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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 139588

March 4, 2004

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner,


vs.
JOSEFINA B. VDA. DE NERI, SPS. GRACIANO B. NERI, JR. and VICTORIA BABIERA, SPS. VICTORIA NERI and MARIO FERNANDEZ, RAMON
NERI, SPS. TERESA NERI and ALBERTO YRASTORZA and the REGISTER OF DEEDS OF CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, respondents.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before the Court is the petition for review on certiorari filed by the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of the Bureau of Lands,
seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 50139 affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court
of Misamis Oriental, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City, which, in turn, dismissed the petitioners complaint for the annulment of Original Certificate of Title
(OCT) No. 0662 and reversion. Likewise sought to be reversed and set aside is the appellate courts Resolution dated August 4, 1999, denying the
petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The antecedent facts are summarized as follows:
Lot 2821, Plan (LRC) SWO-150, approved by the Land Registration Commission, is a parcel of land with an area of 105.568 hectares located along the
Cagayan de Oro River in Sitio Taguanao, Indahag, Cagayan de Oro City. On September 3, 1973, the Bureau of Forest Development certified that the
property was alienable and disposable.2 On July 24, 1974, the heirs of Graciano Neri, Sr.3 filed an application with the then Court of First Instance of
Misamis Oriental for judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title, docketed as Land Registration Case No. N-531, LRC Record No. 46236. They
alleged, inter alia, thus:
1. That applicants GRACIANO B. NERI, JR. is of legal age, married to VICTORIA BABIERA, Filipino and residing at 833 Recto Avenue,
Cagayan de Oro City; JOSEFINA B. VDA. [DE] NERI is of legal age, widow of GRACIANO A. NERI, Filipino and residing at 833 Recto
Avenue, Cagayan de Oro City; VICTORIA N. FERNANDEZ is of legal age, married to MARIO FERNANDEZ, Filipino and residing at 832 Recto
Avenue, Cagayan de Oro City; RAMON B. NERI is of legal age, single, Filipino and residing at 833 Recto Avenue, Cagayan de Oro City; and
MA. TERESA N. YRASTORZA is of legal age, married to ALBERT YRASTORZA, Filipino and residing at 833-Y Recto Avenue, Cagayan de
Oro City, hereby apply to have the land hereinafter described brought under the operation of the Land Registration Act, and to have the title
thereto registered and confirmed;
2. That the applicants are the owners in fee simple of a certain parcel of land situated at Barrio Indahag in the City of Cagayan de Oro, the
said land bounded and described on the plan and technical description, attached hereto and made a part hereof;
3. That said land at the last assessment for taxation was assessed for P33,820.00;
4. That applicants do not know of any mortgage or encumbrances affecting the said land, or that any other person has any estate or interest
therein legal or equitable possession, remainder, reversion or expectance;
5. That applicants obtained title on said property by virtue of intestate succession from the late GRACIANO A. NERI who died on December
20, 1971 in the City of Cagayan de Oro;
6. That applicants herein together with their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public, peaceful, adverse, and continuous possession
in the concept of owners and have been paying taxes thereon;
7. That the said land is legally occupied by the following persons together with their families in the concept of Tenants, namely:
a) PEDRO CABALUNA residing at Indahag, Tibasak, Cagayan de Oro City
b) CERELO BADETAH residing at Indahag, Tibasak, Cagayan de Oro City
8. That the names and addresses so far as known to applicants of the owners of all land adjoining the land above-mentioned are as follows:
a) JOSE F. MARFORI of Cagayan de Oro City
b) INSULAR GOVERNMENT of the PHILIPPINES
c) CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Cagayan River)
9. This application is accompanied by the following documents:
a) Tracing plan of the lot together with a blue print copy thereof;
b) Technical description of the land;
c) Tax Declarations:
1. T.D. No. 1096
2. T.D. No. 22280
3. T.D. No. 10964
4. T.D. No. 81439

10. That by the application of Sections: 47, 48, 49, 50, and 51 of Com. Act 141 as amended by Rep. Acts Nos. 107, 1942, 2061 and 2036, this
application is in order and the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court exist and can be exercised in connection with this instant application. 4
The applicants prayed that, after due proceedings, judgment be rendered in their favor in this wise:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed that after due notice, the validity of the alleged title or claim be inquired into and after
due hearing an order be issued directing the Land Registration Commission to issue the corresponding decree over the said parcel of land so that a
Certificate of Title be issued in favor of the applicants under the provisions of the Land Registration Act.
Prays for other relief in the premises.5
The applicants thereafter filed an amended application in the same case on December 17, 1974. On January 27, 1975, the Court, through the Land
Registration Commission, issued a notice of initial hearing addressed, among others, to the Director of the Bureau of Lands, the Solicitor General, and
the Bureau of Forest Development.6 The notice was published in the February 17 and 24, 1975 issues of the Official Gazette. Copies thereof were sent
by ordinary mail to the persons named therein; the copies intended for the Director of the Bureau of Lands and the Office of the Solicitor General were
sent by special messenger.7 The Solicitor General and the Director of the Bureau of Lands failed to file any opposition thereto.
On the designated time and date of the hearing, no representative from the Office of the Solicitor General and the Bureau of Lands appeared in court.
The court granted the motion of the applicants for an order of general default "against the whole world," except those who filed their opposition or
appeared during the hearing. The court thereafter issued an order allowing the applicants to adduce evidence ex parte.
On February 5, 1976, the court rendered judgment granting the application. The Office of the Solicitor General, as well as the Director of the Bureau of
Lands, failed to appeal the same. Thus, the court issued Decree No. N-361749, on the basis of which OCT No. 0662 was issued by the Register of
Deeds of Cagayan de Oro City on September 26, 1976.
On January 5, 1981, the Office of the Solicitor General, for and in behalf of the petitioner Republic of the Philippines, through the Director of the Bureau
of Lands, filed with the court a quo a complaint for annulment of OCT No. 0662 and the reversion of the property covered by the said title against herein
respondents.8 The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 7514.
In its complaint, the petitioner alleged inter alia that it is the true owner of a parcel of land of the public domain surveyed as Lot No. 2821 (subject lot)
containing an area of 1,055,684 square meters or 105.5684 hectares situated in Cagayan de Oro City.9 The petitioner also alleged that the Bureau of
Forest and Development had classified the subject lot as alienable and disposable; as such, it was under the direct executive control, administration and
disposition of the Director of the Bureau of Lands. Despite the fact that the Solicitor General and the Director of the Bureau of Lands were not served
copies of the respondents application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title in LRC Case No. N-531, in violation of Section 51 of Commonwealth Act
No. 141, the said case was set for initial hearing on June 18, 1975. The petitioner also averred that although the survey plan of the subject lot, Plan
(LRC) SWO-150, was processed and approved by the Land Registration Commission, it was not submitted to the Director of the Bureau of Lands for reverification and approval as required by Sections 2 and 3 of Presidential Decree No. 239. As such, according to the petitioner, the court failed to acquire
jurisdiction over the property.
The petitioner prayed that after due proceedings, judgment be rendered nullifying the proceedings in LRC No. N-531, as well as the courts decision
therein, for lack of jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner as well as the property subject matter of the case. According to the petitioner, this is in
view of the courts failure to comply with Section 51 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, which mandates that a copy of an application for judicial confirmation
of imperfect title should be duly served on the Director of the Bureau of Lands; and the private respondents failure to comply with Sections 2 and 3 of
P.D. No. 239, which requires the plan to be re-verified and approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands, in this case, Plan (LRC) SWO-150. The
petitioner prayed OCT No. 0662 issued in favor of the private respondents be declared null and void.
In their answer, the private respondents averred that the subject lot had been theirs and their predecessors private and exclusive property for more than
fifty years, and that OCT No. 0662 covering the same was issued in their favor on September 20, 1976. The private respondents contended that the duty
to comply with the requirement under Section 51 of CA No. 141, that the Solicitor General through the Director of the Bureau of Lands be served a copy
of the application for the judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title, devolved upon the clerk of court of the land registration court. They also
averred that a report on the pre-verification and approval of Plan (LRC) SWO-150 had been forwarded by the Regional Director of the Bureau of Lands
to the Director of the Bureau of Lands. Moreover, Plan (LRC) SWO-150 covering the subject lot had been duly processed and approved by the Land
Registration Commission. According to the respondents, even if there were deficiencies on the part of the administrative officials in complying with the
procedures relative to land registration, the same was not jurisdictional, but merely a procedural flaw. As such, the failure of the Bureau of Lands and the
Land Registration Commission to comply with the law did not result in nullifying the proceedings in LRC Case No. N-531. Finally, the respondents
countered, the action of the petitioner had long since prescribed.
In its reply, the petitioner alleged that Plan (LRC) SWO-150 was never submitted, much less approved, to the Director of the Bureau of Lands. The
report required by Section 2 of P.D. No. 239 is one which the Director of the Bureau of Lands actually submitted to the court. The petitioner alleged that
no such report was submitted in this case.
On October 16, 1976, the private respondents filed a motion in LRC Case No. N-531 for the issuance of a writ of possession and the demolition of the
houses of the occupants. The court granted the motion. The Director of the Bureau of Lands, likewise, prayed for the suspension of the enforcement of
the writ pending final resolution of Civil Case No. 7514. The court refused to suspend the enforcement of its decision.
On November 19, 1981, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Director of the Bureau of Lands, filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with this
Court, docketed as G.R. No. 58823, with the following prayer:
1. Declaring as null and void the decision rendered by the court in Land Registration Case as plan (LRC) Swo-150, Cagayan de Oro City, in
favor of the private defendants;
2. Declaring as null and void the corresponding Decree No. N-361749 and Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 issued by the same court in
favor of the private defendants;
3. Ordering the Register of Deeds of Cagayan de Oro City to cancel Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 issued in the name of the private
defendants;
4. Ordering the reversion of the land covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 to the State and declaring the same as owned and
belonging to the latter; and
5. Awarding such further reliefs and remedies as may be just and equitable in the premises. 10
On March 18, 1985, this Court rendered a decision dismissing the petition without prejudice to the outcome of the petitioners action against the private
respondents in Civil Case No. 7514. The decision of the Court became final and executory.
On July 17, 1985, Leonel Valdehuesa and 22 others filed a motion for leave to intervene, and alleged, as follows: (a) They were members of the
Cagayan de Oro Green Revolution Movement Association (COGREMA); (b) They had been occupying the property even before 1969 and commenced
working extensive improvements thereon in 1969; (c) They filed a petition with the Presidential Action Committee on Land Problems (PACLAP) in 1973,
and sought the subdivision of the property and the distribution of the lots to the occupants thereof; and, (d) As occupants, they were never informed of
Graciano Neris application in LRC Case No. N-531. The intervenors prayed that OCT No. 0662 be nullified.

In an Order dated September 6, 1985, the court a quo dismissed the complaint and the complaint-in-intervention for lack of jurisdiction to annul the
judgment of the CFI in LRC No. N-531, in view of the promulgation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129. However, on petition for certiorari filed by the petitioner,
docketed as G.R. No. 72218, this Court, in its Resolution dated July 21, 1986, set aside the said order and directed the court a quo to proceed with the
hearing of the case.11
In the meantime, the court issued an Order on April 6, 1988 denying the said motion for leave to intervene. The court later denied the motion for the
reconsideration of the said order. Thereafter, Undersecretary and Officer-in-Charge of the Bureau of Lands Rolleo Ignacio executed a Special Power of
Attorney authorizing Atty. Vicente Seria of the Office of the Regional Director of the Bureau of Lands to represent the petitioner during the pre-trial. 12
During the hearing of March 27, 1989, the parties agreed to forego a full-blown trial and to instead file their respective "Memorandum of Authority" and to
submit evidence in support of their respective contentions. The court issued an order on the said date, giving the parties thirty days to submit their
respective memoranda and evidence.
The petitioner submitted its memorandum, appending thereto the documents marked respectively as follows:
1) Exhibit A The Certification made by the Officer-in-Charge of the Regional Directors Office for Forestry that the property had been certified
on September 3, 1973 as alienable and disposable.13
2) Exhibit B The letter of the representatives of the Philippine Constabulary Provincial Commander and those of the Bureau of Lands,
Bureau of Forest Development, and Department of Agrarian Reform to the Provincial Commander that there were 73 bona fide tillers on the
property seeking to have the property subdivided and distributed to them.14
3) Exhibit C The Letter dated October 3, 1977 from the Chief, Regional Director of the Bureau of Lands directing the District Land Officer of
Cagayan de Oro to submit a report within two days from notice thereof on the letter of the occupants requesting for the subdivision of the
property, viz.:
Considering the urgency of the case, you are hereby directed to submit the report within five (5) days from receipt hereof. In your report you
should state whether the copy of the petition for registration was received by that Office considering that the case has come into your
knowledge and if so, the date of its receipt thereof, and why the same has not been forwarded to us immediately. You should also secure a
certification from the District Forest Office regarding the date of release of the area from the forest zone, as it appears that the land was only
released on September 13, 1973. This information is necessary to determine whether the applicant has acquired a registerable title to the
land.15
4) Exhibit D The Report dated July 15, 1975 of the Chief Surveyor of the Land Registration Commission and Acting Chief, Division of
Original Registration of the Land Registration Commission to the Court in LRC Case No. N-531. Thus:
That a certain parcel of land described on plan LRC Swo-1507, Lot 2821, Cagayan Cadastre 237, Case 1, is applied for registration
of title in the above-entitled land registration case;
That upon verification of our Record of Cadastral Lots, Book No. 64, under Cad. Court Case No. 17, LRC (GLRO) Cadastral Record
No. 1561, Cagayan Cadastre, Province of Misamis Oriental, it was found that said Lot 2821 is subject of the following annotations,
to quote:
"Lot 2821 (129-1) Pte. de Subd. Parte Public Land."
That it is gleaned from the aforequoted annotations that a decision has been rendered for said Lot 2821 in cadastral proceedings
under Cad. Court Case No. 17, LRC (GLRO) Cadastral Record No. 1561, Cagayan Cadastre, Province of Misamis Oriental, but no
decree of registration has been issued for said lot pursuant to the decision rendered in the aforementioned cadastral case. Copy,
however, of said decision is not among our salvaged records. It likewise appears in the above annotations that Lot 2821 is pending
subdivision and that portion of the same was declared public land;
That it is further informed that this Commission is not in a position to verify whether the land described on plan Swo-1507, Lot 2821,
Cagayan Cadastre 237, Case 1, subject of this application for registration is already covered by a patent previously issued or within
the forest zone.16
5) Exhibit E The application in LRC Case No. N-531.17
6) Exhibit F Photographs showing the Taguanao District Elementary School which stood on a portion of the subject property, to prove that
more than 300 hundred families resided on the property and that its occupants had made extensive improvements thereon.
For their part, the private respondents appended to their memorandum documentary evidence marked as follows:

Exhibit
No.

Brief Description

Tax Declaration No. 10994 covering 1948 Lot 2821-C-1 with an area of
101.5618

2 to 2G

Tax receipts over lots from 193819

Letter of Commissioner of Land Registration to the Court dated


October 31, 1974 acknowledging receipts of the duplicate records of
the application and its answer in LRC Case No. N-53120

Notice of Initial Hearing in LRC Case No. N-531 dated January 27,
197521

Certificate of Publication from Land Registration Commission dated


March 24, 197522

Letter of Land Registration Commission to counsel of applicants dated


March 12, 197523

Report of Land Registration Commission24

Letter of the Geodetic Engineer dated July 20, 1973, to the


respondents25

Letter of the Administrative Assistant of the District Lands Office to the

Bureau of Lands through the District Land Office dated June 3, 1975.

On January 31, 1995, the court rendered judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that the petitioner failed to prove the factual averments
therein. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in the light of the above, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the defendants and against the Republic of the Philippines:
1. Dismissing the complaint in the above-entitled case and no pronouncement will be made on the civil aspect herein as the answer did not
claim any damages, etc.;
2. Declaring as valid and legal all the proceedings taken by the Court of First Instance of Misamis Oriental, Branch 1, regarding OCT No.
0662;
3. Upholding the validity and indefeasibility of Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 issued on September 20, 1976 involved herein;
4. Declaring the order for issuance of a decree to issue Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 as valid and lawful; and
5. Costs against plaintiff.
SO ORDERED.26
The trial court declared that the requisite copies of the notice of initial hearing had been transmitted to the Office of the Solicitor General and the Bureau
of Lands as confirmed by Josefina Bacarusso, the incumbent Branch Clerk of Court when LRC Case No. N-531 was being heard. The court further
stated that the petitioner failed to adduce at least prima facie evidence to prove the material allegations of the complaint. The presumption, then, the trial
court declared, was that the personnel of Branch 1 of the CFI and the officers of the Bureau of Lands performed their duties in accordance with law,
there being no evidence to the contrary. The court even noted the fact that the petitioner, through counsel, agreed to dispense with the trial and to submit
the case for decision after the submission of the parties respective memoranda and documentary evidence.
The petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals contending that:
I. THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN RELYING SOLELY ON PRESUMPTIONS AS THE BASIS OF ITS DECISION.
II. THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN RENDERING A DECISION WITHOUT HOLDING A TRIAL AND GIVING AN OPPORTUNITY
TO APPELLANT TO PRESENT EVIDENCE.27
The Office of the Solicitor General alleged that the trial court acted arbitrarily when it rendered judgment based on the pleadings notwithstanding the
following factual issues that were raised by the parties:

APPELLANTS
POSITION

APPELLEES POSITION

1. Service of copy of application and its annexes to


the Director of Lands

No compliance

The Clerk of Court complied or is supposed to comply therewith

2. Service of copy of application and its annexes to


the Solicitor General

No compliance

The Clerk of Court complied or is supposed to comply therewith

3. Submission of the survey plan to the Director of


Lands for reverification and approval

No compliance

The survey plan has been duly processed and approved by the Land
Registration Commission

4. Submission of the report by the Director of Lands

No compliance

A Report has been made to the Director of Lands, Manila by the


Regional Office of the Bureau of Lands in Cagayan de Oro28

FACTUAL ISSUES

The Office of the Solicitor General contends that the trial court should have conducted a full-blown trial instead of allowing the parties to forego with the
same. The private respondents, for their part, admitted that the Land Registration Commissions survey plan had not been re-evaluated much less
approved, by the Director of the Bureau of Lands. They averred, however, that the same was merely a procedural defect.29
On April 29, 1999, the CA rendered a decision affirming the ruling of the CFI holding that: (a) the petitioner failed to prove the material allegations of its
complaint; and, (b) the personnel of the CFI and the Land Registration Commission are presumed to have performed their duties as the law
mandated.30 The CA denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration of the said decision.
The petitioner filed its petition for review on certiorari praying that the court resolve the following issues:
A. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS, IN AFFIRMING THE APPEALED JUDGMENT DATED JANUARY 31, 1995,
COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF MISAMIS ORIENTAL
OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER AND THE PARTIES IN LAND REGISTRATION CASE NO. 531, COURT (SIC) ON THE BASIS OF THE
DISPUTABLE PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY OF PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL ACTS (SECTION 3[m], Rule 131 OF THE RULES OF
COURT).
B. WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE APPEALED JUDGMENT
DATED JANUARY 31, 1995 NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IT WAS RENDERED WITHOUT A TRIAL. 31
In their comment on the petition, the private respondents assert that the issues raised by the petitioner pertain merely to factual matters and not to
questions of law. Furthermore, as shown by the records of Branch 1 of the CFI in LRC Case No. N-531, the petitioner received a copy of the application,
the amended application, as well as the notice of the initial hearing of the case.
The threshold issues for resolution are as follows: (a) whether or not the Court may review the decision of the appellate court on the issues raised
herein; (b) whether the RTC erred in rendering the decision without a full-blown trial, based solely on the pleadings of the parties and the documents
appended to their memorandum; and (c) whether the decision of the trial court was made in accordance with law.
On the first issue, the rule is that only questions of law may be reviewed in this Court on a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court. However, it has also been held that the finding of facts of the appellate court may be questioned in this Court, where as in this case, the latters
judgment is based on a misapprehension of the facts, or such findings are contrary to the admissions of the parties, or when certain relevant facts are
overlooked, which, if property considered, would justify a different conclusion.32

In this case, the petitioner avers that the trial court erred when it rendered a decision without conducting a full-blown trial, and based its ruling merely on
the pleadings of the parties and the documents appended to their respective memoranda. The petitioner asserts that under Rule 34 of the Rules of
Court, the court may render judgment on the pleadings only when the respondents answer fails to tender an issue or otherwise admits the material
allegations of the adverse partys pleadings. Furthermore, it was not proper for the trial court to render summary judgment under Rule 35 of the Rules of
Court, for the simple reason that the private respondents, in their answer, tendered genuine issues of fact which called for the presentation of evidence.
We do not agree with the petitioner. The trial court dispensed with a full-blown trial because, precisely, the parties themselves agreed thereto, on the
claim that the issues raised may be resolved on the basis of the pleadings, the memoranda and the appended documents, without need of presenting
witnesses thereon. A party may waive its right to present testimonial evidence and opt to adduce documentary evidence and thereafter, submit the case
for resolution based solely on their pleadings and documentary evidence. In this case, no less than the petitioner, represented by the Office of the
Solicitor General through Special Attorney Vicente Seria, agreed to dispense with a full-blown trial.
On the second issue, we agree with the petitioner that the trial court erred in rendering judgment in favor of the private respondents and that the CA
committed a reversible error in affirming the same.
The CA ruled that the petitioner was burdened to prove that the issuance of OCT-0662 was marred by irregularities. It further held that a title issued
under the torrens system of registration is presumed valid, and unless and until the petitioner adduced competent and strong evidence to prove
otherwise, government officials such as the personnel of the CFI and the Land Registration Commission and the Director of the Bureau of Lands are
presumed to have performed their duties in accordance with law. According to the CA, the petitioner failed to adduce such evidence. The appellate court
took note that the private respondents even appended documentary evidence to their memorandum showing compliance with the statutory requirement.
For its part, the petitioner contends that as defendants in the trial court, it was the burden of the private respondents to prove the existence of a fact
that the land registration court had acquired jurisdiction over the subject matter of the petition and over the persons of the respondent therein;
conversely, the private respondents, as applicants therein, were obliged to adduce in evidence the survey plan approved by the Director of the Bureau of
Lands as required by P.D. Nos. 239 and 1529. According to the petitioner, there is no presumption in favor of the jurisdiction of a court of limited
jurisdiction, such as a land registration court. It contends that where the jurisdiction of a court depends upon the existence of facts, it has no right or
power to proceed or act upon a pleading which does not substantially set forth such facts.
We find for the petitioner. As applicants in LRC Case No. N-531, the private respondents had the burden of complying with the statutory requirement of
serving the Director of the Bureau of Lands with a copy of their application and amended application, and to show proof of their compliance thereon.
However, we also agree with the CA that it was the burden of the petitioner in the trial court to prove the material allegations of its complaint. This is
provided in Section 1, Rule 131 of the Rules of Court which reads:
Burden of proof. Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish his claim or defense by the
amount of evidence required by law.
Obviously, the burden of proof is, in the first instance, with the plaintiff who initiated the action. But in the final analysis, the party upon whom the ultimate
burden lies is to be determined by the pleadings, not by who is the plaintiff or the defendant. The test for determining where the burden of proof lies is to
ask which party to an action or suit will fail if he offers no evidence competent to show the facts averred as the basis for the relief he seeks to
obtain,33 and based on the result of an inquiry, which party would be successful if he offers no evidence. 34
In ordinary civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint which are denied by the defendant, and the
defendant has the burden of proving the material allegations in his case where he sets up a new matter. All facts in issue and relevant facts must, as a
general rule, be proven by evidence except the following:
(1) Allegations contained in the complaint or answer immaterial to the issues.
(2) Facts which are admitted or which are not denied in the answer, provided they have been sufficiently alleged.
(3) Those which are the subject of an agreed statement of facts between the parties; as well as those admitted by the party in the course of
the proceedings in the same case.
(4) Facts which are the subject of judicial notice.
(5) Facts which are legally presumed.
(6) Facts peculiarly within the knowledge of the opposite party.35
The effect of a presumption upon the burden of proof is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima facie case created thereby
which if no proof to the contrary is offered will prevail; it does not shift the burden of proof.36 In this case, the personnel of the Land Registration
Commission and the CFI in LRC Case No. N-531 are presumed to have performed their duty of serving a copy of the application and its appendages to
the petitioner. It was thus the burden of the petitioner to prove that: (a) it was not served with a copy of the application of the private respondents and its
annexes; (b) the private respondents failed to append to their application the survey plan of Lot No. 2821, duly approved by the Director of the Bureau of
Lands as required by P.D. Nos. 1529 and 239. Unless the same were admitted by the respondents, the petitioner should have adduced in evidence the
relevant portions of the records of LRC Case No. N-531, including the decision of the trial court, to prove that the Director of the Bureau of Lands was
not served with a copy of the application and the amended application.37
Section 13, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court provides as follows:
SEC. 13. Proof of service. Proof of personal service shall consist of a written admission of the party served, or the official return of the server, or the
affidavit of the party serving, containing a full statement of the date, place and manner of service. If the service is by ordinary mail, proof thereof shall
consist of an affidavit of the person mailing of facts showing compliance with section 7 of this Rule. If service is made by registered mail, proof shall be
made by such affidavit and the registry receipt issued by the mailing office. The registry return card shall be filed immediately upon its receipt by the
sender, or in lieu thereof the unclaimed letter together with the certified or sworn copy of the notice given by the postmaster to the addressee.
Such proof of service should be found in the records of the case in which the application/amended application was filed, in this case, LRC Case No. N531. The same records will also show whether or not the private respondents appended the survey plan duly approved by the Director of the Bureau of
Lands to their application, as mandated by P.D. Nos. 1529 and 239, and whether the private respondents adduced the said plan in evidence.
The petitioner should have moved for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum for the Clerk of Court of Branch 1 of the RTC to bring to the court the
records of LRC Case No. N-531 to prove the material allegations of its complaint. The petitioner did not.
The question that comes to fore then is whether or not the petitioner was burdened to prove its allegation that the Director of the Bureau of Lands had
approved Plan (LRC) SWO-150. The answer to the question is dependent on the resolution of the issue of whether or not the private respondents
admitted the same, impliedly or expressly, in their answer to the complaint and in their pleadings.
A careful perusal of the records reveals that in paragraph 8 of its complaint, the petitioner alleged that the survey plan, Plan (LRC) SWO-150 was not
submitted to the Director of the Bureau of Lands for re-verification and approval as required by law, notwithstanding which the trial court rendered
judgment in favor of the applicants. Hence, the petitioner concluded, the said plan is void:

8. That the survey plan of the land applied for in said registration case, plan (LRC) SWO-150, is a plan processed and approved by the Land
Registration Commission, but the same plan was not submitted to the Director of Lands for re-verification and approval as required by the provision of
Section 2, Presidential Decree No. 239, series of 1973. Hence, the plan (LRC) Swo-150 submitted with the application should be considered as void and
non-existing. Furthermore, on February 5, 1976, the said land registration court, after receiving the evidence of the applicants ex parte, rendered its
decision in the land registration case without requiring the Director of Lands to submit his report as required by the provision of Section 3 of the same
Presidential Decree No. 239;38
In paragraph 4 of their answer to the complaint, the private respondents denied the foregoing allegation in paragraph 8, but alleged as follows:
4. That defendants DENY the allegations in paragraph 8 of the Complaint, the truth of the matter being that the survey plan has been duly processed
and approved by the Land Registration Commission. As regards the Report required by the provisions of Section 3 of PD 239, the records show that a
Report has been made to the Director of Lands, Manila, by the Regional Office of the Bureau of Lands in Cagayan de Oro City. Moreover, the
deficiencies of the administrative officials of the government in following procedures or rules and implementing circulars relative to land registration
cases, if any, is not a ground for voiding the title already issued since the defect, if any, is not jurisdictional but merely procedural in nature. Besides, the
fault or omission, if any, is that of the Land Registration Commission and the Director of Lands and not that of the defendants; 39
The private respondents failed to specifically deny the petitioners averment in its complaint that LRC Plan SWO-150 had not been approved by the
Director of the Bureau of Lands. The private respondents thereby impliedly admitted that the Director of the Bureau of Lands had not approved any
survey plan as required by Sections 2 and 3 of P.D. No. 239.40
In light of the private respondents admission, the petitioner was relieved of its burden of still proving that the Director of the Bureau of Lands had not
approved any survey plan of Lot 2821 before the trial court rendered its decision.
We reject the contention of the private respondents that the reevaluation and approval of the Director of the Bureau of Lands of the survey plan are not
mandatory requirements and that the lack thereof did not render Original Certificate of Title No. 0662 void. Case law has it that it is not the function of the
Land Registration Commission to approve original plans.41 The duty devolved upon the Director of the Bureau of Lands, as mandated by Section 17 of
P.D. No. 1529. Applicants for land registration are required to append a survey plan to their application, duly approved by the Bureau of Lands, thus:
Sec. 17. What and where to file. The application for land registration shall be filed with the Court of First Instance of the province or city where the land
is situated. The applicant shall file together with the application all original muniments of titles or copies thereof and a survey plan approved by the
Bureau of Lands.
The submission of the plan approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands is a statutory requirement which is mandatory in nature. The plan approved
by the Land Registration Commission is of no value.42 It behooved the trial court not to take cognizance of any application for land registration in the
absence of a survey plan duly approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands appended thereto. The private respondents admitted that the Director of
the Bureau of Lands had not approved any survey plan for Lot No. 2821. Consequently, the title issued by the Register of Deeds in favor of the private
respondents is null and void. Such title cannot ripen into private ownership. As we held in a recent case: 43
No plan or survey may be admitted in land registration proceedings until approved by the Director of Lands. The submission of the plan is a statutory
requirement of mandatory character. Unless a plan and its technical description are duly approved by the Director of Lands, the same are of no value.
Thus, the allegation that the signature approval for the survey plan was nowhere to be found is an important jurisdictional fact that must be ventilated
before the trial court. In Republic vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, this Court stated that "void ab initio land titles issued cannot ripen into private
ownership." Thus, as OCT No. 17 is void and Segundina traces her rights to OCT No. 17, her claim would have no basis as a spring cannot rise higher
than its source.
We also reject the private respondents submission that they should not be faulted for the failure of the Director of the Bureau of Lands to act on and
resolve the recommendation of its Regional Director. The private respondents were mandated to comply with the requirements of P.D. No. 1529 with
fealty before they filed their application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title in the court a quo.
Parenthetically, the evidence of the petitioner shows that the private respondents failed to append a survey plan duly approved by the Director of the
Bureau of Lands to their application.44
The records show that on October 3, 1977, or after the CFI had rendered judgment in LRC Case No. N-531, the Regional Director of the Bureau of
Lands directed the District Land Officer to report if the applicants in LRC Case No. N-531 had already furnished a copy to his office and, if so, to explain
why the same had not been forwarded to the Regional Office.45 In fine, as of October 3, 1977, the copy of the application of the private respondents in
LRC No. N-531 had not been forwarded to the Regional Office of the Bureau of Lands. Indeed, it appears, based on the evidence of the parties, that the
trial court even ignored the Report of the Land Registration Commission dated July 15, 1975 in LRC Case No. N-531 requiring the Directors of the
Bureau of Lands and Forestry to submit a status report of Lot No. 2821 before setting the case for hearing:
WHEREFORE, this matter is brought to the attention of this Honorable Court for its information and guidance in the disposition of the instant land
registration case. Further, to avoid duplication in the issuance of titles covering the same parcel of land and the issuance of titles for lands within the
forest zone which have not been released and classified as alienable, it is respectfully recommended that the Director of Lands and the Director of
Forestry, respectively, be required to submit a report on the status of the land applied for, before the hearing of the case, to determine whether said land
or any portion thereof is comprised in any patent or forest zone.46
In recapitulation, then, the CFI committed a reversible error in dismissing the petitioners complaint and in not rendering judgment in favor of the
petitioner. In turn, the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the decision of the CFI.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the Decision of the Court of First Instance in Civil Case No. 7514 is
SET ASIDE AND REVERSED. The Decision of the Court of First Instance appealed from is also SET ASIDE AND REVERSED. The Court hereby
nullifies Original Certificate of Title No. 6662 under the names of the private respondents and orders the reversion of the property covered by the said
title to the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., (Chairman), on leave.

