando Rodriguez with whom he spent time, playing basketball on weekends, watching
movies, and playing billiards.51 In November 1991, Webb met performing artist Gary Valenciano, a
friend of Jack Rodriguez, who was invited for a dinner at the Rodriguezs house. 52 He left the
Rodriguezs home in August 1992, returned to Anaheim and stayed with his aunt Imelda Pagaspas.
He stayed there until he left for the Philippines on October 26, 1992.
d. The second immigration checks
As with his trip going to the U.S., Webb also went through both the U.S. and Philippine immigrations
on his return trip. Thus, his departure from the U.S. was confirmed by the same certifications that
confirmed his entry.53 Furthermore, a Diplomatic Note of the U.S. Department of State with enclosed
letter from Acting Director Debora A. Farmer of the Records Operations, Office of Records of the USINS stated that the Certification dated August 31, 1995 is a true and accurate statement. And when
he boarded his plane, the Passenger Manifest of Philippine Airlines Flight No. 103, 54 certified by
Agnes Tabuena55 confirmed his return trip.
When he arrived in Manila, Webb again went through the Philippine Immigration. In fact, the arrival
stamp and initial on his passport indicated his return to Manila on October 27, 1992. This was
authenticated by Carmelita Alipio, the immigration officer who processed Webbs reentry.56 Upon his
return, in October 1992, Paolo Santos, Joselito Erondain Escobar, and Rafael Jose once again saw
Webb playing basketball at the BF's Phase III basketball court.
e. Alibi versus positive identification
The trial court and the Court of Appeals are one in rejecting as weak Webbs alibi. Their reason is
uniform: Webbs alibi cannot stand against Alfaros positive identification of him as the rapist and
killer of Carmela and, apparently, the killer as well of her mother and younger sister. Because of this,
to the lower courts, Webbs denial and alibi were fabricated.
But not all denials and alibis should be regarded as fabricated. Indeed, if the accused is truly
innocent, he can have no other defense but denial and alibi. So how can such accused penetrate a
mind that has been made cynical by the rule drilled into his head that a defense of alibi is a
hangmans noose in the face of a witness positively swearing, "I saw him do it."? Most judges
believe that such assertion automatically dooms an alibi which is so easy to fabricate. This quick
stereotype thinking, however, is distressing. For how else can the truth that the accused is really
innocent have any chance of prevailing over such a stone-cast tenet?
There is only one way. A judge must keep an open mind. He must guard against slipping into hasty
conclusion, often arising from a desire to quickly finish the job of deciding a case. A positive
declaration from a witness that he saw the accused commit the crime should not automatically
cancel out the accuseds claim that he did not do it. A lying witness can make as positive an
identification as a truthful witness can. The lying witness can also say as forthrightly and
unequivocally, "He did it!" without blinking an eye.
Rather, to be acceptable, the positive identification must meet at least two criteria:

First, the positive identification of the offender must come from a credible witness. She is credible
who can be trusted to tell the truth, usually based on past experiences with her. Her word has, to one
who knows her, its weight in gold.
And second, the witness story of what she personally saw must be believable, not inherently
contrived. A witness who testifies about something she never saw runs into inconsistencies and
makes bewildering claims.
Here, as already fully discussed above, Alfaro and her testimony fail to meet the above criteria.
She did not show up at the NBI as a spontaneous witness bothered by her conscience. She had
been hanging around that agency for sometime as a stool pigeon, one paid for mixing up with
criminals and squealing on them. Police assets are often criminals themselves. She was the
prosecutions worst possible choice for a witness. Indeed, her superior testified that she volunteered
to play the role of a witness in the Vizconde killings when she could not produce a man she
promised to the NBI.
And, although her testimony included details, Alfaro had prior access to the details that the
investigators knew of the case. She took advantage of her familiarity with these details to include in
her testimony the clearly incompatible act of Webb hurling a stone at the front door glass frames
even when they were trying to slip away quietlyjust so she can accommodate this crime scene
feature. She also had Ventura rummaging a bag on the dining table for a front door key that nobody
needed just to explain the physical evidence of that bag and its scattered contents. And she had
Ventura climbing the cars hood, risking being seen in such an awkward position, when they did not
need to darken the garage to force open the front doorjust so to explain the darkened light and
foot prints on the car hood.
Further, her testimony was inherently incredible. Her story that Gatchalian, Fernandez, Estrada,
Rodriguez, and Filart agreed to take their turns raping Carmela is incongruent with their indifference,
exemplified by remaining outside the house, milling under a street light, visible to neighbors and
passersby, and showing no interest in the developments inside the house, like if it was their turn to
rape Carmela. Alfaros story that she agreed to serve as Webbs messenger to Carmela, using up
her gas, and staying with him till the bizarre end when they were practically strangers, also taxes
incredulity.
To provide basis for Webbs outrage, Alfaro said that she followed Carmela to the main road to watch
her let off a lover on Aguirre Avenue. And, inexplicably, although Alfaro had only played the role of
messenger, she claimed leading Webb, Lejano, and Ventura into the house to gang-rape Carmella,
as if Alfaro was establishing a reason for later on testifying on personal knowledge. Her swing from
an emotion of fear when a woman woke up to their presence in the house and of absolute courage
when she nonetheless returned to become the lone witness to a grim scene is also quite
inexplicable.
Ultimately, Alfaros quality as a witness and her inconsistent, if not inherently unbelievable, testimony
cannot be the positive identification that jurisprudence acknowledges as sufficient to jettison a denial
and an alibi.

f. A documented alibi
To establish alibi, the accused must prove by positive, clear, and satisfactory evidence 57 that (a) he
was present at another place at the time of the perpetration of the crime, and (b) that it was
physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime. 58
The courts below held that, despite his evidence, Webb was actually in Paraaque when the
Vizconde killings took place; he was not in the U.S. from March 9, 1991 to October 27, 1992; and if
he did leave on March 9, 1991, he actually returned before June 29, 1991, committed the crime,
erased the fact of his return to the Philippines from the records of the U.S. and Philippine
Immigrations, smuggled himself out of the Philippines and into the U.S., and returned the normal
way on October 27, 1992. But this ruling practically makes the death of Webb and his passage into
the next life the only acceptable alibi in the Philippines. Courts must abandon this unjust and
inhuman paradigm.
If one is cynical about the Philippine system, he could probably claim that Webb, with his fathers
connections, can arrange for the local immigration to put a March 9, 1991 departure stamp on his
passport and an October 27, 1992 arrival stamp on the same. But this is pure speculation since
there had been no indication that such arrangement was made. Besides, how could Webb fix a
foreign airlines passenger manifest, officially filed in the Philippines and at the airport in the U.S. that
had his name on them? How could Webb fix with the U.S. Immigrations record system those two
dates in its record of his travels as well as the dates when he supposedly departed in secret from the
U.S. to commit the crime in the Philippines and then return there? No one has come up with a logical
and plausible answer to these questions.
The Court of Appeals rejected the evidence of Webbs passport since he did not leave the original to
be attached to the record. But, while the best evidence of a document is the original, this means that
the same is exhibited in court for the adverse party to examine and for the judge to see. As Court of
Appeals Justice Tagle said in his dissent,59 the practice when a party does not want to leave an
important document with the trial court is to have a photocopy of it marked as exhibit and stipulated
among the parties as a faithful reproduction of the original. Stipulations in the course of trial are
binding on the parties and on the court.
The U.S. Immigration certification and the computer print-out of Webbs arrival in and departure from
that country were authenticated by no less than the Office of the U.S. Attorney General and the State
Department. Still the Court of Appeals refused to accept these documents for the reason that Webb
failed to present in court the immigration official who prepared the same. But this was unnecessary.
Webbs passport is a document issued by the Philippine government, which under international
practice, is the official record of travels of the citizen to whom it is issued. The entries in that passport
are presumed true.60
The U.S. Immigration certification and computer print-out, the official certifications of which have
been authenticated by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, merely validated the arrival and
departure stamps of the U.S. Immigration office on Webbs passport. They have the same
evidentiary value. The officers who issued these certifications need not be presented in court to
testify on them. Their trustworthiness arises from the sense of official duty and the penalty attached

to a breached duty, in the routine and disinterested origin of such statement and in the publicity of
the record.61
The Court of Appeals of course makes capital of the fact that an earlier certification from the U.S.
Immigration office said that it had no record of Webb entering the U.S. But that erroneous first
certification was amply explained by the U.S. Government and Court of Appeals Justice Tagle stated
it in his dissenting opinion, thus:
While it is true that an earlier Certification was issued by the U.S. INS on August 16, 1995 finding "no
evidence of lawful admission of Webb," this was already clarified and deemed erroneous by no less
than the US INS Officials. As explained by witness Leo Herrera-Lim, Consul and Second Secretary
of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C., said Certification did not pass through proper
diplomatic channels and was obtained in violation of the rules on protocol and standard procedure
governing such request.
The initial request was merely initiated by BID Commissioner Verceles who directly communicated
with the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, USA, bypassing the Secretary of Foreign Affairs
which is the proper protocol procedure. Mr. Steven Bucher, the acting Chief of the Records Services
Board of US-INS Washington D.C. in his letter addressed to Philip Antweiler, Philippine Desk Officer,
State Department, declared the earlier Certification as incorrect and erroneous as it was "not
exhaustive and did not reflect all available information." Also, Richard L. Huff, Co-Director of the
Office of Information and privacy, US Department of Justice, in response to the appeal raised by
Consul General Teresita V. Marzan, explained that "the INS normally does not maintain records on
individuals who are entering the country as visitors rather than as immigrants: and that a notation
concerning the entry of a visitor may be made at the Nonimmigrant Information system. Since
appellant Webb entered the U.S. on a mere tourist visa, obviously, the initial search could not have
produced the desired result inasmuch as the data base that was looked into contained entries of the
names of IMMIGRANTS and not that of NON-IMMIGRANT visitors of the U.S..62
The trial court and the Court of Appeals expressed marked cynicism over the accuracy of travel
documents like the passport as well as the domestic and foreign records of departures and arrivals
from airports. They claim that it would not have been impossible for Webb to secretly return to the
Philippines after he supposedly left it on March 9, 1991, commit the crime, go back to the U.S., and
openly return to the Philippines again on October 26, 1992. Travel between the U.S. and the
Philippines, said the lower courts took only about twelve to fourteen hours.
If the Court were to subscribe to this extremely skeptical view, it might as well tear the rules of
evidence out of the law books and regard suspicions, surmises, or speculations as reasons for
impeaching evidence. It is not that official records, which carry the presumption of truth of what they
state, are immune to attack. They are not. That presumption can be overcome by evidence. Here,
however, the prosecution did not bother to present evidence to impeach the entries in Webbs
passport and the certifications of the Philippine and U.S. immigration services regarding his travel to
the U.S. and back. The prosecutions rebuttal evidence is the fear of the unknown that it planted in
the lower courts minds.
7. Effect of Webbs alibi to others

Webbs documented alibi altogether impeaches Alfaro's testimony, not only with respect to him, but
also with respect to Lejano, Estrada, Fernandez, Gatchalian, Rodriguez, and Biong. For, if the Court
accepts the proposition that Webb was in the U.S. when the crime took place, Alfaros testimony will
not hold together. Webbs participation is the anchor of Alfaros story. Without it, the evidence against
the others must necessarily fall.
CONCLUSION
In our criminal justice system, what is important is, not whether the court entertains doubts about the
innocence of the accused since an open mind is willing to explore all possibilities, but whether it
entertains a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt. For, it would be a serious mistake to send an
innocent man to jail where such kind of doubt hangs on to ones inner being, like a piece of meat
lodged immovable between teeth.
Will the Court send the accused to spend the rest of their lives in prison on the testimony of an NBI
asset who proposed to her handlers that she take the role of the witness to the Vizconde massacre
that she could not produce?
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated December 15, 2005 and
Resolution dated January 26, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. 00336 and
ACQUITS accused-appellants Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A. Gatchalian,
Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong of the crimes of which
they were charged for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They
are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention unless they are confined for another lawful
cause.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Director, Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City for
immediate implementation. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to report the
action he has taken to this Court within five days from receipt of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 140160. January 13, 2004]

LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. FELICIANO F.


