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OPINION

G.R. No. 211120

MEDELARNALDO B. BELEN, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to reverse and set
aside the Decision1dated April 12, 2013 of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the
Decision2 dated June 2, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch 32, in
Criminal Case No. 15332-SP, convicting petitioner Medel Arnaldo B. Belen of the crime of
libel.

On March 12, 2004, petitioner, then a practicing lawyer and now a former Judge,3 filed a
criminal complaint for estafa against his uncle, Nezer D. Belen, Sr. before the Office of the
City Prosecutor (OCP) of San Pablo City, which was docketed as LS. No. 04-312 and
assigned to then Assistant City Prosecutor (ACP) Ma. Victoria Sufiega-Lagman for
preliminary investigation. With the submission of the parties' and their respective
witnesses' affidavits, the case was submitted for resolution.

In order to afford himself the opportunity to fully present his cause, petitioner requested for
a clarificatory hearing. Without acting on the request, ACP Sufiega-Lagman dismissed
petitioner's complaint in a Resolution dated July 28, 2004. Aggrieved by the dismissal of
his complaint, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion (for Reconsideration & Disqualify),4 the
contents of which later became the subject of this libel case.

Petitioner furnished copies of the Omnibus Motion to Nezer and the Office of the Secretary
of Justice, Manila. The copy of the Omnibus Motion contained in a sealed envelope and
addressed to the Office of the City Prosecutor of San Pablo City was received by its
Receiving Section on August 27, 2004. As a matter of procedure, motions filed with the said
office are first received and recorded at the receiving section, then forwarded to the records
section before referral to the City Prosecutor for assignment to the handling Investigating
Prosecutor.

ACP Suñega-Lagman first learned of the existence of the Omnibus Motion from Michael
Belen, the son of Nezer who is the respondent in the estafa complaint. She was also
informed about the motion by Joey Flores, one of the staff of the OCP of San Pablo City.
She then asked the receiving section for a copy of the said motion, and requested a
photocopy of it for her own reference.

On September 20, 2004, ACP Suñega-Lagman filed against petitioner a criminal complaint
for libel on the basis of the allegations in the Omnibus Motion (for Reconsideration &
Disqualify). The complaint was docketed as LS. No. 04-931 before the OCP of San Pablo
City.

Since ACP Suñega-Lagman was then a member of its office, the OCP of San Pablo City
voluntarily inhibited itself from conducting the preliminary investigation of the libel
complaint and forwarded all its records to the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor.

On September 23, 2004, the Regional State Prosecutor issued an Order designating State
Prosecutor II Jorge D. Baculi as Acting City Prosecutor of San Pablo City in the
investigation of the libel complaint.

On December 6, 2004, State Prosecutor Baculi rendered a Resolution finding probable


cause to file a libel case against petitioner. On December 8, 2004, he filed an Information
charging petitioner with the crime of libel, committed as follows:

That on or about August 31, 2004, in the City of San Pablo, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, a member of the Philippine Bar with
Attorney Roll No. 32322, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, and with
malicious intent of impeaching, defaming and attacking the honesty, competence, integrity,
virtue and reputation of Ma. Victoria Suñega-Lagman as an Assistant City Prosecutor of the
Office of the City Prosecutor of San Pablo City and for the further purpose of dishonoring,
injuring, defaming and exposing said Ma. Victoria Suñega-Lagman to public hatred,
contempt, insult, calumny and ridicule, wrote, correspond, published and filed with the
Office of the City Prosecutor of San Pablo City an undated "OMNIBUS MOTION (FOR
RECONSIDERATION & DISQUALIFY) in the case entitled "MEDEL B. BELEN, Complainant
vs. NEZER D. BELEN SR., Respondent, "for Estafa docketed as I.S. No. 04-312, the
pertinent and relevant portions are quoted hereunder, to wit:

In the instant case, however, the Investigating Fiscal was not impartial and exhibited
manifest bias for 20,000 reasons. The reasons were not legal or factual. These reasons
were based on her malicious and convoluted perceptions. If she was partial, then she
is stupid. The Investigating Fiscal's stupidity was clearly manifest in her moronic
resolution to dismiss the complaint because she reasoned out that: (1) the lease started in
1983 as the number 9 was handwritten over the figure "8" in the lease contract; (2) no
support for accounting was made for the first five (5) years; and (3) the dismissal of IS No.
03-14-12 covered the same subject matter in the instant case. Thus, the instant complaint
should be dismissed.

Unfortunately, the Investigating Fiscal's wrongful assumption were tarnished with


silver ingots. She is also an intellectually infirm or stupidly blind. Because it was just
a matter of a more studious and logical appraisal and examination of the documents and
affidavits submitted by respondent's witnesses to establish that the lease started in 1993.
All respondent's supporting affidavits of Mrs. Leyna Belen-Ang; Mr. Demetrio D. Belen and
Mr. Silvestre D. Belen (all admitted that the lease started in 1993). Secondly, had she not
always been absent in the preliminary investigation hearings and conducted a clarificatory
questioning as requested by herein complainant, as her secretary was the only one always
present and accepted the exhibits and affidavits, there would have been a clear deliverance
from her corrupted imagination. Firstly, complainant was married to his wife on August 15,
1987. Thus, it would be physically and chronologically inconceivable that the lease for the
subject lanzones be entered by complainant and his wife, whom he met only in 1987, with
respondent and his siblings in 1983. Secondly, the payments were made in 1993 and 1994,
these were admitted by respondent's witnesses in their affidavits. Thus, it would be a
height of stupidity for respondent and his witnesses to allow complainant to take
possession and harvest the lanzones from 1983 to 2002 without any payment. Lastly, the
only defense raised in the respondents witnesses' affidavits was the lease period was only
from 1993 to 1998. Thus, this is a clear admission that the lease started in 1993. Despite
all these matters and documents, the moronic resolution insisted that the lease started in
1983. For all the 20,000 reasons of the Investigating Fiscal, the slip of her skirt
shows a corrupted and convoluted frame of mind - a manifest partiality and
stupendous stupidity in her resolution.

Furthermore, Investigating Fiscal 's 2nd corrupted reason was the failure of complainant to
render an accounting on the 5-year harvest from 1993 to 1998. Sadly, the Investigating
Fiscal was manifestly prejudiced and manifestly selective in her rationale. Firstly, the issue
of non-presentation of accounting for the first 5 years was not raised in any of the
witnesses' affidavits. A careful perusal of all their affidavits clearly shows that the issue of
accounting for the first 5-year (1993-1999) harvest was never a defense because
respondent and his witnesses knew and were informed that the lanzones harvest from 1993
to 1999 was less than 200,000. Secondly, during the respondent's 2002 visit from USA in a
meeting at the house of Mrs. Leyna Belen Agra, complainant advised respondent of this
matter and respondent acknowledged the fact that the 5-year harvest from 1993 to 1998
was abundantly inadequate to pay the principal sum of 300,000. Thirdly, all the numbers
and figures in the Lease Contract indicated 1993 and/or 1994 - a clear indicia that the
transaction covered by the instrument started in 1993. Fourthly, the correction was made
by respondent or one of his siblings, which can easily be shown by the penmanship. Lastly,
the letters of complainant to respondent clearly advised of the non-payment of the principal
and interest for the 1st 5-year. For this reason, complainant had repeatedly agreed to the
request of respondent's wife, Lourdes B. Belen and younger son, Nezer Belen, Jr. in 2003
for meetings for resolution of the matter. But respondent's wife and younger son repeatedly
cancelled these meetings. All these factual circumstances are undeniable but were
presented because the issue of accounting was never raised.

Lastly, the invocation of the dismissal of I.S. No. 03-1412 was a nail in the coffin for
the idiocy and imbecility of the Investigating Fiscal. It was her fallacious rationale that
because No. 03-14-12 covered the same subject, the instant case should also be dismissed.
Unfortunately, she showed her glaring ignorance of the law. Firstly, there is no res judicata
in a preliminary reinvestigation. Secondly, the dismissal of a complaint shall not bar filing
of another complaint because upon completion of the necessary documentary exhibits and
affidavits to establish probable cause another case could be filed. Thirdly, the cause of
action in the instant case is totally different vis-a-vis that in I.S. No. 03-1412. Fourthly, the
complainant is filing the instant case in his own personal capacity as "lessee" over the
entire property from 1993 to 2013. In other words, the Investigating Fiscal's invocation
of the dismissal of I.S. No. 03-1412 was clearly imbecilic and idiotic.

All these matters could have been easily established. All the idiotic and corrupted reason
of the Investigating Fiscal manifestly exposed, had the Investigating Fiscal exercised the
cold partiality of a judge and calendared the instant case for clarificatory questions. In fact,
she deliberately ignored complainant's request for, such setting despite the established
doctrine in preliminary investigation that the "propounding of clarificatory questions is an
important component of preliminary investigation, more so where it is requested in order to
shed light on the affidavits >>>" (Mondia v. Deputy OmbudsmanNisayas Are, 346 SCRA
365) Unfortunately, the Investigating Fiscal, despite the letter-request for
clarificatory question to shed lights of all the transaction and facts under
investigation, chose to be guided by her manifest partiality and stupendous stupidity.
As a reminder to the Investigating Fiscal, Justice Oscar Herrera, Sr., in his treatise, I
Remedial Law 2000 ed., succinctly explained the underlying principle of fair play and
justice in the just determination of every action and proceedings is that the rules of
procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to aid the Courts in the speedy, just
and inexpensive determination of cases before the court.

In totality, the dismissal of the instant case was based on reasons that were never raised by
the respondent. Reasons dictate and due process of law mandates that complainant be
afforded opportunity to rebut issues raised. In the instant case, manifestly established is
the corrupted penchant of the Investigating Fiscal to assume matters and presume issues
not raised and decide, without affording complainant the due process, matters totally
extraneous and not raised. Thus, contrary to the due process requirement of law, the
Investigating Fiscal rendered a resolution on a matter not raised. The question, therefore, is
her reason in adjudicating without affording complainant the opportunity of rebuttal, a
matter not raised. She never ever asked these questions. She deliberately and fraudulently
concealed her biased reasoning to prevent complainant to rebut this matter. She
sideswiped complainant on matters not raised in the pleading. She was a partial and
interested investigator with clear intent to dismiss the case. This is an implied lawyering for
the respondent. Thus, she should resign from the prosecutorial arm of the government
and be a defense counsel. Then her infirmed intellectual prowess and stupid
assumptions be exposed in trial on the merits under which complainant is afforded
the due process requirement of the law. At that stage of trial, she would be exposed
as a fraud and a quack bereft of any intellectual ability and mental honesty.

It is a sad day for a colleague in the practice of law to call for a disqualification of an
Investigating Fiscal. The circumstances of the instant case, leave no recourse for
complainant but the option, in his quest for justice and fair play and not for corrupted and
convoluted 20,000 reasons, to strongly ask for the disqualification of Fiscal Suñega-
Lagman in the resolution of the instant motion.

In the resolution for this motion for reconsideration, the sole issue is whether based on the
affidavits and evidence adduced by the complainant probable cause exist to file a case
against respondent. The answer is YES because, all law students and lawyers, except Fiscal
Suñega-Lagman, know">>> the preliminary investigation should determine whether there is
a sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and
that the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held for trial. (Webb vs.
Visconde, August 23, 1995, 63 SCAD 916, 247 SCRA 652) And if the evidence so warrants,
the investigating prosecutor is duty bound to file the corresponding information. (Meralco
vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 115835, July 5, 1996, 71 SCAD 712, 258 SCRA 280). Thus,
preliminary investigation is not a trial of the case on the merits and has no purpose except
that of determining whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused is guilty
thereof. A probable cause merely implies probability of guilt and should be determined in a
summary manner ... "

That the article in question had for its object to appear and made it understood, as was in
effect understood and interpreted by the public or person/s who read it, that Ma. Victoria
Suñega-Lagman is an inept, ignorant, dishonest, corrupt, undeserving, unjust, unfair and
incompetent prosecutor of the Office of the City Prosecutor of San Pablo City.

CONTRARY TO LAW.5

Upon arraignment, petitioner refused to make a plea; hence, the trial court entered a plea
of "NOT GUILTY." Trial on the merits ensued. The prosecution presented four (4) witnesses,
namely: (1) complainant ACP Suñega-Lagman, (2) Michael Belen, the son and
representative of respondent Nezer in the estafa complaint; and (3) Joey R. Flores and
Gayne Garno Enseo, who are part of the administrative staff of the OCP of San Pablo City.
For its part, the defense presented the accused petitioner as its sole witness.

After trial, the trial court found petitioner guilty of libel and sentenced him to pay a fine of
₱3,000.00, with no pronouncement as to damages on account of ACP Suñega-Lagman's
reservation to file an independent civil action against him.

The trial court stressed that the following allegations and utterances against ACP Suñega-
Lagman in petitioner's Omnibus Motion are far detached from the controversy in the estafa
case, thereby losing its character as absolutely privileged communication: (1) "manifest bias
for 20,000 reasons"; (2) "the Investigating Fiscal 's wrongful assumptions were tarnished in
silver ingots"; (3) "the slip of her skirt shows a corrupted and convoluted frame of mind"; (4)
"corrupted and convoluted 20,000 reasons"; (5) "moronic resolution"; (6) "intellectually
infirm or stupid blind"; (7) "manifest partiality and stupendous stupidity"; (8) "idiocy and
imbecility of the Investigating Fiscal"; and (9) "a fraud and a quack bereft of any intellectual
ability and mental honesty." On the element of publication, the trial court noted that the
Omnibus Motion was not sent straight to ACP Suñega-Lagman, but passed through and
exposed to be read by third persons, namely: prosecution witnesses Flores and Enseo who
are the staff in the receiving section of the OCP of San Pablo City, as well as Michael Belen,
the son and representative of Nezer in the estafa case.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the trial court's decision. On the claimed lack of publication,
the CA pointed out that the defamatory matter was made known to third persons because
prosecution witnesses Flores and Enseo, who are the staff in the OCP of San Pablo City,
were able to read the Omnibus Motion filed by petitioner, as well as Michael, son and
representative of Nezer in the estafa case then being investigated by ACP Suñega-Lagman,
was furnished copy of the motion. Anent the applicability of the rule on absolutely
privileged communication, the CA ruled in the negative because the subject statements
were unnecessary or irrelevant in determining whether the dismissal of the estafa case filed
by petitioner against Nezer was proper, and they were defamatory remarks on the
personality, reputation and mental fitness of ACP Suñega-Lagman.

In her Dissenting Opinion, Justice Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela stated that petitioner could
not be convicted of libel because the statements in his Omnibus Motion, while couched in
intemperate, acrid and uncalled-for language, are relevant to the dismissal of his estafa
case, and thus falls under the concept of absolutely privileged communication. She also
said that the element of publication is absent, because with respect to Nezer, Michael is not
a "third person," i.e., a person other than the person to whom the defamatory statement
refers, but a "representative of his father." She added that while Flores and Enseo, who are
staff of the OCP of San Pablo City, had read the Omnibus Motion, they are not "third
persons" since they had a legal duty to perform with respect to the said motion filed in their
office.

In a Resolution dated January 10, 2014, the CA denied petitioner's motion for
reconsideration. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

In seeking his acquittal of the crime charged, petitioner argues that the CA erred (1) in
finding him guilty of libel despite the absence of the element of publication; (2) in ruling
that the privileged communication rule is inapplicable; and (3) in relying on the opinion of
ordinary witnesses to show the presence of malicious imputations.6

The petition lacks merit.

On the absence of the element of publication, petitioner contends that in serving and filing
the Omnibus Motion enclosed in sealed envelopes, he did not intend to expose it to third
persons, but only complied with the law on how service and filing of pleadings should be
done. He asserts that the perusal of the said motion by Michael, the duly authorized
representative and son of the respondent in the estafa case, as well as the two staff of the
OCP - Flores and Enseo - did not constitute publication within the meaning of the law on
libel because they cannot be considered as "third persons to whom copies of the motion
were disseminated." With respect to Flores and Enseo, petitioner insists that they were both
legal recipients as personnel in the OCP where the motion was addressed and had to be
filed. Stating that the absence of publication negates malice, petitioner posits that he could
not have intended to injure the reputation of ACP Suñega-Lagman with the filing of the
Omnibus Motion since it was never published, but was sent to its legal recipients.

Publication in libel means making the defamatory matter, after it has been written, known
to someone other than the person to whom it has been written.7 A communication of the
defamatory matter to the person defamed alone cannot injure his reputation though it may
wound his self-esteem, for a man's reputation is not the good opinion he has of himself, but
the estimation in which other hold him.8 In the same vein, a defamatory letter contained in
a closed envelope addressed to another constitutes sufficient publication if the offender
parted with its possession in such a way that it can be read by person other than the
offended party.9 If a sender of a libelous communication knows or has good reasons to
believe that it will be intercepted before reaching the person defamed, there is sufficient
publication.10 The publication of a libel, however, should not be presumed from the fact
that the immediate control thereof is parted with unless it appears that there is reasonable
probability that it is hereby exposed to be read or seen by third persons.11

In claiming that he did not intend to expose the Omnibus Motion to third persons, but only
complied with the law on how service and filing of pleadings should be done, petitioner
conceded that the defamatory statements in it were made known to someone other than the
person to whom it has been written. Despite the fact that the motion was contained in
sealed envelopes, it is not unreasonable to expect that persons other than the one defamed
would be able to read the defamatory statements in it, precisely because they were filed
with the OCP of San Pablo City and copy furnished to Nezer, the respondent in the estafa
complaint, and the Office of the Secretary of Justice in Manila. Then being a lawyer,
petitioner is well aware that such motion is not a mere private communication, but forms
part of public record when filed with the government office. Inasmuch as one is disputably
presumed to intend the natural and probable consequence of his act,12 petitioner cannot
brush aside the logical outcome of the filing and service of his Omnibus Motion. As aptly
noted by the trial court:

x x x The Omnibus Motion although contained in a sealed envelope was addressed to the
Office of the City Prosecutor, San Pablo City.1âwphi1 As such, the accused fully well knows
that the sealed envelope will be opened at the receiving section, and will be first read by the
staff of the Office before the private complainant gets hold of a copy thereof. In fine, the
Omnibus Motion was not sent straight to the private complainant - the person [to] whom it
is written, but passed through other persons in the Office of the City Prosecutor. At the
time the accused mailed the sealed envelope containing the Omnibus Motion addressed to
the Office of the City Prosecutor, he knew that there exists not only a reasonable but strong
probability that it will be exposed to be read or seen by third persons.13

It is not amiss to state that generally, the requirement of publication of defamatory matters
is not satisfied by a communication of such matters to an agent of the defamed person.14 In
this case, however, the defamatory statement was published when copy of the Omnibus
Motion was furnished to and read by Michael, the son and representative of respondent
Nezer in the estafa complaint, who is clearly not an agent of the defamed person, ACP
Suñega-Lagman.

Petitioner then argues that there is no publication as to Flores and Enseo, the staff of the
OCP of San Pablo City, who had read the contents of the Omnibus Motion. In support
thereof, he cites the settled rule that "when a public officer, in the discharge of his or her
official duties, sends a communication to another officer or to a body of officers, who have a
duty to perform with respect to the subject matter of the communication, such
communication does not amount to publication."15 Petitioner's argument is untenable. As
mere members of the administrative staff of the OCP of San Pablo City, Flores and Enseo
cannot be said to have a duty to perform with respect to the subject matter of his motion,
which is to seek reconsideration of the dismissal of his Estafa complaint and to disqualify
ACP Suñega-Lagman from the preliminary investigation of the case. Their legal duty
pertains only to the clerical procedure of transmitting the motions filed with the OCP of San
Pablo City to the proper recipients.
Petitioner also avers that the alleged defamatory statements in his Omnibus Motion passed
the test of relevancy, hence, covered by the doctrine of absolutely privileged
communication. He asserts that the statements contained in his motion are relevant and
pertinent to the subject of inquiry, as they were used only to highlight and emphasize the
manifestly reversible errors and irregularities that attended the resolution rendered by ACP
Suñega-Lagman.

Petitioner's contentions fail to persuade.

A communication is absolutely privileged when it is not actionable, even if the author has
acted in bad faith. This class includes allegations or statements made by parties or their
counsel in pleadings or motions or during the hearing of judicial and administrative
proceedings, as well as answers given by the witness in reply to questions propounded to
them in the course of said proceedings, provided that said allegations or statements are
relevant to the issues, and the answers are responsive to the questions propounded to said
witnesses.16

The reason for the rule that pleadings in judicial proceedings are considered privileged is
not only because said pleadings have become part of public record open to the public to
scrutinize, but also to the undeniable fact said pleadings are presumed to contain
allegations and assertions lawful and legal in nature, appropriate to the disposition of
issues ventilated before the courts for proper administration of justice and, therefore, of
general public concern. Moreover, pleadings are presumed to contain allegations
substantially true because they can be supported by evidence in good faith, the contents of
which would be under scrutiny of courts and, therefore, subject to be purged of all
improprieties and illegal statements contained therein.17 In fine, the privilege is granted in
aid and for the advantage of the administration of justice.18

While Philippine law is silent on the question of whether the doctrine of absolutely
privileged communication extends to statements in preliminary investigations or other
proceedings preparatory to trial, the Court found as persuasive in this jurisdiction the U.S.
case of Borg v. Boas19 which categorically declared the existence of such protection:

It is hornbook learning that the actions and utterances in judicial proceedings so far as the
actual participants therein are concerned and preliminary steps leading to judicial
action of an official nature have been given absolute privilege. Of particular interest are
proceedings leading up to prosecutions or attempted prosecutions for crime xxx [A] written
charge or information filed with the prosecutor or the court is not libelous although proved
false and unfounded. Furthermore, the information given to a prosecutor by a private
person for the purpose of initiating a prosecution is protected by the same cloak of
immunity and cannot be used as a basis for an action for defamation.20

The absolute privilege remains regardless of the defamatory tenor and the presence of
malice, if the same are relevant, pertinent or material to the cause in and or subject of the
inquiry.21 Sarcastic, pungent and harsh allegations in a pleading although tending to
detract from the dignity that should characterize proceedings in courts of justice, are
absolutely privileged, if relevant to the issues.22 As to the degree of relevancy or pertinency
necessary to make the alleged defamatory matter privileged, the courts are inclined to be
liberal. The matter to which the privilege does not extend must be so palpably wanting in
relation to the subject matter of the controversy that no reasonable man can doubt its
irrelevancy and impropriety.23 In order that a matter alleged in the pleading may be
privileged, it need not, in any case, be material to the issue presented by the pleadings;
however, it must be legitimately related thereto or so pertinent to the subject of the
controversy that it may become the subject of inquiry in the course of the trial.24 What is
relevant or pertinent should be liberally considered to favor the writer, and the words are
not be scrutinized with microscopic intensity,25 as it would defeat the protection which the
law throws over privileged communication.26

The statements in petitioner's Omnibus Motion filed before the OCP of San Pablo City as a
remedy for the dismissal of his estafa complaint during preliminary investigation, fall short
of the test of relevancy. An examination of the motion shows that the following defamatory
words and phrases used, even if liberally construed, are hardly 'material or pertinent to his
cause, which is to seek a reconsideration of the dismissal of his estafa complaint and the
disqualification of ACP Suñega-Lagman from further acting on the case: (1) "manifest bias
for 20,000 reasons"; (2) "the Investigating Fiscal's wrongful assumptions were
tarnished in silver ingots"; (3) "the slip of her skirt shows a corrupted and convoluted
frame of mind"; (4) "corrupted and convoluted 20,000 reasons"; (5) "moronic
resolution"; (6) "intellectually infirm or stupid blind"; (7) "manifest partiality and
stupendous stupidity"; (8) "idiocy and imbecility of the Investigating Fiscal"; and (9) "a
fraud and a quack bereft of any intellectual ability and mental honesty." These
statements are neither relevant grounds for a motion for reconsideration nor valid and
justifiable reasons for disqualification. These diatribes pertain to ACP Suñega-Lagman's
honor, reputation, mental and moral character, and are no longer related to the discharge
of her official function as a prosecutor. They are devoid of any relation to the subject matter
of petitioner's Omnibus Motion that no reasonable man can doubt their irrelevancy, and
may not become the subject of inquiry in the course of resolving the motion. As fittingly
ruled by the trial court:

This Court has no problem with legitimate criticisms of the procedures taken during the
preliminary investigation and accused's comments pointing out flaws in the ruling of the
private complainant. They should ever be constructive and should pave the way at
correcting the supposed errors in the Resolution and/or convincing the private complainant
to inhibit, as she did, from the case. Unfortunately, the Omnibus Motion, or the questioned
allegations contained therein, are not of this genre. On the contrary, the accused has
crossed the lines as his statements are baseless, scurrilous attacks on the person of the
.private complainant. The attacks did nothing but damage the integrity and reputation of
the private complainant. In fact, the attacks undermined in no small measure the faith and
confidence of the litigants in the prosecutorial service.27

Petitioner should bear in mind the rule that the pleadings should contain but the plain and
concise statements of material facts and not the evidence by which they are to be proved. If
the pleader goes beyond the requirements of the statute, and alleges an irrelevant matter
which is libelous, he loses his privilege.28 The reason for this is that without the
requirement of relevancy, pleadings could be easily diverted from their original aim to
succinctly inform the court of the issues in litigation and pervaded into a vehicle for airing
charges motivated by a personal rancor.29Granted that lawyers are given great latitude or
pertinent comment in furtherance of the causes they uphold, and for the felicity of their
clients, they may be pardoned some infelicities of language,30 petitioner would do well to
recall that the Code of Professional Responsibility31 ordains that a lawyer shall not, in his
professional dealings use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper. After
all, a lawyer should conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his
professional colleagues,32 and use only such temperate but strong language in his
pleadings or arguments befitting an advocate.

There is also no merit in petitioner's theory that the test of relevancy should be liberally
construed in his favor, especially because "in the information for libel, there was no
allegation of irrelevancy or impertinency of the questioned statements to the cause"33 or the
subject of the inquiry, the estafa complaint in I.S. No. 04-312. It bears emphasis that while
the relevancy of the statement is a requisite of the defense of absolutely privileged
communication, it is not one of the elements of libel. Thus, the absence of an allegation to
the effect that the questioned statement is irrelevant or impertinent does not violate the
right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against
him.·As the party raising such defense, petitioner has the burden of proving that his
statements are relevant to the subject of his Omnibus Motion. For its part, the prosecution
only has to prove beyond reasonable doubt the presence of all the elements of libel as
defined in Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, namely: (1) imputation of a crime, vice or
defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition status or circumstance; (2)
publicity or publication; (3) malice; (4) direction of such imputation at a natural or juridical
person; and (5) tendency to cause the dishonour, discredit or contempt of the person
defamed.34

Meanwhile, petitioner's reliance on People v. Andres35 is misplaced. In that case, the


prosecution argued that the trial court erred in dismissing the case on a mere motion to
quash, contending that the judge's conclusion on the face of the information that the
defendant was prompted only by good motives assumes a fact to be proved, and that the
alleged privileged nature of defendant's publication is a matter of defense and is not a
proper ground for dismissal of the libel complaint. The Court sustained the trial court in
dismissing the libel case on a mere motion to quash in this wise:

While there is some point in this contention, yet when in the information itself it appears,
as it does in the present case, that the communication alleged to be libelous is contained in
an appropriate pleading in a court proceeding, the privilege becomes at once apparent and
defendant need to wait until trial and produce evidence before he can raise the question of
privilege. And if added to this, the questioned imputations appear, as they seem, in this
case, to be really pertinent and relevant to defendant's plea for reconsideration based on
complainant's supposed partiality and abuse of power from which defendant has a right to
seek relief in vindication of his client's interest as a litigant in complainant's court, it would
become evident that the fact thus alleged in the information would not constitute an offense
of libel.