FIRST DIVISION
CITIBANK, N.A.,
Petitioner,

G.R. No. 166878

Present:
PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CORONA,
AZCUNA, and
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.

- versus -

Promulgated:
December 18, 2007
RUFINO C. JIMENEZ, SR.,
Respondent.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
DECISION
PUNO, C.J.:

Before us is a petition for review of the decision dated September 14, 2004[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 58840 affirming with modification that of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina City, Branch 273, dated December 29, 1997 [2] in Civil Case No. 95-130-MK.[3] The RTC-Marikina City ordered petitioner to
pay respondent $10,921.85 or its peso equivalent, representing the value of respondents Foreign Currency Time Deposit and P20,000.00 as attorneys fees. The Court of
Appeals deleted the award for attorneys fees.

The antecedent facts are:

In 1991, spouses Rufino C. Jimenez, Sr. and Basilia B. Templa opened a Foreign Currency Time Deposit with petitioner in the amount of $10,000.00 for 360
days with a roll-over provision[4] and interest at 5.25% per annum. The corresponding certificate of time deposit was issued to Jimenez, Rufino C. and/or Jimenez,
Basilia T., with address at600 Huron Avenue, San Francisco, California.

In 1993, respondent opened an account with Citibank F.S.B., San Francisco, California (Citibank San Francisco). Respondent requested the manager, Mr. Robert S.
Ostrovsky, to cause the transfer of the proceeds of the time deposit in Manila, upon its maturity, to his account in San Francisco. A letter requesting the transfer,
dated March 24, 1993,[5] was sent by Mr. Ostrovsky to petitioner by mail. Respondent alleged that the letter was likewise faxed to petitioner on April 27, 1993.

In a letter-reply dated May 5, 1993, petitioner informed Mr. Ostrovsky that it cannot comply with the request. Basilia Templa preterminated the time deposit
two days previously or on May 3, 1993, and had the proceeds transferred to her newly-opened dollar savings account with petitioner.

On April 3, 1995, respondent sued petitioner and Basilia Templa for damages before the RTC-Marikina City.[6] Respondent alleged that he and Basilia
Templa divorced in January 1993; that the transfer of the subject Foreign Currency Time Deposit by his former wife to her personal account with petitioner was
fraudulent and malicious since Basilias share was already given to her prior to the divorce; and that petitioner is jointly and severally liable with Basilia for such
fraudulent and malicious transfer considering petitioners prior receipt of respondents request for transfer of the same Foreign Currency Time Deposit, by facsimile
transmission on April 27, 1993, coursed through Citibank San Francisco.

Petitioner denied receiving the request for transfer by facsimile transmission. On the contrary, petitioner alleged receipt of the request only on May 4,
1993 by mail. By then, Basilia Templa had already preterminated the time deposit. Petitioner claimed that it was justified in allowing the pretermination considering the
and/or nature of the account which presupposes the authority of either of the joint depositors to deposit or withdraw from the account without the knowledge, consent or
signature of the other.

The case against Basilia Templa was archived for failure of the trial court to acquire jurisdiction over her person. Trial ensued against petitioner. During trial,
respondent was represented by his son and attorney-in-fact, Joselito E. Jimenez.

On December 29, 1997, decision was rendered in favor of the respondent. The trial court gave credence to respondents claim that the letter-request for
transfer dated March 24, 1993 was sent and received by petitioner by facsimile transmission on April 27, 1993. Petitioners reason for not acting on the letter-request, as
disclosed to Joselito E. Jimenez in a letter dated February 2, 1995[7] in response to the formal inquiry posed by his legal counsel regarding the subject pretermination,
was not considered enough to exculpate petitioner from liability. Allegedly, petitioner does not act on faxed transmissions from customers. However, the trial court
reasoned that petitioner could have verified the genuineness of the facsimile and deferred action on Basilia Templas request for pretermination pending such
verification. Petitioner was thus adjudged negligent in handling respondents account and ordered to pay the value of the Foreign Currency Time Deposit, with interests,
as well as P20,000.00 for attorneys fees.[8]

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals. On September 14, 2004, the Court of Appeals modified the decision of the trial court. [9] The award for attorneys
fees was deleted on the ground that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate. Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied. [10] Hence, this petition for
review.
Petitioner contends that
I.
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT RESPONDENT OVERCAME THE BURDEN OF PROOF TO SHOW
THAT CITIBANK WAS NEGLIGENT IN ALLOWING THE PRETERMINATION OF THE SUBJECT AND/OR ACCOUNT CONSIDERING
THAT:
A.

CONTRARY TO THE JURISPRUDENTIAL REQUIREMENT LAID DOWN BY THIS HONORABLE COURT, THE
COURT OF APPEALS DID NOT CITE ANY SPECIFIC EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT ITS CONCLUSION THAT CITIBANK
HAD, IN ANY FORM WHATSOEVER, PRIOR NOTICE OF AN EARLIER REQUEST TO TRANSFER THE FUNDS FROM
THE SUBJECT AND/OR ACCOUNT TO A NEWLY OPENED CHECKING ACCOUNT IN SAN FRANCISCO.

B.

THE COURT OF APPEALS FINDING OF NEGLIGENCE IS MISTAKENLY PREMISED ON FACTS ALLEGED BUT
NOT ESTABLISHED BY THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD, I.E., THAT THE LETTER-REQUEST WAS MADE ON
INSTRUCTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT, THAT THE SAME LETTER-REQUEST WAS SENT BY FAX TO CITIBANK ON
27 APRIL 1993, AND THAT THE SAME LETTER-REQUEST WAS RECEIVED BY CITIBANK PRIOR TO
THE QUESTIONED PRETERMINATION.
1.

NO EVIDENCE, TESTIMONIAL, DOCUMENTARY OR OTHERWISE, WAS OFFERED TO ESTABLISH


THAT THE LETTER-REQUEST WAS MADE ON INSTRUCTIONS OF RESPONDENT.

2. NO EVIDENCE, TESTIMONIAL, DOCUMENTARY OR OTHERWISE, WAS OFFERED TO ESTABLISH THAT THE


LETTER-REQUEST WAS SENT BY FAX TO, AND RECEIVED BY, CITIBANK ON 27 APRIL 1993.
C.

CONTRARY TO THE SETTLED JURISPRUDENTIAL RULINGS LAID DOWN BY THIS HONORABLE COURT, THE
COURT OF APPEALS ERRONEOUSLY RELIED, AND THEREBY SANCTIONED THE TRIAL COURTS ERRONEOUS
RELIANCE ON HEARSAY AND INADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE A HANDWRITTEN NOTATION INTERCALATED IN THE
PRINTED LETTER-REQUEST WHICH WAS NOT IDENTIFIED, AUTHENTICATED OR EVEN TESTIFIED ON BY ANY
WITNESS.
II.

THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED, IF NOT ACTED IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION, WHEN IT SANCTIONED THE
TRIAL COURTS DEPARTURE FROM SETTLED RULES OF PROCEDURE IN ALLOWING, ADMITTING INTO EVIDENCE AND
RELYING ON CLEARLY HEARSAY, INCOMPETENT AND UNRELIABLE EVIDENCETHE TESTIMONY BY PROXY OF
RESPONDENTS ATTORNEY-IN-FACT AND SOLE WITNESS AND UNIDENTIFIED AND UNAUTHENTICATED LETTER-REQUEST.
SUCH ALLOWANCE, ADMISSION INTO EVIDENCE AND RELIANCE BY THE TRIAL COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS
EFFECTIVELY RENDERED NUGATORY AND BREACHED CITIBANKS RIGHTS OF EFFECTIVE CROSS-EXAMINATION AND DUE
PROCESS.

III.
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FAILING TO CONSIDER THAT THE TRIAL COURT ERRONEOUSLY SHIFTED THE
BURDEN OF PROOF TO CITIBANK WHICH BURDEN, AS HELD BY THIS HONORABLE COURT, NECESSARILY LAY WITH
RESPONDENT AS PLAINTIFF THEREIN.
IV.
THE WELL-SETTLED JURISPRUDENTIAL RULE IS THAT, IN THE ABSENCE OF ADMISSIBLE, COMPETENT AND CREDIBLE
EVIDENCE, THE BURDEN OF GOING FORWARD WITH EVIDENCE DOES NOT SHIFT TO THE DEFENDANT AND, IN SUCH A
CASE, THE DEFENDANT IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PROVE HIS EXCEPTION OR DEFENSE. CONTRARY TO SAID PRINCIPLE
OF EVIDENCE, THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING THE ABSENCE OF ANY
ADMISSIBLE, COMPETENT AND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE TO PROVE TRANSMISSION OF THE LETTER-REQUEST BY FACSIMILE,
THE ONUS OF PROVING THAT IT DID NOT RECEIVE THE LETTER-REQUEST BY FAX LAY ON CITIBANK.

V.
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN RULING THAT CITIBANK WAS NEGLIGENT IN PRETERMINATING THE SUBJECT
AND/OR ACCOUNT, CONSIDERING THAT:
A.

IT IS UNDISPUTED THAT CITIBANK RECEIVED THE LETTER-REQUEST ONLY BY MAIL AND ONLY AFTER THE
PRETERMINATION OF THE SUBJECT AND/OR ACCOUNT.

B.

GIVEN THE AND/OR NATURE OF THE SUBJECT ACCOUNT, CITIBANK WAS UNDER A LEGAL AND
CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION TO RELEASE THE FUNDS UPON DEMAND OF BASILIA T. JIMENEZ, ONE OF THE
CO-ACCOUNT HOLDERS, AND WOULD HAVE BEEN LIABLE FOR BREACH THEREOF HAD IT NOT DONE SO.
VI.

ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT NEGLIGENCE MAY BE ATTRIBUTED TO CITIBANK, THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED
IN NOT MITIGATING DAMAGES IN THIS INSTANCE CONSIDERING THAT RESPONDENT HIMSELF WAS UNDENIABLY GUILTY

OF NEGLIGENCE THAT CONTRIBUTED TO, OR EVEN PROXIMATELY CAUSED, THE DAMAGES HE HAD ALLEGEDLY
INCURRED.

In sum, the issue involved is whether petitioner bank was guilty of negligence in allowing the pretermination of the Foreign Currency Time Deposit by Basilia Templa
and should be held liable for damages to respondent. Resolution of the issue, in turn, hinges on whether petitioner actually received respondents request for transfer by
facsimile transmissionbefore the request for pretermination by Basilia.

Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the respondent. They concluded that petitioner received respondents letter-request for transfer prior to the
request for pretermination by Basilia Templa, hence, was negligent in allowing the pretermination without first verifying the genuineness of the request.

We affirm.

Basic is the rule that factual findings of the trial court, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are binding and conclusive upon this Court.[11] As elucidated in Sta.
Ana, Jr. v. Hernandez,[12] viz.:
The credibility of witnesses and the weighing of conflicting evidence are matters within the exclusive authority of the Court of
Appeals x x x. Both the Judiciary Act [now The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980] x x x and the Rules of Court x x x only allow a review of
decisions of the Court of Appeals on questions of law; and numerous decisions of this Court have invariably and repeatedly held that findings of
fact by the Court of Appeals are conclusive and not reviewable by the Supreme Court x x x x Barring, therefore, a showing that the findings
complained of are totally devoid of support in the record, and that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion, such
findings must stand, for this Court is not expected or required to examine and contrast the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the
parties. As pointed out by former Chief Justice Moran in his Comments on the Rules of Court x x x, the law creating the Court of Appeals was
intended mainly to take away from the Supreme Court the work of examining the evidence, and confine its task for the determination of questions
which do not call for the reading and study of transcripts containing the testimony of witnesses.[13]

An issue is factual when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of alleged facts, or when the query 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. [14] On the other hand, an issue is one of law when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts.
[15]

The issues of whether petitioner received respondents request for transfer by facsimile transmission or not and whether it was negligent in allowing the

pretermination by Basilia Templa notwithstanding such receipt, are factual.

We find evidentiary support for the factual conclusion of the lower courts. In a letter dated February 2, 1995 addressed to Joselito E. Jimenez, marked as
Exhibit F,[16]petitioner impliedly admitted having received respondents letter-request for transfer by facsimile transmission before the pretermination by Basilia
Templa, viz:
x x x we regret our inability to effect the request of Mr. Jimenez through Mr. Robert S. Ostrovsky of Citibank San Francisco since we
received the original letter on May 4, 1993, a day after Mrs. Basilia T. Jimenez preterminated the account. For your information, we do not act
on faxed instructions from customers as we cannot verify faxed signatures. This control measure is in place to prevent unauthorized
transactions and for the protection of bank customers against fraud. (emphases ours)

Petitioner denies the admission now. However, its protestation cannot prevail over the clear import of Exhibit F. Exhibit F was written by petitioners
Assistant Vice President for Citiphone Banking, Ms. Gina Marina P. Ordonez, in response to the formal inquiry regarding the questioned pretermination posed by the
legal counsel of Joselito E. Jimenez before the civil action for damages was filed in court.

Petitioner cannot be excused from negligence in disregarding the faxed transmission. As the trial court correctly observed
x x x the sender was the Branch Manager himself, Mr. Robert S. Ostrovsky, of x x x Citibank San Francisco, and not x x x a
client. x x x Citibank cannot deny having received said fax message considering that it was a bank to bank fax transmission between 2 same
banks. x x x x
x x x x There are now advanced facilities for communication especially in computerized systems of accounts. Ways and means,
like fax transmissions, are available which make it very easy for one bank to communicate with a foreign branch. This notwithstanding,
defendant Citibank did not care to do anything further regarding the fax message.
x x x [I]f indeed it had doubts on the fax message, simple prudence would require defendant Citibank not to entertain and/or to
hold in abeyance any other transaction involving the time deposit in question until the fax message has been verified. To allow Basilia
Templa to preterminate the subject time deposit despite the fax message sent by Citibank San Francisco is indeed sheer negligence which
could have easily been avoided if defendant Citibank exercised due negligence (sic) and circumspection in the pre-termination of
plaintiffs time deposit. (emphases ours)[17]
The Court of Appeals added:
x x x [B]y the nature of is functions, a bank is under obligation to treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care, always
having in mind the fiduciary nature of their relationship. x x x [I]n dealing with its depositors, a bank should exercise its functions not only with
the diligence of a good father of a family but it should do so with the highest degree of care. The banking business is so impressed with public
interest where the trust and confidence of the public in general is of paramount importance such that the appropriate standard of diligence must be
very high, if not the highest, degree of diligence.[18]

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated September 14, 2004 of the Court of Appeals, as well as its Resolution dated January 17,
2005, in CA-G.R. CV No. 58840 affirming with modification that of the Regional Trial Court of Marikina City, Branch 273, in Civil Case No. 95-130-MK,
is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 100901 July 16, 1998


THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
JAILON KULAIS, CARLOS FALCASANTOS @ "Commander Falcasantos," AWALON KAMLON HASSAN @ "Commander Kamlon," MAJID
SAMSON @ "Commander Bungi," JUMATIYA AMLANI DE FALCASANTOS, NORMA SAHIDDAN DE KULAIS, SALVADOR MAMARIL y
MENDOZA, HADJIRUL PLASIN y ALIH, JAINUDDIN HASSAN y AHMAD, IMAM TARUK ALAH y SALIH, JALINA HASSAN DE KAMMING,
FREDDIE MANUEL @ "Ajid" and several JOHN and JANE DOES, accused, JAILON KULAIS, appellant.

PANGANIBAN, J.:
The trial court's erroneous taking of judicial notice of a witness' testimony in another case, also pending before it, does not affect the conviction of the
appellant, whose guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt by other clear, convincing and overwhelming evidence, both testimonial and documentary.
The Court takes this occasion also to remind the bench and the bar that reclusion perpetua is not synonymous with life imprisonment.
The Case
On August 22, 1990, five Informations for kidnapping for ransom (Crim. Case Nos. 10060, 10061, 10062, 10063 and 10064) and three Informations for
kidnapping (Crim Case Nos. 10065, 10066 and 10067), all dated August 14, 1990, were filed 1 before the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City
against Carlos Falcasantos, Jailon Kulais, Jumatiya Amlani, Norma Sahiddan de Kulais, Jalina Hassan de Kamming, 2 Salvador Mamaril, Hadjirul Plasin,
Jaimuddin Hassan, Imam 3 Taruk Alah, Freddie Manuel alias "Ajid," and several John and Jane Does. The Informations for kidnapping for ransom, which
set forth identical allegations save for the names of the victims, read as follows:
That on or about the 12th day of December, 1988, in the City of Zamboanga, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being all private individuals, conspiring and confederating together, mutually aiding
and assisting one another, with threats to kill the person of FELIX ROSARIO [in Criminal Case No. 10060] 4 and for the purpose of
extorting ransom from the said Felix Rosario or his families or employer, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
KIDNAP the person of said Felix Rosario, 5 a male public officer of the City Government of Zamboanga, who was then aboard a
Cimarron vehicle with plate No. SBZ-976 which was being ambushed by the herein accused at the highway of Sitio Tigbao Lisomo,
Zamboanga City, and brought said Felix Rosario 6 to different mountainous places of Zamboanga City and Zamboanga del Sur,
where he was detained, held hostage and deprived of his liberty until February 2, 1989, the day when he was released only after
payment of the ransom was made to herein accused, to the damage and prejudice of said victim; there being present an
aggravating circumstance in that the aforecited offense was committed with the aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford
impunity.
The three Informations for kidnapping, also under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, likewise alleged identical facts and circumstances, except the
names of the victims:
That on or about the 12th day of December, 1988, in the City of Zamboanga and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, being all private individuals, conspiring and confederating together, mutually aiding and assisting one
another, by means of threats and intimidation of person, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously KIDNAP, take and
drag away and detain the person of MONICO SAAVEDRA Y LIMEN [Criminal Case No. 10065] 7 a male public officer of the City
Government of Zamboanga, against his will, there being present an aggravating circumstance in that the aforecited offense was
committed with the aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford impunity.
Of the twelve accused, only nine were apprehended, namely, Jailon Julais, Jumatiya Amlani, Norma Sahiddan de Kulais, Salvador Mamaril Hadjirul
Plasin, Jainuddin Hassan, Imam Taruk Alah, Jalina Hassan and Freddie Manuel. 8
On their arraignment on September 13, 1990, all the accused pleaded not guilty. Joint trial on the merits ensued. On April 8, 1991, Judge Pelagio S.
Mandi rendered the assailed 36-page Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, above premises and discussion taken into consideration, this Court renders its judgment, ordering and finding:
1. FREDDIE MANUEL, alias "AJID" and IMAM TARUK ALAH y SALIH [n]ot [g]uilty of the eight charges of [k]idnapping for [r]ansom
and for [k]idnapping, their guilt not having been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Their immediate release from the City Jail, Zamboanga City is ordered, unless detained for some other offense besides these 8
cases (Crim. Cases Nos. 10060-10067).
2. JAINUDDIN HASSAN y AHMAD, JAILON KULAIS, SALVADOR MAMARIL y MENDOZA and HADJIRUL PLASIN y ALIH [g]uilty
as principals by conspiracy in all these 8 cases for [k]idnapping for [r]ansom and for [k]idnapping (Crim. Cases Nos. 10060-10067).
Their guilt is aggravated in that they committed the 8 offenses with the aid of armed men who insured impunity. Therefore, the
penalties imposed on them shall be at their maximum period.
WHEREFORE, for the five charges of [k]idnapping for [r]ansom, and pursuant to Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code, five life
imprisonments are imposed on Jainuddin Hassan y Ahmad, Jailon Kulais, Salvador Mamaril y Mendoza and Kadjirul Plasin y Alih
(Crim. Cases Nos. 10060-10064).

For kidnapping Mrs. Virginia San Agustin-Gara, a female and public officer and pursuant to Art. 267, Revised Penal Code (par. 4.),
another life imprisonment is imposed on Jainuddin Hassan y Ahmad, Jailon Kulais, Salvador Mamaril y Mendoza and Hadjirul Plasin
y Alih (Crim. Case No. 10066)
For kidnapping Monico Saavedra y Limen, and Calixto Francisco y Gaspar, and their kidnapping not having lasted more than five
days, pursuant to Art. 268, Revised Penal Code, and the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the same four accused Jainuddin Hassan
y Ahmad, Jailon Kulais, Salvador Mamaril y Mendoza and Hadjirul Plasin y Alih are sentenced to serve two (2) jail terms ranging
from ten (10) years of prision mayor as minimum, to eighteen (18) years of reclusion temporal as maximum (Crim. Cases Nos.
10065 and 10067).
3. JAMATIYA AMLANI DE FALCASANTOS [n]ot [g]uilty in the three charges of [k]idnapping and she is acquitted of these charges.
(Crim. Cases Nos. 10065, 10066 and 10067).
But Jumatiya Amlani de Falcasantos is [g]uilty as accomplice in the five charges of [k]idnapping for [r]ansom.
WHEREFORE, Jumatiya Amlani de Falcasantos is sentenced to serve five (5) imprisonments, ranging from TEN (10) YEARS
of prision mayor as minimum to EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS of reclusion temporal as maximum (Crim. Cases Nos. 10060-1 0064).
4. NORMA SAHIDDAN DE KULAIS, 18 years old, and JALIHA HUSSIN (charged as Jalina Hassan de Kamming), 15 years old, [n]ot
[g]uilty in the three charges for [k]idnapping and are, therefore, ACQUITTED of these three charges. (Crim. Cases Nos. 10065,
10066 & 10067).
But Norma Sahiddan de Kulais and Jalina Hussin are found [g]uilty as accomplices in the five charges for [k]idnapping for [r]ansom.
Being miners, they are entitled to the privileged mitigating circumstance of minority which lowers the penalty imposable on them by
one degree.
WHEREFORE, Norma Sahiddan de Kulais and Jalina Hussin are sentenced to serve five imprisonments ranging from SIX (6)
YEARS of prision correccional as minimum to TEN YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY OF prision mayor as maximum (Crim. Cases Nos.
10060-10064).
Due to the removal of the suspension of sentences of youthful offenders "convicted of an offense punishable by death or life" by
Presidential Decree No. 1179 and Presidential Decree No. 1210 (of which [k]idnapping for [r]ansom is such an offense) the
sentences on Norma Sahiddan de Kulais and Jaliha Hussin de Kamming are NOT suspended but must be served by them.
Januddin Hassan, Jailon Kulais, Salvador Mamaril and Hadjirul Plasin are sentenced further to return the following personal effects
taken on December 12, 1988, the day of the kidnapping, or their value in money, their liability being solidary.