WYCOCO, respondent.
[G.R. No. 146733. January 13, 2004]

FELICIANO F. WYCOCO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE RODRIGO


S. CASPILLO, Pairing Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Third
Judicial
Region,
Branch
23,
Cabanatuan
City
and
the DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, respondents.
DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Before the Court are consolidated petitions, the first seeking the review of
the February 9, 1999 Decision and the September 22, 1999 Resolution of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP No. 39913, which modified the
Decision of Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch 23, acting as a
Special Agrarian Court in Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF); and the second for
mandamus to compel the said trial court to issue a writ of execution and to
direct Judge Rodrigo S. Caspillo to inhibit himself from Agrarian Case No. 91
(AF).
[1]

[2]

[3]

The undisputed antecedents show that Feliciano F. Wycoco is the


registered owner of a 94.1690 hectare unirrigated and untenanted rice land,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. NT-206422 and situated in the
Sitios of Ablang, Saguingan and Pinamunghilan, Barrio of San Juan, Licab,
Nueva Ecija.
[4]

In line with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the


government, Wycoco voluntarily offered to sell the land to the Department of
Agrarian Reform (DAR) for P14.9 million. In November 1991, after the DARs
evaluation of the application and the determination of the just compensation
[5]

by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), a notice of intention to acquire


84.5690 hectares of the property for P1,342,667.46 was sent to
Wycoco. The amount offered was later raised to P2,594,045.39 and, upon
review, was modified to P2,280,159.82. The area which the DAR offered to
acquire excluded idle lands, river and road located therein. Wycoco rejected
the offer, prompting the DAR to indorse the case to the Department of
Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) for the purpose of fixing the just
compensation in a summary administrative proceeding. The case was
docketed as DARAB VOS Case No. 232 NE 93. Thereafter, the DARAB
requested LBP to open a trust account in the name of Wycoco and deposited
the compensation offered by DAR. In the meantime, the property was
distributed to farmer-beneficiaries.
[6]

[7]

[8]

[9]

On March 29, 1993, DARAB required the parties to submit their respective
memoranda or position papers in support of their claim. Wycoco, however,
decided to forego with the filing of the required pleadings, and instead filed on
April 13, 1993, the instant case for determination of just compensation with
the Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch 23, docketed as Agrarian
Case No. 91 (AF). Impleaded as party-defendants therein were DAR and
LBP.
[10]

[11]

On April 30, 1993, Wycoco filed a manifestation in VOS Case No. 232 NE
93, informing the DARAB of the pendency of Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF) with
the Cabanatuan court, acting as a special agrarian court. On March 9, 1994,
the DARAB issued an order dismissing the case to give way to the
determination of just compensation by the Cabanatuan court. Pertinent
portion thereof states:
[12]

Admittedly, this Forum is vested with the jurisdiction to conduct administrative


proceeding to determine compensation. [H]owever, a thorough perusal of petitioners
complaint showed that he did not only raise the issue of valuation but such other
matters which are beyond the competence of the Board. Besides, the petitioner has
the option to avail the administrative remedies or bring the matter on just
compensation to the Special Agrarian Court for final determination.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this case is hereby dismissed.

SO ORDERED.

[13]

Meanwhile, DAR and LBP filed their respective answers before the special
agrarian court in Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF), contending that the valuation of
Wycocos property was in accordance with law and that the latter failed to
exhaust administrative remedies by not participating in the summary
administrative proceedings before the DARAB which has primary jurisdiction
over determination of land valuation.
[14]

After conducting a pre-trial on October 3, 1994, the trial court issued a pretrial order as follows:
The parties manifested that there is no possibility of amicable settlement, neither are
they willing to admit or stipulate on facts, except those contained in the pleadings.
The only issue left is for the determination of just compensation or correct valuation
of the land owned by the plaintiff subject of this case.
The parties then prayed to terminate the pre-trial conference.
AS PRAYED FOR, the pre-trial conference is considered terminated, and instead of
trial, the parties are allowed to submit their respective memoranda.
WHEREFORE, the parties are given twenty (20) days from today within which to file
their simultaneous memoranda, and another ten (10) days from receipt thereof to file
their Reply/Rejoinder, if any, and thereafter, this case shall be deemed submitted for
decision.
SO ORDERED.

[15]

The evidence presented by Wycoco in support of his claim were the


following: (1) Transfer Certificate of Title No. NT-206422; (2) Notice of Land
Valuation dated June 18, 1992; and (3) letter dated July 10, 1992 rejecting the
counter-offer of LBP and DAR. On the other hand, DAR and LBP presented
the Land Valuation Worksheets.
[16]

[17]

On November 14, 1995, the trial court rendered a decision in favor of


Wycoco. It ruled that there is no need to present evidence in support of the

land valuation inasmuch as it is of public knowledge that the prevailing market


value of agricultural lands sold in Licab, Nueva Ecija is from P135,000.00 to
150,000.00 per hectare. The court thus took judicial notice thereof and fixed
the compensation for the entire 94.1690 hectare land at P142,500.00 per
hectare or a total of P13,428,082.00. It also awarded Wycoco actual
damages for unrealized profits plus legal interest. The dispositive portion
thereof states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:
1.
Ordering the defendants to pay the amount of P13,419,082.00 to plaintiff as just
compensation for the property acquired;
2.
Ordering the defendants to pay plaintiff the amount of P29,663,235.00
representing the unrealized profits from the time of acquisition of the subject property
and the sum of P8,475,210.00 for every calendar year, until the amount of
compensation is fully paid including legal interest which had accrued thereon.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

[18]

The DAR and the LBP filed separate petitions before the Court of
Appeals. The petition brought by DAR on jurisdictional and procedural issues,
docketed as CA-G.R. No. SP No. 39234, was dismissed on May 29, 1997.
The dismissal became final and executory on June 26, 1997. This
prompted Wycoco to file a petition for mandamus before this Court, docketed
as G.R. No. 146733, praying that the decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Cabanatuan City, Branch 23, in Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF) be executed, and
that Judge Rodrigo S. Caspillo, the now presiding Judge of said court, be
compelled to inhibit himself from hearing the case.
[19]

[20]

The petition brought by LBP on both substantive and procedural grounds,


docketed as CA-G.R. No. SP No. 39913, was likewise dismissed by the Court
of Appeals on February 9, 1999. On September 22, 1999, however, the
Court of Appeals modified its decision by deducting from the compensation
due Wycoco the amount corresponding to the 3.3672 hectare portion of the
[21]

94.1690 hectare land which was found to have been previously sold by
Wycoco to the Republic, thus
WHEREFORE, and conformably with the above, Our decision of February 9, 1999 is
hereby MODIFIED in the sense that the value corresponding to the aforesaid 3.3672
hectares and all the awards appertaining thereto in the decision a quo are ordered
deducted from the totality of the awards granted to the private respondent. In all other
respects, the decision sought to be reconsidered is hereby RE-AFFIRMED and
REITERATED.
SO ORDERED.

[22]

In its petition, LBP contended that the Court of Appeals erred in ruling:
I

THAT THE TRIAL COURT ACTING AS A SPECIAL AGRARIAN COURT MAY


ASSUME JURISDICTION OVER AGRARIAN CASE NO. 91 (AF) AND RENDER
JUDGMENT THEREON WITHOUT AN INITIAL ADMINISTRATIVE
DETERMINATION OF JUST COMPENSATION BY THE DARAB PURSUANT
TO SECTION 16 OF RA 6657, OVER THE TIMELY OBJECTION OF THE
PETITIONER, AND IN VIOLATION OF THE RULE ON EXHAUSTION OF
ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES AND ON FORUM SHOPPING;
II

THAT THE JUST COMPENSATION DETERMINED BY THE TRIAL COURT


WAS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, WHEN IT WAS BASED
ONLY ON JUDICIAL NOTICE OF THE PREVAILING MARKET VALUE OF
LAND BASED ON THE ALLEGED PRICE OF TRANSFER OF TENURAL
RIGHTS, TAKEN WITHOUT NOTICE AND HEARING IN VIOLATION OF RULE
129 OF THE RULES OF COURT;
III

THAT THE TRIAL COURT CAN REQUIRE THE PETITIONER TO


COMPENSATE THE PORTIONS OF RESPONDENTS PROPERTY WHICH
WERE NOT DECLARED BY THE DAR FOR ACQUISITION, NOR SUITABLE

FOR AGRICULTURE NOR CAPABLE OF DISTRIBUTION TO FARMER


BENEFICIARIES UNDER THE CARP;
IV

THAT THE TRIAL COURT CAN AWARD AS PART OF JUST COMPENSATION


LEGAL INTEREST ON THE PRINCIPAL AND ALLEGED UNREALIZED
PROFITS OF P29,663,235.00 FROM THE TIME OF ACQUISITION OF THE
SUBJECT PROPERTY AND P8,475,210.00 FOR EVERY CALENDAR YEAR
THEREAFTER, CONSIDERING THAT THE SAME HAS NO LEGAL BASIS AND
THAT THE RESPONDENT RETAINED THE TITLE TO HIS PROPERTY
DESPITE THE DARS NOTICE OF ACQUISITION;
V

THAT THE TRIAL COURT HAD VALIDLY GRANTED EXECUTION PENDING


APPEAL ON THE ALLEGEDLY GOOD REASON OF THE PETITIONERS
ADVANCED AGE AND WEAK HEALTH, CONTRARY TO THE APPLICABLE
JURISPRUDENCE AND CONSIDERING THAT THE RESPONDENT IS NOT
DESTITUTE.
[23]

The issues for resolution are as follows: (1) Did the Regional Trial Court,
acting as Special Agrarian Court, validly acquire jurisdiction over the instant
case for determination of just compensation? (2) Assuming that it acquired
jurisdiction, was the compensation arrived at supported by evidence? (3) Can
Wycoco compel the DAR to purchase the entire land subject of the voluntary
offer to sell? (4) Were the awards of interest and damages for unrealized
profits valid?
Anent the issue of jurisdiction, the laws in point are Sections 50 and 57 of
Republic Act No. 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988) which,
in pertinent part, provide:
Section 50. Quasi-judicial Powers of the DAR. The DAR is hereby vested with
primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall
have exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of
agrarian reform, except those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the

Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural


Resources (DENR).
Section 57. Special Jurisdiction. The Special Agrarian Court shall have original and
exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to
landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses under this Act.
The Special Agrarian Courts shall decide all appropriate cases under their special
jurisdiction within thirty (30) days from submission of the case for decision.
In Republic v. Court of Appeals, it was held that Special Agrarian Courts
are given original and exclusive jurisdiction over two categories of cases, to
wit: (1) all petitions for the determination of just compensation; and (2) the
prosecution of all criminal offenses under R.A. No. 6657. Section 50 must be
construed in harmony with Section 57 by considering cases involving the
determination of just compensation and criminal cases for violations of R.A.
No. 6657 as excepted from the plenitude of power conferred to the
DAR. Indeed, there is a reason for this distinction. The DAR, as an
administrative agency, cannot be granted jurisdiction over cases of eminent
domain and over criminal cases. The valuation of property in eminent domain
is essentially a judicial function which is vested with the Special Agrarian
Courts and cannot be lodged with administrative agencies. In fact, Rule XIII,
Section 11 of the New Rules of Procedure of the DARAB acknowledges this
power of the court, thus
[24]