As has already been said by this Court: "As to the degree of relevancy or pertinency
necessary to make an alleged defamatory matter privileged, the courts are inclined to be
liberal. The matter to which the privilege does not extend must be so palpably wanting in
relation to the subject matter of the controversy that no reasonable man can doubt its
irrelevancy and impropriety." Having this in mind, it can not be said that the trial court
committed reversible error in this case in finding that the allegations in the information
itself present a case of an absolutely privileged communication justifying the dismissal of
the case. Note that the information does not contain any allegation of irrelevancy and
impertinency to counteract the quotations from the motion for reconsideration in
question.36

In stark contrast to People v. Andres, even on the face of the allegations in the information,
the defamatory statements in petitioner's Omnibus Motion fail the test of relevancy in order
to be considered an absolutely privileged communication, because they are neither relevant
grounds for a motion for reconsideration nor valid or justifiable reasons for disqualification
of ACP Suñega-Lagman.

Finally, petitioner argues that the reliance of the CA on the statements of ordinary
witnesses like Michael, Flores and Enseo is contrary to Sections 4837 and 5038 of Rule 130
of the Rules of Court, because they are incompetent to testify on whether the statements
against ACP Suñega-Lagman in the Omnibus Motion constituted malicious imputations
against her person.

As a rule, the opinion of a witness is inadmissible because a witness can testify only to
those facts which he knows of his own personal knowledge39 and it is for the court to draw
conclusions from the facts testified to. Opinion evidence or testimony refers to evidence of
what the witness thinks, believes or infers in regard to facts in dispute, as distinguished
from his personal knowledge of the facts themselves.40 In this case, however, prosecution
witnesses Michael, Flores and Enseo barely made a conclusion on the defamatory nature of
the statements in petitioner's Omnibus Motion, but merely testified on their own
understanding of what they had read.

In Buatis, Jr. v. People,41 the Court stated the twin rule for the purpose of determining the
meaning of any publication alleged to be libelous: (1) that construction must be adopted
which will give to the matter such a meaning as is natural and obvious in the plain and
ordinary sense in which the public would naturally understand what was uttered; and (2)
the published matter alleged to libelous must be construed as a whole. "In applying these
rules to the language of an alleged libel, the court will disregard any subtle or ingenious
explanation offered by the publisher on being called to account. The whole question being
the effect the publication had upon the minds of the readers, and they not having been
assisted by the offered explanation in reading the article, it comes too late to have the effect
of removing the sting, if any there be from the words used in the publication."42 As the
persons who, aside from ACP Suñega-Lagman, had also read the Omnibus Motion,
prosecution witnesses Michael, Flores and Enseo are competent to testify on their own
understanding of the questioned statements, and their testimonies are relevant to the trial
court's determination of the defamatory character of such statements.

At any rate, even if petitioner's objections to the admissibility of the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses as to their supposed opinions on his statements against ACP
Suñega-Lagman were to be sustained, the trial court still correctly determined the
statements to be defamatory based on its own reading of the plain and ordinary meanings
of the words and phrases used in the Omnibus Motion, thus:

Based on the above testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and on this Court's own
assessment, the statements above-quoted disturb one's sensibilities. There is evident
imputation of the crime of bribery to the effect that the private complainant may have
received money in exchange for the dismissal of the accused's complaint against his uncle
Nezer Belen. There is likewise an imputation against the private complainant as an "idiot",
"imbecile" and with "stupendous stupidity". An "idiot" as defined in Meriam-Webster
Collegiate Thesaurus, 1988 Edition, p. 380, as a "fool", "moron, "stupid", "nincompoop",
"ignoramus", "simpleton", "dummy", or "imbecile". On the other hand, an "imbecile" means
"retarded", "dull" or "feeble minded. "Stupid" means lacking in or exhibiting a lack of power
to absorb ideas or impressions, or dumb. "Stupendous" means marvelous, astounding,
monstrous, monumental and tremendous. Thus, "stupendous stupidity" simply means
tremendous or monstrous dumbness. Indeed, accused's characterization of the private
complainant is unkind, to say the least, which should not be found a pleading written by a
lawyer."43

Given the settled rule that an appeal in a criminal case throws the whole case open for
review, and it becomes the duty of the appellate court to correct such errors as may be
found in the judgment appealed from, whether or not they are made the subject of
assignment of errors,44 the Court finds it proper to modify the penalty of fine of Three
Thousand Pesos (₱3,000.00) imposed upon petitioner.

Apropos is Administrative Circular No. 08-2008, or the Guidelines in the Observance of a


Rule of Preference in the Imposition of Penalties in Libel Cases,45 where the Supreme Court
cited cases46 of libel, indicating an emergent rule of preference for the imposition of fine
only rather than imprisonment in such cases under the circumstances therein specified.
The Administrative Circular sets down the rule of preference on the matter of imposition of
penalties for the crime of libel bearing in mind the following principles:

1. This Administrative Circular does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for
the crime of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code;47

2. The Judges concerned may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into
consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of
a fine alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose
imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social
order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperative of justice;

3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no
legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provision on subsidiary
imprisonment.

The penalty for the crime of libel under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended,
is prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from ₱200.00
to ₱6,000.00, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended
party. The Court finds it appropriate to increase the fine imposed upon petitioner from
Three Thousand Pesos (₱3,000.00) to Six Thousand Pesos (₱6,000.00), considering the
following peculiar circumstances of the case: (1) then a practicing lawyer himself, petitioner
ignored the rules that in his professional dealings, a lawyer shall not use language which is
abusive, offensive or otherwise improper, and should treat other lawyers with courtesy,
fairness and candor; (2) the barrage of defamatory statements in his Omnibus Motion are
utterly irrelevant to his prayers for a reconsideration of the dismissal of his estafa case and
for the disqualification of ACP Suñega-Lagman from further acting thereon; (3) the baseless
and scurrilous personal attacks in such public document do nothing but damage the
integrity and reputation of ACP Suñega-Lagman, as well as undermine the faith and
confidence of litigants in the prosecutorial service; and (4) the lack of remorse on his part,
as shown by his unfounded claim that he filed the Omnibus Motion· in self-defense to ACP
Suñega-Lagman's supposed imputation of falsification against him without due process of
law.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED, and
the Decision dated April 12, 2013 and the Resolution dated January 10, 2014 of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 32905, are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, increasing the
penalty imposed upon petitioner Medel Arnaldo B. Belen to Six Thousand Pesos
(₱6,000.00), with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice
DYING DECLARATION/RES GESTAE

MENDOZA, J.:
This is an appeal from the January 30, 2015 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 04593, which affirmed the July 21, 2010 Decision[2] of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 41, Dagupan City (RTC), in Criminal Case No. 2007-0672-D, convicting
accused-appellant Romeo D. Calinawan a.k.a "Meo" (Calinawan) of murder, defined and
penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
In an Information, dated October 24, 2007, Calinawan was charged with murder for killing
Janice Nevado Silan (Janice). During his arraignment, he entered a plea of "Not Guilty."
After the pre-trial was terminated, trial ensued.[3]
The Version of the Prosecution
At around midnight on September 26, 2007, Marigor Silan (Marigor), Janice's seven (7)-year
old daughter, saw Calinawan stabbing her mother in their kitchen. Thereafter, Calinawan
quickly fled the scene. Meanwhile, Jonathan Nevado (Jonathan), Janice's brother and
neighbor, was awakened by shouts coming from his sister's house. He rushed to her house
and saw her children crying. After bringing her children to his house, he went looking for
Janice whom he saw outside a neighbor's house pleading for help. Seeing her bloodied, he
carried her and asked her who stabbed her, and she answered it was Calinawan who did it.
Then, Jonathan brought Janice to the hospital. When Darwin Silan, Janice's husband,
arrived at the hospital, he also asked her who stabbed her and she reiterated that it was
Calinawan. After three (3) days, Janice died in spite of the medical treatment at the
hospital.[4]
The Version of the Defense
On September 26, 2007, Calinawan went to his mother's house in Cablong, Sta. Barbara,
Pangasinan, and arrived there at around 7:30 o'clock in the evening. From 8:00 o'clock to
9:00 o' clock in the evening, he was drinking with his older brother. At around 2:00 o'clock
in the morning of the following day, Calinawan was awakened by police officers asking him
about the killing of Janice. He replied that he knew nothing about it, but he was still
invited by the police to go with them. At the police station, Calinawan was asked if he had
with him the dress worn by Janice which was soaked in blood. He presented the dress to
the police but it had no bloodstain. Thereafter, he was released by the police and he went
directly to his mother's house.[5]
The RTC Ruling
In its May 14, 2012 decision, the RTC convicted Calinawan for murder. The trial court
noted that Marigor positively and categorically identified him as the one who stabbed her
mother. It noted that she was able to identify him because of his amputated fingers. In
addition, the trial court pointed out that the dying declaration of Janice to Jonathan
corroborated Marigor's statement that Calinawan killed her mother. The RTC stated that
his positive identification trumped his denial and alibi, which were considered as inherently
weak defenses.[6]
Further, the trial court found that the killing of Janice was attended by treachery. It
stressed that the killing was carried out during nighttime when Janice was defenseless.
Thus, the RTC concluded that given the circumstances surrounding the stabbing,
Calinawan consciously adopted the method and form of attack to insure its execution. The
dispositive portion of the RTC decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Romeo
Calinawan @ Meo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder defined and
penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, and pursuant to law, he is
sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, and to indemnify the legal heirs
of the victim, P50,000.00 as actual damages, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and to pay
the cost of suit.
SO ORDERED.[7]
Aggrieved, Calinawan appealed before the CA.
The CA Ruling
In its January 30, 2015 Decision, the CA sustained Calinawan's conviction but modified
the award of damages. The appellate court agreed that the killing was attended with
treachery. It noted that Calinawan was a frequent visitor of Janice; and that he took
advantage of his knowledge that her husband was working at night and that she was only
accompanied by her children. The CA was of the view that the sudden and unexpected
attack against an unarmed victim constituted treachery.[8]
Moreover, the CA stated that Calinawan's denial and alibi could not prosper in light of the
positive identification by the witness. It pointed out that Marigor's identification of him,
despite his hooded jacket, was sufficient because she identified him on the basis of his
physical deformity. The CA observed that he was the neighbor of the victim for a long time
and so, Marigor was familiar with the former's physique - particularly his amputated
fingers. It added that the dying declaration of Janice corroborated Marigor's identification of
Calinawan. Thus, it disposed:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch
41, Dagupan City, in Criminal Case No. 2007-0672-D, finding accused-appellant Romeo
Calinawan @ "Meo" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing
him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.
Accused-appellant Romeo Calinawan @ "Meo" is ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased
the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity for death, P75,000.00 for moral damages and
P30,000.00 for exemplary damages as well as interest on all these damages assessed at the
legal rate of 6% from date of finality of this decision until fully paid.
SO ORDERED.[9]
Hence, this appeal.
ISSUES
I
WHETHER CALINAWAN WAS POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED AS THE ASSAILANT.
II
WHETHER THE KILLING OF JANICE WAS ATTENDED WITH TREACHERY.
Calinawan argues that Marigor's identification of him was unreliable because she admitted
she never saw the face of her assailant as it was covered by a black hood and that she
closed her eyes during the commotion. He claims that treachery was not established and
that the trial court merely made a general assumption that the victim was defenseless
because it was night time. He insists that there was no evidence to show that he
consciously and deliberately adopted the means, method or form of attack.
The Court's Ruling
The Court finds that Calinawan is criminally liable for the killing of Janice.
The defense of
Denial and Alibi
fails in light of
Positive
Identification
Calinawan challenges Marigor's identification of him on the basis of her statement that she
never saw the face of the assailant because the latter was wearing a hooded jacket. He fails
to persuade.
In People v. Caliso,[10] the Court explained that in criminal prosecution, the identity of the
accused must be established with moral certainty, but this did not necessarily require that
the witness must have seen the face of the accused. Thus it ruled:
xxx In every criminal prosecution, no less than moral certainty is required in establishing
the identity of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. xxx The test to determine the
moral certainty of an identification is its imperviousness to skepticism on account of its
distinctiveness. To achieve such distinctiveness, the identification evidence should
encompass uniquephysical features or characteristics, like the face, the voice, the
dentures, the distinguishing marks or tattoos on the body, fingerprints, DNA, or any
other physical facts that set the individual apart from the rest of
humanity.[11][Emphasis supplied]
Succinctly put, it suffices that the witness recognized the accused through identifying
marks which would make the latter unmistakeably stand out from other individuals. In the
case at bench, Marigor's family and Calinawan had been neighbors for a long time. Hence,
she was very familiar with the latter's unique physical characteristics, particularly his
amputated fingers. Through this distinct physical feature of Calinawan, Marigor was able to
identify him in open court as the one who stabbed her mother. Thus, her identification of
him was credible, even if she was not able to clearly see his face, but saw the notable
feature of his hand, which set him apart from others.
Dying Declaration;
Rule on Res Gestae
Marigor's positive identification was further bolstered by the statement of Janice to
Jonathan that it was Calinawan who stabbed her.
The courts a quo considered the said statement as an admissible dying declaration. For a
dying declaration to be deemed an exception to the hearsay rule, the following conditions
must concur: (a) the declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of
the declarant's death; (b) that at the time the declaration was made, the declarant was
conscious of his impending death; (c) the declarant was competent as a witness; and (d) the
declaration is offered in a criminal case for Homicide, Murder, or Parricide where the
declarant is the victim.[12]
In this case, the Court notes that in her affidavit, Janice said that she thought she could
survive the attack. She never thought that she was dying. In fact, she was optimistic of her
recovery. In view of this, there seems to be a doubt whether she was aware of her
impending death.
Granting there is such doubt, Janice's statement, nevertheless, is admissible as an
exception to the hearsay rule for being part of res gestae. In order for a statement to be
considered part of res gestae, the following elements must concur: (a) the principal act,
the res gestae, is a startling occurrence; (b) the statement was made before the declarant
had time to contrive or devise; and (c) the statement concerns the occurrence in question
and its immediately attending circumstances.[13] All the foregoing elements are present in
the case at bench.
First, the stabbing incident constituted the startling occurrence. Second, Janice never had
the opportunity to fabricate a statement implicating Calinawan because she immediately
identified him as her attacker when Jonathan saw her shortly after the assault took
place. Lastly, the statement of Janice concerned the circumstances surrounding her
stabbing.
Thus, Calinawan's denial and alibi have no leg to stand. They are inherently weak as
defenses, especially when faced with the positive and credible testimony of the prosecution
witnesses identifying the accused as the perpetrator of the crime.[14]
Killing is Homicide only if
Not Attended by Qualifying
Circumstances
The courts a quo convicted Calinawan of murder because they were of the view that the
killing was qualified by treachery considering that the attack on Janice was so sudden that
it rendered her defenseless.
"There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person,
employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and
specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the
offended party might make."[15]
The following elements must be established before the existence of treachery may be
appreciated: (a) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself;
and (b) the accused consciously and deliberately adopted the particular means, methods, or
forms of attack employed by him.[16] The suddenness or unexpectedness alone, however, of
the attack is insufficient to support the finding of treachery.[17]
In People v. Silva,[18] the Court ruled that treachery could not be presumed and must be
proved by clear and convincing evidence or as conclusively as the killing itself, to wit:
The trial court reasoned that the killing was attended by treachery because the suddenness
of the attack caught Leo offguard thus preventing him from putting up any defense. We
ruled in a litany of cases that treachery cannot be presumed; it must be proved by
clear and convincing evidence or as conclusively as the killing itself. The same
degree of proof to dispel any reasonable doubt is required before treachery may be
considered either as an aggravating or qualifying circumstance. Further, treachery
must be based on some positive conclusive proof and not only upon hypothetical facts or on
mere suppositions or presumptions.
The trial court erred when it presumed that the killing was qualified by treachery
although the record shows that the witness did not see the commencement of the
assault. xxx
xxx
In her earlier testimony, Estelita explained that it was the first shot that prompted her to
turn her head and it was only then that she saw Gerry Silva pointing his gun at her son
who was already bloodied. These statements are fraught with possibilities.
Nagging doubts would crop up as to how the three (3) assailants started the assault
considering that there was an interval of time from the moment Estelita's back was towards
Leo until she heard the first shot. Before that she did not notice the presence of accused-
appellants. One can argue that between the time when Estelita's back was turned from the
victim after she had taken about two (2) steps away and the first shot, there was a lapse of
more or less four (4) seconds. No other logical conclusion then could be drawn but that the
attack was sudden and unexpected. But this is not that simple. Where all indicia tend to
support the conclusion that the attack was sudden and unexpected but there are no
precise data on this point, treachery cannot be taken into account. It can in no way be
established from mere suppositions, drawn from the circumstances prior to the moment of
the aggression, that the accused perpetrated the killing with treachery.[19] [Emphases
supplied]
In short, the evidence of the prosecution must be able to present the whole scenario to
establish to exact manner of the killing, for treachery to be appreciated. In the case at
bench, it was only Marigor who witnessed Calinawan stabbing her mother. Her testimony is
as follows:
On direct examination
Prosecutor Catungal
Q: Why do you say that your mother is already in heaven?
Witness
A: She is already dead, sir.
Q: You mean your mother is already dead, do you know why she died?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: If yes, will tell the Hon. Court why she died?
A: She was stabbed, sir.
xxx
Q: Can you still recall the time whether it is day time or night when the incident took
place?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Can you please tell the Hon. Court if it is day time or night time?
A: It is night time, sir.
Q: You said that your mother was stabbed, where did you see your mother when she
was stabbed?
A: In the kitchen, sir.
Q: When you said you saw your mother was stabbed in the kitchen was she alone or had
someone?
A: She has companion, sir.
Q: Who is this person with her?
A: It was Meo, sir.
Q: You mean Meo again?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you actually see how Meo stab your mother?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: You said that you saw your mother and Meo in the kitchen, and you said you saw Meo
stabbed your mother, was the kitchen room with light?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: After you saw Meo stabbed your mother, what did Meo do next, if any?
A: He ran away, sir.
xxx
On cross examination
Atty. Carpizo
Q: You said earlier Marigor that you saw Meo and your mother in the kitchen on September
26, 2007 in the midnight of said date?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What were they doing at that time?
A: My mother was stabbed, sir.[20] [Emphases supplied]
Other than Marigor's first-hand account, no other witness actually saw the stabbing
incident. Obviously, her narration of the events that unfolded was crucial in determining
how the killing was perpetrated because she was the only one who actually saw its
execution. Her testimony, however, was lacking in details; thus, it is insufficient to
conclude that the killing was attended with treachery.
Absent clear and convincing evidence on how the attack was perpetrated, the conclusion
that there was treachery is nothing more but an assumption. It is unfortunate that the
particular means, manner or method of attack was never clearly illustrated in her
testimony leaving the evidence for murder wanting.
Under Article 249[21] of the RPC, the crime of homicide is punishable by reclusion temporal.
Calinawan's prison sentence shall then be subject to the rules provided in the
Indeterminate Sentence Law.[22] Thus, the maximum term should be that which could be
properly imposed in view of the attending circumstances, and the minimum should be
within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the RPC.
Here, no aggravating or mitigating circumstance can be appreciated. When there are
neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstances, the penalty prescribed by law shall be
imposed in its medium period.[23]
The aggravating circumstance of nighttime cannot be factored in because there was no
showing that Calinawan especially sought the same or took advantage of it, or that it had
facilitated the commission of the crime by insuring his immunity from identification or
capture.[24]It is noteworthy that the attack occurred in the kitchen of the house of Janice,
which was sufficiently lighted, enabling Marigor to identify him as the assailant. Therefore,
the sentence should be within the range of prision mayor, as minimum, to reclusion
temporal in its medium period, as maximum.
Also, to conform with the prevailing jurisprudence,[25] the award of civil indemnity and
moral damages should be decreased from P75,000.00 to P50,000.00. Absent any
aggravating circumstance, the award of exemplary damages should be removed. The award
of temperate damages in the amount of P50,000.00 is also in order.
WHEREFORE, the January 30, 2015 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C.
No. 04593 is hereby MODIFIED, in that, accused-appellant Romeo D. Calinawan a.k.a Meo
is found guilty of Homicide and sentenced 1] to suffer an indeterminate penalty of Eleven
(11) Years of prision mayor, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) Years, Eight (8) Months and One
(1) Day of reclusion temporal, as maximum; and 2] to pay the heirs of Janice Nevado Silan
the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity; P50,000.00 as moral damages; and
P50,000.00 as temperate damages, plus interest on all damages awarded at the rate of 6%
per annum from the date of the finality of this decision until fully paid.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio (Chairperson), Peralta, Perlas-Bernabe,[*] and Leonen, JJ., concur.

BEST EVIDENCE RULE/ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE

FIRST DIVISION

March 20, 2017


G.R. No. 198799

BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, Petitioner


vs
AMADO M. MENDOZA and MARIA MARCOS VDA. DE MENDOZA, Respondents

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 is the Decision2 dated February 4, 2011
and the Resolution3 dated August 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR. CV No.
91704, which reversed and set aside the Decision4dated May 9, 2007 of the Regional Trial
Court of Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, Branch 87 (RTC) in Civil Case No. 1913, and
consequently, dismissed the complaint filed by petitioner Bank of the Philippine Islands
(BPI) against respondents Amado M. Mendoza (Amado) and his mother, Maria Marcos vda.
de Mendoza (Maria; collectively, respondents).

The Facts

This case stemmed from a Complaint for Sum of Money with Application for Writ of
Attachment5 filed by BPI against respondents before the RTC. BPI alleged that on April 8,
1997, respondents: (a) opened a foreign currency savings account with Account No. 0584-
0007-08 (US savings account) at BPI-Gapan Branch and deposited therein the total amount
of US$l6,264.00, broken down as follows: US$100.00 in cash and US$16,164.00 in US
Treasury Check with No. 3149-09693369 payable to "Ma. Marcos Vda. de Mendoza"
(subject check); and (b) placed the amount of US$2,000.00 in a time deposit account. After
the lapse of the thirty (30) day clearing period on May 9 and 13, 1997, respondents
withdrew the amount of US$16,244.00 from the US savings account, leaving only
US$20.00 for bank charges.6 However, on June 26, 1997, BPI received a notice from its
correspondent bank, Bankers Trust Company New York (Bankers Trust), that the subject
check was dishonored due to "amount altered",7 as evidenced by (1) an electronic mail (e-
mail) advice from Bankers Trust,8 and (2) a photocopy of the subject check with a notation
"endorsement cancelled" by Bankers Trust9 as the original copy of the subject check was
allegedly confiscated by the government of the United States of America (US
government).10 This prompted BPI to inform respondents of such dishonor and to demand
reimbursement.11 BPI then claimed that: (a) on July 18, 1997, respondents allowed BPI to
apply the proceeds of their time deposit account in the amount ofUS$2,015.00 to their
outstanding obligation;12 (b) upon the exhaustion of the said time deposit account, Amado
gave BPI a promissory note dated September 8, 1997 containing his promise to pay BPI-
Gapan Branch the amount of ₱l,000.00 monthly;13 and (c) when respondents failed to fulfill
their obligation despite repeated demands, BPI was constrained to give a final demand
letter14 to respondents on November 27, 1997.15

For their part, while respondents admitted the withdrawals and exchanged the same with
BPI at the rate of ₱26.l59 per dollar, they did not receive the amount of ₱582,140.00 from
the proceeds. Respondents then maintained that Amado only affixed his signature in the
letter dated July 18, 1997 in order to acknowledge its receipt, but not to give his consent to
the application of the proceeds of their time deposit account to their purported obligations
to BPI. According to Amado, he would have been willing to pay BPI, if only the latter
presented proper and authenticated proof of the dishonor of the subject check. However,
since the bank failed to do so, Amado argued that BPI had no cause of action against him
and his mother, Maria.16

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision17 dated May 9, 2007, the RTC ruled in BPI's favor, and accordingly, ordered
respondents to pay: (a) ₱369,600.5l representing the peso equivalent of amounts withdrawn
by respondent less the amounts already recovered by BPI, plus legal interest of 12% per
annum reckoned from the time the money was withdrawn; and (b) 10% of the aforesaid
monetary award representing attorney's fees.18

The RTC found that: (a) BPI duly notified respondents of the dishonor of the subject check,
thus, creating an obligation on the part of the respondents to return the proceeds that they
had already withdrawn; and (b) Amado unmistakably acknowledged the same by executing
a promissory note dated September 8, 1997 promising to pay BPI-Gapan Branch the
amount of ₱l,000.00 monthly in connection with such obligation. In this regard, the RTC
opined that since respondents withdrew the money prior to the dishonor and that BPI
allowed such withdrawal by mistake, it is only proper that respondents return the proceeds
of the same pursuant to the principle of solutio indebiti under Article 2154 of the Civil
Code.19

Aggrieved, respondents appealed to the CA.20

The CA Ruling

In a Decision21 dated February 4, 2011, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC's ruling,
and consequently, dismissed BPI's complaint for lack of merit.22 It held that BPI failed to
prove the dishonor of the subject check, since: (a) the presentation of a mere photocopy of
the subject check is in violation of the Best Evidence Rule; and (b) the e-mail advice from
Bankers

Trust was not properly authenticated in accordance with the Rules on Electronic Evidence
as the person who sent the e-mail advice was neither identified nor presented in court. As
such, the CA ordered the dismissal of the complaint due to BPI's failure to prove its claim
against respondents.23

Dissatisfied, BPI moved for reconsideration,24 which was, however, denied in a


Resolution25 dated August 26, 2011; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The primordial issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the CA correctly dismissed
BPI's complaint for sum of money against respondents.

The Court's Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

As a general rule, the Court's jurisdiction in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45
of the Rules of Court is limited to the review of pure questions of law. Otherwise stated, a
Rule 45 petition does not allow the review of questions of fact because the Court is not a
trier of facts.26 Case law provides that "there is a 'question of law' when the doubt or
difference arises as to what the law is on a certain set of facts or circumstances; on the
other hand, there is a 'question of fact' when the issue raised on appeal pertains to the
truth or falsity of the alleged facts. The test for determining whether the supposed error was
one of 'law' or 'fact' is not the appellation given by the parties raising the same; rather, it is
whether the reviewing court can resolve the issues raised without evaluating the evidence,
in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise, it is one of fact."27 Where there is no
dispute as to the facts, the question of whether or not the conclusions drawn from these
facts are correct is a question of law. However, if the question posed requires a re-
evaluation of the credibility of witnesses, or the existence or relevance of surrounding
circumstances and their relationship to each other, the issue is factual.28

Notably, however, the foregoing general rule admits of several exceptions, such as where
the factual findings of the RTC and the CA are conflicting or contradictory,29 which is
evident in this case. As such, the Court is constrained to make its own factual findings in
order to resolve the issue presented before it.