To Jessica Calunod:

One (1) Seiko wrist watchP

One Bracelet

P 250.00

P 2,400.00

One Shoulder Bag

P 200.00

Cash

P 200.00

To Armado C. Bacarro:

One (1) wrist watch

P 800.00

One Necklace

P 300.00

One Calculator

P 295.00

Eyeglasses

P 500.00

One Steel Tape

P 250.00

To Edilberto S. Perez:

One (1) Rayban

P 1,000.00

One Wrist WatchP

P 1,800.00

Cash

P 300.00

To Virginia San Agustin-Gara:

One (1)Wrist Watch

P 850.00

The benefit of Art. 29, Revised Penal Code, on preventive suspension, shall be extended to those sentenced.
The cases against Majid Samson, alias "Commander Bungi" Awalon Kamlon a.k.a. "Commander Kamlon" Carlos Falcasantos and
several "John Does" and Jane "Does" are ARCHIVED until their arrest.
Costs against the accused convicted.
SO ORDERED. 9
On May 7, 1991, Jailon Kulais, Jumatiya Amlani de Falcasantos, Norma Sahiddan de Kulais and Jaliha Hussin filed their joint Notice of Appeal. 10 In a
letter dated February 6, 1997, the same appellants, except Jailon Kulais, withdrew their appeal because of their application for "amnesty." In our March
19, 1997 Resolution, we granted their motion. Hence, only the appeal of Kulais remains for the consideration of this Court. 11
The Facts
The Version of the Prosecution
The solicitor general summarized, in this wise, the facts as viewed by the People:
On December 12, 1988, a group of public officials from various government agencies, organized themselves as a monitoring team
to inspect government projects in Zamboanga City. The group was composed of Virginia Gara, as the head of the team; Armando
Bacarro, representing the Commission on Audit; Felix del Rosario, representing the non-government: Edilberto Perez, representing
the City Assessor's Office; Jessica Calunod and Allan Basa of the City Budget Office and Monico Saavedra, the driver from the City
Engineer's Office. (p. 3, TSN, October 22, 1990.)
On that particular day, the group headed to the Lincomo Elementary School to check on two of its classrooms. After inspecting the
same, they proceeded to the Talaga Footbridge. The group was not able to reach the place because on their way, they were
stopped by nine (9) armed men who pointed their guns at them (p. 4, TSN, ibid.).
The group alighted from their Cimarron jeep where they were divested of their personal belongings. They were then ordered to walk
to the mountain by the leader of the armed men who introduced himself as Commander Falcasantos (p. 5, TSN, ibid.).
While the group was walking in the mountain, they encountered government troops which caused their group to be divided. Finally,
they were able to regroup themselves. Commander Kamlon with his men joined the others. (pp. 7-8, TSN, ibid.).
The kidnappers held their captives for fifty-four (54) days in the forest. During their captivity, the victims were able to recognize their
captors who were at all times armed with guns. The wives of the kidnappers performed the basic chores like cooking. (pp. 9-10.
TSN, ibid.)
Commander Falcasantos also ordered their victims to sign the ransom notes which demanded a ransom of P100,000.00 and
P14,000.00 in exchange for twenty (20) sets of uniform. (p. 15, TSN,ibid.)
On February 3, 1989, at around 12:00 o'clock noontime, the victims were informed that they would be released. They started
walking until around 7:00 o'clock in the evening of that day. At around 12:00 o'clock midnight, the victims were released after
Commander Falcasantos and Kamlon received the ransom money. (p. 19, TSN, ibid.) The total amount paid was P122,000.00. The
same was reached after several negotiations between Mayor Vitaliano Agan of Zamboanga City and the representatives of the
kidnappers. (pp. 2, 6, TSN, Nov. 11, 1990)
. . . 12
The prosecution presented fifteen witnesses, including some of the kidnap victims themselves: Jessica Calunod, Armando Bacarro, Edilberto Perez,
Virginia San Agustin-Gara, Calixto Francisco, and Monico Saavedra.
The Version of the Defense
The facts of the case, according to the defense, are as follows:

13

On May 28, 1990, at about 10:00 o'clock in the morning, while weeding their farm in Sinaburan, Zamboanga del Sur, accusedappellant Jumatiya Amlani was picked up by soldiers and brought to a place where one army battalion was stationed. Thereat, her
five (5) co-accused, namely Salvador Mamaril, Hadjirul Plasin, Jainuddin Hassin, Imam Taruk Alah and Freddie Manuel were
already detained. In the afternoon of the same day, appellants spouses Jailon Kulais and Norma Sahiddan were brought to the
battalion station and likewise detained thereat. On May 30, 1990, the eight (8) accused were transported to Metrodiscom,
Zamboanga City. Here on the same date, they were joined by accused-appellant Jaliha Hussin.
At the time Amlani was picked up by the military, she had just escaped from the captivity of Carlos Falcasantos and company who in
1988 kidnapped and brought her to the mountains. Against their will, she stayed with Falcasantos and his two wives for two months,
during which she slept with Falcasantos as aide of the wives and was made to cook food, wash clothes, fetch water and run other
errands for everybody. An armed guard was assigned to watch her, so that, for sometime, she had to bear the ill-treatment of
Falcasantos' other wives one of whom was armed. After about two months, while she was cooking and Falcasantos and his two
wives were bathing in the river, and while her guard was not looking, she took her chance and made a successful dash for freedom.
(TSN, January 29, 1992, pp. 2-15)
Likewise a kidnap victim herself is accused-appellant Jaliha Hussin, who was thirteen years old at the time (she was fifteen years
old when the trial of the instant cases commenced). She was kidnapped by Daing Kamming and brought to the mountains where he
slept with her. She stayed with him for less than a month sleeping on forest ground and otherwise performing housekeeping errands
for Kamming and his men. She made good her escape during an encounter between the group of Kamming and military troops. She
hid in the bushes and came out at Ligui-an where she took a "bachelor" bus in going back to her mother's house at Pudos, Guiligan,
Tungawan, Zamboanga del Sur. One day, at around 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon, while she was harvesting palay at the neighboring
village of Tigbalangao, military men picked her up to Ticbanuang where there was an army battalion detachment. From Ticbawuang,
she was brought to Vitali, then to Metrodiscom, Zamboanga City, where on her arrival, she met all the other accused for the first
time except Freddie Manuel. (Ibid., pp. 16-21)
Another female accused is appellant Norma Sahiddan, a native of Sinaburan, Tungawan, Zamboanga del Sur. At about 3:00 o'clock
in the afternoon of a day in May, while she and her husband were in their farm, soldiers arrested them. The soldiers did not tell them
why they were being arrested, neither were they shown any papers. The two of them were just made to board a six by six truck.
There were no other civilians in the truck. The truck brought the spouses to the army battalion and placed them inside the building
where there were civilians and soldiers. Among the civilians present were her six co-accused Hadjirul Plasin, Salvador Mamaril,
Jaimuddin Hassan, Ima[m] Taruk Alah, Freddie Manuel and Jumatiya Amlani. That night, the eight of them were brought to Tictapul,
Zamboanga City; then to Vitali; and, finally, to the Metrodiscom, Zamboanga City where they stayed for six days and six nights. On
the seventh day, the accused were brought to the City Jail, Zamboanga City. (TSN, January 30, 1991, pp. 6-11)
The husband of Norma Sahiddan is Jailon Kulais who, as heretofore narrated, was arrested with his wife the day the soldiers came
to their farm on May 28, 1990. He has shared with his wife the ordeals that followed in the wake of their arrest and in the duration of
their confinement up to the present. (TSN, January 22, 1991 pp. 2-4).
The Trial Court's Ruling
The trial court found Appellant Kulais guilty of five counts of kidnapping for ransom and one count of kidnapping a woman and public officer, for which
offenses it imposed upon him six terms of "life imprisonment." It also found him guilty of two counts of slight illegal detention for the kidnapping of Monico
Saavedra and Calixto Francisco. The trial court ratiocinated as follows:
Principally, the issue here is one of credibility both of the witnesses and their version of what had happened on December 12,
1988, to February 3, 1989. On this pivotal issue, the Court gives credence to [p]rosecution witnesses and their testimonies.
Prosecution evidence is positive, clear and convincing. No taint of evil or dishonest motive was imputed or imputable to
[p]rosecution witnesses. To this Court, who saw all the witnesses testify, [p]rosecution witnesses testified only because they were
impelled by [a] sense of justice, of duty and of truth.
Contrarily, [d]efense evidence is weak, uncorroborated and consisted only of alibis. The individual testimonies of the nine accused
dwel[t] principally on what happened to each of them on May 27, 28 and 29, 1990. None of the accused explained where he or she
was on and from December 12, 1988, to February 3, 1989, when [p]rosecution evidence show[ed] positively seven of the nine
accused were keeping the five or six hostages named by [p]rosecution evidence.
The seven accused positively identified to have been present during the course of the captivity of the five kidnap-victimscomplainants are: (1) Jumatiya Amlani; (2) Jaliha Hussin; (3) Norma Sahiddan; (4) Jailon Kulais; (5) Hadjirul Plasin; (6) Salvador
Mamaril and (7) Jainuddin Hassan.
The two accused not positively identified are: Freddie Manuel alias "Ajid", and Imam Taruk Alah. These two must, therefore, be
declared acquitted based on reasonable doubt.
The next important issue to be examined is: Are these seven accused guilty as conspirators as charged in the eight Informations; or
only as accomplices? Prosecution evidence shows that the kidnapping group to which the seven accused belonged had formed
themselves into an armed band for the purpose of kidnapping for ransom. This armed band had cut themselves off from established
communities, lived in the mountains and forests, moved from place to place in order to hide their hostages. The wives of these
armed band moved along with their husbands, attending to their needs, giving them material and moral support. These wives also
attended to the needs of the kidnap victims, sleeping with them or comforting them.
xxx xxx xxx
II The guilt of Jainuddin Hassan, Jailon Kulais, Salvador Mamaril and Hadjirul Plasin. The Court holds these four men guilty as
conspirators in the 8 cases of kidnapping. Unlike the three women-accused, these male accused were armed. They actively
participated in keeping their hostages by fighting off the military and CAFGUS, in transferring their hostages from place to place, and
in guarding the kidnap hostages. Salvador Mamaril and Jailon Kulais were positively identified as among the nine armed men who
had kidnapped the eight kidnap victims on December 12, 1988.
The higher degree of participation found by the Court of the four accused is supported by the rulings of our Supreme Court quoted
below.
(1) The time-honored jurisprudence is that direct proof is not essential to prove conspiracy. It may be shown by a number of infinite
acts, conditions and circumstances which may vary according to the purposes to be accomplished and from which may logically be
inferred that there was a common design, understanding or agreement among the conspirators to commit the offense charged.
(People vs. Cabrera, 43 Phil 64; People vs. Carbonel, 48 Phil. 868.)
(2) The crime must, therefore, in view of the solidarity of the act and intent which existed between the sixteen accused, be regarded
as the act of the band or party created by them, and they are all equally responsible for the murder in question. (U.S. vs.
Bundal, et. al. 3 Phil 89, 98.)
(3) When two or more persons unite to accomplish a criminal object, whether through the physical volition of one, or all, proceeding
severally or collectively, each individual whose evil will actively contribute to the wrongdoing is in law responsible for the whole, the
same as though performed by himself alone. (People vs. Peralta, et. al. 25 SCRA 759, 772 (1968).) 14

The Assigned Errors


The trial court is faulted with the following errors, viz:
I
The trial court erred in taking judicial notice of a material testimony given in another case by Lt. Melquiades Feliciano, who allegedly
was the team leader of the government troops which allegedly captured the accused-appellants in an encounter; thereby, depriving
the accused-appellants their right to cross-examine him.
II
On the assumption that Lt. Feliciano's testimony could be validly taken judicial notice of, the trial court, nevertheless, erred in not
disregarding the same for being highly improbable and contradictory.
III
The trial court erred in finding that accused-appellants Jumatiya Amlani, Jaliha Hussin and Norma Sahiddan provided Carlos
Falcasantos, et. al., with material and moral comfort, hence, are guilty as accomplices in all the kidnapping for ransom cases.
IV
The trial court erred in denying to accused-appellant Jaliha Hussin and Norma Sahiddan the benefits of suspension of sentence
given to youth offenders considering that they were minors at the time of the commission of the offense. 15
As earlier noted, Jumatiya Amlani, Jaliha Hussin and Norma Sahiddan had withdrawn their appeal, and as such, the third and fourth assigned errors,
which pertain to them only, will no longer be dealt with. Only the following issues pertaining to Appellant Jailon Kulais will be discussed: (1) judicial notice
of other pending cases, (2) sufficiency of the prosecution evidence, and (3) denial as a defense. In addition, the Court will pass upon the propriety of the
penalty imposed by the trial court.
The Court's Ruling
The appeal is bereft of merit.
First Issue:
Judicial Notice and Denial of Due Process
Appellant Kulais argues that he was denied due process when the trial court took judicial notice of the testimony given in another case by one Lt.
Melquiades Feliciano, who was the team leader of the government troops that captured him and his purported cohorts. 16 Because he was allegedly
deprived of his right to cross-examine a material witness in the person of Lieutenant Feliciano, he contends that the latter's testimony should not be used
against him. 17
True, as a general rule, courts should not take judicial notice of the evidence presented in other proceedings, even if these have been tried or are
pending in the same court, or have been heard and are actually pending before the same judge. 18 This is especially true in criminal cases, where the
accused has the constitutional right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him.
Having said that, we note, however, that even if the court a quo did take judicial notice of the testimony of Lieutenant Feliciano, it did not use such
testimony in deciding the cases against the appellant. Hence, Appellant Kulais was not denied due process. His conviction was based mainly on the
positive identification made by some of the kidnap victims, namely, Jessica Calunod, Armando Bacarro and Edilberto Perez. These witnesses were
subjected to meticulous cross-examinations conducted by appellant's counsel. At best, then, the trial court's mention of Lieutenant Feliciano's testimony
is a decisional surplusage which neither affected the outcome of the case nor substantially prejudiced Appellant Kulais.
Second Issue:
Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence
Appellant was positively identified by Calunod, as shown by the latter's testimony:
CP CAJAYON D MS:
Q And how long were you in the custody of these persons?
A We stayed with them for fifty-four days.
Q And during those days did you come to know any of the persons who were with the group?
A We came to know almost all of them considering we stayed there for fifty-four days.
Q And can you please name to us some of them or how you know them?
A For example, aside from Commander Falcasantos and Commander Kamlon we came to know first our foster
parents, those who were assigned to give us some food.
Q You mean to say that the captors assigned you some men who will take care of you?
A Yes.
Q And to whom were you assigned?
A To Ila Abdurasa.
Q And other than your foster [parents] or the parents whom you are assigned to, who else did you come to
know?

A Pagal and his wife; Tangkong and his wife Nana; the two (2) wives of Commander Falcasantos Mating and
Janira another brother in-law of Commander Kamlon, Usman, the wife of Kamlon, Tira.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Now, you said that you were with these men for fifty-four days and you really came to know them. Will you
still be able to recognize these persons if you will see the[m] again?
A Yes, ma'am.
Q Now will you look around this Honorable Court and see if any of those you mentioned are here?
A Yes, they are here.
Q Some of them are here?
A Some of them are here.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Where is Tangkong? What is he wearing?
A White t-shirt with orange collar. (witness pointing.) He was one of those nine armed men who took us from the
highway.
RTC INTERPRETER:
Witness pointed to a man sitting in court and when asked of his name, he gave his name as JAILON KULAIS.
CP CAJAYON D MS:
Q Aside from being with the armed men who stopped the vehicle and made you alight, what else was he doing
while you were in their captivity?
A He was the foster parent of Armando Bacarro and the husband of Nana.
COURT:
Q Who?
A Tangkong.
xxx xxx xxx 19
Likewise clear and straightforward was Bacarro's testimony pointing to appellant as one of the culprits:
FISCAL CAJAYON:
xxx xxx xxx
Q And what happened then?
A Some of the armed men assigned who will be the host or who will be the one [to] g[i]ve food to us.
Q [To] whom were you assigned?
A I was assigned to a certain Tangkong and [his] wife Nana.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Now, you said you were assigned to Tangkong and his wife. [D]o you remember how he looks like?
A Yes.
Q Now, will you please look around this Court and tell us if that said Tangkong and his wife are here?
A Yes, ma'am.
Q Could you please point this Tangkong to us?
A Witness pointed to a person in Court. [W]hen asked his name he identified [himself] as Jailon Kulais.
Q Why did you say his name is Tangkong? Where did you get that name?
A Well, that is the name [by which he is] usually called in the camp.
xxx xxx xxx
ATTY. FABIAN (counsel for accused Kulais)
Q When did you first meet Tangkong?

A That was on December 11, because I remember he was the one who took us.
Q When you were questioned by the fiscal a while ago, you stated that Mr. Mamaril was one of those who
stopped the bus and took you to the hill and you did not mention Tangkong?
A I did not mention but I can remember his face.
xxx xxx xxx
Q And because Tangkong was always with you as your host even if he did not tell you that he [was] one of
those who stopped you, you would not recognize him?
A No, I can recognize him because he was the one who took my shoes.
COURT:
Q Who?
A Tangkong, your Honor.
xxx xxx xxx 20
Also straightforward was Ernesto Perez' candid narration:
FISCAL CAJAYON:
xxx xxx xxx
Q Who else?
A The last man.
Q Did you come to know his name?
A Only his nickname, Tangkong. (Witness pointed to a man in Court who identified himself as Jailon Kulais.)
Q And what was Tangkong doing in the mountain?
A The same, guarding us.
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY ATTY. SAHAK.
Q Engr. Perez, you stated that you were ambushed by nine armed men on your way from [the] Licomo to [the]
Talaga Foot Bridge. [W]hat do you mean by ambushed?
A I mean that they blocked our way and stopped.
Q They did not fire any shots?
A But they were pointing their guns at us.
Q And among the 9 armed men who held you on your way to [the] Talaga Footbridge, you stated [that] one of
them [was] Commander Falcasantos?
A Yes.
Q Could you also recognize anyone of the accused in that group?
A Yes.
Q Will you please identify?
A That one, Tangkong. (The witness pointed to a man sitting in court who identified himself as Jailon Kulais.)
xxx xxx xxx
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY ATTY. FABIAN.
Q You said Jailon Kulais was among those who guarded the camp?
FISCAL CAJAYON:
Your Honor, please, he does not know the name of Julais, he used the word Tangkong.
ATTY. FABIAN
Q You said Tangkong guarded you[. W]hat do you mean?
A He guarded us like prisoners[. A]fter guarding us they have their time two hours another will be on duty
guarding us.

Q Where did you meet Tangkong?


A He was one of the armed men who kidnapped us.
xxx xxx xxx 21
It is evident from the foregoing testimonies of Calunod, Bacarro and Perez that kidnapping or detention did take place: the five victims were held, against
their will, for fifty-three days from December 12, 1988 to February 2, 1989. It is also evident that Appellant Kulais was a member of the group of armed
men who staged the kidnapping, and that he was one of those who guarded the victims during the entire period of their captivity. His participation gives
credence to the conclusion of the trial court that he was a conspirator.
Kidnapping
for Ransom
That the kidnapping of the five was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom is also apparent from the testimony of Calunod, who was quite
emphatic in identifying the accused and narrating the circumstances surrounding the writing of the ransom letters.
CP CAJAYON D MS:
Q Now, you were in their captivity for 54 days and you said there were these meetings for possible negotiation
with the City Government. What do you mean by this? What were you supposed to negotiate?
A Because they told us that they will be releasing us only after the terms. 22
Q And what were the terms? Did you come to know the terms?
A I came to know the terms because I was the one ordered by Commander Falcasantos to write the letter, the
ransom letter.
Q At this point of time, you remember how many letters were you asked to write for your ransom?
A I could not remember as to how many, but I can identify them.
Q Why will you able to identify the same?
A Because I was the one who wrote it.
Q And you are familiar, of course, with your penmanship?
A Yes.
Q Now we have here some letters which were turned over to us by the Honorable City Mayor Vitaliano Agan.
1,2,3,4,5 there are five letters all handwritten.
COURT:
Original?
CP CAJAYON D MS:
Original, your Honor.
Q And we would like you to go over these and say, tell us if any of these were the ones you were asked to write.
A (Witness going over [letters])
This one 2 pages. This one 2 pages. No more.
Q Aside from the fact that you identified your penmanship in these letters, what else will make you remember
that these are really the ones you wrote while there?
A The signature is there.
Q There is a printed name here[,] Jessica Calunod.
A And over it is a signature.
Q That is your signature?
A Yes, ma'am.
Q How about in the other letter, did you sign it also?
A Yes, there is the other signature.
Q There are names other names here Eddie Perez, Allan Basa, Armando Bacarro, Felix Rosario, Jojie
Ortuoste and there are signatures above the same. Did you come up to know who signed this one?
A Those whose signatures there were signed by the persons. [sic].

Q And we have here at the bottom, Commander Kamlon Hassan, and there is the signature above the same.
Did you come to know who signed it?
A [It was] Commander Kamlon Hassan who signed that.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Jessica, I am going over this letter . . . Could you please read to us the portion here which says the
terms? . . .
A (Witness reading) "Mao ilang gusto nga andamun na ninyo ang kantidad nga P100,000 ug P14,000 baylo sa
20 sets nga uniforms sa Biyernes (Pebrero 3, 1989). 23
xxx xxx xxx
INTERPRETER (Translation):
This is what they like you to prepare[:] the amount of P100,000.00 and P14,000.00 in exchange [for] 20 sets of
uniform on Friday, February 3, 1989.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Now you also earlier identified this other letter and this is dated January 21, 1988. 24Now, could you please
explain to us why it is dated January 21, 1988 and the other one Enero 31, 1989 or January 31, 1989?
A I did not realize that I placed 1989, 1988, but it was 1989.
Q January 21, 1989?
A Yes.
xxx xxx xxx
Q Now, in this letter, were the terms also mentioned?
Please go over this.
A (Going over the letter)
Yes, ma'am.
Q Could you please read it aloud to us?
A (Witness reading)
Gusto nila and P100,000.00 ng kapinan nu ug 20 sets nga completong uniformer (7 colors marine type wala
nay labot ang sapatos), tunga medium ug tunga large size. 25
xxx xxx xxx
INTERPRETER:
They like the P100,000.00 and an addition of 20 sets of complete uniform (7 colors, marine-type not including
the shoes), one half medium, one half large.
xxx xxx xxx
Q After having written these letters, did you come to know after [they were] signed by your companions and all
of you, do you know if these letters were sent? If you know only.
A I would like to make it clear. The first letter was ordered to me by Falcasantos to inform the City Mayor that
initial as P500,000.00, and when we were already I was asked again to write, we were ordered to affix our
signature to serve as proof that all of us are alive. 26 [sic]
Calunod's testimony was substantially corroborated by both Armando Bacarro 27 and Edilberto Perez. 28 The receipt of the ransom letters, the efforts
made to raise and deliver the ransom, and the release of the hostages upon payment of the money were testified to by Zamboanga City Mayor Vitaliano
Agan 29 and Teddy Mejia. 30
The elements of kidnapping for ransom, as embodied in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, 31 having been sufficiently proven, and the appellant, a
private individual, having been clearly identified by the kidnap victims, this Court thus affirms the trial court's finding of appellant's guilt on five counts of
kidnapping for ransom.
Kidnapping of
Public Officers
Victims Virginia San Agustin-Gara, Monico Saavedra and Calixto Francisco were members of the government monitoring team abducted by appellant's
group. The three testified to the fact of kidnapping; however, they were not able to identify the appellant. Even so, appellant's identity as one of the
kidnappers was sufficiently established by Calunod, Bacarro and Perez, who were with Gara, Saavedra and Francisco when the abduction occurred.
That Gara, Saavedra and Francisco were detained for only three hours 32 does nor matter. In People vs. Domasian,33 the victim was similarly held for
three hours, and was released even before his parents received the ransom note. The accused therein argued that they could not be held guilty of
kidnapping as no enclosure was involved, and that only grave coercion was committed, if at all. 34 Convicting appellants of kidnapping or serious illegal
detention under Art. 267 (4) of the Revised Penal Code, the Court found that the victim, an eight-year-old boy, was deprived of his liberty when he was
restrained from going home. The Court justified the conviction by holding that the offense consisted not only in placing a person in an enclosure, but also

in detaining or depriving him, in any manner, of his liberty. 35 Likewise, in People vs. Santos, 36 the Court held that since the appellant was charged and
convicted under Article 267, paragraph 4, it was not the duration of the deprivation of liberty which was important, but the fact that the victim, a minor,
was locked up.
Thus, in the present case, the detention of Gara, Saavedra and Francisco for only a few hours is immaterial. The clear fact is that the victims were public
officers 37 Gara was a fiscal analyst for the City of Zamboanga, Saavedra worked at the City Engineer's Office, and Francisco was a barangay
councilman at the time the kidnapping occurred. Appellant Kulais should be punished, therefore, under Article 267, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal
Code, and not Art, 268, as the trial court held.
The present case is different from People vs. Astorga, 38 which held that the crime committed was not kidnapping under Article 267, paragraph 4, but
only grave coercion. The appellant in that case had tricked his seven-year-old victim into going with him to a place he alone knew. His plans, however,
were foiled when a group of people became suspicious and rescued the girl from him. The Court noted that the victim's testimony and the other pieces
of evidence did not indicate that the appellant wanted to detain her, or that he actually detained her.
In the present case, the evidence presented by the prosecution indubitably established that the victims were detained, albeit for a few hours. There is
proof beyond reasonable doubt that kidnapping took place, and that appellant was a member of the armed group which abducted the victims.
Third Issue:
Denial and Alibi
The appellant's bare denial is a weak defense that becomes even weaker in the face of the prosecution witnesses' positive identification of him.
Jurisprudence gives greater weight to the positive narration of prosecution witnesses than to the negative testimonies of the defense. 39 Between positive
and categorical testimony which has a ring of truth to it on the one hand, and a bare denial on the other, the former generally prevails. 40 Jessica
Calunod, Armando Bacarro and Edilberto Perez testified in a clear, straightforward and frank manner; and their testimonies were compatible on material
points. Moreover, no ill motive was attributed to the kidnap victims and none was found by this Court.
We agree with the trial court's observation that the appellant did not meet the charges against him head on. His testimony dwelt on what happened to
him on the day he was arrested and on subsequent days thereafter. Appellant did not explain where he was during the questioned dates (December 12,
1988 to February 3, 1989); neither did he rebut Calunod, Bacarro and Perez, when they identified him as one of their kidnappers.
Reclusion Perpetua, Not Life Imprisonment
The trial court erred when it sentenced the appellant to six terms of life imprisonment. The penalty for kidnapping with ransom, under the Revised Penal
Code, is reclusion perpetua to death. Since the crimes happened in 1988, when the capital penalty was proscribed by the Constitution, the maximum
penalty that could have been imposed was reclusion perpetua. Life imprisonment is not synonymous with reclusion perpetua. Unlike life
imprisonment,reclusion perpetua carries with it accessory penalties provided in the Revised Penal Code and has a definite extent or duration. Life
imprisonment is invariably imposed for serious offenses penalized by special laws, whilereclusion perpetua is prescribed in accordance with the Revised
Penal Code. 41
WHEREFORE, the conviction of Appellant Jailon Kulais as principal in five counts of kidnapping for ransom and in three counts of kidnapping is
AFFIRMED, but the penalty imposed is hereby MODIFIED as follows: Appellant is sentenced to five terms of reclusion perpetua, one for each of his five
convictions for kidnapping for ransom; and to three terms of reclusion perpetua, one each for the kidnapping of Public Officers Virginia Gara, Monico
Saavedra and Calixto Francisco. Like the other accused who withdrew their appeals, he is REQUIRED to return the personal effects, or their monetary
value, taken from the kidnap victims. Additionally, he is ORDERED to pay the amount of P122,000 representing the ransom money paid to the
kidnappers. Costs against appellant.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No.172551

January 15, 2014

LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
YATCO AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
We resolve the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP s) Rule 45 petition for review on certiorari 1 challenging the decision2 dated January 26, 2006 and the
resolution3 dated May 3, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 87530. This CA decision affirmed the decision 4 dated July 30, 2004 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 30, San Pablo City, acting as a Special Agrarian Court (RTC-SAC), in Agrarian Case No. SP-064(02).
The Factual Antecedents
Respondent Yatco Agricultural Enterprises (Yatco) was the registered owner of a 27.5730-hectare parcel of agricultural land (property) in Barangay
Mabato, Calamba, Laguna, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-49465.5 On April 30, 1999,6 the government placed the property under the
coverage of its Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) No. 405,7 the LBP valued the property at P1,126,132.89.8 Yatco did not find this valuation acceptable and thus
elevated the matter to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) of San Pablo City, which then
conducted summary administrative proceedings for the determination of just compensation.9