[25]

Section 11. Land Valuation and Preliminary Determination and Payment of Just
Compensation. The decision of the Adjudicator on land valuation and preliminary
determination and payment of just compensation shall not be appealable to the Board
but shall be brought directly to the Regional Trial Courts designated as Special
Agrarian Courts within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the notice thereof. Any party
shall be entitled to only one motion for reconsideration. (Emphasis supplied)
Under Section 1 of Executive Order No. 405, Series of 1990, the Land
Bank of the Philippines is charged with the initial responsibility of determining
the value of lands placed under land reform and the just compensation to be
paid for their taking. Through a notice of voluntary offer to sell (VOS)
submitted by the landowner, accompanied by the required documents, the
[26]

DAR evaluates the application and determines the lands suitability for
agriculture. The LBP likewise reviews the application and the supporting
documents and determines the valuation of the land. Thereafter, the DAR
issues the Notice of Land Valuation to the landowner. In both voluntary and
compulsory acquisition, where the landowner rejects the offer, the DAR opens
an account in the name of the landowner and conducts a summary
administrative proceeding. If the landowner disagrees with the valuation, the
matter may be brought to the Regional Trial Court acting as a special agrarian
court. This in essence is the procedure for the determination of just
compensation.
[27]

In Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, the landowner filed


an action for determination of just compensation without waiting for the
completion of DARABs re-evaluation of the land. This, notwithstanding, the
Court held that the trial court properly acquired jurisdiction because of its
exclusive and original jurisdiction over determination of just compensation,
thus
[28]

It is clear from Sec. 57 that the RTC, sitting as a Special Agrarian Court, has
original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just
compensation to landowners. This original and exclusive jurisdiction of the RTC
would be undermined if the DAR would vest in administrative officials original
jurisdiction in compensation cases and make the RTC an appellate court for the
review of administrative decisions. Thus, although the new rules speak of directly
appealing the decision of adjudicators to the RTCs sitting as Special Agrarian Courts,
it is clear from Sec. 57 that the original and exclusive jurisdiction to determine such
cases is in the RTCs. Any effort to transfer such jurisdiction to the adjudicators and to
convert the original jurisdiction of the RTCs into an appellate jurisdiction would be
contrary to Sec. 57 and therefore would be void. Thus, direct resort to the
SAC [Special Agrarian Court] by private respondent is valid. (Emphasis supplied)

[29]

In the case at bar, therefore, the trial court properly acquired jurisdiction
over Wycocos complaint for determination of just compensation. It must be
stressed that although no summary administrative proceeding was held before
the DARAB, LBP was able to perform its legal mandate of initially determining
the value of Wycocos land pursuant to Executive Order No. 405, Series of
1990. What is more, DAR and LBPs conformity to the pre-trial order which

limited the issue only to the determination of just compensation estopped


them from questioning the jurisdiction of the special agrarian court. The pretrial order limited the issues to those not disposed of by admission or
agreements; and the entry thereof controlled the subsequent course of action.
[30]

Besides, the issue of whether Wycoco violated the rule on exhaustion of


administrative remedies was rendered moot and academic in view of the
DARABs dismissal of the administrative case to give way to and in
recognition of the courts power to determine just compensation.
[31]

[32]

In arriving at the valuation of Wycocos land, the trial court took judicial
notice of the alleged prevailing market value of agricultural lands in Licab,
Nueva Ecija without apprising the parties of its intention to take judicial notice
thereof. Section 3, Rule 129 of the Rules on Evidence provides:
Sec. 3. Judicial Notice, When Hearing Necessary. During the trial, the court, on its
own initiative, or on request of a party, may announce its intention to take judicial
notice of any matter and allow the parties to be heard thereon.
After trial and before judgment or on appeal, the proper court, on its own initiative, or
on request of a party, may take judicial notice of any matter and allow the parties to be
heard thereon if such matter is decisive of a material issue in the case.
Inasmuch as the valuation of the property of Wycoco is the very issue in
the case at bar, the trial court should have allowed the parties to present
evidence thereon instead of practically assuming a valuation without basis.
While market value may be one of the bases of determining just
compensation, the same cannot be arbitrarily arrived at without considering
the factors to be appreciated in arriving at the fair market value of the
property e.g., the cost of acquisition, the current value of like properties, its
size, shape, location, as well as the tax declarations thereon. Since these
factors were not considered, a remand of the case for determination of just
compensation is necessary. The power to take judicial notice is to be
exercised by courts with caution especially where the case involves a vast
tract of land. Care must be taken that the requisite notoriety exists; and every
reasonable doubt on the subject should be promptly resolved in the
[33]

negative. To say that a court will take judicial notice of a fact is merely
another way of saying that the usual form of evidence will be dispensed with if
knowledge of the fact can be otherwise acquired. This is because the court
assumes that the matter is so notorious that it will not be disputed. But
judicial notice is not judicial knowledge. The mere personal knowledge of the
judge is not the judicial knowledge of the court, and he is not authorized to
make his individual knowledge of a fact, not generally or professionally known,
the basis of his action.
[34]

Anent the third issue, the DAR cannot be compelled to purchase the entire
property voluntarily offered by Wycoco. The power to determine whether a
parcel of land may come within the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program is essentially lodged with the DAR. That Wycoco will suffer
damages by the DARs non-acquisition of the approximately 10 hectare
portion of the entire land which was found to be not suitable for agriculture is
no justification to compel DAR to acquire the whole area.
We find Wycocos claim for payment of interest partly meritorious. In Land
Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, this Court struck down as void
DAR Administrative Circular No. 9, Series of 1990, which provides for the
opening of trust accounts in lieu of the deposit in cash or in bonds
contemplated in Section 16 (e) of RA 6657.
[35]

It is very explicit from [Section 16 (e)] that the deposit must be made only in
cash or in LBP bonds. Nowhere does it appear nor can it be inferred that the
deposit can be made in any other form. If it were the intention to include a trust
account among the valid modes of deposit, that should have been made express, or at
least, qualifying words ought to have appeared from which it can be fairly deduced
that a trust account is allowed. In sum, there is no ambiguity in Section 16(e) of RA
6657 to warrant an expanded construction of the term deposit.
xxx

xxx

xxx

In the present suit, the DAR clearly overstepped the limits of its powers to enact
rules and regulations when it issued Administrative Circular No. 9. There is no basis
in allowing the opening of a trust account in behalf of the landowner as compensation
for his property because, as heretofore discussed, Section 16(e) of RA 6657 is very

specific that the deposit must be made only in cash or in LBP bonds. In the same
vein, petitioners cannot invoke LRA Circular Nos. 29, 29-A and 54 because these
implementing regulations can not outweigh the clear provision of the law. Respondent
court therefore did not commit any error in striking down Administrative Circular No.
9 for being null and void.
[36]

Pursuant to the forgoing decision, DAR issued Administrative Order No. 2,


Series of 1996, converting trust accounts in the name of landowners into
deposit accounts. The transitory provision thereof states
VI.

TRANSITORY PROVISIONS

All trust accounts issued pursuant to Administrative Order No. 1, S. 1993 covering
landholdings not yet transferred in the name of the Republic of the Philippines as of
July 5, 1996 shall immediately be converted to deposit accounts in the name of the
landowners concerned.
All Provincial Agrarian Reform Officers and Regional Directors are directed to
immediately inventory the claim folders referred to in the preceding paragraph,
wherever they may be found and request the LBP to establish the requisite deposit
under this Administrative Order and to issue a new certification to that effect. The
Original Certificate of Trust Deposit previously issued should be attached to the
request of the DAR in order that the same may be replaced with a new one.
All previously established Trust Deposits which served as the basis for the transfer of
the landowners title to the Republic of the Philippines shall likewise be converted to
deposits in cash and in bonds. The Bureau of Land Acquisition and Distribution shall
coordinate with the LBP for this purpose.
In light of the foregoing, the trust account opened by LBP in the name of
Wycoco as the mode of payment of just compensation should be converted to
a deposit account. Such conversion should be retroactive in application in
order to rectify the error committed by the DAR in opening a trust account and
to grant the landowners the benefits concomitant to payment in cash or LBP
bonds prior to the ruling of the Court in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court
of Appeals. Otherwise, petitioners right to payment of just and valid
compensation for the expropriation of his property would be violated. The
[37]

interest earnings accruing on the deposit account of landowners would suffice


to compensate them pending payment of just compensation.
In some expropriation cases, the Court imposed an interest of 12% per
annum on the just compensation due the landowner. It must be stressed,
however, that in these cases, the imposition of interest was in the nature of
damages for delay in payment which in effect makes the obligation on the part
of the government one of forbearance. It follows that the interest in the form
of damages cannot be applied where there was prompt and valid payment of
just compensation. Conversely, where there was delay in tendering a valid
payment of just compensation, imposition of interest is in order. This is
because the replacement of the trust account with cash or LBP bonds did
not ipso factocure the lack of compensation; for essentially, the determination
of this compensation was marred by lack of due process.
[38]

[39]

Accordingly, the just compensation due Wycoco should bear 12% interest
per annum from the time LBP opened a trust account in his name up to the
time said account was actually converted into cash and LBP bonds deposit
accounts. The basis of the 12% interest would be the just compensation that
would be determined by the Special Agrarian Court upon remand of the
instant case. In the same vein, the amount determined by the Special
Agrarian Court would also be the basis of the interest income on the cash and
bond deposits due Wycoco from the time of the taking of the property up to
the time of actual payment of just compensation.
The award of actual damages for unrealized profits should be
deleted. The amount of loss must not only be capable of proof, but must be
proven with a reasonable degree of certainty. The claim must be premised
upon competent proof or upon the best evidence obtainable, such as receipts
or other documentary proof. None having been presented in the instant case,
the claim for unrealized profits cannot be granted.
[40]

From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that Wycocos petition for


mandamus in G.R. No. 146733 should be dismissed. The decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch 23, acting as Special
Agrarian Court in Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF), cannot be enforced because
there is a need to remand the case to the trial court for determination of just

compensation. Likewise, the prayer for the inhibition of Judge Rodrigo S.


Caspillo in Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF) is denied for lack of basis.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition in G.R. No. 140160
is PARTIALLY GRANTED. Agrarian Case No. 91 (AF) is REMANDED to the
Regional Trial Court of Cabanatuan City, Branch 23, for the determination of
just compensation. The petition for mandamus in G.R. No. 146733
is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Plaintiff-Appellee,

G.R. No. 186228


Present:
CARPIO, J.,
Chairperson,
BRION,
DEL CASTILLO,
ABAD, and
PEREZ, JJ.

-versus-

ANTONIO
LAUGA
Y
PINA ALIASTERIO,
Accused-Appellant.

Promulgated:
March 15, 2010

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
PEREZ, J.:
Before Us for final review is the trial courts conviction of the appellant for
the rape of his thirteen-year old daughter.
Consistent with the ruling of this Court in People v. Cabalquinto,[1] the real
name and the personal circumstances of the victim, and any other information
tending to establish or compromise her identity, including those of her immediate
family or household members, are not disclosed in this decision.
The Facts

In an Information dated 21 September 2000,[2] the appellant was accused of


the crime of QUALIFIED RAPE allegedly committed as follows:
That on or about the 15th day of March 2000, in the evening, at
Barangay xxx, municipality of xxx, province of Bukidnon, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, being the father of AAA with lewd design, with the use of force
and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally
have carnal knowledge with his own daughter AAA, a 13 year[s]old
minor against her will.[3]

On 12 October 2000, appellant entered a plea of not guilty.[4] During the


pre-trial conference, the prosecution and the defense stipulated and admitted: (a)
the correctness of the findings indicated in the medical certificate of the physician
who examined AAA; (b) that AAA was only thirteen (13) years old when the
alleged offense was committed; and (c) that AAA is the daughter of the appellant.
[5]
On trial, three (3) witnesses testified for the prosecution, namely: victim AAA;
[6]
her brother BBB;[7] and one Moises Boy Banting,[8] a bantay bayan in
the barangay. Their testimonies revealed the following:
In the afternoon of 15 March 2000, AAA was left alone at home. [9] AAAs
father, the appellant, was having a drinking spree at the neighbors place. [10] Her
mother decided to leave because when appellant gets drunk, he has the habit of
mauling AAAs mother.[11] Her only brother BBB also went out in the company of
some neighbors.[12]
At around 10:00 oclock in the evening, appellant woke AAA up;[13] removed
his pants, slid inside the blanket covering AAA and removed her pants and
underwear;[14] warned her not to shout for help while threatening her with his fist;
[15]
and told her that he had a knife placed above her head. [16] He proceeded to
mash her breast, kiss her repeatedly, and inserted his penis inside her vagina.[17]
Soon after, BBB arrived and found AAA crying. [18] Appellant claimed he
scolded her for staying out late.[19] BBB decided to take AAA with him. [20] While
on their way to their maternal grandmothers house, AAA recounted her harrowing
experience with their father.[21] Upon reaching their grandmothers house, they told

their grandmother and uncle of the incident,[22] after which, they sought the
assistance of Moises Boy Banting.[23]
Moises Boy Banting found appellant in his house wearing only his
underwear.[24] He invited appellant to the police station, [25] to which appellant
obliged. At the police outpost, he admitted to him that he raped AAA because he
was unable to control himself.[26]
The following day, AAA submitted herself to physical examination.
Dra. Josefa Arlita L. Alsula, Municipal Health Officer of x x x, Bukidnon,
issued the Medical Certificate, which reads:
[27]

hyperemic vulvae with 4 oclock & 6 oclock freshly lacerated


hymen; (+) minimal to moderate bloody discharges 2 to an alleged
raping incident[28]

On the other hand, only appellant testified for the defense. He believed that
the charge against him was ill-motivated because he sometimes physically abuses
his wife in front of their children after engaging in a heated argument, [29] and beats
the children as a disciplinary measure.[30] He went further to narrate how his day
was on the date of the alleged rape.
He alleged that on 15 March 2000, there was no food prepared for him at
lunchtime.[31] Shortly after, AAA arrived.[32] She answered back when confronted.
[33]
This infuriated him that he kicked her hard on her buttocks.[34]
Appellant went back to work and went home again around 3 oclock in the
afternoon.[35] Finding nobody at home,[36] he prepared his dinner and went to sleep.
[37]

Later in the evening, he was awakened by the members of the Bantay


Bayan headed by Moises Boy Banting.[38] They asked him to go with them to
discuss some matters.[39] He later learned that he was under detention because
AAA charged him of rape.[40]

On 8 July 2006, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Malaybalay


City, Bukidnon, rendered its decision[41] in Criminal Case No. 10372-0, finding
appellant guilty of rape qualified by relationship and minority, and sentenced him
to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.[42] It also ordered him to indemnify
AAAP50,000.00 as moral damages, and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity with
exemplary damages of P25,000.00.[43]
On 30 September 2008, the decision of the trial court was AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATIONS[44] by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00456MIN.[45] The appellate court found that appellant is not eligible for parole and it
increased
both
the
civil
indemnity
and
moral
damages
[46]
from P50,000.00 toP75,000.00.
On 24 November 2008, the Court of Appeals gave due course to the
appellants notice of appeal.[47] This Court required the parties to simultaneously
file their respective supplemental briefs, [48] but both manifested that they will no
longer file supplemental pleadings.[49]
The lone assignment of error in the appellants brief is that, the trial court
gravely erred in finding him guilty as charged despite the failure of the prosecution
to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, [50] because: (1) there were
inconsistencies in the testimonies of AAA and her brother BBB; [51] (2) his
extrajudicial confession before Moises Boy Banting was without the assistance of a
counsel, in violation of his constitutional right; [52] and (3) AAAs accusation was
ill-motivated.[53]
Our Ruling
Appellant contests the admissibility in evidence of his alleged confession
with a bantay bayan and the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution.
Admissibility in Evidence of an
Extrajudicial Confession before
a Bantay Bayan

Appellant argues that even if he, indeed, confessed to Moises Boy Banting, a
bantay bayan, the confession was inadmissible in evidence because he was not
assisted by a lawyer and there was no valid waiver of such requirement.[54]
The case of People v. Malngan[55] is the authority on the scope of the
Miranda doctrine provided for under Article III, Section 12(1)[56] and (3)[57] of the
Constitution. In Malngan, appellant questioned the admissibility of her
extrajudicial confessions given to the barangay chairman and a neighbor of the
private complainant. This Court distinguished. Thus:
Arguably, the barangay tanods,
including
the Barangay Chairman, in this particular instance, may be deemed as
law enforcement officer for purposes of applying Article III, Section
12(1) and (3), of the Constitution. When accused-appellant was brought
to the barangay hall in the morning of 2 January 2001, she was already a
suspect, actually the only one, in the fire that destroyed several houses
x x x. She was, therefore, already under custodial investigation and the
rights guaranteed by x x x [the] Constitution should have already been
observed or applied to her. Accused-appellants confession to Barangay
Chairman x x x was made in response to the interrogation made by the
latter admittedly conducted without first informing accused-appellant
of her rights under the Constitution or done in the presence of
counsel. For this reason, the confession of accused-appellant, given to
Barangay Chairman x x x, as well as the lighter found x x x in her bag
are inadmissible in evidence against her x x x.
[But such does] not automatically lead to her acquittal. x x x [T]he
constitutional safeguards during custodial investigations do not apply to
those not elicited through questioning by the police or their
agents but given in an ordinary manner whereby the accused verbally
admits x x x as x x x in the case at bar when accused-appellant admitted
to Mercedita Mendoza, one of the neighbors x x x [of the private
complainant].[58] (Emphasis supplied)

Following the rationale behind the ruling in Malngan, this Court needs to
ascertain whether or not a bantay bayan may be deemed a law enforcement
officer within the contemplation of Article III, Section 12 of the Constitution.
In People of the Philippines v. Buendia,[59] this Court had the occasion to
mention the nature of a bantay bayan, that is, a group of male residents living in
[the] area organized for the purpose of keeping peace in their community[,which
is] an accredited auxiliary of the x x x PNP.[60]
Also, it may be worthy to consider that pursuant to Section 1(g) of Executive
Order No. 309 issued on 11 November 1987, as amended, a Peace and Order
Committee in each barangay shall be organized to serve as implementing arm of
the City/Municipal Peace and Order Council at the Barangay level.[61] The
composition of the Committee includes, among others: (1) the Punong
Barangay as Chairman; (2) the Chairman of the Sangguniang Kabataan; (3) a
Member of theLupon Tagapamayapa; (4) a Barangay Tanod; and (5) at least three
(3) Members of existing Barangay-Based Anti-Crime or neighborhood Watch
Groups or a Non Government Organization Representative well-known in his
community.[62]
This Court is, therefore, convinced that barangay-based volunteer
organizations in the nature of watch groups, as in the case of the bantay bayan,
are recognized by the local government unit to perform functions relating to the
preservation of peace and order at the barangay level. Thus, without ruling on the
legality of the actions taken by Moises Boy Banting, and the specific scope of
duties and responsibilities delegated to a bantay bayan, particularly on the
authority to conduct a custodial investigation, any inquiry he makes has the color
of a state-related function and objective insofar as the entitlement of a suspect to
his constitutional rights provided for under Article III, Section 12 of the
Constitution, otherwise known as the Miranda Rights, is concerned.
We, therefore, find the extrajudicial confession of appellant, which was
taken without a counsel, inadmissible in evidence.

Be that as it may, We agree with the Court of Appeals that the conviction of
the appellant was not deduced solely from the assailed extrajudicial confession but
from the confluence of evidence showing his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.[63]
Credibility of the Witnesses for the Prosecution
Appellant assails the inconsistencies in the testimonies of AAA and her
brother BBB. AAA testified that BBB accompanied her to the house of their
grandmother. Thereafter, they, together with her relatives, proceeded to look for a
bantay bayan. On the other hand, BBB testified that he brought her sister to the
house of their bantay bayan after he learned of the incident.
Citing Bartocillo v. Court of Appeals,[64] appellant argues that where the
testimonies of two key witnesses cannot stand together, the inevitable conclusion is
that one or both must be telling a lie, and their story a mere concoction.[65]
The principle, however, is not applicable in the case at bar. In Bartocillo, the
two testimonies could not simply stand together because:
On one hand, if we are to believe Susan, Orlando could not have
possibly seen the hacking incident since he had accompanied Vicente
home. On the other hand, if we are to accept the testimony of Orlando,
then Susan could not have possibly witnessed the hacking incident since
she was with Vicente at that time.

Here, the testimony of AAA does not run contrary to that of BBB. Both
testified that they sought the help of a bantay bayan. Their respective
testimonies differ only as to when the help was sought for, which this Court could
well attribute to the nature of the testimony of BBB, a shortcut version of AAAs
testimony that dispensed with a detailed account of the incident.
At any rate, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding that the assailed
inconsistency is too trivial to affect the veracity of the testimonies. [66] In fact,
inconsistencies which refer to minor, trivial or inconsequential circumstances even
strengthen the credibility of the witnesses, as they erase doubts that such
testimonies have been coached or rehearsed.[67]

Appellants contention that AAA charged him of rape only because she bore
grudges against him is likewise unmeritorious. This Court is not dissuaded from
giving full credence to the testimony of a minor complainant by motives of feuds,
resentment or revenge.[68] As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals:
Indeed, mere disciplinary chastisement is not strong enough to
make daughters in a Filipino family invent a charge that would not only
bring shame and humiliation upon them and their families but also bring
their fathers into the gallows of death. [69] The Supreme Court has
repeatedly held that it is unbelievable for a daughter to charge her own
father with rape, exposing herself to the ordeal and embarrassment of a
public trial and subjecting her private parts to examination if such
heinous crime was not in fact committed. [70] No person, much less a
woman, could attain such height of cruelty to one who has sired her, and
from whom she owes her very existence, and for which she naturally
feels loving and lasting gratefulness. [71] Even when consumed with
revenge, it takes a certain amount of psychological depravity for a young
woman to concoct a story which would put her own father to jail for the
most of his remaining life and drag the rest of the family including
herself to a lifetime of shame. [72] It is highly improbable for [AAA]
against whom no proof of sexual perversity or loose morality has been
shown to fake charges much more against her own father. In fact her
testimony is entitled to greater weight since her accusing words were
directed against a close relative.[73]

Elements of Rape
Having established the credibility of the witnesses for the
prosecution, We now examine the applicability of the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 [74] to
the case at bar.
The law provides, in part, that rape is committed, among others, [b]y a man
who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman through force, threat or
intimidation.[75] The death penalty shall be imposed if it is committed with
aggravating/qualifying circumstances, which include, [w]hen the victim is under
eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent.[76]

The consistent and forthright testimony of AAA detailing how she was
raped, culminating with the penetration of appellants penis into her vagina,
suffices to prove that appellant had carnal knowledge of her. When a woman states
that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape
was committed.[77] Further, when such testimony corresponds with medical
findings, there is sufficient basis to conclude that the essential requisites of carnal
knowledge have been established.[78]
The Court of Appeals pointed out that the element of force or intimidation is
not essential when the accused is the father of the victim, inasmuch as his superior
moral ascendancy or influence substitutes for violence and intimidation. [79] At any
rate, AAA was actually threatened by appellant with his fist and a knife allegedly
placed above AAAs head.[80]
It may be added that the self-serving defense of appellant cannot prevail
over the positive and straightforward testimony of AAA. Settled is the rule that,
alibi is an inherently weak defense that is viewed with suspicion because it is easy
to fabricate.[81] Alibi and denial must be supported by strong corroborative
evidence in order to merit credibility.[82] Moreover, for the defense of alibi to
prosper, the accused must establish two elements (1) he was not at
the locus delicti at the time the offense was committed; and (2) it was physically
impossible for him to be at the scene at the time of its commission. [83] Appellant
failed in this wise.
Aggravating/Qualifying Circumstances
The presence of the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship
with the offender in the instant case has likewise been adequately established. Both
qualifying circumstances were specifically alleged in the Information, stipulated on
and admitted during the pre-trial conference, and testified to by both parties in their
respective testimonies. Also, such stipulation and admission, as correctly pointed
out by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon this Court because they are judicial
admissions within the contemplation of Section 4, Rule 129 of the Revised Rules
of Court. It provides:

Sec. 4. Judicial admissions. - An admission, verbal or


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

Penalty
Finally, in increasing the amount of civil indemnity and damages each
from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00, the Court of Appeals correctly considered
controlling jurisprudence to the effect that where, as here, the rape is committed
with any of the qualifying/aggravating circumstances warranting the imposition of
the death penalty, the victim is entitled to P75,000.00 as civil
indemnity ex delicto[84] and P75,000.00 as moral damages.[85] However, the award
of exemplary damages should have been increased from P25,000.00 to P30,000.00.
[86]
Also, the penalty of reclusion perpetua in lieu of death was correctly imposed
considering that the imposition of the death penalty upon appellant would have
been appropriate were it not for the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or An Act
Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.[87] We further
affirm the ruling of the Court of Appeals on appellants non-eligibility for
parole. Sec. 3 of Republic Act No. 9346 clearly provides that persons convicted
of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences will be reduced
to reclusion perpetua by reason of the law, shall not be eligible for parole.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 30 September
2008 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00456-MIN is hereby AFFIRMED. Appellant
Antonio Lauga is GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of qualified rape, and is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for
parole and to pay AAA P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral
damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

PHILIPPINE
TELEPHONE
COMPANY,

LONG

DISTANCE

G.R. No. 157264


Present:

Petitioner,
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.

- versus -

Promulgated:
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL
REVENUE,
Respondent.

January 31, 2008

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

DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Petitioner, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT),
claiming that it terminated in 1995 the employment of several rank-and-file,
supervisory, and executive employees due to redundancy; that in compliance with
labor law requirements, it paid those separated employees separation pay and other
benefits; and that as employer and withholding agent, it deducted from the
separation pay withholding taxes in the total amount of P23,707,909.20 which it
remitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), filed on November 20, 1997
with the BIR a claim for tax credit or refund of the P23,707,909.20, invoking
Section 28(b)(7)(B) of the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code [1] which excluded
from gross income
[a]ny amount received by an official or employee or by his
heirs from the employer as a consequence of separation of such
official or employee from the service of the employer due to death,

sickness or other physical disability or for any cause beyond the


control of the said official or employee. [2] (Underscoring supplied)

As the BIR took no action on its claim, PLDT filed a claim for judicial
refund before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).
In its Answer,[3] respondent, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue,
contended that PLDT failed to show proof of payment of separation pay and
remittance of the alleged withheld taxes.[4]
PLDT later manifested on March 19, 1998 that it was reducing its claim
to P16,439,777.61 because a number of the separated employees opted to file their
respective claims for refund of taxes erroneously withheld from their separation
pay.[5]
PLDT thereafter retained Sycip Gorres Velayo and Company (SGV) to
conduct a special audit examination of various receipts, invoices and other long
accounts, and moved to avail of the procedure laid down in CTA Circular No. 1-95,
as amended by CTA Circular No. 10-97, allowing the presentation of a certification
of an independent certified public accountant in lieu of voluminous documents.
[6]
The CTA thereupon appointed Amelia Cabal (Cabal) of SGV as Commissioner
of the court.[7] Cabals audit report, which formed part of PLDTs evidence,
[8]
adjusted PLDTs claim to P6,679,167.72.[9]
By Decision[10] of July 25, 2000, the CTA denied PLDTs claim on the
ground that it failed to sufficiently prove that the terminated employees received
separation pay and that taxes were withheld therefrom and remitted to the BIR.[11]
PLDT filed a Motion for New Trial/Reconsideration, praying for an
opportunity to present the receipts and quitclaims executed by the employees and
prove that they received their separation pay.[12] Justifying its motion, PLDT
alleged that
x x x [t]hese Receipts and Quitclaims could not be presented during
the course of the trial despite diligent efforts, the files having been
misplaced and were only recently found. Through excusable mistake

or inadvertence, undersigned counsel relied on the audit of SGV &


Co. of the voluminous cash salary vouchers, and was thus not made
wary of the fact that the cash salary vouchers for the rank and file
employees do not have acknowledgement receipts, unlike the cash
salary vouchers for the supervisory and executive employees. If
admitted in evidence, these Receipts and Quitclaims, together with the
cash salary vouchers, will prove that the rank and file employees
received their separation pay from petitioner.[13] (Underscoring
supplied)

The CTA denied PLDTs motion.[14]


PLDT thus filed a Petition for Review [15] before the Court of Appeals which,
by Decision[16] of February 11, 2002, dismissed the same. PLDTs Motion for
Reconsideration[17] having been denied,[18] it filed the present Petition for Review
on Certiorari,[19] faulting the appellate court to have committed grave abuse of
discretion
A.
. . . WHEN IT HELD THAT PROOF OF PAYMENT OF
SEPARATION PAY TO THE EMPLOYEES IS REQUIRED IN
ORDER TO AVAIL OF REFUND OF TAXES ERRONEOUSLY
PAID TO THE BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE.
B.
. . . WHEN IT HELD THAT PETITIONER FAILED TO
ESTABLISH THAT PETITIONERS EMPLOYEES RECEIVED
THEIR SEPARATION PAY.
C.
. . . IN DISREGARDING THE CERTIFICA-TION/REPORT OF
SGV & CO., WHICH CERTIFIED THAT PETITIONER IS
ENTITLED TO A REFUND OF THE AMOUNT OF P6,679,167.72.
D.
. . . IN NOT ORDERING A NEW TRIAL TO ALLOW
PETITIONER TO PRESENT ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE IN
SUPPORT THEREOF.[20]

PLDT argues against the need for proof that the employees received their
separation pay and proffers the issue in the case in this wise:
It is not essential to prove that the separation pay benefits were
actually received by the terminated employees. This issue is not for
the CTA, nor the Court of Appeals to resolve, but is a matter that falls
within the competence and exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of
Labor and Employment and/or the National Labor Relations
Commission. x x x
Proving, or submitting evidence to prove, receipt of separation
pay would have been material, relevant and necessary if its
deductibility as a business expense has been put in issue. But this has
never been an issue in the instant case. The issue is whether or not the
withholding taxes, which Petitioner remitted to the BIR, should be
refunded for having been erroneously withheld and paid to the latter.
For as long as there is no legal basis for the payment of taxes to
the BIR, the taxpayer is entitled to claim a refund therefore. Hence,
any taxes withheld from separation benefits and paid to the BIR
constitute erroneous payment of taxes and should therefore, be
refunded/credited to the taxpayer/withholding agent, regardless of
whether or not separation pay was actually paid to the concerned
employees.[21] (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied)

PLDTs position does not lie. Tax refunds, like tax exemptions, are
construed strictly against the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing authority,
and thetaxpayer bears the burden of establishing the factual basis of his claim for a
refund.[22]
Under the earlier quoted portion of Section 28 (b)(7)(B) of the National
Internal Revenue Code of 1977 (now Section 32(B)6(b) of the National Internal
Revenue Code of 1997), it is incumbent on PLDT as a claimant for refund on
behalf of each of the separated employees to show that each employee did
x x x reflect in his or its own return the income upon which any
creditable tax is required to be withheld at the source. Only when

there is an excess of the amount of tax so withheld over the tax due on
the payees return can a refund become possible.
A taxpayer must thus do two things to be able to successfully
make a claim for the tax refund: (a) declare the income payments it
received as part of its gross income and (b) establish the fact of
withholding. On this score, the relevant revenue regulation provides
as follows:
Section 10. Claims for tax credit or refund.
Claims for tax credit or refund of income tax deducted
and withheld on income payments shall be given due
course only when it is shown on the return that the
income payment received was declared as part of the
gross income and the fact of withholding is established
by a copy of the statement duly issued by the payer to
the payee (BIR Form No. 1743.1) showing the amount
paid
and
the
amount
of
tax
withheld
therefrom.[23] (Underscoring supplied)

In fine, PLDT must prove that the employees received the income payments
as part of gross income and the fact of withholding.
The CTA found that PLDT failed to establish that the redundant employees
actually received separation pay and that it withheld taxes therefrom and remitted
the same to the BIR, thus:
With respect to the redundant rank and file employees final
payment/terminal pay x x x, the cash salary vouchers relative
thereto have no payment acknowledgement receipts. Inasmuch as
these cash vouchers were not signed by the respective employees to
prove actual receipt of payment, the same merely serves as proofs of
authorization for payment and not actual payment by the Petitioner of
the redundant rank and file employees separation pay and other
benefits. In other words, Petitioner failed to prove that the rank and
file employees were actually paid separation pay and other benefits.

To establish that the withholding taxes deducted from the


redundant employees separation pay/other benefits were actually
remitted to the BIR, therein petitioner submitted the following:
a) Monthly Remittance
Return of Income Taxes
Withheld for December
1995
b) Revised SGV & Co.
Certification
c) Annual
Information
Return of Income Tax
Withheld
on
Compensation, Expanded
and Final Withholding
Taxes for the year 1995
d) Summary of Income
Taxes Withheld for the
calendar
year
endedDecember 31, 1995
e) Summary of Gross
Compensation and Tax
Withheld

Exhibit
D

E to E-3-d
E-6

E-6-a

E-6-b to E-6-e

However, it cannot be determined from the above documents


whether or not Petitioner actually remitted the total income taxes
withheld from the redundant employees taxable compensation
(inclusive of the separation pay/other benefits) for the year 1995. The
amounts of total taxes withheld for each redundant employees
(Exhs. E-4, E-5, E-7, inclusive) cannot be verified against the
Summary of Gross Compensation and Tax Withheld for 1995
(Exhs. E-6-b to E-6-e, inclusive) due to the fact that this summary
enumerates the amounts of income taxes withheld from
Petitioners employees on per district/area basis. The only
schedule (with names, corresponding gross compensation, and
withholding taxes) attached to the summary was for the withholding
taxes on service terminal pay (Exh. E-6-e). However, the names listed
thereon were not among the names of the redundant separated
employees being claimed by petitioner.
xxxx

It is worthy to note that Respondent presented a witness in the


person of Atty. Rodolfo L. Salazar, Chief of the BIR Appellate
Division, who testified that a portion of the Petitioners original claim
for refund of P23,706,908.20 had already been granted. He also
testified that out of 769 claimants, who opted to file directly with the
BIR, 766 had been processed and granted. In fact, x x x three claims
were not processed because the concerned taxpayer failed to submit
the income tax returns and withholding tax certificates. Considering
that no documentary evidence was presented to bolster said
testimony, We have no means of counter checking whether the 766
alleged to have been already granted by the Respondent pertained
to the P16,439,777.61 claim for refund withdrawn by the
Petitioner from the instant petition or to the remaining balance of
P6,679,167.72 which is the subject of this claim. [24] (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)

The appellate court affirmed the foregoing findings of the CTA. Apropos is
this Courts ruling in Far East Bank and Trust Company v. Court of Appeals:[25]
The findings of fact of the CTA, a special court exercising
particular expertise on the subject of tax, are generally regarded as
final, binding, and conclusive upon this Court, especially if these are
substantially similar to the findings of the C[ourt of] A[ppeals] which
is normally the final arbiter of questions of fact. [26] (Underscoring
supplied)

While SGV certified that it had been able to trace the remittance of the
withheld taxes summarized in the C[ash] S[alary] V[ouchers] to the Monthly
Remittance Return of Income Taxes Withheld for the appropriate period covered
by the final payment made to the concerned executives, supervisors, and rank and
file staff members of PLDT,[27] the same cannot be appreciated in PLDTs favor as
the courts cannot verify such claim. While the records of the case contain the
Alphabetical List of Employee from Whom Taxes Were Withheld for the year 1995
and the Monthly Remittance Returns of Income Taxes Withheld for December
1995, the documents from which SGV traced the former to the latter have not
been presented. Failure to present these documents is fatal to PLDTs case. For
the relevant portions of CTA Circular 1-95 instruct:

1. The party who desires to introduce as evidence such voluminous


documents must, after motion and approval by the Court, present:
(a) a Summary containing, among others, a chronological listing
of the numbers, dates and amounts covered by the invoices or
receipts and the amount/s of tax paid; and (b) a Certification of an
independent Certified Public Accountant attesting to the
correctness of the contents of the summary after making an
examination, evaluation and audit of the voluminous receipts and
invoices x x x
2. The method of individual presentation of each and every receipt,
invoice or account for marking, identification and comparison
with the originals thereof need not be done before the Court or
Clerk of Court anymore after the introduction of the summary and
CPA certification. It is enough that the receipts, invoices,
vouchers or other documents covering the said accounts or
payment to be introduced in evidence must be pre-marked by
the party concerned and submitted to the Court in order to be
made accessible to the adverse party who desires to check and
verify the correctness of the summary and CPA
certification. Likewise the originals of the voluminous receipts,
invoices and accounts must be ready for verification and
comparison in case of doubt on the authenticity thereof is raised
during the hearing or resolution of the formal offer of evidence.
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation v. Commissioner


of Internal Revenue,[28] citing Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Manila Mining
Corporation[29] explains the need for the promulgation of the immediately-cited
CTA Circular and its effect:
x x x The circular, in the interest of speedy administration of
justice, was promulgated to avoid the time-consuming procedure of
presenting, identifying and marking of documents before the
Court. It does not relieve respondent of its imperative
task of premarking photocopies of sales receipts and invoices
and submitting the same to the court after the independent CPA shall
have examined and compared them with the originals. Without
presenting these pre-marked documents as evidence from which the

summary and schedules were based, the court cannot verify the
authenticity and veracity of the independent auditors
conclusions. (Italics in the original; Emphasis and underscoring
supplied).[30]

On the denial of PLDTs motion for new trial: new trial may be granted on
either of these grounds:
a) Fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence which ordinary
prudence could not have guarded against and by reason of which
such aggrieved party has probably been impaired in his rights; or
b) Newly discovered evidence, which he could not, with reasonable
diligence, have discovered and produced at the trial, and which if
presented would probably alter the result. [31]

Newly discovered evidence as a basis of a motion for new trial should be supported
by affidavits of the witnesses by whom such evidence is expected to be given, or by
duly authenticated documents which are proposed to be introduced in evidence.
[32]
And the grant or denial of a new trial is, generally speaking, addressed to the
sound discretion of the court which cannot be interfered with unless a clear abuse
thereof is shown.[33] PLDT has not shown any such abuse, however.
The affirmance by the appellate court of the CTAs denial of PLDTs motion
for new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, viz:
xxxx
The petitioner appended to its Motion for New Trial, etc. ,
unnotarized copies of Receipts, Release and Quitclaim bearing
the signatures purportedly of those employees for whom the Petitioner
filed the Petition before the CTA, dated December 28, 1995
x
[34]
x x[.]
xxxx

Although the Rules require the appendage, by the Petitioner, of


the Affidavits of Witnesses it intends to present in a new trial, the
Petitioner failed to append to itsMotion for New Trial any
affidavits of said witnesses. The Receipts, Releases, and
Quitclaims appended to the Petition are not authenticated. Indeed,
the said deeds were not notarized, despite their having been signed,
allegedly by the employees, as early as December 28, 1995, or
approximately two (2) years before the Petitioner filed the Petition
before the CTA. It behooved the Petitioner to have appended the
Affidavits of the separated employees to authenticate the Receipts,
Releases and Quitclaims purportedly executed by them,
respectively. The petitioner did not.
The Petitioner wanted the CTA to believe that the employees
executed the aforesaid Receipts, Releases and Quitclaims as early
as December 28, 1995, and kept the same in its possession and
custody. However, the petitioner divulged the existence of said
Receipts, etc., only when it filed its Motion for New Trial, etc.
on August 18, 2000, or an interregnum of almost five (5)
years. None of the responsible officers of the Petitioner, especially
the
custodian
of
said
Receipts,
etc.,
executed
an Affidavitexplaining why the same (a) were not notarized on or
about December 28, 1995; (b) whether the said deeds were turned
over to its counsel when it filed the Petition at bench; (c) why it failed
to present the said Receipts to the SGV & Co., while the latter was
conducting its examination and/or audit of the records of the
Petitioner. It is incredible that, if it is true, as claimed by Petitioner,
the employees,
indeed, signed the said Receipts on December
28, 1995, the Petitioner, one of the biggest corporations in the
Philippines and laden with competent execu-tives/officers/employees,
did not bother having the same notarized on or about December 28,
1995. For sure, when the Petitioner endorsed the preparation and
filing of the Petition to its counsel, it should have collated all the
documents necessary to support its Petition and submit the same to its
counsel. If the Petitioner did, its counsel has not explained why it
failed to present the same before the Commissioner and/or adduce the
same in evidence during the hearing of the Petition on its merits with
the CTA. We are convinced that the said Receipts, etc. were antedated
and executed only after the CTA rendered its Decision and only in
anticipation of theMotion for New Trial, etc. filed by the
Petitioner.[35] (Emphasis and underscoring in the original),

is thus in order.
Finally, on PLDTs plea for a liberal application of the rules of procedure,
Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. A. Soriano Corporation [37] furnishes
acaveat on the matter:
[36]

Perhaps realizing that under the Rules the said report cannot be
admitted as newly discovered evidence, the petitioner invokes a
liberal application of the Rules. He submits that Section 8 of the
Rules of the Court of Tax Appeals declaring that the latter shall not
be governed strictly by technical rules of evidence mandates a
relaxation of the requirements of new trial on the basis of newly
discovered evidence. This is a dangerous proposition and one which
we refuse to countenance. We cannot agree more with the Court of
Appeals when it stated thus,

To accept the contrary view of the petitioner


would give rise to a dangerous precedent in that there
would be no end to a hearing before respondent
courtbecause, every time a party is aggrieved by its
decision, he can have it set aside by asking to be allowed
to present additional evidence without having to comply
with the requirements of a motion for new trial based on
newly discovered evidence. Rule 13, Section 5 of the
Rules of the Court of Tax Appeals should not be ignored
at will and at random to the prejudice of the orderly
presentation of issues and their resolution. To do so
would affect, to a considerable extent, the stability of
judicial decisions.
We are left with no recourse but to conclude that this is a
simple case of negligence on the part of the petitioner. For this act of
negligence, the petitioner cannot be allowed to seek refuge in a liberal

application of the Rules. For it should not be forgotten that the first
and fundamental concern of the rules of procedure is to secure a just
determination of every action. In the case at bench, a liberal
application of the rules of procedure to suit the petitioners purpose
would clearly pave the way for injustice as it would be rewarding an
act of negligence with undeserved tolerance. [38] (Underscoring
supplied)

At all events, the alleged newly discovered evidence that PLDT seeks to
offer does not suffice to establish its claim for refund, as it would still have to
comply with Revenue Regulation 6-85 by proving that the redundant employees,
on whose behalf it filed the claim for refund, declared the separation pay received
as part of their gross income. Furthermore, the same Revenue Regulation requires
that the fact of withholding is established by a copy of the statement duly issued
by the payor to the payee (BIR Form No. 1743.1) showing the amount paid and the
amount of tax withheld therefrom.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.


Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

SILKAIR
LTD.,

(SINGAPORE)

PTE.

Petitioner,

G.R. No. 184398

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,
Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,
- versus -

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BERSAMIN, and
VILLARAMA, JR., JJ.

COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL
REVENUE,

Promulgated:

Respondent.
February 25, 2010

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

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari,


assailing the May 27, 2008 Decision [1] and the subsequent
September 5, 2008 Resolution[2] of the Court of Tax Appeals
(CTA) En Banc in C.T.A. E.B. No. 267. The decision dated May 27,
2008 denied the petition for review filed by petitioner Silkair
(Singapore) Pte. Ltd., on the ground, among others, of failure to
prove that it was authorized to operate in the Philippines for the
period June to December 2000, while the Resolution dated

September 5, 2008 denied petitioners motion for reconsideration


for lack of merit.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Petitioner, a foreign corporation organized under the laws


of Singapore with a Philippine representative office in Cebu City, is
an online international carrier plying the Singapore-CebuSingapore and Singapore-Cebu-Davao-Singapore routes.

Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue is impleaded


herein in his official capacity as head of the Bureau of Internal
Revenue (BIR), an attached agency of the Department of Finance
which is duly authorized to decide, approve, and grant refunds
and/or tax credits of erroneously paid or illegally collected internal
revenue taxes.[3]

On June 24, 2002, petitioner filed with the BIR an


administrative claim for the refund of Three Million Nine Hundred
Eighty-Three Thousand Five Hundred Ninety Pesos and Forty-Nine
Centavos (P3,983,590.49) in excise taxes which it allegedly
erroneously paid on its purchases of aviation jet fuel from Petron
Corporation (Petron) from June to December 2000. Petitioner
used as basis therefor BIR Ruling No. 339-92 dated December 1,
1992, which declared that the petitioners Singapore-CebuSingapore route is an international flight by an international
carrier and that the petroleum products purchased by the
petitioner should not be subject to excise taxes under Section 135
of Republic Act No. 8424 or the 1997 National Internal Revenue
Code (NIRC).

Since the BIR took no action on petitioners claim for


refund, petitioner sought judicial recourse and filed on June 27,
2002, a petition for review with the CTA (docketed as CTA Case
No. 6491), to prevent the lapse of the two-year prescriptive period
within which to judicially claim a refund under Section 229 [4] of the
NIRC. Petitioner invoked its exemption from payment of excise
taxes in accordance with the provisions of Section 135(b) of the
NIRC, which exempts from excise taxes the entities covered by
tax treaties, conventions and other international agreements;
provided that the country of said carrier or exempt entity likewise
exempts from similar taxes the petroleum products sold to
Philippine carriers or entities. In this regard, petitioner relied on
the reciprocity clause under Article 4(2) of the Air Transport
Agreement entered between the Republic of the Philippines and
the Republic of Singapore.

Section 135(b) of the NIRC provides:

SEC. 135. Petroleum Products Sold to International


Carriers and Exempt Entities or Agencies. Petroleum
products sold to the following are exempt from excise tax:

xxxx

(b) Exempt entities or agencies covered by tax


treaties, conventions and other international
agreements
for
their
use
or
consumption: Provided, however,
That
the
country of said foreign international carrier or
exempt entities or agencies exempts from similar

taxes petroleum products sold to


carriers, entities or agencies; x x x.

Philippine

Article 4(2) of the Air Transport Agreement


the Philippines and Singapore, in turn, provides:

between

ART. 4. x x x.

xxxx

(2) Fuel, lubricants, spare parts, regular equipment


and aircraft stores introduced into, or taken on board
aircraft in the territory of one Contracting Party by, or on
behalf of, a designated airline of the other Contracting
Party and intended solely for use in the operation of the
agreed services shall, with the exception of charges
corresponding to the service performed, be exempt from
the same customs duties, inspection fees and other
duties or taxes imposed in the territory of the first
Contracting Party, even when these supplies are to be
used on the parts of the journey performed over the
territory of the Contracting Party in which they are
introduced into or taken on board. The materials referred
to above may be required to be kept under customs
supervision and control.

In a Decision[5] dated July 27, 2006, the CTA First Division


found that petitioner was qualified for tax exemption under
Section
135(b)
of
the
NIRC,
as
long
as
the Republic of Singapore exempts from similar taxes petroleum
products sold to Philippine carriers, entities or agencies under
Article 4(2) of the Air Transport Agreement quoted
above. However, it ruled that petitioner was not entitled to the
excise tax exemption for failure to present proof that it was
authorized to operate in the Philippines during the period material
to the case due to the non-admission of some of its exhibits,
which were merely photocopies, including Exhibit A which was
petitioners Certificate of Registration with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) and Exhibits P, Q and R which
were its operating permits issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board
(CAB) to fly the Singapore-Cebu-Singapore and Singapore-CebuDavao-Singapore routes for the period October 1999 to October
2000.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the CTA First


Division denied the same in a Resolution [6] dated January 17,
2007.

Thereafter, petitioner elevated the case before the CTA En


Banc via a petition for review, which was initially denied in a
Resolution[7] dated May 17, 2007 for failure of petitioner to
establish its legal authority to appeal the Decision dated July 27,
2006 and the Resolution dated January 17, 2007 of the CTA First
Division.

Undaunted, petitioner moved for reconsideration. In the


Resolution[8] dated September 19, 2007, the CTA En Banc set
aside its earlier resolution dismissing the petition for review and

reinstated the same. It also required respondent to file his


comment thereon.

On May 27, 2008, the CTA En Banc promulgated the assailed


Decision and denied the petition for review, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant


petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed
Decision dated July 27, 2006 dismissing the instant
petition on ground of failure of petitioner to prove that it
was authorized to operate in the Philippines for the period
from June to December 2000, is hereby AFFIRMED WITH
MODIFICATION that petitioner is further not found to be
the proper party to file the instant claim for refund.[9]

In a separate Concurring and Dissenting Opinion, [10] CTA


Presiding Justice Ernesto D. Acosta opined that petitioner was
exempt from the payment of excise taxes based on Section 135 of
the NIRC and Article 4 of the Air Transport Agreement between
the Philippines and Singapore. However, despite said exemption,
petitioners claim for refund cannot be granted since it failed to
establish its authority to operate in the Philippines during the
period subject of the claim. In other words, Presiding Justice
Acosta voted to uphold in toto the Decision of the CTA First
Division.

Petitioner again filed a motion for reconsideration which was


denied in the Resolution dated September 5, 2008. Hence, the

instant petition for review oncertiorari, which raises the following


issues:

Whether or not petitioner has substantially proven its


authority to operate in the Philippines.

II

Whether or not petitioner is the proper party to claim


for the refund/tax credit of excise taxes paid on aviation
fuel.

Petitioner maintains that it has proven its authority to


operate in the Philippines with the admission of its Foreign Air
Carriers Permit (FACP) as Exhibit B before the CTA, which, in
part, reads:

[T]his Board RESOLVED, as it hereby resolves to APPROVE


the petition of SILKAIR (SINGAPORE) PTE LTD., for
issuance of a regular operating permit (Foreign Air
Carriers Permit), subject to the approval of the President,
pursuant to Sec. 10 of R.A. 776, as amended by P.D. 1462.
[11]

Moreover, petitioner argues that Exhibits P, Q and R,


which it previously filed with the CTA, were merely flight
schedules submitted to the CAB, and were not its operating
permits. Petitioner adds that it was through inadvertence that
only photocopies of these exhibits were introduced during the
hearing.

Petitioner also asserts that despite its failure to present the


original copy of its SEC Registration during the hearings, the CTA
should take judicial notice of its SEC Registration since the same
was already offered and admitted in evidence in similar cases
pending before the CTA.

Petitioner further claims that the instant case involves a


clear grant of tax exemption to it by law and by virtue of an
international
agreement
between
two
governments. Consequently, being the entity which was granted
the tax exemption and which made the erroneous tax payment of
the excise tax, it is the proper party to file the claim for refund.

In his Comment[12] dated March 26, 2009, respondent states


that the admission in evidence of petitioners FACP does not
change the fact that petitioner failed to formally offer in evidence
the original copies or certified true copies of Exhibit A, its SEC
Registration; and Exhibits P, Q and R, its operating permits
issued by the CAB to fly its Singapore-Cebu-Singapore and
Singapore-Cebu-Davao-Singapore routes for the period October
1999 to October 2000. Respondent emphasizes that petitioners
failure to present these pieces of evidence amounts to its failure
to prove its authority to operate in the Philippines.

Likewise, respondent maintains that an excise tax, being an


indirect tax, is the direct liability of the manufacturer or
producer. Respondent reiterates that when an excise tax on
petroleum products is added to the cost of goods sold to the
buyer, it is no longer a tax but becomes part of the price which
the buyer has to pay to obtain the article. According to
respondent, petitioner cannot seek reimbursement for its alleged
erroneous payment of the excise tax since it is neither the entity
required by law nor the entity statutorily liable to pay the said tax.

After careful examination of the records, we resolve to deny


the petition.

Petitioners assertion that the CTA may take judicial notice


of its SEC Registration, previously offered and admitted in
evidence in similar cases before the CTA, is untenable.

We quote with approval the disquisition of the CTA En


Banc in its Decision dated May 27, 2008 on the non-admission of
petitioners Exhibits A, P, Q and R, to wit:

Anent petitioners argument that the Court in Division should


have taken judicial notice of the existence of Exhibit A (petitioners
SEC Certificate of Registration), although not properly identified during
trial as this has previously been offered and admitted in evidence in
similar cases involving the subject matter between the same parties
before this Court, We are in agreement with the ruling of the Court in
Division, as discussed in its Resolution dated April 12, 2005 resolving
petitioners Motion for Reconsideration on the courts non-admission of
Exhibits A, P, Q and R, wherein it said that:

Each and every case is distinct and separate


in character and matter although similar parties
may have been involved. Thus, in a pending case,
it is not mandatory upon the courts to take judicial
notice of pieces of evidence which have been
offered in other cases even when such cases have
been tried or pending in the same court. Evidence
already presented and admitted by the court
in a previous case cannot be adopted in a
separate case pending before the same court
without the same being offered and identified
anew.

The cases cited by petitioner concerned


similar parties before the same court but do not
cover the same claim. A court is not compelled
to take judicial notice of pieces of evidence
offered and admitted in a previous case
unless the same are properly offered or have
accordingly complied with the requirements
on the rules of evidence. In other words, the
evidence presented in the previous cases
cannot be considered in this instant case
without being offered in evidence.

Moreover, Section 3 of Rule 129 of the


Revised Rules of Court provides that hearing is
necessary before judicial notice may be taken by
the courts. To quote said section:

Sec. 3. Judicial notice, when hearing


necessary. During the trial, the court, on its
own initiative, or on request of a party, may
announce its intention to take judicial notice of
any matter and allow the parties to be heard
thereon.

After the trial, and before judgment or on


appeal, the proper court, on its own initiative or
on request of a party, may take judicial notice
of any matter and allow the parties to be heard
thereon if such matter is decisive of a material
issue in the case.

Furthermore, petitioner admitted that Exhibit


A have (sic) been offered and admitted in
evidence in similar cases involving the same
subject matter filed before this Court. Thus,
petitioner is and should have been aware of the
rules regarding the offering of any documentary
evidence before the same can be admitted in court.

As regards Exhibit[s] P, Q and R, the


original copies of these documents were not
presented for comparison and verification in
violation of Section 3 of Rule 130 of the 1997
Revised Rules of Court. The said section
specifically provides that when the subject of
inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence
shall be admissible other than the original
document itself x x x. It is an elementary rule
in law that documents shall not be admissible

in evidence unless and until the original


copies itself are offered or presented for
verification in cases where mere copies are
offered, save for the exceptions provided for
by law. Petitioner thus cannot hide behind
the veil of judicial notice so as to evade its
responsibility of properly complying with the
rules of evidence. For failure of herein
petitioner to compare the subject documents
with its originals, the same may not be
admitted. (Emphasis Ours)

Likewise, in the Resolution dated July 15, 2005 of the


Court in Division denying petitioners Omnibus Motion
seeking allowance to compare the denied exhibits with
their certified true copies, the court a quo explained that:

Petitioner was already given enough time


and opportunity to present the originals or certified
true copies of the denied documents for
comparison. When
petitioner
received
the
resolution denying admission of the provisionally
marked exhibits, it should have submitted the
originals or certified true copies for comparison,
considering that these documents were accordingly
available. But
instead
of
presenting
these
documents,
petitioner,
in
its
Motion
for
Reconsideration, tried to hide behind the veil of
judicial notice so as to evade its responsibility of
properly applying the rules on evidence. It was
even submitted by petitioner that these documents
should be admitted for they were previously offered
and admitted in similar cases involving the same

subject matter and parties. If this was the case,


then, there should have been no reason for
petitioner to seasonably present the originals or
certified true copies for comparison, or even,
marking. x x x.

In view of the foregoing discussion, the Court en


banc finds that indeed, petitioner indubitably failed to
establish its authority to operate in the Philippines for the
period beginning June to December 2000.[13]

This Court finds no reason to depart from the foregoing


findings of the CTA En Banc as petitioner itself admitted on page
9[14] of its petition for review that [i]t was through inadvertence
that only photocopies of Exhibits P, Q and R were introduced
during the hearing and that it was rather unfortunate that
petitioner failed to produce the original copy of its SEC
Registration (Exhibit A) for purposes of comparison with the
photocopy that was originally presented.