To recapitulate, the RTC declared that BPI was able to sufficiently establish by
preponderance of evidence that respondents were duly notified of the dishonor of the
subject check, rendering them liable to refund what they had withdrawn from BPI.
Pertinently, it hinged its ruling on the pieces of evidence presented during the trial, namely:
the e-mail printout advice from Bankers Trust informing BPI that the subject check was
dishonored, the BPI letters dated June 27, 1997 and July 18, 1997 addressed to
respondents, and the subject promissory note voluntarily executed by Amado. On the
contrary, the CA held that respondents were not liable to BPI for its failure to competently
prove the fact of the subject check's dishonor and its subsequent confiscation by the US
government. In this relation, the CA deemed that the printout of the e-mail advice is
inadmissible in evidence for lack of proper authentication pursuant to the Rules on
Electronic Evidence.
After a judicious review of the records, including a re-evaluation of the evidence presented
by the parties, the Court is inclined to sustain the findings of the RTC over that of the CA,
as will be explained hereunder.

It is settled that in civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must produce a
preponderance of evidence thereon, with plaintiff having to rely on the strength of his own
evidence and not upon the weakness of the defendant's.30 Preponderance of evidence is the
weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered
to be synonymous with the term 'greater weight of evidence' or 'greater weight of credible
evidence.'31 Succinctly put, it only requires that evidence be greater or more convincing
than the opposing evidence.32

Records evince that BPI was able to satisfactorily prove by preponderance of evidence the
existence of respondents' obligation in its favor. Verily, Amado acknowledged its existence
and expressed his conformity thereto when he voluntarily: (a) affixed his signature in the
letters dated June 27, 199733 and July 18, 1997,34 where he acknowledged the dishonor of
the subject check, and subsequently, allowed BPI to apply the proceeds of their US time
deposit account to partially offset their obligation to the bank; and (b) executed a
Promissory Note35 dated September 8, 1997 wherein he undertook to pay BPI in
installments of ₱l,000.00 per month until the remaining balance of his obligation is fully
paid.

On the other hand, aside from his bare testimony, Amado did not present any corroborative
evidence to support his claim that his performance of the aforesaid voluntary acts was
subject to BPI's presentment of the proper and authenticated proof of the dishonored
subject check. Amado's unsubstantiated testimony is self-serving at the most, and hence,
cannot be relied upon.36 In fact, the RTC did not lend any credence to Amado's testimony in
resolving this case. In this regard, it should be borne in mind that the "findings of the trial
court on the credibility of witnesses deserve great weight, as the trial judge is in the best
position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, and has the unique opportunity to
observe the witness firsthand and note his demeanor, conduct and attitude under gruelling
examination. Absent any showing that the trial court's calibration of credibility was flawed,
the appellate court is bound by its assessment,"37 as in this case.

Overall, assessing the pieces of evidence presented by BPI as opposed to the self-serving
allegations of respondents, the weight of evidence clearly preponderates in favor of the
former. Otherwise stated, BPI has proven by the required quantum of
proof, i.e., preponderance of evidence, respondents' obligation towards it, and as such,
respondents must be made to fulfill the same.

In any event, the CA erred in concluding that BPI failed to prove the dishonor of the subject
check by merely presenting: (a) a photocopy thereof with its dorsal portion stamped
"ENDORSEMENT CANCELLED" by Bankers Trust;38 and (b) a print-out of the e-mail advice
from Bankers Trust stating that the subject check was returned unpaid because the
amount was altered.39

Anent the subject check, while the Best Evidence Rule under Section 3, Rule 13040 of the
Rules of Court states that generally, the original copy of the document must be presented
whenever the content of the document is under inquiry, the rule admits of certain
exceptions, such as "[w]hen the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced
in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror."41 In order to fall under the aforesaid
exception, it is crucial that the offeror proves: (a) the existence or due execution of the
original; (b) the loss and destruction of the original, or the reason for its non-production in
court; and (c) the absence of bad faith on the part of the offeror to which the unavailability
of the original can be attributed. 42

In this case, BPI sufficiently complied with the foregoing requisities. First, the existence or
due execution of the subject check was admitted by both parties. Second, the reason for the
non-presentation of the original copy of the subject check was justifiable as it was
confiscated by the US government for being an altered check. The subject check, being a
US Treasury Warrant, is not an ordinary check, and practically speaking, the same could
not be easily obtained. Lastly, absent any proof to the contrary and for the reasons already
stated, no bad faith can be attributed to BPI for its failure to present the original of the
subject check. Thus, applying the exception to the Best Evidence Rule, the presentation of
the photocopy of the subject check as secondary evidence was permissible.
As to the e-mail advice, while it may not have been properly authenticated in accordance
with the Rules on Electronic Evidence, the same was merely corroborative evidence, and
thus, its admissibility or inadmissibility should not diminish the probative value of the
other evidence proving respondents' obligation towards BPI, namely: (a) Amado's voluntary
acts of conforming to BPI's letters dated June 27, 1997 and July 18, 1997 and executing
the promissory note to answer for such obligation; and (b) the photocopy of the subject
check, which presentation was justified as falling under the afore-discussed exception to
the Best Evidence Rule. As such, their probative value remains.

Besides, it should be pointed out that respondents did not proffer any objection to the
evidence presented by BPI, as shown by their failure to file their comment or opposition to
the latter's formal offer of evidence.43 It is well-settled that evidence not objected to is
deemed admitted and may validly be considered by the court in arriving at its judgment, as
what the RTC did in this case, since it was in a better position to assess and weigh the
evidence presented during the trial.44

In sum, considering that BPI had proven its cause of action by preponderance of evidence,
the Court finds the CA to have erred in dismissing BPI's complaint against respondents.
Accordingly, the RTC ruling must be reinstated, subject to modification in the award of
interest imposed on the adjudged amount.

To recount, respondents were ordered by the RTC to pay BPI the amount of ₱369,600.51
representing the peso equivalent of the amounts withdrawn by respondents less the
amounts already recovered by BPI, plus legal interest of twelve percent (12%) per
annum reckoned from the time the money was withdrawn,45 thus, implying that such
amount was a loan or a forbearance of money. However, records reveal that BPI's payment
of the proceeds of the subject check was due to a mistaken notion that such check was
cleared, when in fact, it was dishonored due to an alteration in the amount indicated
therein. Such payment on the part of BPI to respondents was clearly made by mistake,
giving rise to the quasi-contractual obligation of solutio indebiti under Article 215446 in
relation to Article 216347 of the Civil Code. Not being a loan or forbearance of money, an
interest of six percent (6%) per annumshould be imposed on the amount to be refunded and
on the damages and attorney's fees awarded, if any, computed from the time of demand
until its satisfaction.48 Consequently, respondents must return to BPI the aforesaid
amount, with legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of
extrajudicial demand - or on June 27, 1997, the date when BPI informed respondents of
the dishonor of the subject check and demanded the return of its proceeds - until fully
paid.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated February 4, 2011 and the
Resolution dated August 26, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 91704 is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision dated May 9, 2007 of the Regional Trial
Court of Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, Branch 87 in Civil Case No. 1913
is REINSTATED with MODIFICATION, adjusting the interest imposed on the amount
ordered to be returned, i.e., ₱369,600.51, to six percent (6%) per annum reckoned from the
date of extrajudicial demand on June 27, 1997, until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

JUDICIAL NOTICE

PERALTA, J.:
For resolution of this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court filed by petitioner Nestor Cabrera(Cabrera) assailing the Decision[1] dated July 25,
2014 and Resolution[2] dated November 21, 2014 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R.
CV No. 100950, which reversed and set aside the Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 10, in Civil Case No. 752-M-2006.

The facts are as follows:


The instant petition originated from a Complaint[4] for accion publiciana with damages filed
before the RTC by Cabrera[5] against respondents Arnel Clarin (Clarin) and wife, Milagros
Barrios (Barrios) and husband, Aurora Serafin (Serafin) and husband, and Bonifacio
Moreno (Moreno) and wife.[6] Cabrera alleged that he is the lawful and registered owner of a
parcel of agricultural land located at Barangay Maysulao, Calumpit, Bulacan, with a total
area of 60,000 square meters (sq. m.) covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-
4439. He was in actual and physical possession of the land until he discovered the
encroachment of respondents sometime in December 2005. By means of fraud, strategy
and stealth, respondents usurped and occupied portions of the said property, viz.: Clarin
with 63 sq. m. thereof, Barrios with 41 sq. m. thereof, Serafin with 30 sq. m. thereof, and
Moreno with 11 sq. m. thereof. He made numerous oral and written demands to vacate the
premises but the respondents refused to heed. They also tailed to settle amicably when the
case was brought before the barangay for conciliation.

In their Motion to Dismiss,[7] respondents claimed that the complaint failed to state the
assessed value of the property which is needed in determining the correct amount of docket
fees to be paid. Also, Cabrera did not fulfill an essential condition prior to the filing of the
complaint which was submission of a government approved technical survey plan to prove
the alleged encroachment. Cabrera anchors his claim of ownership in the certificate of title
registered in his and his father Ciriaco Cabrera's name. Cabrera did not aver that it was his
portion of property that respondents have intruded as there was no proof of partition of the
property since his father who was an American citizen died in the United States of
America.[8]

In an Order dated June 19, 2007, the RTC denied respondents' motion, and directed them
to file their Answer.[9] The RTC cited the case of Aguilon v. Bohol[10] in ruling that based on
the allegations in the complaint, the case is the plenary action of accion publiciana which
clearly falls within its jurisdiction. The trial court, in an Order[11] dated October 19, 2007,
declared respondents in default upon tailing to file their Answer, and allowed Cabrera to
present his evidence ex parte. On February 5, 2009, respondents filed an Omnibus
Motion[12] to set aside the order of default, to admit Answer, and to set the hearing for the
presentation of their evidence.

In a Decision dated May 30, 2012, the RTC ruled in favor of Cabrera. The dispositive
portion reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the
[petitioner]:

1. ORDERING the [respondents] and all other persons claiming rights under them to vacate
the subject portions of [the] land and surrender possession thereof to the plaintiff;

2. ORDERING the [respondents] to pay attorney's fees in the amount of Fifty Thousand
Pesos ([P]50,000.00) and Ten Thousand Pesos ([P]10,000.00) litigation expenses.

SO ORDERED.[13]
Aggrieved, respondents elevated the case before the CA which then reversed and set aside
the decision of the RTC in a Decision dated July 25, 2014. The fallo of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated May 30, 2012 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 10, Malolos, Bulacan is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. In lieu
thereof, the complaint for accion publiciana with damages filed by [petitioner] Nestor
Cabrera is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

SO ORDERED.[14]
Finding no cogent reason to deviate from its previous ruling, the CA denied the Motion for
Reconsideration filed by Cabrera.

Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues:

A. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it held that "since
[petitioner] failed to allege the assessed value of the subject property, the court a
quo has not acquired jurisdiction over the action and all proceedings thereat are null
and void," as such conclusion is contradictory to the doctrine of estoppel.

B. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed a reversible error when it failed to take
into consideration the tax declaration annexed to the Appellee's Brief which provided
the assessed value of the property subject matter of the case.

The instant petition lacks merit.

In essence, the issue presented before this Court is whether or not estoppel bars
respondents from raising the issue of lack of jurisdiction.

Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, (the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980), as amended by
Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691 provides:

xxxx

Section 19. Jurisdiction in civil cases. - Regional Trial Courts shall exercise exclusive
original jurisdiction.

(2) In all civil actions which involve the title to, or possession of, real property, or any
interest therein, where the assessed value of the property involved exceeds Twenty
thousand pesos (P20,000,00) or, for civil actions in Metro Manila, where such value
exceeds Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) except actions for forcible entry into and
unlawful detainer of lands or buildings, original jurisdiction over which is conferred upon
the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts;

xxxx

Sec. 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal
Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. - Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:

(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, or
possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the
property or interest therein docs not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or,
in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand
pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney's fees,
litigation expenses and costs: Provided, That in cases of land not declared for taxation
purposes, the value of such property shall be determined by the assessed value of the
adjacent lots.

x x x[15]
Before the amendments, the plenary action of accion publiciana was to be brought before
the RTC regardless of the value of the property. With the modifications introduced by R.A.
No. 7691 in 1994, the jurisdiction of the first level courts has been expanded to include
jurisdiction over other real actions where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000.00,
P50,000.00 where the action is filed in Metro Manila. Accordingly, the jurisdictional
element is the assessed value of the property.[16]

A perusal of the complaint readily shows that Cabrera failed to state the assessed value of
the disputed land, thus:

xxxx

[T]he plaintiffs are the lawful and the registered owner of a parcel of agricultural land and
more particularly described under Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-4439, a copy of which
is hereto attached and marked as Annex "A" and made an integral part hereof;

[T]he defendants had illegally encroached the property of the plaintiff by means of fraud
and stealth and with force and intimidation. Defendant Arnel Clarin had encroached an
approximate area of SIXTY THREE (63) SQUARE METERS, while defendant Milagros
Barrios had encroached an approximate area of FORTY-ONE (41) SQUARE METERS,
defendant Aurora Serafin had encroached an approximate area of THIRTY (30) SQUARE
METERS while defendant Bonifacio Moreno had encroached an approximate area of
ELEVEN (11) SQUARE METERS, copy of the relocation plan is hereto attached and marked
as Annex "B" and made an integral part of this complaint;

The plaintiffs had already informed the defendants of the illegal encroachment but the
defendants refused to heed the call of the plaintiffs to vacate the land in question and
threaten plaintiff with bodily harm;

That prior to the discovery of the encroachment on or about December 2005, plaintiff was
in actual and physical possession of the premises.

That this matter was referred to the attention of the Office of the Barangay Chairman of
Barangay Maysulao, Calumpit, Bulacan and a Lupong Tagapamayapa was constituted but
no conciliation was reached and the Lupon issued a Certificate to File Action, copy of the
Certificate to File Action is hereto attached and marked as Annex "C" and made an integral
part hereof;

That notwithstanding numerous and persistent demands, both oral and written, extended
upon the defendants to vacate the subject parcel of land, they failed and refused and still
fail and refuse to vacate and surrender possession of the subject parcel of land to the lawful
owner who is plaintiff in this case. Copy of the last formal demand dated January 18, 2006
is hereto attached and marked as Annex " " and the registry receipt as well as the registry
return card as "D" Annexes "D-1," and "D-2," respectively;

That because of this unjustifiable refusal of the defendants to vacate the premises in
question which they now unlawfully occupy, plaintiffs [were] constrained to engage the
services of counsel in an agreed amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS ([P]50,000.00)
Philippine Currency, as acceptance fee and THREE THOUSAND PESOS ([P]3,000.00)
Philippine Currency, per day of Court appearance, which amount the defendants should
jointly and solidarity pay the plaintiffs, copy of the retaining contract is hereto attached and
marked as Annex "E" and made an integral part of this complaint;

That in order to protect the rights and interest of the plaintiffs, litigation expenses will be
incurred in an amount no less than TEN THOUSAND PESOS ([P]10,000.00), which amount
the defendants should jointly and solidarily pay the plaintiffs;

That the amount of THREE THOUSAND PESOS ([P]3,000.00) per month should be
adjudicated in favor of the plaintiff as against the defendants by way of beneficial use, to be
counted from the day the last formal demand until they fully vacate and surrender
possession of the premises in question to the plaintiffs. x x x.[17]
In dismissing the case, the CA noted such fact, to wit:

In the case at bench, the complaint for accion publiciana filed by [Cabrera] failed to allege
the assessed value of the real property subject of the complaint or the interest therein. Not
even a tax declaration was presented before the court a quo that would show the valuation
of the subject property. As such, there is no way to determine which court has jurisdiction
over the action or whether the court a quo has exclusive jurisdiction over the same. Verily,
the court a quo erred in denying the motion to dismiss filed by [respondents] and in taking
cognizance of the instant case.[18]
Indeed, nowhere in the complaint was the assessed value of the subject property ever
mentioned. On its face, there is no showing that the RTC has jurisdiction exclusive of the
MTC. Absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot
readily be determined which court had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case at
bar. The courts cannot take judicial notice of the assessed or market value of the land.[19]

We note that Cabrera, in his Comment/Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss,[20] maintained


that the accion publiciana is an action incapable of pecuniary interest under the exclusive
jurisdiction of the RTC.[21] Thereafter, he admitted in his Brief before the CA that the
assessed value of the subject property now determines which court has jurisdiction
over accion publiciana cases. In asse1iing the trial court's jurisdiction, petitioner averred
that his failure to allege the assessed value of the property in his Complaint was merely
innocuous and did not affect the jurisdiction of the RTC to decide the case.

Cabrera alleges that the CA erred in concluding that the RTC has not acquired jurisdiction
over the action in the instant case being contrary to the doctrine of estoppel as elucidated
in Honorio Bernardo v. Heirs of Villegas.[22] Estoppel sets in when respondents participated
in all stages of the case and voluntarily submitting to its jurisdiction seeking affirmative
reliefs in addition to their motion to dismiss due to lack of jurisdiction.

We are not persuaded. It is axiomatic that the nature of an action and the jurisdiction of a
tribunal are determined by the material allegations of the complaint and the law at the time
the action was commenced.[23] A court's jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the
proceedings, even on appeal for the same is conferred by law, and lack of it affects the very
authority of the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action.[24] It
applies even if the issue on jurisdiction was raised for the first time on appeal or even after
final judgment.

The exception to the basic rule mentioned operates on the principle of estoppel by laches
whereby a party may be barred by laches from invoking the lack of jurisdiction at a late
hour for the purpose of annulling everything done in the case with the active participation
of said party invoking the plea. In the oft-cited case of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy,[25] the party-
surety invoked the jurisdictions of both the trial and appellate courts in order to obtain
affirmative relief, and even submitted the case for final adjudication on the merits. It was
only after the CA had rendered an adverse decision that the party-surety raised the
question of jurisdiction for the first time in a motion to dismiss almost fifteen (15) years
later. Hence, the Court adjudicated a party estopped from assailing the court's jurisdiction,
to wit:

xxxx

[a] party cannot invoke the jurisdiction of a court to secure affirmative relief against
his opponent and, after obtaining or failing to obtain such relief, repudiate or question
that same jurisdiction. . . ., it was further said that the question whether the court had
jurisdiction either of the subject matter of the action or of the parties was not important in
such cases because the party is barred from such conduct not because the judgment or
order of the court is valid and conclusive as an adjudication, but for the reason that such
practice cannot be tolerated - obviously for reasons of public policy.

x x x[26]
However, it was explicated in Calimlim v. Ramirez[27] that Tijam is an exceptional case
because of the presence of laches. Thus:

The lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on
appeal. This doctrine has been qualified by recent pronouncements which stemmed
principally from the ruling in the cited case of Sibonghanoy. It is to be regretted, however,
that the holding in said case had been applied to situations which were obviously not
contemplated therein. The exceptional circumstance involved in Sibonghanoy which
justified the departure from the accepted concept of non-waivability of objection to
jurisdiction has been ignored and, instead a blanket doctrine had been repeatedly upheld
that rendered the supposed ruling in Sibonghanoy not as the exception, but rather the
general rule, virtually overthrowing altogether the time-honored principle that the issue of
jurisdiction is not lost by waiver or by estoppel.

In Sibonghanoy, the defense of lack of jurisdiction of the court that rendered the questioned
ruling was held to be barred by estoppel by laches. It was ruled that the lack of
judsdictiou having been raised for the first time in a motion to dismiss filed almost
fifteen (15) years after the questioned ruling had been rendered, such a plea may no
longer be raised for being barred by laches. As defined in said case, laches is failure or
neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by
exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or
omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that
the party entitled to assert has abandoned it or declined to assert it.[28]
In the case of La Naval Drug Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[29] We illustrated the rule as to
when jurisdiction by estoppel applies and when it does not, as follows:

xxxx

Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit is yet another matter. Whenever it
appears that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, the action shall be
dismissed (Section 2, Rule 9, Rules of Court). This defense may be interposed at any
time, during appeal (Roxas vs. Rafferty, 37 Phil. 957) or even after final
judgment (Cruzcosa vs. Judge Concepcion, et al., 101 Phil. 146). Such is understandable,
as this kind of jurisdiction is conferred by law and not within the courts, let alone the
parties, to themselves determine or conveniently set aside. In People vs. Casiano (111 Phil.
73, 93-94), this Court, on the issue or estoppel, held:

The operation of the principle of estoppel on the question of jurisdiction seemingly depends
upon whether the lower court actually had jurisdiction or not. If it had no jurisdiction,
but the case was tried and decided upon the theory that it had jurisdiction, the
parties are not barred, on appeal, from assailing such jurisdiction, for the same 'must
exist as a matter of law, and may not be conferred by consent of the parties or by
estoppel' (5 C.J.S., 861-863).

However, if the lower court had jurisdiction, and the case was heard and decided upon
a given theory, such, for instance, as that the court had no jurisdiction, the party
who induced it to adopt such theory will not be permitted, on appeal, to assume an
inconsistent position - that the lower court had jurisdiction. Here, the principle of
estoppel applies. The rule that jurisdiction is conferred by law, and does not depend upon
the will of the parties, has no bearing thereon. x x x.[30]
Guided by the abovementioned jurisprudence, this Court rules that respondents are not
estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject civil case. Records
reveal that even before filing their Answer, respondents assailed the jurisdiction of the RTC
through a motion to dismiss as there was no mention of the assessed value of the property
in the complaint. We note that the RTC anchored its denial of respondents' motion to
dismiss on the doctrine enunciated in a 1977 case - that all cases of recovery of possession
or accion publiciana lie with the RTC regardless of the value - which no longer holds true.
Thereafter, the respondents filed their Answer through an omnibus motion to set aside
order of default and to admit Answer.

The circumstances of the present case are different from the Heirs of Villegas[31] case. First,
petitioner Bernardo in the Heirs of Villegascase actively participated during the trial by
adducing evidence and filing numerous pleadings, none of which mentioned any defect in
the jurisdiction of the RTC, while in this case, respondents already raised the issue of lack
of jurisdiction in their Motion to Dismiss filed before their Answer. Second, it was only on
appeal before the CA, after he obtained an adverse judgment in the trial court, that
Bernardo, for the first time, came up with the argument that the decision is void because
there was no allegation in the complaint about the value of the property; on the other hand,
herein respondents raised the issue before there was judgment on the merits in the trial
court. Respondents never assumed inconsistent position in their appeal before the CA.

Furthermore, the unfairness and inequity that the application of estoppel seeks to avoid
espoused in the Tijam case, which the Heirs of Villegas adheres to, are not present. The
instant case does not involve a situation where a party who, after obtaining affirmative
relief from the court, later on turned around to assail the jurisdiction of the same
court that granted such relief by reason of an unfavorable judgment. Respondents did
not obtain affirmative relief from the trial court whose jurisdiction they are assailing, as
their motion to dismiss was denied and they eventually lost their case in the proceedings
below.

Anent the issue of the CA's failure to consider the tax declaration annexed in the Appellee's
Brief, Cabrera insists that its attachment in his Brief without objection from the other party
sealed the issue of the RTC's jurisdiction, and cured the defect of failure to allege the
assessed value of the property in the complaint as provided in Section 5,[32] Rule 10 of the
Rules of Court.

Such averments lack merit. The Rules of Court provides that the court shall consider no
evidence which has not been formally offered.[33]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. Conversely,
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.[34] 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.[35]
Based on the petitioner's admission, he presented the Tax Declaration 2006-07016-
00394[36] dated November 13, 2006 purporting to prove the assessed value of the property
for the first time on appeal before the CA in his Brief.[37] There was no proof or allegation
that he presented the same during the trial or that the court examined such
document.[38] Since the tax declaration was never duly identified by testimony during the
trial albeit incorporated in the Appellee's Brief, the CA will not be required to review such
document that was not previously scrutinized by the RTC. As the assessed value is a
jurisdictional requirement, the belated presentation of document proving such value before
the appellate court will not cure the glaring defect in the complaint. Thus, jurisdiction was
not acquired.

We find Cabrera's application of Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court to support his
claim that failure of the respondents to object to his presentation of the tax declaration
before the CA constitutes an implied consent which then treated the issue of assessed value
as if it had been raised in the pleadings specious. Such rule contemplates an amendment
to conform to or authorize presentation of evidence before the trial court during the trial on
the merits of the case. As held in Bernardo, Sr. v. Court of Appeals,[39] this Court
expounded:

It is settled that even if the complaint he defective, but the parties go to trial thereon,
and the plaintiff, without objection, introduces sufficient evidence to constitute the
particular cause of action which it intended to allege in the original complaint, and
the defendant voluntarily produces witnesses to meet the cause of action thus
established, an issue is joined as fully and as effectively as if it had been previously
joined by the most perfect pleadings. Likewise, when issues not raised by the pleadings
are tried by express or implied consent of the parties, they shall be treated in all respects as
if they had been raised in the pleadings.[40] (Emphases supplied)
It bears emphasis that the ruling in Tijam establishes an exception which is to be applied
only under extraordinary circumstances or to those cases similar to its factual
situation.[41] The general rule is that the lack of a court's jurisdiction is a non-waivable
defense that a party can raise at any stage of the proceedings in a case, even on appeal; the
doctrine of estoppel, being the exception to such non-waivable defense, must be applied
with great care and the equity must be strong in its favor.[42]

All told, We find no error on the part of the CA in dismissing the Complaint for lack of
jurisdiction and for not reviewing the document belatedly filed. Consequently, all
proceedings in the RTC are null and void. Indeed, a void judgment for want of jurisdiction
is no judgment at all, and cannot be the source of any right nor the creator of any
obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal
effect.[43]

WHEREFORE, petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioner Nestor Cabrera is


hereby DENIED. The assailed Decision dated July 25, 2014 and Resolution dated
November 21, 2014 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 100950 are
hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Perez, Reyes, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

JUDICIAL NOTICE OF COURT RECORDS/FORMAL OFFER OF EVIDENCE

G.R. No. 195876


PILIPINAS SHELL PETROLEUM CORPORATION, Petitioner
vs.
COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, Respondent

RESOLUTION

VELASCO, JR., J.:


Acting on the Omnibus Motion (For Reconsideration and Referral to the Court En bane)
dated January 20, 2017 filed by public respondent Commissioner of Customs, the
Court DENIES the same for lack of merit. The arguments raised by respondent in this
pending incident are the very same arguments raised in the petition, which have already
been evaluated, passed upon, and considered in the assailed December 5, 2016 Decision.
Ergo, the Court rejects these arguments on the same grounds discussed in the challenged
Decision, and denies, as a matter of course, the pending motion.