The PARAD computed the value of the property at P16,543,800.00;10 it used the propertys current market value (as shown in the tax declaration11 that
Yatco submitted) and applied the formula "MV x 2." The PARAD noted that the LBP did not present any verified or authentic document to back up its
computation; hence, it brushed aside the LBPs valuation.
The LBP did not move to reconsider the PARADs ruling. Instead, it filed with the RTC-SAC a petition for the judicial determination of just
compensation.12
The RTC-SACs Decision
The RTC-SAC fixed the just compensation for the property at P200.00 per square meter.13 The RTC-SAC arrived at this valuation by adopting the
valuation set by the RTC of Calamba City,
Branch 35 (Branch 35) in Civil Case No. 2326-96-C,14 which, in turn, adopted the valuation that the RTC of Calamba City, Branch 36 (Branch 36) arrived
at in Civil Case No. 2259-95-C15 (collectively, civil cases). The RTC-SAC did not give weight to the LBPs evidence in justifying its valuation, pointing out
that the LBP failed to prove that it complied with the prescribed procedure and likewise failed to consider the valuation factors provided in Section 17 of
the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (CARL).16
The RTC-SAC subsequently denied the LBPs motion for reconsideration. 17 The LBP appealed to the CA.18
The CAs Ruling
The CA dismissed the LBPs appeal.19 Significantly, it did not find the LBPs assigned errors the RTC-SACs reliance on the valuation made by
Branches 35 and 36 in the civil cases to be persuasive. First, according to the CA, the parcels of land in the civil cases were the very same properties
in the appealed agrarian case. Second, Branch 36s valuation was based on the report of the duly appointed commissioners and was arrived at after
proper land inspection. As the determination of just compensation is essentially a judicial function, the CA thus affirmed the RTC-SACs valuation which
was founded on factual and legal bases. The LBP filed the present petition after the CA denied its motion for reconsideration 20 in the CAs May 3, 2006
resolution.21
The Petition
The LBP argues in the present petition that the CA erred when it affirmed the RTC-SACs ruling that fixed the just compensation for the property based
on the valuation set by Branches 35 and 36.22 The LBP pointed out that the property in the present case was expropriated pursuant to its agrarian reform
program; in contrast, the land subject of the civil cases was expropriated by the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) for industrial purposes.
The LBP added that in adopting the valuation fixed by Branches 35 and 36, the RTC-SAC completely disregarded the factors enumerated in Section 17
of R.A. No. 6657 and the guidelines and procedure laid out in DAR AO 5-98.
Finally, the LBP maintains that it did not encroach on the RTC-SACs prerogative when it fixed the valuation for the property as it only followed Section
17 of R.A. No. 6657 and DAR AO 5-98, and merely discharged its mandate under E.O. No. 405.
The Case for the Respondent
Yatco argues that the RTC-SAC correctly fixed the just compensation for its property at P200.00 per square meter.23 It points to several reasons for its
position. First, the RTC-SACs valuation was not only based on the valuation fixed by Branch 36 (as adopted by Branch 35); it was also based on the
propertys market value as stated in the current tax declaration that it presented in evidence before the RTC-SAC. Second, the RTC-SAC considered the
evidence of both parties; unfortunately for the LBP, the RTC-SAC found its evidence wanting and in total disregard of the factors enumerated in Section
17 of R.A. No. 6657. And third, the RTC-SAC considered all of the factors enumerated in Section 17 when it set the propertys value at P200.00 per
square meter. Procedurally, Yatco claims that the present petitions issues and arguments are purely factual and they are not allowed in a petition for
review on certiorari and the LBP did not point to any specific error that the CA committed when it affirmed the RTC-SACs decision.
The Issue
Based on the parties submissions, only a single issue is before us,i.e., the question of whether the RTC-SACs determination of just compensation for
the property was proper.
The Courts Ruling
Preliminary considerations: factual-issue-bar rule; issues raised are not factual
As a general rule, the Courts jurisdiction in a Rule 45 petition is limited to the review of pure questions of law.24 A question of law arises when the doubt
or difference exists as to what the law is on a certain state of facts. Negatively put, Rule 45 does not allow the review of questions of fact. A question of
fact exists when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.
The test in determining whether a question is one of law or of fact is "whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without reviewing or
evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law."25 Any question that invites calibration of the whole evidence, as well as their relation to
each other and to the whole, is a question of fact and thus proscribed in a Rule 45 petition.
The LBP essentially questions in the present petition the RTC-SACs adoption of the valuation made by Branch 36 in fixing the just compensation for the
property. The LBP asks the question: was the just compensation fixed by the RTC-SAC for the property, which was based solely on Branch 36s
valuation, determined in accordance with law?
We find the presented issue clearly one of law. Resolution of this question can be made by mere inquiry into the law and jurisprudence on the matter,
and does not require a review of the parties evidence. We, therefore, disagree with Yatco on this point as we find the present petition compliant with the
Rule 45 requirement.
The determination of just compensation is essentially a judicial function that the Judiciary exercises within the parameters of the law.
The determination of just compensation is fundamentally a judicial function.26 Section 57 of R.A. No. 665727explicitly vests the RTC-SAC the original and
exclusive power to determine just compensation for lands under CARP coverage.
To guide the RTC-SAC in the exercise of its function, Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657 enumerates the factors required to be taken into account to correctly
determine just compensation. The law (under Section 49 of R.A. No. 665728) likewise empowers the DAR to issue rules for its implementation. The DAR
thus issued DAR AO 5-98 incorporating the laws listed factors in determining just compensation into a basic formula that contains the details that take
these factors into account.
That the RTC-SAC must consider the factors mentioned by the law (and consequently the DARs implementing formula) is not a novel concept. 29 In Land
Bank of the Philippines v. Sps. Banal,30 we said that the RTC-SAC must consider the factors enumerated under Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657, as
translated into a basic formula by the DAR, in determining just compensation. We stressed the RTC-SACs duty to apply the DAR formula in determining

just compensation in Landbank of the Philippines v. Celada31 and reiterated this same ruling in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Lim,32 Land Bank of the
Philippines v. Luciano,33 and Land Bank of the Philippines v. Colarina,34 to name a few.
In the recent case of Land Bank of the Philippines v. Honeycomb Farms Corporation,35 we again affirmed the need to apply Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657
and DAR AO 5-98 in just compensation cases. There, we considered the CA and the RTC in grave error when they opted to come up with their own
basis for valuation and completely disregarded the DAR formula. The need to apply the parameters required by the law cannot be doubted; the DARs
administrative issuances, on the other hand, partake of the nature of statutes and have in their favor a presumption of legality.36 Unless administrative
orders are declared invalid or unless the cases before them involve situations these administrative issuances do not cover, the courts must apply them. 37
In other words, in the exercise of the Courts essentially judicial function of determining just compensation, the RTC-SACs are not granted unlimited
discretion and must consider and apply the R.A. No. 6657-enumerated factors and the DAR formula that reflect these factors. These factors and formula
provide the uniform framework or structure for the computation of the just compensation for a property subject to agrarian reform. This uniform system
will ensure that they do not arbitrarily fix an amount that is absurd, baseless and even contradictory to the objectives of our agrarian reform laws as just
compensation. This system will likewise ensure that the just compensation fixed represents, at the very least, a close approximation of the full and real
value of the property taken that is fair and equitable for both the farmer-beneficiaries and the landowner.
When acting within the parameters set by the law itself, the RTC-SACs, however, are not strictly bound to apply the DAR formula to its minute detail,
particularly when faced with situations that do not warrant the formulas strict application; they may, in the exercise of their discretion, relax the formulas
application to fit38 the factual situations before them.39 They must, however, clearly explain the reason for any deviation from the factors and formula that
the law and the rules have provided.40
The situation where a deviation is made in the exercise of judicial discretion should at all times be distinguished from a situation where there is utter and
blatant disregard of the factors spelled out by law and by the implementing rules. For in such a case, the RTC-SACs action already amounts to grave
abuse of discretion for having been taken outside of the contemplation of the law.41
Gonzales v. Solid Cement Corporation42 teaches us that the use of the wrong considerations by the ruling tribunal in deciding the case or a particular
matter in issue amounts to grave abuse of discretion. In Gonzales, the CA reversed the NLRCs ruling that ordered the payment of interest on the total
monetary award. In reversing this CA ruling and reinstating the NLRCs award of interest, the Court pointed out that the CA relied solely on the doctrine
of immutability of judgments, a consideration that was completely erroneous particularly in light of the other attendant and relevant factors, i.e., the law
on the legal interests that final orders and rulings on forbearance of money should bear, which the CA utterly ignored. Accordingly, the Court considered
the CA in grave abuse of discretion as it used the wrong considerations and thereby acted outside the contemplation of the law.
This use of considerations that were completely outside the contemplation of the law is the precise situation we find in the present case, as fully
explained below.
The rules allow the courts to take judicial notice of certain facts; the RTC-SACs valuation is erroneous
The taking of judicial notice is a matter of expediency and convenience for it fulfills the purpose that the evidence is intended to achieve, and in this
sense, it is equivalent to proof.43 Generally, courts are not authorized to "take judicial notice of the contents of the records of other cases even when said
cases have been tried or are pending in the same court or before the same judge."44 They may, however, take judicial notice of a decision or the facts
prevailing in another case sitting in the same court if: (1) the parties present them in evidence, absent any opposition from the other party; or (2) the
court, in its discretion, resolves to do so.45 In either case, the courts must observe the clear boundary provided by Section 3, Rule 129 of the Rules of
Court.
We note that Yatco offered in evidence copies of the decisions in the civil cases,46 which offer the LBP opposed.47These were duly noted by the
court.48 Even assuming, however, that the April 21, 2004 order49 of the RTC-SAC (that noted Yatcos offer in evidence and the LBPs opposition to it)
constitutes sufficient compliance with the requirement of Section 3, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court, still we find the RTC-SACs valuation based on
Branch 36s previous ruling to be legally erroneous.
1. The RTC-SAC fully disregarded Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657 and DAR AO 5-98 and thus acted outside the contemplation of the law.
Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657 reads:
Section 17. Determination of Just Compensation. In determining just compensation, the cost of acquisition of the land, the current value of like
properties, its nature, actual use and income, the sworn valuation by the owner, the tax declarations, and the assessment made by government
assessors shall be considered. The social and economic benefits contributed by the farmers and the farmworkers and by the Government to the
property as well as the non-payment of taxes or loans secured from any government financing institution on the said land shall be considered as
additional factors to determine its valuation.
While DAR AO 5-9850 pertinently provides:
A. There shall be one basic formula for the valuation of lands covered by VOS or CA:
LV = (CNI x 0.6) + (CS x 0.3) + (MV x 0.1)
Where:
LV = Land Value
CNI = Capitalized Net Income
CS = Comparable Sales
MV = Market Value per Tax Declaration
The above formula shall be used if all three factors are present, relevant, and applicable.
A1. When the CS factor is not present and CNI and MV are applicable, the formula shall be:
LV = (CNI x 0.9) + (MV x 0.1)
A2. When the CNI factor is not present, and CS and MV are applicable, the formula shall be:
LV = (CS x 0.9) + (MV x 0.1)
A3. When both the CS and CNI are not present and only MV is applicable, the formula shall be: LV = MV x 2

In no case shall the value of idle land using the formula MV x 2 exceed the lowest value of land within the same estate under consideration or within the
same barangay or municipality (in that order) approved by LBP within one (1) year from receipt of claimfolder.
After considering these factors and formula, we are convinced that the RTC-SAC completely disregarded them and simply relied on Branch 36s
valuation. For one, the RTC-SAC did not point to any specific evidence or cite the values and amounts it used in arriving at the P200.00 per square
meter valuation. It did not even consider the propertys market value based on the current tax declaration that Yatco insists the RTC-SAC considered in
addition to Branch 36s valuation. Assuming that the RTC-SAC considered the propertys market value (which, again, we find that it did not), this alone
will not suffice as basis, unless justified under Item II.A.3 of DAR AO 5-98 (as provided above). Then too, it did not indicate the formula that it used in
arriving at its valuation or which led it to believe that Branch 36s valuation was applicable to this case. Lastly, the RTC-SAC did not conduct an
independent assessment and computation using the considerations required by the law and the rules.
To be exact, the RTC-SAC merely relied on Branch 36s valuation as it found the LBPs evidence on the matter of just compensation inadequate. While
indeed we agree that the evidence presented by the LBP was inadequate and did not also consider the legally prescribed factors and formula, the RTCSAC still legally erred in solely relying on Yatcos evidence51 which we find equally irrelevant and off-tangent to the factors enumerated in Section 17 of
R.A. No. 6657.
2. The valuation fixed by Branches 35 and 36 was inapplicable to the property
Civil Case No. 2326-96-C,52 decided by Branch 35, and Civil Case No. 2259-95-C,53 decided by Branch 36, were both eminent domain cases initiated by
the NAPOCOR under the power granted to it by Commonwealth Act (C.A.) No. 120,54 as amended by R.A. No. 6395,55 i.e., to acquire property or
easement of right of way.
Under these laws, the NAPOCOR was tasked to carry out the state policy of providing electricity throughout the Philippines, specifically, "to undertake
the development of hydroelectric generation of power and the production of electricity from nuclear, geothermal and other sources, as well as the
transmission of electric power on a nationwide basis."56
In its decision in Civil Case No. 2259-95-C, Branch 36 accordingly recognized the NAPOCORs authority to enter the property of the defendant GP
Development Corporation and to acquire the "easement of right of way" in the exercise of its powers. Thus, in disposing of the case, Branch 36 adopted
the recommendation of the appointed commissioners and ordered the NAPOCOR to pay easement fee of P20.00 per square meter. Similarly
recognizing this authority of NAPOCOR, Branch 35 in Civil Case No. 2326-96-C likewise ordered NAPOCOR to pay easement fee of P20.00 per square
meter.
Evidently, the civil cases were not made under the provisions of the CARL nor for agrarian reform purposes, as enunciated under R.A. No. 6657. 57 In
exercising the power vested in it by the provisions of C.A. No. 120 (as amended), the NAPOCOR did not seek to acquire and distribute lands to farmers
and regular farmworkers; the NAPOCOR sought easement of right of way to transmit electric power as it was tasked to.
We need not delve into the factors that Branches 35 and 36 considered in the civil cases. By simply looking at the expropriating body (NAPOCOR) and
the law governing the expropriations made, we are convinced that the valuation fixed by Branch 36 is inapplicable to the present case. A comparison of
the required parameters and guidelines used alone demonstrates the disparity.
Also, we point out that the RTC-SAC adopted Branch 36s valuation without any qualification or condition. Yet, in disposing of the present case, the just
compensation that it fixed for the property largely differed from the former. Note that Branch 36 fixed a valuation of P20.00 per square meter;58 while the
RTC-SAC, in the present case, valued the property at P200.00 per square meter.59 Strangely, the RTC-SAC did not offer any explanation nor point to
any evidence, fact or particular that justified the obvious discrepancy between these amounts.
Lastly, in ascertaining just compensation, the fair market value of the expropriated property is determined as of the time of taking. 60 The "time of taking"
refers to that time when the State deprived the landowner of the use and benefit of his property, as when the State acquires title to the property61 or as of
the filing of the complaint, per Section 4, Rule 67 of the Rules of Court.62
The decision in Civil Case No. 2259-95-C, which pegged the valuation at P20.00 per square meter, was made in 1997. The record did not disclose when
title to the land subject of that case was transferred to the State. We can safely assume, however, that the "taking" was made in 1997 (the date Branch
36 issued its decision) or at the time of the filing of the complaint, which logically was prior to 1997.
The RTC-SAC, in the present case, rendered its decision in 2004; the LBP filed the petition for judicial determination of just compensation in 2002.
Obviously, the "taking" of the property could not have been made any earlier than 2002; otherwise, the parties would have pointed these out. Between
1997 in Civil Case No. 2259-95-C and the earliest taking in 2002 in this case is a difference of 5 years a significant gap in the matter of valuation since
the lands involved are not in the hinterlands, but in the rapidly industrializing Calamba, Laguna.
Under these circumstances i.e., the insufficiency of the evidence presented by both the LBP and Yatco on the issue of just compensation - the more
judicious approach that the RTC-SAC could have taken was to exercise the authority granted to it by Section 58 of R.A. No. 6657, rather than simply
adopt Branch 36s valuation. Under Section 5863 of R.A. No. 6657, the RTC-SAC may appoint one or more Commissioners to ascertain and report to it
the facts necessary for the determination of the just compensation for the property. Unfortunately, the RTC-SAC did not avail of this opportunity, with
disastrous results for the parties in light of the time gap between now and the time the RTC-SAC decision was made in 2004.1wphi1
We cannot help but highlight the attendant delay as the RTC-SAC obviously erred in a manner that we cannot now remedy at our level. The RTC-SAC
erred and effectively abused its discretion by fixing the just compensation for the property based solely on the valuation fixed by Branches 35 and 36
considerations that we find were completely irrelevant and misplaced. This is an error that now requires fresh determination of just compensation again
at the RTC-SAC level.
As a final note and clarificatory reminder, we agree that the LBP is primarily charged with determining land valuation and compensation for all private
lands acquired for agrarian reform purposes.64 But this determination is only preliminary. The landowner may still take the matter of just compensation to
the court for final adjudication.65Thus, we clarify and reiterate: the original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just
compensation under R.A. No. 6657 rests with the RTC-SAC.66 But, in its determination the RTC-SAC must take into consideration the factors laid down
by law and the pertinent DAR regulations.
Remand of the case
Considering that both parties failed to adduce satisfactory evidence of the property s value at the time of taking, we deem it premature to make a final
determination of the matter in controversy. We are not a trier of facts and we cannot receive new evidence from the parties to aid them in the prompt
resolution of this case. We are thus compelled to remand the case to the RTC-SAC for the reception of evidence and the determination of just
compensation, with a cautionary reminder for the proper observance of the factors under Section 17 of R.A. No. 6657 and the applicable DAR
regulations. In its determination, the RTC-SAC may exercise the authority granted to it by Section 58 of R.A. No. 6657.
WHEREFORE, in view of these considerations, we hereby GRANT the petition. Accordingly, we REVERSE and SET ASIDE the decision dated January
26, 2006 and the resolution dated May 3, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 87530, and REMAND Agrarian Case No. SP-064(02) to the
Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch 30, for its determination of just compensation under the terms of Section 17 of Republic Act No. 6657 and
Department of Agrarian Reform Administrative Order No. 5, series of 1998, as amended.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 117221. April 13, 1999]


IBM PHILIPPINES, INC., VIRGILIO L. PEA, and VICTOR V. REYES, petitioners, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and ANGEL D.
ISRAEL, respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari to set aside the decision,[1] dated April 15, 1994, of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC)
finding private respondent to have been illegally dismissed and ordering his reinstatement and the payment of his wages from August 1991 until he is
reinstated.
Petitioner IBM Philippines, Inc. (IBM) is a domestic corporation engaged in the business of selling computers and computer services. Petitioners
Virgilio L. Pea and Victor V. Reyes were ranking officers of IBM during the period pertinent to this case.
On April 1, 1975, private respondent Angel D. Israel commenced employment with IBM as Office Products Customer Engineer. For the next
sixteen (16) years, he occupied two other positions in the company,[2] received numerous awards,[3] and represented the company in various seminars
and conferences in and out of the country.[4]
On February 1, 1990, private respondent was assigned to the team supervised by petitioner Reyes.
On June 27, 1991, petitioner Reyes handed a letter to private respondent informing the latter that his employment in the company was to be
terminated effective July 31, 1991 on the ground of habitual tardiness and absenteeism. The letter states, thus:
June 27, 1991
Mr. Angel D. Israel
Present
Dear Angel,

This refers to our previous discussion regarding your habitual absences and tardiness the last of which was on June 26, 1991.
Your records will attest to the fact that on several occasions, your attention has been called to your habitual tardiness and non-observance of standing
office procedures regarding attendance. Despite several opportunities given to you, you cannot seem to reform your ways and attitude on the matter of
attendance. Considering that we are a service-oriented company, you can appreciate that we cannot allow such a situation to continue lest we put the
best interest of the Company in jeopardy.
Much to our regret, therefore, pleased (sic) be advised that the Company is terminating your employment effective July 31, 1991.
You are requested to report to Personnel Department at your earliest convenience for the settlement of any money or benefits due you.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd) V.V. REYES
Business Manager
cc: L.L. Abano
Alleging that his dismissal was without just cause and due process, private respondent filed a complaint with the Arbitration Branch of the
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on July 18, 1991.
In his position paper filed on September 6, 1991, he claimed that he was not given the opportunity to be heard and that he was summarily
dismissed from employment based on charges which had not been duly proven.[5]
Petitioners denied private respondents claims. It was alleged that several conferences were held by the management with private respondent
because of the latters unsatisfactory performance in the company and he was given sufficient warning and opportunity to reform and improve his attitude
toward attendance,[6] but to their regret, he never did. It was alleged that private respondent was constantly told of his poor attendance record and
inefficiency through the companys internal electronic mail (e-mail) system. According to petitioners, this system allows paperless or
telematic[7] communication among IBM personnel in the company offices here and abroad. An employee is assigned a User ID and the corresponding
password is provided by the employee himself and, theoretically, known only to him. Employees are then expected to turn on their computers everyday,
log in to the system by keying in their respective IDs and passwords in order to access and read the messages sent to and stored in the computer
system. To reply, an employee types in or encodes his message-response and sends the same to the intended recipient, also via the computer
system. The system automatically records the time and date each message was sent and received, including the identification of the sender and
receiver thereof. All messages are recorded and stored in computer disks.[8]
Attached to petitioners position paper were copies of print-outs of alleged computer entries/messages sent by petitioner Reyes to private
respondent through IBMs internal computer system. The following is a summary of the contents of the print-outs which mostly came from petitioner
Reyes computer:
(a) Private respondent was admonished when he would miss out on meetings with clients and failed to attend to important accounts, such
as that of Hella Philippines;[9]
(b) Petitioner Reyes conducted consultations with private respondent concerning the latters work habits; [10]
(c) A new policy of requiring employees to be at the office at 8:30 a.m. every morning was adopted and employees were no longer allowed
to sign out of the office by phone;[11]
(d) Petitioner Reyes would type into his computer the records of the security guard which reflect private respondents daily tardiness and
frequent absences;[12]
(e) Private respondent was admonished when he failed to respond to instructions from his superiors;[13]
(f) IBM Australia, contacted by Hella Australia, once asked about the reported lack of attention given to Hella Philippines. [14] Private
respondent directly answered IBM Australia, through telematic memo, and reported that Hella Philippines was deferring its computer plan and
decided to use micros in the meantime;[15]
(g) The said response was denied by Hella Australia which later made it clear that it would be buying anything but IBM; [16] and
(h) While private respondent showed some improvement after consultations where he allegedly admitted his shortcomings, petitioner Reyes
reported that he (private respondent) would eventually slide back to his old ways despite constant counselling and repeated warnings that he
would be terminated if he would not improve his work habits.[17]
Through these computer print-outs calling private respondents attention to his alleged tardiness and absenteeism, petitioner sought to prove that private
respondent was sufficiently notified of the charges against him and was guilty thereof because of his failure to deny the said charges.
On March 13, 1992, the labor arbiter rendered a decision finding private respondent to have been terminated for cause and accordingly dismissing
the complaint. Considering, however, the ground for termination as well as private respondents long record of service to the company, the arbiter
ordered the award of separation pay at the rate equivalent to one-half (1/2) month salary for every year of service. The dispositive portion of the decision
reads
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in this case declaring respondent IBM Phils., Inc. not guilty of the charge of illegal dismissal. However,
respondent company is directed to pay complainant Israel the sum of Two Hundred Forty Eight Thousand (P248,000.00) as separation pay. All other
claims are denied for lack of merit.
It appears, however, that prior to the release of the labor arbiters decision at 11:21 a.m. on March 26, 1992, private respondent had filed a
Manifestation And Motion To Admit Attached New Evidence For The Complainant which was received by the Arbitration Branch at 10:58 a.m. of the
same day. The evidence consisted of private respondents Daily Time Records (DTRs) for the period June 1, 1990 to August 31, 1990 and pay slips for
the period January 1990 to June 1991 showing that private respondent did not incur any unexcused absences, that he was not late on any day within
the period and that no deduction was made from his salary on account of tardiness or absences.

Private respondent appealed to the NLRC which, on April 15, 1994, reversed the labor arbiters decision and found private respondents dismissal
illegal. The NLRC ruled: (1) that the computer print-outs which petitioners presented in evidence to prove that private respondents office attendance was
poor were insufficient to show that the latter was guilty of habitual absences and tardiness; and (2) that private respondent was not heard in his defense
before the issuance of the final notice of dismissal.[18] The dispositive portion of the NLRCs decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated March 13, 1992 is hereby SET ASIDE and a new one entered declaring the dismissal of the complainant as
illegal. Respondent (sic) are hereby ordered to reinstate complainant to his former position without loss of his seniority rights and to pay backwages
starting August 1991 until reinstated at the rate of P40,516.65 a month including all its benefits and bonuses.
Presiding Commissioner Edna Bonto-Perez dissented on the ground she found that petitioners have presented strong and convincing documentary
evidence that private respondent was guilty of habitual tardiness and absences. She was also of the opinion that private respondent was sufficiently
warned before he was actually dismissed.[19]
Petitioners moved for a reconsideration, but their motion was denied in a resolution, dated July 20, 1994. Hence, this petition
for certiorari. Petitioners contend that
1. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OF
JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT NO JUST CAUSE EXISTS NOR WAS THERE DUE PROCESS OBSERVED IN THE DISMISSAL
OF THE PRIVATE RESPONDENT BECAUSE THE COMPUTER PRINTOUTS WHICH PROVE JUST CAUSE AND DUE PROCESS
ARE NOT ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE.
2. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION TANTAMOUNT TO LACK OR
EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION IN HOLDING THAT EVEN IF THE COMPUTER PRINTOUTS WERE ADMISSIBLE, PETITIONER
FAILED TO SATISFY DUE PROCESS.
We find petitioners contention to be without merit.
First. Petitioners argue that the computer print-outs submitted by them need not be identified or authenticated according to the rules of procedure
in regular courts in order for the same to be admissible in evidence. They contend that technical rules of evidence do not apply to administrative/labor
cases[20] and because of a relaxation of the rules of evidence, private respondent was in fact allowed by the labor arbiter to adduce additional evidence
even after a decision had been rendered.[21]
It is indeed true that administrative agencies, such as the NLRC, are not bound by the technical rules of procedure and evidence in the
adjudication of cases.[22] This was the reason private respondent was allowed to submit additional evidence even after the case was deemed submitted
for resolution by the labor arbiter. The practice of admitting additional evidence on appeal in labor cases has been sanctioned by this Court. [23]
However, the liberality of procedure in administrative actions is subject to limitations imposed by basic requirements of due process. As this Court
said in Ang Tibay v. CIR,[24] the provision for flexibility in administrative procedure does not go so far as to justify orders without a basis in evidence
having rational probative value. More specifically, as held in Uichico v. NLRC:[25]
It is true that administrative and quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC are not bound by the technical rules of procedure in the adjudication of
cases. However, this procedural rule should not be construed as a license to disregard certain fundamental evidentiary rules. While the rules of evidence
prevailing in the courts of law or equity are not controlling in proceedings before the NLRC, the evidence presented before it must at least have a
modicum of admissibility for it to be given some probative value. The Statement of Profit and Losses submitted by Crispa, Inc. to prove its alleged
losses, without the accompanying signature of a certified public accountant or audited by an independent auditor, are nothing but self-serving documents
which ought to be treated as a mere scrap of paper devoid of any probative value.
The computer print-outs, which constitute the only evidence of petitioners, afford no assurance of their authenticity because they are
unsigned. The decisions of this Court, while adhering to a liberal view in the conduct of proceedings before administrative agencies, have nonetheless
consistently required some proof of authenticity or reliability as condition for the admission of documents.
In Rizal Workers Union v. Ferrer-Calleja,[26] this Court struck down the decision of the Director of Labor Relations which was based on an unsigned
and unidentified manifesto. It was held:
From even a perfunctory assessment, it becomes apparent that the evidence upon which said decision is professedly based does not come up to that
standard of substantiality.
It is of course also a sound and settled rule that administrative agencies performing quasi-judicial functions are unfettered by the rigid technicalities of
procedure observed in the courts of law, and this so that disputes brought before such bodies may be resolved in the most expeditious and inexpensive
manner possible. But what is involved here transcends mere procedural technicality and concerns the more paramount principles and requirements of
due process, which may not be sacrificed to speed or expediency...The clear message of [Article 221 of the Labor Code] is that even in the disposition of
labor cases, due process must never be subordinated to expediency or dispatch. Upon this principle, the unidentified documents relied upon by
respondent Director must be seen and taken for what they are, mere inadmissible hearsay. They cannot, by any stretch of reasoning, be deemed
substantial evidence of the election frauds complained of.
Likewise, in the case of EMS Manpower & Placement Services v. NLRC,[27] the employer submitted a photocopy of a telex which supposedly
shows that the employee was guilty of serious misconduct and which became the basis of her dismissal. This Court ruled that the telex, a single
document, totally uncorroborated and easily concocted or fabricated to suit ones personal interest and purpose, [28] was insufficient to uphold the
employers defense.
In Jarcia Machine Shop and Auto Supply, Inc. v. NLRC, this Court held as incompetent unsigned daily time records presented to prove that the
employee was neglectful of his duties:
Indeed, the [DTRs] annexed to the present petition would tend to establish private respondents neglectful attitude towards his work duties as shown by
repeated and habitual absences and tardiness and propensity for working undertime for the year 1992. But the problem with these DTRs is that they are
neither originals nor certified true copies. They are plain photocopies of the originals, if the latter do exist. More importantly, they are not even signed by
private respondent nor by any of the employers representatives...[29]
In the case at bar, a specimen of the computer print-out submitted by petitioners reads:
Date and time 10/12/90 09:23:1