Evidently, said documents cannot be admitted in evidence


by the court as the original copies were neither offered nor
presented for comparison and verification during the trial. Mere
identification of the documents and the markings thereof as
exhibits do not confer any evidentiary weight on them as said
documents have not been formally offered by petitioner and have
been denied admission in evidence by the CTA.

Furthermore, the documents are not among the matters


which the law mandatorily requires the Court to take judicial
notice of, without any introduction of evidence, as petitioner
would have the CTA do. Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court
reads:

SECTION 1. Judicial notice, when mandatory. A


court shall take judicial notice, without the introduction of
evidence, of the existence and territorial extent of states,
their political history, forms of government and symbols
of nationality, the law of nations, the admiralty and
maritime courts of the world and their seals, the political
constitution and history of the Philippines, the official acts
of the legislative, executive and judicial departments of
the Philippines, the laws of nature, the measure of time,
and the geographical divisions.

Neither could it be said that petitioners SEC Registration and


operating permits from the CAB are documents which are of
public knowledge, capable of unquestionable demonstration, or
ought to be known to the judges because of their judicial
functions, in order to allow the CTA to take discretionary judicial
notice of the said documents.[15]

Moreover, Section 3 of the same Rule [16] provides that a


hearing is necessary before judicial notice of any matter may be
taken by the court. This requirement of a hearing is needed so
that the parties can be heard thereon if such matter is decisive of
a material issue in the case.

Given the above rules, it is clear that the CTA En


Banc correctly did not admit petitioners SEC Registration and
operating permits from the CAB which were merely photocopies,
without the presentation of the original copies for comparison and
verification. As aptly held by the CTA En Banc, petitioner cannot
rely on the principle of judicial notice so as to evade its
responsibility of properly complying with the rules of evidence.
Indeed, petitioners contention that the said documents were
previously marked in other cases before the CTA tended to
confirm that the originals of these documents were readily
available and their non-presentation in these proceedings was
unjustified. Consequently, petitioners failure to compare the
photocopied documents with their original renders the subject
exhibits inadmissible in evidence.

Going to the second issue, petitioner maintains that it is the


proper party to claim for refund or tax credit of excise taxes since
it is the entity which was granted the tax exemption and which
made the erroneous tax payment. Petitioner anchors its claim on
Section 135(b) of the NIRC and Article 4(2) of the Air Transport
Agreement between the Philippines and Singapore. Petitioner
also asserts that the tax exemption, granted to it as a buyer of a
certain product, is a personal privilege which may not be claimed
or availed of by the seller. Petitioner submits that since it is the
entity which actually paid the excise taxes, then it should be
allowed to claim for refund or tax credit.

At the outset, it is important to note that on two separate


occasions, this Court has already put to rest the issue of whether
or not petitioner is the proper party to claim for the refund or tax
credit of excise taxes it allegedly paid on its aviation fuel
purchases.[17] In the earlier case of Silkair (Singapore) Pte, Ltd. v.
Commissioner of Internal Revenue,[18] involving the same parties

and the same cause of action but pertaining to different periods of


taxation, we have categorically held that Petron, not petitioner, is
the proper party to question, or seek a refund of, an indirect tax,
to wit:

The proper party to question, or seek a refund of, an


indirect tax is the statutory taxpayer, the person on
whom the tax is imposed by law and who paid the same
even if he shifts the burden thereof to another. Section
130 (A) (2) of the NIRC provides that [u]nless otherwise
specifically allowed, the return shall be filed and the
excise tax paid by the manufacturer or producer before
removal
of
domestic
products
from
place
of
production. Thus, Petron Corporation, not Silkair, is the
statutory taxpayer which is entitled to claim a refund
based on Section 135 of the NIRC of 1997 and Article 4(2)
of
the
Air
Transport
Agreement
between
RP
and Singapore.

Even if Petron Corporation passed on to Silkair the


burden of the tax, the additional amount billed to Silkair
for jet fuel is not a tax but part of the price which Silkair
had to pay as a purchaser.

In the second Silkair[19] case, the Court explained that an


excise tax is an indirect tax where the burden can be shifted or
passed on to the consumer but the tax liability remains with the
manufacturer or seller. Thus, the manufacturer or seller has the
option of shifting or passing on the burden of the tax to the
buyer. However, where the burden of the tax is shifted, the

amount passed on to the buyer is no longer a tax but a part of the


purchase price of the goods sold.

Petitioner contends that the clear intent of the provisions of


the NIRC and the Air Transport Agreement is to exempt aviation
fuel purchased by petitioner as an exempt entity from the
payment of excise tax, whether such is a direct or an indirect
tax. According to petitioner, the excise tax on aviation fuel,
though initially payable by the manufacturer or producer,
attaches to the goods and becomes the liability of the person
having possession thereof.

We do not agree. The distinction between a direct tax and


an indirect tax is relevant to this issue. In Commissioner of
Internal Revenue v. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company,
[20]
this Court explained:

Based on the possibility of shifting the incidence of


taxation, or as to who shall bear the burden of taxation,
taxes may be classified into either direct tax or indirect
tax.

In context, direct taxes are those that are exacted


from the very person who, it is intended or desired,
should pay them; they are impositions for which a
taxpayer is directly liable on the transaction or business
he is engaged in.

On the other hand, indirect taxes are those that are


demanded, in the first instance, from, or are paid by, one

person in the expectation and intention that he can shift


the burden to someone else. Stated elsewise, indirect
taxes are taxes wherein the liability for the payment of
the tax falls on one person but the burden thereof can be
shifted or passed on to another person, such as when the
tax is imposed upon goods before reaching the consumer
who ultimately pays for it. When the seller passes on the
tax to his buyer, he, in effect, shifts the tax burden, not
the liability to pay it, to the purchaser as part of the
purchase price of goods sold or services rendered.

Title VI of the NIRC deals with excise taxes on certain


goods. Section 129 reads as follows:

SEC. 129. Goods Subject to Excise Taxes. Excise


taxes apply to goods manufactured or produced in
the Philippines for domestic sale or consumption or for
any other disposition and to things imported. x x x.

As used in the NIRC, therefore, excise taxes refer to taxes


applicable to certain specified or selected goods or articles
manufactured or produced in the Philippines for domestic sale or
consumption or for any other disposition and to things imported
into the Philippines. These excise taxes may be considered taxes
on production as they are collected only from manufacturers and
producers. Basically an indirect tax, excise taxes are directly
levied upon the manufacturer or importer upon removal of the
taxable goods from its place of production or from the customs
custody. These taxes, however, may be actually passed on to the

end consumer as part of the transfer value or selling price of the


goods sold, bartered or exchanged.[21]

In Maceda v. Macaraig, Jr.,[22] this Court declared:

[I]ndirect taxes are taxes primarily paid by persons who


can shift the burden upon someone else. For example,
the excise and ad valorem taxes that oil companies pay
to the Bureau of Internal Revenue upon removal of
petroleum products from its refinery can be shifted to its
buyer, like the NPC, by adding them to the cash and/or
selling price.

And as noted by us in the second Silkair[23] case mentioned


above:

When Petron removes its petroleum products from its refinery in


Limay, Bataan, it pays the excise tax due on the petroleum products thus
removed. Petron, as manufacturer or producer, is the person liable for
the payment of the excise tax as shown in the Excise Tax Returns filed
with the BIR. Stated otherwise, Petron is the taxpayer that is primarily,
directly and legally liable for the payment of the excise taxes. However,
since an excise tax is an indirect tax, Petron can transfer to its customers
the amount of the excise tax paid by treating it as part of the cost of the
goods and tacking it on the selling price.

As correctly observed by the CTA, this Court held


in Philippine Acetylene Co., Inc. v. Commissioner of
Internal Revenue:

It may indeed be that the economic burden


of the tax finally falls on the purchaser; when it
does the tax becomes part of the price which the
purchaser must pay.

Even if the consumers or purchasers ultimately pay


for the tax, they are not considered the taxpayers. The
fact that Petron, on whom the excise tax is imposed, can
shift the tax burden to its purchasers does not make the
latter the taxpayers and the former the withholding
agent.

Petitioner, as the purchaser and end-consumer,


ultimately bears the tax burden, but this does not
transform petitioners status into a statutory taxpayer.

Thus, under Section 130(A)(2) of the NIRC, it is Petron, the


taxpayer, which has the legal personality to claim the refund or
tax credit of any erroneous payment of excise taxes. Section
130(A)(2) states:

SEC. 130. Filing of Return and Payment of Excise Tax


on Domestic Products.

(A) Persons Liable to File a Return, Filing of Return


on Removal and Payment of Tax.

(1) Persons Liable to File a Return. x x x

(2) Time for Filing of Return and Payment of the Tax.


Unless otherwise specifically allowed, the return
shall be filed and the excise tax paid by the
manufacturer or producer before removal of
domestic products from place of production: x x
x. (Emphasis supplied.)

Furthermore, Section 204(C) of the NIRC provides a twoyear prescriptive period within which a taxpayer may file an
administrative claim for refund or tax credit, to wit:

SEC. 204. Authority of the Commissioner to


Compromise, Abate, and Refund or Credit Taxes. The
Commissioner may

xxxx

(C) Credit or refund taxes erroneously or illegally


received or penalties imposed without authority, refund
the value of internal revenue stamps when they are
returned in good condition by the purchaser, and, in his
discretion, redeem or change unused stamps that have

been rendered unfit for use and refund their value upon
proof of destruction. No credit or refund of taxes or
penalties shall be allowed unless the taxpayer files
in writing with the Commissioner a claim for credit
or refund within two (2) years after the payment of
the tax or penalty: Provided, however, That a return
filed showing an overpayment shall be considered as a
written claim for credit or refund. (Emphasis supplied.)

From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that the proper


party to question, or claim a refund or tax credit of an indirect tax
is the statutory taxpayer, which is Petron in this case, as it is the
company on which the tax is imposed by law and which paid the
same even if the burden thereof was shifted or passed on to
another. It bears stressing that even if Petron shifted or passed
on to petitioner the burden of the tax, the additional amount
which petitioner paid is not a tax but a part of the purchase price
which it had to pay to obtain the goods.

Time and again, we have held that tax refunds are in the
nature of tax exemptions which represent a loss of revenue to the
government. These exemptions, therefore, must not rest on
vague, uncertain or indefinite inference, but should be granted
only by a clear and unequivocal provision of law on the basis of
language too plain to be mistaken.[24] Such exemptions must be
strictly construed against the taxpayer, as taxes are the lifeblood
of the government.

In fine, we quote from our ruling in the earlier Silkair[25] case:

The exemption granted under Section 135 (b) of the


NIRC of 1997 and Article 4(2) of the Air Transport
Agreement between RP and Singapore cannot, without a
clear showing of legislative intent, be construed as
including
indirect
taxes. Statutes
granting
tax
exemptions must be construed in strictissimi juris against
the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing authority,
and if an exemption is found to exist, it must not be
enlarged by construction.

This calls for the application of the doctrine, stare decisis et


non quieta movere. Follow past precedents and do not disturb
what has been settled. Once a case has been decided one way,
any other case involving exactly the same point at issue, as in the
case at bar, should be decided in the same manner. [26]

WHEREFORE,
the
instant
petition
for
review
is DENIED. We AFFIRM the assailed Decision dated May 27,
2008 and the Resolution dated September 5, 2008 of the Court of
Tax Appeals En Banc in C.T.A. E.B. No. 267. No pronouncement as
to costs.

SO ORDERED.