Unlike in Chevron, petitioner


herein is not guilty of fraud

The Omnibus Motion is anchored primarily on the alleged applicability of Chevron


Philippines, Inc. v. Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs 1 (Chevron) to the case at bar.
However, the Court desisted from applying the doctrine laid down in Chevron considering
that the facts and circumstances therein are not in all fours with those obtaining in the
instant case. Thus, Chevron is not a precedent to the case at bar.

A "precedent" is defined as a judicial decision that serves as a rule for future determination
in similar or substantially similar cases. Thus, the facts and circumstances between the
jurisprudence relied upon and the pending controversy should not diverge on material
points. But as clearly explained in the assailed December 5, 2016 Decision, the main
difference between Chevron and the case at bar lies in the attendance of fraud.

In Chevron, evidence on record established that Chevron committed fraud in its dealings.
On the other hand, proof that petitioner Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (Pilipinas
Shell) was just as guilty was clearly wanting. Simply, there was no finding of fraud on the
part of petitioner in the case at bar. Such circumstance is too significant that it
renders Chevron indubitably different from and cannot, therefore, serve as the
jurispn1dential foundation of the case at bar.

In his dissent, Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta (Justice Peralta) claims that fraud
was committed by Pilipinas Shell when it allegedly deliberately incurred delay in filing its
Import Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration in order to avail of the reduced tariff duty
on oil importations, from ten percent (10%) to three percent (3%), upon the effectivity of
Republic Act No. 8180 (RA 8180), otherwise known as the Oil Deregulation Law. Justice
Peralta cites the February 2, 201 I Memorandum to support the allegation of fraud, but as
exhaustively discussed in Our December 5, 2016 Decision, the document was never
formally offered as evidence before the Court of Tax Appeals, and is, therefore, bereft of
evidentiary value. Worse, it was not even presented during trial and no witness identified
the same.

What value can the Court then accord to the document? The Court finds its answer
in Heirs of Pasag v. Sps. Parocha, 2 which teaches that:

x x x Documents which may have been identified and marked as exhibits during pre-trial or
trial but which were not formally offered in evidence cannot in any manner be treated as
evidence. Neither can such unrecognized proof be assigned any evidentiary weight and
value. It must be stressed that there is a significant distinction between identification of
documentary evidence and its formal offer. The former is done in the course of the pre-trial,
and trial is accompanied by the marking of the evidence as an exhibit; while the latter is
done only when the party rests its case. 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. It must be emphasized that any evidence which a party desires to submit
for the consideration of the court must formally be offered by the party; otherwise, it is
excluded and rejected. (emphasis added)

Resultantly, no scintilla of proof was ever offered in evidence by respondent Commissioner


of Customs to substantiate the claim that Pilipinas Shell acted in a fraudulent manner. At
best, the allegation of fraud on the part of Pilipinas Shell is mere conjecture and purely
speculative. Settled is the rule that a court cannot rely on speculations, conjectures or
guesswork, but must depend upon competent proof and on the basis of the best evidence
obtainable under the circumstances. We emphasize that litigations cannot be properly
resolved by suppositions, deductions, or even presumptions, with no basis in evidence, for
the truth must have to be determined by the hard rules of admissibility and proof. 3
The absence of fraud and its effects
on the one-year prescriptive period,
and on the due notice requirement
prior to ipso facto abandonment

As extensively discussed in the assailed Decision, whether or not petitioner Pilipinas Shell
defrauded the public respondent becomes pivotal because of Section 1603 of the Tariff and
Customs Code of the Philippines (TCC), which reads:

Section 1603. Finality of Liquidation. When articles have been entered and passed free of
duty or final adjustments of duties made, with subsequent delivery, such entry and
passage free of duty or settlements of duties will, after the expiration of one (1) year, from
the date of the final payment of duties, in the absence of fraud or protest or compliance
audit pursuant to the provisions of this Code, be final and conclusive upon all parties,
unless the liquidation of the import entry was merely tentative. (emphasis added)

Pursuant to the above-quoted provision, the attendance of fraud would remove the case
from the ambit of the statute of limitations, and would consequently allow the government
to exercise its power to assess and collect duties even beyond the one-year prescriptive
period, rendering it virtually imprescriptible. 4

In the case at bar, petitioner Pilipinas Shell filed its Import Entry and Internal Revenue
Declaration (IEIRD) and paid the import duty of its shipments in the amount of P 11,231,
081 on May 23, 1996. However, it only received a demand letter from public respondent on
July 27, 2000, or more than four (4) years later. By this time, the one-year prescriptive
period had already elapsed, and the government had already been barred from collecting
the deficiency in petitioner's import duties for the covered shipment of oil.

In an attempt to remove the instant case from the purview of the provision, Justice Peralta
and the respondent claim that the government is no longer collecting tariff duties. Rather, it
is exercising its ownership right over the shipments, which were allegedly deemed
abandoned by petitioner because of the latter's failure to timely file the IEIRD. It is their
postulation then that Sec. 1603 cannot find application in the case at bar.

We respectfully disagree.

The absence of fraud not only allows the finality of the liquidations, it also calls for the
strict observance of the requirements for the doctrine of ipso facto abandonment to apply.
Sec. 1801 of the TCC pertinently provides:

Section 1801. Abandonment, Kinds and Effect of - An imported article is deemed


abandoned under any of the following circumstances:

x x xx

b. When the owner, importer, consignee or interested party after due notice, fails to file an
entry within thirty (30) days, which shall not be extendible, from the date of discharge of
the last package from the vessel or aircraft, or having filed such entry, fails to claim his
importation within fifteen (15) days, which shall not likewise be extendible, from the date of
posting of the notice to claim such importation. (emphasis supplied)

As expressly provided in Sec.1801(b) of the TCC, the failure to file the IEIRD within 30 days
from entry is not the only requirement for the doctrine of ipso facto abandonment to apply.
The law categorically requires that this be preceded by due notice demanding compliance.

To recapitulate, the notice in this case was only served upon petitioner four (4) years after it
has already filed its IEIRD.1âwphi1 Under this circumstance, the Court cannot rule that
due notice was given, for when public respondent served the notice demanding payment
from petitioner, it no longer had the right to do so. By that time, the prescriptive period for
liquidation had already elapsed, and the assessment against petitioner's shipment had
already become final and conclusive. Consequently, Sec. 1801(b) failed to operate in favor
of the government for failure to demand payment for the discrepancy prior to the finality of
the liquidation. The government cannot deem the imported articles as abandoned without
due notice.
Public respondent cannot harp on the Chevron ruling to excuse compliance from the due
notice requirement before the imported articles can be deemed abandoned, for to do so
would only downplay the Court's finding anent the non-attendance of fraud. To be clear,
the element of fraud in Chevron was a key ingredient on why notice was deemed
unnecessary: 5

Under the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, due notice was not necessary. The
shipments arrived in 1996. The IEDs and IEIRDs were also filed in 1996. However,
respondent discovered the fraud which attended the importations and their subsequent
release from the BOC's custody only in 1999. Obviously, the situation here was not an
ordinary case of abandonment wherein the importer merely decided not to claim its
importations. Fraud was established against petitioner; it colluded with the former District
Collector. Because of this, the scheme was concealed from respondent. The government
was unable to protect itself until the plot was uncovered. The government cannot be
crippled by the malfeasance of its officials and employees. Consequently, it was impossible
for respondent to comply with the requirements under the rules. By the time respondent
learned of the anomaly, the entries had already been belatedly filed and the oil importations
released and presumably used or sold. It was a fait accompli. Under such circumstances, it
would have been against all logic to require respondent to still post an urgent notice to file
entry before declaring the shipments abandoned. (emphasis added)

Hence, it does not suffice that petitioner is a multinational, large scale importer presumed
to be familiar with importation rules and procedures for the ipso facto abandonment
doctrine to apply. Under the peculiar facts and circumstances of Chevron, the existence of
fraud was the primary element established to warrant the application of the doctrine.
Without this element, Chevron cannot be treated at par with the case at bar. The statutorily
required due notice should still have been timely served upon petitioner before the imported
oil shipments could have been deemed abandoned.

Under public respondent's Customs Memorandum Order No. (CMO) 15-94, otherwise
known as the Revised Guidelines on Abandonment in force at that time, due notice is
served upon the importer through the following measures:

SUBJECT: REVISED GUIDELINES ON ABANDONMENT

xxxx

B. ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS

xxxx

B.2 Implied abandonment occurs when:

B.2.1 The owner, importer, consignee, interested party or his authorized


broker/representative, after due notice, fails to file an entry within a nonextendible period
of thirty (30) days from the date of discharge of last package from the carrying vessel or
aircraft.

xxxx

Due notice to the consignee/importer/owner/interested party shall be by means of posting


of a notice to file entry at the Bulletin Board seven (7) days prior to the lapse of the thirty
(30) day period by the Entry Processing Division listing the consignees who/which have not
filed the required import entries as of the date of the posting of the notice and notifying
them of the arrival of their shipment, the name of the carrying vessel/aircraft, Voy. No. Reg.
No. and the respective BIL No./AWB No., with a warning, as shown by the attached form,
entitled: URGENT NOTICE TO FILE ENTRY which is attached hereto as Annex A and made
an integral part of this Order.

x x xx

C. OPERATIONAL PROVISIONS

xxxx

C.2 On Implied Abandonment:


C.2.1 When no entry is filed

C.2.1.1 Within twenty-four (24) hours after the completion of the boarding
formalities, the Boarding Inspector must submit the manifests to the Bay Service or
similar office so that the Entry Processing Division copy may be put to use by said office as
soon as possible.

C.2.1.2 Within twenty-four (24) hours after the completion of the unloading of the
vessel/aircraft, the Inspector assigned in the vessel/aircraft, shall issue
a certification addressed to the Collector of Customs (Attention: Chief, Entry Processing
Division), copy furnished Chief, Data Monitoring Unit, specifically stating the time and date
of discharge of the last package from the vessel/aircraft assigned to him. Said certificate
must be encoded by Data Monitoring Unit in the Manifest Clearance System.

C.2.1.3 Twenty-three (23) days after the discharge of the last package from the
carrying vessel/aircraft, the Chief, Data Monitoring Unit shall cause the printing of
the URGENT NOTICE TO FILE ENTRY in accordance with the attached form, Annex A
hereof, sign the URGENT NOTICE and cause its posting continuously for seven (7) days
at the Bulletin Board for the purpose until the lapse of the thirty (30) day period.

C.2.1.4 The Chief, Data Monitoring Unit, shall submit a weekly report to the Collector of
Customs with a listing by vessel, Registry Number of shipments/ importations which shall
be deemed abandoned for failure to file entry within the prescribed period and with
certification that per records available, the thirty (30) day period within which to file the
entry therefore has lapsed without the consignee/importer filing the entry and that the
proper posting of notice as required has been complied with.

xxxx

C.2.1.5 Upon receipt of the report, the Collector of Customs shall issue an order to the
Chief, Auction and Cargo Disposal Division, to dispose of the shipment enumerated in
the report prepared by the Chief, Data Monitoring Unit on the ground that those are
abandoned and ipso facto deemed the property of the Government to be disposed of as
provided by law. (emphasis supplied)

CMO 15-94 is an executive edict that implements Section 180l (b) of the TCC. It is an
interpretation given to a statute by those charged with its execution, and is intended for the
guidance of subordinate executive officials to promote a more efficient and cost effective
administration of the BOC. Unless the rule appears to be clearly unreasonable or arbitrary,
it is entitled to the greatest weight by the Court, 6 if not accorded the similar force and
binding effect of law. 7

Coupled with the earlier quotation from Chevron, it becomes abundantly clear that the
notice requirement as mandated in CMO 15-94 cannot be excused unless fraud is
established. Resultantly, fraud being absent on the part of petitioner Pilipinas Shell,
the ipso facto abandonment doctrine cannot operate within the factual milieu of the instant
case. Be that as it may, in view of the substantial differences between the facts
of Chevron and the peculiarities of the instant case, and just as Chevron was
justified "under the peculiar facts and circumstances" obtaining therein, the Decision dated
December 5, 2016 in the case at bar ought to be considered as a judgment pro hac vice.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court DENIES WITH FINALITY the Omnibus
Motion (For Reconsideration and Referral to the Court En bane) dated January 20, 2017
filed by public respondent Commissioner of Customs for lack of merit.

No further pleadings or motions will be entertained.

Let entry of judgment be issued.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice
ADMISSION AGAINST INTEREST MAY BE REFUTED BY DECLARANT

G.R. No. 214406

BP OIL AND CHEMICALS INTERNATIONAL PHILIPPINES, INC., Petitioner


vs.
TOTAL DISTRIBUTION & LOGISTIC SYSTEMS, INC., Respondents

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before this Court is the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, dated November 10,
2014 of petitioner BP Oil and Chemicals International Philippines, Inc. (BP Oil) that seeks to
reverse and set aside the Decision1 dated April 30, 2014 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which,
in turn, reversed and set aside the Decision2 dated January 21, 2011 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 148, Makati City, in a case for a collection of sum of money.

The antecedent facts follow.

A Complaint for Sum of Money was filed by petitioner BP Oil against respondent Total
Distribution & Logistic Systems, Inc. (TDLSI) on April 15, 2002, seeking to recover the sum
of ₱36,440,351.79 representing the total value of the moneys, stock and accounts
receivables that TDLSI has allegedly refused to return to BP Oil.

The allegations of the parties, as summarized by the RTC, are as follows:

According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendant entered into an Agency
Agreement (the Agreement) with BP Singapore on September 30, 1997, whereby it was
given the right to act as the exclusive agent of the latter for the sales and distribution of its
industrial lubricants in the Philippines. The agency was for a period of five years from 1997
to 2002. In return, the defendant was supposed to meet the target sales volume set by BP
Singapore for each year of the Agreement. As agreed in the Supplemental Agreement they
executed on January 6, 1998, the defendant was supposed to deposit the proceeds of the
sales it made to a depositary account that the defendant will open for the purpose. On April
27, 1998, BP Singapore assigned its rights under the Agreement to the plaintiff effective
March 1, 1998.

When the defendant did not meet its target sales volume for the first year of the Agreement,
the plaintiff informed the defendant that it was going to appoint other distributors to sell
the BP's industrial lubricant products in the Philippines. The defendant did not object to
the plan of the plaintiff but asked for ₱10,000,000.00 as compensation for the expenses.
The plaintiff did not agree to the demand made by the defendant.

On August 19, 1999, the defendant through its lawyer, wrote the plaintiff a letter where it
demanded that it be paid damages in the amount of ₱40,000,000.00 and announced that it
was withholding remittance of the sales until it was paid by the plaintiff. On September 1,
1999, the plaintiff wrote the defendant back to give notice that it was terminating the
Agreement unless the defendant rectified the breaches it committed within a period of 30
days. The plaintiff also demanded that the defendant pay the plaintiff its outstanding
obligations and return the unsold stock in its possession.

On October 11, 1999, the plaintiff gave the defendant formal notice of [sic] that it was
terminating the Agreement after it did not hear from the defendant. The plaintiff would find
out that the defendant had filed a request for arbitration with the Philippine Dispute
Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI).

On October 9, 2000, the plaintiff, through Mr. Lau Hock Lee, sent the defendant another
letter to reiterate its demand for the defendant to return the unremitted collections and
stocks in its possession.

On April 30, 2001, the defendant, through Mr. Miguel G. de Asis, its Chief Finance Officer,
wrote the plaintiff a letter admitting that as of the said date, it had in its possession
collections against sales in the amount of ₱27,261,305.75, receivables in the amount of
₱8,767,656.26 and stocks valued at ₱1,155,000.00.
On July 9, 2001, the law firm of Siguion Reyna Montecillo & Ongsiako sent the defendant a
formal demand letter for the payment of the total amount of ₱36,440,351.79 representing
the total amount of the collections, receivables and stocks that defendant should have
returned to the plaintiff as of May 31, 2001. The amount was based on a summary of
account prepared by Ms. Aurora B. Osanna, plaintiffs Business Development Supervisor.

On April 15, 2002, the plaintiff filed the instant complaint for collection against the
defendant. The defendant initially filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaint on the ground for
[sic] lack of cause of action because of the existence of an arbitration agreement, as well as
a previously filed arbitration proceeding between the parties. This Court denied the
defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of merit in its Order dated February 21, 2003. The
Motion for Reconsideration filed by the defendant was likewise denied by this Court on
April 30, 2003. The Defendant went up to the Court of Appeals to question the denial of its
Motion to Dismiss via a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition.

On June 9, 2003, the Defendant filed its Answer Ad Cautelam with Compulsory
Counterclaim Ad Cautelam.

In its answer, the defendant alleged that it was appointed as the exclusive agent of the
plaintiff to sell BP brand industrial lubricants in the Philippines. The agency was to last for
five years from signing of the Agreement, or until September 29, 2001. As the exclusive
agent of BP products, the defendant was tasked to promote, market, distribute and sell the
BP products supplied the plaintiff.

The defendant further alleged that it did not fail to meet the sales target for Year I. Delays
on the part of the plaintiff in shipping the products moved the commencement of the
Agreement from January 1997 to August 1997, making the stipulated sales target no
longer applicable.

On June 8, 1999, the plaintiff unexpectedly informed the defendant of its intention to
assume more control of Philippine operations, including the appointment of a full-time
representative in the Philippines and new distributors. No reason was given for this policy
change.

Although the defendant pointed out to the plaintiff that the appointment of a new
distributor would violate the Agency Agreement, the plaintiff ignored the defendant's
protests and affirmed that it would proceed with taking over control of the distribution in
the Philippines of BP products and with appointing additional distributors.

While business proceeded, the defendant's counsel, Atty. Eugeniano E. Perez III, sent the
plaintiff a letter dated August 19, 1999 pointing out, among others, that: a) The plaintiffs
plan to take over the lubricant business and appoint other distributors was in breach of the
Agency Agreement; b) the defendant incurred losses because of the plaintiffs non-
compliance with the Agreement and lack of support; and c) the defendant would be carrying
on the business would be withholding any funds to be collected pending compliance with
the demand.

Instead of heeding the consequences of its proposed illegal acts, the plaintiffs took steps to
take over the distribution of BP Products in the Philippines and to appoint new agents for
this purpose. Even before the termination of the Agreement, the plaintiff cut off the supply
of BP products to the defendant, and even tried to sell directly to the defendant's
customers, without the defendant's knowledge. To protect its rights, and pursuant to the
arbitration clause under the Agreement, the defendant filed a Request for Arbitration before
the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI) on 5 October 1999.

By way of affirmative defenses, the defendant argued that: 1.) it has the right to retain in
pledge objects subject of the agency until it is indemnified by the plaintiff for the damages it
suffered under Article 1914 in relation to Articles 1912 and 1913 of the Civil Code; 2.) the
complaint is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action for being prematurely filed
and/or litis pendencia because the issue in the case is already a sub-issue in the
arbitration proceedings; and 3.) the action should be stayed in accordance with Republic
Act No. 876.

On March 21, 2004, the Court of Appeals came out with its Decision affirming this Court's
denial of the defendant's Motion to Dismiss after the defendant filed it Answer Ad
Cautelam. The Court of Appeals also denied the defendant's Motion for Reconsideration on
August 16, 2004. The Decision of the Court of Appeals sustaining this Court attained
finality with the denial by the Supreme Court on November 10, 2004 of the Petition for
Review on Certiorari filed by the defendant as well as its Motion for Reconsideration from
the said denial.

In light of the finality of the decision of the Court of Appeals, the defendant lost its right to
invoke the pendency of the arbitration proceedings as part of its affirmative defenses. The
defendant is therefore left with only one affirmative defense to the complaint of the plaintiff,
and this is the right of retention given to an agent under Article 1912, 1913 and 1914 of the
Civil Code.

This makes the issue to be resolved by this Court uncomplicated: 1) whether the plaintiff
has the right to collect the amount of ₱36,440,35 l. 79 from the defendant together with
legal interest computed from September 1, 1999, attorney's fees and costs of suit; and 2)
whether the defendant is justified in retaining the amounts and stocks in its possession by
virtue of the aforementioned provisions of the Civil Code on agency.3

In its Decision dated January 21, 2011, the RTC ruled in favor of the petitioner, the
dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered, granting the claim of the
plaintiff and directing the defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of:

(1) Thirty-Six Million Nine Hundred Forty-Three Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty-Nine
Pesos and Thirteen Centavos (₱36,943,829.13) for the value of the stocks and the moneys
received and retained by the defendant in its possession pursuant to the Agreement with
legal interest computed at 6% per annum from July 19, 2001 up to the finality of this
decision and at 12% per annum from finality of this decision up to the date of payment.

(2) Attorney's fees in the amount of One Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos
(₱1,500,000.00) and costs of suit amounting to Four Hundred Thirty-Nine Thousand Eight
Hundred Forty Pesos (₱439,840.00).

SO ORDERED.4

After the respondent elevated the case to the CA, the latter court reversed and set aside the
decision of the RTC and found in favor of the respondent in its Decision dated April 30,
2014, thus:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated January 21,
2011 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 148 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The instant complaint is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.5

The CA ruled, among others, that the admission made by respondent in Exhibit "J ," that it
was withholding moneys, receivables and stocks respectively valued at ₱27,261,305.75,
₱8,767,656.26 and ₱1,155,000.00 from petitioner, has no evidentiary weight, thus,
petitioner was not able to preponderantly establish its claim.

Hence, the present petition where petitioner states the following grounds:

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR OF LAW IN RENDERING ITS


DECISION AS WELL AS IN DENYING BP OIL'S MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION.SPECIFICALLY:

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT TDLSI HAS MADE A JUDICIAL
ADMISSION THAT IT HAS POSSESSION OF THE STOCKS, MONEYS AND RECEIVABLES
THAT BP OIL SEEKS TO RECOVER IN THE COMPLAINT BELOW, CONSIDERING THAT:

a. EXHIBIT "J' QUALIFIES AS AN ACTIONABLE DOCUMENT WHOSE AUTHENTICITY AND


DUE EXECUTION WERE DEEMED ADMITTED BY TDLSI FOLLOWING ITS FAIL URE TO
SPECIFICALLY DENY THE SAME UNDER OATH IN ITS ANSWER.
b. REGARDLESS OF WHETHER EXHIBIT "J" MAY BE CONSIDERED AS AN ACTIONABLE
DOCUMENT, THE FACT REMAINS THAT TD LSI HAD ACTUALLY ADMITTED PREPARING
AND SENDING THE SAME TO BP OIL IN ITS ANSWER.

i. NO RESERVATION WAS EVER MADE BY TD LSI REGARDING THE AUTHENTICITY OF


ITS CONTENTS AND NO WITNESS WAS EVER PRESENTED BY TDLSI TO DISOWN ITS
DUE EXECUTION.

ii. ASIDE FROM BEING SELF-SERVING, THE ANSWER TO WRITTEN INTERROGATORIES


GIVEN BY TDLSI'S MR. MIGUEL DE ASIS AND CITED IN THE DECISION AS A BASIS TO
NEGATE TDLSI'S ADMISSION OF EXHIBIT "J" WAS NEVER OFFERED IN EVIDENCE. THE
COURT OF APPEALS SHOULD NOT HAVE EVEN CONSIDERED THE SAME IN
RENDERING ITS DECISION.

c. THE RIGHT OF RETENTION INVOKED BY TDLSI IN ITS ANSWER CARRIES WITH IT THE
ADMISSION: (i) THAT BP OIL IS ENTITLED TO THE STOCKS, MONEYS AND
RECEIVABLES SUBJECT OF THE COMPLAINT BELOW, AND (ii) THAT TDLSI IS
WITHHOLDING THE SAME FROM BP OIL.

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED IN NOT RULING THAT WITH OR WITHOUT
EXHIBIT "J," BP OIL HAS MET THE QUANTUM OF PROOF REQUIRED BY LAW TO PROVE
ITS CLAIM.

a. CIVIL CASES ONLY REQUIRE A PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE AND BP OIL HAS


DISCHARGED ITS BURDEN OF MEETING THIS STANDARD OF PROOF.

b. THE REFUSAL OF THE COURT TO GIVE WEIGHT TO SOME OF THE PIECES OF


EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY BP OIL HAS NO LEGAL BASIS.

c. THE DENIAL OF TDLSI'S DEMURRER TO EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT BP OIL HAS MADE
OUT A PRIMA F ACIE CASE IN SUPPORT OF ITS CLAIMS AGAINST TDLSI AND TDLSI'S
FAILURE TO CONTROVERT THIS PRIMA F ACIE CASE JUSTIFIES A RULING IN FAVOR OF
BP OIL.

According to petitioner, Exhibit "J" qualifies as an actionable document whose authenticity


and due execution were deemed admitted by respondent or TDLSI following its failure to
specifically deny the same under oath. Petitioner insists that it has met the quantum of
proof required by law.

In its Comment dated March 24, 2015, respondent reiterates the ruling of the CA that
Exhibit "J" is not an actionable document and cannot be considered a judicial admission on
its part.

The petition is devoid of any merit.

The Rules of Court require that only questions of law should be raised in petitions filed
under Rule 45.6 This court is not a trier of facts. It will not entertain questions of fact as the
factual findings of the appellate courts are "final, binding[,] or conclusive on the parties and
upon this [c]ourt"7 when supported by substantial evidence.8 Factual findings of the
appellate courts will not be reviewed nor disturbed on appeal to this court.9

This Court's Decision in Cheesman v. Intermediate Appellate Court10distinguished questions


of law from questions of fact:

As distinguished from a question of law - which exists "when the doubt or difference arises
as to what the law is on a certain state of facts" - "there is a question of fact when the doubt
or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts;" or when the "query
necessarily invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of
witnesses, existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation to
each other and to the whole and the probabilities of the situation."11

Seeking recourse from this court through a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45
bears significantly on the manner by which this court shall treat findings of fact and
evidentiary matters. As a general rule, it becomes improper for this court to consider
factual issues: the findings of fact of the trial court, as affirmed on appeal by the Court of
Appeals, are conclusive on this court. "The reason behind the rule is that [this] Court is not
a trier of facts and it is not its duty to review, evaluate, and weigh the probative value of the
evidence adduced before the lower courts."12

However, these rules do admit exceptions.13 Over time, the exceptions to these rules have
expanded. At present, there are 10 recognized exceptions that were first listed in Medina v.
Mayor Asistio, Jr.:14

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or


conjectures; (2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3)
Where there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) When the judgment is based on a
misapprehension of facts; (5) When the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) When the Court
of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is
contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) The findings of the Court of
Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) When the findings of fact are
conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) When the
facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not
disputed by the respondents; and (10) The finding of fact of the Court of Appeals is
premised on the supposed absence of evidence and is contradicted by the evidence on
record.15

A close reading of the present petition shows that what this Court is being asked to resolve
is, what should prevail - the findings of facts of the RTC or the findings of facts of the CA on
the alleged misapprehension of facts of the RTC. The findings of facts of both Courts are
obviously conflicting, hence, the need for this Court to rule on the present petition.