From: REYESVV -- MNLVM1


To: ISRAEL -- MNLRVM Israel, A.D.
SEC: I IBM INTERNAL USE ONLY
Subject:
Angel, have been trying to pin you down for a talk the past couple of days. Whatever happened to our good discussion 2 weeks ago? I thought
you would make an effort to come in on time from then on? If you have problems which prevent you from coming in on time, let me know because
I would really like to help if I can. The sum of all your quotas is less than mine so I really need all of you pitching in. Kindly take a look at your
proofs in-tray as there are some to dos which are pending. Acts such as St. Louis U. and NEECO should be worth looking into as theyve been
inquiring about upgrading their very old boxes. If you are too tied up for these accounts do let me know so I can reassign. By Monday morning
please. Lets give it that final push for the branch!
=============================================================
Regards from the APPLICATION MNLVM 1 (REYESVV)
SYSTEMS MARKETING group T (832)8192-279
Victor V. Reyes - Marketing Manager
=============================================================
Not one of the 18 print-out copies submitted by petitioners was ever signed, either by the sender or the receiver. There is thus no guarantee that
the message sent was the same message received. As the Solicitor General pointed out, the messages were transmitted to and received not by private
respondent himself but his computer.[30]
Neither were the print-outs certified or authenticated by any company official who could properly attest that these came from IBMs computer
system or that the data stored in the system were not and/or could not have been tampered with before the same were printed out. It is noteworthy that
the computer unit and system in which the contents of the print-outs were stored were in the exclusive possession and control of petitioners since after
private respondent was served his termination letter, he had no more access to his computer.[31]
Second. Even if the computer print-outs were admissible, they would not suffice to show that private respondents dismissal was justified.
Petitioners contention is that private respondent was repeatedly warned through computer messages for coming in late or not reporting at all to the
office during the period May 1990 -- June 1991 but he never denied the allegations. Therefore, he must be deemed to have admitted these allegations.
[32]
But the burden of proving that the dismissal was for just cause is on petitioners. They cannot simply rely on any admission by private respondent
implied from his failure to deny the alleged computer messages to him which he denied he had ever received.On the other hand, private respondents
additional evidence, consisting of DTRs and pay slips, show that he did not incur unexcused absences or tardiness or that he suffered deduction in pay
on account of such absences or tardiness.
Indeed, petitioners could have easily proven their allegations by presenting private respondents DTRs. Since these were in petitioners possession,
their non-production thereof raises the presumption that if presented they would be adverse to petitioners. This is precisely what the best evidence rule
guards against.
The purpose of the rule requiring the production of the best evidence is the prevention of fraud, because if a party is in possession of such
evidence and withholds it, and seeks to substitute inferior evidence in its place, the presumption naturally arises that the better evidence is
withheld for fraudulent purposes which its production would expose and defeat.[33]
Private respondents DTRs for the period June 1, 1990 -- August 30, 1990 [34] show that while his attendance record may not have been perfect, it
was at least satisfactory. The days when private respondent did not report to the office were credited either as vacation or as sick leaves. On days when
he was away on business trips, his destination was shown. The DTRs were signed by petitioner Victor Reyes.
It is said that the DTRs presented were only for the period when private respondents attendance was excellent; he took care not to submit his
DTRs for other months during which he was often late in coming to office. [35] As the Solicitor General has pointed out, however, it was precisely during
that period of June 1, 1990 --August 30, 1990 when, according to the print-outs submitted by petitioners, private respondent was often late or absent.
Nor is there proof to support petitioners allegation that it was private respondents secretary and not him who often signed the attendance sheet.
Indeed, petitioners did not present private respondents secretary or, at the very least, attach an affidavit sworn to by her to prove their allegations and
thus dispute the DTRs presented by private respondent. This, notwithstanding ample opportunity to do so. On the other hand, as already stated, the
DTRs, showing private respondents good attendance, were signed by petitioner Victor Reyes himself, and no good reason has been shown why they
cannot be relied upon in determining private respondents attendance.
[36]

Third. Even assuming the charges of habitual tardiness and absenteeism were true, such offenses do not warrant private respondents
dismissal. He has not been shown to have ever committed any infraction of company rules during his sixteen-year stint in the company. Although it is
alleged that he failed to attend important client meetings and gave false representations to a valued client to cover his tracks, there is no record finding
him guilty of such offenses. Dismissal has always been regarded as the ultimate penalty. [37] The fact that lapses in private respondents attendance
record may have occurred only during his final year in the company, after a long period of exemplary performance, makes petitioners contention
dubious. While it is true that long years of service is no guarantee against dismissal for wrongdoing, [38] at least the employees record does provide an
index to his work. In case doubt exists between the evidence presented by the employer and that presented by the employee, the scales of justice must
be tilted in favor of the latter.[39]
Fourth. The print-outs likewise failed to show that private respondent was allowed due process before his dismissal.
The law requires an employer to furnish the employee two written notices before termination of his employment may be ordered. The first notice
must inform him of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought, the second of the employers decision to dismiss the employee after
he has been given the opportunity to be heard and defend himself.[40]

These requirements were not observed in this case. As noted earlier, there is no evidence that there was an exchange of communication between
petitioners and private respondent regarding the latters supposed substandard performance. Private respondent has consistently denied, however, that
he was ever advised of the charges hurled against him. The so-called one-on-one consultations or personal counsellings mentioned in the print-outs
between petitioner Reyes and private respondent concerning the latters work habits do not satisfy the requirements of due process, as we had occasion
to say in Pono v. NLRC.[41]
Consultations or conferences may not be a substitute for the actual holding of a hearing. Every opportunity and assistance must be accorded to the
employee by the management to enable him to prepare adequately for his defense, including legal representation. [42]
In Ruffy v. NLRC,[43] this Court held that what would qualify as sufficient or ample opportunity, as required by law, would be every kind of assistance
that management must accord to the employee to enable him to prepare adequately for his defense. No such opportunity was given to private
respondent in this case. He was simply served his termination notice without being heard in his defense.
Fifth. Petitioners allege that the NLRC, after concluding that the evidence submitted by them were not properly identified or authenticated, should
have remanded the case to the arbiter for clarificatory hearing.
A formal hearing was not de rigueur. The 1994 Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, 4 provides:
Immediately after the submission by the parties of their position papers/memorandum, the Labor Arbiter shall, motu proprio, determine whether there is a
need for a formal trial or hearing.At this stage, he may, at his discretion and for the purpose of making such determination, ask clarificatory questions to
further elicit facts or information, including but not limited to the subpoena of relevant documentary evidence, if any, from any party or witness.
As held by the NLRC:
Aside from these computer print-outs, respondents have not presented any other evidence to prove that complainant was ever called for
investigation nor his side heard prior to receipt of the termination letter dated June 27, 1991. In fact, even if we consider these computer print-outs,
respondents still failed to satisfy the requirements of procedural due process. . . . In this particular case, we observe that there is failure on the part
of respondents to prove the existence of a legal cause. The evidence presented before the Labor Arbiter did not sufficiently and clearly support the
allegation of respondents that complainant committed habitual absences and tardiness resulting into inefficiency.[44]
In spite of this finding, petitioners failed to adduce additional evidence when they moved for a reconsideration of the NLRC decision or when they
filed the instant petition. Despite the opportunities afforded them, petitioners failed to substantiate their allegations. Neither have they shown sufficient
reasons to convince this Court that, if the case were to be remanded to the arbiter for a formal hearing, they would be able to present evidence which
they could not have presented during the initial stages of this case. As we held in Megascope General Services v. NLRC:[45]
As regards petitioners contention that a hearing has to be conducted to fully ventilate the issues in the case, . . . [s]uffice it to state that nonverbal
devices such as written explanations, affidavits, position papers or other pleadings can establish just as clearly and concisely an aggrieved partys
defenses. Petitioner was amply provided with the opportunity to present evidence that private respondents were not its employees. Indeed, it was
petitioners failure to present substantial evidence to buttress its claims that worked to its disadvantage and not the absence of a full-blown hearing
before the public respondent.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the decision of the NLRC, dated April 15, 1994, is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 123819

November 14, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
STEPHEN MARK WHISENHUNT, accused-appellant.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a direct appeal from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 152, in Criminal Case No. 102687, the dispositive portion of
which states:
WHEREFORE, finding the accused Stephen Mark Whisenhunt guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder defined and penalized under Art.
248, Revised Penal Code, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty ofreclusion perpetua, with the accessory penalties provided for by law,
to pay the heirs of the deceased the amount of P100,000.00 representing actual expenses for the funeral services and wake for 5 days,
P3,000,000.00 by way of moral damages, exemplary damages in the amount of P1,000,000.00 and attorneys fees in the amount of
P150,000.00.
SO ORDERED.2
On November 19, 1993, accused-appellant was formally charged with the murder of Elsa Santos-Castillo, under an Information which read:
That on or about September 24, 1993, in the Municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to kill and taking advantage of superior
strength, attack, assault and use personal violence upon the person of one Elsa "Elsie" Santos Castillo by then and there stabbing her with a
bladed weapon in different parts of her body, thereby inflicting upon her mortal wounds which were the direct and immediate cause of her
death and thereafter outraged or scoffed her corpse by then and there chopping off her head and different parts of her body.
CONTRARY TO LAW.3
The case was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City and was raffled to Branch 152. On January 6, 1994, accused-appellant was arraigned with
the assistance of counsel de parte. He entered a plea of not guilty.4
The evidence shows that accused-appellant and the deceased, Elsa Santos-Castillo, also known as Elsie, were lovers. They met at the Apex Motor
Corporation where accused-appellant was the Manager while Elsa was the Assistant Personnel Manager. Both accused-appellant and Elsa were
married, but they were estranged from their respective spouses. In April 1993, Elsa resigned from Apex presumably to avoid the nasty rumors about her
illicit affair with accused-appellant.5 It appears, however, that she continued her affair with accused-appellant even after she resigned from Apex Motor
Corporation.
On September 23, 1993, Demetrio Ravelo, an Apex employee assigned to drive for accused-appellant, reported for work at 8:30 a.m. at the latters
condominium unit at the Platinum Condominium, Annapolis Street, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. 6 Accused-appellant ordered him to fetch Elsa at
her parents house in Blumentritt, Manila at 10:30 a.m. He found Elsa standing at a corner near her parents house, wearing a violet-colored blouse with
floral prints, and was carrying three bags --- a paper bag, a violet Giordano bag and a thick brown leather bag with the trademark of "Mitsubishi." He
brought Elsa to accused-appellants condominium unit.7
At 2:00 p.m., Elsa told Demetrio to go to the Apex office in Mandaluyong to deliver a paper bag to Amy Serrano, the Personnel Manager. He proceeded
to the Apex office, and then returned to Platinum. Accused-appellant asked him to stay because he had to drive Elsa home at 10:00 p.m. He waited until
a little past 10:00 p.m. When he had not heard from accused-appellant, he told Lucy, the housemaid, that he was going home. 8
The following day, Demetrio again reported at accused-appellants unit. At around noon, Lucy asked if he had seen a kitchen knife which was missing.
He then overheard Lucy ask accused-appellant who told her that the kitchen knife was in his bedroom. Demetrio saw accused-appellant go inside the
room and, shortly thereafter, hand the knife to Lucy.9

At 3:40 p.m., Lucy told Demetrio to buy cigarettes for accused-appellant. He went out to buy the cigarettes and gave them to Lucy. At 5:00 p.m.,
accused-appellant told Demetrio to go home.10
On September 25, 1993, Demetrio reported at the Platinum Condominium at around 8:00 a.m. He was allowed by accused-appellant to go to Apex to
follow up his salary. While he was there, Amy Serrano asked him if Elsa was still in accused-appellants condominium unit. Although Demetrio did not
see Elsa there, he answered yes. Amy gave him black plastic garbage bags which he turned over to accused-appellant upon his return to the
condominium. The latter then ordered him to drive Lucy to Cubao and to go home to get some clothes, since they were leaving for Bagac, Bataan. On
the way to Cubao, Lucy told Demetrio that she was going home. He dropped her off in front of the Farmers Market. Thereafter, he proceeded to his
house in Fairview, Quezon City, to pick up some clothes, then returned to the condominium at around 10:00 a.m. 11
Accused-appellant asked him to check the fuel gauge of the car. He was told to go to Apex to get a gas slip and then to gas up. At around noon, he went
back to the condominium. He had lunch outside at Goodah, then returned to accused-appellants unit and stayed in the servants quarters. 12
While Demetrio was in the servants quarters watching television, accused-appellant came in. He asked Demetrio how long he wanted to work for him.
Demetrio replied that he was willing to work for him forever, and expressed his full trust in him. Upon hearing this, accused-appellant shed tears and
embraced Demetrio. Then accused-appellant said, "May problema ako, Rio." Demetrio asked what it was, and accused-appellant told him that Elsa was
dead. Demetrio asked, "Bakit mo siya pinatay?"13 Accused-appellant answered that he did not kill Elsa, rather she died of "bangungot".14
Demetrio suggested that Elsas body be autopsied, but accused-appellant said that he had already beheaded her. He asked Demetrio if he wanted to
see the decapitated body, but the latter refused. The two of them went to Shoppesville at the Greenhills Shopping Center and bought a big bag with a
zipper and rollers, colored black and gray.15 Demetrio noticed that accused-appellant seemed nervous and his eyes were teary and bloodshot.
When they returned to the condominium, accused-appellant asked Demetrio to help him wrap the body in the black garbage bags. Demetrio entered
accused-appellants bathroom and found the dismembered hands, feet, trunk and head of a woman. He lifted the severed head by the hair and, when he
lifted it, he saw Elsas face. He placed this in a black trash bag. He helped accused-appellant place the other body parts in three separate garbage bags.
They packed all the garbage bags in the bag with the zipper and rollers, which they had bought in Shoppesville. Then, they brought the bag down and
loaded it in the trunk of accused-appellants car. After that, they boarded the car. Demetrio took the wheel and accused-appellant sat beside him in
front.16
It was almost 2:00 p.m. when Demetrio and accused-appellant left the condominium. Accused-appellant told Demetrio to drive around Batangas and
Tagaytay City. After leaving Tagaytay, they entered the South Luzon Expressway and headed towards Sta. Rosa, Laguna. When they were near Puting
Kahoy and Silangan, accused-appellant told Demetrio to turn into a narrow road. Somewhere along that road, accused-appellant ordered Demetrio to
stop the car.17
Accused-appellant alighted and told Demetrio to get the bag in the trunk. Accused-appellant took the plastic bags inside the bag and dumped them by
the roadside. Then, accused-appellant returned the empty bag in the trunk and boarded the car. He called Demetrio and said, "Tayo na Rio, tuloy na
tayo sa Bataan." It was already 6:30 p.m.18
Demetrio drove to the Sta. Rosa exit gate, along the South Luzon Expressway, through EDSA and towards the North Luzon Expressway. They stopped
at a gasoline station to refuel. They then took the San Fernando, Pampanga exit, and were soon en route to the Whisenhunt family mansion in Bagac,
Bataan.19
Before reaching Bagac, accused-appellant ordered Demetrio to stop the car on top of a bridge. Accused-appellant told Demetrio to get off and to throw a
bag into the river. Later, they passed another bridge and accused-appellant again told Demetrio to pull over. Accused-appellant alighted and threw Elsas
clothes over the bridge. On the way, Demetrio noticed that accused-appellant took something from a bag, tore it to pieces and threw it out of the window.
When they passed Pilar, Bataan, accused-appellant threw Elsas violet Giordano bag. As they reached the road boundary of Bagac, accused-appellant
wrung a short-sleeved dress with violet and green stripes, and threw it on a grassy lot.20
It was about midnight when accused-appellant and Demetrio arrived at the mansion. Demetrio was unable to sleep that night, as he was scared that he
might be the next victim.21
The next morning, at 11:00 a.m., accused-appellant ordered Demetrio to clean the trunk of the car, saying, "Rio, linisan mo ang sasakyan para ang
compartment hindi babaho."22 At 1:00 p.m., accused-appellant and Demetrio started off for Manila. As they passed a place called Kabog-kabog, he saw
accused-appellant take out an ATM card. Accused-appellant burned the middle of the card, twisted it and threw it out of the window. They arrived at the
corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue at 2:30 p.m. Demetrio asked accused-appellant if he can get off since he wanted to go home to Fairview. Before
Demetrio left, accused-appellant told him, "Rio, you and your family can go on a vacation. I will give you money." Accused-appellant then gave Demetrio
P50.00 for his transportation going to Fairview.23
When Demetrio got home, he immediately told his family what happened. His wife told him to report the incident to Fiscal Joey Diaz. Demetrio and his
wife went to the house of Fiscal Diaz in Fairview to talk to him. 24
The following morning, September 27, 1993, Fiscal Diaz, Demetrio, his wife and his brothers went to the Department of Justice. They were referred to
the National Bureau of Investigation, where Demetrio gave his statement before Atty. Artemio Sacaquing, head of the Anti-Organized Crime Division. 25
Initially, Atty. Sacaguing could not believe what he heard and thought Demetrio was exaggerating. He dispatched a team of NBI agents, headed by
Marianito Panganiban, to verify Demetrios report.26 Accompanied by Demetrio, the team proceeded to Barangay Polong, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
There, they found a crowd of people gathered around the mutilated parts of a human body along the road.27 The body parts had been discovered by
tricycle drivers. The Sta. Rosa Police, under Chief Investigator SPO3 Alipio Quintos, was already conducting an investigation. Agent Panganiban radioed
Atty. Sacaguing in Manila that Demetrios report was positive.28
The mutilated body parts were brought to the Lim de Mesa Funeral Parlor in Sta. Rosa. Two NBI agents, together with Demetrio, went to the house of
Elsas family to inform them of her death. The NBI agents accompanied Elsas two sisters, Amelia Villadiego and Elida Santos, to the funeral parlor,
where they identified the body parts as belonging to Elsa.
In the morning of September 28, 1993, accused-appellant was arrested by operatives of the NBI as he drove up to his parking space at Apex Motor
Corporation.29 When Atty. Sacaguing approached and introduced himself, accused-appellant became nervous and started to tremble. 30
Accused-appellant was brought to the NBI in his car. When he arrived there, Atty. Sacaguing informed him that it may be necessary to impound the car
since, based on Demetrios statement, the same was used in the commission of the crime. Accused-appellant asked permission to retrieve personal
belongings from the car. After getting his things from the car, accused-appellant opened the trunk to place some items inside. When he opened the
compartment, the people around the car moved away because of the foul stench that emanated from inside. Atty. Sacaguing inspected the interior of the
trunk and found stains on the lawanit board lying flat inside the compartment, which he suspected to be blood. Thus, he instructed his agents to fetch a
technician from the NBI Chemistry Division to examine the stain.31

During Atty. Sacaguings interview of accused-appellant, he noticed contusions on accused-appellants lower lip and cheek. As standard procedure, and
in order to rule out any accusation of violence on accused-appellant on the part of the NBI agents, Atty. Sacaguing ordered a medical examination of
accused-appellant.32
The Medico-Legal Officer found contusions on accused-appellants left periumbilical region, right elbow, left and right forearms and right leg. 33
That same afternoon, before the close of office hours, accused-appellant was brought to the Department of Justice for inquest. 34 However, accusedappellant moved that a preliminary investigation be conducted, and signed a waiver of the provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code. Hence,
he was detained at the NBI.35
On September 29, 1993, armed with a search warrant,36 the NBI agents conducted a search of the condominium unit of accused-appellant. They
recovered hair strands from underneath the rubber mat and rugs inside accused-appellants bathroom.37 In accused-appellants bedroom, they found
bloodstains on the bedspread and covers. They also found a pair of Topsider shoes with bloodstains, a bottle of Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup, and
some more hair strands on the lampshade.38
Later that day, Demetrio Ravelo accompanied some NBI agents to retrace the route he took with accused-appellant going to Bataan, with the objective
of retrieving the items thrown away by accused-appellant. They were able to recover a violet bag, one brown sandal and a shirt with violet and green
floral prints,39 which were brought to the NBI office. Amelia Santos Villadiego, Elsas sister, was summoned to identify the items. 40
In the meantime, Caroline Y. Custodio, Supervising Forensic Biologist of the NBI, who conducted comparative examinations between the hair specimens
found in accused-appellants bathroom and hair samples taken from the victim while she lay in state, found that "the questioned hair specimen showed
similarities to the hair taken from the victim."41
Custodio further reported that the bloodstains on the bed cushion cover, bedspread and Topsider shoes, all found inside accused-appellants bedroom,
gave positive results for human blood, showing reactions of Group "B".42The bloodstains on the plywood board taken from accused-appellants vehicle
were also examined and found to give positive results for human blood showing reactions of Group "B". 43 On the other hand, the examination of blood
taken from the victim likewise showed reactions of Group "B".44
Dr. Ronaldo B. Mendez, the Medico-Legal Officer who conducted the autopsy, concluded that the cause of death of Elsa Santos Castillo were stab
wounds.45 Dr. Mendez found one stab wound on the right breast which penetrated the right lung. He also found two stab wounds under the left breast
which penetrated the diaphragm and abdominal cavity, and also penetrated the right portion of the liver.46 More particularly, the autopsy yielded the
following postmortem findings:
Body in moderately advanced stage of decomposition.
Head, decapitated, level above 4th cervical vertebra; both hands severed cutting completely the lower ends of both radius and ulna; both legs,
disarticulated at knee joints and cut-off with both patellar bones, missing; both feet, disarticulated at the ankle joints and cut-off; all soft tissues
of both thighs and perineum, removed, exposing completely the femoral bones and partially the pelvic bone,
Incised wounds: 19.5 cms., left axillary area; 55.0 cms., thoraco-abdominal area, along median line, with the abdominal incision involving the
whole thickness and the thoracic incision involving the soft tissues and cutting the sternum from the xiphoid process up to the level of the third
cartilage; from the 3rd cartilage up to the lower border of the neck.
Abdominal organs, removed from the abdominal cavity.
Contusions: 26.0 x 16.5 cms., face, more on the left side involving the forehead, temporal, nasal, orbital and maxillary areas; 25.0 x 11.0 cms.,
deltoid area, extending down to the upper 2/3, arm, left.
Incised Wound, 3.0 cms., neck area, along anterior median line.
Hematoma, scalp, massive, temporo-parietal, left.
STAB WOUNDS:
1. 1.8 cms., elliptical, clean-cut edges, oriented obliquely with sharp infero-lateral extremity and blunt supero-medial extremity, located at the
mammary area, right; 3.0 cms., from the anterior median line, directed backwards, downwards and laterally, involving the soft tissues, cutting
completely the 4th cartilage, right side, into the right thoracic cavity, penetrating the lower of the right lung with an approximate depth 8.5 cms.
2. 0.8 cm., elliptical, clean-cut edges, oriented almost vertically, with sharp inferior extremity and blunt superior extremity, located at the
inframammary area, left, 1.1 cms., from the anterior median line, directed backwards, downwards and medially, involving the soft tissues only
with an approximate depth of 2.0 cms.
3. 2.0 cms., elliptical, clean-cut edges, oriented obliquely, with sharp infero-lateral extremity and blunt supero-medial extremity, located at the
inframammary area, left, 2.2 cms., from the anterior median line, directed backwards, downwards, and from left to right, involving the soft
tissues, into the left thoracic cavity, perforating the diaphragm, into the abdominal cavity, penetrating the right lobe of the liver with an
approximate depth 10.0 cms.
Brain, markedly softened and reduced to grayish white, pultaceous mass.
Other visceral organs, putrified,
Stomach is almost empty.
CAUSE OF DEATH: --- STAB WOUNDS.47
In his defense, accused-appellant alleged that he stayed home on September 23, 1993 because he was not feeling well. He denied that he asked
Demetrio Ravelo to fetch Elsa. He refuted Demetrios testimony that accused-appellant asked him to buy cigarettes, or that accused-appellant told him
to go home at 5:00 p.m.. Rather, accused-appellant maintained that he did not see Demetrio at any time in the afternoon of September 24, 1993. 48
On September 25, 1993, accused-appellant alleged that he was feeling better, hence, told Demetrio that they were to leave for Bagac, Bataan that
afternoon. They left the condominium at about 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. and proceeded straight to Bagac. When they arrived at Bagac, accused-appellant went

straight to the kitchen and met his mother, father, aunt and grandmother. Demetrio got the things out of the car and then asked accused-appellants
permission to take the car to go to the town.49
Accused-appellants mother, Mrs. Nieves Whisenhunt, testified that accused-appellant arrived at their beach house in Bagac, Bataan on September 25,
1993 at 5:00 p.m. At 7:00 the next morning, she saw accused-appellant clad in beach attire. Later that day, she and her husband had lunch at the
clubhouse, which was about three to four minutes drive from their house. When they returned home at 2:00 p.m., accused-appellant and his driver,
Demetrio, had already left.50 This was corroborated by accused-appellants aunt, Ms. Frances Sison.51
Accused-appellant claimed that he went jet-skiing in the morning of September 25, 1993. He alleged that the water was choppy and caused his jet-ski to
lose control. As a result, he suffered bruises on his chest and legs. Thereafter, he went home, cleaned up, changed clothes and rested. Later, as he was
going down the stairs, he slipped and extended his arm to stop his fall. He had lunch with this family. At 1:30 p.m., he and Demetrio left Bagac for
Manila.52
According to accused-appellant, he first learned of Elsas death when he was arrested by the NBI on September 28, 1993. 53 He denied having anything
to do with her death, saying that he had no reason to kill her since he was in love with her.54 Sometime during his relationship with Elsa, he claimed
having received in the mails two anonymous letters. The first one reads:
Salamat sa pagpapahiram mo ng sasakyan at driver. Pero masyado kang pakialamero, Steve. Walanghiya ka. Para kang demonyo.
Pinakialaman mo ang di sa yo. Lintik lang ang walang ganti. Matitiyempuhan din kita. Putang ina mo.55
The second letter says:
Steve,
Ang kay Pedro kay Pedro. Kapag pinakialaman ay kay San Pedro ang tungo. Mahal mo ba ang pamilya mo? Iniingatan mo ba ang pangalan
mo? Nakakasagasa ka na.56
At first, accused-appellant ignored the letters. But when he told Elsa about them, she got very upset and worried. She said the letters came from Fred,
her estranged husband.57
Ms. Frances Sison, accused-appellants aunt, testified that she and her mother visited accused-appellant at 3:00 p.m. on September 23, 1993. She went
inside the bedroom and talked to accused-appellant for about 30 minutes. While they were there, Ms. Sison testified that she did not see anyone else in
the bedroom. She also said the door of the bathroom inside the room was open, and there was nobody inside. The next day, at 4:00 p.m., she went back
to visit accused-appellant. Again, they went inside accused-appellants bedroom and stayed there for one hour. The door of the bathroom was open, and
she saw that there was nobody inside. The following morning, they passed by the condominium before proceeding to Bagac, Bataan. They went inside
accused-appellants bedroom and talked to him. As in the last two occasions, Ms. Sison saw through the open door of the bathroom that there was no
one inside.58
Theresa Whisenhunt, accused-appellants sister-in-law, testified that between December 21, 1991 and January 15, 1992, and again from the middle of
April, 1992 to May 15, 1992, she slept in the bedroom subsequently occupied by accused-appellant in the Platinum Condominium; that she regularly has
her menstruation around the end of every month; and that her blood type is "B". 59
On January 31, 1996, the trial court promulgated the appealed judgment, convicting accused-appellant of the crime of murder, sentencing him to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to pay the heirs of the deceased actual damage, moral damages, exemplary damages and attorneys
fees.60
Accused-appellant interposed an appeal from the adverse decision of the trial court, alleging that:
I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED OF THE CRIME CHARGED;
II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PROSECUTION WAS ABLE TO PRESENT ENOUGH CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE TO
SUPPORT THE CONCLUSION THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED;
III THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN REJECTING, DISREGARDING AND/OR NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE DEFENSE OF THE ACCUSED. 61
Much of the evidence on accused-appellants complicity was elicited from Demetrio Ravelo, the so-called "prosecution star witness." 62 On the premise
that accused-appellants guilt or innocence depends largely on the weight of his testimony, this Court has carefully scrutinized and examined his version
of the events, and has found that Demetrio Ravelos narrative is both convincing and consistent in all material points.
Before accused-appellant confessed to Demetrio Ravelo what had happened to Elsa Castillo, he first asked the latter how long he was willing to work for
him, and how far his loyalty will go. This was logical if accused-appellant wanted to ensure that Demetrio would stand by his side after learning what he
was about to reveal. More importantly, Demetrios description of Elsas dismembered body, as he found it in accused-appellants bathroom, perfectly
jibed with the appearance of the mutilated body parts, as shown in the photographs presented by the prosecution. 63
Likewise, the mutilated body parts, as well as the other items thrown by accused-appellant along the road to Bataan, were found by the NBI agents as
Demetrio pointed, which confirms that, indeed, the latter witnessed how accused-appellant disposed of Elsas body and personal belongings one by one.
All in all, the testimony of Demetrio Ravelo bears the ring of truth and sincerity. The records show that he did not waver even during lengthy and rigorous
cross-examination. In fact, the trial court gave full faith and credit to his testimony, stating:
The Court had opportunity to observe the demeanor of Demetrio Ravelo when he took the witness stand on several occasions. He was extensively
cross-examined by one of the defense counsel and he withstood the same creditably. Demetrio Ravelo is a very credible witness and his testimony is
likewise credible.64
This Court has consistently ruled that factual findings of the trial court deserve the highest respect. This is based on the fact that the trial judge is in the
best position to assess the credibility of the witnesses who appeared before his sala as he had personally heard them and observed their deportment
and manner of testifying during the trial.65 Especially, where issues raised involve the credibility of witnesses, the trial courts findings thereon will not be
disturbed on appeal absent any clear showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts, or circumstances of weight or substance,
which could have affected the result of the case.66 Succinctly put, findings of fact of the trial court pertaining to the credibility of witnesses command
great weight and respect since it had the opportunity to observe their demeanor while they testified in court. 67