On the issue of whether Exhibit "J" is an actionable document, the CA ruled:

Here, plaintiff-appellee relies heavily on its Exhibit "J", defendant-appellant's purported


letter dated April 30, 2001, which it alleged to be an "actionable document" which
defendant-appellant failed to deny under oath. It does amounts to a judicial admission on
the part of defendant-appellant that it has possession of its stocks, moneys and receivables
belonging to plaintiff-appellee.

x x xx

Here, the purported April 30, 2001 letter is not an actionable document per se. The present
complaint is an action for collection of sum of money arising from the termination of the
Agency Agreement between the parties. Plaintiff-appellee's cause of action is primarily
based on the alleged non-payment of outstanding debts of defendant-appellant as well as
the unremitted collections/payments and unsold stocks, despite demand. In other words,
plaintiff-appellee's cause of action is not based solely on the April 30, 2001 letter allegedly
stating the "present value of stocks, collections and accounts receivables" of defendant-
appellant. Clearly, said document is not an actionable document contemplated in Section
7, Rule 8 of the 1997 Rules of Court but is merely evidentiary in nature. As such, there was
no need for defendant-appellant to deny its genuineness and due execution under oath. We
thus cannot sustain plaintiff-appellee' s contention that the aforesaid Exhibit "J" amounted
to a judicial admission because it's due execution and authenticity was never denied under
oath by defendant appellant.

Verily, an admission is any statement of fact made by a party against its interest or
unfavorable to the conclusion for which he contends or is inconsistent with the facts
alleged by him. To be admissible, an admission must (a) involve matters of fact, and not of
law; (b) be categorical and definite; (c) be knowingly and voluntarily made; and (d) be
adverse to the admitter' s interests, otherwise it would be self-serving and inadmissible.

In this case, the alluded Exhibit "J" was introduced in evidence by plaintiff-appellee alleging
in its Complaint that:

"18. Under date of 30 April 2001, TDLSI wrote BP Oil a letter admitting that the following
stocks, collections and accounts receivable were still in their possession as of even date:

Amount collected against


₱27,261,305.75
sales
Accounts Receivable 8,767,656.26
Estimated Value of Stocks 1,155,000.00

A copy of the 30 April 2001 letter of TDLSI is hereto attached as Annex "J" and made an
integral part hereof."

In its Answer Ad Cautelam with Compulsory Counterclaim Ad Cautelam, defendant-


appellant TDLSI averred, viz.:

"17. Paragraph 18 is admitted, with qualification [that] TDLSI's letter dated 30 April 2001
was prepared and sent to BP Oil solely on the latter's representations that the figures were
being sought only to negotiate a settlement of the parties' dispute and end the pending
arbitration. Instead, in shocking bad faith, BP Oil refused to settle and made TDLSI's letter
the basis of the instant Complaint."

Hence, while defendant-appellant admitted said Exhibit "J'', it nevertheless qualified and
limited said admission to, merely, the existence thereof. In fact, in its Comment to Plaintiff's
Exhibits, defendant clearly stated:

"(9) EXH. "J" - only the existence of the letter sent by Defendant to Plaintiff dated April 30,
2001, signed by Miguel de Asis and addressed to Hok Lee Hau, is admitted. The contents as
well as the factual basis thereof, are not admitted. Besides, the circumstances leading to
the sending of this letter were thoroughly explained by Miguel de Asis in his answer to
Plaintiffs written interrogatories."

x x xx

Evidently, the afore-quoted letter does not, in any way, categorically declare that the figures
stated therein are "still in [the] possession of' or, in the hands of, defendant-appellant
TDLSI. The "present value" of the accounts receivables, collections and stocks is one thing,
the "value in possession or on hand" of said accounts is another.

Sans the above-discussed Exhibit "J", therefore, this Court is not convinced that plaintiff-
appellee BP Oil was able to preponderantly establish its claim against defendant-appellant
TDLSI in the amount of ₱36,440,351.79 for the value of the moneys, stock and accounts
receivables which the latter allegedly refused to deliver to the former. As aptly argued by
defendant-appellant TDLSI, the purported Acknowledgment Receipts and Delivery Receipts
presented by plaintiffappellee BP Oil the purpose of which is "to prove that TD LSI, through
its General manager, Mr. Ivor Williams, acknowledged receipt and delivery of the stocks"
are totally baseless since the same were never signed as having been "received by" said Mr.
Ivor Williams. Hence, without the latter's signature, the purpose for which said documents
were offered becomes nil.

The above findings of the CA are partially correct.

Exhibit "J" reads as follows:

Mr. Lau,

Some considerable time has passed since either party had the opportunity to review their
respective position (sic) on the disagreement between us. It was pleasing to note that a
discussion has now started between us again and you give the impression that a settlement
is a better solution for both parties than to continue through the legal route.

The present value of stocks, collections and accounts receivable was requested. As of today,
we can state the following:

Amount Collected against


₱27,261,305.75
Sales
Accounts receivables ₱8,767,656.26
Estimated Value of Stocks ₱1,155,000.00
Please note that the stock value is estimated because the drums are no longer sealable due
to their condition. However, this is not significant in number.

To the mind of the Court, Exh. "J" is not an actionable document but is an evidence that
may be admissible and; hence, need not be denied under oath. Sections 7 and 8 of the
1997 Rules of Court provide:

Section 7. Action or defense based on document. - Whenever an action or defense is based


upon a written instrument or document, the substance of such instrument or document
shall be set forth in the pleading, and the original or a copy thereof shall be attached to the
pleading as an exhibit, which shall be deemed to be a part of the pleading, or said copy may
with like effect be set forth in the pleading.

Section 8. How to contest such documents. - When an action or defense is founded upon a
written instrument, copied in or attached to the corresponding pleading as provided in the
preceding Section, the genuineness and due execution of the instrument shall be deemed
admitted unless the adverse party, under oath, specifically denied them, and sets forth
what he claims to be the facts, but the requirement of an oath does not apply when the
adverse party does not appear to be a party to the instrument or when compliance with an
order for an inspection of the original instrument is refused.

A document, therefore, is actionable when an action or defense is grounded upon such


written instrument or document. The complaint filed by petitioner is an action for collection
of sum of money arising from the termination of the Agency Agreement with TDLSI. The CA,
therefore, was correct when it stated that petitioner's cause of action is primarily based on
the alleged non-payment of outstanding debts of respondent as well as the unremitted
collections/payments and unsold stocks, despite demand. Thus, petitioner's cause of action
is not based solely on the April 30, 2001 letter allegedly stating the "present value of stocks,
collections and accounts receivables" of TDLSI. Noteworthy is the denial of respondent
TDLSI' s Demurrer to Evidence by the RTC because it clearly discussed petitioner's cause of
action and the sufficiency of the evidence it presented, thus:

Upon consideration of the pleadings and arguments filed by the parties, the Court is
convinced to DENY the demurrer.

The record shows that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence that will preponderantly
establish its claim against the defendant. Among the evidence presented which might prove
the claim or right to relief of the plaintiff against the defendant include (I) the purchase
orders of TDLSI's third party customers; (2) original approved copies of the requests for
approval sent by TDLSI to BP Oil from May 21, 1998 to August 14, 1999; (3)TDLSI invoices
covering the products subject of the purchase orders and requests for approval; and (4) The
sales invoices issued by BP Oil to TDLSI to its customers.

The aforesaid evidence presented was to the mind of the Court contain pertinent
facts and such evidence will prove that the plaintiff has a cause of action against the
defendant. As correctly pointed out by the plaintiff, TDLSI cannot premise its demurrer on
any supposed lack of proof of delivery by BP Oil of certain moneys and receivables. The
allegations in the complaint, as well as the evidence presented by BP Oil, establish that
generated as they were by the sales made by TDLSI, the moneys and receivables have
always been in TDLSI's possession and it is the obligation of the latter to deliver them to BP
Oil.

The Court is of the view that the better way to weigh and decide this case based on merits
is for the defendant to present its own evidence to refute the plaintiff's allegations. It is
better that the defendant be given a day in court to prove its defenses in a full-blown trial.

The Court cannot just dismiss the case on the ground that upon the facts and law
presented by the plaintiff it was not able to show a right to relief when in fact the
evidence presented, testimonial and documentary, show otherwise and its claim
appears to be meritorious. To ensure that justice would be served and that the case be
decided on its real merits upon a careful review and appreciation of facts and evidence
presented it would be best that defendant should instead present its own defenses in a
formal trial and not just to dismiss the case allegedly in the absence of clear proof that
plaintiff has no right to the reliefs prayed for.
Moreover, the Court noted that this case has been prolonged for so long and this Court can
no longer allow any more delay to this case.1âwphi1

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Demurrer to Evidence is hereby DENIED for lack
of merit.16

It is basic that whoever alleges a fact has the burden of proving it because a mere allegation
is not evidence.17 In civil cases, the burden of proof is on the party who would be defeated if
no evidence is given on either side.18 The RTC's denial of TDLSI's Demurrer to Evidence
shows and proves that petitioner had indeed laid a prima facie case in support of its claim.
Having been ruled that petitioner's claim is meritorious, the burden of proof, therefore, was
shifted to TDLSI to controvert petitioner's prima facie case.

The CA, however, ruled that while TDLSI admitted Exhibit "J", it nevertheless qualified and
limited said admission to, merely, the existence thereof, thus, without Exhibit "J" the same
court was not convinced that petitioner was able to preponderantly establish its claim
against TDLSI in the amount of ₱36,440,351.79 for the value of the moneys, stock and
accounts receivables which TDLSI allegedly refused to deliver to petitioner. This is
erroneous. The fact is, TDLSI indeed admitted the existence of Exhibit "J." Thus, Exhibit "J"
can be considered as an admission against interest. Admissions against interest are those
made by a party to a litigation or by one in privity with or identified in legal interest with
such party, and are admissible whether or not the declarant is available as a witness.19 An
admission against interest is the best evidence that affords the greatest certainty of the
facts in dispute, based on the presumption that no man would declare anything against
himself unless such declaration is true.20 It is fair to presume that the declaration
corresponds with the truth, and it is his fault if it does not.21 No doubt, admissions against
interest may be refuted by the declarant.22 In this case, however, respondent failed to refute
the contents of Exhibit "J."

Be that as it may, the qualification made by respondent in the admission of Exhibit "J" is
immaterial as the contents thereof were merely corroborative of the other pieces of evidence
presented by petitioner and that respondent failed in its defense, to present evidence to
defeat the claim of petitioner. As aptly ruled by the RTC:

After going over the allegations and the evidence presented by the parties, the Court finds
as it did in its Order denying the Demurrer to Evidence of the defendant that the plaintiff
presented sufficient evidence that will preponderantly establish its claim against the
defendant. The Court notes that apart from not presenting any evidence in support of
its defense, the defendant did not really put up any serious defense to defeat the
claim of the plaintiff, and its only remaining defense consisting of the right of
retention given to agents under Articles 1912, 1913 and 1914 of the Civil Code, even
if proven to exist, will not negate the finding that the plaintiff is entitled to the value
of the moneys and stocks in the defendant's possession.

To the mind of the court, the evidence presented by the plaintiff, unrebutted by any
evidence on the part of the defendant and even aided by the admissions made by the
defendant in its letter dated April 30, 2001 to the plaintiff (Exhibit "J"), proves that
the plaintiff has a cause of action for the payment of the amount of Thirty-Six Million
Nine Hundred Forty-Three Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty-Nine Pesos and Thirteen
Centavos (₱36,943,829.13) for the value of the stocks and the moneys received and
retained by the defendant in its possession pursuant to the Agreement with legal
interest computed at 6% per annum from July 19, 2001, when formal demand
(Exhibit "L") was made by the plaintiff for the liquidatedamount of ₱36,943,829.13,
up to the finality of this decision up to the date of payment thereof.

Considering that the plaintiff was compelled to engage in litigation for almost 10 years, it
must also be indemnified for the costs of suit corresponding to filing fees in the amount of
₱429,840.00 and attorney's fees equivalent to ₱1,500,000.00.23

Section 1,24 Rule 133 of the Rules of Court mandates that in civil cases, the party having
the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. By
preponderance of evidence, according to Raymundo v. Lunaria,25 [means] that the evidence
as a whole adduced by one side is superior to that of the other. It refers to the weight,
credit and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered to be
synonymous with the term "greater weight of evidence" or "greater weight of the credible
evidence." It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that
which is offered in opposition thereto.

Upon close analysis, therefore, this Court is inclined to believe the findings of the RTC that
petitioner was able to prove its case by a preponderance of evidence and that respondent
failed to disprove petitioner's claim. As such, the CA gravely erred in reversing the decision
of the RTC.

A modification, however, must be made as to the rate of interest applied by the RTC. The
RTC ordered the respondent to pay the amount adjudged "with legal interest computed at
6% per annum from July 19, 2001 up to the finality of the decision and at 12% per
annum from finality of the decision up to the date of payment." Now, the interest imposed
should be 12% per annum from July 19, 2001 until June 30, 2013 and 6% per annum from
July 1, 2013 until full satisfaction per decision of this Court in Secretary of the Department
of Public Works and Highways, et al. v. Spouses Heracleo and Ramona Tecson26 which set
forth the following guidelines:

In summary, the interest rates applicable to loans and forbearance of money, in the
absence of an express contract as to such rate of interest, for the period of 1940 to present
are as follows:

Law, Rule and Date of Effectivity Interest Rate


Regulations, BSP
Issuances
Act No. 2655 May 1, 1916 6%
CB Circular No. 416 July 29, 1974 12%
CB Circular No. 905 December 22, 1982 12%
CB Circular No. 799 July 1, 2013 6%

It is important to note, however, that interest shall be compounded at the time judicial
demand is made pursuant to Article 221227 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, and
sustained in Eastern Shipping Lines v. Court of Appeals,28 then later on in Nacar v. Gallery
Frames,29 save for the reduction of interest rate to 6% for loans or forbearance of money,
thus:

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


money, i.e., a loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may
have been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest
from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence of stipulation, the rate of interest
shall be 6% per annum to be computed from default, i.e., from judicial or extrajudicial
demand under and subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.30

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court
dated November 10, 2014 of BP Oil and Chemicals International Philippines, Inc.
is GRANTED. Consequently, the Decision dated April 30, 2014 of the Court of Appeals
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the Decision dated January 21, 2011 of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 148, Makati City is AFFIRMED and REINSTATED, with
the MODIFICATION that the interest imposed should be 12% per annum from July 19,
2001 until June 30, 2013 and 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

JUDICIAL NOTICE PREVAILS OVER HYPOTHETICAL ADMISSION IN A MTD

LEONEN, J.:
When a motion to dismiss is filed, only allegations of ultimate facts are hypothetically
admitted. Allegations of evidentiary facts and conclusions of law, as well as allegations
whose falsity is subject to judicial notice, those which are legally impossible, inadmissible
in evidence, or unfounded, are disregarded.

This resolves a Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] assailing the Court of Appeals
Decision[2] and Resolution[3] in CA-G.R. CV No. 74791. Except for respondent Tomas M.
Fredeluces, the Court of Appeals reinstated the Complaint[4] for damages filed by
respondents Marcos B. Corpuz, Jr., Reynaldo M. Samonte, Norma M. Samonte, Ambrocio
Villanueva, Salvacion A. Bon, Ramiro A. Bon, Luzviminda B. Andillo, Ludivico F. Bon, Elmo
Areglo, Rose A. San Pedro, Dante U. Santos, Sr., Miguel Santos, Efren U. Santos, Ric U.
Santos, Simon Marce, Jr., Joel F. Salinel, Bebiana San Pedro, and Marina Santos against
petitioners Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.[5] The
Court of Appeals remanded the case to Branch 72 of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo
City, which had earlier dismissed the Complaint for damages on the grounds of litis
pendentia, failure to state a cause of action, and lack of cause of action.[6]

With respect to Tomas M. Fredeluces, the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the
Complaint on the ground of lack of cause of action.[7]

Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 87, otherwise known as the Oil Exploration and
Development Act of 1972, the Republic of the Philippines entered into Service Contract No.
38 and engaged the services of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. "for the exploration,
development[,] and production of petroleum resources in an . . . area offshore northwest of .
. . Palawan[.]"[8] The service contractors eventually discovered in offshore Malampaya-
Camago at least 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits.[9]

Exploration and development of the Malampaya-Camago natural gas reservoir required the
construction and operation of a shallow water platform off the coast of Palawan. The water
platform further required a concrete gravity structure that would sit on the seabed, and a
topside or the platform's deck which would sit on top of the concrete gravity structure.[10]

The topside was constructed in Singapore. As for the concrete gravity structure, Shell
Philippines Exploration B.V. searched for possible construction sites here in the
Philippines. Subsequently identified as a possible construction site was Subic, Zambales,
and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. met with representatives of the Subic Bay
Metropolitan Authority.[11]

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority proposed a 40-hectare site in Sitio Agusuhin as a
possible construction site for the concrete gravity structure.[12] The site formed part of the
military reservation of the former naval base of the United States in Subic, which, under
Republic Act No. 7227,[13] became part of the Subic Special Economic Zone.[14]

Results of a socio-economic survey commissioned by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.


showed that there were about 200 households living at or near the proposed construction
site. Together with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Pilipinas Shell Foundation,
Inc., Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. established contact with the occupants of Sitio
Agusuhin. It was ultimately determined that 80 households would have to be relocated to
nearby areas within the Subic Seaport Economic Free Zone to carry out the project.[15]

In May 1998, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.
entered into a Lease and Development Agreement for the construction of the concrete
gravity structure in Sitio Agusuhin. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority undertook to
relocate the affected households, while Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. undertook to give
financial assistance to them.[16]

The undertakings of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. were implemented through Pilipinas
Shell Foundation, Inc. By the end of May 1998, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. concluded
agreements with some of the affected households. In exchange for financial assistance,
some of the claimants voluntarily dismantled their houses and relocated to nearby areas
within the Subic Seaport Economic Free Zone. Other claims, however, were denied by Shell
Philippines Exploration B.V. for the claimant's failure to show that he or she resided in
Sitio Agusuhin prior to the construction project.[17]

With the assistance of the Subic Sangguniang Bayan, a Compensation Community


Relations Study Group was organized to re-evaluate the claims that had been previously
denied by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.[18] In the meantime, the construction of the
concrete gravity structure was completed, and the shallow water platform was successfully
installed in Palawan on June 2, 2000.[19] Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. turned over
Sitio Agusuhin to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, cleared, leveled, and elevated,
together with improvements "consisting of a finger pier, a fence and gate, a drainage
system[,] and a berthing facility for ferry sea crafts or similar vessels along the southern
bank of the basin."[20]

On December 1, 2000, a Complaint for damages was filed against Shell Philippines
Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. before the Regional Trial Court of
Olongapo City.[21] Tomas M. Fredeluces, Marcos B. Corpuz, Jr., Reynaldo M. Samonte,
Norma M. Samonte, Ambrocio Villanueva, Salvacion A. Bon, Ramiro A. Bon, Luzviminda B.
Andillo, Ludivico F. Bon, Elmo Areglo, Rose A. San Pedro, Dante U. Santos, Sr., Miguel
Santos, Efren U. Santos, Ric U. Santos, Simon Marce, Jr., Joel F. Salinel, Bebiana San
Pedro, and Marina Santos (Fredeluces, et al.) alleged that having resided in the area even
prior to 1998, they were lawful residents of Sitio Agusuhin.[22] They allegedly constructed
their houses and introduced improvements in Sitio Agusuhin, such as fruit trees and other
seasonal plants.[23]

However, "[f]or the direct benefit of the defendants [Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.],"[24]Fredeluces, et al. were "effectively evicted"[25] from their
homes in "total disregard"[26] of their rights. Admitting that some of the claimants were
given financial assistance, Fredeluces, et al. alleged that the amounts given were
"insufficient to compensate the damages they sustained[.]"[27] Worse, they were allegedly
"pressured, coerced or . . . 'sweet talked'"[28] into signing quitclaims and waivers.

"In arbitrarily and unlawfully evicting [Fredeluces, et al.] from their place of abode and
livelihood,"[29] Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.
allegedly failed to act with justice, "did not give . . . [Fredeluces, et al.] their due[,] and acted
in bad faith."[30] The actions of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc. were allegedly contrary to law, for which they should pay Fredeluces, et al.
the following amounts representing actual damages:

1. Tomas Fredeluces P27,000,000.00


2. Marcos Corpuz, Jr. 905,000.00
3. Reynaldo Samonte 2,000,000.00
4. Norma Samonte 2,000,000.00
5. Ambrocio Villanueva 1,700,000.00
6. Salvacion Bon 750,000.00
7. Ramiro Bon 1,000,000.00
8. Luzviminda Andillo 500,000.00
9. Ludivico Bon 500,000.00
10. Elmo Areglo 1,000,000.00
11. Rose San Pedro 500,000.00
12. Dante Santos, Sr., 12,000,000.00
13. Miguel Santos 4,000,000.00
14. Efren Santos 5,000,000.00
15. Ric Santos 1,000,000.00
16. Simon Marce, Jr. 4,000,000.00
17. Joel Salinel (no amount)
18. Bebiana San Pedro 1,500,000.00
19. Marina Santos 3,000,000.00
TOTAL P68,255,000.00[31]
In addition to their allegations, Fredeluces, et al. moved that they be allowed to litigate as
paupers considering that "[t]he gross income of each of [them] and the members of their
[families] do not exceed P3,000.00[,]"[32] and that none of them allegedly owned real
property.[33]

Instead of answering the Complaint, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc. moved to dismiss[34] the complaint based on the grounds of litis pendentia,
failure to state a cause of action, and lack of cause of action.[35]

Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. alleged that five (5)
of the plaintiffs—namely, Dante U. Santos, Sr., Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U.
Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro—earlier filed against them a Complaint[36] for sum of
money.[37]This Complaint, filed on October 9, 2000 also before the Regional Trial Court of
Olongapo City, allegedly prayed for payment of disturbance compensation for their eviction
from Sitio Agusuhin for the construction of the concrete gravity structure.[38] Shell
Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. argued that the
Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages had substantially similar
causes of action and relief sought, rendering the subsequently filed Complaint for damages
dismissible on the ground of litis pendentia.[39]

According to Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.,
Fredeluces, et al. were praying for payment of damages corresponding to the value of the
land they previously occupied, a right that did not belong to them because they never
owned the land in Sitio Agusuhin.[40] Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc. emphasized that Sitio Agusuhin belonged to the Subic Bay Metropolitan
Authority pursuant to Republic Act No. 7227; hence, lands in Sitio Agusuhin are
government property not subject to private ownership.[41] In addition, Fredeluces, et al.'s
claims for the value of the improvements they introduced in Sitio Agusuhin were allegedly
paid as evidenced by the quitclaims they had signed.[42] Consequently, the Complaint for
damages failed to state a cause of action.[43]

With respect to Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon, Shell Philippines Exploration
B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, inc. alleged that these plaintiffs never resided in Sitio
Agusuhin.[44] Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon were not entitled to any
compensation and, therefore, lacked a cause of action against Shell Philippines Exploration
B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.[45]

Fredeluces, et al. opposed the Motion to Dismiss and prayed for its denial.[46] In their
Opposition,[47] Fredeluces, et al. argued that Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., in filing their Motion to Dismiss, hypothetically admitted
the factual allegations in their Complaint. Corollarily, the trial court may not inquire into
the truth of the allegations and may only resolve the Motion to Dismiss based on the facts
as alleged in the Complaint.[48]

Countering the first ground of the Motion to Dismiss, Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos,
Miguel Santos, Ric U. Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro claimed that they were not aware of
their inclusion as plaintiffs in the earlier filed Complaint for sum of money. In any case,
they had allegedly revoked the Special Power of Attorney that they executed in favor of Atty.
Renato H. Collado before the lawyer filed the Complaint for sum of money on their behalf. It
follows that the Complaint for sum of money was filed without their authority and should
be deemed not to have been filed. Litis pendentia, therefore, should not apply.[49]

Fredeluces, et al. expressly admitted that they never owned Sitio Agusuhin.[50] Nevertheless,
they contended that they "were peacefully settled in the area and [had] introduced
improvements"[51] when Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation,
Inc. "summarily evicted"[52] them. It is for their "unlawful eviction"[53] from, not ownership
of, Sitio Agusuhin for which Fredeluces, et al. demand payment of damages.[54]

Although admitting that they executed quitclaims in favor of Shell Philippines Exploration
B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Fredeluces, et al. specifically alleged that they
were pressured, coerced, or "sweet-talked" into signing them.[55] In effect, Fredeluces, et al.
assailed the validity of these quitclaims for lack of consent, an issue requiring the
presentation of evidence during trial.[56] Fredeluces, et al. similarly argued that the issue of
residence of Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon required the presentation of
evidence during trial.[57]

On April 20, 2001, the Motion to Dismiss was heard.[58] Subsequently, in the Order[59] dated
June 7, 2001, Branch 72 of the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City granted the Motion to
Dismiss and ruled in favor of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc.[60]

Between the Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages, the trial court
found identity of parties, causes of action, and reliefs sought.[61] The trial court said that
Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U. Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro
"cannot feign ignorance that they were not aware that they were included as party plaintiffs
in the [Complaint for sum of money]"[62]because "they actively secured copies of . . .
Certificates of Occupancy"[63] in Sitio Agusuhin, which were annexed to the earlier filed
Complaint.
The trial court likewise held that the Complaint for damages failed to state a cause of
action. According to the trial court, Fredeluces, et al. based the amount of actual damages
they sought on the fair market values of the parcels of land they occupied and of the
improvements introduced on the property. Fredeluces, et al. effectively prayed for payment
of just compensation, a relief they cannot avail themselves of because they do not own the
land in Sitio Agusuhin.[64]

As for the quitclaims, the trial court held that they were valid since Fredeluces, et al.
voluntarily executed them. Fredeluces, et al. even voluntarily vacated Sitio Agusuhin after
they received financial assistance from Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas
Shell Foundation, Inc.[65]

In resolving the issue of whether Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon were former
residents of Sitio Agusuhin, the trial court relied on the Affidavit[66] of a certain Robert Hadji
(Hadji), a former resident of Sitio Agusuhin and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.'s
Community Coordinator in the site. Hadji stated in his Affidavit that Tomas M. Fredeluces
and Ludivico F. Bon never resided in Sitio Agusuhin.[67] While the resolution of the issue
would generally require presentation of evidence during trial, the trial court said that
Fredeluces, et al. did not even bother to attend the hearing of the Motion to Dismiss on
April 20, 2001 to present evidence contrary to the allegations of Shell Philippines
Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.[68] Failing to present such contrary
evidence, Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon should be deemed non-residents of
Sitio Agusuhin and, therefore, were not entitled to any compensation.[69]

The dispositive portion of the Order dated June 7, 2001 reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Motion to Dismiss filed by the defendants dated
April 5, 2001 is hereby granted. The case is ordered DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.[70]
Fredeluces, et al. filed a Notice of Appeal before the Court of Appeals on June 28,
2001.[71] The parties subsequently filed their respective appeal briefs,[72] both reiterating the
arguments they had made before the trial court.