Perhaps more damning to accused-appellant is the physical evidence against him. The findings of the forensic biologist on the examination of the hair
samples and bloodstains all confirm Elsas death inside accused-appellants bedroom. On the other hand, the autopsy report revealed that Elsa was
stabbed at least three times on the chest. This, taken together with Demetrios testimony that accused-appellant kept the kitchen knife inside his
bedroom on September 24, 1993, leads to the inescapable fact that accused-appellant stabbed Elsa inside the bedroom or bathroom.
Physical evidence is a mute but eloquent manifestation of truth, and it ranks high in the hierarchy of our trustworthy evidence. 68 For this reason, it is
regarded as evidence of the highest order. It speaks more eloquently than a hundred witnesses.69While it may be true that there was no eyewitness to
the death of Elsa, the confluence of the testimonial and physical evidence against accused-appellant creates an unbroken chain of circumstantial
evidence that naturally leads to the fair and reasonable conclusion that accused-appellant was the author of the crime, to the exclusion of all others.
Circumstantial evidence may be resorted to in proving the identity of the accused when direct evidence is not available, otherwise felons would go scotfree and the community would be denied proper protection. The rules on evidence and jurisprudence sustain the conviction of an accused through
circumstantial evidence when the following requisites concur: (1) there must be more than one circumstance; (2) the inference must be based on proven
facts; and (3) the combination of all circumstances produces a conviction beyond doubt of the guilt of the accused. 70
In the case at bar, the following circumstances were successfully proven by the prosecution without a shadow of doubt, to wit: that Elsa Santos Castillo
was brought to accused-appellants condominium unit on September 23, 1993; that on September 24, 1993, accused-appellants housemaid was
looking for her kitchen knife and accused-appellant gave it to her, saying that it was in his bedroom; that on September 25, 1993, accused-appellant and
Demetrio Ravelo collected the dismembered body parts of Elsa from the bathroom inside accused-appellants bedroom; that accused-appellant
disposed of the body parts by a roadside somewhere in San Pedro, Laguna; that accused-appellant also disposed of Elsas personal belongings along
the road going to Bagac, Bataan; that the mutilated body parts of a female cadaver, which was later identified as Elsa, were found by the police and NBI
agents at the spot where Demetrio pointed; that hair specimens found inside accused-appellants bathroom and bedroom showed similarities with hair
taken from Elsas head; and that the bloodstains found on accused-appellants bedspread, covers and in the trunk of his car, all matched Elsas blood
type.
Accused-appellant makes capital of the fact that the Medico-Legal Officer, Dr. Mendez, did not examine the pancreas of the deceased notwithstanding
Demetrios statement that, according to accused-appellant, Elsa died of "bangungot," or hemorrhage of the pancreas. Because of this, accusedappellant insists that the cause of death was not adequately established. Then, he relied on the controverting testimony of his witness, lawyer-doctor
Ernesto Brion, who was himself a Medico-Legal Officer of the NBI for several years, to the effect that the autopsy report prepared by Dr. Mendez was
unreliable and inconclusive. The trial court noted, however, that Dr. Brion was a biased witness whose testimony cannot be relied upon because he
entered his appearance as one of the counsel for accused-appellant and, in such capacity, extensively cross-examined Dr. Mendez. Accused-appellant
counters that there is no prohibition against lawyers giving testimony. Moreover, the trial courts ruling would imply that lawyers who testify on behalf of
their clients are presumed to be lying.
By rejecting the testimony of Dr. Brion, the trial court did not mean that he perjured himself on the witness stand. Notably, Dr. Brion was presented as
expert witness. His testimony and the questions propounded on him dealt with his opinion on the probable cause of death of the victim. Indeed, the
presentation of expert testimony is one of the well-known exceptions to the rule against admissibility of opinions in evidence. 71 In like manner, Dr.
Mendez was presented on the stand to give his own opinion on the same subject. His opinion differed from that of Dr. Brion, which is not at all unusual.
What the trial court simply did was to choose which --- between two conflicting medico-legal opinions --- was the more plausible. The trial court correctly
lent more credence to Dr. Mendezs testimony, not only because Dr. Brion was a biased witness, but more importantly, because it was Dr. Mendez who
conducted the autopsy and personally examined Elsas corpse up close.
In any event, the foregoing does not detract from the established fact that Elsas body was found mutilated inside accused-appellants bathroom. This
clearly indicated that it was accused-appellant who cut up Elsas body to pieces. Naturally, accused-appellant would be the only suspect to her killing.
Otherwise, why else would he cut up Elsas body as if to conceal the real cause of her death?
As already stated above, Demetrios testimony was convincing. Accused-appellant attempts to refute Demetrios statements by saying that he had
repeatedly reprimanded the latter for discourteous and reckless driving, and that he had already asked the latter to tender his resignation. Thus,
accused-appellant claims that Demetrio imputed Elsas death on him in order to get back at him. This Court finds the cruel treatment by an employer too
flimsy a motive for the employee to implicate him in such a gruesome and hideous crime. Rather than entertain an accusation of ill-motive and bad faith
on Demetrio Ravelo, this Court views his act of promptly reporting the incident to his family and, later, to the authorities, as a genuine desire to bring
justice to the cruel and senseless slaying of Elsa Santos Castillo, whom he knew well.
Accused-appellant also argues that his arrest was without a warrant and, therefore, illegal. In this regard, the rule is settled that any objection involving a
warrant of arrest or procedure in the acquisition by the court of jurisdiction over the person of an accused must be made before he enters his plea,
otherwise the objection is deemed waived.72 In other words, it is too late in the day for accused-appellant to raise an issue about his warrantless arrest
after he pleaded to a valid information and after a judgment of conviction was rendered against him after a full-blown trial.
Accused-appellant presented in evidence two supposedly threatening letters which, according to Elsa, were written by the latters husband. There is
nothing in these letters which will exculpate accused-appellant from criminal liability. The threats were directed at accused-appellant, not Elsa. The fact
remains that Elsa was last seen alive in accused-appellants condominium unit, and subsequently discovered dead in accused-appellants bathroom.
Surely, the place where her dead body was found does not support the theory that it was Fred Castillo who was probably responsible for her death.
We do not agree with the trial court that the prosecution sufficiently proved the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength. Abuse of
superiority is present whenever there is inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, assuming a situation of superiority of strength
notoriously advantageous for the aggressor and selected or taken advantage of by him in the commission of the crime. 73 The fact that the victim was a
woman does not, by itself, establish that accused-appellant committed the crime with abuse of superior strength. There ought to be enough proof of the
relative strength of the aggressor and the victim.74
Abuse of superior strength must be shown and clearly established as the crime itself.75 In this case, nobody witnessed the actual killing. Nowhere in
Demetrios testimony, and it is not indicated in any of the pieces of physical evidence, that accused-appellant deliberately took advantage of his superior
strength in overpowering Elsa. On the contrary, this Court observed from viewing the photograph of accused-appellant 76 that he has a rather small
frame. Hence, the attendance of the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength was not adequately proved and cannot be appreciated
against accused-appellant.
However, the other circumstance of outraging and scoffing at the corpse of the victim was correctly appreciated by the trial court. The mere decapitation
of the victims head constitutes outraging or scoffing at the corpse of the victim, thus qualifying the killing to murder.77 In this case, accused-appellant not
only beheaded Elsa. He further cut up her body like pieces of meat. Then, he strewed the dismembered parts of her body in a deserted road in the
countryside, leaving them to rot on the ground. The sight of Elsas severed body parts on the ground, vividly depicted in the photographs offered in
evidence, is both revolting and horrifying. At the same time, the viewer cannot help but feel utter pity for the sub-human manner of disposing of her
remains.
In a case with strikingly similar facts, we ruled:

Even if treachery was not present in this case, the crime would still be murder because of the dismemberment of the dead body. One of the
qualifying circumstances of murder under Article 248, par. 6, of the Revised Penal Code is "outraging or scoffing at (the) person or corpse" of
the victim. There is no question that the corpse of Billy Agotano was outraged when it was dismembered with the cutting off of the head and
limbs and the opening up of the body to remove the intestines, lungs and liver. The killer scoffed at the dead when the intestines were
removed and hung around Victorianos neck as a necklace, and the lungs and liver were facetiously described as "pulutan."78
Hence, the trial court was correct in convicting accused-appellant of the crime of murder, qualified by outraging and scoffing at the victims person or
corpse.79 This circumstance was both alleged in the information and proved during the trial. At the time of its commission, the penalty for murder was
reclusion temporal maximum to death.80No aggravating or mitigating circumstance was alleged or proved; hence, the penalty shall be imposed in its
medium period.81 Therefore, the trial courts imposition of the penalty of reclusion perpetua was correct, and need not be modified.
However, the damages awarded by trial court should be modified. Elida Santos, Elsas sister, testified that the funeral expenses was only
P50,000.00.82 Hence, the trial court erred when it awarded the amount of P100,000.00. Basic is the jurisprudential principle that in determining actual
damages, the court cannot rely on mere assertions, speculations, conjectures or guesswork but must depend on competent proof and on the best
obtainable evidence of the actual amount of the loss. Actual damages cannot be presumed but must be duly proved with reasonable certainty.83
The award of moral damages in murder cases is justified because of the physical suffering and mental anguish brought about by the felonious acts, and
is thus recoverable in criminal offenses resulting in death.84 It is true that moral damages are not intended to enrich the victims heirs or to penalize the
convict, but to obviate the spiritual sufferings of the heirs.85 Considering, however, the extraordinary circumstances in the case at bar, more particularly
the unusual grief and outrage suffered by her bereaved family as a result of the brutal and indecent mutilation and disposal of Elsas body, the moral
damages to be awarded to them should be more than the normal amount dictated by jurisprudence. However, the amount of P3,000,000.00 awarded by
the trial court as moral damages is rather excessive. The reasonable amount is P1,000,000.00 considering the immense sorrow and shock suffered by
Elsas heirs.
The award of attorneys fees of P150,000.00 was duly proved,86 and thus should be affirmed.
Finally, the heirs of Elsa Santos Castillo should be indemnified for her death. In murder, the civil indemnity has been fixed by jurisprudence at
P50,000.00. The grant of civil indemnity in murder requires no proof other than the fact of death as a result of the crime and proof of accused-appellants
responsibility therefor.87
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 152, in Criminal Case No. 102687, finding accused-appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of murder, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty ofreclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS: Accusedappellant is ORDERED to pay the heirs of Elsa Santos Castillo actual damages in the amount of P50,000.00; civil indemnity in the amount of
P50,000.00; moral damages in the amount of P1,000,000.00; exemplary damages in the amount of P1,000,000.00; and attorneys fees in the amount of
P150,000.00. Costs against accused-appellant.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 121087

August 26, 1999

FELIPE NAVARRO, petitioner,


vs.
THE COURT OF APPEALS and the PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision1 of the Court of Appeals, dated December 14, 1994, which affirmed the judgment of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 5, Lucena City, dated July 27, 1992, finding petitioner Felipe Navarro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide and sentencing him
to ten (10) years of prision mayor, as minimum, and fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, and (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum, but
increased the death indemnity awarded to the heirs of the victim, Enrique "Ike" Lingan, from P30,000.00 to P50,000.00.
The information against petitioner alleged
That on or about the 4th day of February, 1990, in the nighttime, in the City of Lucena, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, being then a member of the Lucena Integrated National Police, with intent to kill, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault one Ike Lingan inside the Lucena police headquarters, where authorities are

supposed to be engaged in the discharge of their duties, by boxing the said Ike Lingan in the head with the butt of a gun and thereafter when
the said victim fell, by banging his head against the concrete pavement, as a consequence of which said Ike Lingan suffered cerebral
concussion and shock which directly caused his death.
The evidence show that, at around 8:40 in the evening of February 4, 1990, Stanley Jalbuena and Enrique "Ike" Lingan, who were reporters of the radio
station DWTI in Lucena City, together with one Mario Ilagan, went to the Entertainment City following reports that it was showing the nude dancers. After
the three had seated themselves at a table and ordered beer, a scantily clad dancer appeared on stage and began to perform a strip act. As she
removed her brassieres, Jalbuena brought out his camera and took a picture.2
At that point, the floor manager, Dante Liquin, with a security guard, Alex Sioco, approached Jalbuena and demanded to know why he took a
picture.3 Jalbuena replied: "Wala kang pakialam, because this is my job." 4Sioco pushed Jalbuena towards the table as he warned the latter that he would
kill him.5 When Jalbuena saw that Sioco was about to pull out his gun, he ran out of the joint followed by his companions. 6
Jalbuena and his companions went to the police station to report the matter. Three of the policeman on duty, including petitioner Navarro, were having
drinks in front of the police station, and they asked Jalbuena and his companions to join them. Jalbuena declined and went to the desk officer, Sgt.
Aonuevo, to report the incident. In a while, Liquin and Sioco arrived on a motorcycle.7
Sioco and Liquin were met by petitioner Navarro who talked with them in a corner for around fifteen minutes. 8Afterwards, petitioner Navarro turned to
Jalbuena and, pushing him to the wall, said to him: "Putang ina, kinakalaban mo si Kabo Liquin, anak yan ni Kabo Liquin, hindi mo ba kilala?" 9 Petitioner
Navarro then pulled out his firearm and cocked it, and, pressing it on the face of Jalbuena, said "Ano, uutasin na kita?" 10
At this point, Lingan intervened and said to petitioner Navarro: "Huwag namang ganyan pumarito kami para magpa-blotter, I am here to
mediate."11 Petitoner Navarro replied: "Walang press, press, mag-sampu pa kayo."12He then turned to Sgt. Aonuevo and told him to make of record the
behavior of Jalbuena and Lingan.13
This angered Lingan, who said: "O, di ilagay mo diyan"14 Petitioner Navarro retorted: "Talagang ilalagay ko."15The two then had a heated
exchange.16 Finally, Lingan said: "Masyado kang abusado, alisin mo yang baril mo at magsuntukan na lang tayo." 17 Petitioner Navarro replied: "Ah,
ganoon?"18
As Lingan was about turn away, petitioner Navarro hit him with the handle of the pistol above the left eyebrow. Lingan fell on the floor, blood flowing
down his face. He tried to get up, but petitioner Navarro gave him a fist blow on the forehead which floored him. 19
Petitioner Navarro turned to Jalbuena and said: "Kita mo yan ha, buhay kang testigo, si Ike Lingan and naghamon." 20 He said to Sgt. Aonuevo: "Ilagay
mo diyan sa blotter sa harap ni Alex Sioco at Dante Liquin, na si Ike Lingan ang naghamon." 21 He then poked his gun at the right temple of Jalbuena and
made him sign his name on the blotter.22 Jalbuena could not affix his signature. His right hand was trembling and he simply wrote his name in print. 23
Capt. Coronado, the station commander, called petitioner Navarro to his office, while a policeman took Lingan to the Quezon Memorial Hospital. The
station manager of DWTI, Boy, Casaada, arrived and, learning that Lingan had been taken to the hospital, proceeded there. But Lingan died from his
injuries.24
Unknown to petitioner Navarro, Jalbuena was able to record on tape the exchange between petitioner and the deceased. 25 The following is an excerpt
from the tape recording:

Lingan: Pare, you are abusing yourself.


Navarro: Who is that abusing?
Lingan: I'm here to mediate. Do not include me in the problem. I'm out of the problem.
xxx
xxx
xxx
Navarro: Wala sa akin yan. Ang kaso lang . . .
Lingan: Kalaban mo ang media, pare, Ako at si Stanley, dalawa kami. Okay. Do not fight with me. I just came here to ayusin things. Do
not say bad things against me. I'm the number one loko sa media. I'm the best media man. . . .
Navarro: Huwag tayong mag-lokohan sa ganyan! Huwag na tayong mag-takotan! Huwag mong sabihing loko ka!
Lingan: I'm brave also.
Navarro: Ay lalo na ako. Tahimik lang naman ako. Wala ka namang masasabi sa akin dahil nag-tatrabaho lang ako ng ayon sa serbisyo
ko.
Lingan: You are challenging me and him. . . .
Navarro: Ay walastik ka naman Ike! Pag may problema ka dito sinasabihan kita na may balita tayong maganda. Pambihira ka Ike. Huwag
mong sabihin na . . . Parang minomonopoly mo eh.
Lingan: Pati ako kalaban ninyo.
Navarro: Talagang kalaban namin ang press. Lahat, hindi lang ikaw!
Lingan: You are wrong. Bakit kalaban nyo ang press?
Navarro: Pulis ito! Aba!
Lingan: Alisin mo ang baril mo! Alisin mo ang baril mo! Suntukan tayo, sige.
Navarro: Mayabang ka ah!
(Sounds of a scuffle)
Navarro: Hinamon ako nyan! Pare hinamon ako nyan! Pare hinamon ako nyan, testigo kayo. Alisin ko daw ang baril ko. Hinamon ako nyan.
Pare, ilagay mo diyan, hinamon ako sa harap ni Stanley. Testigo kayo, hinamon ako. Pulis tayo eh. Puta, buti nga, suntok lang ang inabot
nyan. Sa harap ni Alex, ni Joe, ni Stanley, hinamon ako. Pare, hinamon ako, kinig nyo ha. Hinamon ako nyan. Sige, dalhin nyo sa hospital
yan.
Petitioner Felipe Navarro claims that it was the deceased who tried to hit him twice, but he (petitioner) was able to duck both times, and that Lingan was
so drunk he fell on the floor twice, each time hitting his head on the concrete.26
In giving credence to the evidence for the prosecution, the trial court stated:

After a thorough and in-depth evaluation of the evidence adduced by the prosecution and the defense, this court finds that the evidence for the
prosecution is the more credible, concrete and sufficient to create that moral certainty in the mind of the court that accused herein is criminally
responsible.
The defense's evidence which consists of outright denial could not under the circumstance overturn the strength of the prosecution's evidence.
This court finds that the prosecution witnesses, more particularly Stanley Jalbuena, lacked any motive to make false accusation, distort the
truth, testify falsehood or cause accusation of one who had neither brought him harm or injury.
Going over the evidence on record, the postmortem report issued by Dra. Eva Yamamoto confirms the detailed account given by Stanley
Jalbuena on how Lingan sustained head injuries.
Said post-mortem report together with the testimony of Jalbuena sufficiently belie the claim of the defense that the head injuries of deceased
Lingan were caused by the latter's falling down on the concrete pavement head first.
The Court of Appeals affirmed:
We are far from being convinced by appellant's aforesaid disquisition. We have carefully evaluated the conflicting versions of the incident as
presented by both parties, and we find the trial court's factual conclusions to have better and stronger evidentiary support.
In the first place, the mere fact that Jalbuena was himself a victim of appellant's aggression does not impair the probative worth of his positive
and logical account of the incident in question. In fact, far from proving his innocence, appellant's unwarranted assault upon Jalbuena, which
the defense has virtually admitted, clearly betrays his violent character or disposition and his capacity to harm others. Apparently, the same
motivation that led him into assailing Jalbuena must have provoked him into also attacking Lingan who had interceded for Jalbuena and
humiliated him and further challenged to a fist fight.1wphi1.nt
xxx

xxx

xxx

On the other hand, appellant's explanation as how Lingan was injured is too tenuous and illogical to be accepted. It is in fact contradicted by
the number, nature and location of Lingan's injuries as shown in thepost-mortem report (Exh. D). According to the defense, Lingan fell two
times when he was outbalanced in the course of boxing the appellant. And yet, Lingan suffered lacerated wounds in his left forehead, left
eyebrow, between his left and right eyebrows, and contusion in the right temporal region of the head (Exh. E.). Certainly, these injuries could
not have been resulted from Lingan's accidental fall.
Hence, this appeal. Petitioner Navarro contends:
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED THE CASE NOT IN ACCORD WITH LAW AND WITH THE APPLICABLE
DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT. ITS CONCLUSION IS A FINDING BASED ON SPECULATION, SURMISE OR CONJECTURE;
THE INFERENCE IT MADE IS MANIFESTLY MISTAKEN, ABSURD OR IMPOSSIBLE; IT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION;
ITS JUDGMENT IS BASED ON A MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS; ITS FINDING IS CONTRADICTED BY EVIDENCE ON RECORD; AND
ITS FINDING IS DEVOID OF SUPPORT IN THE RECORD.
The appeal is without merit.
First. Petitioner Navarro questions the credibility of the testimony of Jalbuena on the ground that he was a biased witness, having a grudge against him.
The testimony of a witness who has an interest in the conviction of the accused is not, for this reason alone, unreliable. 27 Trial courts, which have the
opportunity observe the facial expressions, gestures, and tones of voice of a witness while testifying, are competent to determine whether his or her
testimony should be given credence.28 In the instant case, petitioner Navarro has not shown that the trial court erred in according weight to the testimony
of Jalbuena.
Indeed, Jalbuena's testimony is confirmed by the voice recording had made. It may be asked whether the tape is admissible in view of R.A. No. 4200,
which prohibits wire tapping. The answer is in the affirmative. The law provides:
Sec. 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire
or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using
a device commonly known as dictaphone or dictagraph of dectectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape-recorder, or however otherwise described:
It shall also be unlawful for any person, be he a participant or not in the act or acts penalized in the next preceding sentence, to knowingly
possess any tape record, wire record, disc record, or any other such record, or copies thereof, of any communication or spoken word secured
either before or after the effective date of this Act in the manner prohibited by this law; or to replay the same for any other person or persons;
or to communicate the contents thereof, either verbally or in writing, or to furnish transcriptions thereof, whether complete or partial, to any
other person: Provided, That the use of such record or any copies thereof as evidence in any civil, criminal investigation or trial of offenses
mentioned in section 3 hereof, shall not be covered by this prohibition.
xxx

xxx

xxx

Sec. 4. Any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of the same or any part thereof,
or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be
admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.
Thus, the law prohibits the overhearing, intercepting, or recording of private communications.29 Since the exchange between petitioner Navarro and
Lingan was not private, its tape recording is not prohibited.
Nor is there any question that it was duly authenticated. A voice recording is authenticated by the testimony of a witness (1) that he personally recorded
the conversations; (2) that the tape played in the court was the one he recorded; and (3) that the voices on the tape are those of the persons such are
claimed to belong.30 In the instant case, Jalbuena testified that he personally made the voice recording; 31 that the tape played in the court was the one he
recorded;32 and that the speakers on the tape were petitioner Navarro and Lingan.33 A sufficient foundation was thus laid for the authentication of the
tape presented by the prosecution.

Second. The voice recording made by Jalbuena established: (1) that there was a heated exchange between petitioner Navarro and Lingan on the
placing in the police blotter of an entry against him and Jalbuena; and (2) that some form of violence occurred involving petitioner Navarro and Lingan,
with the latter getting the worst of it.
Furthermore, Dr. Eva Yamamoto, who performed the autopsy on the body of Lingan, issued the medical certificate, 34 dated February 5, 1990, containing
the following findings:
Post Mortem Findings:
= Dried blood, forehead & face
= No blood oozed from the ears, nose & mouth
= Swelling, 3 cm x 2 cm, temporal region, head, right
= Lacerated wound, 2 cm in length, 1-2 in depth, lateral eyebrow, Left
= Lacerated wound, 0.5 cm in length, superficial, between the left & right eyebrow
= Lacerated wound, 2 cm in length, 1 cm in depth, forehead, Left
= Cyanosis of the tips of fingers & toes
CAUSE OF DEATH:
= CEREBRAL CONCUSSION & SHOCK
= BLOW ON THE HEAD
Dr. Yamamato testified:
Q Give your opinion as to what was the possible cause of this findings number one, which is oozing of blood from the forehead?
A It may be due to a blow on the forehead or it bumped to a hard object, sir.
Q Could a metal like a butt of a gun have caused this wound No. 1.?
A It is possible, sir.
Q And in the alternative, could have it been caused by bumping on a concrete floor?
A Possible, sir.
FISCAL:
What could have been the cause of the contusion and swelling under your findings No. 2 doctor?
WITNESS:
It may be caused by bumping to a hard object, sir.
Q Could a butt of a gun have caused it doctor?
A The swelling is big so it could have not been caused by a butt of a gun because the butt of a gun is small, sir.
Q How about this findings No. 4?
A By a bump or contact of the body to a hard object, sir.
Q And findings No. 5 what could have caused it?
A Same cause, sir.
Q This findings No. 6 what could have caused this wound?
A Same thing sir.
Q How about the last finding, cyanosis of tips of fingers and toes, what could have caused it doctor?
WITNESS:
It indicates there was cardiac failure, sir.
FISCAL:
In this same post mortem report and under the heading cause of death it states: Cause of Death: Cerebral concussion and Shock, will you explain it?

A Cerebral concussion means in Tagalog "naalog ang utak" or jarring of the brain, sir.
Q What could have been the cause of jarring of the brain?
A It could have been caused by a blow of a hard object, sir.
Q What about the shock, what could have caused it?
A It was due to peripheral circulatory failure, sir.
Q Could any one of both caused the death of the victim?
A Yes, sir.
Q Could cerebral concussion alone have caused the death of the deceased?
A May be, sir.
FISCAL:
Which of these two more likely, to cause death?
WITNESS:
Shock, sir.
Q Please explain further the meaning of the medical term shock?
A It is caused by peripheral circulatory failure as I have said earlier sir.
xxx

xxx

xxx

FISCAL:
Could a bumping or pushing of one's head against a concrete floor have caused shock?
WITNESS:
Possible, sir.
How about striking with a butt of a gun, could it cause shock?
A Possible, sir.35
The above testimony clearly supports the claim of Jalbuena that petitioner Navarro hit Lingan with the handle of his pistol above the left eyebrow and
struck him on the forehead with his fist.
Third. It is argued that the mitigating circumstances of sufficient provocation or threat on the part of the offended party immediately preceding the act
should have been appreciated in favor of petitioner Navarro. Provocation is defined to be any unjust or improper conduct or act of the offended party,
capable of exciting, inciting or irritating anyone.36 The provocation must be sufficient and should immediately precede the act. 37 To be sufficient, it must
be adequate to excite a person to commit the wrong, which must accordingly be proportionate in gravity.38 And it must immediately precede the act so
much so that there is no interval between the provocation by the offended party and the commission of the crime by the accused. 39
In the present case, the remarks of Lingan, which immediately preceded the act of petitioner, constituted sufficient provocation. In People
v. Macaso,40 we appreciated this mitigating circumstance in favor of the accused, a policeman, who shot a motorist after the latter had repeatedly
taunted him with defiant words. Hence, this mitigating circumstance should be considered in favor of petitioner Navarro.
Furthermore, the mitigating circumstance that the offender had no intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed should also be appreciated in
favor of petitioner. The frantic exclamations of petitioner Navarro after the scuffle that it was Lingan who provoked him shows that he had no intent to kill
the latter. Thus, this mitigating circumstance should be taken into account in determining the penalty that should be imposed on petitioner Navarro. The
allowance of this mitigating circumstance is consistent with the rule that criminal liability shall be incurred by any person committing a felony although the
wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.41 In People v. Castro,42 the mitigating circumstance of lack of intent to commit so grave a
wrong as that committed was appreciated in favor of the accused while finding him guilty of homicide.
However, the aggravating circumstance of commission of a crime in a place where the public authorities are engaged in the discharge of their duties
should be appreciated against petitioner Navarro. The offense in this case was committed right in the police station where policemen were discharging
their public functions.43
The crime committed as found by the trial court and the Court of Appeals was homicide, for which the penalty under Art. 249 of the Revised Penal Code
is reclusion temporal. As there were two mitigating circumstances and one aggravating circumstances, the penalty should be fixed in its minimum
period.44 Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner Navarro should be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty, the minimum of which is within
the range of the penalty next lower degree, i.e., prision mayor, and the maximum of which is reclusion temporal in its minimum period.45
The indemnity as increased by the Court of Appeals from P30,000.00 to P50,000.00 is in accordance with the current jurisprudence. 46
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with the modification that petitioner Felipe Navarro is hereby SENTENCED to suffer a
prison terms of 18 years of prision mayor, as minimum, to 14 years and 8 months of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
SO ORDERED.1wphi1.nt

[G.R. No. 125434. December 22, 1999]


DELFIN ABALOS, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, RTC-Br. 38, LINGAYEN, PANGASINAN, and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:
Liberato Damias visited his girlfriend at her house in San Isidro, Rosales, Pangasinan, on the night of 27 January 1993. He did not realize that that would be his
last rendezvous with her. He was gunned down soon after and died slowly in her arms. His assailant apparently driven by extreme jealousy hurriedly fled leaving the
lovers to the mercy of their fate.
On 26 February 1993 an Information was filed before the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasinan, charging petitioner Delfin Abalos with murder for the
killing of Liberato Damias.[1] The Information alleged that the accused, using an unlicensed firearm, with intent to kill, employing treachery and taking advantage of
superior strength, shot and killed Liberato Damias. It further alleged that Delfin Abalos should be considered a recidivist having been previously convicted by the
Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan.[2]
The bereaved Veronica Bulatao testified that she had known petitioner Delfin Abalos for several years as they were neighbors, their houses being only fifty (50)
meters from each other.[3] According to her, Delfin was courting her since June 1992 but she jilted him since she was already involved with the now deceased Liberato
Damias. In fact, she said, Delfin was enraged when she rejected him that he even threatened to kill her if she decided to marry Liberato. [4] He relentlessly pursued her
even when she left San Isidro to reside temporarily in San Juan and Sta. Ana, Manila. [5] She also testified that a few days before he shot Liberato Delfin went to her
house ostensively to watch television. But when she learned that his real intention was to see her she told him not to visit her again. [6]
Veronica further narrated that on the night of 27 January 1993 Liberato visited her at around 7 o'clock. As she was entertaining him at the balcony of their house
she noticed petitioner walking back and forth in front of their house. He was just about four (4) meters or so away from them. [7] As she was ill at ease with petitioners
conspicuous demeanor below, she asked Liberato to transfer to their sala where they could continue talking. When they moved inside, Liberato sat near the entrance of
the house with his left side towards the door with Veronica sitting in front of him. The positions of Liberato and Veronica and their proximity to one another could have
heightened Delfin's animosity that he suddenly appeared at the door and in a semi-kneeling position shot Liberato on his left side. [8] Liberato could only embrace
Veronica as blood trickled from his mouth and he desperately gasped for breath. Veronica positively identified petitioner Delfin Abalos as he scurried away since the
sala of her house was adequately lit by a kerosene lamp and he was only one (1) meter away from them when he pulled the trigger.[9]
SPO1 Melchor Bernabe recounted that on the night of 27 January 1993 the barangay captain of San Isidro went to the police station and reported the shooting
incident to him.[10] So he proceeded to the crime scene with the Chief of Police and SPO2 Ruben Pitok to investigate the matter. Upon reaching the house of Veronica
Bulatao he saw Liberato's body sprawled on the floor. He asked Veronica who the assailant was but she was in incoherent and in a state of shock. It was only later at the
police station that she was able to reveal the identity of the gunman. Upon learning that Delfin Abalos was positively identified by Veronica, SPO1 Bernabe went to the
house of Delfin and accosted him. Then he brought him to the station for further questioning.[11]
Dr. Ingrid Gancinia, Municipal Health Officer of Rosales, Pangasinan, testified that Liberato died from a bullet wound which pierced the lower part of his left
armpit, and that there were powder burns on the victims body indicating that he was shot at a very close range, probably around six (6) inches away.[12]
But Delfin denied killing Liberato. He claimed that on the night of 27 January 1993 he worked with his father in the tobacco fields from 3:00 p.m. until midnight,
and the only time he left was from 6:00 to 6:30 in the evening to get supper from their house. He stopped working at midnight and went straight home to sleep. He
only woke up at 4:00 o'clock the following morning when his father told him that there were some policemen downstairs looking for him. After telling him that he was
a suspect in the shooting, his room was searched and then he was brought to the police station for investigation. [14]
[13]

Celestino Abalos, Delfins father, together with Ruben Fragata and Virgilio Ortiz, tried to corroborate Delfin's alibi. The three (3) all claimed that they had supper
near the tobacco fields from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., and that after eating, they returned to the fields to finish their work. They also said that from the time they finished dinner
Delfin never left the fields until midnight.[15]
Jerry Fernandez, another defense witness, testified that after spraying insecticide on his plants he took a bath at a well near the tobacco plantation from 8:00 to
9:00 p.m. during which he saw Delfin around twenty (20) meters away working at the fields, [16] and that before heading for home he noticed Delfin still busy with his
work.
On rebuttal, Inocencio Bulatao, Veronica's father, testified that Delfin, contrary to his alibi, was not in the fields but in their house prior to the shooting. In fact
Inocencio said that at around 7:00 p.m., Delfin was in their house watching television with his family as they customarily allowed their neighbors to do so. When
Liberato arrived Veronica took him to the balcony where they talked. An hour later, Inocencio turned the television off, so petitioner left their house, [17] and Inocencio
proceeded to their kitchen to rest. Then he heard a shot prompting him to rush to the sala to check if anything wrong happened to his daughter. [18] But Veronica told him
that Delfin shot Liberato. Inocencio then called out to his neighbors for help.[19]
Delfin Abalos alibi failed to convince the trial court. It found petitioner guilty of murder and imposed upon him an indeterminate prison term of fourteen (14)
years, eight (8) months and one (1) day as minimum, to eighteen (18) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum. Petitioner was also
ordered to pay the heirs of the victim P38,000.00 for actual damages, P50,000.00 for compensatory damages and P30,000.00 for moral damages.[20] However, the
aggravating circumstance of use of an unlicensed firearm was not appreciated as the weapon was never recovered.
The Court of Appeals sustained on appeal the award for damages but set aside the conviction of petitioner for murder and found him guilty instead of the lesser
crime of homicide. The appellate court concluded that the aggravating circumstance of treachery was not indubitably established to qualify the killing of Liberato to
murder and reduced petitioner's sentence to an indeterminate prison term of twelve (12) years of prision mayor maximum to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months
of reclusion temporal.[21] His motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, petitioner comes to us on a petition for review.
Petitioner argues that the testimony of the lone witness, Veronica Bulatao, was not credible; that the Court of Appeals erred in considering his three (3) prior
convictions as basis for finding him guilty of homicide; and, his guilt was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
In an apparent attempt to destroy Veronicas credibility, petitioner asserts that her actions prior to the shooting were highly questionable. If indeed he had
threatened her life, then why did she still allow him to enter their house that night? If she really saw him suspiciously walking back and forth near their house, why did
she not warn Liberato of the impending danger?[22]
Petitioner also cites inconsistencies in her testimony, such as her assessment of the time frame when he courted her and her statements as to when she last saw
him prior to the commission of the crime. [23] He even went to the extent of saying that Veronicas act of allowing him to court her despite her existing relationship with
Liberato showed her deceitful character, hence, her unreliability as a witness.
We disagree. Veronicas actions prior to the incident and the alleged inconsistencies in her testimony do not affect her credibility in positively identifying
Liberatos killer. The fact remains that she was only a meter away when she saw Delfin shot Liberato. Also, a kerosene lamp lighted the sala thus enabling her to easily

recognize Delfin as the gunman. And such illumination produced by a kerosene lamp has indeed been held sufficient to allow a witness to identify a person.
[24]
Veronica's competency in identifying petitioner is further strengthened by the fact that they were neighbors for several years and so she was very familiar with
him. Veronica even saw him immediately before the shooting as he paced the barangay road only a few meters away.
More importantly, we have consistently reiterated that the credibility of witnesses is a matter best assessed by the trial court because of its unique opportunity to
observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their demeanor, conduct and attitude. [25] Thus, unless certain facts of substance and value have been overlooked, which if
considered might affect the result of the case, the trial courts appraisal of the credibility of a witness should not be overturned. [26] The trial court ruled that Veronica
testified in a clear, straightforward and flawless manner.[27] We see no cogent reason to deviate from that observation.
Petitioner holds that the Court of Appeals erred in giving weight to his three (3) prior convictions as a basis for finding him guilty. He maintains that his past
convictions for murder, homicide and frustrated homicide do not prove that he was capable of killing Liberato.
Although it is true that the appellate court mentioned his prior convictions in its decision, such was not the basis for finding him guilty of homicide. The appellate
court only mentioned the prior convictions to show that Veronica took his death threats seriously. [28] The decisive factor for convicting petitioner was still the positive
identification made by Veronica during the trial. [29] Obviously, even without mentioning his earlier convictions, the Court of Appeals would have still concluded that
Delfin did kill Liberato.
The last issue raised by petitioner is that the appellate court erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide. He argues that he had a solid alibi
to prove his innocence and that the paraffin test yielded negative for powder burns on his hand, hence confirming that he never fired the shot that killed Liberato.
For alibi to prosper, petitioner must not only prove that he was not at the crime scene but that it was also physically impossible for him to have been present there
at the time the offense was committed. [30] He miserably failed to satisfy the second requisite. Delfin himself testified that the distance between the tobacco fields to
Veronicas house was only around 400 meters and it only took eight (8) minutes to traverse such path. [31] Evidently, it was not impossible for Delfin to be present at
the locus criminis.
Further, it has been long established that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by a credible witness who had no ill motive to falsely
testify.[32] The absence of ill motive on Veronicas part was even substantiated by petitioner in his testimony. Thus Q: Since you admitted that your family and the family of the Bulataos have no misunderstanding whatsoever, can you tell the honorable court the reason why
Veronica Bulatao pinpointed you as the one who shot Liberato Damias.
A: I dont know of any reason, sir.
Q: As far as you are concerned Veronica Bulatao has no ill-motive to testify against you, is that what you mean.
A: None, sir.[33]
Thus, contrary to petitioners assertion, Veronica only testified against him to seek justice for Liberatos death, and not to arbitrarily implicate anyone just to put an
end to her boyfriends case.
Anent the paraffin test, it is true that it produced a negative result but such fact does not ipso facto merit Delfins acquittal. This Court acknowledges that the
absence of powder burns in a suspects hand is not conclusive proof that he has not fired a gun. [34] In fact, the traces of nitrates can easily be removed by the simple act of
washing ones hand.[35]
However, although we agree that Delfin was Liberatos assailant, we disagree with the sentence imposed by the appellate court. Murder, and not homicide, was
committed.
The Court of Appeals, abiding by established jurisprudence, ruled that before treachery could be considered, two (2) conditions must be present. First, that the
means, method or manner of execution employed would ensure the safety of the malefactor from the retaliatory or defensive acts of the victim; and second, that the
perpetrator deliberately or consciously adopted such means of execution. However, the appellate court ruled that the prosecution failed to satisfy the second requisite
there being no proof that petitioner deliberately sought such manner of executing the crime to ensure his own safety from any form of retaliation that the victim might
have employed.[36]
The records, however, prove otherwise. Before the incident, Delfin walked back and forth on the barangay road, a few meters from the balcony where Veronica
was entertaining Liberato.[37] He waited for the perfect opportunity to execute his fiendish plot. While Liberato cozily sat in Veronicas sala, devoting his full attention to
her, petitioner suddenly appeared at the door from behind and without warning shot him. Surely, there is no other conclusion but that he deliberately and consciously
employed such means of execution to ensure his own safety from any form of defense that Liberato might have used.
It should be remembered that the essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on an unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on the part of the
latter.[38] This was what Delfin did. He attacked Liberato while he was deeply engrossed in conversation with Veronica, oblivious of the lurking peril to his life. The trial
court was therefore correct in ruling that the crime committed was murder.
The Court of Appeals also ruled that although recidivism was alleged in the Information, the evidence introduced was insufficient to prove it as an aggravating
circumstance. According to the appellate court, the certification presented during the trial showing that Delfin was already on parole failed to state what crime he was
previously convicted of.[39] As such, there was no way to determine if the prior crime committed fell under the same title as murder.
The records however reveal that petitioner himself openly admitted in court that he was previously convicted of three (3) other offenses. He said:
Q: Is it not a fact Mr. Accused that you were previously convicted of murder, attempted homicide and homicide?
A: I was convicted of Murder, Homicide and Attempted Homicide, sir.
Q: This conviction of the crime of Murder was under Criminal Case No. L-1691, CFI, Lingayen Pangasinan and you were sentenced on July 20, 1978, is it not?
A: That was Homicide, July 29, 1978, sir.
Q: Who was your victim in that homicide case?
A: Bernardo Valdez, sir.

Q: About this murder case conviction, who was your victim?


A: Ricardo Villamin, sir.
Q: And when were you convicted in this murder case?
A: I cannot remember already, sir. I was convicted first of Homicide, then attempted homicide and then murder.
Q: And who was your victim in this Attempted Homicide case?
A: Rodrigo Batucan, sir.[40]
This candid admission by petitioner of his prior convictions is sufficient to establish recidivism as a generic aggravating circumstance. [41] And since all of his
earlier convictions fall under the same title of The Revised Penal Code , i.e., Crimes Against Persons (Title Eight), he can be properly considered as a recidivist.
Petitioner should therefore be convicted of murder qualified by treachery, with the generic aggravating circumstance of recidivism. When he committed the
crime, the imposition of the death penalty was still proscribed by the 1987 Constitution, thus he should only be sentenced to reclusion perpetua and not death. And
since the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua, an indivisible penalty, the provisions ofThe Indeterminate Sentence Law applied by both the trial court and the Court of
Appeals cannot be invoked.[42]
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals finding petitioner DELFIN ABALOS guilty of homicide is MODIFIED. He is instead adjudged GUILTY
of MURDER with recidivism as a generic aggravating circumstance. He is therefore sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of
Liberato Damias P50,000.00 for civil indemnity, P30,000.00 for moral damages andP38,000.00 for actual damages, and to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 130963

November 27, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
MARIANO PASCUA, JR. @ "PEDRO" & JOHN DOES, accused,
MARIANO PASCUA, JR. @ "PEDRO", accused-appellant.
PUNO, J.:
This is an appeal from a decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cabarroguis, Quirino, Branch 32, dated April 28, 1997, in Criminal Case No. 993, finding
accused-appellant Mariano Pascua, Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all
the accessory penalties inherent thereto, to indemnify the heirs of the victim the amount of P120,000.00 as and for actual and moral damages, and to
pay the costs without subsidiary imprisonment case of insolvency.1
In an Information dated November 27, 1992, accused-appellant Mariano Pascua, Jr. alias "Pedro", together with four John Does, was charged of Murder,
committed as follows:
"That on or about 6:00 o'clock in the evening of November 14, 1992 in Barangay Doa Imelda, Municipality of Diffun, Province of Quirino,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to kill, armed with firearms of unknown
calibers and taking advantage of their superior strength and with the aid of armed men and with treachery after conspiring, confederating and
mutually helping one another did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot ERNESTO QUIMING, a Barangay Captain of the
said place, hitting the latter on the different parts of his body that caused his instantaneous death.
CONTRARY TO LAW."2
Evidence for the prosecution shows that on November 14, 1992, at about 6:00 in the evening, prosecution witness Sanita Quiming (Sanita), wife of the
victim, Ernesto Quiming (Ernesto), was gathering dry clothes in the yard of their house at Doa Imelda, Diffun, Quirino when a man arrived looking for
the house of the barangay captain. She answered "none sir" because she saw that the man was holding a gun with his two hands. Then the man
inquired about Ernesto and she replied that he was attending a prayer meeting at Barangay Malayod together with their three children but they will soon

be back. Suddenly the man pointed his gun at her and pushed her inside the house. She was told to keep quiet and was threatened that her children will
be killed if she talked.
Upon entering the house, Sanita was surprised to see three other armed men pointing their guns at her two children. One of them, whose face was
covered with a bonnet, spoke and Sanita was startled when she heard the voice because it sounded familiar. For a moment, Sanita surreptitiously stared
at the man with the bonnet and she became apprehensive when she recognized him to be herein accused-appellant because of the eyes, eyelids, nose,
mouth, and beard which were not covered. She knows accused-appellant well because they have been neighbors ever since he was a child. Sanita also
knows accused-appellant as the person who threw a hand grenade at Ernesto during a barangay meeting. However, she pretended not to recognize
accused-appellant.
The man who approached Sanita in the yard told her that they want to get the .38 caliber gun of Ernesto. When she told him that she did not know
anything about it, herein accused-appellant got angry, insisted that Ernesto had a gun and forced her to bring it out. At this point, two of the Quiming
children, Aileen and Elizabeth, arrived from the prayer meeting. The two were almost near the fence of the house when they heard somebody whistle
from behind. When they looked back, a man poked a gun at them and ordered them to go inside the house and keep quiet. Aileen recognized accusedappellant though he was wearing a bonnet since his face was not totally covered. She has known accused-appellant from childhood and the latter's
house is only 300 meters away from them. Not long after, her brother Jonathan followed and was likewise forced into the house by one of the armed
men.
Knowing that her husband Ernesto would not be far behind, Sanita stood up and peeped through the jalousy of the window. They were still being heavily
guarded by the four men inside the house. It was then that she saw Ernesto walking towards the house, around ten meters away from where she was
standing. A man coming from the waiting shed located along the road going to their house followed Ernesto and suddenly shot him on the right arm.
Ernesto fell to the ground facing downward. Upon seeing this, accused-appellant and his three companions immediately ran outside. One of them shot
Ernesto a second time. Accused-appellant fired the third shot that hit Ernesto on the head. Ernesto's shoulder shook and then his body turned limp.
Sanita was so stunned that she kept jumping helplessly. The five malefactors hurriedly ran away. Thereafter, Sanita and her children rushed to Ernesto
but he was no longer moving. They brought him to the Quirino Provincial Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.
A few hours after the incident, several barangay officials and members of the PNP went to the house of Sanita to investigate. When asked if she knew
the identity of the assailants, she said "nobody had killed my husband except the one who threw a hand grenade at my husband." It was on November
26, 1992 that she gave her sworn statement3 to the police and disclosed the name and identity of accused-appellant as one of the assailants. According
to Sanita, she was afraid that accused-appellant might escape and hide if she immediately revealed his name before a formal investigation could be
conducted. On November 27, 1992, Aileen and Elizabeth executed their joint affidavit. 4
According to Sanita, during a meeting of barangay officials on August 30, 1992, Ernesto, a barangay captain, and accused-appellant, a barangay
councilman, had a misunderstanding and the latter threw a hand grenade at the former. When the hand grenade did not explode, accused-appellant
tried to shoot Ernesto twice inside the latter's yard but failed. Sanita was present when the first shooting incident happened.
Three days after the death of Ernesto, accused-appellant and his family left their house at Doa Imelda, Diffun and moved to Ricarte Norte, Diffun.
Sanita testified that she spent P20,000.00 for the burial of Ernesto.
Prosecution witness Leslie Chambers-Maalat, a forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory Service in Camp Crame, Quezon City, testified that as
per her Chemistry Report No. C436-92 dated May 20, 1992,5 the paraffin casts taken from both hands of accused-appellant gave positive result to the
tests for gunpowder nitrates because a blue reaction was produced. She concluded that accused-appellant fired a gun. She said that matches,
cigarettes and fertilizers can also test positive for nitrate and produce a blue reaction just like gun powder nitrate. However, she explained that matches
and cigarettes produce positive result for nitrate only which is different from gunpowder nitrate. Also, the blue reaction produced from nitrate contained in
the former does not have dots and tails whereas the blue reaction produced by gunpowder nitrate has dots and tails.
The autopsy examination conducted by Dra. Mary Jean Baguioen, Medical Officer III at the Quirino Provincial Hospital, showed the following
postmortem findings as contained in Autopsy Report No. 92-06-35-99:6
"Intrathoracic Findings:
= Penetrating wound, middle lobe, right lung.
= Base of the heart.
= Inferior lobe of left lung.
Intracranial Findings:
= Gunshot wound entry right parietal bone.
= Orbital bone fractured, left.
= Bullet lodged at orbital area, inferior.
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Intrathoracic hemorrhage secondary to Gunshot Wound."
Dra. Baguioen explained that the victim suffered a penetrating wound on the right breast caused by a gun shot. The right lung was fatally damaged.
There was also a penetrating wound at the base of the heart caused by a gunshot. These wounds sustained by the victim were the most fatal. Another
gunshot wound entry was found on the right parietal bone which is located on the right side of the head. When they opened the skull of the victim, they
recovered a slug inside. The orbital bone located just below the lower left eyelid was also fractured and she discovered a bullet lodged in this area.
Finally, she testified that the victim suffered severe bleeding inside the chest which caused his death.
The defense relied mainly on denial and alibi.
Accused-appellant testified that in the afternoon of November 14, 1992, he went to Barangay Sta. Cruz, Benito Soliven, Isabela with his wife and two
children to attend the wedding of the daughter of his cousin, Ernesto Aquino. He drove his tricycle from the town proper of Diffun to Barangay Sta. Cruz.
It was almost dusk when they reached the place. On their way to the house of his cousin, he saw Barangay Captain Sabino Carlos and invited the latter
to the pre-nuptial party that night. Accused-appellant parked his tricycle at the house of Kagawad Abraham Martin. There he saw Barangay Secretary

Francisco Viernes and several others in a drinking session. The group invited accused-appellant for a drink to which he obliged. Shortly thereafter, they
all proceeded to the house of Ernesto Aquino where the pre-nuptial party was being held. The group of accused-appellant drank at the party until 9:00
p.m. They had to stop when trouble erupted from a group of guests who were also drinking. Accused-appellant decided to go upstairs and sleep.
The next day, November 15, 1992, the wedding ceremony was held which ended at around 12 o'clock in the afternoon. Thereafter, accused-appellant
and his family left for Diffun town. They passed by Santiago City to have the tricycle painted with the names of their children. Since it was raining and the
road going to their house was not passable because it was muddy and slippery, they proceeded to Ricarte Norte and spent the night at the house of
accused-appellant's uncle, Fred Antonino. That night, accused-appellant was informed by his uncle about the killing of Barangay Captain Ernesto
Quiming.
The following day, November 16, 1992, accused-appellant left in the morning to ply his tricycle from Ricarte to Diffun. He was at the parking area in
Diffun when two policemen approached him and invited him to the police station for questioning. At the police headquarters, the Station Commander
asked him if he already knew what happened to Ernesto and he answered that his Uncle Fred told him about it the night before. Accused-appellant was
informed that he is a suspect in the killing because he was the person last known to have a grudge against the victim. He was then brought to the Crime
Laboratory Service in Cauayan, Isabela to undergo paraffin test. That night, accused-appellant slept at Ricarte Norte and only his wife and children went
home. Since then, accused-appellant has never returned to Doa Imelda, Diffun.
Accused-appellant admitted that during a barangay meeting sometime in August 1992, he had a misunderstanding with Barangay Captain Ernesto
Quiming because the latter wanted to remove him as barangay councilman. He felt embarrassed and humiliated before the barangay officials and so he
went home. But he went back to settle the matter with Ernesto. And it was at this time when accused-appellant threw a hand grenade to the victim. He
alleged that it was Ernesto who shot him first and he only fired back. He stated that the matter was settled in October 1992 when he asked for
forgiveness from Ernesto in the presence of the barangay officials. Since then, he did not have any misunderstanding with Ernesto anymore.
Defense witnesses Abraham Martin, Ernesto Aquino, Sabino Carlos and Francisco Viernes corroborated the alibi that accused-appellant attended a
wedding party at Barangay Sta. Cruz, Benito Soliven, Isabela on that fateful day of November 14, 1992. They testified upon request of the father of the
accused-appellant.
In this appeal, accused-appellant insists that he was not positively identified by the prosecution witnesses and that it was physically impossible for him to
have been at the scene of the crime.
Again, the basic issues in the case at bar deal with the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. It is an established rule that when the issue concerns
credibility of witnesses, appellate courts generally will not overturn the findings of the trial courts. The latter courts are in the best position to ascertain
and measure the sincerity and spontaneity of witnesses through their actual observation of the witnesses' manner of testifying, demeanor and behavior
in court. In the case at bar, we find no basis to depart from the rule.7
I. Accused-appellant assails the conclusion of the trial court that he committed the crime because he tested positive for gunpowder nitrate. He claims
that the testimony of forensic chemist Leslie Chambers-Maalat shows that other substances like fertilizers, matches and cigarettes likewise produce
positive results for nitrate, to wit:
"Q: How many casts were given to you for examination, Mrs. Witness?
A:

Two paraffin casts, sir.

Q:

This (sic) paraffin casts were given to you for laboratory examination, is it not?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

And before you proceeded to the laboratory examination, did you conduct also a physical examination on this case?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

In other words, you did not try to find out the presence of gun power nitrate through physical examination, you did not do that?

A:

No, sir.

Q:
Is it not a fact that aside from gun powder nitrate, there are other particles which also gave (sic) positive nitrates like for instance
fertilizers?
A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

or matches?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

and also cigarettes?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

Is there a different characteristic on blue reaction coming from fertilizers and gun powders?

A:
Yes, sir. A nitrate/gun powder nitrate produced blue reaction with dot with tail; while in the other source like fertilizers, matches and
cigarettes, it only reacts blue reaction but without dots or tail.
Q:

Did you indicate the appearance of blue reaction with tails in your findings?

A:

No, sir."

In an attempt to discredit the accuracy of the paraffin test conducted on him, accused-appellant testified that while waiting for his paraffin test, he
smoked a cigarette which he lighted with a match. We are not convinced.

Accused-appellant failed to recite the complete testimony of the forensic chemist relevant to the issue. Such selective quotation is unethical and will not
exculpate accused-appellant. We quote the relevant testimony of the forensic chemist to avoid its distortion, viz.:
"Q:

How many casts were given to you for examination, Mrs. Witness?

A:

Two paraffin casts, sir.

Q:

This (sic) paraffin casts were given to you for laboratory examination, is it not?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

And before you proceeded to the laboratory examination, did you conduct also a physical examination on this case?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

In other words, you did not try to find out the presence of gun power nitrate through physical examination, you did not do that?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

Because what you resulted to was the chemical test/diphenylamine test?

A.

Yes, sir.

Q:

And you only concluded that the casts contains (sic) gun powder nitrate?

A:

No, sir.

Q:

And you concluded, madam Witness, that because of the presence of gun powder nitrate that produces blue reaction, is that correct?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

Now, you concluded madam Witness that the casts contains (sic) gun powder nitrate just because of the blue reaction?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:
Is it not a fact that aside from gun powder nitrate, there are other particles which also gave (sic) positive nitrates like for instance
fertilizers?
A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

or matches?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

and also cigarettes?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:
Now, when a person who have (sic) been contacted with this (sic) particles is examined, is it not a fact that a blue reaction will also
take place?
A:

They would only give positive result for nitrate but not gun powder nitrate, sir.

Q:

But it remains, Madam Witness, that a gun powder nitrate create blue reaction, is it not?

A:

Yes, sir.

Q:

In the same manner like fertilizers, matches and cigarettes?

A:

There is blue reaction but different characteristic, sir.

Q:

Is there a different characteristic on blue reaction coming from fertilizers and gun powders?

A:
Yes, sir. A nitrate/gun powder nitrate produced blue reaction with dot with tail; while in the other source like fertilizers, matches and
cigarettes, it only reacts blue reaction but without dots or tail.
Q:

Did you indicate the appearance of blue reaction with tails in your findings?

A:

No, sir."8 (italics are the omitted portions)

The ability to determine whether an individual has fired a firearm is of great significance in the investigation of both homicides and suicides. Thus, over
the years a number of tests have been developed in an attempt to fill this need. The first of such tests was the "paraffin test" also known as the "Dermal
Nitrate" or "diphenylamine test." In this test, the hands were coated with a layer of paraffin. After cooling, the casts were removed and treated with an
acid solution of diphenylamine, a reagent used to detect nitrates and nitrites that originate from gunpowder and may be deposited on the skin after firing
a weapon. A positive test was indicated by the presence of blue flecks in the paraffin. Although this test may give positive results on the hands of
individuals who fired weapons, it also gives positive results on the hands of individuals who have not fired weapons because of the widespread
distribution of nitrates and nitrites in our environment.9 Thus, nitrates can also be found in many other materials, including cigarette smoke, urine,
fertilizers, and other kinds of chemicals such as oxidizing agents.10

To be sure, negative gunshot residue results do not conclusively mean that a subject did not fire a gun, and positive gunshot residue results do not prove
someone fired a gun either. Thus, this test for residue on skin has been challenged in the courts and fell into disfavor and disuse because of the
ambiguity in conclusions whether an individual fired a weapon or not. 11
In our jurisprudence, we have consistently held that paraffin tests are inconclusive, to wit:
". . . Scientific experts concur in the view that the paraffin test has . . . proved extremely unreliable in use. The only thing that it can deliberately
establish is the presence or absence of nitrates or nitrites on the hand. It cannot be established from this test alone that the source of the
nitrates or nitrites was the discharge of a firearm. The person may have handled one or more of a number of substances which give the same
positive reaction for nitrates or nitrites, such as explosives, fireworks, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and leguminous plants such as peas, beans
and alfalfa. A person who uses tobacco may also have nitrate or nitrite deposit on his hands since these substances are present in the
products of combustion of tobacco."12
Be that as it may, the result of the paraffin test conducted on accused-appellant in the case at bar still proves that he tested positive for gunpowder
nitrates. The allegation of accused-appellant that he smoked while waiting for his test is of no consequence. According to witness Dr. Chambers-Maalat,
the blue reaction produced by nitrate coming from cigarettes and matches has a different characteristic from the blue reaction produced in gun powder
nitrate, in that the former does not have dots and tails which are present in the latter. It bears to stress too that the fact that accused-appellant fired a gun
is corroborated by the convincing, straightforward and categorical testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.
II. Accused-appellant contends that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime because on that fateful day he went to
Sta. Cruz, Benito Soliven, Isabela to attend the wedding of his cousin's daughter. This was corroborated by the defense witnesses who were all
barangay officials of Barangay Sta. Cruz.
There is no controversy that accused-appellant went to attend a wedding on November 14, 1992 at Barangay Sta. Cruz, Benito Soliven, Isabela. What is
unclear and remains suspect, however, is his allegation that before going to Barangay Sta. Cruz, he came from the house of his employer, Board
Member Natividad, in Diffun where he has allegedly been staying even before November 14, 1992. The other defense witnesses testified merely on the
fact of his presence at the wedding, but none was presented to prove that accused-appellant came from Diffun town. Accused-appellant could have
easily presented Board Member Natividad to corroborate his testimony but he never did. If it were true that accused-appellant was already working for
Board Member Natividad at that time, it is perplexing why he did not return to his employer's house after the wedding and instead stayed with his uncle
at Ricarte Norte, Diffun on the pretext that he was going to ply his tricycle to earn a living. Also, accused-appellant allegedly bought his tricycle on
October 29, 1992 but it is highly dubious that he started to use it for hire only on November 16, 1992 the day he was invited to the police
headquarters for questioning.
The stubborn truth is that accused-appellant came from Doa Imelda, Diffun before going to Barangay Sta. Cruz. We are not convinced that it was
physically impossible for him to be in Doa Imelda at the time of the incident considering that it is only around four hours drive going to Barangay Sta.
Cruz. The trite defenses of alibi and denial proffered by accused-appellant cannot prevail over the positive and categorical statements of the prosecution
witnesses. For this defense to prosper, it must preclude any doubt on the physical impossibility of the accused-appellant to be at the locus criminis at the
time of the incident.13
III. Accused-appellant avers that it was impossible for Sanita and Aileen Quiming to have recognized him since according to them the assailant was
wearing a bonnet. Moreover, when the police arrived at the scene of the crime, Sanita failed to identify the assailant and it was only several days
thereafter, or on November 26, 1992, when she executed a sworn statement before the police that she named the accused-appellant. We are not
persuaded.
First, prosecution witnesses Sanita and Aileen Quiming positively identified accused-appellant as the one who fired the third and last shot and killed the
victim Ernesto. Although accused-appellant was wearing a bonnet, his face was not totally covered because his eyes, nose, mouth and beard were
exposed. Sanita and Aileen were also able to recognize accused-appellant through his voice and gestures. Identification by the sound of the voice of the
person identified is sufficient and acceptable means of identification where it is established that the witness and the accused had known each other
personally and closely for a number of years.14 It is not disputed that the prosecution witnesses and accused-appellant have been longtime neighbors
ever since the latter was a child. Besides, the house was illuminated by a kerosene lamp.
Second, when the police and barangay officials arrived at their house on that fateful day, Sanita told them that "nobody killed my husband except the one
who threw a hand grenade to my husband." When accused-appellant testified in court, he openly admitted that he threw a hand grenade at the victim
during a meeting of barangay officials sometime in August 1992. It is patently obvious that Sanita was referring to none other than accused-appellant
when she made that statement.
Third, during her cross examination, Sanita aptly explained that she intentionally withheld the name of the real culprit because she feared that accusedappellant might escape and hide. Delay or vacillation in making an accusation does not impair the credibility of the witness if such delay is satisfactorily
explained.15 Her apprehension was not absolutely baseless. Indeed, three days after the November 14 incident, accused-appellant left his house and
moved his family to Ricarte Norte. On that day, November 16, 1992, accused-appellant was invited to the police headquarters and was informed by the
Station Commander of Diffun that he was a suspect in the killing of Ernesto Quiming. It is a well-entrenched doctrine that, without satisfactory
explanation, flight is a clear and positive evidence of guilt.16
It bears to stress that of the five malefactors, it was only herein accused-appellant who was wearing a bonnet. This is hardly surprising. Accusedappellant is a barangay councilor and everybody in the barangay knows him. He had to make sure that he will not be exposed and that it will be difficult
to recognize him. And true enough, in trying to impugn the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, the defense made capital of the fact that the face of
the assailant was covered with a bonnet. We accord greater weight however to the straightforward testimonies of the prosecution witnesses that it was
accused-appellant who shot the victim on the head. The testimonies of prosecution witnesses Sanita and Aileen Quiming were clear, direct and
categorical. Their recollection of the gruesome event remained steadfast and unperturbed even under the grueling cross examination by the defense.
In addition, accused-appellant has failed to impute any bad motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses in pointing to him as the culprit. In contrast, it
is accused-appellant who has a clear motive to want to kill the victim. It appears that during a meeting of barangay officials sometime in August 1992, the
victim and accused-appellant had a misunderstanding because the former wanted to remove the latter from his position as barangay councilor. Accusedappellant told the victim that if he is no longer deserving of the position, he will just go home. However, upon reaching home, accused-appellant felt
embarrassed and humiliated. According to him, he decided to go back to settle the matter with the victim. 17 Accused-appellant did try to settle it by
throwing a hand grenade at the victim. When it did not explode, he tried to shoot the victim but failed. Accused appellant had every reason to want to get
even. Motive is proved by the acts or statements of the accused before or immediately after the commission of the offense, i.e., by deeds or words that
may express the motive or from which his reason for committing the offense may be inferred.18 He attempts to remove this cloud of suspicion by
testifying that he had already asked for forgiveness from the victim. His statement is, at the least, self-serving and hence has no probative value
specially when it is not corroborated by other witnesses.
IV. The information charged that the killing was attended by treachery with the aid of armed men and with abuse of superior strength. The trial court
considered the last two circumstances to have been absorbed in treachery, and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua, there being no mitigating and
aggravating circumstances.

Treachery clearly attended the commission of the crime. 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 ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the
defense which the offended part might make.19 The treacherous manner in which accused-appellant and his cohorts perpetrated the crime was shown
by the sudden, deliberate and unexpected attack upon the unsuspecting victim. It has been clearly established that Ernesto was walking towards his
house when one of the malefactors suddenly appeared from behind and shot him on the arm. When Ernesto fell to the ground, accused-appellant came
out of the house where he and his companions were hiding, and shot the victim on the head.
Considering the number of armed assailants against the lone unarmed victim, there was also abuse of superior strength. 20 In a long line of cases, we
have held that abuse of superior strength and aid of armed men, when present with treachery, are absorbed in the latter.21 There being no mitigating and
aggravating circumstances, the trial court correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The trial court ordered accused-appellant to indemnify the heirs of the victim the sum of P120,000.00 as and for actual and moral damages. This is
erroneous. Prosecution witness Sanita testified that she spent P20,000.00 for the wake of her husband, but there were no receipts presented to support
the same. It is axiomatic that a party seeking the award of actual damages must produce competent proof or the best evidence obtainable to justify such
award.22 Since no receipts of expenses were presented, actual damages should be disallowed. 23
On the other hand, the heirs of the victim are entitled to receive moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00. This award is mandatory and does not
require proof other than the death of the victim.24 Under prevailing jurisprudence, civil indemnity should be awarded in the amount of P50,000.00. 25
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cabarroguis, Quirino, Branch 32, in Criminal Case No. 993 finding accused-appellant
MARIANO PASCUA, JR. @ PEDRO, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua is hereby
AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATION that accused-appellant is hereby ordered to pay the heirs of the victim Ernesto Quiming the amount of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Baguio City
EN BANC

G.R. No. 132676

April 4, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
JAIME CARPO, OSCAR IBAO, WARLITO IBAO and ROCHE IBAO, accused-appellants.
PER CURIAM:
The accused might as well have borrowed the famous line of Shakespeare "How this world is given to lying!"1 when they impute error to the trial
court for relying on the testimony of a single witness in convicting them of multiple murder complexed with attempted murder for the death of Florentino
Dulay, Norwela Dulay and Nissan Dulay, and the wounding of Noemi Dulay.2
The challenged testimony of witness Ruben Meriales follows:3 On 25 August 1996 at about 8:00 oclock in the evening while he was watching television
with his family his dogs barked. His mother who was apprehensive that their cow might be stolen prodded him to check the disturbance. To allay her
fears he stood up, took his flashlight and trudged the unpaved path towards his cow that was tied to a mango tree. Then the noise grew louder thus
arousing his suspicion that something was really wrong. After transferring his cow nearer to his house, he went inside the kitchen, stood atop the
concrete washbasin, hid himself behind the bamboo slats and peeped outside to observe. The darkness helped conceal him from outside view while the
light from the two (2) bulbs positioned at about three (3) meters from where he stood filtered through the slats and illumined the surroundings. There was
also moon in the sky.
A few minutes later, he saw barangay captain Jaime Carpo together with Warlito Ibao suspiciously stooping near his barn. He knew Jaime and Warlito
very well. Jaime was his uncle and Warlito lived in his neighborhood. Warlitos son Roche was also there; he was standing by the mango tree. They were
all looking in the direction of Florentino Dulays house which was about a meter to the south from where he was. He also saw Oscar Ibao, another son of
Warlito, striding towards Dulays hut. As soon as he reached the hut Oscar lifted the sawali mat near the wall and hurled something inside. Oscar then
scurried off towards the nearby creek with Roche following him. Seconds later, a loud explosion shook the entire neighborhood and Teresita Dulays
screams broke into the night.
Ruben Meriales rushed outside. He ran towards Florentinos hut but was deterred by darkness. He returned home to take his flashlight and raced back
to lend aid to Teresita. Inside the hut he was stunned by the terrifying gore that greeted him a bloodied Florentino cradled in the arms of his weeping
widow, Norwela and Nissan lying side by side on a cot both doused in blood, and a motionless Norma whose head was oozing with blood.
Realizing the exigency of the situation, he left the crime scene to borrow the jeepney of Brgy. Kagawad Edgardo Marquez for the hapless victims. The
neighbors milling around at once gave up hope on Florentino so that only Norwela, Nissan and Noemi were loaded in the jeepney and rushed to the
Eastern Pangasinan District Hospital. On their way, Norwela who had injuries on her chest and lower appendage died. Nissan who was five (5) years old
and the youngest of the victims died later due to "shock from pains" caused by the shrapnel wounds in her left shoulder, abdomen and lower
extremities.4 Noemi luckily survived. Her attending physician, Dr. Emiliano Subido, testified that Noemi was semi-conscious and vomiting although
ambulatory at the time he examined her. But due to the seriousness of her wounds and the hospitals lack of facilities she was taken to another hospital
in Dagupan City.5
In the course of their investigation, the policemen questioned the people who might have witnessed the carnage. Fearful however that the culprits would
return, Ruben Meriales refused to give any statement but intimated to Police Officer Guillermo Osio that he would go to the police station after the burial.
On 4 September 1996, or a week later, Ruben kept his promise and went to the police station where he gave his statement to Police Officer Osio. He
named Jaime Carpo, Warlito Ibao, Oscar Ibao and Roche Ibao as the perpetrators of the crime. He further said that Florentino was killed because he
was about to testify against Roche Ibao for the murder of his brother Delfin Meriales.6
On 3 October 1996, solely on the basis of Rubens testimony, a criminal complaint for the murder of Florentino Dulay and his two (2) daughters Norwela
and Nissan as well as the frustrated murder of his daughter Noemi was filed against Jaime Carpo, Warlito Ibao, Oscar Ibao and Roche Ibao. Warrants
for their immediate arrest were issued by the municipal circuit trial court.
On 25 October 1996 Jaime Carpo was taken into custody by the police, while Roche Ibao eluded arrest until 9 December 1996 when he was
apprehended by police officers in La Union. With Roches arrest, Oscar and Warlito realized the futility of hiding and surrendered themselves to the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in La Union.
At the trial, the prosecution presented Ruben, Noemi, Dr. Rosalina O. Victorio, Dr. Emiliano Subido and Police Officers Virgilio dela Cruz, Jovencio Tapac
and Guillermo Osio as witnesses.
Police Officer Osio testified that on the night of 25 August 1996 after receiving a report of an explosion in Brgy. Baligayan, he together with Police
Officers Julius Aurora, Ricardo Lugares and Jovencio Tapac immediately responded. They were able to gather several grenade shrapnels and a grenade
shifting lever from the crime scene. He spoke with the weeping Teresita Dulay who told him that she suspected the accused of having perpetrated the
assault. He likewise conferred with Ruben Meriales who named the same set of suspects and who promised to give his statement to the police after the
funeral.
After speaking with Teresita and Ruben, he summoned his colleagues to go with him to Warlito Ibaos house which was just across the road. Warlitos
house was dark and its front door was locked. He called out but there was no answer. They then proceeded to Oscars house which was also padlocked
and unoccupied. He went to Roches house and peeped inside before they left.7
Against their positive identification by Ruben, the four (4) accused interposed alibi claiming that they were somewhere else when the Dulay hut was
blasted. They likewise assailed Rubens testimony for being a fabrication and insisted that he lied to get back at them because Roche was a suspect in
the killing of his brother Delfin Meriales.
Jaime and his wife Veronica Carpo were one in testifying that in the evening of 25 August 1995 Jaime was at home in Brgy. Libsong, a hundred and fifty
(150) meters away from the house of the Dulays in Brgy. Baligayan. When he heard the loud explosion, he summoned his tanods to check whether the
blast happened within theirbarangay. When he learned that the explosion occurred in the adjoining Brgy. Baligayan, he went home to sleep.Brgy.
Baligayan is separated from his barangay by a creek and could be reached in ten (10) minutes. However, on the night of the incident, the creek was
neck deep such that one had to make a detour through a mountainous route for about thirty (30) minutes to reach Brgy. Baligayan.8
Jaime testified that Ruben implicated him because the latter was angry at him. Rubens grudge supposedly started when Jaime sided with the Ibaos in
the murder case instituted by the Merialeses against Roche for the death of Delfin Meriales. As a matter of fact, on 10 December 1996 while he was
incarcerated at the Balungao District Jail, Ruben supposedly visited him asking his forgiveness for having named him as one of the perpetrators of the
crime. Ruben subsequently pleaded with him to reveal the names of those responsible but when he claimed ignorance, Ruben left in a huff.

Warlito, Oscar and Roche Ibao testified that on the night of the explosion their family was having a farewell party for the familys only girl Maribel Ibao
who was leaving for Hongkong. They heard the blast but they did not bother to check. They denied having heard the police officers call for them an hour
after the explosion. Roche further asserted that he did not have a house in Brgy. Baligayan as reported because he lived with his parents-in-law inBrgy.
Libsong. However, on the night of the blast, he slept at his parents house as all of his siblings and their families were there. He only learned of the
bloodbath the following morning when they went home to his in-laws. His wife Jovelyn corroborated his testimony in the same manner that Remedios
supported the story of her husband Warlito.9
In convicting Jaime Carpo, Warlito Ibao, Oscar Ibao and Roche Ibao of the multiple murder of Florentino, Norwela and Nissan Dulay and the attempted
murder of Noemi Dulay the trial court gave full credit to the testimony of Ruben.10 It accepted his straightforward testimony and ruled that "at no instance
throughout the twin testimonies of Meriales did the Court notice a twitch of falsehood on his lips."11 Accordingly, in accordance with Sec. 6, RA 7659, and
Art. 48 of The Revised Penal Code the trial court imposed upon all of the accused the supreme penalty of death and ordered them to solidarily indemnify
the heirs of the deceased as well as Noemi Dulay in the amount of P600,000.00.12
Forthwith, the case was elevated to this Court for automatic review. After the filing of briefs, the accused filed anAddendum to Appellants Brief urging
that the favorable result of their lie detector tests with the NBI be admitted into the records. 13
A lie detector test is based on the theory that an individual will undergo physiological changes, capable of being monitored by sensors attached to his
body, when he is not telling the truth. The Court does not put credit and faith on the result of a lie detector test inasmuch as it has not been accepted by
the scientific community as an accurate means of ascertaining truth or deception.14
The explosion by means of a hand grenade on the night of 25 August 1996 resulting in the death of Florentino, Norwela and Nissan Dulay and in the
wounding of Noemi Dulay is an admitted fact. The identity of the perpetrators, as tenaciously questioned by the accused, depends upon the credibility of
Ruben Meriales.
In this appeal, accused-appellants challenge the veracity of the testimony of Ruben Meriales primarily on two (2) grounds: first, Rubens testimony in
court is different from and is contradictory to his affidavit of 4 October 1996; and second, Ruben is not a disinterested witness because he has a grudge
against the Ibaos.
Consistent with giving due deference to the observations of the trial court on credibility of witnesses, we agree with the court a quo when it believed
Ruben Meriales more than the defense witnesses.15 Indeed, the trial court is best equipped to make an assessment of witnesses, and its factual findings
are generally not disturbed on appeal unless it has overlooked, misunderstood or disregarded important facts,16 which is not true in the present case.
The twin arguments therefore raised by accused-appellants against the testimony of Ruben Meriales are devoid of merit. A scrutiny of the records
reveals that his testimony is not inconsistent with his affidavit of 4 October 1996 inasmuch as the former merely supplied the details of the event which
the latter failed to disclose. But assuming that there was any inconsistency, it is settled that whenever an affidavit contradicts a testimony given in court
the latter commands greater respect.17 Such inconsistency is unimportant and would not even discredit a fallible witness.18
The mere fact that Ruben admitted harboring resentment against the Ibaos for the murder of his brother Delfin does not confirm that he fabricated his
story. His frankness in admitting his resentment against the Ibaos should even be considered in his favor.19
There is likewise nothing unnatural in Rubens attitude of concealing himself behind the kitchen wall instead of warning the Dulays of the looming danger
to their lives. It is a well-known fact that persons react differently to different situations there may be some who will respond violently to an impending
danger while there may be others who will simply assume a cravenly demeanor. In this case, Ruben was ruled by his fear rather than by his reason, but
for this alone, his credibility should not be doubted.
Apropos Jaimes imputation that Ruben had admitted to him while in jail that he lied in his testimony, we find this accusation farcical as nothing was ever
offered in support thereof. The lone corroborative testimony, which was that of Roche, does not inspire belief since Roche himself admitted overhearing
the conversation while Jaime together with other prisoners was constructing a hut outside of his cell at about three (3) meters away. As correctly hinted
by the prosecution, the noise generated by the construction made it unlikely for Roche to hear conversations three (3) meters away.20
The defense proffered by the accused is alibi. But this is futile. By his own admission, Jaime was only a hundred and fifty (150) meters away from the
scene of the crime. In fact, it would only take him thirty (30) minutes, at the most, to be at the place of the Dulays.
More so for the Ibaos who acknowledged that they were having a party just a stones throw away from the crime scene at the time of the explosion.
Curiously though, if they were indeed reveling inside their house on that fateful night, then we cannot comprehend why they did not go out to investigate
after hearing the blast. Besides, it was rather strange for the Ibaos not to have joined their neighbors who had instantaneously milled outside to view the
mayhem. Their conduct indeed betrayed them.
Further, the immediate flight and tarriance of the Ibaos to La Union until Roches arrest cannot but demonstrate their guilt and desire to evade
prosecution.21
The trial court also correctly ruled that accused-appellants conspired in perpetrating the offense charged. From the detailed account of Ruben, Jaime
and Warlito positioned themselves near the hay barn while Roche casually stood by the mango tree. As observed by the trial court, the present of Jaime,
Warlito and Roche inescapably gave encouragement and a sense of security to Oscar, the groups preceptor. Surely, the latter was emboldened to
commit the crime knowing that his co-conspirators were not far behind.
Under the doctrine enunciated in People v. Tayo,22 the crime committed may otherwise be more appropriately denominated as murder qualified by
explosion rather than by treachery. However, since it was treachery that is alleged in the Information and appreciated by the trial court, the explosion of
the grenade which resulted in the death of Florentino, Norwela and Nissan, and the wounding of Noemi can only be multiple murder complexed with
attempted murder.23
The crime committed against Noemi Dulay was correctly denominated by the trial court as attempted murder considering that none of her injuries was
fatal. Her attending physician even made conflicting statements in the assessment of her wounds, to wit: although he said that Noemi could have died
from the shrapnel wound in her head, he specifically ruled out the possibility of "intercerebral hemorrhage" 24 and despite the seriousness of the possible
complications of her injuries she would suffer from physical incapacity for only ten (10) to fourteen (14) days.
As none of her wounds was severe as to cause her death, accused-appellants not having performed all the acts of execution that would have brought it
about, the crime is only attempted murder.25
Since the three (3) murders and attempted murder were produced by a single act, namely, the explosion caused by the hurling of a grenade into the
bedroom of the Dulays, the case comes under Art. 48 of The Revised Penal Code on complex crimes. Article 48 provides that the penalty for the more

serious crime, which in the present case is reclusion perpetua to death, should be applied in its maximum period. As the crime was complexed, the
death penalty was properly imposed by the trial court.
At this point, we take exception to the court a quo's award of damages in the "negotiated amount of P600,000.00." It appears that under the auspices of
the trial court counsel for the defense entered into an oral compromise with the public prosecutor, which was subsequently ratified by the private
complainant, limiting the amount of civil liability to P600,000.00. We note the discourse between the court and the counsel for both parties regarding the
award:
PROS. CORPUZ:
COURT:

Are the accused confident that they could be acquitted in this case? Atty Sanglay?

ATTY. SANGLAY:
COURT:

We are confident, your Honor.

All right. So you can easily stipulate. First of all, how much do you want Fiscal?

PROS. CORPUZ:
COURT:

P1,282,740.00, your Honor x x x x

x x x x Agree gentlemen of the defense?

ATTY. SANGLAY:
COURT:

I think so, your Honor.

What about Atty. Rafael?

ATTY. RAFAEL:
COURT:

x x x x (W)e would like to enter into stipulation the civil aspect of the case.

P600,000.00, your Honor.

Do you agree Fiscal?

PROS. CORPUZ:

Yes, your Honor.

COURT:
All right so P600,000.00 is the agreed liquidated amount in case of conviction without necessarily having to interpret this
stipulation as admission of guilt on the part of any of the accused. All right so we will dispense with the testimony on the civil aspect x x x x
COURT:

x x x x Are you the private complainant in this case?

TERESITA DULAY:

Yes, sir.

COURT:
If the accused get convicted and I will hold them severally liable for you of damages in the liquidated sum of P600,000.00 as
agreed upon by the counsel, will you be satisfied? x x x x
TERESITA:
COURT:

Yes, sir.1wphi1.nt
So let that be of record. Will you sign the note so that there will be evidence.

(At this juncture private complainant Teresita Dulay affixed her signature at the bottom right margin of the stenographic notes page 2 hereof). 26
Article 1878 of the Civil Code and Sec. 23 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court set forth the attorney's power to compromise. Under Art. 1878 of the Civil
Code, a special power of attorney is necessary "to compromise, to submit questions to arbitration, to renounce the right to appeal from a judgment, to
waive objections to the venue of an action or to abandon a prescription already acquired." On the other hand, Sec. 23, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court
provides, "(a)ttorneys have authority to bind their clients in any case by any agreement in relation thereto made in writing, and in taking appeal, and in all
matters of ordinary judicial procedure, but they cannot, without special authority, compromise their clients' litigation or receive anything in discharge of
their clients' claims but the full amount in cash."
The requirements under both provisions are met when there is a clear mandate expressly given by the principal to his lawyer specifically authorizing the
performance of an act.27 It has not escaped our attention that in the present case counsel for both parties had no special power of attorney from their
clients to enter into a compromise. However, insofar as Teresita was concerned, she was apprised of the agreement and in fact had signed her name as
instructed by the court, thereby tacitly ratifying the same. As for accused-appellants, the aforecited dialogue between the court and counsel does not
show that they were ever consulted regarding the proposed settlement. In the absence of a special power of attorney given by accused-appellants to
their counsel, the latter can neither bind nor compromise his clients' civil liability. Consequently, since Atty. Sanglay and Atty. Rafael had no specific
power to compromise the civil liability of all accused-appellants, its approval by the trial court which did not take the precautionary measures to ensure
the protection of the right of accused-appellants not to be deprived of their property without due process of law, could not legalize it. For being violative of
existing law and jurisprudence, the settlement should not be given force and effect.
In light of the foregoing, the award of damages must be set aside and a new one entered with all the circumstances of the case in mind. For the death of
Florentino, Norwela and Nissan Dulay, civil indemnity at P50,000.00 each or a total amount of P150,000.00 is awarded to their heirs. This is in addition
to the award of moral damages at an aggregate amount of P150,000.00 for their emotional and mental anguish. With respect to Noemi, an indemnity of
P30,000.00 would be just and proper. All taken, an award of P330,000.00 is granted.
Four (4) members of the Court maintain their position that RA 7659, insofar as it prescribes the death penalty, is unconstitutional; nevertheless they
submit to the ruling of the Court, by a majority vote, that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should be accordingly imposed.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the trial court finding accused-appellants JAIME CARPO, OSCAR IBAO, WARLITO IBAO and ROCHE
IBAO GUILTY of the complex crime of multiple murder with attempted murder and sentencing them to the supreme penalty of death is AFFIRMED with
the MODIFICATION that they are ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased Florentino, Norwela and Nissan, all surnamed Dulay, P50,000.00 as death
indemnity and P50,000.00 as moral damages for each death or an aggregate amount of P300,000.00. In addition, accused-appellants are ordered to
pay Noemi Dulay P30,000.00 as indemnity for her attempted murder. Costs against accused-appellants.
In accordance with Sec. 25 of RA 7659, amending Art. 83 of The Revised Penal Code, upon finality of this Decision, let the records of this case be
forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of executive clemency or pardoning power.

SO ORDERED.