In contrast with the trial court, the Court of Appeals appreciated in evidence a Revocation
of Special Power of Attorney allegedly executed by Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel
Santos, Ric U. Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro.[73] The Complaint for sum of money was,
thus, filed without their authority, and there was no litis pendentia so as to bar the filing of
the Complaint for damages on December 1, 2000.

Despite Fredeluces, et al.'s admission that they did not own the parcels of land they
occupied in Sitio Agusuhin, the Court of Appeals nonetheless held that Fredeluces, et al.
may file a complaint for damages for having been "adversely affected by [Shell Philippines
Exploration B.V.'s] construction works."[74] Fredeluces, et al. may likewise repudiate the
quitclaims they executed.[75]

As to the issue of residence, the Court of Appeals found that Ludivico F. Bon formerly
resided in Sitio Agusuhin. The Court of Appeals relied on the Report submitted by the
Compensation Community Relations Study Group where Ludivico F. Bon was listed as one
of the beneficiaries.[76] As for Tomas M. Fredeluces, he was not listed on the Report; thus,
he was not entitled to any financial assistance.[77]

Thus, the Court of Appeals partially granted the appeal in the Decision dated January 25,
2006, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, except with respect to appellant Tomas Fredeluces, appellants' complaint is


ordered REINSTATED and the case is, accordingly, REMANDED to the trial court for
further proceedings.

SO . . . .

. . . . ORDERED.[78] (Emphasis in the original)


Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. filed a Motion for
Partial Reconsideration and/or Clarification,[79]which the Court of Appeals denied in the
Resolution dated August 16, 2006.[80]
Assailing the Court of Appeals' January 25, 2006 Decision and August 16, 2006
Resolution, petitioners Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration
B.V. filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Court.[81] Respondents Tomas M.
Fredeluces, Marcos B. Corpuz, Jr., Reynaldo M. Samonte, Norma M. Samonte, Ambrocio
Villanueva, Salvacion A. Bon, Ramiro A. Bon, Luzviminda B. Andillo, Ludivico F. Bon, Elmo
Areglo, Rose A. San Pedro, Dante U. Santos, Sr., Miguel Santos, Efren U. Santos, Ric U.
Santos, Simon Marce, Jr., Joel F. Salinel, Bebiana San Pedro, and Marina Santos filed their
Comment,[82] to which petitioners replied.[83]

Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. maintain that litis
pendentia barred the filing of the Complaint for damages. Litis pendentia eventually ripened
into res judicata when the Decision on the Complaint for sum of money became final and
executory.[84]

Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. allege that the
earlier filed Complaint, for sum of money, where Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel
Santos, Ric U. Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro were likewise plaintiffs, was dismissed by
the trial court[85] on the ground of failure to state a cause of action.[86] This ruling was
affirmed by the Court of Appeals in the Decision[87] dated February 27, 2004, and an Entry
of Judgment[88] was issued on April 1, 2004.

Considering that the Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages share
substantially identical parties, causes of action, and reliefs sought,[89] Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. argue that the February 27, 2004
Court of Appeals Decision became res judicata so as to bar the proceedings before this
Court.[90]

Even assuming that Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U. Santos, and
Bebiana San Pedro signed the Revocation and Cancellation of Special Power of Attorney,
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. argue that the five
(5) respondents should be deemed not to have revoked the authority to file the Complaint
for sum of money.[91] Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U. Santos, and
Bebiana San Pedro never informed the trial court that they were included as plaintiffs in
the Complaint for sum of money.[92] Further, Bebiana San Pedro did not sign the
Revocation and Cancellation of Special Power of Attorney.[93] Dante U. Santos, Efren U.
Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U. Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro remain guilty of forum
shopping.[94]

Apart from the existence of litis pendentia, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell
Philippines Exploration B.V. insist that the Complaint for damages failed to state a cause of
action.[95] According to Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration
B.V., Fredeluces, et al. failed to allege specific acts from which it may be inferred that
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. violated the law or
acted in bad faith.[96] Instead of alleging ultimate facts, Fredeluces, et al. repeatedly made
conclusions of law in their Complaint for damages, such as that they were "lawful
residents"[97] of Sitio Agusuhin, or that Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell
Philippines Exploration B.V. "arbitrarily and unlawfully evict[ed] [Fredeluces, et al.] from
their place of abode and livelihood[.]"[98] Fredeluces, et al. failed to specifically allege the
acts from which they inferred that they were lawful residents of Sitio Agusuhin or that they
were unlawfully evicted.[99] Their Complaint for damages was, therefore, correctly
dismissed.[100]

Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. argue that the Court
of Appeals erred in limiting itself with the allegations of the Complaint for damages when it
ruled that Fredeluces, et al. had the right to demand for compensation from Pilipinas Shell
Foundation, Inc. and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. The rule that the allegations of the
complaint are hypothetically admitted when a motion to dismiss is filed is subject to
exceptions. Annexes to the complaint as well as matters of judicial notice may be
considered in dismissing a complaint on the ground of failure to state a cause of action.[101]

One matter of judicial notice is that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, not Fredeluces,
et al., own Sitio Agusuhin,[102] pursuant to Republic Act No. 7227. Not being owners,
Fredeluces, et al. may not demand compensation based on the value of the properties they
formerly occupied.[103] They were possessors in bad faith who, under Article 449[104] of the
Civil Code, are not entitled to any indemnity with respect to improvements they have
introduced in Sitio Agusuhin.[105] Assuming that Fredeluces, et al. are entitled to
compensation for the improvements they introduced in Sitio Agusuhin, their claims have
been paid as evidenced by the quitclaims they executed.[106]

With respect to Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.
and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. maintain that they are non-residents of Sitio
Agusuhin and, therefore, are not entitled to any financial assistance.[107]

Lastly, the Complaint for damages should be deemed not to have been filed because
Fredeluces, et al. failed to pay the required filing fees.[108]

In their five-page Comment, with the last page being the signature page, Fredeluces, et al.
quoted heavily from the Court of Appeals Decision to argue that litis pendentia does not
exist in this case; that their Complaint for damages sufficiently stated a cause of action;
and that they have sufficiently proven that they are pauper litigants.[109]

On the issue of litis pendentia, Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric U.
Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro maintain that the Complaint for sum of money was filed
without their authority considering that they executed the Revocation and Cancellation of
Special Power of Attorney before the Complaint for sum of money was filed.[110]

On the issue of failure to state a cause of action, Fredeluces, et al. insist on the application
of the general rule that only matters alleged in the Complaint may be considered in
resolving motions to dismiss.[111] They fail to explain why the exceptions to the rule do not
apply in this case.

On the issue of failure to pay filing fees, Fredeluces, et al. claim that they are pauper
litigants as evidenced by Certifications from the Municipal Assessor of Subic.[112]

The issues for this Court's resolution are:

First, whether respondents Fredeluces, et al.'s Complaint for damages should be dismissed
on the ground of litis pendentia; and,

Second, whether the Complaint for damages should be dismissed on the ground of failure
to state a cause of action.

We grant the Petition. The Complaint for damages should have been dismissed as to
respondent Bebiana San Pedro on the ground of litis pendentia. As for the rest of
respondents, their Complaint failed to state a cause of action.

Only one suit may be instituted for a single cause of action.[113] Hence, any suit
subsequently filed for the same cause of action becomes unnecessary and
vexatious.[114] When there is more than one suit pending between the same parties for the
same cause of action, litis pendentia exists and a motion to dismiss may be filed on this
ground. Rule 16, Section 1(e) of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Grounds.—Within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or
pleading asserting a claim, a motion to dismiss may be made on any of the following
grounds:

....

(e) That there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause[.]
Litis pendentia in Latin means "a pending suit."[115] Occasionally referred to as lis
pendens[116] or auter action pendant,[117] litis pendentia has the following elements: first,
"[i]dentity of parties, or at least such parties as those representing the same interests in
both actions;"[118] second, "[i]dentity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs
being founded on the same facts;"[119] and third, "[i]dentity with respect to the two preceding
particulars in the two cases, such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending
case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other
case."[120]
The first element of litis pendentia—identity of parties—is absent with respect to
respondents Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, and Ric U. Santos. They
executed on September 4, 2000[121] the Revocation and Cancellation of Special Power of
Attorney and withdrew the authority they had earlier granted Atty. Renato M. Collado to file
a case in their behalf. Moreover, the Court of Appeals found that their signatures do not
appear on the Verification and Certification against Forum Shopping appended to the
Complaint for sum of money filed on October 9, 2000.

With the Complaint for sum of money having been filed without the authority of
respondents Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, and Ric U. Santos, they
should be deemed non-plaintiffs in the Complaint for sum of money. Consequently, the
pendency of the Complaint for sum of money did not bar them from filing the Complaint for
damages on December 1, 2000.

The same cannot be said for respondent Bebiana San Pedro. Respondent Bebiana San
Pedro was guilty of forum shopping, repetitively filing complaints asserting "the same
essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues"[122] against
the same defendants.

Respondent Bebiana San Pedro was a party plaintiff both in the Complaint for sum of
money and in the Complaint for damages. Unlike respondents Dante U. Santos, Efren U.
Santos, Miguel Santos, and Ric U. Santos, respondent Bebiana San Pedro did not sign any
document similar to the Revocation and Cancellation of Special Power of Attorney. Thus,
she did not revoke the authority of Atty. Renato H. Collado to file the Complaint for sum of
money on her behalf. The Complaint for sum of money was filed with her authority and was
pending when the Complaint for damages was subsequently filed before the same trial
court.

The second element of litis pendentia likewise exists with respect to respondent Bebiana
San Pedro. There is substantial identity of rights asserted and reliefs sought between the
Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages.

"A cause of action is the act or omission by which a party violates a right of
another."[123] For a cause of action to exist, there must be "a right existing in favor of the
plaintiff;"[124] "a corresponding obligation on the part of the defendant to respect such
right;"[125] and, "an act or omission of the defendant which constitutes a violation of the
plaintiffs right which defendant had the duty to respect."[126]

The following allegations show that the Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for
damages similarly assert the supposed right of respondents as possessors of parcels of land
they previously occupied in Sitio Agusuhin:

Complaint for sum of money filed on Complaint for damages filed on December
October 9, 2000 1, 2000
2. That plaintiffs are the possessor and long-
time occupants under claim of ownership of
certain parcels of land situated in Sitio 3. The plaintiffs are lawful residents at Sitio
Agusuhin, Cawag, Subic Zambales; . . . . Agusuhin, Bgy. Cawag, Subic, Zambales.
They have settled in this place long prior to
.... 1998.

4. That plaintiffs are in possession of the They have put up their residence in this area
following areas which were expropriated by and constructed their residential structures
the defendants, and their corresponding of various kind. They have put in various
values[:] improvements, like fruit trees and devoted
the area to seasonal plants. The place was a
[Name: Bibiana [sic] San Pedro community by itself.[128]
Area occupied: 20,000 sq.m.
Amount: 1,500,000.00
Disturbance compensation:
80,000.00].[127]
The Complaints similarly allege that petitioners had an obligation to respect the supposed
right of respondents when petitioners commenced the construction of the concrete gravity
structure:
Complaint for sum of money filed on Complaint for damages filed on December
October 9, 2000 1, 2000
3. That sometime in 1998, the defendant
Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. thru its
exploration and development arm Shell
Philippines Exploration, expropriated some
325,000 square meters of land belonging to
4. About 1998, the defendants, upon
the plaintiffs for the construction of the
agreement drawn up with the Subic Bay
Malampaya Concrete Gravity Structure under
Metropolitan Authority, used this area as a
the helm of Shell Philippines Exploration's
launching site of its exploration project for
Malampaya deepwater gas power project, the
Shell CGS Project (Malampaya project). The
value of the expropriated parcels of land
project site required the use of 400,000
belonging to plaintiffs amounted to TWENTY-
square meters of land.
FIVE MILLION FOUR HUNDRED NINETY-
FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P25,495,000.00)
5. The area in the actual occupation and use
computed at SEVENTY FIVE PESOS (P75.00)
by the plaintiffs were inside the 400,000
per square meter plus a disturbance fee of
square meter site used by the plaintiffs.[130]
EIGHTY THOUSAND PESOS (P80,000) per
occupant. This is the amount paid by the
defendant Corporation to the other lucky
occupants similarly situated as the
plaintiffs[.][129]
The Complaints allege a similar violative act: petitioners allegedly failed to sufficiently
compensate respondents for their eviction from Sitio Agusuhin:

Complaint for sum of money filed on Complaint for damages filed on December
October 9, 2000 1, 2000
6. For the direct benefit of the defendants,
the plaintiffs were effectively evicted starting
in May 1998. There was a total disregard of
5. That the defendant Corporation thru Mr[.]
the rights of the plaintiffs; although, the
David Greer, after occupying and actually
defendants tried to work out an acceptable
completing the construction works on the
compensation package for the plaintiffs,
aforesaid parcels of land, reneged on its
which, however, failed.
verbal promise to compensate the plaintiffs
for the value of their lands which were
7. Some of the plaintiffs were paid some
expropriated by the former, for which reason
amount, others were not. For those who
the latter requested the assistance of counsel
accepted some amounts, the payment were
who sent a letter to the defendant dated
insufficient to compensate the damages they
March 15, 2000; . . .
sustained, but they have to accept said
amount for them to somehow start their life.
....
....
9. That despite several and repeated demands
from the plaintiff, and defendants['] repeated
9. In arbitrarily and unlawfully evicting the
assurances of payment thru defendant Mr.
plaintiffs from their place of abode and
Greer, several meetings and submissions of
livelihood, the defendants did not [sic] with
numerous requirements as requested by the
justice, they did not give to the plaintiffs their
latter, the defendants failed and refused, and
due and acted in bad faith. The said action
continuously fail and refuse to settle the
taken on the plaintiffs was contrary to law, in
abovementioned valid and legal claims of the
the process, they willfully and negligently
plaintiffs, which constrained plaintiffs[']
caused damage to the plaintiff[s].
counsel to send another letter dated April 15,
2000; . . .
...
10. That after the plaintiffs['] counsel received
10. The damages suffered by the plaintiffs by
defendants['] reply letter dated May 30, 2000,
their eviction from the area are in the
nothing was heard of from the defendants
following amounts -
again[.][131]
[Name of Plaintiffs: San Pedro, B Actual
Damages: P1,500,000.00].[132]
As for the reliefs sought, respondents Dante Santos, Efren Santos, Miguel Santos, Ric
Santos, and Bebiana San Pedro, in the Complaint for sum of money, prayed for amounts
equivalent to the "value of their lands[,]"[133] while respondents, in their Complaint for
damages, prayed for actual damages suffered by them.[134] In both Complaints,
respondent Bebiana San Pedro prayed that she be paid P1,500,000.00 in addition to
the prayer for payment of moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney's
fees.[135] Respondent Bebiana San Pedro sought substantially identical reliefs in the
Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages.

Because of the substantial identity of parties, causes of action, and reliefs sought in the
Complaint for sum of money and Complaint for damages, all the elements of litis
pendentia are present with respect to respondent Bebiana San Pedro. Judgment in any of
the Complaints would be res judicata in the other, i.e., a final and executory judgment in
any of the Complaints would be "conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies . . .
on the points and matters in issue in the first suit."[136]

A final and executory judgment has been rendered on the Complaint for sum of money. In
the Order[137] dated October 3, 2001, Branch 72 of the Regional Trial Court,[138] Olongapo
City dismissed the Complaint for sum of money on the ground of failure to state a cause of
action.[139] The trial court, the same branch that decided the Complaint for damages, held
that respondents had no right to demand compensation equivalent to the value of the
parcels of land they previously occupied because they never possessed the properties in the
concept of an owner.[140] Moreover, despite being possessors in bad faith, respondents
received compensation from petitioners.[141]Specifically, respondent Bebiana San Pedro
received P100,000.00 as evidenced by the quitclaim she had signed.[142] She may not ask
for compensation anew.

The trial court Order dated October 3, 2001 was upheld on appeal in the Decision dated
February 27, 2004.[143] The Court of Appeals subsequently issued the Entry of Judgment
declaring the Decision dated February 27, 2004 final and executory as of April 1, 2004.[144]

Since the Complaint for sum of money and the Complaint for damages assert substantially
identical causes of action and seek similar reliefs, the Decision dated February 27, 2004
binds respondent Bebiana San Pedro. The Decision dated February 27, 2004 is res
judicatawith respect to the right of respondent Bebiana San Pedro to recover compensation
for vacating Sitio Agusuhin.[145] That respondent Bebiana San Pedro received P100,000.00
from petitioners as disturbance compensation,[146] and that she voluntarily signed a
quitclaim to waive any claims she might have over the parcel of land she occupied in Sitio
Agusuhin, are conclusive upon this Court.[147]

In sum, respondents Dante U. Santos, Efren U. Santos, Miguel Santos, and Ric U. Santos
revoked the authority to file the Complaint for sum of money on their behalf. As for the four
(4) respondents, there was no pending Complaint for sum of money when the Complaint for
damages was subsequently filed. The trial court, therefore, erred in dismissing their
Complaint for damages on the ground of litis pendentia.

As for respondent Bebiana San Pedro, the Complaint for sum of money was filed with her
authority. The Complaint for sum of money was pending when the Complaint for damages
was filed. With both Complaints having substantially identical parties, causes of action,
and reliefs sought, litis pendentia was present. As a ground for filing a motion to
dismiss, litis pendentia ripened to res judicata when the Court of Appeals Decision on the
Complaint for sum of money became final and executory. The trial court did not err in
dismissing the Complaint for damages as to respondent Bebiana San Pedro on the ground
of litis pendentia.

II

The trial court and the Court of Appeals differed as to whether the Complaint for damages
should be dismissed. The Complaint for damages was initially dismissed on the ground of
failure to state a cause of action, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the
Complaint to the trial court for further proceedings.

The ground of failure to state a cause of action is based on Rule 16, Section 1(g) of the
Rules of Court:

SECTION 1. Grounds.— Within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or
pleading asserting a claim, a motion to dismiss may be made on any of the following
grounds:

....
(g) That the pleading asserting the claim states no cause of action[.]
Failure to state a cause of action goes into the sufficiency of the allegation of the cause of
action in the complaint. "When the facts alleged in the complaint show that the defendant
has committed acts constituting a delict or wrong by which he violates the rights of the
plaintiff, causing [the plaintiff] loss or injury, there is sufficient allegation of a cause of
action. Otherwise, there is none."[148]

In this respect, a pleading sufficiently states a cause of action if it "contain[s] in a


methodical and logical form, a plain, concise[,] and direct statement of the ultimate facts on
which the party pleading relies for his [or her] claim[.]"[149] Ultimate facts are the "important
and substantial facts which either directly form the basis of the primary right and duty, or
which directly make up the wrongful acts or omissions of the defendant."[150] Allegations of
evidentiary facts[151] and conclusions of law[152] in a pleading are omitted for they are
unnecessary in determining whether the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance of the
action.

In filing a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of action, a defendant
"hypothetically admits the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint."[153] Since allegations
of evidentiary facts and conclusions of law are omitted in pleadings, "[t]he hypothetical
admission is . . . limited to the relevant and material facts well pleaded in the complaint
and inferences fairly deducible therefrom."[154]However, it is mandatory[155] that courts
"consider other facts within the range of judicial notice, as well as relevant laws and
jurisprudence"[156] in resolving motions to dismiss.

There are exceptions to the rule on hypothetical admission. In Dabuco v. Court of


Appeals:[157]

There is no hypothetical admission of the veracity of allegations if their falsity is subject to


judicial notice, or if such allegations are legally impossible, or if these refer to facts which
are inadmissible in evidence, or if by the record or document included in the pleading these
allegations appear unfounded. Also, inquiry is not confined to the complaint if there is
evidence which has been presented to the court by stipulation of the parties, or in the
course of hearings related to the case.[158] (Citations omitted)
Even assuming the truth of the ultimate facts alleged in the Complaint for damages, the
Complaint states no cause of action. Respondents may have resided in Sitio Agusuhin,
constructed their houses, and planted fruit trees in the area. However, they failed to allege
any circumstance showing that they had occupied Sitio Agusuhin under claim of ownership
for the required number of years. In their Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, respondents
admitted that they do not own Sitio Agusuhin.[159] The property belongs to the Subic Bay
Metropolitan Authority, pursuant to Republic Act No. 7227; hence, it is a government
property the possession of which, however long, "never confers title [to] the possessor[.]"[160]

It follows that respondents may not ask compensation equivalent to the value of the parcels
of land they previously occupied in Sitio Agusuhin. The right to demand compensation for
deprivation of property belongs to the owner.[161]

Moreover, respondents may not claim damages equivalent to the value of the structures
they built and the improvements they introduced in Sitio Agusuhin. Having admitted that
they do not own Sitio Agusuhin, they were possessors in bad faith[162] who lose whatever
they built, planted, or sown on the land of another without right to indemnity.[163]

Specifically with respect to respondents Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon, the
allegation that they resided in Sitio Agusuhin prior to the constmction of the concrete
gravity structure may not be hypothetically admitted. Based on the evidence available
during the hearing of the Motion to Dismiss on April 20, 2001, respondents Tomas M.
Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon were indeed non-residents of Sitio Agusuhin prior to the
construction of the concrete gravity structure.

Respondents' own evidence—the Report of the Compensation Community Relations Study


Group attached to the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss—declared respondent Tomas M.
Fredeluces a non-resident of Sitio Agusuhin.[164] Moreover, as certified by the Punong
Barangay of Barangay Cawag, none of the other residents of Sitio Agusuhin recognized
respondent Tomas M. Fredeluces as a fellow resident.[165]
As for respondent Ludivico F. Bon, the Office of the Punong Barangay of Barangay Matain,
Subic, Zambales certified that he was a resident of Barangay Matain, not of Sitio
Agusuhin.[166] This was corroborated by Hadji, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.'s
Community Coordinator, in his Affidavit.[167]

These pieces of evidence were never controverted by respondents Tomas M. Fredeluces and
Ludivico F. Bon in their Opposition to or during the hearing of the Motion to Dismiss.
Therefore, respondents Tomas M. Fredeluces and Ludivico F. Bon should be deemed to
have admitted that they never resided in Sitio Agusuhin prior to the construction of the
concrete gravity structure.

Respondents nevertheless argue that they are entitled to damages because of their unlawful
and summary eviction from Sitio Agusuhin. Their own allegations, however, belie their
claim that they were unlawfully and summarily evicted. As alleged in their Complaint,
petitioners "tried to work out an acceptable compensation package for the
[respondents.]"[168] Also alleged in the Complaint[169] and as evidenced by quitclaims and the
Final Report on the Compensation Claims, some of the respondents received the following
amounts as compensation from petitioners:

Luzviminda B. Andillo P17,000.00[170]


Salvacion A. Bon 150,000.00[171]
Ramiro A. Bon 100,000.00[172]
Elmo Areglo 270,000.00[173]
Rose A. San Pedro 103,500.00[174]
Dante U. Santos, Sr. 200,000.00[175]
Efren U. Santos 270,000.00[176]
Miguel Santos 150,000.00[177]
Ric U. Santos 35,000.00[178]
Simon Marce, Jr. 100,000.00[179]
Joel F. Salinel 125,000.00[180]
Bebiana San Pedro 140,000.00[181]
Marcos B. Corpuz, Jr. 200,000.00[182]
Reynaldo M. Samonte 100,000.00[183]
Ambrocio Villanueva 150,000.00[184]
In receiving the previously enumerated amounts, respondents declared in their respective
quitclaims that they waived, released, and abandoned any claims thait they might have had
over the parcels of land they occupied in Sitio Agusuhin as well as the improvements they
introduced in the property.

Quitclaims are contracts in the nature of a compromise where parties make concessions, a
lawful device to avoid litigation.[185] That respondents perceived the amounts they received
as "insufficient"[186] does not make the quitclaims invalid.

As for the allegation that respondents were "pressured, coerced[,] or . . . 'sweet-


talked'"[187] into receiving compensation, this is a conclusion of law that may not be
hypothetically admitted. The circumstances of fraud and mistake must be stated with
particularity.[188]Nothing in the Complaint for damages show how respondents were
particularly "pressured, coerced[,] or . . . 'sweet-talked'" by petitioners into receiving
compensation. As found by the trial court, respondents voluntarily vacated Sitio
Agusuhin.[189]

All told, the Motion to Dismiss was correctly granted on the ground of failure to state a
cause of action.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The Decision dated
January 25, 2006 and the Resolution dated August 16, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CV No. 74791 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Complaint filed before Branch 72
of the Regional Trial Court, Olongapo City, docketed as Civil Case No. 04-0-2001, is hereby
ordered DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Brion, Del Castillo, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.


ADMISSION BY CO-CONSPIRATOR

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 206226, April 04, 2016

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NIEVES CONSTANCIO Y


BACUNGAY, ERNESTO BERRY Y BACUNGAY, Accused-Appellants.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

This is an appeal from the February 24, 2012 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-
G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02709 which affirmed the January 22, 2007 Decision2 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Branch 258, Parañaque City, finding the appellants Nieves Constancio y
Bacungay (Constancio) and Ernesto Berry y Bacungay (Berry) guilty of the crime of Rape
with Homicide and sentencing them to surfer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Factual Antecedents

Constancio and Berry, along with co-accused Donardo Pagkalinawan (Pagkalinawan),


Danny Darden (Darden), and alias Burog, were charged with the crime of Rape with
Homicide committed against "AAA"3 on the night of March 11, 2001.

The Information states:

That on or about the 11th day of March 2001, in the City of Parañaque, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and
confederating and all of them mutually helping and aiding one another, by means of force
and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal
knowledge [of "AAA"] against her will and consent.

That on said occasion, all the above-named accused, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and strangle and gang up on her thereby
inflicting upon the latter traumatic injuries which caused her death.4

Constancio and Berry pleaded not guilty during their arraignment on May 3,2001. Trial on
the merits subsequently followed.

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented the following witnesses:

1. "BBB," the mother of the victim "AAA," testified that on March 11, 2001, "AAA" was
forcibly abducted, raped, brutally beaten, and strangled to death. Her body was later found
at a creek under a bridge in San Antonio Valley 3, Brgy. San Antonio, Parañaque City.
"BBB" further testified on the amount they spent for the wake and funeral expenses of
"AAA."

2. Myra Katrina Dacanay (Dacanay) testified that she was a high school classmate of "AAA."
On the night before "AAA" was killed, she and "AAA" planned to watch a movie at the
Alabang Town Center but since they were late for the last full show, they went to Cinnzeo
instead where they were later joined by another friend, Tara Katrina Golez (Golez). After
exchanging pleasantries, Golez left first. Thereafter, she (Dacanay) and "AAA" proceeded to
the parking lot to get "AAA's" black Mazda 323 with plate number URN 855. "AAA" then
brought her (Dacanay) home at Ayala Alabang. Dacanay testified that she tried to contact
"AAA" to make sure that she arrived home safely but she could not be reached.

At around 5:30 in the morning, Dacanay received a call from "AAA's" father asking about
"AAA's" whereabouts. She also, received a call from Golez who told her that "AAA" was not
yet home. Dacanay stated that she was shocked when she learned about "AAA's" death.

3. Golez testified that "AAA" was her classmate and that they had been friends for about 10
years; that on March 10, 2001 at around 10:00 o'clock in the evening, she met with "AAA"
and Dacanay at the Cinnzeo, Alabang Town Center, and stayed with them for about 30 to
40 minutes.

Golez added that at around 6:00 o'clock on the morning of March 11, 2001, "AAA's" father
went to her house to inquire about "AAA's" whereabouts. Golez told him that she was with
"AAA" and with Dacanay,the night before but that she left earlier than these two. Golez said
that she learned about "AAA's" death at about 4:00 o'clock on the afternoon of the same
day.

4. Janette Bales (Bales) testified that at around 3:00 o'clock in the early morning of March
12, 2001, she. was at Unioil gas station in front of the Multinational Village, Ninoy Aquino
Avenue, Brgy. Sto. Nino, Parañaque City waiting for a ride home when a black Mazda car
suddenly stopped in front of her and a male person then alighted from the back seat and
immediately grabbed her arm; that she was able to recognize the face of the person as the
appellant Berry whom she identified in open court. Bales further testified that Berry's face
was not covered at the time he grabbed her arm and that Berry attempted to pull her inside
the black Mazda car and abduct her; that she shouted for help and tried to free herself
from Berry's hold on her arm; that she then saw another man who was about to alight from
the same black Mazda car but fortunately, a barangay tanod from behind the car shouted,
"Hoy!" and Berry was not able to abduct her (Bales); and that Berry was however able to
forcibly take her shoulder bag which contained her wallet, cellphone, necklace, and other
personal belongings. On the same date, she reported the incident to the Parañaque Police
Station and executed a sworn statement. When Berry was arrested on March 30,2001,
Bales identified him as the person who grabbed her arm and took her shoulder bag.

5. Dr. Emmanuel Reyes (Dr. Reyes) is the Medico-Legal Officer at the Southern Police
District Crime Laboratory at Fort Bonifacio. He testified that he conducted an autopsy
examination on the cadaver of "AAA." According to his Medico-Legal Report No. M-072-
2001, the cause of death is asphyxia by strangulation with traumatic head injuries, with
signs of drowning and recent loss of virginity. There was a fresh deep laceration of the
genitalia with hematoma. Dr. Reyes was able to recover samples of sperm cells collected
from the victim.

6. Chito Adarna5 (Adarna) testified that he is a tricycle driver plying the San Antonio Valley
area in Parañaque City; that on March 11, 2001., he transported a male passenger from the
tricycle terminal to the corner of Sta. Escolastica and Sta. Teresa streets in Parañaque City,
where he saw a black Mazda car parked by the bridge of San Antonio Valley; that he
(Adarna) then saw two men carrying something that they threw over the bridge where the
body of "AAA" was eventually found; and that thereafter, both men entered the Mazda car
with its windows rolled down on the right side. He identified these two men in open court
as the appellants Constancio and Berry.

7. P/Sr. Insp. Edgardo C. Ariate (PSI Ariate) testified that he is the Chief Investigator of the
Investigation Division of Precinct No. 2 of the Parañaque City Police Station; that on March
11, 2001, he received a telephone call informing him about a body of a female found
hogtied and lifeless at the creek of San Antonio Valley; that he (PSI Ariate) then ordered
SPO2 Odeo Carino to conduct an investigation to verify the truth of the information; that
initially, the police officers did not have any suspects to the crime; but a few weeks later, an
informant surfaced and relayed to them the identities of "AAA's" assailants. The informant
came out after then-Parañaque Mayor Joey Marquez (Mayor Marquez) offered a reward to
anyone who could provide any lead on the identities of "AAA's" assailants. PSI Ariate added
that the informant identified Berry and Constancio as the persons responsible for the
crime. The informant also gave the whereabouts of the suspects which led to Berry's arrest
in Muntinlupa and Constancy's arrest in Cagayan province.

The informant positively identified Berry during the course of the arrest. At the police
station, Bales likewise positively identified Berry as the person who attempted to abduct
her and who also took off with her bag. PSI Ariate testified that Berry confessed his
participation in the crime and provided the names of his companions namely:
Pagkalinawan, one alias Burog, and Darden.

8. "CCC" is the father of "AAA." He testified that during the preliminary investigation, he
was able to ask Berry what he did to his daughter. Berry replied that it was better to not let
him ("CCC") know what happened as the details of the killing would only hurt him. "CCC"
added that the impression he got from speaking with Berry was that the latter admitted to
him that he and his companions were the ones responsible for his daughter's death. He
also asked Berry why they had to kill his daughter. To this Berry simply responded that he
would help him ("CCC").

9. Fernando Sanga y Amparo a.k.a. Dindo Amparo (Amparo) testified that he is a reporter of
the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation; that he covered the news on the murder case of
"AAA," and that he personally interviewed Berry.

Amparo declared that during his interview, Berry revealed that his co-accused Constancio
is his cousin, and his three companions were alias Burog, Pagkalinawan, and Darden, all
three of whom he just met that very night; that he and his cousin Constancio, and their
companions alias Burog, Pagkalinawan and Darden abducted "AAA" outside the Alabang
Town Center after poking her with a knife; that he (Berry) at first thought that it would just
be a hold-up; and that after threatening "AAA" with a knife, they placed "AAA" at the back
seat of her black Mazda car and they all rode in her black car and drove to Constancio'
vacant house.

During the same interview, Berry further revealed that while parked in Constancio' garage
in Luxemburg Street at the Better Living Subdivision, Paranaqe City, "AAA's" car was
shaking with Constancio inside with "AAA;" that this led him to suspect that something was
already happening inside the car. Berry also divulged that when the car door was opened,
he saw "AAA" already apparently lifeless, her private parts exposed, and without her
underwear. Then he (Berry) heard Constancio utter "wala na;" that when asked whether by
that phrase "wala na" he meant that "AAA" was already dead, Berry replied, "yes."

In the same interview, Berry also disclosed that "AAA's" body was placed inside the trunk of
her car and thrown over a bridge at San Antonio Valley III, Parañaque City; that he was
prompted to reveal such information because he felt guilty about what happened. Berry
claimed that he had nothing to do with "AAA's" killing and promised her family that he
would help them obtain justice by becoming a witness in the case.

10. Atty. Rhonnel Suarez (Atty. Suarez) testified that he was the lawyer who assisted Berry
during the custodial investigation at the Parañaque police station; that it was Berry himself
who approached him at the police precinct and asked for his professional assistance during
the custodial investigation; and that he fully explained to Berry and made the latter
understand clearly his constitutional rights before the latter executed the Sinumapaang
Salaysay containing his extrajudicial confession. Berry freely and voluntarily affixed his
signature to the Sinumpaang Salaysay in the presence of Atty. Suarez and two of Berry's
relatives, Estrella Corate (Corate) and Florinda Buenafe (Buenafe).

Version of the Defense

1. Pagkalinawan testified that he was surprised that Berry implicated him in this case
because he does not know him; that he only met Berry inside the police precinct 13 days
after his arrest; and that Berry might have been subjected to torture to give the names of
other persons involved in the case.

With regard to Constancio, Pagkalinawan testified that he has known him for less than a
year as he was a neighbor in Bayanan, Muntinlupa; but that several months before the
case, he (Pagkalinawan) and Constancio were no longer neighbors because he
(Pagkalinawan) transferred to another place.

Pagkalinawan claimed that he went into hiding because he was afraid that police officers
were searching for him after a reward for information concerning his whereabouts was
offered.

2. Napoleon Pagkalinawan (Napoleon) is Pagkalinawan's father. He testified that on the


night of March 10, 2001, at around 8:00 o'clock in the evening, he was watching television
with his children, including Pagkalinawan; and that after watching television until 11:00
o'clock that evening, he (Napoleon) claimed that Pagkalinawan went to his room to sleep.

Napoleon also averred that Pagkalinawan had been living with him since birth and that
Constancio was not their neighbor. He said that Pagkalinawan transferred to the house of
his in-laws which was less than a kilometer away from his house.

3. Aida R. Viloria-Magsipoc (Magsipoc) testified that she is a Forensic Chemist of the


National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); and that she took the buccal swabs from the inner
lining of Pagkalinawan's mouth. Her final report concluded that the vomit and hair samples
from "AAA's" car did not match the profile of the suspects. Magsipoc however could not say
whether Pagkalinawan and the other suspects were inside the car or not since their profile
was not found in the car based on the submitted specimen.

4. Constancio testified that on February 24, 2001, his neighbor, the wife of his co-accused
Pagkalinawan, informed him that NBI agents were looking for him regarding a kidnapping
with murder case of a certain Calupig; that for fear of apprehension, he (Constancio) went
to his cousin and co-accused Berry and stayed in the latter's house; that he then contacted
his girlfriend Aiko Tiu (Aiko) and told her to stay in his house in Bayanan, Muntinlupa in
the meantime; that Aiko later went to see him (Constancio) and informed him that his
house had been ransacked; that his personal belongings had been taken including his
wallet which contained his identification cards; that on February 27, 2001, he (Constancio)
went to Baguio City to hide; that Aiko visited him there on March 14, 2001 as it was his
birthday; that the next day, Aiko returned to Manila and they communicated only through
text messages; that about a week later he (Constancio) was informed that his face was
flashed on television with a reward offered to any person who could provide information
regarding his whereabouts; that this prompted him (Constancio) to head further up north
to Aparri, Cagayan on March 24, 2001; and that on March 29, 2001, he was arrested and
brought to the office of Mayor Marquez where he saw his cousin Berry.

5. Aiko testified that Constancio is her live-in partner with whom she has two children; that
from February 27, 2001 to March 14, 2001, while Constancio was in Baguio she called him
everyday to make sure he was safe; that on March 14, 2001, she visited him in Baguio as
this was his birthday; that upon her return to Manila, she learned that Constancio had
been arrested; and that this surprised her since she believes that Constancio did not have
anything to do with "AAA's" murder.

6. Berry testified that on March 10, 2001, he went home after work as a welder and did not
go back to work the next day; that on March 29, 2001, two men in civilian clotliing came to
his house and informed him that they were police officers; that after opening the door, the
police officers kicked him in the chest and thereafter handcuffed him; that he asked them
what crime he committed and if they were armed with a warrant of arrest but the alleged
police officers failed to show him any document; that he was then brought to the Office of
Mayor Marquez where he was asked about his cousin Constancio; that thereafter, he was
brought to the Coastal Police Headquarters of Parañaque where he was threatened by PSI
Ariate and forced to sign a Sinumpaang Salaysay, and that said sinumpaang salaysay is
false.

Berry further testified that Atty. Suarez assisted him in the execution of his affidavit; that
his relatives Corate and Buenafe also signed the affidavit; and that nonetheless he was not
able to narrate the threats made by PSI Ariate on his life and the lives of his family. Berry
stressed that he does not know who prepared the statements in his Sinumpang Salaysay.

7. Corate testified that Berry is her son-in-law; that while she was at the police station,
police officers asked her to sign a document without informing her of its contents.

Summary of Facts

It appears that on March 10, 2001, "AAA" went to Alabang Town Center with her friends
Dacanay and Golez. After parting ways with them, "AAA" was about to board her car when
she found herself confronted by Berry then armed with a knife, who was then in the
company of Constancio, Pagkalinawan, Darden and alias "Burog." These five forcibly seized
"AAA's" car and drove her to Constancio' house where she was raped and killed.

In the course of an interview with ABS-CBN Reporter Amparo, Berry revealed that while
"AAA's" car was parked in Constancio' garage, the said car was moving and shaking with
"AAA" inside.6 This led him to suspect that something was already happening; that when
the door of the car was opened, (Berry) saw that "AAA" was without her underwear; and
that Constancio then uttered the words, "wala na," indicating that "AAA" was already
dead.7

"AAA's" body was then placed inside the trunk of her car. Adarna, a tricycle driver, saw
Berry, Constancio, and their other companions, throw something over a bridge which
turned out to be "AAA's body upon investigation by the authorities.

On the evening of March 12, 2001, Bales almost became the next victim when Berry and
his companions who were still using "AAA's" car, attempted to abduct her. Fortunately for
Bales, a barangay tanod was present at the scene and was able to foil the abduction when
he shouted at the malefactors and startled them. Nonetheless, Bales' bag was taken during
this incident.

Eventually, Berry and Constancio were arrested after an informant surfaced and identified
them as "AAA's" assailants. The informant came out after Mayor Marquez offered a reward
for information leading to the identity of persons responsible for "AAA's" rape-slay.

During the custodial investigation, where Atty. Suarez advised him of his constitutional
rights and the consequences of his statements, Berry executed an extrajudicial confession
which was embodied in a Sinumpaang Salaysay. Berry also confessed to Amparo during an
interview that he did take part in the execution of the crime.

At the trial, however, Berry denounced the Sinumpaang Salaysay as false, and claimed that
he was coerced into signing the same.

For his part, Constancio contended that he was in Baguio at the time of the commission of
the crime. Both appellants denied the charges against them. These two also asserted that
Berry's extrajudicial confession was inadmissible in evidence.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

On January 23, 2007 the RTC of Parañaque City, Branch 258 rendered its Decision finding
Constancio and Berry guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide
and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

As for Pagkalinawan, the RTC acquitted him of the crime for failure of the prosecution to
prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The RTC held that the prosecution witnesses were
not at all able to positively identify Pagkalinawan as a participant in the crime, thus, he
must be absolved of the crime charged.

The dispositive part of the Decision of the RTC reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, considering that the prosecution was able to prove the
guilt of accused NIEVES CONSTANCIO y BACUNGAY and ERNESTO BERRY y BACUNGAY
beyond reasonable doubt, both accused are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of
RECLUSION PERPETUA pursuant to Republic Act 9346 which repealed the death penalty
law. However pursuant to Section 3 thereof, they are not eligible for parole.

Accused, NIEVES CONSTANCIO y BACUNGAY and ERNESTO BERRY y BACUNGAY are


also hereby ordered to jointly and severally pay the heirs of [AAA] the following amounts, to
wit:

1. P92,290.00 as actual damages;


2. P50,000.00 as civil indemnity ex-delicto;
3. P50,000.00 as moral damages; and
4. P50,000.00 as exemplary damages;

For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused DONARDO PAGKALINAWAN y
VILLANUEVA, he is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged against him.

Let alias warrant of arrest issue against Danny Darden and @ Burog, which need not be
returned until after they have been arrested.

The City Jail Warden, this jurisdiction is hereby ordered to immediately release accused,
DONARDO PAGKALINAWAN from further detention unless he is being held for some other
cause or causes.

No pronouncement as to cost.

SO ORDERED.8ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Ruling of the Court of Appeals


In its Decision of February 24, 2012, the CA affirmed the RTC. The CA found that
Constancio and Berry conspired to abduct, rape, and kilt "AAA." The CA accorded credence
to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses Adarna and Bales, both of whom in the opinion
of the CA positively established the identities of Constancio and Berry. The CA upheld the
RTC's assessment of the credibility of these witnesses, because of the trial court's unique
opportunity to observe their deportment and demeanor while on the witness stand.

Also, the CA gave credence to Berry's extrajudicial confession as contained in


the Sinumpaang Salaysay which he executed with the assistance of Atty. Suarez. Berry's
extrajudicial confession was admitted as corroborative evidence of facts that likewise tend
to establish the guilt of his co-accused and cousin, Constancio as shown by the
circumstantial evidence extant in the records.

Invariably therefore, the CA rejected the defences of alibi and denial interposed by
Constancio in light of the positive identification by the prosecution witnesses.

The CA disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision. finding accused-appellants


Nieves Constancio y Bacungay and Ernesto Berry y Bacungay guilty of the crime charged is
hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.9

From the CA's Decision, Berry filed his notice of appeal10 on March 8, 2012 while
Constancio filed his own notice of appeal11 on September 12, 2012.

Both appellants filed separate briefs. Berry opted hot to file a Supplemental Brief and
instead, adopted the arguments raised in the Appellant's Brief12 that he filed before the CA.
Constancio, on the other hand, filed a Supplemental Brief13 raising substantially the same
issues as those raised by Berry.

The issues raised by the appellants can be summarized as follows:

I. Whether the CA erred in lending credence to the testimonies of the prosecution


witnesses.

II. Whether the CA erred in declaring Berry's extrajudicial confession admissible in evidence
and in considering it against his co-accused Constancio.

III. Whether the CA erred in finding the appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime charged.

Our Ruling

Credibility of the Prosecution's Witnesses

Appellants claim that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, specifically those of
Bales and Adarna, were unreliable and should not have been given credit by the CA in
affirming the RTC's Decision; and that the identification of the appellants made by these
witnesses was not believable given the circumstances of the case.

Constancio, in particular, assails the testimony of Adarna. He argues that, "[t]he distance of
several meters between [Adarna] and accused-appellant at the time he allegedly saw the
latter riding in the victim's car, as well as the position of [Adarna's] tricycle relative to the
vehicle wherein accused-appellant was riding in, the negligible lighting, time of day, and
other circumstances make it impossible for [Adarna] to positively identify accused-
appellant."14

Berry, on the other hand, flays Bales's testimony, calling it unreliable since her description
of the suspect, "i.e. 5'5" to 5'6" in height, with brush-up hair,"15 allegedly failed to match
his own features. Berry harps on the fact that Bales was unable to state in court what the
suspect was wearing at the time. Likewise, Berry labels Adarna's testimony as "mere
afterthoughts and of doubtful veracity."16
The appellants' assaults upon the credibility of the prosecution witnesses will not succeed.
Firmly settled is the rule that when factual findings of the RTC are affirmed by the CA, such
factual findings should not be disturbed on appeal, unless some material facts or
circumstances had been overlooked or their significance misconstrued as to radically affect
the outcome of the case. We find no cogent reason to set aside the factual findings of the
RTC as affirmed by the CA because these factual findings are in accord with the evidence
on record. What is more, the appellants have not shown that either or both the RTC and
the CA had overlooked some material facts or circumstances or had misappreciated their
import or significance as to radically affect the outcome of the case.

Admissibility of Berry's Extrajudicial Confession

Both appellants also argue that Berry's extrajudicial confession is inadmissible in evidence
against them.

Berry insists that when he executed his extrajudicial confession, he was not provided with
a competent and independent counsel of his own choice in violation of Section 12, Article III
of the Constitution which provides:

(1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have 'the right to
be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel
preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be
provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of
counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the
free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or
other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall
be inadmissible in evidence against him.

xxxx

Berry contends that Atty. Suarez does not qualify as a competent and independent counsel
since the circumstances surrounding this lawyer's presence at the precinct during the
custodial investigation was suspect. Berry specifically challenges, the competence and
independence of Atty. Suarez and questions his presence at the police precinct at the very
moment he underwent custodial investigation.

After a close reading of the records, this Court believes that Berry's confession is admissible
because it was voluntarily executed with the assistance of a competent and independent
counsel in the person of Atty. Suarez. In point of fact Atty. Suarez testified that he
thoroughly explained to Berry his constitutional rights and the consequences of any
statements he would give. Atty. Suarez testified as follows:

ATTY. ANTONIO:
Q: So, what did you do upon your arrival at the police station?
A: Upon my arrival there, I went to the desk and it so happened that there was another
case, I identified myself to the police officer who was manning the desk. And there
was another case, a small case between two (2) parties who also requested my
assistance so, I assisted them. And then, I told the police that I was actually looking
for an accused of a rape incident, and it was at that time that someone approached
me and requested my assistance.
Q: And who is this person that approached you, Mr. witness?
A: It was the accused, Berry.
Q: When he approached you what did he tell you, if any?
A: He told me, "Sir, pwede ho bang tulungan ninyo ako?" That's what I recalled him
saying.
xx
xx
Q: So, in short, Mr. witness, it was Ernesto Berry who initially approached you and
asked you to represent him?
A: That is correct because I was there in the precinct, I was infront... I was there in the
front desk of the police precinct and when I arrived, he was not there in the general
holding area or lobby. I don't know where he came from but he was the one who
approached me.
Q: Did you, in fact, represent this Ernesto Berry during his custodial investigation?
A: Yes
Q: There is testimony of Ernesto Berry during the time that he took the witness stand,
Mr. witness, that he was tortured, coerced and/or forced to sign this extra-judicial
confession. What can you say about that?
A: What I can say is during the entire time that I was there, I made sure that we were
alone first and foremost, and I explained to him his rights under our laws. I also
remember that his relatives were present. Before I allowed the police to go inside the
room, I asked that I be left alone with the accused together with his relatives, and I
talked to him for a few minutes before anything happen.
xx
xx
Q: How was the extra-judicial confession taken, Mr. witness? In your presence or
without your presence?
A: I recall that I was there present from the start up to the end, and never left him
precisely to protect his interest.17

It is clear from the foregoing testimony that Atty. Suarez is a competent and independent
counsel and that he was in fact chosen by Berry himself during the custodial investigation;
and that he was no stranger.at all to the processes and methods of a custodial
investigation. In default of proof that Atty. Suarez- was remiss in his duties, as in this case,
this Court rriust hold that the custodial investigation of Berry was regularly conducted. For
this reason, Berry's extrajudicial confession is admissible in evidence against him.

As expected, Berry now assails the extrajudicial confession he made to Amparo. Berry
claims "he was under a very intimidating atmosphere" where "he was coerced by the police
to confess and to even name 'names'."18 Berry insists that the only incriminating part of his
confession was his admission that he was present at the scene of the crime. Nonetheless,
he claims that he was never privy to any of the plans involving the raping or killing of
"AAA."

Berry's argument does not persuade. The CA correctly held:

It is already settled that statements spontaneously made by a suspect to news reporters on


a televised interview are deemed voluntary and are admissible in evidence. In this case,
there was no ample proof to show that appellant Berry's narration of events to ABS-CBN
reporter Dindo Amparo was the product of intimidation or coercion, thus making the same
admissible in evidence.19

Berry's confession is admissible in evidence because it was-voluntarily made to a news


reporter and not to the police authority or to an investigating officer. Amparo testified that
he requested Berry for an interview in connection with his confession, and that the latter
freely acceded. Hence, Berry's confession to Amparo, a news reporter, was made freely and
voluntarily and is admissible in evidence.

In an attempt to escape liability as a co-conspirator, Berry argues that although he was


present at the scene of the crime, he was not at all privy to any plans to rape and kill
"AAA."

This argument will not hold.

A closer examination of the prosecution's evidence compels the conclusion that Berry was a
co-conspirator in the rape and killing "AAA." In People v. Foncardas,20 the Court held that:
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement to commit an unlawful
act. There is, however, no need to prove a previous agreement to commit the crime if by
their overt acts, it is clear that all the accused acted in concert in the pursuit of their
unlawful design. It may even be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during
and after the commission of the crime.

In this case, while there was no direct proof of a previous agreement to rape and kill "AAA,"
it was nonetheless clear from Berry's conduct that he acted in concerted effort and was
united in intent, aim and purpose in executing the group's criminal design. This was
established by Adarna's testimony stating that he saw Berry throw the body of "AAA" over a
bridge and that he was in "AAA's" car the night she was killed. By helping his cousin and
co-accused Constahcio dispose of the body of "AAA," Berry became 'a co-conspirator by
direct participation. It is immaterial that Berry was merely present at the scene of the crime
since it is settled that in conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. If it is true that Berry
was not privy to the plan of raping and killing "AAA," he should have prevented the same
from happening or at the very least, left the group and reported the crime to the authorities.
Berry did neither and he even helped Constancio dispose of "AAA's" body. Clearly, Berry, by
his overt acts, became a co-conspirator by directly participating in the execution of the
criminal design.

On the other hand, Constancio argues that Berry's confession is inadmissible in evidence
against him under the principle of res inter alios acta found in Section 28, Rule 130 of the
Rules of Court, which provides that the rights of a party cannot be prejudiced by an act,
declaration, or omission of another. Our ruling in Tamargo v. Awingan21 pertinently
explains the reason for this rule:

[O]n a principle of good faith and mutual convenience, a man's own acts are binding upon
himself, and are evidence against him. So are his conduct and declarations. Yet it would
not only be rightly inconvenient, but also manifestly unjust, that a man should be bound
by the acts of mere unauthorized strangers; and if a party ought not to be bound by the
acts of strangers, neither ought their acts or conduct be used as evidence against him.

The general rule is that an extra-judicial confession is binding only on the confessant and
is inadmissible in evidence against his co-accused since it is considered hearsay against
them.22 However, as an exception to this rule, the Court has held that an extra-judicial
confession is admissible against a co-accused when it is used as circumstantial evidence to
show the probability of participation of said co-accused in the crime.23

In People v. Aquino,24 this Court held that in order that an extra-judicial confession may be
used against a co-accused of the confessant, "there must be a finding of other
circumstantial evidence which when taken together with the confession would establish the
guilt of a co-accused beyond reasonable doubt." Applying the rule to Constancy's case, the
Court finds that the prosecution was able to show circumstantial evidence to implicate him
in the crime.

Significantly, Constancio was positively identified as among those who threw the body of
"AAA" over a bridge. It is significant to note that eyewitness Adarna also attests that
Constancio was riding in the very same car where "AAA" was raped and killed. This fact
leaves this Court without a doubt that Constancio is guilty of the crime charged as the
same qualifies as circumstantial evidence showing his participation in the execution of the
crime.

Short shrift must be given to Constancio's alibi because he was not able to establish that it
was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime the night "AAA" was
abducted, raped, and killed. As correctly held by the trial court:

xxx However, assuming arguendo that he went up to Baguio City on February 27,2001,
there is no physical impossibility for the said accused to go down from Baguio City and
proceed to Manila which will only take him at least [sic] six (6) hours to reach and then go
up again after committing the crime, x x x25

In line with prevailing jurisprudence, this Court hereby modifies the awards of civil
indemnity moral damages, and exemplary damages to P100,000.00 each.26 In addition,
interest is imposed on all damages awarded at the rate of 6% per annum.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February
24, 2012 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02709 is AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATIONS that
appellants are ordered to solidarity pay the heirs of "AAA" civil indemnity, moral damages,
and exemplary damages in the increased amounts of P100,000.00 each. All damages
awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from finality of this Decision until
fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Brion, Reyes,* and Leonen, JJ., concur.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

ENTRIES IN OFFICIAL RECORDS

January 13, 2016

G.R. No. 198627

DST MOVERS CORPORATION, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE'S GENERAL INSURANCE CORPORATION, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

A determination of where the preponderance of evidence lies is a factual issue which, as a


rule, cannot be entertained in a Rule 45 petition. When, however, the sole basis of the trial
court for ruling on this issue is evidence that should not have been admitted for being
hearsay, this court will embark on its own factual analysis and will, if necessary, reverse
the rulings of the lower courts. A traffic accident investigation report prepared by a police
officer relying solely on the account of a supposed eyewitness and not on his or her
personal knowledge is not evidence that is admissible as an exception to the Hearsay Rule.

This resolves a Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure praying that the assailed May 11, 2011 Decision2 and September 8, 2011
Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals Former Twelfth Division in CA-G.R. SP No. 109163 be
reversed and set aside, and that a new one be entered dismissing respondent People’s
General Insurance Corporation’s (PGIC) Complaint for Sum of Money.4

In its assailed May 11, 2011 Decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the
ruling of Branch 47 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil Case No. 07-118093
which, in turn, affirmed in toto the ruling of Branch 22 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of
Manila in Civil Case No. 181900. In its assailed September 8, 2011 Resolution, the Court of
Appeals denied petitioner DST Movers Corporation’s (DST Movers) Motion for
Reconsideration.5

The Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila found DST Movers liable to pay PGIC the amount of
P90,000.00 by way of actual damages plus interest as well as P10,000.00 for attorney’s fees
and costs of suit.6 The Court of Appeals ordered DST Movers to pay PGIC the amount of
P25,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of the original award of P90,000.00 as actual
damages.7

In a Complaint for Sum of Money filed before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, PGIC
alleged that at about 10:30 p.m. on February 28, 2002, along the South Luzon Expressway
and in the area of Bilibid, Muntinlupa City, a Honda Civic sedan with plate number URZ-
976 (sedan) was hit on the rear by an Isuzu Elf truck with plate number UAL-295 (truck).
PGIC underscored that the sedan was on a stop position when it was hit. The sedan was
then allegedly pushed forward, thereby hitting a Mitsubishi Lancer. The driver of the truck
then allegedly escaped.8

In support of its recollection of the events of February 28, 2002, PGIC relied on a Traffic
Accident Investigation Report (Report) prepared by PO2 Cecilio Grospe Tomas (PO2 Tomas)
of the Muntinlupa City Traffic Enforcement Unit of the Philippine National Police. This was
attached as Annex "E"9 of PGIC’s Complaint and also as Annex "E"10of its Position Paper. It
stated:
TRAFFIC ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
(Entry No. 805-285-0202)

Time and date : At about 10:30 p.m. February 28, 2002


Place : along SLEX, Bilibid N/B, Muntinlupa City
Weather con : Fair
Nature : RIR/DTP/PI (hit and run)
Inv vehicle (3)
Vehicle-1 : Honda civic
Plate no. : URZ-976
Driver : MA. ADELINE YUBOCO Y DELA CRUZ
(injured)
Lic. no. : N03-96-213671
Address : 24 Hernandez st., BF Homes Paranaque City
Reg. Owner : Fidel Yuboco
Address : same as driver
Damage : rear & front portion, whole right side portion
Vehicle-2 : Mits. Lancer
Plate no. : CMM-373
Driver : HARRISON TUQUERO Y VALDEZ
Lic. no. : 014-02-032855
Address : 13-16 Carolina st., Villasol Subd., Angeles City
Reg. Owner : Edgardo Tuquero
Address : 518 Obio st., Villasol Subd., Angeles City
Damage : left side rear portion
Vehicle-3 : Truck
Plate no. : UAL-295
Driver : Unidentified
Damage : Undetermine [sic]
Reportee : G. Simbahon of PNCC/SLEX

F A C T S:

It appears that while V1 was on stop position facing north at the aforesaid place of
occurrence when the rear portion of the same was allegedly hit/bumped by V3 which was
moving same direction on the same place due to strong impact V1 pushed forward and hit
the left side rear portion of V2 causing damages and injuries thereon. After the impact, V3
escaped towards undisclosed direction and left V1 & V2 at the place of accident. During
investigation V1 & V2 driver gave voluntary handwritten statement and they were advised
to submit medical certificate, estimate/photos of damages as annexes.

Status of the case: For follow-up. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(sgd.)
PO2 Cecilio Grospe Tomas PNP
- on case -11

The truck was supposedly subsequently discovered to be owned by DST Movers.12 The
sedan was covered by PGIC’s insurance under Policy No. HAL-PC-1314.13 As a result of the
February 28, 2002 incident, the sedan’s owner, Fidel Yuboco, filed a total loss claim with
PGIC in the amount of P320,000.00. PGIC paid Fidel Yuboco the entire amount of
P320,000.00.14

Asserting that it was subrogated to Fidel Yuboco’s rights and that the proximate cause of
the mishap was the negligence of the driver of the truck, PGIC, through counsel, sent DST
Movers demand letters. PGIC demanded from DST Movers the amount of P90,000.00,
which represented the difference between the P320,000.00 paid by PGIC to Yuboco and the
salvage price of P230,000.00, at which PGIC was supposedly able to sell what remained of
the sedan.15
Its demands not having been satisfied, PGIC proceeded to file its Complaint16 for Sum of
Money before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila. This case was docketed as Civil Case
No. 181900.17

In its Answer,18 DST Movers acknowledged that it was the owner of the truck. However, it
claimed that the truck did not make any trips on February 28, 2002 as it was undergoing
repairs and maintenance.19 In support of this affirmative defense, DST Movers attached as
Annexes "1" to "1-F"20 copies of invoices, receipts, and cash vouchers relating to repairs and
maintenance procedures that were undertaken on the truck on specific dates, which
included February 28, 2002.

Following the submission of the parties’ position papers, Branch 22 of the Metropolitan
Trial Court Manila rendered its Decision21 favoring PGIC’s version of events and finding
DST Movers liable. The dispositive portion of this Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the
defendant ordering to pay the latter to pay the [sic] of Php90,000.00 as actual damages
plus interest of 12% per annum from the date of filing of the complaint and the sum of
Php10,000.00 as and for attorney’s fees and the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.22

On appeal, the ruling of the Metropolitan Trial Court was affirmed in toto by Branch 47 of
the Regional Trial Court of Manila.23

DST Movers then filed before the Court of Appeals a Petition for Review under Rule 42 of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

In its assailed May 11, 2011 Decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the rulings of the
Regional Trial Court and the Metropolitan Trial Court. However, it noted that PGIC failed to
prove actual loss with reasonable certainty. As such, the Court of Appeals deleted the
award of P90,000.00 in actual damages and replaced it with an award of P25,000.00 in
temperate damages.

In its assailed September 8, 2011 Resolution,24 the Court of Appeals denied DST Movers’
Motion for Reconsideration.

Hence, DST Movers filed the present Petition insisting that its liability was not established
by a preponderance of evidence. Specifically, it faults the Metropolitan Trial Court for ruling
in favor of PGIC despite how its version of events was supported by nothing more the Traffic
Accident Investigation Report. It asserts that reliance on this Report was misplaced as it
was supposedly "improperly identified [and] uncorroborated."25

For resolution is the issue of whether petitioner DST Movers Corporation’s liability was
established by a preponderance of evidence. Subsumed in this is whether it was an error
for the Metropolitan Trial Court to admit and lend evidentiary weight to the piece of
evidence chiefly relied upon by respondent People’s General Insurance Corporation: the
Traffic Accident Investigation Report prepared by PO2 Tomas.

Petitioner comes to this court through a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. It invites this court to reconsider the consistent rulings
of the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Court, and the Metropolitan Trial Court that
petitioner’s liability arising from the February 28, 2002 incident was established by a
preponderance of evidence.

A Rule 45 petition pertains to questions of law and not to factual issues. Rule 45, Section 1
of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is unequivocal:

SECTION 1. Filing of Petition with Supreme Court. — A party desiring to appeal by


certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the
Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may
file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition shall
raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.
This court’s Decision in Cheesman v. Intermediate Appellate Court26 distinguished questions
of law from questions of fact:

As distinguished from a question of law — which exists "when the doubt or difference arises
as to what the law is on a certain state of facts" — "there is a question of fact when the
doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts;" or when the
"query necessarily invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the
credibility of witnesses, existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances,
their relation to each other and to the whole and the probabilities of the
situation."27 (Citations omitted)

Seeking recourse from this court through a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45
bears significantly on the manner by which this court shall treat findings of fact and
evidentiary matters. As a general rule, it becomes improper for this court to consider
factual issues: the findings of fact of the trial court, as affirmed on appeal by the Court of
Appeals, are conclusive on this court. "The reason behind the rule is that [this] Court is not
a trier of facts and it is not its duty to review, evaluate, and weigh the probative value of the
evidence adduced before the lower courts."28

A determination of whether a matter has been established by a preponderance of evidence


is, by definition, a question of fact. It entails an appreciation of the relative weight of the
competing parties’ evidence. Rule 133, Section 1 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides
a guide on what courts may consider in determining where the preponderance of evidence
lies:

SECTION 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. — In civil cases, the party having
the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining
where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the
court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses' manner of
testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which
they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or
improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal
credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may also
consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the
greater number.

Consistent with Cheesman, such determination is a "query [that] necessarily invites


calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of witnesses, existence
and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation to each other and to the
whole and the probabilities of the situation."29

On point as regards civil liability for damages, this court in Caina v. People of the
Philippines30 explained:

Questions on whether or not there was a preponderance of evidence to justify the award of
damages or whether or not there was a causal connection between the given set of facts
and the damage suffered by the private complainant or whether or not the act from which
civil liability might arise exists are questions of fact.31

Equally on point, this court has explained in many instances that a determination of the
causes of and circumstances relating to vehicular accidents is a factual matter that this
court may not revisit when the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals are
completely in accord.

In Industrial Insurance Co. v. Bondad:32

Questions regarding the cause of the accident and the persons responsible for it are factual
issues which we cannot pass upon. It is jurisprudentially settled that, as a rule, the
jurisdiction of this Court is limited to a review of errors of law allegedly committed by the
appellate court. It is not bound to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence already
considered in the proceedings below.33

Likewise, in Viron Transportation v. Delos Santos:34

The rule is settled that the findings of the trial court especially when affirmed by the Court
of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court when supported by the evidence on record. The
Supreme Court will not assess and evaluate all over again the evidence, testimonial and
documentary adduced by the parties to an appeal particularly where, such as here, the
findings of both the trial court and the appellate court on the maker coincide.35 (Citation
omitted)

However, there are exceptions that leave room for this court to make a factual
determination for itself and, ultimately, to overturn the factual findings with which it is
confronted:

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and
conjectures;

(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;

(4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(5) When the findings of fact are conflicting;

(6) When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the
case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(7) When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;

(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based;

(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners' main and
reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and

(10) When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed
absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.36

In Dela Llana v. Biong,37 this court conducted its own (re-) examination of the evidence as
the findings of the Regional Trial Court conflicted with those of the Court of Appeals. The
Regional Trial Court held that the proximate cause of the injuries suffered by the petitioner
was the supposed reckless driving of the respondent’s employee; the Court of Appeals held
otherwise. On review, this court sustained the findings of the Court of Appeals.

In Standard Insurance v. Cuaresma,38 the ruling of the Metropolitan Trial Court was
reversed by the Regional Trial Court. The latter was then sustained by the Court of Appeals.
On review, this court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. This court noted that
the Metropolitan Trial Court erroneously gave weight to the traffic accident investigation
report presented by the petitioner as proof of the proximate cause of the damage sustained
by a motor vehicle.

II

Here, petitioner insists that the Traffic Accident Investigation Report prepared by PO2
Tomas should not have been admitted and accorded weight by the Metropolitan Trial Court
as it was "improperly identified [and] uncorroborated."39 Petitioner, in effect, asserts that
the non-presentation in court of PO2 Tomas, the officer who prepared the report, was fatal
to respondent’s cause.

Unlike in Dela Llana and Standard Insurance, the findings of the Metropolitan Trial Court,
the Regional Trial Court, and the Court of Appeals in this case are all in accord. They
consistently ruled that the proximate cause of the damage sustained by the sedan was the
negligent driving of a vehicle owned by petitioner. As with Standard Insurance, however,
this conclusion is founded on the misplaced probative value accorded to a traffic accident
investigation report. In the first place, this Report should not have been admitted as
evidence for violating the Hearsay Rule. Bereft of evidentiary basis, the conclusion of the
lower courts cannot stand as it has been reduced to conjecture. Thus, we reverse this
conclusion.
Rule 130, Section 36 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides for the Hearsay Rule. It
renders inadmissible as evidence out-of-court statements made by persons who are not
presented as witnesses but are offered as proof of the matters stated. This rule proceeds
from the basic rationale of fairness, as the party against whom it is presented is unable to
cross-examine the person making the statement:40

SECTION 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. — A


witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is,
which are derived from his own perception, except as otherwise provided in these rules.

The Hearsay Rule, however, is not absolute. Sections 37 to 47 of Rule 130 of the Revised
Rules on Evidence enumerate the exceptions to the Hearsay Rule. Of these, Section 44—
regarding entries in official records—is particularly relevant to this case:

SECTION 44. Entries in official records. — Entries in official records made in the
performance of his duty by a public officer of the Philippines, or by a person in the
performance of a duty specially enjoined by law, are prima facie evidence of the facts
therein stated.

Precisely as an exception to the Hearsay Rule, Rule 130, Section 44 does away with the
need for presenting as witness the public officer or person performing a duty specially
enjoined by law who made the entry. This, however, is only true, for as long the following
requisites have been satisfied:

(a) that the entry was made by a public officer or by another person specially enjoined
by law to do so;

(b) that it was made by the public officer in the performance of his duties, or by such
other person in the performance of a duty specially enjoined by law; and

(c) that the public officer or other person had sufficient knowledge of the facts by him
stated, which must have been acquired by him personally or through official
information.41

Respondent, the Metropolitan Trial Court, the Regional Trial Court, and the Court of
Appeals are all of the position that the Report prepared by PO2 Tomas satisfies these
requisites.1âwphi1 Thus, they maintain that it is admissible as prima facie evidence of the
facts it states. This despite the admitted fact that neither PO2 Tomas, nor the person who
supposedly reported the events of February 28, 2002 to PO2 Tomas – the person identified
as "G. Simbahon of PNCC/SLEX"42 – gave a testimony in support of the Report.

They are in serious error.

The statements made by this court in Standard Insurance are on point:

[F]or the Traffic Accident Investigation Report to be admissible as prima facie evidence of
the facts therein stated, the following requisites must be present:

. . . (a) that the entry was made by a public officer or by another person specially enjoined
by law to do so; (b) that it was made by the public officer in the performance of his duties,
or by such other person in the performance of a duty specially enjoined by law; and (c) that
the public officer or other person had sufficient knowledge of the facts by him stated, which
must have been acquired by him personally or through official information.

Regrettably, in this case, petitioner failed to prove the third requisite cited above. As
correctly noted by the courts below, while the Traffic Accident Investigation Report was
exhibited as evidence, the investigating officer who prepared the same was not presented in
court to testify that he had sufficient knowledge of the facts therein stated, and that he
acquired them personally or through official information. Neither was there any explanation
as to why such officer was not presented. We cannot simply assume, in the absence of proof,
that the account of the incident stated in the report was based on the personal knowledge of
the investigating officer who prepared it.

Thus, while petitioner presented its assured to testify on the events that transpired during
the vehicular collision, his lone testimony, unsupported by other preponderant evidence,
fails to sufficiently establish petitioner's claim that respondents' negligence was, indeed, the
proximate cause of the damage sustained by Cham's vehicle.43[Emphasis supplied]

Respondent presented proof of the occurrence of an accident that damaged Fidel Yuboco’s
Honda Civic sedan,44that the sedan was insured by respondent,45 and that respondent paid
Fidel Yuboco’s insurance claims.46 As to the identity, however, of the vehicle or of the
person responsible for the damage sustained by the sedan, all that respondent relies on is
the Report prepared by PO2 Tomas.

It is plain to see that the matters indicated in the Report are not matters that were
personally known to PO2 Tomas. The Report is candid in admitting that the matters it
states were merely reported to PO2 Tomas by "G. Simbahon of PNCC/SLEX."47 It was this
"G. Simbahon," not PO2 Tomas, who had personal knowledge of the facts stated in the
Report. Thus, even as the Report embodies entries made by a public officer in the
performance of his duties, it fails to satisfy the third requisite for admissibility for entries in
official records as an exception to the Hearsay Rule.

To be admitted as evidence, it was thus imperative for the person who prepared the
Report—PO2 Tomas—to have himself presented as a witness and then testify on his Report.
However, even as the Report would have been admitted as evidence, PO2 Tomas’ testimony
would not have sufficed in establishing the identity of the motor vehicle and/or the person
responsible for the damage sustained by the sedan. For this purpose, the testimony of G.
Simbahon was necessary.

Of course, we are aware that this case was decided by the Metropolitan Trial Court
pursuant to the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure (considering that petitioner’s total
claims amounted to less than P200,000.0048). Accordingly, no trial was conducted as, after
the conduct of a preliminary conference, the parties were made to submit their position
papers. There was, thus, no opportunity to present witnesses during an actual trial.
However, Section 9 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure calls for the submission of
witnesses’ affidavits together with a party’s position paper and after the conduct of a
preliminary conference:

SECTION 9. Submission of Affidavits and Position Papers. — Within ten (10) days from
receipt of the order mentioned in the next preceding section,49 the parties shall submit the
affidavits of their witnesses and other evidence on the factual issues defined in the order,
together with their position papers setting forth the law and the facts relied upon by them.

These affidavits take the place of actual testimony in court and serve to expedite the
resolution of cases covered by the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure. Thus, it was still
insufficient for respondent to have merely annexed the Report to its Position Paper. By its
lonesome, and unsupported by an affidavit executed by PO2 Tomas, the Report was
hearsay and, thus, inadmissible.

As the sole evidence relied upon by respondent as to the identity of the responsible motor
vehicle or person has been rendered unworthy of even the slightest judicial consideration,
there is no basis for holding-as the Metropolitan Trial Court did-that the motor vehicle
responsible for the damage sustained by the sedan was owned by petitioner. Not only this,
petitioner has even adduced proof that on February 28, 2002, its Isuzu Elf truck with plate
number UAL-295 was undergoing repairs and maintenance and, thus, could not have been
at the South Luzon Expressway. The weight of evidence is clearly in petitioner's favor.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The assailed May 11,
2011 Decision and September 8, 2011 Resolution of the Court of Appeals Former Twelfth
Division in CA-G.R. SP No. 109163 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent People's
General Insurance Corporation's Complaint is DISMISSED.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

ENTRIES IN OFFICIAL RECORDS


G.R. No. 209040, December 09, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RODOLFO PATEÑO


DAYAPDAPAN, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

PEREZ, J.:

The subject of this review is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC
No. 0G788 dated 23 May 2013 which affirmed the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Bais City, Branch 45, in Criminal Case Nos. F-03-12-A, F-03-13-A, F-03-14-A, F-
03-15-A, and F-03-16-A finding accused-appellant Rodolfo Pateño y Dayapdapan guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of five (5) counts of rape.

Except for the dates, the five (5) Informations identically charge accused-appellant of rape
committed as follow:

That on or about March 25, 2002 at about 10:00 o'clock in the evening at x x x, Negros
Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused,
who is the father of 14-year old [AAA],3 did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously by force, threat or intimidation, insert his penis into the vagina of his said
daughter and had carnal knowledge of her against her will and
consent.4ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
On arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. During pre-trial, both parties made
the following factual stipulations:

1. That the accused admits his identity in the five (5) cases that whenever his
name is mentioned in the proceedings he is the same accused in this case;

2. That accused admits that he is the father of the victim [AAA];

3. That accused admits that he is living at [x x x],5 Negros Oriental; and

4. That private complainant admits that she was a contestant in a beauty pageant
involving money contribution wherein the winner is determined with the
amount of money raised on occasion of the barangay fiesta of [x x x] on 5 April
2002.6

AAA related that she was only four years old when her parents left her to the care of her
aunt, BBB. AAA started living with accused-appellant only in 2000 in a two-bedroom
house. On 25 March 2002 at around 10:00 p.m., AAA, then 14 years old, was awakened by
accused-appellant who removed her short pants and underwear. Accused-appellant
likewise took off his clothes. He threatened AAA with a scythe and ordered her to stay quiet.
He then mounted her and made pumping motions. After satisfying his lust, accused-
appellant left without saying a word. He proceeded to perform this bestial act on AAA for
the four (4) succeeding nights.7

When AAA could no longer bear it, she left the house and stayed in the house of her teacher
from 30 March to 1 April 2002 where she intimated to the latter her harrowing experience
in the hands of accused-appellant.8

On 5 April 2002, AAA underwent a medical examination, the findings and results of which
are as follow:
- Contusion upper border iliac region, right

- Pelvic exam:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

- With old hymenal tear at 3 & 9 o'clock positions

- Negative for discharges

- Admits 2 fingers with ease9ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


A pastor of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) testified on the contents
of the Membership Record Book which show that AAA was born on 10 September 1987 and
was baptized on 5 June 1988. Said document also listed accused-appellant as AAA's father.
Accused-appellant confirmed that AAA started staying with him in March 2002 but added
that there were five of them living in the house of his nephew, Rene Pateño (Rene). He
denied raping AAA and claimed that AAA is taking revenge because during a beauty contest
in April of that year, he pinched AAA in front of her fellow contestants
and barangay councilors.10 Accused-appellant's nephew, Rene testified that accused-
appellant lived with him but AAA was living with his sister.11 Rene's sister Arly
corroborated Rene's statement that AAA was living with her on the dates of the alleged rape
incidents.12 Both witnesses speculated that AAA wrongfully accused her father of rape
because she harbored a grudge towards accused-appellant who would always scold her.13

On 27 April 2007, accused-appellant was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of five (5)
counts of rape. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this [c]ourt finds accused RODOLFO PATEÑO y
DAYAPDAPAN, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of rape for five (5)
counts as provided under the provisions of Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, and
pursuant to the provisions of par. (1) of Article 266-B, he may be meted the extreme penalty
of death. But, with the passage of Republic Act No. 8353, he is thereby meted the penalty
of FIVE (5) RECLUSION PERPETUAS, and with all the accessory penalties.

He is thereby ordered to pay the victim, [AAA], the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND
(P50,000.00) PESOS for actual damages and another FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00)
PESOS for moral damages, and to pay costs.14ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
On 23 May 2013, the CA rendered the assailed judgment affirming with modification the
trial court's decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Appeal is DENIED. The Joint Decision dated April
27, 2007 of the Regional Trial Court RTC), Branch 45, Bais City in Criminal Case Nos. F-
03-12-A, F-03-13-A, F-03-14-A, F-03-15-A, [and] F-03-16-A convicting Rodolfo Pateño y
Dayapdapan of five (5) counts of rape and meting him the penalty of imprisonment
of reclusion perpetua for each count, is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS as to
damages.

Accused-appellant Rodolfo Pateño y Dayapdapan is ordered to pay the victim AAA Seventy
Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) as civil indemnity, Seventy Five Thousand Pesos
(P75,000.00) as moral damages and Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) as exemplary
damages, for each count of rape, all with interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the
date of finality of this judgment. No costs.15ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Accused-appellant filed the instant appeal. In a Resolution16 dated 18 November 2013,
accused-appellant and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) were required to file their
respective supplemental briefs if they so desired. Both parties manifested that they were
adopting their respective briefs filed before the appellate court.17

In his Brief,18 accused-appellant argues that AAA's testimony regarding the time and
manner of the purported five (5) rape incidents is incredulous. Accused-appellant insists
that AAA did not feel any fatherly love towards him and she had the motive to falsely
accuse him of rape. Accused-appellant claimed that AAA had been reprimanded numerous
times by him because of her unacceptable behavior. Finally, accused-appellant contends
that the prosecution failed to prove AAA's age at the time of the commission of the alleged
crime.

The appeal is without merit.

Accused-appellant insists that AAA's claim of sequent rape identically done is highly
improbable and contrary to human experience.

In People v. Solomon,19 we held that the victim's uniform testimony regarding the manner
by which she was raped does not diminish her credibility. We explained, thus:
Men are creatures of habit and are bound to adopt a course of action that has proven to be
successful. As appellant was able to fulfill his lustful designs upon complainant the first
time, it comes as no surprise that he would repeat the horrific acts when the circumstances
obtaining in the first rape again presented themselves.20ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
As in the aforestated case, AAA did not immediately report the incident to her teacher and
instead, she suffered for four more similar incidents before she broke her silence.
There is a plausible explanation for the conduct of the victim. The Court explained
in Solomon, viz.:
Complainant's youth partly accounts for her failure to escape appellant's lust. A young girl
like complainant cannot be expected to have the intelligence to defy what she may have
perceived as the substitute parental authority that appellant wielded over her. That
complainant had to bear more sexual assaults from appellant before she mustered enough
courage to escape his bestiality does not imply that she willingly submitted to his desires.
Neither was she expected to follow the ordinary course that other women in the same
situation would have taken. There is no standard form of behavior when one is confronted
by a shocking incident. Verily, under emotional stress, the human mind is not expected to
follow a predictable path.21ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
AAA was only able to report the incident when she was away from the custody of accused-
appellant and when she felt safe.

AAA's credibility was upheld by the trial court, which is in a position to observe the candor,
behavior and demeanor of the witness. Findings of the lower courts with respect to
credibility of the rape victim are conclusive.

We also cannot give credence to accused-appellant's claim that AAA was taking revenge
when she filed the rape charges against accused-appellant for allegedly castigating her. No
woman in her right mind, especially a young girl, would fabricate charges of this nature
and severity.22

The RTC and the CA correctly appreciated the twin qualifying circumstances of minority
and relationship. Accused-appellant admitted during the pre-trial conference that AAA was
his daughter. Thus, relationship between accused-appellant and AAA is established. Anent
the element of minority, the prosecution presented a certification23 from the UCCP Office in
Ayungon, Negros Occidental stating that AAA was baptized according to the rites and
ceremonies of the UCCP. The certification shows that AAA was born on 10 September 1987
to accused-appellant and a certain Nely Fabel. A page of the UCCP Membership Book was
submitted bearing the same information. It was held that a birth certificate, baptismal
certificate, school records or documents of similar nature can be presented to prove the age
of a victim.24 In this case, the Membership Book, which is considered an entry in official
records under Section 44,25 Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, is admissible as prima facie of
their contents and corroborative of AAA's testimony as to her age. Moreover, entries in
public or official books or records may be proved by the production of the books or records
themselves or by a copy certified by the legal keeper thereof.26

Considering that accused-appellant committed rape qualified by the twin circumstances of


minority and relationship, the proper penalty to be imposed is death. Since the imposition
of the death penalty has been prohibited by Republic Act No. 9346, the lower courts
properly imposed the penalty oireclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole for each
count of rape.

As to the award of damages, we deem it proper to further modify the CA's award. Pursuant
to our ruling in People v. Gambao,27 AAA is thus entitled to P100,000.00 as civil indemnity,
PI00,000.00 as moral damages and P 100,000.00 as exemplary damages. Finally, all
damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of
this judgment until fully paid.28

WHEREFORE, accused-appellant Rodolfo Pateño y Dayapdapan is found GUILTY for each


count of the crime of rape, qualified by minority and relationship, charged under Criminal
Case Nos. F-03-12-A, F-03-13-A, F-03-14-A, F-03-15-A, and F-03-16-A and is hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, in lieu of
death. He is also ORDERED to pay AAA the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity,
P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, for each count of
rape, plus legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the finality of this Resolution
until the amounts due are fully paid.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary