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G.R. No.

179535 June 9, 2014


JOSE ESPINELI a.k.a. DANILO ESPINELI vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Jurisprudence teaches us that "for circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all
circumstances must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty,
and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent x x x."1 Thus, conviction based on
circumstantial evidence can be upheld provided that the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain
which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others,
as the guilty person.2

Assailed in the present Petition for Review on Certiorari3 is the July 6, 2007 Decision4 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02252 which modified the August 31, 1999 Decision5 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Imus, Cavite, Branch 90, by finding petitioner Jose Espineli a.k.a. Danilo
"Danny" Espineli (petitioner) guilty of the crime of homicide instead of murder.

Also questioned is the CA’s September 14, 2007 Resolution6 denying petitioner’s Motion for
Reconsideration.7

Factual Antecedents

On June 24, 1997, an Information8 charging petitioner with the crime of murder was filed before the
RTC,9 the accusatory portion of which reads as follows:

That on or about the 15th day of December, 1996 in the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, together with
one (1) Sotero Paredes and three (3) other unidentified persons, whose real names, identities and
whereabouts are still unknown, said Sotero Paredes having been earlier charged with the same offense, and
is now undergoing trial before Branch 90, of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, then armed with firearms,
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident
premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously, attack, assault and shoot one Alberto Berbon y Downie with the use of said firearms, thereby
inflicting upon the latter multiple gunshot wounds on his head and different parts of his body which caused
his instantaneous death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said Alberto Berbon y Downie.
CONTRARY TO LAW.10

Petitioner was arrested on July 1, 1997 and when arraigned on July 7, 1997 with the assistance of counsel,
entered a plea of not guilty.11

The facts show that in the early evening of December 15, 1996, Alberto Berbon y Downie (Alberto), a 49-
year old Senior Desk Coordinator of the radio station DZMM, was shot in the head and different parts of
the body in front of his house in Imus, Cavite by unidentified malefactors who immediately fled the crime
scene on board a waiting car.

Meanwhile, the group of Atty. Orly Dizon (Atty. Dizon) of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
arrested and took into custody one Romeo Reyes (Reyes) for the crime of Illegal Possession of Deadly
Weapon. Reyes confided to the group of Atty. Dizon that he was willing to give vital information regarding
the Berbon case. In due course, NBI Agent Dave Segunial(NBI Agent Segunial) interviewed Reyes on
February 10, 1997 and reduced his statement into writing whereby Reyes claimed that on December 15,
1996, he saw petitioner and Sotero Paredes (Paredes) board a red car while armed with a .45 caliber firearm
and armalite, respectively; and that petitioner told Paredes that "ayaw ko nang abutin pa ng bukas yang si
Berbon."12 Subsequently, Reyes posted bail and was released on February 14, 1997. Thenceforth, he
jumped bail and was never again heard of. NBI Agent Segunial testified on these facts during the trial.

The victim’s widow, Sabina Berbon (Sabina) likewise testified. According to her, sometime in the third
week of February 1997 Reyes sought financial help so he could transfer his family to the province and
protect them from any untoward consequence that may result from his giving information to the NBI
regarding the death of Sabina’s husband. Sabina gave him the total amount of P1,500.00 and promised to
help him in applying for the witness protection program. This was affirmed on the witness stand by Sabina’s
brother, Bartolome Pakingan. After that, however, Reyes never came back.

Another prosecution witness, Rodolfo Dayao (Rodolfo), testified that he sold his red Ford Escort car to
three persons who came to his residence in the afternoon of September 1, 1996. He later identified the said
car from the photographs presented to him by the police officers.

Dr. Ludivino J. Lagat (Dr. Lagat), the NBI Medico-Legal Officer who conducted a post-mortem
examination on Alberto, declared in his Autopsy Report that the victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds
in the head and body. He also stated that based on the size of the gunshot wounds or entrance, high-powered
guns were used in the killing.

Petitioner, on the other hand, did not adduce evidence for his defense. Instead, he filed a Demurrer to
Evidence13without leave of court. As no action whatsoever was taken thereon by the trial court, petitioner
just moved that the case be deemed submitted for decision.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

In its Decision14 dated August 31, 1999, the trial court adjudged petitioner guilty of murder, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused JOSE ESPINELI a.k.a. DANILO "Danny" ESPINELI, is
found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing the crime of "Murder" as charged. He is, therefore,
sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, and is likewise ordered to pay the heirs of
Alberto Berbon y Downie, the civil indemnity of P50,000.00, and actual and compensatory damages in the
total amount of P135,000.00 as funeral expenses (Exhibit "H"), interment fee of P8,360.00 (Exhibit "C"),
medical expenses in the total amount of P1,519.45 (Exhibit[s] "D", "D-1" and "D-2") and for the contract
fees of Memorial Park Care the amount of P15,700.00 (Exhibit "E").

Furthermore, considering that he is a high risk prisoner, his transfer to the National Penitentiary at
Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila, is immediately ordered.

SO ORDERED.15

Petitioner seasonably appealed his conviction before this Court. Pursuant, however, to the Court’s
pronouncement in People v. Mateo,16 the case was ordered transferred to the CA for appropriate action and
disposition through a Resolution17 dated March 22, 2006.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In its Decision18 promulgated on July 6, 2007, the CA affirmed with modification the findings of the trial
court. It ratiocinated that since none of the prosecution witnesses saw how the killing of the victim was
perpetrated, the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength cannot be appreciated. Neither can
nighttime serve as an aggravating circumstance as the time of the commission of the crime was not even
alleged in the Information. In view thereof, the CA found petitioner guilty only of homicide instead of
murder. The decretal portion of the appellate court’s Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The appealed Decision
dated August 31, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Imus, Cavite, Branch 90 is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION in that accused-appellant is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
of Homicide and is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of ten (10) years of prision mayor, as
minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum.

In all other respects, the said decision STANDS.

In the service of his sentence, accused-appellant shall be credited in full with the period of his preventive
imprisonment.

With costs against the accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.19

Dissatisfied, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration20 which the CA denied in its Resolution21 dated
September 14, 2007.

Hence, this Petition.

Arguments of the Parties

Petitioner posits that the CA should not have affirmed the Decision of RTC as the latter erred:

1. x x x [in admitting, considering and giving] probative value to Exhibit "A", the "Sinumpaang
Salaysay" of [Reyes] because [he] was not presented in court to confirm, affirm and authenticate
the contents of his sworn statement. It resulted in the denial of petitioner’s constitutional right to
confront and cross-examine his accusers.22

2. x x x [in convicting] the [petitioner] based on unproven, inadmissible circumstantial evidence.23

3. x x x in not acquitting the petitioner for failure of the prosecution to prove [his guilt] beyond
reasonable doubt x x x.24

In sum, petitioner anchors his quest for the reversal of his conviction on the alleged erroneous admission in
evidence of the Sinumpaang Salaysay25 of Reyes for being hearsay and inadmissible. He avers that the said
sworn statement should not have been given probative value because its contents were neither confirmed
nor authenticated by the affiant. Thus, all circumstances emanating from or included in the sworn statement
must be totally brushed aside as lacking any evidentiary and probative value. Petitioner emphasizes that as
found by the courts below, there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime; therefore, he wants this
Court to review the sufficiency of the circumstantial evidence upon which his conviction was based as he
believes that the same failed to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
For its part, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing respondent People of the Philippines,
concurs with the petitioner and recommends his acquittal.26 It is also of the view that the prosecution failed
to discharge its burden of proving petitioner’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court’s Ruling

The Petition is devoid of merit.

Truly, "direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only basis from which a court may draw its
finding of guilt."27 The rules of evidence allow a trial court to rely on circumstantial evidence to support its
conclusion of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is that evidence "which indirectly proves a fact in issue through
an inference which the fact-finder draws from the evidence established."28 Under Section 4, Rule 133 of
the Rules of Court, circumstantial evidence would be sufficient to convict the offender "if i)there is more
than one circumstance; ii) the facts from which the inference is derived are proven; and iii) the combination
of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt." 29 All the circumstances
must be consistent with one another, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and at the
same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent. Thus, conviction based on circumstantial
evidence can be upheld provided that the circumstances proved constitute an unbroken chain which leads
to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others as the guilty
person.30

In this case, the circumstances found by the CA as forming an unbroken chain leading to one fair and
reasonable conclusion that petitioner, to the exclusion of all others, is the guilty person are the following:

1. In the morning of December 15,1996, petitioner was heard telling his co-accused Sotero Paredes
(Sotero) "ayaw ko nang abutin pa ng bukas yang si Berbon" before boarding a red car. Sotero was
holding an armalite rifle while petitioner was armed with a .45 caliber pistol;

2. The said red car was identified or recognized by prosecution witness Rodolfo to be the same car
he had sold to Sotero for P10,000.00 in September 1996;

3. The victim Alberto was fatally shot later in the day (December 15, 1996) by unidentified gunmen
who thereafter immediately fled riding a red car; and

4. Post-mortem examination of the victim’s body showed that he sustained multiple gunshot
wounds, the nature, severity and characteristics of which indicate that they were inflicted using
high-powered guns, possibly anarmalite rifle and .22 caliber pistol.31

The records reveal that there was no eyewitness to the actual killing of Alberto. Thus the courts below were
forced to render their verdict of conviction on circumstantial evidence as sanctioned under Section 4, Rule
13332 of the Rules of Court. The central issue now confronting this Court is whether the prosecution has
amply proved by circumstantial evidence petitioner’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The circumstantial evidence relied upon by the Court of Appeals sufficiently support petitioner’s
conviction.

The Court has carefully scrutinized the evidence presented in this case in the light of the standards discussed
above and finds the foregoing circumstantial evidence sufficient to support a judgment of conviction.
Several reasons deserve our acceptance of the circumstances upon which petitioner’s conviction was based,
to wit:
First, NBI Agent Segunial testified that he had investigated Reyes and reduced the latter’s statement into
writing declaring, among others, that in the morning of December 15, 1996, he (Reyes) overheard petitioner
telling Sotero "Ayaw ko nang abutin pa ng bukas yang si Berbon" and saw them armed with .45 caliber
pistol and an armalite, respectively, before boarding a red car. The CA gave weight to Reyes’ sworn
statement in this wise:

The probative value of Romeo Reyes’ sworn statement as to the words spoken by appellant to his co-
accused Sotero Paredes in the morning of December 15, 1996 cannot be disputed. x x x33

Petitioner takes vigorous exception to the said findings, insisting that the said sworn statement belongs to
the category of hearsay evidence and therefore inadmissible. He asserts that its contents were never
confirmed or authenticated by Reyes, thus, it lacks probative value.

The Court is unconvinced.

The hearsay evidence rule as provided under Section 36, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court states:

Sec. 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. – A witness can testify
only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from his own
perception, except as otherwise provided in these rules.

Evidence is hearsay when its probative force depends in whole or in part on the competency and credibility
of some persons other than the witness by whom it is sought to produce. However, while the testimony of
a witness regarding a statement made by another person given for the purpose of establishing the truth of
the fact asserted in the statement is clearly hearsay evidence, it is otherwise if the purpose of placing the
statement on the record is merely to establish the fact that the statement, or the tenor of such statement, was
made. Regardless of the truth or falsity of a statement, when what is relevant is the fact that such statement
has been made, the hearsay rule does not apply and the statement may be shown. As a matter of fact,
evidence as to the making of the statement is not secondary but primary, for the statement itself may
constitute a fact in issue or is circumstantially relevant as to the existence of such a fact.34 This is known as
the doctrine of independently relevant statements.35

In the present case, the testimony of NBI Agent Segunial that while he was investigating Reyes, the latter
confided to him that he (Reyes) heard petitioner telling Sotero "Ayaw ko nang abutin pa ng bukas yang si
Berbon" and that he saw the two (petitioner and Sotero) armed with a .45 caliber pistol and an armalite,
respectively, before boarding a red car, cannot be regarded as hearsay evidence. This is considering that
NBI Agent Segunial’s testimony was not presented to prove the truth of such statement but only for the
purpose of establishing that on February 10, 1997, Reyes executed a sworn statement containing such
narration of facts. This is clear from the offer of the witness’ oral testimony. 36 Moreover, NBI Agent
Segunial himself candidly admitted that he is incompetent to testify on the truthfulness of Reyes’
statement.37 Verily then, what the prosecution sought to be admitted was the fact that Reyes made such
narration of facts in his sworn statement and not necessarily to prove the truth thereof. Thus, the testimony
of NBI Agent Segunial is in the nature of an independently relevant statement where what is relevant is the
fact that Reyes made such statement and the truth and falsity thereof is immaterial. In such a case, the
statement of the witness is admissible as evidence and the hearsay rule does not apply. 38 Moreover, the
written statement of Reyes is a notarized document having been duly subscribed and sworn to before Atty.
Cesar A. Bacani, a supervising agent of the NBI. As such, it may be presented in evidence without further
proof, the certificate of acknowledgment being a prima facie evidence of the due execution of this
instrument or document involved pursuant to Section 30 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. As held in
Gutierrez v. Mendoza-Plaza,39 a notarized document enjoys a prima facie presumption of authenticity and
due execution which must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Here, no clear and convincing
evidence was presented by petitioner to overcome such presumption. Clearly, therefore, the CA did not err
in its appreciation of Reyes’ sworn statement as testified to by NBI Agent Segunial.

Second, the identification and recognition through photograph by Rodolfo of the 1971 Ford Escort red
colored car as the same car he had sold to Sotero in September 1996 clearly and convincingly prove that it
was the very same red car used in the killing of Alberto on December 15, 1996.

Third, Alberto was shot and killed on December 15, 1996 and the gunmen immediately fled the scene riding
a red car which was identified as the same car previously sold by Rodolfo to Sotero.

Fourth, though the testimony of Dr. Lagat was limited to the post-mortem examination of the cadaver of
Alberto, his findings that the victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds and that the same were caused by
high-powered guns, served as corroborative evidence and contributed in a significant way in establishing
the level of proof that the law requires in convicting petitioner.

Lastly, petitioner’s escape from detention on August 26, 1998 while the case was pending can also be
considered as another circumstance since it is a strong indication of his guilt.

All told, this Court finds the concordant combination and cumulative effect of the alleged established
circumstances, which essentially were the same circumstances found by the trial court and the appellate
court, to have satisfied the requirement of Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court. Indeed, the
incriminating circumstances, when taken together, constitute an unbroken chain of events enough to arrive
at the conclusion that petitioner was responsible for the killing of the victim.

Besides, it is "[a]n established rule in appellate review x x x that the trial court’s factual findings, including
its assessment of the credibility of the witnesses and the probative weight of their testimonies, as well as
the conclusions drawn from the factual findings, are accorded respect, if not conclusive effect. These factual
findings and conclusions assume greater weight if they are affirmed by the CA,"40 as in this case.

The Crime Committed and the Proper Penalty.

The Court agrees with the CA that petitioner is guilty only of the crime of homicide in view of the
prosecution’s failure to prove any of the alleged attendant circumstances of abuse of superior strength and
nighttime. As aptly observed by the appellate court:

The circumstance of abuse of superior strength 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 the latter takes advantage of it in the commission of the crime. However, as none of the
prosecution witnesses saw how the killing was perpetrated, abuse of superior strength cannot be appreciated
in this case. Neither can nighttime serve as an aggravating circumstance, the time of the commission of the
crime was not even alleged in the Information.41 (Citations omitted)

The penalty prescribed by law for the crime of homicide is reclusion temporal.42 In view of the absence of
any mitigating or aggravating circumstance and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum
of the sentence should be within the range of reclusion temporal in its medium term which has a duration
of fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months, while
the minimum should be within the range of prision mayor which has a duration of six (6) years and one (1)
day to twelve (12) years. Thus, the imposition by the CA of an indeterminate prison term of ten (10) years
of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as
maximum, is in order.

Petitioner’s Civil liability

While the CA correctly imposed the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, it failed, however, to award
moral damages. These awards are mandatory without need of allegation and proof other than the death of
the victim, owing to the fact of the commission of murder or homicide.43 Thus, for moral damages, the
award of P50,000.00 to the heirs of the victim is only proper.

Anent the award of actual damages, this Court sees no reason to disturb the amount awarded by the trial
court as upheld by the CA since the itemized medical and burial expenses were duly supported by receipts
and other documentary evidence.

The CA did not grant any award of damages for loss of earning capacity and rightly so. Though Sabina
testified as to the monthly salary of the deceased, the same remains unsubstantiated. "Such indemnity cannot
be awarded in the absence of documentary evidence except where the victim was either self-employed or a
daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.''44 The exceptions find
no application in this case.

In addition and in conformity with current policy, an interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum is imposed
on all the monetary awards for damages from date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, in light of all the foregoing, the Petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated July 6,
2007 and Resolution dated September 14, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02252
are AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that petitioner JOSE ESPINEL! a.k.a. DANILO "DANNY''
ESPINEL! is further ordered to pay the heirs of the victim ALBERTO BERBON y DOWNIE PS0,000.00
as moral damages as well as interest on all the damages assessed at the legal rate of 6% per annum from
date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.
JALLALUDIN GULAM vs. SPOUSES SANTOS
G.R. No. 151458 August 31, 2006

The question of whether or not petitioner has fully paid the stipulated price under the Contract to Sell
between him and respondents is a question of fact that is not proper in the present petition for review
on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as only questions of law may be raised therein, [1] save
for certain exceptions,[2] which are not present in this case.

Petitioner and respondents entered into a Contract to Sell on January 1994, whereby the latter agreed to sell
to petitioner a 72-square meter parcel of land located in Sampaloc, Manila, for the price of P1,700,000.00,
including a 2-storey townhouse to be constructed by respondents on the property. The terms of payment
were as follows: P500,000.00 to be paid on the first month of construction, another P500,000.00 to be paid
on the second month of construction, the remaining balance to be added on the full payment of the contract
price; and a reservation of P50,000.00 shall be paid by petitioner. A final deed of sale shall be executed by
respondents upon full payment of the contract price, with petitioner bearing the costs of the taxes. Written
on the contract is the note: Received the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos only (P500,000.00)
representing Partial Payment of Full Downpayment.

Two years after the execution of the Contract to Sell, petitioner filed against respondents an action for
Specific Performance, asking the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 50, to order respondents
to execute a final deed of sale, plus damages and costs. Petitioner contended that he already fulfilled his
end of the bargain by paying the stipulated amount, including the taxes, or a total of P2,050,000.00, broken
down as follows:

UCPB Check No. 157244 dated March 3, 1993 P 50,000.00


UCPB Check CMRO 19635 dated Jan. 19, 1994 P 500,000.00
UCPB Check CMRO 40154 dated March 8, 1994 P 300,000.00
Private receipt made on March 9, 1994 P 500,000.00
UCPB Check CMRO 40154 dated March 22, 1994 P 200,000.00
Private receipt in the contract to sell P 500,000.00[3]

Respondents denied petitioners allegations, claiming that petitioner is yet to fully pay the agreed price,
having paid only P1,000,000.00, exclusive of the P50,000.00 reservation fee. According to respondents,
petitioner paid P500,000.00 upon the execution of the Contract to Sell, as acknowledged in the Contract to
Sell, and another P500,000,00 in two separate payments made in March 1994. Thus, respondents set up a
counter-claim by asking for the rescission of the contract due to petitioner’s refusal to abide by its terms.

On September 17, 1998, the RTC rendered a Decision dismissing the complaint and ordering the rescission
of the Contract to Sell. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing facts considered, the case against the defendant is hereby dismissed. The
reciprocal obligation between the plaintiff and the defendant is hereby ordered rescinded under Article 1191
of the Civil Code. This Article recognizes an implied or tacit revolutionary condition in reciprocal
obligations. It is a condition imposed exclusively by law, even if there is no corresponding agreement
between the parties. In reciprocal obligations, when one party has performed his part of the contract, the
other party incurs in delay hence, the party who has performed or is ready and willing to perform may
rescind the obligation if the other does not perform or is not ready and willing to perform (Civil Code of
the Phils. Vol. IV Tolentino, 1986 ed p. 176).

Under the circumstances the failure of the plaintiff to pay their correlative obligation was not a casual
breach but it was a breach of contract tainted with fraud or malice (dolo) as distinguished from mere
negligence (culpa) (Luzon Brokerage Co., Inc. vs. Wantime Building Co., Inc. 43 SCRA 93).

The amount of P1,100,000.00, the amount admitted by the defendant to have been paid by the plaintiffs and
received by herein defendant is hereby declared as forfeited in favor of the defendants to be applied as
rental of the house from June of 1994 up to the time of rendition of judgment and the payment of P20,000.00
a month from the time of rendition of the judgment until the plaintiff and all persons claiming rights under
him shall have finally vacated the premises, and to pay the amount of P200,000.00 by way of attorneys fees
for unjustly refusing to comply with their obligation in bad faith thus forcing the defendants to litigate this
matter in court. The amount of P200,000.00 by way of moral damages and to pay the amount
of P100,000.00 by way of exemplary damages and cost.

SO ORDERED.[4]
Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 62803, and in a
Decision[5] promulgated on June 22, 2001, the CA affirmed the RTC Decision, with modification as to the
amount of damages. The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the appealed Decision is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification
that the award of attorneys fees as well as moral damages is reduced to P75,000.00 and P50,000.00,
respectively. Costs against appellant.

SO ORDERED.[6]

Petitioner sought reconsideration of the decision but this was denied by the CA in its Resolution
dated January 10, 2002.[7]

Hence, this petition based on the following assignment of errors:

First Assigned Error

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE PLAINTIFF VIOLATED
SECTIONS 20[8] AND 22[9] OF RULE 132 OF THE RULES OF COURT.

Second Assigned Error

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFF MR. GULAM DID NOT
OR WAS INCOMPETENT TO TESTIFY ON DUE EXECUTION OF THE RECEIPT IN THE
CONTRACT TO SELL, NORHAYA, THE PLAINTIFFS WIFE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKED
INSTEAD SINCE SHE WOULD BE COMPETENT ON THIS MATTER BUT THE ISSUE ON SAID
RECEIPT ON THE CONTRACT TO SELL WAS INSTEAD AVOIDED ON DIRECT EXAMINATION,
MR. GULAM WAS ALSO DECLARED INCOMPETENT TO TESTIFY ON THE MARCH 9, 1994
RECEIPT FOR THE AMOUNT OF P500,000.00 SINCE IT WAS NORHAYA WHO MADE THE
PAYMENT THEREOF, MR GULAM CANNOT TESTIFY ON THE DUE EXECUTION OF SAID
RECEIPT.

Fourth Assigned Error [sic]

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE PLAINTIFF MISERABLY
FAILED TO ESTABLISH THEIR CLAIM, THEIR CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST DEFENDANTS
ARE HEREBY DISMISSED AGAINST THE DEFENDANTS HAVING PROVED OR ESTABLISHED
THEIR CLAIM THROUGH PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE THAT THE PLAINTIFF TRIED TO
AVOID THEIR OBLIGATION IN RECIPROCAL ONE BY FRAUDULENT MEANS WITH THE USE
OF CLEAVER [sic] MANIPULATIONS IN EVIDENT BAD FAITH SHOWS THAT THE
DEFENDANTS ARE ENTITLED TO RESCISSION OF THE CONTRACT.

Fifth Assigned Error [sic]

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE AMOUNT OF P1,100,000.00
ADMITTED BY THE DEFENDANT [sic] TO HAVE BEEN RECEIVED BY PLAINTIFFS AND
RECEIVED TO BE APPLIED AS PAYMENT OR RENTAL OF THE HOUSE FROM JUNE 1994 TO
THE TIME OF RENDITION OF THE JUDGMENT AND PAYMENT OF P20,000.00 A MONTH FROM
THE TIME OF RENDITION OF THE JUDGMENT UNTIL THE PLAINTIFF AND ALL PERSONS
CLAIMING RIGHTS UNDER HIM SHALL HAVE FINALLY VACATED THE PREMISES.[10]
The Court notes that the above-quoted assignment of errors is an exact reproduction of assigned
errors I, III, IV and V raised in the appeal brief filed by petitioner with the CA, except assigned error
II,[11] which was not raised in the present petition.

As Comment, respondents adopted their Defendants-Appellees Brief filed with the CA.

Petitioners arguments basically hinge on his claim of overpayment. These arguments, however, do
not raise any question of law. As stated at the outset, the principal issue in this case, i.e., whether petitioner
has fully paid the stipulated price under the Contract to Sell, thus entitling him to the execution of a final
deed of sale, is one of fact, which is beyond the province of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

As earlier mentioned, the exceptions adverted to, to wit:[12]

(1) when the factual findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are contradictory;
(2) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or conjectures;
(3) when the inference made by the Court of Appeals from its findings of fact is manifestly mistaken,
absurd, or impossible;
(4) when there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts;
(5) when the appellate court, in making its findings, goes beyond the issues of the case, and such findings
are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;
(6) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is premised on a misapprehension of facts;
(7) when the Court of Appeals fails to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify
a different conclusion;
(8) when the findings of fact are themselves conflicting;
(9) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of the specific evidence on which they are
based; and
(10) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeal are premised on the absence of evidence but such
findings are contradicted by the evidence on record.

are not present in the present case.

Moreover, the Court finds no plausible reason to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence
already considered by the RTC and the CA, especially since these findings are not tainted with any
capriciousness or palpable error. The rule is that where the factual findings of both courts are in accord, the
same are binding on this Court.[13]

The RTC sifted through the evidence on record, testimonial as well as documentary, to determine
the veracity of petitioners claim that there was overpayment, due to the alleged issuance of several checks
and cash payments to respondents, and ruled that petitioner failed to prove his claim of overpayment. It was
the RTCs finding that the receipt acknowledging the payment of the sum of P500,000.00, which allegedly
was signed by respondent Ricarda Santos (Santos) on March 9, 1994 and which was examined by the NBI,
cannot be given any credence because Santos denied having furnished any specimen signature from which
the signature in the receipt may be compared, in violation of Sections 20 and 22 of the Rules of
Court. Instead, the RTC gave weight to the conclusion of the PNP Crime Laboratory that the documents
were written by two different persons. The RTC also observed that the issuance by petitioner of UCPB
Check No. CMR0 19635 dated January 19, 1994 for P500,000.00 is actually the payment acknowledged in
the contract as it coincides with the stipulation in the contract wherein petitioner had to pay P500,000.00
on the first month of construction, which in fact, started in January 1994. The RTC also ruled that petitioner
cannot testify on the alleged receipt of these contested amounts as he was not present during the time that
it was made, since according to petitioner himself, it was his wife Norhaya who allegedly made the
payments.[14] The RTC, meanwhile, gave credence to respondents claim that petitioner is yet to pay the full
amount of the purchase price, relying on the two letters sent by petitioners wife Norhaya to Santos admitting
that the amount of P1,100,000.00 has already been given to respondents, and a balance of P446,036.00 in
the purchase price remains, exclusive of the cost of labor and improvements, and which Norhaya seeks to
reimburse from respondents.[15]

The CA sustained the RTCs findings, stating that the receipt dated March 9, 1994 is a forgery. It also ruled
that respondents are entitled to a rescission of the Contract to Sell as petitioner failed to comply with his
obligations under the contract, to wit:

In the final analysis, it is apparent that appellant has not kept his own end of the bargain in the Contract. A
computation of the payments made based on evidence on hand, without including the bogus receipt dated
March 9, 1994, would eventually show that appellant had only paid a total of P1,100,000.00, thus leaving
an unpaid balance of more or less P600,000.00 (Exhibit 13). This is bolstered by the appellants admission
in a letter addressed to appellees through his counsel (Exhibit 3) wherein he asserted that he had already
paid P1,500,000.00. Likewise, in a letter by appellants wife to appellees, admitting having paid
only P1,500,000.00. This is contrary to his later claim that he had already paid a total of P2,050,000.00
by March 22, 1994. If this were true, why was appellants wife still paying for the house on May 7,
1994 (Exhibits 15 and 15-A), as correctly observed by appellees.
All told, We are in accord with the finding of the lower court that appellant committed a substantial breach
when he tried to weasel out of his obligation through fraudulent means by utilizing a forged check and
receipt. Appellants vain attempt to cloak with legal color his devious scheme to acquire at all costs the
house and lot at the expense of the rightful owner. Correspondingly, appellees are entitled to avail of the
provisions of Article 1191 of the Civil Code, which authorizes an injured party in a reciprocal obligation to
rescind an obligation to be decreed by the court, in case one of the obligors should not comply with what is
incumbent upon him. Surely, the introduction of forged documents can be considered a significant breach
in the reciprocal obligation as would warrant the resolution of the contract. [16]

The Court agrees with the foregoing evaluation of both the RTC and the CA, as it finds support in
the evidence on record. Despite his protestations, petitioner failed to show any reversible error committed
by the RTC and the CA.

Petitioner, however, insists that the CA erred in holding that his testimony with regard to the payments
made by his wife was hearsay. Petitioner argues that the purpose of such testimony was merely to establish
the fact that such statement was made.

It is a hornbook doctrine of evidence that a witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his
personal knowledge, which means those facts which are derived from his perception.[17] A witness may not
testify as to what he merely learned from others either because he was told or read or heard the same. Such
testimony is considered hearsay and may not be received as proof of the truth of what he has learned. The
hearsay rule is based upon serious concerns about the trustworthiness and reliability of hearsay evidence
inasmuch as such evidence are not given under oath or solemn affirmation and, more importantly, have not
been subjected to cross-examination by opposing counsel to test the perception, memory, veracity, and
articulateness of the out-of-court declarant or actor upon whose reliability on which the worth of the out-
of-court statement depends.[18]

True, petitioners statements may be considered as independently relevant statements and may be admissible
not as to the veracity thereof but to the fact that they had been thus uttered.[19] However, the admissibility
of his testimony to such effect should not be equated with its weight and sufficiency. [20] Admissibility of
evidence depends on its relevance and competence, while the weight of evidence pertains to evidence
already admitted and its tendency to convince and persuade.[21] In this case, both the RTC and the CA
refused to give credence to petitioners testimony, and the Court finds no reason to doubt the assessments
made by both courts. Even assuming that his wife, indeed, told him that payments were made on these
dates, still, it does not follow that it is sufficient proof to establish his claim of overpayment. These should
be weighed vis--vis the other evidence on record, which, as appraised by the RTC and the CA, do not
support petitioners claim.
Although Norhaya testified, she did not, however, give any credible testimony regarding these
alleged payments. In fact, Norhaya failed to testify on the alleged separate payment made in the amount
of P500,000.00, which was annotated on the Contract to Sell.[22] With regard to the alleged payment and
receipt made on March 9, 1994, respondent Santos categorically denied having received any payment on
said date.[23] Moreover, the RTC and the CA chose to ignore her testimony, and instead gave weight to the
testimony of the PNP Crime Laboratory Document Examiner that the signature appearing on the receipt
was not made by respondent Santos based on her standard signature.[24] On this score, the Court will not
interfere with the judgment exercised by the RTC and the CA since it is in the best position to assess the
credibility of witnesses and their testimonies because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses
firsthand and note their demeanor, conduct and attitude under grilling examination. As such, its evaluation
of the credibility of witnesses is accorded great respect.[25]

Finally, petitioner laments the disregard made on the NBI finding that the signature of
respondent Santos appearing on the March 9, 1994 receipt was genuine. On this score, it should be stressed
that although they may have probative value, reception in evidence of expert testimonies is within the
discretion of the court.[26] The RTC and the CA did not commit any error in disregarding the NBIs finding
since it was convincingly shown that the specimen signature of respondent Santos from which the signature
on the receipt was compared, was not actually supplied by Santos but by petitioner. Thus, as correctly stated
by the CA:

A fortiori, We agree with the trial court that the NBI expert is considered to have no adequate knowledge
of the genuine signatures of the parties whose signatures are claimed to be forged, for this witness was not
in possession of the genuine signatures of the appellees. Moreover, opinion of handwriting experts are not
necessarily binding upon the courts, the experts function being to place before the court data upon which
the court can form its own opinion. x x x[27]

Verily, the RTC and the CA did not err in dismissing petitioners complaint and ordering the rescission of
the Contract to Sell.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 22,
2001 in CA-G.R. CV No. 62803 and its Resolution dated January 10, 2002are hereby AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

LEODEGARIO BAYANI vs. PEOPLE


G.R. No. 155619 August 14, 2007
Leodegario Bayani (petitioner) was charged with Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 in an Information,
to wit:

That on or about the 20th day of August 1992, in the Municipality of Candelaria, Province of Quezon,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously issue and make out Check No. 054924 dated August 26, 1992,
in the amount of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00) Philippine Currency, drawn against the PS Bank,
Candelaria Branch, Candelaria, Quezon, payable to Cash and give the said check to one Dolores Evangelista
in exchange for cash although the said accused knew fully well at the time of issuance of said check that he
did not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for payment, the same was dishonored and
refused payment for the reason that the drawer thereof, the herein accused, had no sufficient funds therein,
and that despite due notice said accused failed to deposit the necessary amount to cover said check, or to
pay in full the amount of said check, to the damage and prejudice of said Dolores Evangelista in the
aforesaid amount.

Contrary to law.[1]
After trial, petitioner was convicted by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Lucena City, Branch 55, in a
Decision rendered on November 20, 1995, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, this Court finds the accused Leodegario S. Bayani,
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 1, Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, and hereby sentences
him to suffer one (1) year imprisonment and a fine of Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos, with subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency. He shall likewise pay the complaining witness, Dolores Evangelista,
the sum of P10,000.00, the value of Check No. 054924 he issued and drew against PS Bank, Candelaria
Branch, which was subsequently dishonored by the said drawee bank for insufficiency of funds.

The accused Leodegario Bayani is further ordered to pay Dolores Evangelista the amount of P5,000.00
representing attorney's fees. He shall also pay double the cost of this suit.

SO ORDERED.[2]

In convicting petitioner, the trial court made the following findings of facts:

1. That the Philippine Savings Bank, Candelaria Branch, has issued to the accused check booklet (Exh. C)
on December 12, 1991, with the Check No. 054924 as one of those included in said booklet of checks;

2. That the said Check No. 054924 dated August 26, 1992, was drawn and issued payable to Cash in the
amount of P10,000.00; said drawn check was made to apply to the account of the accused, Leodegario S.
Bayani whose name appears therein in bold print at the upper portion of the said check;

3. That said Check No. 054924, is a post-dated check, was subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank,
PS Bank, Candelaria Branch, for insufficiency of funds;
4. That the checking account of the accused Leodegario S. Bayani with PS Bank, Candelaria Branch, was
closed on September 1, 1992 (Exh. B-3), which at the time had only remaining deposit in the amount
of P2,414.96 (Exh. B-4).[3]

The trial court also made the following findings:

The check in question is postdated, issued and drawn on August 20, 1992, and dated August 26, 1992. It
was presented to complaining witness, Dolores Evangelista, for encashment by Alicia Rubia whom the
former knows. After the check was deposited with the bank, it was returned to Evangelista for insufficiency
of funds (Exh. A-5). Thereafter, she pursued the following events to demand payment of the value of the
check:

xxxx

After the confrontation at the office of Atty. Emmanuel Velasco, Evangelista has had another
confrontation with the accused Bayani and Alicia Rubia at Candelaria municipal building before Brgy.
Captain Nestor Baera, but again the accused and Rubia pointed to each other for the settlement of the
amount involved in the check in question.

Of these two (2) confrontations Evangelista had with the accused Bayani and Alicia Rubia,
including the chances to have met or known the complaining witness Evangelista since 1977 up to the filing
of the instant case in the Municipal Trial Court of Candelaria, all what the accused Leodegario Bayani could
say were flat denials of having talked with, or otherwise met Evangelista, regarding the latters claim of
payment of the value of Check No. 054924, admittedly from the check booklet of the said accused Bayani
issued by PS Bank, Candelaria Branch.[4]

On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA)[5] affirmed in toto the trial courts decision. The CAs Decision
dated January 30, 2002 provides for the following dispositive portion:

WHEREFORE, and it appearing from the circumstances of both the offense and the offender which does
not indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact in accordance with the Administrative Circular No. 13-
2001, the judgment appealed from is AFFIRMED in toto, with costs.

SO ORDERED.[6]

Thus, herein petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, Rules of Court, with the following assignment
of errors:

THE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH DUE RESPECT, ERRED IN REFUSING TO ACQUIT THE
ACCUSED DESPITE THE CONVICTION OF THE TRIAL COURT IS UTTERLY BASED ON
HEARSAY EVIDENCE;

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED DESPITE THE


CONSIDERATION FOR THE ISSUANCE OF THE CHECK WAS NOT DULY ESTABLISHED;

THE TRIAL COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN THEY CONVICTED THE
ACCUSED BASED ON THE WEAKNESS OF THE LATTER'S EVIDENCE AND NOT ON THE
STRENGTH OF PROSECUTION'S EVIDENCE;

THE TRIAL COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALED (sic) ERRED IN CONVICTING THE
ACCUSED SOLELY ON THE BASES OF PRESUMPTIONS.[7]

On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing respondent, argues that: (1)
petitioners denial of his liability for Check No. 05492 cannot overcome the primordial fact that his signature
appears on the face of such check; (2) want of consideration is a personal defense and is not available
against a holder in due course; and (3) the constitutional presumption of innocence was overcome by the
requisite quantum of proof.[8]

Well-settled is the rule that the factual findings and conclusions of the trial court and the CA are entitled to
great weight and respect, and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that the
trial court overlooked certain facts or circumstances which would substantially affect the disposition of the
case. Jurisdiction of this Court over cases elevated from the CA is limited to reviewing or revising errors
of law ascribed to the CA, whose factual findings are conclusive and carry even more weight when said
court affirms the findings of the trial court, absent any showing that the findings are totally devoid of support
in the record or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion.[9]

The Court sustains the CA in affirming petitioners conviction by the RTC.

Petitioner denies having issued the check subject of this case. He argues that the evidence pinpointing him
as the signatory on the check is merely hearsay.

Section 36 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides for the rule on hearsay evidence, to wit:

Sec. 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. - A


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

Under the above rule, any evidence whether oral or documentary is hearsay if its probative value is not
based on the personal knowledge of the witness, but on that of some other person who is not on the witness
stand. Hence, information that is relayed to the former by the latter before it reaches the court is considered
hearsay.[10]

In the present case, complainant Evangelista testified that she was approached by Alicia Rubia who told
her that she was requested by petitioner to have the check exchanged for cash, as he needed money
badly.[11] Obviously, Evangelistas testimony is hearsay since she had no personal knowledge of the fact that
petitioner indeed requested Rubia to have the check exchanged for cash, as she was not personally present
when petitioner supposedly made this request. What she testified to, therefore, was a matter that was not
derived from her own perception but from Rubias.

However, petitioner is barred from questioning the admission of Evangelistas testimony even if the same
is hearsay. Section 34, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court requires that the trial court shall not consider any
evidence which has not been finally offered. Section 35 of the same Rule provides that as regards the
testimony of a witness, the offer must be made at the time the witness is asked to testify. And under Section
36 of the same Rule, objection to a question propounded in the course of the oral examination of a witness
shall be made as soon as the ground therefor becomes reasonably apparent.

Thus, it has been held that in failing to object to the testimony on the ground that it was hearsay,
the evidence offered may be admitted.[12] Since no objection to the admissibility of Evangelistas testimony
was timely made from the time her testimony was offered[13] and up to the time her direct examination was
conducted[14] then petitioner has effectively waived[15] any objection to the admissibility thereof and his
belated attempts to have her testimony excluded for being hearsay has no ground to stand on.
While Evangelistas statement may be admitted in evidence, it does not necessarily follow that the same
should be given evidentiary weight. Admissibility of evidence should not be equated with weight of
evidence.[16] In this regard, it has been held that although hearsay evidence may be admitted because of lack
of objection by the adverse partys counsel, it is nonetheless without probative value,[17] unless the proponent
can show that the evidence falls within the exception to the hearsay evidence rule.[18]

In this case, Evangelistas testimony may be considered as an independently relevant statement, an


exception to the hearsay rule, the purpose of which is merely to establish the fact that the statement was
made or the tenor of such statement. Independent of the truth or the falsity of the statement, the fact that it
has been made is relevant.[19] When Evangelista said that Rubia told her that it was petitioner who requested
that the check be exchanged for cash, Evangelista was only testifying that Rubia told her of such request.It
does not establish the truth or veracity of Rubias statement since it is merely hearsay, as Rubia was not
presented in court to attest to such utterance. On this score, evidence regarding the making of
such independently relevant statement is not secondary but primary, because the statement itself may (a)
constitute a fact in issue or (2) be circumstantially relevant as to the existence of that
fact.[20] Indeed, independent of its truth or falsehood, Evangelistas statement is relevant to the issues of
petitioners falsehood, his authorship of the check in question and consequently, his culpability of the
offense charged.

In any event, petitioners conviction did not rest solely on Evangelistas testimony. There are other pieces of
evidence on record that established his guilt, to wit: the subject check was included in the booklet of checks
issued by the PSBank to petitioner; the subject check was made to apply to the account of petitioner whose
name appears on the upper portion of the said check; and most telling is that petitioner never categorically
denied that the signature appearing on the check was his. What petitioner claimed was that the signature on
the check was similar to his signature, although there were differences, viz.:

Q: I am showing to you a certain document purpurting (sic) to be PSB Check No. 054924, will you please
look at this particular document and tell this Honorable Court if this particular check is one of those
issued to you by the Philippine Savings Bank?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: Now, there appears a signature above a line located at the bottom of the said check which appears to be
Leodegario Bayani, please tell this Honorable Court if you know this particular signature?
A: Although it is similar to my signature I could not tell if this is my signature, sir.

Q: Please explain to this Honorable Court why is it so?


A: Because there are some differences, sir.

Q: Please tell this Honorable Court the particular differences you are referring to?
A: At the middle of the signature I usually put my middle initial and also the beginning of my family name
is almost connected with each other, sir.[21]

Neither did petitioner claim that the signature was a forgery. Had he done so, then a forensic examination
of the signature in appearing on the check and his signature would have been made in order to determine
the genuineness or authenticity of the signature appearing on the check.

All these pieces of evidence, taken together, inevitably support the finding of petitioners guilt beyond
reasonable doubt of the offense charged.

Petitioner also argues that he cannot be convicted due to the prosecutions failure to prove that the subject
check was issued to apply on account or for value.

The elements of the offense penalized by Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 are:

(1) the making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;

(2) the knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue there are no
sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in
full upon its presentment; and
(3) the subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or
credit or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause,
ordered the bank to stop payment.[22]
As regards the first element, it is presumed, upon issuance of the checks and in the absence of evidence to
the contrary, that the same was issued for valuable consideration.[23]Under the Negotiable Instruments Law,
it is presumed that every party to an instrument acquired the same for a consideration or for value.[24] In
alleging that there was no consideration for the subject check, it devolved upon
petitioner to present convincing evidence to overthrow the presumption and prove that the check was
issued without consideration.

Valuable consideration may consist either of some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the party who
makes the contract; or some forbearance, detriment, loss of some responsibility to act; or labor or service
given, suffered or undertaken by the other side. It is an obligation to do or not to do, in favor of the party
who makes the contract, such as the maker or indorser.[25] It was shown in this case that the check was
issued and exchanged for cash. This was the valuable consideration for which the check was issued.

At any rate, what the law punishes is the mere act of issuing a bouncing check, not the purpose for which
it was issued or the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. The law does not make any distinction on
whether the checks within its contemplation are issued in payment of an obligation or to merely guarantee
the obligation. The thrust of the law is to prohibit the making of worthless checks and putting them in
circulation.[26]

Thus, the Court cannot sustain petitioners stance that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt. As ruled
in Lee v. Court of Appeals:

Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean absolute certainty. Suffice it to say the law
requires only moral certainty or that degree of proof which produces conviction in a
prejudiced mind.[27]

After going over the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense in this case, the Court finds no
reason to overturn the judgment of conviction rendered by the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, as the
prosecution sufficiently proved petitioner's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 134128 September 28, 2001
PEOPLE OF PHILIPPINES vs.
GERARDO DE LAS ERAS y ZAFRA, alias GERRY

The case is an appeal from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 3, Bohol, City of Tagbilaran,
finding accused Gerardo de las Eras y Zafra, alias Gerry, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and
sentencing him to reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of the victim Ursula Calimbo in the sum
of P16,992.50, representing actual civil liability and the further amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages.

On March 30, 1992, assistant city prosecutor of Tagbilaran City Rio C. Achas filed with the Regional Trial
Court, Bohol, at Tagbilaran City, an information2 charging accused Gerardo de las Eras y Zafra, alias Gerry,
with murder, reading as follows:

"That on or about the 17th day of February, 1992, in the municipality of Cortes, province of Bohol,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to
kill and without any justifiable cause, with evident premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength,
and treachery by the suddenness and unexpectedness of the acts, the victim who was unarmed being then
unaware thereof, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and strike several
times with the use of a club (hard wood) one Ursula Calimbo, a defenseless old woman, hitting the latter
on the head and other vital parts of her body, thereby causing her immediate death; to the damage and
prejudice of the heirs of the victim in the amount to be proved during the trial.

"Acts committed contrary to the provisions of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in
relation to Article 14, of the same Code.

"City of Tagbilaran, March 24, 1992."

On November 13, 1995, the trial court arraigned the accused. He pleaded not guilty.3 Trial ensued.

On February 17,1992, at around 7:00 in the evening, Gerome Diola saw accused Gerardo de las Eras (also
known as "Gerry") within the vicinity of the house of Ursula Calimbo (then seventy-three years
old).4 Gerome knew accused de las Eras since childhood. They had a short conversation, then parted ways.
Shortly after that chance meeting, Gerome learned that Ursula Calimbo had been struck to death.5
Hilaria Calimbo Binatero, daughter of Ursula, testified that she lived next door to her mother, their houses
separated only by a fence. In the evening of February 17, 1992, she was cooking in her house when she
heard her mother cry for help, "Ellen, tabangin ko (Ellen, please help me)."6 She rushed to her mother and
found her bloodied near the main door. She asked her what happened and who was responsible for her
condition. Her mother replied, "Gerry."7

Hilaria testified that on February 10, 1992, she saw accused de las Eras hiding behind the fence of her
mother's house, looking particularly at the back of the house near the kitchen and the comfort room. On
February 12, 1992, her mother received a pension of P3,000.00. On February 14, 1992, someone stole the
money. Her mother suspected accused de las Eras as the culprit.8

Luisito Redulla testified that he rushed to the scene of the crime when he heard Ellen (Hilaria Binatero) cry
for help. He went to the victim and asked what happened to her and who was responsible, and she answered
"Gerry, the son of Pepe and Corning struck her (gibunalan siya)." 9 Incidentally, accused Gerardo de las
Eras' parents are Felipe, nicknamed Pepe, and Cornelia Zafra de las Eras.10 Luisito Redulla was the arresting
officer when, in 1989, accused Gerry de las Eras was charged with theft.11

Hilaria immediately rushed Ursula to the hospital, but after one hour, she died. The family spent P16,992.50
for the interment and burial of the victim.12

Immediately after the incident, police took pictures of the locus criminis showing the deceased' s comfort
room, a pair of slippers and the hard wood used to strike the victim,13 part of the kitchen sink which also
showed an opening in the wall,14 and the door beside the sink which was slightly open.15

In his defense, accused Gerardo de las Eras invoked denial and alibi. Early in the evening of February 17,
1992, he accompanied Dedec Carnecer to have a battery recharged,16 and after which, he went directly to
his grandmother to buy cigarettes and to have supper.17 His grandmother's house was about one hundred
(100) meters away from the house of the victim.18

After due trial, on April 8, 1998, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads
as follows:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds accused Gerardo de las Eras, alias Gerry, GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the Crime of Murder, and hereby imposes upon him the penalty of
imprisonment of reclusion perpetua, to suffer the necessary penalties imposed by law and to indemnify the
heirs of his victim the sum of P 16,992.50, representing actual civil liability and the further amount of
P50,000.00 as moral damages, but without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

"Without pronouncement as to Costs."SO ORDERED.

"Given, this 17th day of February, 1998.

"(Sgd.)PACITO A. YAPE
"Judge"19

Hence, this appeal.20


In his brief, accused-appellant raised as issue the prosecution's failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. He contends that the trial court erred in relying heavily on the dying declaration of the deceased and
other circumstantial evidence.21

We find the appeal without merit.

The trial court, in convicting accused-appellant, considered the following circumstantial evidence:

(a) That on February 10, 1992 at about 2:00 p.m. or a week before the incident of February 17, 1992, Gerry
was hiding behind the fence of the victim's house, near the trunk of a jackfruit tree. He was observed to be
surveying the premises of the house.

(b) That Ursula Calimbo received her monthly pension of P3,000.00 on February 12, 1992, five (5) days
before the incident.

(c) That on February 14, 1992, Ursula Calimbo lost her money and she suspected accused Gerry as the
culprit.

(d) That accused Gerardo de las Eras was previously caught, arrested and convicted of theft before the
MCTC of Cortes, Bohol as testified to by Clerk of Court Abelia Redillas.

(e) That on February 17, 1992 at about 7:00 p.m. before the incident took place at about 8:00 p.m., accused
Gerry was seen by prosecution witness Jerome Diola. When asked by Diola during the brief and chance
meeting as to his destination, de las Eras seemed unable to give a definite answer as he was giving two
different destinations: first, that he was on his way to his brother's house; and on the second, to the bakery
of Delfina Boot, as if he were up for some mischief.

(f) That the place where Diola and Gerry parted ways appears to be some 60 meters away to the house of
the victim or a few meters away from the house of his Lola Naning where he took his late supper.

(g) That accused has a strong motive to kill the victim because he wanted to silence her for good, at the
same time to exact vengeance on the victim who suspected accused de las Eras to have stolen her pension
money.

(h) That when the victim, who was already bleeding on her brows, when asked as to her assailant, first, by
her daughter Hilaria Calimbo Binatero, and later by SPO3 Lucito Redulla, she mentioned accused's name
consistently. That the accused is known by his nickname Gerry in the neighborhood, and that is the only
Gerry in the community.22

Circumstantial evidence suffices to convict an accused if the following requisites concur: (1) there must be
more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the
combination of all the circumstances produces a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.23 The totality of the
evidence must form an unbroken chain showing beyond reasonable doubt the culpability of the accused.24

The dying declaration made by the victim immediately prior to her death constitutes evidence of the highest
order25of the cause of her death and of the identity of the assailant. Under the Revised Rules on Evidence,26 a
dying declaration is admissible provided the following requisites are present: (1) the statement concerns the
crime and surrounding circumstances of the declarant's death; (2) at the time it was made, the declarant was
under the consciousness of an impending death; (3) the declarant would have been competent as a witness
had he survived; and (4) the declaration was offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder, or parricide
in which the declarant was the victim.27 When asked by her daughter Hilaria Binatero28 and policeman
Luisito Redulla,29 the victim pointed to accused-appellant Gerry de las Eras as her assailant. This qualifies
as a dying declaration.30

Denial and alibi are weak defenses and cannot overturn the positive identification by the prosecution
witnesses of the assailant, more so when there are material inconsistencies in the testimony of the accused
denying his participation in the crime. In this case, accused-appellant gave different responses as to his
whereabouts when the crime was committed, thus:

Q: Do you remember having testified on June 14, 1996 that at 5:00 p.m., more or less, you were at your
house when Dedec arrived at your house?
A: Yes.
Q: And now you are testifying in answer to the court's question that when Dedec went to your house, it
was only your sister whom he met and told your sister to tell you that Dedec wanted to see you, which is
which now?
A: When Dedec came to our house, I was at the upper portion of the house.
COURT: Why are you telling the court that you were out when Dedec came?
A: I was at the upper portion and my sister told me that Dedec was there.
Q: So you have a talk with him?
A: Yes, before we left.
Q: So, there are now four versions, on July 14, 1996, you said Dedec came to your house to ask you to
help him have his battery charged, on question of the court today, you answer that you were around the
house, on question of Prosecutor Rodolfo R. Ligason, you said, you were at the upper portion of your house,
now, you are telling the court that your sister told you that Dedec Carnecer was there, and you have a talk
with him, which is which now?
A: I wish to tell the court that Dedec Carnecer came to my house, he first see my sister, who told me
that Dedec was around, and I met Dedec, who told me to go to his house.
Q: So you will not change your answer anymore?
A: Yes.31

Accused-appellant also gave different versions as to where he stayed during the charging of the battery.
First, he said that they waited at the store across the whole time that the battery was being charged. At
another time, he said that he went first to his grandmother's house and then came back later to get the
charged battery, thus:

Q: Is it not a fact that usually in order to give power to the battery, the battery should be charged slowly,
and therefore, it should be charged overnight and to be taken the following day?
A: I do not know.
Q: Do you mean to say that after bringing the battery to Igang, after some few minutes, Dedec Carnecer
brought it back to his house?
A: It was left there for three hours.
Q: Do you mean to say that you waited for that number of hours, three hours?
A: Yes.
Q: What time did you arrive?
A: Almost 6:30 p.m.
Q: So, in effect, you waited until 9:30 p.m?
A: No, because we went back to the shop at 8:30 p.m. because Anoy Igang told us to get the battery.
Q: Did you not tell the court that you waited for three hours to have the battery charged?
A: While we waited, Igang told us to get the battery at 8:30, so we returned to his shop at 8:30 p.m.
Q: So, it did not take you three hours to wait after all?
A: I do not know, because they were not ones who waited.
Q: But you came back at 8:30 p.m?
A: Yes.
Q: And you were able to get the battery?
A: Yes.
Q: In other words, it only took you two hours, not three hours?
A: Yes.
Q: But why did you tell the court that you waited for three hours?
A: Yes, because they were talking with Dedec Carnecer.
Q: In other words, it did not take you about three hours to wait, it only took you 1 1/2 hours?
A: Yes, that is true.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: While you were on cross, I heard your answer to the effect that after all, you have the battery charged
for three hours, but in your testimony on June 14, 1996, you said that the battery was charged at Anoy
Igang's shop for two hours, my question is, did you deliberately change the two hours to three hours in
order to suit the requirements in charging the battery?
A: What Anoy Igang told us when I arrived at 6:30 p.m., that we will come back at 8:30 p.m., because
the battery will be ready by that time.
Q: Though, you were not quite responsive to my question, did I get you right just a while ago that you
said that you came back to Anoy Igang's shop to get the battery?
A: Yes.
Q: This is quite a new matter because when you testified on June 14, 1996, you said that from Anoy
Igang's shop taking out the battery, you went to the house of Dedec Carnecer arriving 7:30 p.m., leaving
8:00 p.m. going to the house of your lola?
A: The truth is, we went to Arsenio Agot's store and went back at 8:00 p.m. to get the battery,
COURT: The court noticed that most often you are not responsive to the question asked, remember, these
series of questions are vital, since your defense here is alibi, but on my notes on your testimony of July 16,
you. declared that there was no unusual incident at the store of Agot, in fact, you have been seated at the
bench of the store with Dedec Carnecer, and there was no unusual incident thereat. And at about 7:00 p.m.,
you returned to the shop of Igang and was able to retrieve the battery, and you went home to the house of
Dedec Carnecer, arriving there at 7:30 p.m., it seems that you are making some conflicting statements. Do
not answer the question unless you are very sure of your answer.
A: I was confused because the question of the fiscal was not in series and sequence.32

Accused-appellant's defense of denial and alibi is further weakened by the fact that he escaped from
detention on May 23, 1992, before his arraignment.33 On January 21, 1995, he was re-arrested and detained
at the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center (BDRC) for another crime.34 On June 7, 1997, during the
trial of this case, accused-appellant again escaped from the guard on duty.35 On December 17, 1997, he was
apprehended again.36Such escapade is akin to flight before arrest in the commission of a crime, which is an
indication of guilt.37

However, there was no eyewitness showing how the assailant attacked the victim. Without any particulars
as to the manner in which the aggression commenced or how the act which resulted in the victim's death
unfolded, treachery cannot be appreciated.38 In the absence of specific evidence proving the qualifying
circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength, absorbed therein,39 the crime committed is
homicide, not murder .
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Bohol, Branch 3,
Tagbilaran City, in Criminal Case No. 7727, convicting accused-appellant Gerardo de las Eras y Zafra,
alias Gerry, with the modification that in lieu of murder, the Court finds accused Gerardo de las Eras y
Zafra, alias Gerry, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide, defined and penalized under Article 249 of
the Revised Penal Code. In the absence of any modifying circumstances and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, the Court hereby sentences him to twelve (12) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to
seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum, to indemnify the heirs of the
deceased Ursula Calimbo in the amount of P50,000.00 plus P16,992.50 as actual damages and P50,000.00
as moral damages and costs in all instances.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 133964. February 13, 2002]


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. RAMIL PEÑA
Accused-appellant Ramil Peña was charged with murder in an Information which reads, thus:
That on or about the 8th day of December, 1995, in the municipality of Obando, province of Bulacan,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused armed with a
firearm with intent to kill one Jimbo Pelagio y Ferrer, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously, with evident premeditation and treachery, attack, assault and shoot the
said Jimbo Pelagio y Ferrer, hitting the latter on the head thereby inflicting wound which directly caused
the death of the said Jimbo Pelagio y Ferrer.[1]

In the early morning of December 8, 1995, accused-appellant hired Jimbo Pelagio, a tricycle driver
working the night shift, to take him to Paco, Obando, Bulacan. When they reached their destination, he
ordered Pelagio to get off the tricycle. Then, accused-appellant robbed Pelagio of his money and repeatedly
struck him on the head with a gun. Pelagio fell on the ground unconscious. Accused-appellant shot him on
the head and fled on board his tricycle.
That same morning, SPO1 Froilan Bautista got a call from the Valenzuela Emergency Hospital stating
that a man had been shot on the head and was in their hospital. SPO1 Bautista and SPO1 Jose Sta. Ana
rushed to the hospital and found the still conscious Pelagio lying on a stretcher.
SPO1 Bautista took the statement of Pelagio in a question and answer method, which he took down
on two sheets of yellow paper. After his statement was taken, Pelagio affixed his thumbmark on both
sheets. In his statement, Pelagio related how accused-appellant inflicted his injuries on him.
The owner of the tricycle, Wilfredo Lampa, after being informed that Pelagio had been shot,
proceeded to the hospital. There, Pelagio told him that it was accused-appellant who shot him and took
away his tricycle.
Francisca Pelagio, Jimbo Pelagios mother, also rushed to the hospital. Upon advice of the doctors,
Francisca brought her son to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital. On February 6,
1996, Jimbo Pelagio expired. According to Francisca, she spent P26,000.00 for his medical and funeral
expenses.
For his part, accused-appellant claimed that he was in San Isidro, San Luis, Pampanga together with
his wife on the date of the incident. He went into hiding in the house of his uncle, Maximiano Guevarra,
for nine (9) months because he allegedly killed a certain Roger Wininsala. He came to know that he was
being accused of the murder of Pelagio, whom he did not know, only while he was in detention on a drug
charge.
Accused-appellants testimony was corroborated by his uncle Maximiano Guevarra.
The trial court was not persuaded. On May 13, 1998, it rendered a decision,[2] the dispositive portion
of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, this Court hereby finds RAMIL PEA GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and sentences him
to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and to pay the victims mother, Francisca Pelagio, the amount
of P26,000.00 representing actual damages and the costs of suit.

Hence this appeal.


Accused-appellant claims that the trial court erred in finding that accused-appellant
shot Pelagio because there is no evidence that a bullet was embedded in the skull of the victim. More
specifically, the attending physicians were not presented to testify that the victim died of a gunshot wound
in the head.
Accused-appellant next claims that the evidence relied upon by the trial court is hearsay and
inadmissible. He argues that said evidence does not constitute res gestae. Particularly, he emphasizes that
it was imperative on the part of the lower court that it should have appreciated the principle of res gestae on
the basis of the contents of Jimbo Pelagios statement reduced in handwritten form by SPO1 Bautista, and
not on the dying declarations made by Jimbo Pelagio to SPO1 Bautista, Wilfredo Lampa and
Francisca Pelagio because these prosecution witnesses had all the time to contrive and improvise on what
was actually told them, allegedly by Jimbo Pelagio.[3]
The pivotal issue is whether the statement of the victim Jimbo Pelagio as well as the testimonies of the
prosecution witnesses on the victims declaration can be considered as part of the res gestae, hence, an
exception to the hearsay rule.
The statement or declaration made by Pelagio, taken by SPO1 Bautista, reads:
T: Alam mo ba ang dahilan kung bakit ka naririto sa Valenzuela Emergency Hospital at kinuku
nan ka ng salaysay?
S: Opo, dahil pinagpapalo po ako ng baril ni RAMIL PEA sa ulo at kinuha and
tricycle kong minamaneho.
T: Taga saan itong si Ramil Pea?
S: Sa Dulong Tangke, Valenzuela, (Malinta), M.M.
T: Saan, kailan at anong oras nangyari ito?
S: Sa Paco, Obando, Bulacan, kaninang ika-8 ng Disyembre 1995 sa ganap na ika-
4:15 ng umaga.
T: Sakay mo ba itong si Ramil Pea?
S: Oho, sumakay sa may gasolinahan ng Petron sa Malinta, Valenzuela, M.M.
T: Dati mo bang kilala si Ramil Pea?
S: Opo.
T: Ano ba ang tatak ng tricycle mo?
S: Yamaha RS-100, kulay itim.
T: Sino and may-ari ng tricycle?
S: Si Rey Dagul.
T: Binaril ka ba ni Ramil?
S: Muntik na ho.
T: Bakit sa iyo ginawa ni Ramil and bagay na ito?
S: Ewan ko ho.[4]
The trial court ruled that Pelagios statement was a dying declaration since it was uttered at the point
of death and with consciousness of that fact due to the serious nature of his wounds. Thus, it
admitted Pelagios statement in evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule.
The requisites for the admissibility of dying declarations have already been established in a long line
of cases. An ante-mortem statement or dying declaration is entitled to probative weight if: (1) at the time
the declaration was made, death was imminent and the declarant was conscious of that fact; (2) the
declaration refers to the cause and surrounding circumstances of such death; (3) the declaration relates to
facts which the victim was competent to testify to; (4) the declarant thereafter died; and (5) the declaration
is offered in a criminal case wherein the declarants death is the subject of the inquiry.[5]
The first element is lacking in the case at bar. It was not established with certainty
whether Pelagio uttered his statement with consciousness of his impending death. While he was in pain
when he made his statement, he expressly stated that accused-appellant only pistol-whipped him and almost
shot him.[6]
The significance of a victims realization or consciousness that he was on the brink of death cannot be
gainsaid. Such ante mortem statement is evidence of the highest order because at the threshold of death, all
thoughts of fabricating lies are stilled. The utterance of a victim made immediately after sustaining serious
injuries may be considered the incident speaking through the victim. It is entitled to the highest credence.[7]
Granting that Pelagio, after giving his statement, later on realized that he was dying, his statement still
can not be considered a dying declaration. The crucial factor to consider is the contemporaneity of the
moment when the statement was made and the moment of the realization of death. The time the statement
was being made must also be the time the victim was aware that he was dying.
While it may not qualify as a dying declaration, Pelagios statement may nonetheless be admitted in
evidence as part of the res gestae. In People v. Marollano,[8] this Court held:

The requisites for the admissibility of the victims ante mortem statement as part of the res gestae and also
as a dying declaration are present in this case, hence the same should be admitted under both exceptions to
the hearsay rule. (Citation omitted) While the admissibility thereof would naturally not be affected whether
viewed under either or both considerations, the advantage of resting the issue on the aforesaid dual bases is
that its admission would be invulnerable to a theorized absence of an element of one of said exceptions. This
is particularly important in this case, considering that the very identification of the assailant and the
accuracy thereof are essentially based on the declaration of the victim. (Emphasis supplied)

A declaration made spontaneously after a startling occurrence is deemed as part of the res gestae when
(1) the principal act, the res gestae, is a startling occurrence; (2) the statements were made before
the declarant had time to contrive or devise; and (3) the statements concern the occurrence in question and
its immediately attending circumstances.[9]
In People v. Naerta,[10] this Court held that:

The term res gestae comprehends a situation which presents a startling or unusual occurrence sufficient to
produce a spontaneous and instinctive reaction, during which interval certain statements are made under
such circumstances as to show lack of forethought or deliberate design in the formulation of their content.

Pelagios declaration is admissible as part of the res gestae since it was made shortly after a startling
occurrence and under the influence thereof. Under the circumstances, the victim evidently had no
opportunity to contrive his statement beforehand.[11]
In People v. Hernandez,[12] the infliction on a person of a gunshot wound on a vital part of the body
should qualify by any standard as a startling occurrence. And the rule is that testimony by a person regarding
statements made by another as that startling occurrence was taking place or immediately prior or subsequent
thereto, although essentially hearsay, is admissible exceptionally, on the theory that said statements are
natural and spontaneous, unreflected and instinctive, made before there had been opportunity to devise or
contrive anything contrary to the real fact that occurred, it being said that in these cases, it is the event
speaking through the declarant, not the latter speaking of the event.
In this case, it is clear that the pistol-whipping and the gunshot on the head of Pelagio qualified as a
startling occurrence. Notably, Pelagio constantly complained of pain in his head while his statement was
being taken by SPO1 Bautista, so much so that there was no opportunity for him to be able to devise or
contrive anything other than what really happened.
In People v. Putian,[13] the Court held that although a declaration does not appear to have been made
by the declarant under the expectation of a sure and impending death, and, for that reason, is not admissible
as a dying declaration, yet if such declaration was made at the time of, or immediately after, the commission
of the crime, or at a time when the exciting influence of the startling occurrence still continued in
the declarants mind, it is admissible as part of the res gestae.
Indeed the defense admitted as much when it stated, thus:

We should stress that Jimbo Pelagios handwritten statement, or his declarations therein, were made
immediately after the res gestae or the principal act took place, and he had no time to contrive or devise,
while his statements directly concerned the occurrence in question and its immediate circumstances. We
should take note further that the handwritten statements contents are rather detailed in terms of the specifics
of the circumstances before, during and after the subject incident which elicits guarded conclusion that
notwithstanding Jimbo Pelagios physical condition at the Valenzuela Emergency Hospital, he was
conscious and lucid enough to intelligently respond rather spontaneously on the questions propounded to
him by SPO1 Bautista. These acts and statements made by Jimbo Pelagio definitely constitute part
of res gestaeand not the testimonies and/or written statements of the three prosecution witnesses in this
case.[14]

By stating, however, that the testimonies or the written statements of the three prosecution witnesses
were taken into consideration by the trial court as part of the res gestae betrays a misapprehension of said
principle. This Court agrees with the Solicitor General when it observed thus:

Since res gestae refers to those exclamations and statements made by either the participants, victims or
spectators to a crime before, during or immediately after the commission of the crime, they should
necessarily be the ones who must not have the opportunity to contrive or devise a falsehood but not the
persons to whom they gave their dying declaration or spontaneous statement. In other words, the witness
who merely testifies on a res gestae is not the declarant referred to in the second requisite whose statements
had to be made before he had the time to contrive or devise a falsehood. (citation omitted)

Thus, even if there were intervening periods between the time the victim gave his account of the incident
to the prosecution witnesses and the time the latter first disclosed what the victim told them, the same will
not affect the admissibility of the victims declaration or statement as part of res gestae since it is sufficient
that such declaration or statement was made by the victim before he had time to contrive or devise a
falsehood.[15]

In any case, there is no reason why SPO1 Bautista would contrive or devise a falsehood especially on
the matter that Pelagio was shot on the head and that it was accused-appellant who shot him. As a police
officer, he was duty-bound to investigate and unearth the facts of the case. There is a presumption that as
an officer of the law, he sought only the truth. Besides, no motive was shown as to why he would contrive
or devise a falsehood against accused-appellant.
In his Investigation Report,[16] SPO1 Bautista gathered that accused-appellant shot Pelagio from
the Radiologic Report conducted at the Valenzuela District Hospital wherein the presence of metallic
fragments was discovered. Moreover, the results of the C.T. Scan conducted on the victim showed the
presence of metallic fragments in his skull. In Pelagios Death Certificate,[17]the underlying cause of death
was indicated as gunshot wound to the head.
There is, therefore, no merit in accused-appellants contention that there was no evidence
that Pelagio was shot in the head. It should be noted that accused-appellant pistol-
whipped Pelagio repeatedly. The Solicitor Generals following submission would, therefore, make sense:

Given the probability that he was already unconscious or his head had become numb due to severe head
injuries when accused-appellant shot him, it is not unlikely for the victim not to have known or felt being
shot and hit by accused-appellant on the head. This was probably the reason why in his initial declaration,
the victim merely stated that he was nearly shot by accused-appellant.[18]

Regardless, Pelagio categorically declared that it was accused-appellant who caused his head injuries
which eventually led to his death. SPO1 Bautistas testimony as well as WilfredoLampas and
Francisca Pelagios merely corroborated Pelagios statement that it was accused-appellant who caused his
head injuries.
The trial court found, thus:

The straightforward and consistent testimonies of the three vital prosecution witnesses bear the earmarks
of credibility. Further, there exists no ill motive on their part to prevaricate. This absence of evidence as to
an improper motive actuating the principal witnesses for the prosecution strongly tends to sustain that no
improper motive existed and their testimony is worthy of full faith and credit (citation omitted), for
witnesses do not generally falsely impute to an accused a serious criminal offense were it not the
untarnished truth. (Citation omitted)

Settled is the rule that in the absence of any fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has
been overlooked or the significance of which has been misconstrued to impeach the findings of the trial
court, the appellate courts will not interfere with the trial courts findings on the credibility of the witnesses
or set aside its judgment, considering that the trial court is in a better position to decide the question for it
had heard the witnesses themselves during the trial. The evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is a matter
that particularly falls within the authority of the trial court.[19]
However, this Court cannot agree with the trial court that the crime should be murder. While evident
premeditation and treachery were alleged in the information, the trial court did not state why the killing was
qualified to murder. The prosecution failed to establish the attendance of the qualifying circumstances with
concrete proof. The crime proved was only homicide.
In accordance with Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, accused-appellant should be sentenced
to reclusion temporal. There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the penalty to be imposed
shall be the medium period of reclusion temporal, ranging from fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and
one (1) day to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months.Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, accused-
appellant shall be entitled to a minimum penalty, to be taken from the penalty next lower in degree
or prision mayor, in any or its periods, ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years.
As to the matter of damages, we hold that the trial court should have awarded civil indemnity in the
amount of P50,000.00 in line with prevailing jurisprudence.[20] The award of P26,000.00 as actual damages
is upheld, being duly proven with receipts.[21]
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision is MODIFIED. Accused-
appellant Ramil Pea is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide and sentenced to suffer an
indeterminate sentence of ten (10) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four
(4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum, and to pay the heirs of the victim Jimbo Pelagio the amount
of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P26,000.00 as actual damages.
Costs against accused-appellant.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 129053 January 25, 2002


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. PO3 AKIB NORRUDIN

This is an appeal from the Decision, dated January 24, 1997, of the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City,
Branch 32, in Criminal Case No. 45641 finding accused-appellant Akib Norrudin guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of murder.

The Information charging accused-appellant stated:

That on or about July 8, 1995, in the City of Surigao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a firearm, with grave abuse of authority he being
a member of the Philippine National Police assigned at Surigao City PNP Station, with intent to kill and by
means of treachery, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and attack Vidal
Avila, Jr., hitting the latter on the vital part of his body, thereby inflicting upon him serious gunshot wound
which caused his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the deceased in such amount as may be
allowed them by law.

Contrary to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code with the qualifying circumstance of treachery.2

Upon arraignment, the accused-appellant pleaded Not Guilty. Thereafter, trial ensued.

The prosecution presented nine witnesses: PO2 Eleazar Carias, Dorothy Rivera, Ramil Llorado, PO3
Ruperto Deguino, Senior Police Inspector Edgardo Leva, PO3 Eutropio Paltinca, Police Inspector Armada,
Dr. Audie Relliquete and Mrs. Florentina Avila.

PO2 Carias testified that in the evening of July 7, 1995, he reported for work at the Surigao City Police
Station. He saw the accused-appellant at the police station although the latter was already off-duty. The
accused-appellant was wearing civilian clothes and had his firearm tucked at the side of his waist.3

Sometime later that evening, upon the invitation of Police Inspector Diosdado Morales, Carias, Morales
and the accused-appellant went to Barangay Lipata to inspect the police team assigned there and reached
said place at around 9:15 p.m. In Barangay Lipata, they had some drinks with a friend until about 12:30
a.m. of July 8, 1995. Thereafter, Morales, Carias and the accused-appellant returned to Surigao City.4

Upon reaching the city, the accused-appellant, who was already drunk by then, got off in front of Casa
Blanca, a pension house, restaurant and videoke bar located at Narciso Street. He invited his companions
to go inside said establishment for another round of drinks but the latter refused as they were still on duty.
Carias and the others then returned to the police station.5

After their return to the police station in Surigao City, SPO3 Antonio Cortes arrived and requested Carias
to help tow their police car which ran out of gas in Barangay Rizal. Since the vehicle used for towing was
in the house of SPO3 Ruperto Deguino, Carias and Cortes went to Deguino's house and requested the latter
to drive the tow vehicle.6Deguino acceded to their request, but first went to the police station to get the rope
used for towing while Carias and Cortes went ahead to Barangay Rizal.7

At around 2:00 a.m., while Deguino was at the police station, he received a radio communication requesting
police officers to proceed to Casa Blanca in connection with a shooting incident which had just occurred
therein.8

Kit Aguilar, a guest relations officer (GRO) testified that earlier in the evening of July 7, 1995, prior to the
occurrence of the shooting incident at Casa Blanca, she and a certain Maritess, a fellow GRO, were
entertaining a customer named Vidal Avila, Jr.9

At around 1:00 a.m. of the following day, July 8, 1995, the accused-appellant arrived at Casa Blanca.
Maritess, who was then with Kit Aguilar and Vidal Avila, Jr., rose to meet him, as he was her live-in
boyfriend.10 Maritess and the accused-appellant sat at another table and ordered beer. Not long after that,
they started arguing and the accused-appellant began shouting at Maritess. Thereafter, they stood up from
their table and went outside the restaurant, and walked toward the front gate of the restaurant compound
where they continued arguing.11 Later, after Avila, Jr. stood from his table, paid his bill and went outside
the restaurant to ride his motorcycle. Aguilar looked through the restaurant's window and saw that Avila,
Jr. turned right to Narciso Street. Shortly afterwards, she heard a gunshot. Maritess then went back inside
the restaurant. Aguilar asked Maritess if she knew anything about the gunshot which was fired earlier.
Maritess replied that it was her boyfriend, the accused-appellant, who fired the shot. Subsequently, accused-
appellant also went back inside Casa Blanca, finished his drink and left the restaurant with Maritess.12

Dorothy Rivera, the owner of Casa Blanca, corroborated Aguilar's testimony and stated that in the early
morning of July 8, 1995, while she was supervising the waitresses inside the restaurant, she saw the accused-
appellant and Maritess quarrelling near the front gate of the restaurant compound.13 Shortly thereafter,
Avila, Jr. bade her goodbye. Rivera knew Avila, Jr. because he was a cousin of her brother-in-law. Avila
then rode his motorcycle which was parked inside the restaurant compound and went on his way home.14

As Avila turned his motorcycle to the right side of the gate of Casa Blanca, Rivera heard a
gunshot.15 Thereafter, Maritess went back inside the restaurant. Rivera then asked her if she knew anything
about the gunshot that had just been fired. Maritess replied that the accused-appellant had fired a warning
shot.16 Later, the accused-appellant also went back inside the restaurant and finished his beer. Maritess and
the accused-appellant talked again for a few minutes and then they left Casa Blanca.17

For his part, Ramil Llorado testified that at about 1:00 a.m. on July 8, 1995, while he was drinking liquor
with two other persons in front of his house in Narciso St., some fifty to sixty meters away from Casa
Blanca, he heard a lone gunshot. Three to four minutes after the said gunshot was fired, a man riding a
motorcycle stopped in front of them and asked for help. Thereafter, the man fell down from his motorcycle.
Llorado recognized the man as Vidal Avila, Jr., an employee in the Office of the City Engineer of Surigao
City.18 Llorado and one of his friends then hailed a tricycle and rushed to the city police station. They
reported the incident to the desk officer and requested for assistance. The police then sent two policemen
in a patrol car to Narciso St. to look into the matter.19
Upon returning to Narciso St. with the policemen, Llorado helped carry Avila, Jr. inside the police car to
bring him to the Surigao Provincial Hospital. Llorado cradled Avila, Jr.'s head on his lap and asked the
latter who shot him. Avila, Jr. replied in a weak voice that a policeman shot him. Llorado was shocked upon
hearing Avila, Jr.'s answer, but since they were inside a police car at that time together with some policemen,
he refrained from further asking questions.20

Meanwhile, as PO3 Deguino was driving to Casa Blanca in response to the radio communication which he
had earlier received, he saw some men carrying a wounded man inside a police car parked along Narciso
St. He learned that the wounded man was the person shot in front of Casa Blanca earlier that morning.21 He
then proceeded to Casa Blanca to investigate regarding the incident. He was told by a certain Simon Ferol
and a Benhur Turtor who were at Casa Blanca at the time of the shooting that the assailant was Deguino's
fellow police officer.22 Later, PO2 Carias told him that the policeman whom they dropped off at Casa
Blanca at around 12:45 a.m. of July 8 was the accused-appellant, and that the latter was already drunk when
he got off at said restaurant.23 Deguino also talked to Kit Aguilar who confirmed that the accused-appellant
was at Casa Blanca with his girlfriend Maritess earlier that morning.24

Thereafter, Deguino and PO3 Marcial Tinio proceeded to the hospital where Avila, Jr. was brought to ask
the latter some questions regarding the shooting. Upon arriving there at around 3:00 a.m., they found
another policeman surnamed Cabada trying to interview Avila, Jr.25 Sensing that Avila, Jr. was dying,
Deguino requested Cabada to allow him to ask the questions as he and the victim were friends.26

Deguino then placed his mouth near Avila, Jr.'s ear and spoke loudly: "Jun, this is your friend Bebot." Avila,
Jr. opened his eyes and raised his head toward Deguino. The latter then asked Avila, Jr., "Do you recognize
the person who shot you?" After Deguino repeated the question three times, Avila, Jr. replied yes. Deguino
then asked: "Kinsa man? (Who) Who, a policeman?" Avila, Jr. said yes again. Deguino asked the latter a
third question: "Was it Akib?" Deguino had to repeat the question several times before Avila finally said
yes.27

Deguino could not believe what Avila, Jr. had just said that he felt his body hairs stand up. He and Tinio
then went to their vehicle and returned to the police station. Upon reaching the same, he informed Inspector
Gregorio Peramide, the officer of the day, what Avila, Jr. had told him.28

Another witness, Senior Inspector Edgar Leva, testified that at around 2:00 a.m. on July 8, 1995 while he
was waiting in Barangay Lipata for the vehicle that would tow the car used by him and some other
policemen back to Surigao City, he monitored a message from their radio equipment that there was a
shooting incident in Casa Blanca in Narciso St., Surigao City. About twenty minutes after he heard said
message, he arrived at the Surigao City Police Station where he met Peramide whom he ordered to follow-
up the developments regarding the shooting incident.29 At around 3:00 a.m., not long after Leva had
returned to his residence, Inspector Morales arrived therein and reported to him that the accused-appellant
was the prime suspect in the shooting of Avila, Jr.30 Shortly thereafter, Peramide, and later Tinio and
Deguino also arrived at Leva's house and made similar reports that the accused-appellant was suspected of
having shot Avila, Jr.31 As deputy chief of police of Surigao City, Leva directed them to cordon off the
house of Norrudin in Gimena St., Surigao City as there were reports that the accused-appellant was in his
home.

Subsequently, Leva received a call that he was needed at the accused-appellant's house which was already
surrounded by policemen.32 When he reached the same, he called out the accused-appellant's name and
asked the latter to come out of the house. However, the accused-appellant instead asked Leva to enter the
house. Leva and Deguino went in and the accused-appellant surrendered to them. Leva then brought the
accused-appellant to the police station.33
PO3 Eutropio Paltinca, a laboratory technician in the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory
in Cagayan de Oro City who had been temporarily assigned to the forensic processing department in Surigao
City, testified that he conducted a paraffin test on the accused-appellant pursuant to the request of the Chief
of Police of Surigao City. He conducted the test on both hands of the accused-appellant.34 The following
day, he personally brought the test results to the crime laboratory in Cagayan de Oro City.

Chemistry Report No. C-022-95 dated July 9, 1995 prepared by forensic analyst Senior Inspector Vicente
P. Armada, revealed that the accused-appellant's right hand tested positive for gunpowder residue.35

Armada also examined the revolver, a caliber .38 Squares Bingham with Serial No. 924673 assigned to the
accused-appellant, to determine if the same had been fired recently before it was confiscated.36 Chemistry
Report No. C-036-95 prepared by Armada stated that nitrate and gunpowder residue were found on the
barrel and cylinder of the firearm. He concluded that the firearm had been fired recently before it was
confiscated.37

The physician on duty in Surigao Provincial Hospital on July 8, 1995, Dr. Audie Relliquete, testified that
at about 2:35 a.m. on July 8, 1995, a wounded man identified as Vidal Avila, Jr. was brought to the hospital
due to a gunshot wound.38 Dr. Relliquete examined the victim and noticed that the latter was cyanotic and
pale due to loss of blood.39 The doctor discovered that the bullet entered the victim's body on the right side
of the abdomen and exited at the left side of his navel. The wound of entry was contused and circular and
had the characteristics of a bullet wound. The trajectory of the wound was about level from the points of
entry to exit.40 Dr. Relliquete also stated that he applied dextrose and other medicines on Avila, Jr. and
scheduled him for an exploratory laparotomy, but the victim died at around 4:10 a.m. even before the
operation could be conducted. The cause of death was severe blood loss, shock and heart failure secondary
to the bullet wound.

The victim's wife, Florentina Avila (Mrs. Avila), testified that she and Avila, Jr. had four children. Their
oldest child was 11 years old while the youngest was only two years old.41 At the time of his death, Avila,
Jr. was 43 years old and working as a building inspector at the City Engineer's Office with a net take home
pay of P1,909.88 per month.42 Had he lived until retirement at age 60, he would have about 17 more years
in government service and would have earned a total of P389,615.52 during this period.43 Mrs. Avila further
stated that she spent a total of P113,900.00 in miscellaneous expenses for the wake and interment of her
husband.44 She also claimed moral damages for the shock, serious anxiety and worry that she and her
children suffered as a result of her husband's death.45

The accused-appellant denied the charges against him. While he admitted in his testimony that on the night
of July 7, 1995, after his duty, he went to Barangay Lipata, Surigao City with Police Inspector Morales,
PO2 Carias, and PO2 Valeciano Rivas to inspect the police detachment located therein, and thereafter, to
have a few drinks, he insisted that after they returned to Surigao City at about 2:00 a.m. on July 8, 1995, he
asked PO3 Pepito Gloria who was driving the vehicle to drop him off at his house in the PNP Compound
in Borromeo St. He said that when he got home, he changed clothes, ate supper and then went to sleep.46

The accused-appellant further stated that at around 6:30 a.m. of July 8, 1995, he was awakened by the
arrival of Senior Inspector Edgar Leva and SPO4 Antonio Cortes at his residence. He was told that they
were going to the police station. Upon their arrival at said place, Leva and Cortes asked the accused-
appellant what he did earlier that morning. The latter replied that he did not do anything. Leva then told
him that he (accused-appellant) shot a man dead at Casa Blanca. The accused-appellant said he was stunned
by Leva's statement since he had nothing to do with the incident.47
The accused-appellant also denied that Maritess, the GRO from Casa Blanca, is his girlfriend. He
maintained that he does not know the woman and he has not gone inside the said restaurant.48

The testimony of Ruperto Deguino was assailed by the accused-appellant on the ground of alleged bias and
ill-will. He said that sometime in August 1993, he and Deguino were assigned to guard the PHILNICO in
Barangay Nonoc, Surigao City. Deguino tried to smuggle out certain jeep parts from the company
compound but he was prevented from doing so by the accused, who reported the incident to the company
management, so Deguino threatened to get even with him someday.49

The accused-appellant also explained that the firearm assigned to him had nitrate and gunpowder residue
because he test-fired the same two times in the PNP Compound on July 7, 1995.50

PO2 Pepito Gloria corroborated the accused-appellant's statement that they went to Barangay Lipata in the
evening of July 7, 1995 and returned to Surigao City at around 1:00 a.m. on July 8, 1995. He said that they
dropped off the accused-appellant at Firma Lodge near the PNP Compound before proceeding to the police
station.51 PO2 Valeriano Rivas likewise gave a similar testimony before the trial court.52

On January 24, 1997, the RTC promulgated its Decision finding the accused-appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and imposing upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Accused-appellant filed a notice of appeal from the decision of the RTC on February 18, 1997.

In his appeal brief, accused-appellant contends that the trial court erred in finding him guilty of murder
based on the evidence presented by the prosecution. He argues that the alleged dying declaration is
inadmissible because it was not reduced into writing. The victim's alleged declaration was testified to only
by PO3 Deguino, and such testimony was not corroborated by any other witness. Accused-appellant further
states that even assuming that the victim's dying declaration is admissible on that score, the trial court
should not have admitted the same because the prosecution failed to establish that at the time the victim
told Deguino who killed him, he was conscious that he was at the brink of death. Citing People vs.
Lanza53 and People vs. Elizaga,54 the accused-appellant argues that such element must be proven for the
dying declaration to be admissible in evidence.55 Moreover, the accused-appellant contends that the alleged
dying declaration is doubtful, considering that it was Deguino who "forced into the mouth of the victim the
identity of the [accused-]appellant as his supposed assailant,"56 and that in other words, it was not the victim
who actually identified the accused-appellant as his killer.57

Accused-appellant likewise assails the trial court's findings that it was he who shot Avila, Jr., and maintains
that the owner of Casa Blanca, Dorothy Rivera, as well as Kit Aguilar who was also at said restaurant at
the time of the shooting, testified that at the moment they heard the gunshot, they did not see accused-
appellant holding a gun nor shooting the victim nor posed to shoot the latter.58

It is further argued that Maritess' statement addressed to Rivera and Aguilar that accused-appellant had
fired a warning shot should not have been admitted by the trial court for being hearsay, as Maritess was
never presented in court.59

The Solicitor General on the other hand contends that accused-appellant's guilt was proven beyond
reasonable doubt.60 He maintains that the dying declaration of Vidal Avila, Jr. was made under
consciousness of impending death, and is therefore sufficient to convict accused-appellant of the crime
charged.61
He further contends that even assuming arguendo that the victim's declaration is inadmissible in evidence,
still the accused-appellant can be convicted beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of circumstantial evidence
which proves the accused-appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.62

The Court affirms the trial court's ruling.

At the outset, it must be said that the Court finds no reason to deviate from the general rule that factual
findings of the trial court are entitled to respect and shall not be disturbed on appeal, unless some facts or
circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked or misinterpreted, and would otherwise
materially affect the disposition of the case.63 In the case at bar, the lower court did not err in ruling that
there is direct as well as circumstantial evidence to prove accused-appellant's guilt beyond reasonable
doubt.

Anent the issue as to whether the responses uttered by Avila, Jr. shortly before his death identifying
accused-appellant as the one who shot him satisfies the requisites of a dying declaration, the rule is that the
following elements must concur for said declaration to be admissible in evidence: (1) the dying declaration
must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant's death; (2) at the time it was made,
the declarant was under a consciousness of impending death; (3) the declarant must have been competent
to testify as a witness; and (4) the declaration is offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder or parricide
in which the declarant was the victim.64

Although Avila, Jr. did not expressly state that he was dying when he made the declaration, the
circumstances surrounding such declaration show that the same was uttered by him under the consciousness
of impending death. It has been held in a number of cases that even if a declarant did not make a statement
that he was on the brink of death, a dying declaration may be admissible if there are circumstances from
which it may be inferred with certainty that such was his state of mind.65 Thus, the Court in People vs.
Tañeza66 and People vs. Serrano67 held that the fact that the victim died shortly after making a declaration
as to the identity of his killer, gives rise to the inference that the victim knew that he was dying at the time
such declaration was made.

A dying declaration made in the form of answers to questions put by the person to whom the declaration is
made is admissible in court,68 and may be proved by the testimony of the witness who heard the same or to
whom it was made.69 Thus, the trial court did not err in admitting the following testimony of Deguino in
whose presence Avila, Jr. made the dying declaration:

Q: (PROS. MENOR)
Why did you proceed to the Surigao Provincial Hospital?
A: (PO DEGUINO)
To talk if I have to interrogate the person.
Q: Why do you want to talk to the victim?
A: To ask the assailant as he was the victim. To ask the assailant.
Q: When you proceeded what time if you can recall?
A: I reached the hospital about three o'clock in the morning.
Q: What did you do after arriving at the hospital?
A: When I reached the hospital I saw Cabada talking to the victim.
Q: What is the condition of the victim at the time questioning the victim?
A: He was dying.
Q: And what did you do?
A: And then I told this is Jun, this is Bebot. I placed my mouth near his ear.
Q: And what did you say?
xxx

A: Jun, this is your friend Bebot, then after that his eyes opened and then demonstrated by raising his
hand and then resuming his former position.
Q: And then after that what happened? If any?
A: And knowing his serious condition I hurriedly asked him, Jun I asked him do you know the person
who shot you?
Q: Will you please demonstrate how you asked the victim?
A: I placed my mouth close to his ear and I was practically embracing him.
Q: Was there any answer from the victim?
A: In my third question, he answered yes.
xxx
Q: And after hearing that reply, what did you do next?
A: Then I again asked him, 'kinsa man? who is he? a policeman?
Q: Will you please demonstrate how did you ask the victim?
A: The same position my mouth in his ear and.
Q: And did you receive the reply?
A: And he answered, 'yes".
Q: And after that what did you do?
A: He was breathing hard after that I still try to question him and I still ask him, 'was it Akib?'
Q: When you used the word 'Akib' to whom are you referring?
A: A policeman.
Q: How many Akib in the police force and who is this?
A: (Witness referring to the accused).
Q: Did you receive a reply immediately?
A: I kept on repeating the question. About 8 times. He answered yes.

And then I stood up and I was... and my body hair rose as I could not believe it. x x x70

In addition to the dying declaration of the victim, there are several circumstances which, taken together,
indubitably point to the guilt of accused-appellant: (1) accused-appellant was present at Casa Blanca in the
early morning of July, 8, 1995, the date and approximate time of the murder;71 (2) accused-appellant and
his girlfriend Maritess were arguing near the gate of Casa Blanca at the time Avila, Jr. was leaving the
restaurant;72 (3) as Avila, Jr. was turning to the right side of the gate of Casa Blanca to Narciso St., a lone
gunshot was fired, and at that time the accused-appellant was only a few meters away from the victim;73 (4)
shortly after the gunshot was heard, accused-appellant's girlfriend Maritess went back inside Casa Blanca
told both Dorothy Rivera and Kit Aguilar that accused-appellant had fired a warning shot and asked them
not to tell anyone about it;74 (5) accused-appellant had in his possession a .38 revolver issued to him by the
Philippine National Police (PNP);75 (6) accused-appellant's right hand as well as the aforementioned
revolver tested positive for gunpowder residue as found by the forensic analyst of the PNP Crime
Laboratory;76 and (7) shortly after Avila, Jr. was shot, he confided to witness Ramil Llorado that he was
shot by a policeman.77

The Court has previously held that circumstantial evidence will suffice to support a conviction where (1)
there is more than one circumstance, (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven, and (3)
the combination of all the circumstances is sufficient to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.78 In
other words, when the circumstantial evidence is not only consistent with guilt but also inconsistent with
the hypothesis that the accused is innocent and with every other reasonable hypothesis except guilt.79
It must also be pointed out that no error was committed by the trial court in admitting the respective
testimonies of Dorothy Rivera and Kit Aguilar that Maritess told them that accused-appellant had fired a
warning shot in the early morning of July 8, 1995, since the same were offered not to establish the truth of
Maritess' statement, but only to show that Maritess uttered the same.80

The accused-appellant's alibi cannot prevail over the direct and circumstantial evidence against him,
especially considering that it was not physically impossible for him to be at Casa Blanca in the early
morning of July 8, 1995.81As was noted by the trial court, Firma's Lodge in Borromeo Street, where accused
was allegedly dropped off by his companions in the early morning of July 8, 1995 after they went to
Barangay Lipata, and Casa Blanca in Narciso Street, where Avila, Jr. was shot, can be negotiated in twenty
minutes by foot, and within a shorter time if one takes a short cut or rides a vehicle.82

The Court likewise agrees with the trial court's finding that the killing of Avila, Jr. was qualified by
treachery. Treachery is present where the attack was unexpected and sudden, giving the unarmed victim no
chance whatsoever to defend himself.83 It was established during the trial that Avila, Jr. was leaving Casa
Blanca and turning right to Narciso St. in the early morning of July 8, 1995 when he was suddenly shot
from behind by accused-appellant, rendering him unable to defend himself. The treacherousness of the
shooting of the victim can also be inferred from the fact that the bullet entered the victim's body at the right
lumbar area, almost at the back of the victim. The testimony of Dr. Relliquete, the physician who examined
Avila, Jr. shortly after he was shot supports the lower court's finding:

Q: And the entry wound as you have pointed out was on the right lumbar area which is almost at the
back of the victim? Correct?
A: Yes.
Q: And with that can you prove can you conclude doctor [that the assailant] possibly was behind the
victim when he shot [the latter]?
A: Possibly.

xxx

Q: How did you conclude the injuries sustained by the victim was the result of the gunshot wound?
A: Well, I have seen for many times of the gunshot is different from the stabbed wound.
Q: What is the characteristics of distinguished or stabbed wound and the wound inflected (sic) other
than gunshot or the firearm?
A: Well, on the gunshot I saw it the wound was contused and unlike stabbed wound they are incised
sharp wound.
Q: What was the form of the wound of entry?
A: Circular.84

All the foregoing prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused-appellant is guilty of the crime of murder.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated January 24, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, Branch
32 in Criminal Case No. 4564 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
LAZARO vs. AGUSTIN
G.R. No. 152364 April 15, 2010

Assailed in the present petition for review on certiorari is the Decision[1] dated February 21, 2002 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 63321. The CA had affirmed, with modification, the
Decision[2] dated February 6, 2001 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Laoag City, Branch 13, in Civil
Case No. 11951-13, which also affirmed, with modification, the Decision[3] dated January 6, 2000 of the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of Laoag City, Branch 1, in Civil Case No. 2834.

The factual and procedural antecedents of the case are as follows:

On November 4, 1998, herein petitioners filed against herein respondents a Complaint [4] for partition with
the MTCC of Laoag City, alleging as follows:

II
That the plaintiffs and the defendants are the descendants of the late Simeon C. Santos, married to Trinidad
Duldulao, who died intestate leaving a parcel of land situated in the Barrio of Natividad Nstra.
Sra., Municipality of Laoag, designated as Lot No. 10675 of the Cadastral Survey of Laoag;

III
That Simeon C. Santos during his lifetime, married to Trinidad Duldulao, begot four (4) legitimate children,
namely: Basilisa D. Santos, Alberto D. Santos, Leoncio D. Santos and Alejandra D. Santos. Basilisa D.
Santos, [who] was married to Petronilo Agustin, is now deceased; Alberto Santos, married to Rizalina
Guerrero, is now deceased, while Leoncio D. Santos, married to Dictinia Tabeta, and Alejandra D. Santos
married to Isauro M. Lazaro, are still living;
IV
That in the desire of the children of Simeon C. Santos from whom the parcel of land originated as owner,
his children, namely[:] Alberto, Leoncio and Alejandra, all surnamed Santos, consented that the parcel of
land mentioned in paragraph II of this complaint be titled in the name of Basilisa, the latter being the eldest
and so Original Certificate of Title No. 20742 in the name of Basilisa Santos was obtained although it was
agreed among them that it did not and does not necessarily mean that Basilisa Santos is the sole and
exclusive owner of this parcel of land, and as embodied in the Title obtained in the name of Basilisa Santos,
the parcel of land is particularly described as follows:

A parcel of land (Lot No. 10676 of the Cadastral survey of Laoag), with the improvements thereon, situated
in the Barrio of Natividad Nstra. Sra., Municipality of Laoag. Bounded on the NE. by Lot No. 10677; on
the SE. by Panganiban Street; on the SW. by Lot No. 10672; and on NW. by Lot No. 1065, containing an
area of three hundred and one (301) square meters, more or less, covered by Tax Declaration No. 010-
00224 for the year 1994 in the names of Modesta Agustin, et al. with a market value of P96,320.00 and an
assessed value of P14,450.00.

V
That there is a residential house constructed on the lot described in paragraph IV of this complaint and in
the construction of which plaintiff Alejandra Santos, then still single, spent the amount of P68,308.60, while
Basilisa Santos and her children spent the amount of P3,495.00. Afterwards, Alejandra Santos got married
to Isauro M. Lazaro who was employed in a private company and when he retired from the service, some
additional constructions were made on the residential house and lot such as a bedroom, azotea, two (2)
toilets, two (2) kitchens, a car garage, the money spent for these additional constructions came from the
earnings of the spouses Alejandra Santos-Lazaro and Isauro M. Lazaro. The said residential house is now
covered by Tax Declaration No. 010-00225 in the names of Basilio Agustin (should be Basilisa Agustin)
and Alejandra Santos for the year 1994 with a market value of P93,920.00 and an assessed value of zero;

VI
That without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiffs, the title of the lot described in paragraph IV of
the complaint was transferred into another title which is now Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-20695 in
the names of Modesta Agustin, Filemon Agustin, Venancia Agustin, Marcelina Agustin, Monica Agustin,
Gregorio Agustin and Bienvenido Agustin who are the children of the late Basilisa Santos-Agustin who are
herein named as defendants with Monica Agustin now deceased represented by her children Paul A. Dalalo
and Noel A. Dalalo as defendants;

VII
That during the lifetime of Basilisa Santos-Agustin, plaintiff Alejandra Santos-Lazaro informed the former,
who are sisters, that the transfer of the title covering the lot described in paragraph IV of this complaint in
the name of Basilisa Santos into the names of her children would erroneously imply that the lot is solely
and exclusively owned by Basilisa Santos-Agustin's children, but Basilisa Santos-Agustin replied [to]
plaintiff Alejandra Santos-Lazaro not to worry because an affidavit was already executed by her
recognizing and specifying that her brothers Alberto Santos and Leoncio Santos, and her sister Alejandra
Santos-Lazaro would each get one fourth () share of the lot;

VIII

That in a move to determine if the children and the heirs of Basilisa Santos-Agustin, namely: Modesta
Agustin, Filemon Agustin, Venancia Agustin, Marcelina Agustin, Paul Dalalo and Noel Dalalo who are the
successors of their mother the late Monica Agustin, Gregorio Agustin and Bienvenido Agustin would
follow the line of thinking of their mother and grandmother of Paul A. Dalalo and Noel A. Dalalo on the
shares of the lot and residential house erected on it, the plaintiffs initiated a partition in the barangay court
where the lot is situated described in paragraph IV of this complaint, but that the children of Basilisa Santos-
Agustin and her grandchildren Paul A. Dalalo and Noel A. Dalalo refused and opposed the partition
claiming that they are the sole and exclusive owners of the lot being that the lot is now titled in their names,
and hence there was no settlement as shown by the certification of the barangay court hereto attached as
annex A;

IX

That plaintiffs now invoke the intervention of the court to partition the lot in accordance with the law on
intestate succession and to partition the residential house as specified below. x x x
x x x x[5]
Petitioners also prayed for the grant of attorney's fees, moral and exemplary damages, and costs of suit.

Herein respondents filed their Answer with Counterclaim,[6] raising the following as their
Special/Affirmative Defenses:

1. The subject parcel of land is owned exclusively by the defendants as heirs of the late Basilisa Santos,
wife of Petronilo Agustin, who was the original registered owner of the property evidenced by OCT No.
20742; the plaintiffs never became owners of said land. There was never any agreement between the
ascendants of the plaintiffs and defendants, neither is there any agreement between the plaintiffs and
defendants themselves that in the ownership, the plaintiffs have a share over the lot;
2. The defendants are the ones paying for the real estate taxes of said land;
3. Some of the plaintiffs were able to stay on the subject house because defendants' mother Basilisa Santos
was the eldest sibling and she had to take care of her brother Leoncio and sister Alejandra when these
siblings were not yet employed and Basilisa allowed them to reside in the house constructed within the lot;
Alejandra Santos stayed in the house up to the present with the agreement that she will spend for the
renovation of the house in lieu of monthly rentals that she has to pay when she already became financially
able;

4. Prior to 1962, subject property was mortgaged by Basilisa Santos Agustin to the Philippine National
Bank and the property was foreclosed by PNB when the loan was not paid, hence, TCT No. (T-9522)-4495,
under the name of the Philippine National Bank was issued (Annex A). Thereafter, Basilisa Santos-Agustin,
purchased it from the PNB and TCT No. T-5662 was issued under her name (Annex B); the property was
later on transferred to her direct descendants, the defendants herein as evidenced by TCT No. T-20695
(Annex C);

x x x x[7]

Respondents then prayed that petitioners' complaint be dismissed. In their Counterclaim, respondents asked
the court to direct petitioners to pay reasonable compensation for the latter's use of the disputed property,
exemplary and moral damages, attorney's fees, and costs of suit.

After the issues were joined and the pre-trial was terminated, trial on the merits ensued.

On January 6, 2000, the MTCC rendered its Decision[8] dismissing the complaint and denying petitioners'
prayer for partition.

The MTCC ruled, among others, that no evidentiary value could be given to the affidavit allegedly executed
by Basilisa, wherein she purportedly acknowledged her co-ownership of the subject property with her
siblings Alberto, Leoncio and Alejandra, because the affiant was not presented on the witness stand, such
that all the statements made in her affidavit were hearsay. Moreover, the MTCC held that two credible
witnesses testified in plain, simple and straightforward manner that at the time the affidavit was supposed
to have been signed and sworn to before the notary public, Basilisa was already bedridden and an invalid
who could not even raise her hand to feed herself. In addition, the MTCC also gave credence to the
testimony of the notary public, before whom the document was supposedly signed and sworn to, that the
said affidavit was already complete and thumbmarked when the same was presented to him by a person
who claimed to be Basilisa.

Petitioners filed an appeal with the RTC of Laoag City.


On February 6, 2001 the RTC issued a Decision[9] affirming, with modification, the judgment of the MTCC.
The RTC found that the house erected on the disputed lot was built and renovated by petitioners in good
faith. As a consequence, the RTC held that petitioners were entitled to indemnity representing the costs of
the construction and renovation of the said house. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision, thus, reads:

WHEREFORE, the decision of the lower court is hereby affirmed with the modification directing the
appellees [herein respondents] to indemnify the appellants [herein petitioners] in the amount of P68,308.60
as proved by them.

Considering the apparent error of the lower court in quoting the questioned lot as Lot No. 10675, the same
is hereby corrected so as to reflect the correct lot number as Lot No. 10676 to conform to the evidence
presented.

SO ORDERED.[10]

Aggrieved by the RTC Decision, petitioners filed a petition for review with the CA.

On February 21, 2002, the CA issued its presently assailed Decision disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, the decision dated February 6, 2001 rendered in Civil Case No. 11951-13 is hereby
AFFIRMED subject to the MODIFICATION that appellees [herein respondents] pay the amount
of P68,308.60 in indemnity solely to appellant Alejandra Santos-Lazaro. SO ORDERED.[11]

Hence, the instant petition based on the following grounds:

I. THE SWORN STATEMENT OF BASILISA S. AGUSTIN IS A DECLARATION AGAINST


INTEREST WHICH ESTABLISHES THE CO-OWNERSHIP OF LOT NO. 10676 BY AND
AMONG THE PETITIONERS AND RESPONDENTS AS HEIRS OF THE LATE SIMEON
C. SANTOS.[12]

II. THE CO-OWNERSHIP OF LOT NO. 10676 BY AND AMONG BASILISA S. AGUSTIN, ALBERTO
D. SANTOS, ALEJANDRA S. LAZARO AND LEONCIO D. SANTOS DID NOT TERMINATE AS A
RESULT OF THE TRANSFER OF THE LOT'S OWNERSHIP PRECIPITATED BY ACTS OF
BASILISA S. AGUSTIN WITH RESPECT TO THE SUBJECT PROPERTY.[13]

III. PETITIONER ALEJANDRA S. LAZARO IS A CO-OWNER OF THE RESIDENTIAL HOUSE


ON LOT NO. 10676 NOT MERELY A BUILDER IN GOOD FAITH WITH RESPECT THERETO AND
AS SUCH, IS ENTITLED TO A PARTITION OF THE SUBJECT HOUSE.[14]

In their first assigned error, petitioners contend that Basilisa's sworn statement which recognizes her
siblings' share in the disputed property is a declaration against interest which is one of the recognized
exceptions to the hearsay rule. Petitioners argue that since the sworn statement was duly notarized, it should
be admitted in court without further proof of its due execution and authenticity; that the testimonies of
Basilisa's nurse and physician cannot qualify as clear and convincing evidence which could overthrow such
notarized document; that the notary public cannot impugn the same document which he notarized for to do
so would render notarized documents worthless and unreliable resulting in prejudice to the public.
As to the second assigned error, petitioners aver that their co-ownership of the questioned property with
Basilisa did not cease to exist when the Philippine National Bank (PNB) consolidated its ownership over
the said parcel of land. Petitioners assert that they did not lose their share in the property co-owned when
their share was mortgaged by Basilisa without their knowledge and consent; that the mortgage was limited
only to the portion that may be allotted to Basilisa upon termination of their co-ownership; that PNB
acquired ownership only of the share pertaining to Basilisa; that when Basilisa bought back the property
from PNB, she simply re-acquired the portion pertaining to her and simply resumed co-ownership of the
property with her siblings. Petitioners also contend that Basilisa's children did not acquire ownership of the
subject lot by prescription, and that neither Basilisa nor respondents repudiated their co-ownership.

Anent the third assignment of error, petitioners argue that Alejandra Lazaro, being a co-owner of the
disputed parcel of land and not simply a builder in good faith, is entitled to a partition of the subject
residential house.

At the outset, it bears to point out that it is wrong for petitioners to argue that Basilisa's alleged sworn
statement is a declaration against interest. It is not a declaration against interest. Instead, it is an admission
against interest.

Indeed, there is a vital distinction between admissions against interest and declarations against interest.
Admissions against interest are those made by a party to a litigation or by one in privity with or identified in
legal interest with such party, and are admissible whether or not the declarant is available as a
witness.[15] Declarations against interest are those made by a person who is neither a party nor in privity with
a party to the suit, are secondary evidence, and constitute an exception to the hearsay rule. They are admissible
only when the declarant is unavailable as a witness.[16] In the present case, since Basilisa is respondents'
predecessor-in-interest and is, thus, in privity with the latter's legal interest, the former's sworn statement, if
proven genuine and duly executed, should be considered as an admission against interest.

A cursory reading of the subject sworn statement also reveals that it refers to a parcel of land denominated
as Lot No. 10678 while the property being disputed is Lot No. 10676.[17]On this basis, it cannot be concluded
with certainty that the property being referred to in the sworn statement is the same property claimed by
petitioners.

Having made the foregoing observations and discussions, the question that arises is whether the subject sworn
statement, granting that it refers to the property being disputed in the present case, can be given full faith and
credence in view of the issues raised regarding its genuineness and due execution.

The Court rules in the negative.

Settled is the rule that generally, a notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with
respect to its due execution, and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the
presumption of regularity.[18] However, this presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by clear and
convincing evidence to the contrary.[19]

Moreover, not all notarized documents are exempted from the rule on authentication.[20] Thus, an affidavit
does not automatically become a public document just because it contains a notarial jurat. [21] The
presumptions that attach to notarized documents can be affirmed only so long as it is beyond dispute that
the notarization was regular.[22]

However, a question involving the regularity of notarization as well as the due execution of the subject
sworn statement of Basilisa would require an inquiry into the appreciation of evidence by the trial court. It
is not the function of this Court to review, examine and evaluate or weigh the probative value of the
evidence presented. A question of fact would arise in such event. Settled is the rule that questions of fact
cannot be raised in an appeal via certiorari before the Supreme Court and are not proper for its
consideration.[23] The rationale behind this doctrine is that a review of the findings of fact of the trial courts
and the appellate tribunal is not a function this Court normally undertakes.[24] The Court will not weigh the
evidence all over again unless there is a showing that the findings of the lower courts are totally devoid of
support or are clearly erroneous so as to constitute serious abuse of discretion.[25] Although there are
recognized exceptions[26] to this rule, none exists in the present case to justify a departure therefrom.

Petitioners rely heavily on the presumption of regularity accorded by law to notarized documents. While
indeed, a notarized document enjoys this presumption, the fact that a deed is notarized is not a guarantee of
the validity of its contents.[27] As earlier discussed, the presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.[28] The presumption cannot be made to apply to the present
case because the regularity in the execution of the sworn statement was challenged in the proceedings below
where its prima facie validity was overthrown by the highly questionable circumstances under which it was
supposedly executed, as well as the testimonies of witnesses who testified on the improbability of execution
of the sworn statement, as well as on the physical condition of the signatory, at the time the questioned
document was supposedly executed. The trial and appellate courts were unanimous in giving credence to
the testimonies of these witnesses. The Court has repeatedly held that it will not interfere with the trial
court's determination of the credibility of witnesses, unless there appears on record some fact or
circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been
misinterpreted.[29] The reason for this is that the trial court was in a better position to do so, because it heard
the witnesses testify before it and had every opportunity to observe their demeanor and deportment on the
witness stand.[30]

Considering the foregoing, the Court finds no reason to reverse the rulings of the MTCC, the RTC and the
CA. Although the questioned sworn statement is a public document having in its favor the presumption of
regularity, such presumption was adequately refuted by competent witnesses.

The Court further agrees with the ruling of the RTC that:

The testimony of [the notary public] Atty. Angel Respicio did not suffice to rebut the evidence of the
appellees considering his admission that the affidavit was already thumbmarked when presented to him by
one who claimed to be Basilisa Santos and whom, the witness said he did not know personally. Further,
what makes the documents suspect is the fact that it was subscribed on the same date as the financial
statement of Alejandra Santos.

It may not be amiss to point out, at this juncture, that the principal function of a notary public is to
authenticate documents.[31] When a notary public certifies to the due execution and delivery of a document
under his hand and seal, he gives the document the force of evidence.[32] Indeed, one of the purposes of
requiring documents to be acknowledged before a notary public, in addition to the solemnity which should
surround the execution and delivery of documents, is to authorize such documents to be given without
further proof of their execution and delivery.[33] A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and
credit upon its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the
acknowledgment executed before a notary public and appended to a private instrument.[34] Hence, a notary
public must discharge his powers and duties, which are impressed with public interest, with accuracy and
fidelity.[35] A notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the
very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of
what are stated therein.[36]
In the instant case, the notary public should have exercised utmost diligence in ascertaining the true identity
of the person executing the said sworn statement. However, the notary public did not comply with this
requirement. He simply relied on the affirmative answers of the person appearing before him attesting that
she was Basilisa Santos; that the contents of the sworn statement are true; and that the thumbmark appearing
on the said document was hers. However, this would not suffice. He could have further asked the person
who appeared before him to produce any identification to prove that she was indeed Basilisa Santos,
considering that the said person was not personally known to him, and that the thumbmark appearing on
the document sought to be notarized was not affixed in his presence. But he did not. Thus, the lower courts
did not commit any error in not giving evidentiary weight to the subject sworn statement.

The second and third assigned errors proceed on the presumption that petitioners are co-owners of the
disputed property. Since the Court has already ruled that the lower courts did not err in finding that
petitioners failed to prove their claim that they were co-owners of the said property, there is no longer any
need to discuss the other assigned errors.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The February 21, 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. SP No. 63321 is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.
G.R. NO. 146556 April 19, 2006
DANILO L. PAREL vs. SIMEON B. PRUDENCIO

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Danilo Parel (petitioner) which seeks to set aside
the Decision1dated March 31, 2000 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which reversed the Decision of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 60, Baguio, in Civil Case No. 2493-R, a case for recovery of possession
and damages. Also assailed is CA Resolution2 dated November 28, 2000.

On February 27, 1992, Simeon Prudencio (respondent) filed a complaint for recovery of possession and
damages against petitioner with the RTC Baguio alleging that: he is the owner of a two-storey residential
house located at No. 61 Forbes Park National Reservation near Department of Public Service (DPS)
compound, Baguio City; such property was constructed solely from his own funds and declared in his name
under Tax Declaration No. 47048; he commenced the construction of said house in 1972 until its completion
three years later; when the second floor of said house became habitable in 1973, he allowed petitioner’s
parents, Florentino (now deceased) and Susan Parel, to move therein and occupy the second floor while the
construction of the ground floor was on-going to supervise the construction and to safeguard the materials;
when the construction of the second floor was finished in 1975, respondent allowed petitioner’s parents and
children to transfer and temporarily reside thereat; it was done out of sheer magnanimity as petitioner’s
parents have no house of their own and since respondent’s wife is the older sister of Florentino, petitioner’s
father; in November 1985, respondent wrote Florentino a notice for them to vacate the said house as the
former was due for retirement and he needed the place to which petitioner’s parents heeded when they
migrated to U.S. in 1986; however, without respondent’s knowledge, petitioner and his family unlawfully
entered and took possession of the ground floor of respondent’s house; petitioner’s refusal to vacate the
house despite repeated demands prompted respondent to file the instant action for recovery of possession.
Respondent also asked petitioner for a monthly rental of P3,000.00 from April 1988 and every month
thereafter until the latter vacates the said premises and surrender possession thereof; and for moral and
exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and cost of suit.

Petitioner filed his Answer with Counterclaim alleging that: his parents are the co-owners of the said
residential house, i.e., the upper story belongs to respondent while the ground floor pertains to petitioner’s
parents; he is occupying the ground floor upon the instruction of his father, Florentino, with respondent’s
full knowledge; his parents spent their own resources in improving and constructing the said two-storey
house as co-owners thereof; the late Florentino was an awardee of the land on which the house stands and
as a co-owner of the house, he occupied the ground floor thereof; the demand to vacate was respondent’s
attempt to deprive petitioner’s parents of their rights as co-owner of the said house; that respondent had
filed ejectment case as well as criminal cases against them involving the subject house which were all
dismissed. Petitioner asked for the dismissal of the complaint and prayed for damages and attorney’s fees.

After trial on the merits, the RTC rendered a Decision3 dated December 15, 1993, the dispositive portion
of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby declares that the house erected at No. 61 DPS
Compound, Baguio City is owned in common by the late Florentino Parel and herein plaintiff Simeon
Prudencio and as such the plaintiff cannot evict the defendant as heirs of the deceased Florentino Parel from
said property, nor to recover said premises from herein defendant.

Likewise, the plaintiff is ordered to:

(a) pay the defendant in the total sum of P20,000.00 for moral and actual damages;
(b) pay the defendant P20,000.00 in Attorney’s fees and P3,300.00 in appearance fees;
(c) pay the costs of this suit.4

The RTC found the following matters as conclusive: that petitioner’s father was an allocatee of the land on
which the subject house was erected, as one of the lowly-paid government employees at that time when
then Mayor Luis Lardizabal gave them the chance to construct their own house on said reservation; that
respondent failed to show proof of any contract, written or oral, express or implied, that the late Florentino
and his family stayed on the house not as co-owners but as mere lessees, nor any other proof that would
clearly establish his sole ownership of the house; and, that the late Florentino was the one who gathered the
laborers for the construction of the house and paid their salaries. Thus, the RTC ruled that co-ownership
existed between respondent and petitioner’s father, Florentino.

The RTC concluded that respondent and petitioner’s father agreed to contribute their money to complete
the house; that since the land on which said house was erected has been allocated to petitioner’s father, the
parties had the understanding that once the house is completed, petitioner’s father could keep the ground
floor while respondent the second floor; the trial court questioned the fact that it was only after 15 years
that respondent asserted his claim of sole ownership of the subject house; respondent failed to disprove that
petitioner’s father contributed his own funds to finance the construction of the house; that respondent did
not question (1) the fact that it was the deceased Florentino who administered the construction of the house
as well as the one who supplied the materials; and (2) the fact that the land was in Florentino’s possession
created the impression that the house indeed is jointly owned by respondent and Florentino.

The RTC did not give credence to the tax declaration as well as the several documents showing the City
Assessor’s assessment of the property all in respondent’s name since tax declarations are not conclusive
proof of ownership. It rejected the affidavit executed by Florentino declaring the house as owned by
respondent saying that the affidavit should be read in its entirety to determine the purpose of its execution;
that it was executed because of an advisement addressed to the late Florentino by the City Treasurer
concerning the property’s tax assessment and Florentino, thought then that it should be the respondent who
should pay the taxes; and that the affidavit cannot be accepted for being hearsay.

Aggrieved by such decision, respondent appealed to the CA. In a Decision dated March 31, 2000, the CA
reversed the trial court and declared respondent as the sole owner of the subject house and ordered petitioner
to surrender possession of the ground floor thereof to respondent immediately. It also ordered petitioner to
pay respondent a monthly rental of P2,000.00 for use or occupancy thereof from April 1988 until the former
actually vacates the same and the sum of P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees and cost of suit.

The CA found as meritorious respondent’s contention that since petitioner failed to formally offer in
evidence any documentary evidence, there is nothing to refute the evidence offered by respondent. It ruled
that the trial court’s statement that "defendants’ occupancy of the house is due to a special power of attorney
executed by his parents most specially the deceased Florentino Parel who is in fact a co-owner of said
building" is wanting of any concrete evidence on record; that said power of attorney was never offered,
hence, could not be referred to as petitioner’s evidence to support his claim; that except for the bare
testimonies of Candelario Regua, the carpenter-foreman, that it was Florentino who constructed the house
and Corazon Garcia, the former barangay captain, who testified that the lot was allocated to petitioner’s
father, there was no supporting document which would sufficiently establish factual bases for the trial
court’s conclusion; and that the rule on offer of evidence is mandatory.

The CA found the affidavit dated September 24, 1973 of Florentino, petitioner’s father, stating that he is
not the owner of the subject house but respondent, as conclusive proof of respondent’s sole ownership of
the subject house as it is a declaration made by Florentino against his interest. It also found the tax
declarations and official receipts representing payments of real estate taxes of the questioned property
covering the period 1974 to 1992 sufficient to establish respondent’s case which constitute at least proof
that the holder has a claim of title over the property.

Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated November 28, 2000.1avvphil.net

Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari with the following Assignment of Errors:

1. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING RESPONDENT AS


THE OWNER OF THE BUILDING AT 61 FORBES PARK NATIONAL RESERVATION, NEAR DPS
COMPOUND, BAGUIO CITY, NOTWITHSTANDING THE FINDING OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL
COURT OF CO-OWNERSHIP BETWEEN THE LATE FLORENTINO PAREL AND RESPONDENT;

2. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ORDERING PETITIONER TO


SURRENDER POSSESSION OF THE GROUND FLOOR OF THE SUBJECT BUILDING TO
RESPONDENT;

3. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ORDERING PETITIONER TO


PAY RESPONDENT P2,000.00/MONTH FOR USE OR OCCUPANCY OF THE SUBJECT PREMISES
FROM APRIL 1988 UNTIL PETITIONER ACTUALLY VACATES THE SAME;

4. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ORDERING PETITIONER TO


PAY TO RESPONDENT P50,000.00 ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS OF SUIT;

5. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR


RECONSIDERATION. 5

Petitioner concedes that while his former counsel failed to make a formal offer of his documentary evidence
before the trial court and that the court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered, he
maintains that the said rule is not absolute, citing the case of Bravo, Jr. v. Borja; 6 that his documentary
evidence which were not formally offered in evidence were marked during the presentation of the testimony
of petitioner’s witnesses and were part of their testimonies; that these evidence were part of the
memorandum filed by him before the trial court on July 12, 1993.
Petitioner insists that even in the absence of the documentary evidence, his testimony as well as that of his
witnesses substantiated his claim of co-ownership of the subject house between his late father and
respondent as found by the trial court.

Petitioner argues that the CA erred in finding the affidavit of petitioner’s father declaring respondent as
owner of the subject house as conclusive proof that respondent is the true and only owner of the house since
the affidavit should be read in its entirety to determine the purpose for which it was executed.

Petitioner further contends that since he had established his father’s co-ownership of the subject house,
respondent has no legal right to eject him from the property; that he could not be compelled to pay rentals
for residing in the ground floor of the subject house; that respondent should bear his own expenses and be
adjudged liable for damages which petitioner sustained for being constrained to litigate.

The principal issue for resolution is whether petitioner was able to prove by preponderance of evidence that
his father was a co-owner of the subject two-storey residential house.

The issue raised by petitioner is mainly factual in nature. In general, only questions of law are appealable
to this Court under Rule 45. However, considering that the findings of the RTC and CA are contradictory,
the review of the case is in order.7

We agree with the CA that respondent had shown sufficient evidence to support his complaint for recovery
of possession of the ground floor of the subject house as the exclusive owner thereof. Respondent presented
the affidavit dated September 24, 1973 executed by Florentino and sworn to before the Assistant City
Assessor of Baguio City, G.F. Lagasca, which reads:

I, FLORENTINO PAREL, 42 years of age, employee, and residing at Forbes Park, Reservation No. 1, after
having been sworn to according to law depose and say:

That he is the occupant of a residential building located at Forbes Park, Reservation No. 1, Baguio City
which is the subject of an advicement addressed to him emanating from the Office of the City Assessor,
Baguio City, for assessment and declaration for taxation purposes;

That I am not the owner of the building in question;

That the building in question is owned by Mr. Simeon B. Prudencio who is presently residing at 55
Hyacinth, Roxas District, Quezon City.

Further, affiant say not.8 (Underscoring supplied)

Section 38 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 38. Declaration against interest. – The declaration made by a person deceased, or unable to testify,
against the interest of the declarant, if the fact asserted in the declaration was at the time it was made so far
contrary to the declarant's own interest, that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the
declaration unless he believed it to be true, may be received in evidence against himself or his successors-
in-interest and against third persons.
The theory under which declarations against interest are received in evidence notwithstanding they are
hearsay is that the necessity of the occasion renders the reception of such evidence advisable and, further
that the reliability of such declaration asserts facts which are against his own pecuniary or moral interest. 9

The affiant, Florentino, who died in 1989 was petitioner’s father and had adequate knowledge with respect
to the subject covered by his statement. In said affidavit, Florentino categorically declared that while he is
the occupant of the residential building, he is not the owner of the same as it is owned by respondent who
is residing in Quezon City. It is safe to presume that he would not have made such declaration unless he
believed it to be true, as it is prejudicial to himself as well as to his children’s interests as his heirs. 10 A
declaration against interest is the best evidence which affords the greatest certainty of the facts in
dispute.11 Notably, during Florentino’s lifetime, from 1973, the year he executed said affidavit until 1989,
the year of his death, there is no showing that he had revoked such affidavit even when a criminal complaint
for trespass to dwelling had been filed by respondent against him (Florentino) and petitioner in 1988
regarding the subject house which the trial court dismissed due to the absence of evidence showing that
petitioner entered the house against the latter’s will and held that the remedy of respondent was to file an
action for ejectment;12 and even when a complaint for unlawful detainer was filed against petitioner and his
wife also in 1988 which was subsequently dismissed on the ground that respondent’s action should be
an accion publiciana which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court.13

Moreover, the building plan of the residential house dated January 16, 1973 was in the name of respondent
and his wife. It was established during petitioner’s cross-examination that the existing structure of the two-
storey house was in accordance with said building plan.14

Notably, respondent has been religiously paying the real estate property taxes on the house declared under
his name since 1974.15 In fact, petitioner during his cross-examination admitted that there was no occasion
that they paid the real estate taxes nor declared any portion of the house in their name.16

We agree with the CA that while tax receipts and declarations are not incontrovertible evidence of
ownership, they constitute at least proof that the holder has a claim of title over the property.17 The house
which petitioner claims to be co-owned by his late father had been consistently declared for taxation
purposes in the name of respondent, and this fact, taken with the other circumstances above-mentioned,
inexorably lead to the conclusion that respondent is the sole owner of the house subject matter of the
litigation.

Respondent having established his claim of exclusive ownership of the subject property, it was incumbent
upon petitioner to contravene respondent’s claim. The burden of evidence shifted to petitioner to prove that
his father was a co-owner of the subject house.

We held in Jison v. Court of Appeals, to wit:18

xxx Simply put, he who alleges the affirmative of the issue has the burden of proof, and upon the plaintiff
in a civil case, the burden of proof never parts. However, in the course of trial in a civil case, once plaintiff
makes out a prima facie case in his favor, the duty or the burden of evidence shifts to defendant to controvert
plaintiff's prima facie case, otherwise, a verdict must be returned in favor of plaintiff. Moreover, in civil
cases, the party having the burden of proof must produce a preponderance of evidence thereon, with plaintiff
having to rely on the strength of his own evidence and not upon the weakness of the defendant’s. The
concept of "preponderance of evidence" refers to evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing,
that which is offered in opposition to it; at bottom, it means probability of truth.19
In this case, the records show that although petitioner’s counsel asked that he be allowed to offer his
documentary evidence in writing, he, however, did not file the same.20 Thus, the CA did not consider the
documentary evidence presented by petitioner. Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 34. Offer of evidence. – The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered.
The purpose for which the evidence is offered must be specified.

A formal offer is necessary because it is the duty of a judge to rest his findings of facts and his judgment
only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties to the suit.21 It is a settled rule that the mere fact
that a particular document is identified and marked as an exhibit does not mean that it has thereby already
been offered as part of the evidence of a party.22

Petitioner insists that although his documentary evidence were not formally offered, the same were marked
during the presentation of the testimonial evidence, thus it can properly be taken cognizance of relying
in Bravo, Jr. v. Borja.23

Such reliance is misplaced. In Bravo Jr., we allowed evidence on minority by admitting the certified true
copy of the birth certificate attached to a motion for bail even if it was not formally offered in evidence.
This was due to the fact that the birth certificate was properly filed in support of a motion for bail to prove
petitioner’s minority which was never challenged by the prosecution and it already formed part of the
records of the case. The rule referred to in the Bravo case was Section 7 of Rule 133 of the Rules of Court
which provides:

Section 7. Evidence on motion.- When a motion is based on facts not appearing of record, the court may
hear the matter on affidavits or depositions presented by the respective parties, but the court may direct that
the matter be heard wholly or partly on oral testimony or depositions.

and not Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which is the one applicable to the present case.

Even assuming arguendo that the documentary evidence of petitioner should be considered in his favor, the
evidence showing that respondent had filed civil and criminal cases against petitioner which were dismissed
as well as the alleged Special Power of Attorney of petitioner’s parents whereby they authorized petitioner
to stay in the ground floor of the house, did not establish co-ownership of Florentino and respondent of the
subject house.

The testimonies of petitioner and his witnesses failed to show that the subject house is co-owned by
petitioner’s father and respondent.

Candelario Regua merely testified that he was hired by petitioner’s father, Florentino, to construct the
residential building in 1972;24 that he listed the materials to be used for the construction which was
purchased by Florentino;25that he and his men received their salaries every Saturday and Wednesday from
Florentino or his wife, respectively;26 that he had not met nor seen respondent during the whole time the
construction was on-going.27 On cross-examination, however, he admitted that he cannot tell where the
money to buy the materials used in the construction came from.28

Corazon Garcia merely testified that Florentino started building the house when he was allocated a lot at
DPS compound, that she knew Florentino constructed the subject house29 and never knew
respondent. 30 The bare allegation that Florentino was allocated a lot is not sufficient to overcome
Florentino’s own affidavit naming respondent as the owner of the subject house.
Petitioner himself testified that it was his father who saw the progress of the construction and purchased
the materials to be used; 31 and as a young boy he would follow-up some deliveries upon order of his
father 32 and never saw respondent in the construction site. The fact that not one of the witnesses saw
respondent during the construction of the said house does not establish that petitioner’s father and
respondent co-owned the house.

We also find that the CA did not err in ordering petitioner to pay respondent being the sole owner of the
subject house a monthly rental of P2,000.00 from April 1988, the date of the extra-judicial demand, until
petitioner actually vacates the subject house. Although the CA made no ratiocination as to how it arrived at
the amount of P2,000.00 for the monthly rental, we find the same to be a reasonable compensation for the
use of the ground floor of the subject house which consists of a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and
three bedrooms. The rental value refers to the value as ascertained by proof of what the property would rent
or by evidence of other facts from which the fair rental value may be determined. 33

We likewise affirm the CA’s award of attorney’s fees in favor of respondent. Article 2208 of the Civil Code
allows the recovery of attorney’s fees in cases when the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the
plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interest 34 and in any other case
where the court deems it just and equitable that attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation should be
recovered 35 which are both shown in the instant case.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 31, 2000 and its Resolution dated
November 28, 2000 are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

PHILIPPINE FREE PRESS, INC. vs. COURT OF APPEALS


G.R. No. 132864 October 24, 2005

In this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioner Philippine Free
Press, Inc. seeks the reversal of the Decision[1] dated February 25, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-GR CV No. 52660, affirming, with modification, an earlier decision of the Regional Trial Court at
Makati, Branch 146, in an action for annulment of deeds of sale thereat instituted by petitioner against the
Presidential Commission for Good
Government (PCGG) and the herein private respondent, Liwayway Publishing, Inc.

As found by the appellate court in the decision under review, the facts are:

xxx [Petitioner] . . . is a domestic corporation engaged in the publication of Philippine Free Press Magazine,
one of the . . . widely circulated political magazines in the Philippines. Due to its wide circulation, the
publication of the Free Press magazine enabled [petitioner] to attain considerable prestige prior to the
declaration of Martial Law as well as to achieve a high profit margin. . . .

Sometime in . . . 1963, [petitioner] purchased a parcel of land situated at No. 2249, Pasong Tamo Street,
Makati which had an area of 5,000 square meters as evidenced by . . . (TCT) No. 109767 issued by the
Register of Deeds of Makati (Exh. Z). Upon taking possession of the subject land, [petitioner] constructed
an office building thereon to house its various machineries, equipment, office furniture and fixture.
[Petitioner] thereafter made the subject building its main office . . . .

During the 1965 presidential elections, [petitioner] supported the late President Diosdado Macapagal
against then Senate President Ferdinand Marcos. Upon the election of the late President Ferdinand Marcos
in 1965 and prior to the imposition of Martial law on September 21, 1972, [petitioner] printed numerous
articles highly critical of the Marcos administration, exposing the corruption and abuses of the regime. The
[petitioner] likewise ran a series of articles exposing the plan of the Marcoses to impose a dictatorship in
the guise of Martial Law . . . .

In the evening of September 20, 1972, soldiers surrounded the Free Press Building, forced out its employees
at gunpoint and padlocked the said establishment. The soldier in charge of the military contingent then
informed Teodoro Locsin, Jr., the son of Teodoro Locsin, Sr., the President of [petitioner], that Martial Law
had been declared and that they were instructed by the late President Marcos to take over the building and
to close the printing press. xxx.

On September 21, 1972 . . ., Teodoro Locsin, Sr. was arrested [and] . . . . was brought to Camp Crame and
was subsequently transferred to the maximum security bloc at Fort Bonifacio.

Sometime in December, 1972, Locsin, Sr. was informed . . . that no charges were to be filed against him
and that he was to be provisionally released subject to the following conditions, to wit: (1) he remained
(sic) under city arrest; xxx (5) he was not to publish the Philippine Free Press nor was he to do, say or write
anything critical of the Marcos administration . . . .

Consequently, the publication of the Philippine Free Press ceased. The subject building remained
padlocked and under heavy military guard (TSB, 27 May 1993, pp. 51-52; stipulated). The cessation of the
publication of the ... magazine led to the financial ruin of [petitioner] . . . . [Petitioners] situation was further
aggravated when its employees demanded the payment of separation pay as a result of the cessation of its
operations. [Petitioners] minority stockholders, furthermore, made demands that Locsin, Sr. buy out their
shares. xxx.

On separate occasions in 1973, Locsin, Sr. was approached by the late Atty. Crispin Baizas with offers from
then President Marcos for the acquisition of the [petitioner]. However, Locsin, Sr. refused the offer stating
that [petitioner] was not for sale (TSN, 2 May 1988, pp. 8-9, 40; 27 May 1993, pp. 66-67).

A few months later, the late Secretary Guillermo De Vega approached Locsin, Sr. reiterating Marcoss offer
to purchase the name and the assets of the [petitioner].xxx

Sometime during the middle of 1973, Locsin, Sr. was contacted by Brig. Gen. Hans Menzi, the former aide-
de-camp of then President Marcos concerning the sale of the [petitioner]. Locsin, Sr. requested that the
meeting be held inside the [petitioner] Building and this was arranged by Menzi (TSN, 27 May 1993, pp.
69-70). During the said meeting, Menzi once more reiterated Marcoss offer to purchase both the name and
the assets of [petitioner] adding that Marcos cannot be denied (TSN, 27 May 1993, p. 71). Locsin, Sr.
refused but Menzi insisted that he had no choice but to sell. Locsin, Sr. then made a counteroffer that he
will sell the land, the building and all the machineries and equipment therein but he will be allowed to keep
the name of the [petitioner]. Menzi promised to clear the matter with then President Marcos (TSN, 27 May
1993, p. 72). Menzi thereafter contacted Locsin, Sr. and informed him that President Marcos was amenable
to his counteroffer and is offering the purchase price of Five Million Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand (P5,
750,000.00) Pesos for the land, the building, the machineries, the office furnishing and the fixtures of the
[petitioner] on a take-it-or-leave-it basis (TSN, 2 May 1988, pp.42-43; 27 May 1993, p. 88).
On August 22, 1973, Menzi tendered to Locsin, Sr. a check for One Million (P1, 000,000.00) Pesos
downpayment for the sale, . . . Locsin, Sr. accepted the check, subject to the condition that he will refund
the same in case the sale will not push through. (Exh. 7).

On August 23, 1973, the Board of Directors of [petitioner] held a meeting and reluctantly passed a
resolution authorizing Locsin, Sr. to sell the assets of the [petitioner] to Menzi minus the name Philippine
Free Press (Exhs. A-1 and 1; TSN, 27 May 1993, pp. 73-76).

On October 23, 1973, the parties [petitioner, as vendor and private respondent, represented by B/Gen.
Menzi, as vendee] met . . . and executed two (2) notarized Deeds of Sale covering the land, building and
the machineries of the [petitioner]. Menzi paid the balance of the purchase price in the amount of . . .
(P4,750,000.00) Pesos (Exhs. A and (; B and 10;TSN, 27 May 1993, pp. 81-82; 3 June 1993, p. 89).

Locsin, Sr. thereafter used the proceeds of the sale to pay the separation pay of [petitioners] employees, buy
out the shares of the minority stockholders as well as to settle all its obligations.

On February 26, 1987, [petitioner] filed a complaint for Annulment of Sale against [respondent] Liwayway
and the PCGG before the Regional Trail Court of Makati, Branch 146 on the grounds of vitiated consent
and gross inadequacy of purchase price. On motion of defendant PCGG, the complaint against it was
dismissed on October 22, 1987. (Words in bracket and underscoring added)

In a decision dated October 31, 1995,[2] the trial court dismissed petitioners complaint and granted private
respondents counterclaim, to wit:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing premises, the herein complaint for annulment of sales is hereby
dismissed for lack of merit.

On [respondent] counterclaim, the court finds for [respondent] and against [petitioner] for the recovery of
attorneys fees already paid for at P1,945,395.98, plus a further P316,405.00 remaining due and payable.

SO ORDERED. (Words in bracket added)

In time, petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA) whereat its appellate recourse was docketed
as CA-G.R. C.V. No. 52660.

As stated at the outset hereof, the appellate court, in a decision dated February 25, 1998, affirmed with
modification the appealed decision of the trial court, the modification consisting of the deletion of the award
of attorneys fees to private respondent, thus:

WHEREFORE, with the sole modification that the award of attorneys fees in favor of [respondent] be
deleted, the Decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in all respects.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, petitioners present recourse, urging the setting aside of the decision under review which, to
petitioner, decided questions of substance in a way not in accord with law and applicable jurisprudence
considering that the appellate court gravely erred:

I
xxx IN ITS MISAPPLICATION OF THE DECISIONS OF THE HONORABLE COURT THAT
RESULTED IN ITS ERRONEOUS CONCLUSION THAT PETITIONER'S CAUSE OF ACTION HAD
ALREADY PRESCRIBED.

II

xxx IN CONCLUDING THAT THE UNDISPUTED FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES PRECEDING


THE EXECUTION OF THE CONTRACTS OF SALE FOR THE PETITIONER'S PROPERTIES DID
NOT ESTABLISH THE FORCE, INTIMIDATION, DURESS AND UNDUE INFLUENCE WHICH
VITIATED PETITIONER'S CONSENT.

A. xxx IN CONSIDERING AS HEARSAY THE TESTIMONIAL EVIDENCE WHICH CLEARLY


ESTABLISHED THE THREATS MADE UPON PETITIONER AND THAT RESPONDENT
LIWAYWAY WILL BE USED AS THE CORPORATE VEHICLE FOR THE FORCED ACQUISITION
OF PETITIONER'S PROPERTIES.

B. xxx IN CONCLUDING THAT THE ACTS OF THEN PRESIDENT MARCOS DURING MARTIAL LAW
DID NOT CONSTITUTE THE FORCE, INTIMIDATION, DURESS AND UNDUE INFLUENCE
WHICH VITIATED PETITIONER'S CONSENT.

C. xxx IN RESOLVING THE INSTANT CASE ON THE BASIS OF MERE SURMISES AND
SPECULATIONS INSTEAD OF THE UNDISPUTED EVIDENCE ON RECORD.

III

xxx IN CONCLUDING THAT THE GROSSLY INADEQUATE PURCHASE PRICE FOR


PETITIONER'S PROPERTIES DOES NOT INDICATE THE VITIATION OF PETITIONER'S
CONSENT TO THE CONTRACTS OF SALE.

IV

xxx IN CONCLUDING THAT PETITIONER'S USE OF THE PROCEEDS OF THE SALE FOR ITS
SURVIVAL CONSTITUTE AN IMPLIED RATIFICATION [OF] THE CONTRACTS OF SALE.

xxx IN EXCLUDING PETITIONER'S EXHIBITS X-6 TO X-7 AND Y-3 (PROFFER) WHICH ARE
ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE WHICH COMPETENTLY PROVE THAT THEN PRESIDENT MARCOS
OWNED PRIVATE RESPONDENT LIWAYWAY, WHICH WAS USED AS THE CORPORATE
VEHICLE FOR THE ACQUISITION OF PETITIONER'S PROPERTIES.

The petition lacks merit.

Petitioner starts off with its quest for the allowance of the instant recourse on the submission that the martial
law regime tolled the prescriptive period under Article 1391 of the Civil Code, which pertinently reads:

Article 391. The action for annulment shall be brought within four years.
This period shall begin:

In cases of intimidation, violence or undue influence, from the time the defect of the consent ceases.
xxx xxx xxx

It may be recalled that the separate deeds of sale[3] sought to be annulled under petitioners basic complaint
were both executed on October 23, 1973. Per the appellate court, citing Development Bank of the
Philippines [DBP] vs. Pundogar[4], the 4-year prescriptive period for the annulment of the aforesaid deeds
ended in late 1977, doubtless suggesting that petitioners right to seek such annulment accrued four (4) years
earlier, a starting time-point corresponding, more or less, to the date of the conveying deed, i.e., October
23, 1973. Petitioner contends, however, that the 4-year prescriptive period could not have commenced to
run on October 23, 1973, martial law being then in full swing. Plodding on, petitioner avers that the
continuing threats on the life of Mr. Teodoro Locsin, Sr. and his family and other menacing effects of
martial law which should be considered as force majeure - ceased only after the February 25, 1986 People
Power uprising.
Petitioner instituted its complaint for annulment of contracts on February 26, 1987. The question
that now comes to the fore is: Did the 4-year prescriptive period start to run in late October 1973, as
postulated in the decision subject of review, or on February 25, 1986, as petitioner argues, on the theory
that martial law has the effects of a force majeure[5], which, in turn, works to suspend the running of the
prescriptive period for the main case filed with the trial court.

Petitioner presently faults the Court of Appeals for its misapplication of the doctrinal rule laid down in DBP
vs. Pundogar[6] where this Court, citing and quoting excerpts from the ruling in Tan vs. Court of Appeals [7],
as reiterated in National Development Company vs. Court of Appeals, [8] wrote

We can not accept the petitioners contention that the period during which authoritarian rule was in force
had interrupted prescription and that the same began to run only on February 25, 1986, when the Aquino
government took power. It is true that under Article 1154 [of the Civil Code] xxx fortuitous events have
the effect of tolling the period of prescription. However, we can not say, as a universal rule, that the period
from September 21, 1972 through February 25, 1986 involves a force majeure. Plainly, we can not box in
the "dictatorial" period within the term without distinction, and without, by necessity, suspending all
liabilities, however demandable, incurred during that period, including perhaps those ordered by this Court
to be paid. While this Court is cognizant of acts of the last regime, especially political acts, that might have
indeed precluded the enforcement of liability against that regime and/or its minions, the Court is not inclined
to make quite a sweeping pronouncement, . . . . It is our opinion that claims should be taken on a case-to-
case basis. This selective rule is compelled, among others, by the fact that not all those imprisoned or
detained by the past dictatorship were true political oppositionists, or, for that matter, innocent of any crime
or wrongdoing. Indeed, not a few of them were manipulators and scoundrels. [Italization in the original;
Underscoring and words in bracket added]
According to petitioner, the appellate court misappreciated and thus misapplied the correct thrust
of the Tan case, as reiterated in DBP which, per petitioners own formulation, is the following:[9]

The prevailing rule, therefore, is that on a case-to-case basis, the Martial Law regime may be treated
as force majeure that suspends the running of the applicable prescriptive period provided that it is
established that the party invoking the imposition of Martial Law as a force majeure are true
oppositionists during the Martial Law regime and that said party was so circumstanced that is was
impossible for said party to commence, continue or to even resist an action during the dictatorial
regime. (Emphasis and underscoring in the original)
We are not persuaded.

It strains credulity to believe that petitioner found it impossible to commence and succeed in an annulment
suit during the entire stretch of the dictatorial regime. The Court can grant that Mr. Locsin, Sr. and petitioner
were, in the context of DBP and Tan, true oppositionists during the period of material law. Petitioner,
however, has failed to convincingly prove that Mr. Locsin, Sr., as its then President, and/or its governing
board, were so circumstanced that it was well-nigh impossible for him/them to successfully institute an
action during the martial law years. Petitioner cannot plausibly feign ignorance of the fact that shortly after
his arrest in the evening of September 20, 1972, Mr. Locsin, Sr., together with several other journalists [10],
dared to file suits against powerful figures of the dictatorial regime and veritably challenged the legality of
the declaration of martial law. Docketed in this Court as GR No. L-35538, the case, after its consolidation
with eight (8) other petitions against the martial law regime, is now memorialized in books of jurisprudence
and cited in legal publications and case studies as Aquino vs. Enrile.[11]

Incidentally, Mr. Locsin Sr., as gathered from the ponencia of then Chief Justice Querube Makalintal
in Aquino, was released from detention notwithstanding his refusal to withdraw from his petition in said
case. Judging from the actuations of Mr. Locsin, Sr. during the onset of martial law regime and immediately
thereafter, any suggestion that intimidation or duress forcibly stayed his hands during the dark days of
martial law to seek judicial assistance must be rejected.[12]

Given the foregoing perspective, the Court is not prepared to disturb the ensuing ruling of the
appellate court on the effects of martial law on petitioners right of action:

In their testimonies before the trial court, both Locsin, Sr. and Locsin, Jr. claimed that they had not filed
suit to recover the properties until 1987 as they could not expect justice to be done because according to
them, Marcos controlled every part of the government, including the courts, (TSN, 2 May 1988, pp. 23-24;
27 May 1993, p. 121). While that situation may have obtained during the early years of the martial law
administration, We could not agree with the proposition that it remained consistently unchanged until 1986,
a span of fourteen (14) years. The unfolding of subsequent events would show that while dissent was
momentarily stifled, it was not totally silenced. On the contrary, it steadily simmered and smoldered beneath
the political surface and culminated in that groundswell of popular protest which swept the dictatorship
from power.[13]

The judiciary too, as an institution, was no ivory tower so detached from the ever changing political climate.
While it was not totally impervious to the influence of the dictatorships political power, it was not
hamstrung as to render it inutile to perform its functions normally. To say that the Judiciary was not able to
render justice to the persons who sought redress before it . . . during the Martial Law years is a sweeping
and unwarranted generalization as well as an unfounded indictment. The Judiciary, . . . did not lack in
gallant jurists and magistrates who refused to be cowed into silence by the Marcos administration. Be that
as it may, the Locsins mistrust of the courts and of judicial processes is no excuse for their non-observance
of the prescriptive period set down by law.

Corollary to the presented issue of prescription of action for annulment of contract voidable on account of
defect of consent[14] is the question of whether or not duress, intimidation or undue influence vitiated the
petitioners consent to the subject contracts of sale. Petitioner delves at length on the vitiation issue and,
relative thereto, ascribes the following errors to the appellate court: first, in considering as hearsay the
testimonial evidence that may prove the element of "threat" against petitioner or Mr. Locsin, Sr., and the
dictatorial regime's use of private respondent as a corporate vehicle for forcibly acquiring petitioners
properties; second, in concluding that the acts of then President Marcos during the martial law years did
not have a consent-vitiating effect on petitioner; and third, in resolving the case on the basis of mere
surmises and speculations.
The evidence referred to as hearsay pertains mainly to the testimonies of Messrs. Locsin, Sr. and Teodoro
Locsin, Jr. (the Locsins, collectively), which, in gist, established the following facts: 1) the widely
circulated Free Press magazine, which, prior to the declaration of Martial Law, took the strongest critical
stand against the Marcos administration, was closed down on the eve of such declaration, which closure
eventually drove petitioner to financial ruin; 2) upon Marcos orders, Mr. Locsin, Sr. was arrested and
detained for over 2 months without charges and, together with his family, was threatened with execution;
3) Mr. Locsin, Sr. was provisionally released on the condition that he refrains from reopening Free
Press and writing anything critical of the Marcos administration; and 4) Mr. Locsin, Sr. and his family
remained fearful of reprisals from Marcos until the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

Per the Locsins, it was amidst the foregoing circumstances that petitioners property in question was
sold to private respondent, represented by Gen. Menzi, who, before the sale, allegedly applied the squeeze
on Mr. Locsin, Sr. thru the medium of the Marcos cannot be denied and [you] have no choice but to
sell line.

The appellate court, in rejecting petitioners above posture of vitiation of consent, observed:

It was under the above-enumerated circumstances that the late Hans Menzi, allegedly acting on behalf of
the late President Marcos, made his offer to purchase the Free Press. It must be noted, however, that the
testimonies of Locsin, Sr. and Locsin, Jr. regarding Menzis alleged implied threat that Marcos cannot be
denied and that [respondent] was to be the corporate vehicle for Marcoss takeover of the Free Press is
hearsay as Menzi already passed away and is no longer in a position to defend himself; the same can be
said of the offers to purchase made by Atty. Crispin Baizas and Secretary Guillermo de Vega who are also
both dead. It is clear from the provisions of Section 36, Rule 130 of the 1989 Revised Rules on Evidence
that any evidence, . . . is hearsay if its probative value is not based on the personal knowledge of the witness
but on the knowledge of some other person not on the witness stand. Consequently, hearsay evidence,
whether objected to or not, has no probative value unless the proponent can show that the evidence falls
within the exceptions to the hearsay evidence rule (Citations omitted)

The appellate courts disposition on the vitiation-of-consent angle and the ratio therefor commends itself for
concurrence.

Jurisprudence instructs that evidence of statement made or a testimony is hearsay if offered against
a party who has no opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Hearsay evidence is excluded precisely
because the party against whom it is presented is deprived of or is bereft of opportunity to cross-examine
the persons to whom the statements or writings are attributed.[15] And there can be no quibbling that because
death has supervened, the late Gen Menzi, like the other purported Marcos subalterns, Messrs. Baizas and
De Vega, cannot cross-examine the Locsins for the threatening statements allegedly made by them for the
late President.
Like the Court of Appeals, we are not unmindful of the exception to the hearsay rule provided in Section
38, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

SEC. 38. Declaration against interest. The declaration made by a person deceased or
unable to testify, against the interest of the declarant, if the fact asserted in the declaration
was at the time it was made so far contrary to the declarant's own interest, that a reasonable
man in his position would not have made the declaration unless he believed it to be true,
may be received in evidence against himself or his successors-in-interest and against third
persons.
However, in assessing the probative value of Gen. Menzis supposed declaration against interest, i.e., that
he was acting for the late President Marcos when he purportedly coerced Mr. Locsin, Sr. to sell the Free
Press property, we are loathed to give it the evidentiary weight petitioner endeavors to impress upon us.
For, the Locsins can hardly be considered as disinterested witnesses. They are likely to gain the most from
the annulment of the subject contracts. Moreover, allegations of duress or coercion should, like fraud, be
viewed with utmost caution. They should not be laid lightly at the door of men whose lips had been sealed
by death.[16] Francisco explains why:

[I]t has been said that of all evidence, the narration of a witness of his conversation with a dead person is
esteemed in justice the weakest. One reason for its unreliability is that the alleged declarant can not recall
to the witness the circumstances under which his statement were made. The temptation and opportunity for
fraud in such cases also operate against the testimony. Testimony to statements of a deceased person, at
least where proof of them will prejudice his estate, is regarded as an unsafe foundation for judicial action
except in so far as such evidence is borne out by what is natural and probable under the circumstances taken
in connection with actual known facts. And a court should be very slow to act upon the statement of one of
the parties to a supposed agreement after the death of the other party; such corroborative evidence should
be adduced as to satisfy the court of the truth of the story which is to benefit materially the person telling
it. [17]

Excepting, petitioner insists that the testimonies of its witnesses the Locsins - are not hearsay because:

In this regard, hearsay evidence has been defined as the evidence not of what the witness knows himself
but of what he has heard from others. xxx Thus, the mere fact that the other parties to the conversations
testified to by the witness are already deceased does [not] render such testimony inadmissible for being
hearsay. [18]

xxx xxx xxx

The testimonies of Teodoro Locsin, Sr. and Teodoro Locsin, Jr. that the late Atty. Baizas, Gen. Menzi and
Secretary de Vega stated that they were representing Marcos, that Marcos cannot be denied, and the fact
that Gen. Menzi stated that private respondent Liwayway was to be the corporate vehicle for the then
President Marcos' take-over of petitioner Free Press are not hearsay. Teodoro Locsin, Sr. and Teodoro
Locsin, Jr. were in fact testifying to matters of their own personal knowledge because they were either
parties to the said conversation or were present at the time the said statements were made. [19]

Again, we disagree.

Even if petitioner succeeds in halving its testimonial evidence, one-half purporting to quote the words of a
live witness and the other half purporting to quote what the live witness heard from one already dead, the
other pertaining to the dead shall nevertheless remain hearsay in character.

The all too familiar rule is that a witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his own
knowledge. [20] There can be no quibbling that petitioners witnesses cannot testify respecting what President
Marcos said to Gen. Menzi about the acquisition of petitioners newspaper, if any there be, precisely because
none of said witnesses ever had an opportunity to hear what the two talked about.

Neither may petitioner circumvent the hearsay rule by invoking the exception under the declaration-against-
interest rule. In context, the only declaration supposedly made by Gen. Menzi which can conceivably be
labeled as adverse to his interest could be that he was acting in behalf of Marcos in offering to acquire the
physical assets of petitioner. Far from making a statement contrary to his own interest, a declaration
conveying the notion that the declarant possessed the authority to speak and to act for the President of the
Republic can hardly be considered as a declaration against interest.
Petitioner next assails the Court of Appeals on its conclusion that Martial Law is not per se a consent-
vitiating phenomenon. Wrote the appellate court: [21]

In other words, the act of the ruling power, in this case the martial law administration, was not an act of
mere trespass but a trespass in law - not a perturbacion de mero hecho but a pertubacion de derecho -
justified as it is by an act of government in legitimate self-defense (IFC Leasing & Acceptance
Corporation v. Sarmiento Distributors Corporation, , citing Caltex (Phils.) v. Reyes, 84 Phil. 654 [1949].
Consequently, the act of the Philippine Government in declaring martial law can not be considered as an
act of intimidation of a third person who did not take part in the contract (Article 1336, Civil Code). It is,
therefore, incumbent on [petitioner] to present clear and convincing evidence showing that the late President
Marcos, acting through the late Hans Menzi, abused his martial law powers by forcing plaintiff-appellant
to sell its assets. In view of the largely hearsay nature of appellants evidence on this point, appellants cause
must fall.

According to petitioner, the reasoning of the appellate court is "flawed" because:[22]

It is implicit from the foregoing reasoning of the Court of Appeals that it treated the forced closure of the
petitioner's printing press, the arrest and incarceration without charges of Teodoro Locsin, Sr., the threats
that he will be shot and the threats that other members of his family will be arrested as legal acts done by
a dictator under the Martial Law regime. The same flawed reasoning led the Court of Appeals to the
erroneous conclusion that such acts do not constitute force, intimidation, duress and undue influence that
vitiated petitioner's consent to the Contracts of Sale.

The contention is a rehash of petitioners bid to impute on private respondent acts of force and intimidation
that were made to bear on petitioner or Mr. Locsin, Sr. during the early years of martial law. It failed to
take stock of a very plausible situation depicted in the appellate courts decision which supports its case
disposition on the issue respecting vitiation. Wrote that court:

Even assuming that the late president Marcos is indeed the owner of [respondent], it does not necessarily
follow that he, acting through the late Hans Menzi, abused his power by resorting to intimidation and undue
influence to coerce the Locsins into selling the assets of Free Press to them (sic).

It is an equally plausible scenario that Menzi convinced the Locsins to sell the assets of the Free Press
without resorting to threats or moral coercion by simply pointing out to them the hard fact that the Free
Press was in dire financial straits after the declaration of Martial Law and was being sued by its former
employees, minority stockholders and creditors. Given such a state of affairs, the Locsins had no choice but
to sell their assets.[23]

Petitioner laments that the scenario depicted in the immediately preceding quotation as a case of a court
resorting to mere surmises and speculations, [24]oblivious that petitioner itself can only offer, as
counterpoint, also mere surmises and speculations, such as its claim about Eugenio Lopez Sr. and Imelda
R. Marcos offering enticing amounts to buy Free Press.[25]

It bears stressing at this point that even after the imposition of martial law, petitioner, represented by Mr.
Locsin, Sr., appeared to have dared the ire of the powers-that-be. He did not succumb to, but in fact spurned
offers to buy, lock-stock-and-barrel, the Free Press magazine, dispatching Marcos emissaries with what
amounts to a curt Free Press is not for sale. This reality argues against petitioners thesis about vitiation of
its contracting mind, and, to be sure, belying the notion that Martial Law worked as a Sword of Damocles
that reduced petitioner or Mr. Locsin, Sr. into being a mere automaton. The following excerpt from the
Court of Appeals decision is self-explanatory: [26]

Noteworthy is the fact that although the threat of arrest hung over his head like the Sword of Damocles,
Locsin Sr. was still able to reject the offers of Atty. Baizas and Secretary De Vega, both of whom were
supposedly acting on behalf of the late President Marcos, without being subjected to reprisals. In fact, the
Locsins testified that the initial offer of Menzi was rejected even though it was supposedly accompanied
by the threat that Marcos cannot be denied. Locsin, Sr. was, moreover, even able to secure a compromise
that only the assets of the Free Press will be sold. It is, therefore, quite possible that plaintiff-appellants
financial condition, albeit caused by the declaration of Martial Law, was a major factor in influencing
Locsin, Sr. to accept Menzis offer. It is not farfetched to consider that Locsin, Sr. would have eventually
proceeded with the sale even in the absence of the alleged intimidation and undue influence because of the
absence of other buyers.

Petitioners third assigned error centers on the gross inadequacy of the purchase price, referring to the
amount of P5,775,000.00 private respondent paid for the property in question. To petitioner, the amount
thus paid does not even approximate the actual market value of the assets and properties, [27] and is very
much less than the P18 Million offered by Eugenio Lopez.[28] Accordingly, petitioner urges the striking
down, as erroneous, the ruling of the Court of Appeals on purchase price inadequacy, stating in this regard
as follows: [29]

Furthermore, the Court of Appeals in determining the adequacy of the price for the properties and assets of
petitioner Free Press relied heavily on the claim that the audited financial statements for the years 1971 and
1972 stated that the book value of the land is set at Two Hundred Thirty-Seven Thousand Five Hundred
Pesos (P237,500.00). However, the Court of Appeals' reliance on the book value of said assets is clearly
misplaced. It should be noted that the book value of fixed assets bears very little correlation with the actual
market value of an asset. (Emphasis and underscoring in the original).

With the view we take of the matter, the book or actual market value of the property at the time of sale is
presently of little moment. For, petitioner is effectively precluded, by force of the principle
of estoppel ,[30] from cavalierly disregarding with impunity its own books of account in which the property
in question is assigned a value less than what was paid therefor. And, in line with the rule on the quantum of
evidence required in civil cases, neither can we cavalierly brush aside private respondents evidence, cited
with approval by the appellate court, that tends to prove that-[31]

xxx the net book value of the Properties was actually only P994,723.66 as appearing in Free Press's Balance
Sheet as of November 30, 1972 (marked as Exh. 13 and Exh. V), which was duly audited by SyCip, Gorres,
and Velayo, thus clearly showing that Free Press actually realized a hefty profit of P4,755,276.34 from the
sale to Liwayway.
Lest it be overlooked, gross inadequacy of the purchase price does not, as a matter of civil law, per se affect
a contract of sale. Article 1470 of the Civil Code says so. It reads:

Article 1470. Gross inadequacy of price does not affect a contract of sale, except as it may
indicate a defect in the consent, or that the parties really intended a donation or some other
act or contract.

Following the aforequoted codal provision, it behooves petitioner to first prove a defect in the consent,
failing which its case for annulment contract of sale on ground gross inadequacy of price must fall. The
categorical conclusion of the Court of Appeals, confirmatory of that of the trial court, is that the price paid
for the Free Press office building, and other physical assets is not unreasonable to justify the nullification
of the sale. This factual determination, predicated as it were on offered evidence, notably petitioners
Balance Sheet as of November 30, 1972 (Exh. 13), must be accorded great weight if not finality.[32]

In the light of the foregoing disquisition, the question of whether or not petitioners undisputed utilization
of the proceeds of the sale constitutes, within the purview of Article 1393 of the Civil Code, [33] implied
ratification of the contracts of sale need not detain us long. Suffice it to state in this regard that the ruling
of the Court of Appeals on the matter is well-taken. Wrote the appellate court: [34]

In the case at bench, Free Presss own witnesses admitted that the proceeds of the 1973 sale were used to
settle the claims of its employees, redeem the shares of its stockholders and finance the companys entry
into money-market shareholdings and fishpond business activities (TSN, 2 May 1988, pp. 16, 42-45). It
need not be overemphasized that by using the proceeds in this manner, Free Press only too clearly confirmed
the voluntaries of its consent and ratified the sale. Needless to state, such ratification cleanses the assailed
contract from any alleged defects from the moment it was constituted (Art. 1396, Civil Code).

Petitioners posture that its use of the proceeds of the sale does not translate to tacit ratification of
what it viewed as voidable contracts of sale, such use being a matter of [its financial] survival, [35] is
untenable. As couched, Article 1393 of the Civil Code is concerned only with the act which passes for
ratification of contract, not the reason which actuated the ratifying person to act the way he did. Ubi lex non
distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus. When the law does not distinguish, neither should we. [36]

Finally, petitioner would fault the Court of Appeals for excluding Exhibits X-6 to X-7 and Y-3 (proffer).
These excluded documents which were apparently found in the presidential palace or turned over by the
US Government to the PCGG, consist of, among others, what appears to be private respondents Certificate
of Stock for 24,502 shares in the name of Gen. Menzi, but endorsed in blank. The proffer was evidently
intended to show that then President Marcos owned private respondent, Liwayway Publishing Inc. Said
exhibits are of little relevance to the resolution of the main issue tendered in this case. Whether or not the
contracts of sale in question are voidable is the issue, not the ownership of Liwayway Publishing, Inc.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, and the challenged decision of the Court of
Appeals AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 148220. June 15, 2005]


ROSENDO HERRERA vs. ROSENDO ALBA
The Case
This is a petition for review[1] to set aside the Decision[2] dated 29 November 2000 of the Court of
Appeals (appellate court) in CA-G.R. SP No. 59766. The appellate court affirmed two Orders[3] issued by
Branch 48 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (trial court) in SP No. 98-88759. The Order dated 3
February 2000 directed Rosendo Herrera (petitioner) to submit to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) paternity
testing, while the Order dated 8 June 2000 denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The Facts
On 14 May 1998, then thirteen-year-old Rosendo Alba (respondent), represented by his mother Armi
Alba, filed before the trial court a petition for compulsory recognition, support and damages against
petitioner. On 7 August 1998, petitioner filed his answer with counterclaim where he denied that he is the
biological father of respondent. Petitioner also denied physical contact with respondents mother.
Respondent filed a motion to direct the taking of DNA paternity testing to abbreviate the proceedings.
To support the motion, respondent presented the testimony of Saturnina C. Halos, Ph.D. When she testified,
Dr. Halos was an Associate Professor at De La Salle University where she taught Cell Biology. She was
also head of the University of the Philippines Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI), a DNA
analysis laboratory. She was a former professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon
City, where she developed the Molecular Biology Program and taught Molecular Biology. In her testimony,
Dr. Halos described the process for DNA paternity testing and asserted that the test had an accuracy rate of
99.9999% in establishing paternity.[4]
Petitioner opposed DNA paternity testing and contended that it has not gained acceptability. Petitioner
further argued that DNA paternity testing violates his right against self-incrimination.
The Ruling of the Trial Court
In an Order dated 3 February 2000, the trial court granted respondents motion to conduct DNA
paternity testing on petitioner, respondent and Armi Alba. Thus:
In view of the foregoing, the motion of the petitioner is GRANTED and the relevant individuals,
namely: the petitioner, the minor child, and respondent are directed to undergo DNA paternity
testing in a laboratory of their common choice within a period of thirty (30) days from receipt of the
Order, and to submit the results thereof within a period of ninety (90) days from completion. The
parties are further reminded of the hearing set on 24 February 2000 for the reception of other
evidence in support of the petition.
IT IS SO ORDERED.[5] (Emphasis in the original)
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the 3 February 2000 Order. He asserted that under the
present circumstances, the DNA test [he] is compelled to take would be inconclusive, irrelevant and the
coercive process to obtain the requisite specimen, unconstitutional.
In an Order dated 8 June 2000, the trial court denied petitioners motion for reconsideration.[6]
On 18 July 2000, petitioner filed before the appellate court a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of
the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. He asserted that the trial court rendered the Orders dated 3 February
2000 and 8 June 2000 in excess of, or without jurisdiction and/or with grave abuse of discretion amounting
to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Petitioner further contended that there is no appeal nor any [other] plain,
adequate and speedy remedy in the ordinary course of law. Petitioner maintained his previous objections to
the taking of DNA paternity testing. He submitted the following grounds to support his objection:
1. Public respondent misread and misapplied the ruling in Lim vs. Court of Appeals (270 SCRA 2).
2. Public respondent ruled to accept DNA test without considering the limitations on, and conditions
precedent for the admissibility of DNA testing and ignoring the serious constraints affecting the
reliability of the test as admitted by private respondents expert witness.
3. Subject Orders lack legal and factual support, with public respondent relying on scientific findings
and conclusions unfit for judicial notice and unsupported by experts in the field and scientific
treatises.
4. Under the present circumstances the DNA testing petitioner [is] compelled to take will be
inconclusive, irrelevant and the coercive process to obtain the requisite specimen from the
petitioner, unconstitutional.[7]
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
On 29 November 2000, the appellate court issued a decision denying the petition and affirming the
questioned Orders of the trial court. The appellate court stated that petitioner merely desires to correct the
trial courts evaluation of evidence. Thus, appeal is an available remedy for an error of judgment that the
court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The appellate court also stated that the proposed DNA
paternity testing does not violate his right against self-incrimination because the right applies only to
testimonial compulsion. Finally, the appellate court pointed out that petitioner can still refute a possible
adverse result of the DNA paternity testing. The dispositive portion of the appellate courts decision reads:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Petition is hereby DENIED DUE COURSE, and
ordered dismissed, and the challenged orders of the Trial Court AFFIRMED, with costs to Petitioner.
SO ORDERED.[8]
Petitioner moved for reconsideration, which the appellate court denied in its Resolution dated 23 May
2001.[9]
Issues
Petitioner raises the issue of whether a DNA test is a valid probative tool in this jurisdiction to
determine filiation. Petitioner asks for the conditions under which DNA technology may be integrated into
our judicial system and the prerequisites for the admissibility of DNA test results in a paternity suit.[10]
Petitioner further submits that the appellate court gravely abused its discretion when it authorized the
trial court to embark in [sic] a new procedure xxx to determine filiation despite the absence of legislation
to ensure its reliability and integrity, want of official recognition as made clear in Lim vs. Court of
Appeals and the presence of technical and legal constraints in respect of [sic] its
implementation.[11] Petitioner maintains that the proposed DNA paternity testing violates his right against
self-incrimination.[12]
The Ruling of the Court
The petition has no merit.
Before discussing the issues on DNA paternity testing, we deem it appropriate to give an overview of
a paternity suit and apply it to the facts of this case. We shall consider the requirements of the Family Code
and of the Rules of Evidence to establish paternity and filiation.
An Overview of the Paternity and Filiation Suit
Filiation proceedings are usually filed not just to adjudicate paternity but also to secure a legal right
associated with paternity, such as citizenship,[13] support (as in the present case), or inheritance. The burden
of proving paternity is on the person who alleges that the putative father is the biological father of the child.
There are four significant procedural aspects of a traditional paternity action which parties have to face:
a prima facie case, affirmative defenses, presumption of legitimacy, and physical resemblance between the
putative father and child.[14]
A prima facie case exists if a woman declares that she had sexual relations with the putative father. In
our jurisdiction, corroborative proof is required to carry the burden forward and shift it to the putative
father.[15]
There are two affirmative defenses available to the putative father. The putative father may show
incapability of sexual relations with the mother, because of either physical absence or impotency. [16] The
putative father may also show that the mother had sexual relations with other men at the time of conception.
A child born to a husband and wife during a valid marriage is presumed legitimate. [17] The childs
legitimacy may be impugned only under the strict standards provided by law.[18]
Finally, physical resemblance between the putative father and child may be offered as part of evidence
of paternity. Resemblance is a trial technique unique to a paternity proceeding. However, although likeness
is a function of heredity, there is no mathematical formula that could quantify how much a child must or
must not look like his biological father.[19] This kind of evidence appeals to the emotions of the trier of fact.
In the present case, the trial court encountered three of the four aspects. Armi Alba, respondents
mother, put forward a prima facie case when she asserted that petitioner is respondents biological father.
Aware that her assertion is not enough to convince the trial court, she offered corroborative proof in the
form of letters and pictures. Petitioner, on the other hand, denied Armi Albas assertion. He denied ever
having sexual relations with Armi Alba and stated that respondent is Armi Albas child with another man.
Armi Alba countered petitioners denial by submitting pictures of respondent and petitioner side by side, to
show how much they resemble each other.
Paternity and filiation disputes can easily become credibility contests. We now look to the law, rules,
and governing jurisprudence to help us determine what evidence of incriminating acts on paternity and
filiation are allowed in this jurisdiction.

Laws, Rules, and Jurisprudence Establishing Filiation


The relevant provisions of the Family Code provide as follows:
ART. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the
same evidence as legitimate children.
xxx
ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:
(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or
(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten
instrument and signed by the parent concerned.
In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:
(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or
(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.
The Rules on Evidence include provisions on pedigree. The relevant sections of Rule 130 provide:
SEC. 39. Act or declaration about pedigree. The act or declaration of a person deceased, or unable to
testify, in respect to the pedigree of another person related to him by birth or marriage, may be
received in evidence where it occurred before the controversy, and the relationship between the two
persons is shown by evidence other than such act or declaration. The word pedigree includes
relationship, family genealogy, birth, marriage, death, the dates when and the places where these
facts occurred, and the names of the relatives. It embraces also facts of family history intimately
connected with pedigree.
SEC. 40. Family reputation or tradition regarding pedigree.The reputation or tradition existing in a
family previous to the controversy, in respect to the pedigree of any one of its members, may be
received in evidence if the witness testifying thereon be also a member of the family, either by
consanguinity or affinity. Entries in family bibles or other family books or charts, engraving on rings,
family portraits and the like, may be received as evidence of pedigree.
This Court’s rulings further specify what incriminating acts are acceptable as evidence to establish
filiation. In Pe Lim v. CA,[20] a case petitioner often cites, we stated that the issue of paternity still has to be
resolved by such conventional evidence as the relevant incriminating verbal and written acts by the
putative father. Under Article 278 of the New Civil Code, voluntary recognition by a parent shall be made
in the record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record, or in any authentic writing. To be effective,
the claim of filiation must be made by the putative father himself and the writing must be the writing of the
putative father.[21] A notarial agreement to support a child whose filiation is admitted by the putative father
was considered acceptable evidence.[22] Letters to the mother vowing to be a good father to the child and
pictures of the putative father cuddling the child on various occasions, together with the certificate of live
birth, proved filiation.[23] However, a student permanent record, a written consent to a fathers operation, or
a marriage contract where the putative father gave consent, cannot be taken as authentic writing.[24] Standing
alone, neither a certificate of baptism[25] nor family pictures[26] are sufficient to establish filiation.
So far, the laws, rules, and jurisprudence seemingly limit evidence of paternity and filiation to
incriminating acts alone. However, advances in science show that sources of evidence of paternity and
filiation need not be limited to incriminating acts. There is now almost universal scientific agreement that
blood grouping tests are conclusive on non-paternity, although inconclusive on paternity.[27]
In Co Tao v. Court of Appeals,[28] the result of the blood grouping test showed that the putative father
was a possible father of the child. Paternity was imputed to the putative father after the possibility of
paternity was proven on presentation during trial of facts and circumstances other than the results of the
blood grouping test.
In Jao v. Court of Appeals,[29] the child, the mother, and the putative father agreed to submit
themselves to a blood grouping test. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted the test, which
indicated that the child could not have been the possible offspring of the mother and the putative father. We
held that the result of the blood grouping test was conclusive on the non-paternity of the putative father.
The present case asks us to go one step further. We are now asked whether DNA analysis may be
admitted as evidence to prove paternity.
DNA Analysis as Evidence
DNA is the fundamental building block of a persons entire genetic make-up. DNA is found in all
human cells and is the same in every cell of the same person. Genetic identity is unique. Hence, a persons
DNA profile can determine his identity.[30]
DNA analysis is a procedure in which DNA extracted from a biological sample obtained from an
individual is examined. The DNA is processed to generate a pattern, or a DNA profile, for the individual
from whom the sample is taken. This DNA profile is unique for each person, except for identical
twins.[31] We quote relevant portions of the trial courts 3 February 2000 Order with approval:
Everyone is born with a distinct genetic blueprint called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). It is exclusive
to an individual (except in the rare occurrence of identical twins that share a single, fertilized egg),
and DNA is unchanging throughout life. Being a component of every cell in the human body, the
DNA of an individuals blood is the very DNA in his or her skin cells, hair follicles, muscles, semen,
samples from buccal swabs, saliva, or other body parts.
The chemical structure of DNA has four bases. They are known
as A (adenine), G (guanine), C (cystosine) and T (thymine). The order in which the four bases appear
in an individuals DNA determines his or her physical makeup. And since DNA is a double-stranded
molecule, it is composed of two specific paired bases, A-T or T-A and G-C or C-G. These are
called genes.
Every gene has a certain number of the above base pairs distributed in a particular sequence. This
gives a person his or her genetic code. Somewhere in the DNA framework, nonetheless, are sections
that differ. They are known as polymorphic loci, which are the areas analyzed in DNA typing
(profiling, tests, fingerprinting, or analysis/DNA fingerprinting/genetic tests or fingerprinting). In
other words, DNA typing simply means determining the polymorphic loci.
How is DNA typing performed? From a DNA sample obtained or extracted, a molecular biologist
may proceed to analyze it in several ways. There are five (5) techniques to conduct DNA typing. They
are: the RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism); reverse dot blot or HLA DQ a/Pm loci
which was used in 287 cases that were admitted as evidence by 37 courts in the U.S. as of November
1994; mtDNA process; VNTR (variable number tandem repeats); and the most recent which is
known as the PCR-([polymerase] chain reaction) based STR (short tandem repeats) method which,
as of 1996, was availed of by most forensic laboratories in the world. PCR is the process of replicating
or copying DNA in an evidence sample a million times through repeated cycling of a reaction
involving the so-called DNA polymerize enzyme. STR, on the other hand, takes measurements in 13
separate places and can match two (2) samples with a reported theoretical error rate of less than one
(1) in a trillion.
Just like in fingerprint analysis, in DNA typing, matches are determined. To illustrate, when DNA or
fingerprint tests are done to identify a suspect in a criminal case, the evidence collected from the
crime scene is compared with the known print. If a substantial amount of the identifying features are
the same, the DNA or fingerprint is deemed to be a match. But then, even if only one feature of the
DNA or fingerprint is different, it is deemed not to have come from the suspect.
As earlier stated, certain regions of human DNA show variations between people. In each of these
regions, a person possesses two genetic types called allele, one inherited from each parent. In [a]
paternity test, the forensic scientist looks at a number of these variable regions in an individual to
produce a DNA profile. Comparing next the DNA profiles of the mother and child, it is possible to
determine which half of the childs DNA was inherited from the mother. The other half must have
been inherited from the biological father. The alleged fathers profile is then examined to ascertain
whether he has the DNA types in his profile, which match the paternal types in the child. If the mans
DNA types do not match that of the child, the man is excluded as the father. If the DNA types match,
then he is not excluded as the father.[32] (Emphasis in the original)
Although the term DNA testing was mentioned in the 1995 case of People v. Teehankee, Jr.,[33] it was
only in the 2001 case of Tijing v. Court of Appeals[34] that more than a passing mention was given to DNA
analysis. In Tijing, we issued a writ of habeas corpus against respondent who abducted petitioners
youngest son. Testimonial and documentary evidence and physical resemblance were used to establish
parentage. However, we observed that:
Parentage will still be resolved using conventional methods unless we adopt the modern and scientific
ways available. Fortunately, we have now the facility and expertise in using DNA test for
identification and parentage testing. The University of the Philippines Natural Science Research
Institute (UP-NSRI) DNA Analysis Laboratory has now the capability to conduct DNA typing using
short tandem repeat (STR) analysis. xxx For it was said, that courts should apply the results of science
when completely obtained in aid of situations presented, since to reject said result is to deny progress.
Though it is not necessary in this case to resort to DNA testing, in [the] future it would be useful to
all concerned in the prompt resolution of parentage and identity issues.
Admissibility of DNA Analysis as Evidence
The 2002 case of People v. Vallejo[35] discussed DNA analysis as evidence. This may be considered a
180 degree turn from the Courts wary attitude towards DNA testing in the 1997 PeLim case,[36] where we
stated that DNA, being a relatively new science, xxx has not yet been accorded official recognition by our
courts. In Vallejo, the DNA profile from the vaginal swabs taken from the rape victim matched the accuseds
DNA profile. We affirmed the accuseds conviction of rape with homicide and sentenced him to death. We
declared:
In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, therefore, courts should consider, among other
things, the following data: how the samples were collected, how they were handled, the possibility of
contamination of the samples, the procedure followed in analyzing the samples, whether the proper
standards and procedures were followed in conducting the tests, and the qualification of the analyst
who conducted the tests.[37]
Vallejo discussed the probative value, not admissibility, of DNA evidence. By 2002, there was no
longer any question on the validity of the use of DNA analysis as evidence. The Court moved from the
issue of according official recognition to DNA analysis as evidence to the issue of observance of procedures
in conducting DNA analysis.
In 2004, there were two other cases that had a significant impact on jurisprudence on DNA
testing: People v. Yatar[38] and In re: The Writ of Habeas Corpus for Reynaldo de Villa.[39] In Yatar, a
match existed between the DNA profile of the semen found in the victim and the DNA profile of the blood
sample given by appellant in open court. The Court, following Vallejosfootsteps, affirmed the conviction
of appellant because the physical evidence, corroborated by circumstantial evidence, showed appellant
guilty of rape with homicide. In De Villa, the convict-petitioner presented DNA test results to prove that
he is not the father of the child conceived at the time of commission of the rape. The Court ruled that a
difference between the DNA profile of the convict-petitioner and the DNA profile of the victims child does
not preclude the convict-petitioners commission of rape.
In the present case, the various pleadings filed by petitioner and respondent refer to two United States
cases to support their respective positions on the admissibility of DNA analysis as evidence: Frye v.
U.S.[40] and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.[41] In Frye v. U.S., the trial court convicted Frye of
murder. Frye appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. During trial, Fryes
counsel offered an expert witness to testify on the result of a systolic blood pressure deception test[42] made
on defendant. The state Supreme Court affirmed Fryes conviction and ruled that the systolic blood pressure
deception test has not yet gained such standing and scientific recognition among physiological and
psychological authorities as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony deduced from the
discovery, development, and experiments thus far made. The Frye standard of general acceptance states as
follows:
Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and
demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the
principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony
deduced from a well recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction
is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in
which it belongs.
In 1989, State v. Schwartz[43] modified the Frye standard. Schwartz was charged with stabbing and
murder. Bloodstained articles and blood samples of the accused and the victim were submitted for DNA
testing to a government facility and a private facility. The prosecution introduced the private testing facilitys
results over Schwartzs objection. One of the issues brought before the state Supreme Court included the
admissibility of DNA test results in a criminal proceeding. The state Supreme Court concluded that:
While we agree with the trial court that forensic DNA typing has gained general acceptance in the
scientific community, we hold that admissibility of specific test results in a particular case hinges on
the laboratorys compliance with appropriate standards and controls, and the availability of their
testing data and results.[44]
In 1993, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.[45] further modified the Frye-
Schwartz standard. Daubert was a product liability case where both the trial and appellate courts denied
the admissibility of an experts testimony because it failed to meet the Frye standard of general acceptance.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that in federal trials, the Federal Rules of Evidence have superseded
the Frye standard. Rule 401 defines relevant evidence, while Rule 402 provides the foundation for
admissibility of evidence. Thus:
Rule 401. Relevant evidence is defined as that which has any tendency to make the existence of any
fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it
would be without the evidence.
Rule 402. All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the
United States, by Act of Congress, by these rules, or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court
pursuant to statutory authority. Evidence which is not relevant is not admissible.
Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governing expert testimony provides:
If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the
evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.
Daubert cautions that departure from the Frye standard of general acceptance does not mean that the
Federal Rules do not place limits on the admissibility of scientific evidence. Rather, the judge must ensure
that the testimonys reasoning or method is scientifically valid and is relevant to the issue. Admissibility
would depend on factors such as (1) whether the theory or technique can be or has been tested; (2) whether
the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate
of error; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the techniques operation; and (5)
whether the theory or technique is generally accepted in the scientific community.
Another product liability case, Kumho Tires Co. v. Carmichael,[46] further modified
the Daubert standard. This led to the amendment of Rule 702 in 2000 and which now reads as follows:
If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the
evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1)
the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable
principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the
facts of the case.
We now determine the applicability in this jurisdiction of these American cases. Obviously, neither
the Frye-Schwartz standard nor the Daubert-Kumho standard is controlling in the Philippines.[47] At best,
American jurisprudence merely has a persuasive effect on our decisions. Here, evidence is admissible when
it is relevant to the fact in issue and is not otherwise excluded by statute or the Rules of Court.[48] Evidence
is relevant when it has such a relation to the fact in issue as to induce belief in its existence or non-
existence.[49] Section 49 of Rule 130, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, provides as
follows:
The opinion of a witness on a matter requiring special knowledge, skill, experience or training which
he is shown to possess may be received in evidence.
This Rule does not pose any legal obstacle to the admissibility of DNA analysis as evidence. Indeed, even
evidence on collateral matters is allowed when it tends in any reasonable degree to establish the probability
or improbability of the fact in issue.[50]
Indeed, it would have been convenient to merely refer petitioner to our decisions in Tijing,
Vallejo and Yatar to illustrate that DNA analysis is admissible as evidence. In our jurisdiction, the
restrictive tests for admissibility established by Frye-Schwartz and Daubert-Kumho go into the weight of
the evidence.

Probative Value of DNA Analysis as Evidence


Despite our relatively liberal rules on admissibility, trial courts should be cautious in giving credence
to DNA analysis as evidence. We reiterate our statement in Vallejo:
In assessing the probative value of DNA evidence, therefore, courts should consider, among other
things, the following data: how the samples were collected, how they were handled, the possibility of
contamination of the samples, the procedure followed in analyzing the samples, whether the proper
standards and procedures were followed in conducting the tests, and the qualification of the analyst
who conducted the tests.[51]
We also repeat the trial courts explanation of DNA analysis used in paternity cases:
In [a] paternity test, the forensic scientist looks at a number of these variable regions in an individual
to produce a DNA profile. Comparing next the DNA profiles of the mother and child, it is possible to
determine which half of the childs DNA was inherited from the mother. The other half must have
been inherited from the biological father. The alleged fathers profile is then examined to ascertain
whether he has the DNA types in his profile, which match the paternal types in the child. If the mans
DNA types do not match that of the child, the man is excluded as the father. If the DNA types match,
then he is not excluded as the father.[52]
It is not enough to state that the childs DNA profile matches that of the putative father. A complete match
between the DNA profile of the child and the DNA profile of the putative father does not necessarily
establish paternity. For this reason, following the highest standard adopted in an American
jurisdiction,[53] trial courts should require at least 99.9% as a minimum value of the Probability of Paternity
(W) prior to a paternity inclusion. W is a numerical estimate for the likelihood of paternity of a putative
father compared to the probability of a random match of two unrelated individuals. An appropriate reference
population database, such as the Philippine population database, is required to compute for W. Due to the
probabilistic nature of paternity inclusions, W will never equal to 100%. However, the accuracy of W
estimates is higher when the putative father, mother and child are subjected to DNA analysis compared to
those conducted between the putative father and child alone.[54]
DNA analysis that excludes the putative father from paternity should be conclusive proof of non-
paternity. If the value of W is less than 99.9%, the results of the DNA analysis should be considered as
corroborative evidence. If the value of W is 99.9% or higher, then there is refutable presumption of
paternity.[55] This refutable presumption of paternity should be subjected to the Vallejo standards.
Right Against Self-Incrimination
Section 17, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person shall be compelled to be a
witness against himself. Petitioner asserts that obtaining samples from him for DNA testing violates his
right against self-incrimination. Petitioner ignores our earlier pronouncements that the privilege is
applicable only to testimonial evidence. Again, we quote relevant portions of the trial courts 3 February
2000 Order with approval:
Obtaining DNA samples from an accused in a criminal case or from the respondent in a paternity
case, contrary to the belief of respondent in this action, will not violate the right against self-
incrimination. This privilege applies only to evidence that is communicative in essence taken under
duress (People vs. Olvis, 154 SCRA 513, 1987). The Supreme Court has ruled that the right against
self-incrimination is just a prohibition on the use of physical or moral compulsion to extort
communication (testimonial evidence) from a defendant, not an exclusion of evidence taken from his
body when it may be material. As such, a defendant can be required to submit to a test to extract
virus from his body (as cited in People vs. Olvis, Supra); the substance emitting from the body of the
accused was received as evidence for acts of lasciviousness (US vs. Tan Teng, 23 Phil. 145); morphine
forced out of the mouth was received as proof (US vs. Ong Siu Hong, 36 Phil. 735); an order by the
judge for the witness to put on pair of pants for size was allowed (People vs. Otadora, 86 Phil. 244);
and the court can compel a woman accused of adultery to submit for pregnancy test (Villaflor vs.
Summers, 41 Phil. 62), since the gist of the privilege is the restriction on testimonial compulsion.[56]
The policy of the Family Code to liberalize the rule on the investigation of the paternity and filiation
of children, especially of illegitimate children, is without prejudice to the right of the putative parent to
claim his or her own defenses.[57] Where the evidence to aid this investigation is obtainable through the
facilities of modern science and technology, such evidence should be considered subject to the limits
established by the law, rules, and jurisprudence.
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition. We AFFIRM the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated
29 November 2000 in CA-G.R. SP No. 59766. We also AFFIRM the Orders dated 3 February 2000 and 8
June 2000 issued by Branch 48 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil Case No. SP-98-88759.
SO ORDERED.
JENIE SAN JUAN DELA CRUZ vs. GRACIA
G.R. No. 177728 July 31, 2009

For several months in 2005, then 21-year old petitioner Jenie San Juan Dela Cruz (Jenie) and then
19-year old Christian Dominique Sto. Tomas Aquino (Dominique) lived together as husband and wife
without the benefit of marriage. They resided in the house of Dominiques parents Domingo B. Aquino and
Raquel Sto. Tomas Aquino at Pulang-lupa, Dulumbayan, Teresa, Rizal.

On September 4, 2005, Dominique died.[1] After almost two months, or on November 2, 2005,
Jenie, who continued to live with Dominiques parents, gave birth to her herein co-petitioner minor child
Christian Dela Cruz Aquino at the Antipolo Doctors Hospital, Antipolo City.

Jenie applied for registration of the childs birth, using Dominiques surname Aquino, with the Office
of the City Civil Registrar, Antipolo City, in support of which she submitted the childs Certificate of Live
Birth,[2] Affidavit to Use the Surname of the Father[3] (AUSF) which she had executed and signed,
and Affidavit of Acknowledgmentexecuted by Dominiques father Domingo Butch Aquino.[4] Both affidavits
attested, inter alia, that during the lifetime of Dominique, he had continuously acknowledged his yet unborn
child, and that his paternity had never been questioned. Jenie attached to the AUSF a document entitled
AUTOBIOGRAPHY which Dominique, during his lifetime, wrote in his own handwriting, the pertinent
portions of which read:

AQUINO, CHRISTIAN DOMINIQUE S.T.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

IM CHRISTIAN DOMINIQUE STO. TOMAS AQUINO, 19 YEARS OF AGE TURNING 20


THIS COMING OCTOBER 31, 2005.[5] I RESIDE AT PULANG-LUPA STREET BRGY.
DULUMBAYAN, TERESA, RIZAL. I AM THE YOUNGEST IN OUR FAMILY. I HAVE ONE
BROTHER NAMED JOSEPH BUTCH STO. TOMAS AQUINO. MY FATHERS NAME IS DOMINGO
BUTCH AQUINO AND MY MOTHERS NAME IS RAQUEL STO. TOMAS AQUINO. x x x.
xxxx

AS OF NOW I HAVE MY WIFE NAMED JENIE DELA CRUZ. WE MET EACH OTHER IN
OUR HOMETOWN, TEREZA RIZAL. AT FIRST WE BECAME GOOD FRIENDS, THEN WE FELL
IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER, THEN WE BECAME GOOD COUPLES. AND AS OF NOW SHE IS
PREGNANT AND FOR THAT WE LIVE TOGETHER IN OUR HOUSE NOW. THATS
ALL.[6] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

By letter dated November 11, 2005,[7] the City Civil Registrar of Antipolo City, Ronald Paul S.
Gracia (respondent), denied Jenies application for registration of the childs name in this wise:

7. Rule 7 of Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2004 (Implementing Rules and Regulations of
Republic Act No. 9255 [An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children to Use the Surname of their Father,
Amending for the Purpose, Article 176 of Executive Order No. 209, otherwise Known as the Family
Code of the Philippines]) provides that:

Rule 7. Requirements for the Child to Use the Surname of the Father

7.1 For Births Not Yet Registered

7.1.1 The illegitimate child shall use the surname of the father if a public document is executed by the
father, either at the back of the Certificate of Live Birth or in a separate document.
7.1.2 If admission of paternity is made through a private handwritten instrument, the child shall use the
surname of the father, provided the registration is supported by the following documents:

a. AUSF[8]
b. Consent of the child, if 18 years old and over at the time of the filing of the document.
c. Any two of the following documents showing clearly the paternity between the father and the child:

1. Employment records
2. SSS/GSIS records
3. Insurance
4. Certification of membership in any organization
5. Statement of Assets and Liability
6. Income Tax Return (ITR)
In summary, the child cannot use the surname of his father because he was born out of wedlock and the
father unfortunately died prior to his birth and has no more capacity to acknowledge his paternity to the
child (either through the back of Municipal Form No. 102 Affidavit of Acknowledgment/Admission of
Paternity or the Authority to Use the Surname of the Father). (Underscoring supplied)

Jenie and the child promptly filed a complaint[9] for injunction/registration of name against
respondent before the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, docketed as SCA Case No. 06-539, which
was raffled to Branch 73 thereof. The complaint alleged that, inter alia, the denial of registration of the
childs name is a violation of his right to use the surname of his deceased father under Article 176 of the
Family Code, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9255,[10] which provides:

Article 176. Illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental
authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this Code.
However, illegitimate children may use the surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly
recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register, or when an
admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the
father. Provided, the father has the right to institute an action before the regular courts to prove non-
filiation during his lifetime. The legitime of each illegitimate child shall consist of one-half of the
legitime of a legitimate child. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

They maintained that the Autobiography executed by Dominique constitutes an admission of paternity in a
private handwritten instrument within the contemplation of the above-quoted provision of law.

For failure to file a responsive pleading or answer despite service of summons, respondent was
declared in default.

Jenie thereupon presented evidence ex-parte. She testified on the circumstances of her common-
law relationship with Dominique and affirmed her declarations in her AUSF that during his lifetime, he had
acknowledged his yet unborn child.[11] She offered Dominiques handwritten Autobiography (Exhibit A) as
her documentary evidence-in-chief.[12] Dominiques lone brother, Joseph Butch S.T. Aquino, also testified,
corroborating Jenies declarations.[13]
By Decision[14] of April 25, 2007, the trial court dismissed the complaint for lack of cause of action
as the Autobiography was unsigned, citing paragraph 2.2, Rule 2 (Definition of Terms) of Administrative
Order (A.O.) No. 1, Series of 2004 (the Rules and Regulations Governing the Implementation of R.A.
9255) which defines private handwritten document through which a father may acknowledge an illegitimate
child as follows:

2.2 Private handwritten instrument an instrument executed in the handwriting of the father
and duly signed by him where he expressly recognizes paternity to the child. (Underscoring
supplied)

The trial court held that even if Dominique was the author of the handwritten Autobiography, the same does
not contain any express recognition of paternity.
Hence, this direct resort to the Court via Petition for Review on Certiorari raising this purely legal
issue of:

WHETHER OR NOT THE UNSIGNED HANDWRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE DECEASED


FATHER OF MINOR CHRISTIAN DELA CRUZ CAN BE CONSIDERED AS A RECOGNITION OF
PATERNITY IN A PRIVATE HANDWRITTEN INSTRUMENT WITHIN THE CONTEMPLATION OF
ARTICLE 176 OF THE FAMILY CODE, AS AMENDED BY R.A. 9255, WHICH ENTITLES THE SAID
MINOR TO USE HIS FATHERS SURNAME.[15] (Underscoring supplied)

Petitioners contend that Article 176 of the Family Code, as amended, does not expressly require
that the private handwritten instrument containing the putative fathers admission of paternity must be signed
by him. They add that the deceaseds handwritten Autobiography, though unsigned by him, is sufficient, for
the requirement in the above-quoted paragraph 2.2 of the Administrative Order that the
admission/recognition must be duly signed by the father is void as it unduly expanded the earlier-quoted
provision of Article 176 of the Family Code.[16]

Petitioners further contend that the trial court erred in not finding that Dominiques handwritten
Autobiography contains a clear and unmistakable recognition of the childs paternity.[17]

In its Comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) submits that respondents position, as
affirmed by the trial court, is in consonance with the law and thus prays for the dismissal of the petition. It
further submits that Dominiques Autobiography merely acknowledged Jenies pregnancy but not [his]
paternity of the child she was carrying in her womb.[18]
Article 176 of the Family Code, as amended by R.A. 9255, permits an illegitimate child to use the
surname of his/her father if the latter had expressly recognized him/her as his offspring through the record
of birth appearing in the civil register, or through an admission made in a public or private handwritten
instrument. The recognition made in any of these documents is, in itself, a consummated act of
acknowledgment of the childs paternity; hence, no separate action for judicial approval is necessary.[19]

Article 176 of the Family Code, as amended, does not, indeed, explicitly state that the private
handwritten instrument acknowledging the child’s paternity must be signed by the putative father. This
provision must, however, be read in conjunction with related provisions of the Family Code which require
that recognition by the father must bear his signature, thus:

Art. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the
same evidence as legitimate children.

xxxx

Art. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten


instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

x x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)


That a father who acknowledges paternity of a child through a written instrument must affix his
signature thereon is clearly implied in Article 176 of the Family Code.Paragraph 2.2, Rule 2 of A.O. No. 1,
Series of 2004, merely articulated such requirement; it did not unduly expand the import of Article 176 as
claimed by petitioners.

In the present case, however, special circumstances exist to hold that Dominiques Autobiography,
though unsigned by him, substantially satisfies the requirement of the law.

First, Dominique died about two months prior to the childs birth. Second, the relevant matters in
the Autobiography, unquestionably handwritten by Dominique, correspond to the facts culled from the
testimonial evidence Jenie proffered.[20] Third, Jenies testimony is corroborated by the Affidavit of
Acknowledgment of Dominiques father Domingo Aquino and testimony of his brother Joseph Butch
Aquino whose hereditary rights could be affected by the registration of the questioned recognition of the
child. These circumstances indicating Dominiques paternity of the child give life to his statements in his
Autobiography that JENIE DELA CRUZ is MY WIFE as WE FELL IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER
and NOW SHE IS PREGNANT AND FOR THAT WE LIVE TOGETHER.

In Herrera v. Alba,[21] the Court summarized the laws, rules, and jurisprudence on establishing
filiation, discoursing in relevant part:

Laws, Rules, and Jurisprudence


Establishing Filiation

The relevant provisions of the Family Code provide as follows:


ART. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on
the same evidence as legitimate children.
xxxx
ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or
(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and
signed by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or
(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

The Rules on Evidence include provisions on pedigree. The relevant sections of Rule 130 provide:

SEC. 39. Act or declaration about pedigree. The act or declaration of a person deceased, or unable
to testify, in respect to the pedigree of another person related to him by birth or marriage, may be received
in evidence where it occurred before the controversy, and the relationship between the two persons is shown
by evidence other than such act or declaration. The word "pedigree" includes relationship, family
genealogy, birth, marriage, death, the dates when and the places where these facts occurred, and the names
of the relatives. It embraces also facts of family history intimately connected with pedigree.

SEC. 40. Family reputation or tradition regarding pedigree. The reputation or tradition existing in
a family previous to the controversy, in respect to the pedigree of any one of its members, may be received
in evidence if the witness testifying thereon be also a member of the family, either by consanguinity or
affinity. Entries in family bibles or other family books or charts, engraving on rings, family portraits and
the like, may be received as evidence of pedigree.

This Court's rulings further specify what incriminating acts are acceptable as evidence to establish
filiation. In Pe Lim v. CA, a case petitioner often cites, we stated that the issue of paternity still has to be
resolved by such conventional evidence as the relevant incriminating verbal and written acts by the
putative father. Under Article 278 of the New Civil Code, voluntary recognition by a parent shall be made
in the record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record, or in any authentic writing. To be
effective, the claim of filiation must be made by the putative father himself and the writing must be
the writing of the putative father. A notarial agreement to support a child whose filiation is admitted by
the putative father was considered acceptable evidence. Letters to the mother vowing to be a good father to
the child and pictures of the putative father cuddling the child on various occasions, together with the
certificate of live birth, proved filiation. However, a student permanent record, a written consent to a father's
operation, or a marriage contract where the putative father gave consent, cannot be taken as authentic
writing. Standing alone, neither a certificate of baptism nor family pictures are sufficient to establish
filiation. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

In the case at bar, there is no dispute that the earlier quoted statements in Dominiques Autobiography have
been made and written by him. Taken together with the other relevant facts extant herein that Dominique,
during his lifetime, and Jenie were living together as common-law spouses for several months in 2005 at
his parents house in Pulang-lupa, Dulumbayan, Teresa, Rizal; she was pregnant when Dominique died on
September 4, 2005; and about two months after his death, Jenie gave birth to the child they sufficiently
establish that the child of Jenie is Dominiques.

In view of the pronouncements herein made, the Court sees it fit to adopt the following rules
respecting the requirement of affixing the signature of the acknowledging parent in any private handwritten
instrument wherein an admission of filiation of a legitimate or illegitimate child is made:
1) Where the private handwritten instrument is the lone piece of evidence submitted to prove
filiation, there should be strict compliance with the requirement that the same must be signed by the
acknowledging parent; and

2) Where the private handwritten instrument is accompanied by other relevant and competent
evidence, it suffices that the claim of filiation therein be shown to have been made and handwritten by the
acknowledging parent as it is merely corroborative of such other evidence.

Our laws instruct that the welfare of the child shall be the paramount consideration in resolving
questions affecting him.[22] Article 3(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child of which
the Philippines is a signatory is similarly emphatic:

Article 3

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions,
courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a
primary consideration.[23] (Underscoring supplied)

It is thus (t)he policy of the Family Code to liberalize the rule on the investigation of the paternity
and filiation of children, especially of illegitimate children x x x.[24]Too, (t)he State as parens
patriae affords special protection to children from abuse, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to
their development.[25]

In the eyes of society, a child with an unknown father bears the stigma of dishonor. It is to petitioner
minor childs best interests to allow him to bear the surname of the now deceased Dominique and enter it in
his birth certificate.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The City Civil Registrar of Antipolo City is
DIRECTED to immediately enter the surname of the late Christian Dominique Sto.
Tomas Aquino as the surname of petitioner minor Christian dela Cruz in his Certificate of Live Birth,
and record the same in the Register of Births.

SO ORDERED.
TECSON vs. COMELEC
G.R. No. 161434 March 3, 2004
Citizenship is a treasured right conferred on those whom the state believes are deserving of the
privilege. It is a precious heritage, as well as an inestimable acquisition,[1]that cannot be taken lightly
by anyone - either by those who enjoy it or by those who dispute it.
Before the Court are three consolidated cases, all of which raise a single question of profound
importance to the nation. The issue of citizenship is brought up to challenge the qualifications of a
presidential candidate to hold the highest office of the land. Our people are waiting for the judgment of the
Court with bated breath. Is Fernando Poe, Jr., the hero of silver screen, and now one of the main contenders
for the presidency, a natural-born Filipino or is he not?
The moment of introspection takes us face to face with Spanish and American colonial roots and
reminds us of the rich heritage of civil law and common law traditions, the fusion resulting in a hybrid of
laws and jurisprudence that could be no less than distinctly Filipino.
Antecedent Case Settings
On 31 December 2003, respondent Ronald Allan Kelly Poe, also known as Fernando Poe, Jr.
(hereinafter "FPJ"), filed his certificate of candidacy for the position of President of the Republic of
the Philippines under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) Party, in the forthcoming national
elections. In his certificate of candidacy, FPJ, representing himself to be a natural-born citizen of
the Philippines, stated his name to be "Fernando Jr.," or "Ronald Allan" Poe, his date of birth to be 20
August 1939 and his place of birth to be Manila.
Victorino X. Fornier, petitioner in G.R. No. 161824, entitled "Victorino X. Fornier, Petitioner, versus
Hon. Commission on Elections and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, also known as Fernando Poe, Jr.,
Respondents," initiated, on 09 January 2004, a petition docketed SPA No. 04-003 before the Commission
on Elections ("COMELEC") to disqualify FPJ and to deny due course or to cancel his certificate of
candidacy upon the thesis that FPJ made a material misrepresentation in his certificate of candidacy by
claiming to be a natural-born Filipino citizen when in truth, according to Fornier, his parents were
foreigners; his mother, Bessie Kelley Poe, was an American, and his father, Allan Poe, was a Spanish
national, being the son of Lorenzo Pou, a Spanish subject. Granting, petitioner asseverated, that Allan F.
Poe was a Filipino citizen, he could not have transmitted his Filipino citizenship to FPJ, the latter being an
illegitimate child of an alien mother. Petitioner based the allegation of the illegitimate birth of respondent
on two assertions - first, Allan F. Poe contracted a prior marriage to a certain Paulita Gomez before his
marriage to Bessie Kelley and, second, even if no such prior marriage had existed, Allan F. Poe, married
Bessie Kelly only a year after the birth of respondent.
In the hearing before the Third Division of the COMELEC on 19 January 2004, petitioner, in support
of his claim, presented several documentary exhibits - 1) a copy of the certificate of birth of FPJ, 2) a
certified photocopy of an affidavit executed in Spanish by Paulita Poe y Gomez attesting to her having filed
a case for bigamy and concubinage against the father of respondent, Allan F. Poe, after discovering his
bigamous relationship with Bessie Kelley, 3) an English translation of the affidavit aforesaid, 4) a certified
photocopy of the certificate of birth of Allan F. Poe, 5) a certification issued by the Director of the Records
Management and Archives Office, attesting to the fact that there was no record in the National Archives
that a Lorenzo Poe or Lorenzo Pou resided or entered the Philippines before 1907, and 6) a certification
from the Officer-In-Charge of the Archives Division of the National Archives to the effect that no available
information could be found in the files of the National Archives regarding the birth of Allan F. Poe.
On his part, respondent, presented twenty-two documentary pieces of evidence, the more significant
ones being - a) a certification issued by Estrella M. Domingo of the Archives Division of the National
Archives that there appeared to be no available information regarding the birth of Allan F. Poe in the registry
of births for San Carlos, Pangasinan, b) a certification issued by the Officer-In-Charge of the Archives
Division of the National Archives that no available information about the marriage of Allan F. Poe and
Paulita Gomez could be found, c) a certificate of birth of Ronald Allan Poe, d) Original Certificate of Title
No. P-2247 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Pangasinan, in the name of Lorenzo Pou, e) copies
of Tax Declaration No. 20844, No. 20643, No. 23477 and No. 23478 in the name of Lorenzo Pou, f) a copy
of the certificate of death of Lorenzo Pou, g) a copy of the purported marriage contract between Fernando
Pou and Bessie Kelley, and h) a certification issued by the City Civil Registrar of San Carlos City,
Pangasinan, stating that the records of birth in the said office during the period of from 1900 until May
1946 were totally destroyed during World War II.
On 23 January 2004, the COMELEC dismissed SPA No. 04-003 for lack of merit. Three days later,
or on 26 January 2004, Fornier filed his motion for reconsideration. The motion was denied on 06 February
2004 by the COMELEC en banc. On 10 February 2004, petitioner assailed the decision of the COMELEC
before this Court conformably with Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, of the Revised Rules of Civil
Procedure. The petition, docketed G. R. No. 161824, likewise prayed for a temporary restraining order, a
writ of preliminary injunction or any other resolution that would stay the finality and/or execution of the
COMELEC resolutions.
The other petitions, later consolidated with G. R. No. 161824, would include G. R. No. 161434, entitled
"Maria Jeanette C. Tecson, and Felix B. Desiderio, Jr., vs. The Commission on Elections, Ronald Allan
Kelley Poe (a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr.), and Victorino X. Fornier," and the other, docketed G. R. No. 161634,
entitled "Zoilo Antonio G. Velez, vs. Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr.," both challenging
the jurisdiction of the COMELEC and asserting that, under Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987
Constitution, only the Supreme Court had original and exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the basic issue on
the case.
Jurisdiction of the Court
In G. R. No. 161824
In seeking the disqualification of the candidacy of FPJ and to have the COMELEC deny due course to
or cancel FPJs certificate of candidacy for alleged misrepresentation of a material fact (i.e., that FPJ was a
natural-born citizen) before the COMELEC, petitioner Fornier invoked Section 78 of the Omnibus Election
Code

Section 78. Petition to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy. --- A verified petition
seeking to deny due course or to cancel a certificate of candidacy may be filed by any person exclusively
on the ground that any material representation contained therein as required under Section 74 hereof is
false

in consonance with the general powers of COMELEC expressed in Section 52 of the Omnibus Election
Code -

Section 52. Powers and functions of the Commission on Elections. In addition to the powers and functions
conferred upon it by the Constitution, the Commission shall have exclusive charge of the enforcement and
administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and
honest elections -

and in relation to Article 69 of the Omnibus Election Code which would authorize "any interested party" to
file a verified petition to deny or cancel the certificate of candidacy of any nuisance candidate.
Decisions of the COMELEC on disqualification cases may be reviewed by the Supreme Court per
Rule 64[2] in an action for certiorari under Rule 65[3] of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 7,
Article IX, of the 1987 Constitution also reads
"Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any case or matter brought before it
within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution. A case or matter is deemed
submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum, required by
the rules of the Commission or by the Commission itself. Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution
or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on
certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof."

Additionally, Section 1, Article VIII, of the same Constitution provides that judicial power is vested
in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law which power includes the duty
of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and
enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack
or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.
It is sufficiently clear that the petition brought up in G. R. No. 161824 was aptly elevated to, and could
well be taken cognizance of by, this Court. A contrary view could be a gross denial to our people of their
fundamental right to be fully informed, and to make a proper choice, on who could or should be elected to
occupy the highest government post in the land.
In G. R. No. 161434 and G. R. No. 161634
Petitioners Tecson, et al., in G. R. No. 161434, and Velez, in G. R. No. 161634, invoke the provisions
of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution in assailing the jurisdiction of the
COMELEC when it took cognizance of SPA No. 04-003 and in urging the Supreme Court to instead take
on the petitions they directly instituted before it. The Constitutional provision cited reads:

"The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns,
and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose."

The provision is an innovation of the 1987 Constitution. The omission in the 1935 and the 1973 Constitution
to designate any tribunal to be the sole judge of presidential and vice-presidential contests, has constrained
this Court to declare, in Lopez vs. Roxas,[4] as not (being) justiciable controversies or disputes involving
contests on the elections, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President. The constitutional
lapse prompted Congress, on 21 June 1957, to enact Republic Act No. 1793, "An Act Constituting an
Independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal to Try, Hear and Decide Protests Contesting the Election of
the President-Elect and the Vice-President-Elect of the Philippines and Providing for the Manner of
Hearing the Same."Republic Act 1793 designated the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the
Supreme Court to be the members of the tribunal. Although the subsequent adoption of the parliamentary
form of government under the 1973 Constitution might have implicitly affected Republic Act No. 1793,
the statutory set-up, nonetheless, would now be deemed revived under the present Section 4, paragraph 7,
of the 1987 Constitution.
Ordinary usage would characterize a "contest" in reference to a post-election scenario. Election
contests consist of either an election protest or a quo warranto which, although two distinct remedies,
would have one objective in view, i.e., to dislodge the winning candidate from office. A perusal of the
phraseology in Rule 12, Rule 13, and Rule 14 of the "Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal,"
promulgated by the Supreme Court en banc on 18 April 1992, would support this premise -

Rule 12. Jurisdiction. - The Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns,
and qualifications of the President or Vice-President of the Philippines.
Rule 13. How Initiated. - An election contest is initiated by the filing of an election protest or a petition for
quo warranto against the President or Vice-President. An election protest shall not include a petition for quo
warranto. A petition for quo warranto shall not include an election protest.

Rule 14. Election Protest. - Only the registered candidate for President or for Vice-President of the
Philippines who received the second or third highest number of votes may contest the election of the
President or the Vice-President, as the case may be, by filing a verified petition with the Clerk of the
Presidential Electoral Tribunal within thirty (30) days after the proclamation of the winner.

The rules categorically speak of the jurisdiction of the tribunal over contests relating to the election,
returns and qualifications of the "President" or "Vice-President", of the Philippines, and not of "candidates"
for President or Vice-President. A quo warranto proceeding is generally defined as being an action against
a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office.[5] In such context, the
election contest can only contemplate a post-election scenario. In Rule 14, only a registered candidate who
would have received either the second or third highest number of votes could file an election protest. This
rule again presupposes a post-election scenario.
It is fair to conclude that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, defined by Section 4, paragraph 7, of
the 1987 Constitution, would not include cases directly brought before it, questioning the qualifications of
a candidate for the presidency or vice-presidency before the elections are held.
Accordingly, G. R. No. 161434, entitled "Maria Jeanette C. Tecson, et al., vs. Commission on
Elections et al.," and G. R. No. 161634, entitled "Zoilo Antonio Velez vs. Ronald Allan Kelley
Poe a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr." would have to be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
The Citizenship Issue
Now, to the basic issue; it should be helpful to first give a brief historical background on the concept
of citizenship.
Perhaps, the earliest understanding of citizenship was that given by Aristotle, who, sometime in 384
to 322 B.C., described the "citizen" to refer to a man who shared in the administration of justice and in the
holding of an office.[6] Aristotle saw its significance if only to determine the constituency of the "State,"
which he described as being composed of such persons who would be adequate in number to achieve a self-
sufficient existence.[7] The concept grew to include one who would both govern and be governed, for which
qualifications like autonomy, judgment and loyalty could be expected. Citizenship was seen to deal with
rights and entitlements, on the one hand, and with concomitant obligations, on the other. [8] In its ideal
setting, a citizen was active in public life and fundamentally willing to submit his private interests to the
general interest of society.
The concept of citizenship had undergone changes over the centuries. In the 18th century, the concept
was limited, by and large, to civil citizenship, which established the rights necessary for individual freedom,
such as rights to property, personal liberty and justice.[9] Its meaning expanded during the 19th century to
include political citizenship, which encompassed the right to participate in the exercise of political
power.[10] The 20th century saw the next stage of the development of social citizenship, which laid emphasis
on the right of the citizen to economic well-being and social security.[11] The idea of citizenship has gained
expression in the modern welfare state as it so developed in Western Europe. An ongoing and final stage
of development, in keeping with the rapidly shrinking global village, might well be the internationalization
of citizenship.[12]
The Local Setting - from Spanish Times to the Present
There was no such term as "Philippine citizens" during the Spanish regime but "subjects of Spain" or
"Spanish subjects."[13] In church records, the natives were called 'indios', denoting a low regard for the
inhabitants of the archipelago. Spanish laws on citizenship became highly codified during the 19th century
but their sheer number made it difficult to point to one comprehensive law. Not all of these citizenship laws
of Spain however, were made to apply to the Philippine Islands except for those explicitly extended by
Royal Decrees.[14]
Spanish laws on citizenship were traced back to the Novisima Recopilacion, promulgated in Spain on
16 July 1805 but as to whether the law was extended to the Philippines remained to be the subject of
differing views among experts;[15] however, three royal decrees were undisputably made applicable to
Spaniards in the Philippines - the Order de la Regencia of 14 August 1841,[16] the Royal Decree of 23
August 1868 specifically defining the political status of children born in the Philippine Islands,[17] and
finally, the Ley Extranjera de Ultramar of 04 July 1870, which was expressly made applicable to the
Philippines by the Royal Decree of 13 July 1870.[18]
The Spanish Constitution of 1876 was never extended to the Philippine Islands because of the express
mandate of its Article 89, according to which the provisions of the Ultramar among which this country was
included, would be governed by special laws.[19]
It was only the Civil Code of Spain, made effective in this jurisdiction on 18 December 1889, which
came out with the first categorical enumeration of who were Spanish citizens. -

(a) Persons born in Spanish territory,

(b) Children of a Spanish father or mother, even if they were born outside of Spain,

(c) Foreigners who have obtained naturalization papers,

(d) Those who, without such papers, may have become domiciled inhabitants of any town of the
Monarchy.[20]

The year 1898 was another turning point in Philippine history. Already in the state of decline as a
superpower, Spain was forced to so cede her sole colony in the East to an upcoming world power, the
United States. An accepted principle of international law dictated that a change in sovereignty, while
resulting in an abrogation of all political laws then in force, would have no effect on civil laws, which would
remain virtually intact.
The Treaty of Paris was entered into on 10 December 1898 between Spain and the United
States.[21] Under Article IX of the treaty, the civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the
territories ceded to the United States would be determined by its Congress -

"Spanish subjects, natives of the Peninsula, residing in the territory over which Spain by the present treaty
relinquishes or cedes her sovereignty may remain in such territory or may remove therefrom, retaining in
either event all their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property or of its
proceeds; and they shall also have the right to carry on their industry, commerce, and professions, being
subject in respect thereof to such laws as are applicable to foreigners. In case they remain in the territory
they may preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain by making, before a court of record, within a year
from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, a declaration of their decision to preserve such
allegiance; in default of which declaration they shall be held to have renounced it and to have adopted the
nationality of the territory in which they reside.

Thus
"The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United
States shall be determined by the Congress."[22]

Upon the ratification of the treaty, and pending legislation by the United States Congress on the subject,
the native inhabitants of the Philippines ceased to be Spanish subjects. Although they did not become
American citizens, they, however, also ceased to be "aliens" under American laws and were thus issued
passports describing them to be citizens of the Philippines entitled to the protection of the United States.
The term "citizens of the Philippine Islands" appeared for the first time in the Philippine Bill of 1902,
also commonly referred to as the Philippine Organic Act of 1902, the first comprehensive legislation of the
Congress of the United States on the Philippines -

".... that all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands continuing to reside therein, who were Spanish subjects
on the 11th day of April, 1891, and then resided in said Islands, and their children born subsequent thereto,
shall be deemed and held to be citizens of the Philippine Islands and as such entitled to the protection of
the United States, except such as shall have elected to preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain in
accordance with the provisions of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain, signed at Paris,
December tenth eighteen hundred and ninety eight."[23]

Under the organic act, a citizen of the Philippines was one who was an inhabitant of the Philippines, and a
Spanish subject on the 11th day of April 1899. The term inhabitant was taken to include 1) a native-born
inhabitant, 2) an inhabitant who was a native of Peninsular Spain, and 3) an inhabitant who obtained
Spanish papers on or before 11 April 1899.[24]
Controversy arose on to the status of children born in the Philippines from 11 April 1899 to 01 July
1902, during which period no citizenship law was extant in the Philippines. Weight was given to the view,
articulated in jurisprudential writing at the time, that the common law principle of jus soli, otherwise also
known as the principle of territoriality, operative in the United States and England, governed those born in
the Philippine Archipelago within that period.[25] More about this later.
In 23 March 1912, the Congress of the United States made the following amendment to the Philippine
Bill of 1902 -

"Provided, That the Philippine Legislature is hereby authorized to provide by law for the acquisition of
Philippine citizenship by those natives of the Philippine Islands who do not come within the foregoing
provisions, the natives of other insular possession of the United States, and such other persons residing in
the Philippine Islands who would become citizens of the United States, under the laws of the United States,
if residing therein."[26]

With the adoption of the Philippine Bill of 1902, the concept of "Philippine citizens" had for the first
time crystallized. The word "Filipino" was used by William H. Taft, the first Civil Governor General in the
Philippines when he initially made mention of it in his slogan, "The Philippines for the Filipinos." In 1916,
the Philippine Autonomy Act, also known as the Jones Law restated virtually the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902, as so amended by the Act of Congress in 1912 -

That all inhabitants of the Philippine Islands who were Spanish subjects on the eleventh day of April,
eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, and then resided in said Islands, and their children born subsequently
thereto, shall be deemed and held to be citizens of the Philippine Islands, except such as shall have elected
to preserve their allegiance to the Crown of Spain in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of peace
between the United States and Spain, signed at Paris December tenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight
and except such others as have since become citizens of some other country; Provided, That the Philippine
Legislature, herein provided for, is hereby authorized to provide for the acquisition of Philippine citizenship
by those natives of the Philippine Islands who do not come within the foregoing provisions, the natives of
the insular possessions of the United States, and such other persons residing in the Philippine Islands who
are citizens of the United States, or who could become citizens of the United States under the laws of the
United States, if residing therein."

Under the Jones Law, a native-born inhabitant of the Philippines was deemed to be a citizen of the
Philippines as of 11 April 1899 if he was 1) a subject of Spain on 11 April 1899, 2) residing in the
Philippines on said date, and, 3) since that date, not a citizen of some other country.
While there was, at one brief time, divergent views on whether or not jus soli was a mode of acquiring
citizenship, the 1935 Constitution brought to an end to any such link with common law, by adopting, once
and for all, jus sanguinis or blood relationship as being the basis of Filipino citizenship -

Section 1, Article III, 1935 Constitution. The following are citizens of the Philippines -

(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this Constitution

(2) Those born in the Philippines Islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption of this Constitution,
had been elected to public office in the Philippine Islands.

(3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines.

(4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and upon reaching the age of majority, elect
Philippine citizenship.

(5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

Subsection (4), Article III, of the 1935 Constitution, taken together with existing civil law provisions
at the time, which provided that women would automatically lose their Filipino citizenship and acquire that
of their foreign husbands, resulted in discriminatory situations that effectively incapacitated the women
from transmitting their Filipino citizenship to their legitimate children and required illegitimate children of
Filipino mothers to still elect Filipino citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. Seeking to correct this
anomaly, as well as fully cognizant of the newly found status of Filipino women as equals to men, the
framers of the 1973 Constitution crafted the provisions of the new Constitution on citizenship to reflect
such concerns -

Section 1, Article III, 1973 Constitution - The following are citizens of the Philippines:

(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution.

(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.

(3) Those who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution of nineteen
hundred and thirty-five.

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

For good measure, Section 2 of the same article also further provided that
"A female citizen of the Philippines who marries an alien retains her Philippine citizenship, unless by her
act or omission she is deemed, under the law to have renounced her citizenship."

The 1987 Constitution generally adopted the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, except for subsection
(3) thereof that aimed to correct the irregular situation generated by the questionable proviso in the 1935
Constitution.
Section I, Article IV, 1987 Constitution now provides:

The following are citizens of the Philippines:

(1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution.

(2) Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines.

(3) Those born before January 17, 1973 of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon
reaching the age of majority; and

(4) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.

The Case Of FPJ


Section 2, Article VII, of the 1987 Constitution expresses:

"No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered
voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the
Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election."

The term "natural-born citizens," is defined to include "those who are citizens of the Philippines from
birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship."[27]
The date, month and year of birth of FPJ appeared to be 20 August 1939 during the regime of the 1935
Constitution. Through its history, four modes of acquiring citizenship - naturalization, jus soli, res
judicata and jus sanguinis[28] had been in vogue. Only two, i.e., jus soli and jus sanguinis, could qualify a
person to being a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.Jus soli, per Roa vs. Collector of
Customs[29] (1912), did not last long. With the adoption of the 1935 Constitution and the reversal
of Roa in Tan Chong vs. Secretary of Labor[30] (1947), jus sanguinis or blood relationship would now
become the primary basis of citizenship by birth.
Documentary evidence adduced by petitioner would tend to indicate that the earliest established direct
ascendant of FPJ was his paternal grandfather Lorenzo Pou, married to Marta Reyes, the father of Allan F.
Poe. While the record of birth of Lorenzo Pou had not been presented in evidence, his death certificate,
however, identified him to be a Filipino, a resident of San Carlos, Pangasinan, and 84 years old at the time
of his death on 11 September 1954. The certificate of birth of the father of FPJ, Allan F. Poe, showed that
he was born on 17 May 1915 to an Español father, Lorenzo Pou, and a mestiza Español mother, Marta
Reyes. Introduced by petitioner was an uncertified copy of a supposed certificate of the alleged marriage
of Allan F. Poe and Paulita Gomez on 05 July 1936. The marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe and Bessie
Kelley reflected the date of their marriage to be on 16 September 1940. In the same certificate, Allan F. Poe
was stated to be twenty-five years old, unmarried, and a Filipino citizen, and Bessie Kelley to be twenty-
two years old, unmarried, and an American citizen. The birth certificate of FPJ, would disclose that he was
born on 20 August 1939 to Allan F. Poe, a Filipino, twenty-four years old, married to Bessie Kelly, an
American citizen, twenty-one years old and married.
Considering the reservations made by the parties on the veracity of some of the entries on the birth
certificate of respondent and the marriage certificate of his parents, the only conclusions that could be drawn
with some degree of certainty from the documents would be that -

1. The parents of FPJ were Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley;

2. FPJ was born to them on 20 August 1939;

3. Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley were married to each other on 16 September, 1940;

4. The father of Allan F. Poe was Lorenzo Poe; and

5. At the time of his death on 11 September 1954, Lorenzo Poe was 84 years old.

Would the above facts be sufficient or insufficient to establish the fact that FPJ is a natural-born
Filipino citizen? The marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe and Bessie Kelley, the birth certificate of FPJ, and
the death certificate of Lorenzo Pou are documents of public record in the custody of a public officer. The
documents have been submitted in evidence by both contending parties during the proceedings before the
COMELEC.
The birth certificate of FPJ was marked Exhibit "A" for petitioner and Exhibit "3" for respondent. The
marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe to Bessie Kelley was submitted as Exhibit "21" for respondent. The
death certificate of Lorenzo Pou was submitted by respondent as his Exhibit "5." While the last two
documents were submitted in evidence for respondent, the admissibility thereof, particularly in reference
to the facts which they purported to show, i.e., the marriage certificate in relation to the date of marriage of
Allan F. Poe to Bessie Kelley and the death certificate relative to the death of Lorenzo Pou on 11 September
1954 in San Carlos, Pangasinan, were all admitted by petitioner, who had utilized those material statements
in his argument.All three documents were certified true copies of the originals.

Section 3, Rule 130, Rules of Court states that -

Original document must be produced; exceptions. - When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a
document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following
cases:

xxxxxxxxx

(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public office or is recorded in a public office.

Being public documents, the death certificate of Lorenzo Pou, the marriage certificate of Allan F. Poe and
Bessie Kelly, and the birth certificate of FPJ, constitute prima facie proof of their contents. Section 44, Rule
130, of the Rules of Court provides:

Entries in official records. Entries in official records made in the performance of his duty by a public officer
of the Philippines, or by a person in the performance of a duty specially enjoined by law, are prima
facie evidence of the facts therein stated.
The trustworthiness of public documents and the value given to the entries made therein could be
grounded on 1) the sense of official duty in the preparation of the statement made, 2) the penalty which is
usually affixed to a breach of that duty, 3) the routine and disinterested origin of most such statements, and
4) the publicity of record which makes more likely the prior exposure of such errors as might have
occurred.[31]
The death certificate of Lorenzo Pou would indicate that he died on 11 September 1954, at the age of
84 years, in San Carlos, Pangasinan. It could thus be assumed that Lorenzo Pou was born sometime in the
year 1870 when the Philippines was still a colony of Spain. Petitioner would argue that Lorenzo Pou was
not in the Philippines during the crucial period of from 1898 to 1902 considering that there was no existing
record about such fact in the Records Management and Archives Office. Petitioner, however, likewise
failed to show that Lorenzo Pou was at any other place during the same period. In his death certificate, the
residence of Lorenzo Pou was stated to be San Carlos, Pangasinan. In the absence of any evidence to the
contrary, it should be sound to conclude, or at least to presume, that the place of residence of a person at
the time of his death was also his residence before death. It would be extremely doubtful if the Records
Management and Archives Office would have had complete records of all residents of the Philippines from
1898 to 1902.
Proof of Paternity and Filiation
Under Civil Law.
Petitioner submits, in any case, that in establishing filiation (relationship or civil status of the child to
the father [or mother]) or paternity (relationship or civil status of the father to the child) of an illegitimate
child, FPJ evidently being an illegitimate son according to petitioner, the mandatory rules under civil law
must be used.
Under the Civil Code of Spain, which was in force in the Philippines from 08 December 1889 up until
the day prior to 30 August 1950 when the Civil Code of the Philippines took effect, acknowledgment was
required to establish filiation or paternity. Acknowledgment was either judicial (compulsory) or
voluntary. Judicial or compulsory acknowledgment was possible only if done during the lifetime of the
putative parent; voluntary acknowledgment could only be had in a record of birth, a will, or a public
document.[32] Complementary to the new code was Act No. 3753 or the Civil Registry Law expressing in
Section 5 thereof, that -

In case of an illegitimate child, the birth certificate shall be signed and sworn to jointly by the parents of
the infant or only by the mother if the father refuses. In the latter case, it shall not be permissible to state or
reveal in the document the name of the father who refuses to acknowledge the child, or to give therein any
information by which such father could be identified.

In order that the birth certificate could then be utilized to prove voluntary acknowledgment of filiation or
paternity, the certificate was required to be signed or sworn to by the father. The failure of such requirement
rendered the same useless as being an authoritative document of recognition.[33] In Mendoza vs.
Mella,[34] the Court ruled -

"Since Rodolfo was born in 1935, after the registry law was enacted, the question here really is whether or
not his birth certificate (Exhibit 1), which is merely a certified copy of the registry record, may be relied
upon as sufficient proof of his having been voluntarily recognized. No such reliance, in our judgment, may
be placed upon it. While it contains the names of both parents, there is no showing that they signed the
original, let alone swore to its contents as required in Section 5 of Act No. 3753. For all that might have
happened, it was not even they or either of them who furnished the data to be entered in the civil register.
Petitioners say that in any event the birth certificate is in the nature of a public document wherein voluntary
recognition of a natural child may also be made, according to the same Article 131. True enough, but in
such a case, there must be a clear statement in the document that the parent recognizes the child as his or
her own."

In the birth certificate of respondent FPJ, presented by both parties, nowhere in the document was the
signature of Allan F. Poe found. There being no will apparently executed, or at least shown to have been
executed, by decedent Allan F. Poe, the only other proof of voluntary recognition remained to be "some
other public document." In Pareja vs. Pareja,[35] this Court defined what could constitute such a document
as proof of voluntary acknowledgment:

"Under the Spanish Civil Code there are two classes of public documents, those executed by private
individuals which must be authenticated by notaries, and those issued by competent public officials by
reason of their office. The public document pointed out in Article 131 as one of the means by which
recognition may be made belongs to the first class."

Let us leave it at that for the moment.


The 1950 Civil Code categorized the acknowledgment or recognition of illegitimate children into
voluntary, legal or compulsory. Voluntary recognition was required to be expressedly made in a record of
birth, a will, a statement before a court of record or in any authentic writing. Legal acknowledgment took
place in favor of full blood brothers and sisters of an illegitimate child who was recognized or judicially
declared as natural. Compulsory acknowledgment could be demanded generally in cases when the child
had in his favor any evidence to prove filiation.Unlike an action to claim legitimacy which would last during
the lifetime of the child, and might pass exceptionally to the heirs of the child, an action to claim
acknowledgment, however, could only be brought during the lifetime of the presumed parent.
Amicus Curiae Ruben F. Balane defined, during the oral argument, "authentic writing," so as to be an
authentic writing for purposes of voluntary recognition, simply as being a genuine or indubitable writing
of the father. The term would include a public instrument (one duly acknowledged before a notary public
or other competent official) or a private writing admitted by the father to be his.
The Family Code has further liberalized the rules; Article 172, Article 173, and Article 175 provide:

Art. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed
by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or

(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

Art. 173. The action to claim legitimacy may be brought by the child during his or her lifetime and shall be
transmitted to the heirs should the child die during minority or in a state of insanity. In these cases, the heirs
shall have a period of five years within which to institute the action.

The action already commenced by the child shall survive notwithstanding the death of either or both of the
parties.
x x x x x x x x x.

Art. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same,
evidence as legitimate children.

The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except when the action is based
on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the action may be brought during the lifetime of the
alleged parent.

The provisions of the Family Code are retroactively applied; Article 256 of the code reads:

"Art. 256. This Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or
acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.

Thus, in Vda. de Sy-Quia vs. Court of Appeals,[36] the Court has ruled:

"We hold that whether Jose was a voluntarily recognized natural child should be decided under Article 278
of the Civil Code of the Philippines. Article 2260 of that Code provides that 'the voluntary recognition of a
natural child shall take place according to this Code, even if the child was born before the effectivity of this
body of laws' or before August 30, 1950. Hence, Article 278 may be given retroactive effect."

It should be apparent that the growing trend to liberalize the acknowledgment or recognition of
illegitimate children is an attempt to break away from the traditional idea of keeping well apart legitimate
and non-legitimate relationships within the family in favor of the greater interest and welfare of the
child. The provisions are intended to merely govern the private and personal affairs of the family. There is
little, if any, to indicate that the legitimate or illegitimate civil status of the individual would also affect his
political rights or, in general, his relationship to the State.While, indeed, provisions on "citizenship" could
be found in the Civil Code, such provisions must be taken in the context of private relations, the domain of
civil law; particularly -

"Civil Law is that branch of law which has for its double purpose the organization of the family and the
regulation of property. It has thus [been] defined as the mass of precepts which determine and regulate the
relations of assistance, authority and obedience among members of a family, and those which exist among
members of a society for the protection of private interests."[37]

In Yaez de Barnuevo vs. Fuster,[38] the Court has held:

"In accordance with Article 9 of the Civil Code of Spain, x x x the laws relating to family rights and duties,
or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons, govern Spaniards although they reside in a foreign
country; that, in consequence, 'all questions of a civil nature, such as those dealing with the validity or
nullity of the matrimonial bond, the domicile of the husband and wife, their support, as between them, the
separation of their properties, the rules governing property, marital authority, division of conjugal property,
the classification of their property, legal causes for divorce, the extent of the latter, the authority to decree
it, and, in general, the civil effects of marriage and divorce upon the persons and properties of the spouses,
are questions that are governed exclusively by the national law of the husband and wife."

The relevance of "citizenship" or "nationality" to Civil Law is best exemplified in Article 15 of the
Civil Code, stating that -
"Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are
binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad" -

that explains the need to incorporate in the code a reiteration of the Constitutional provisions on
citizenship. Similarly, citizenship is significant in civil relationships found in different parts of the Civil
Code,[39] such as on successional rights and family relations.[40] In adoption, for instance, an adopted child
would be considered the child of his adoptive parents and accorded the same rights as their legitimate child
but such legal fiction extended only to define his rights under civil law[41] and not his political status.
Civil law provisions point to an obvious bias against illegitimacy. This discriminatory attitude may be
traced to the Spanish family and property laws, which, while defining proprietary and successional rights
of members of the family, provided distinctions in the rights of legitimate and illegitimate children. In the
monarchial set-up of old Spain, the distribution and inheritance of titles and wealth were strictly according
to bloodlines and the concern to keep these bloodlines uncontaminated by foreign blood was paramount.
These distinctions between legitimacy and illegitimacy were codified in the Spanish Civil Code, and
the invidious discrimination survived when the Spanish Civil Code became the primary source of our own
Civil Code. Such distinction, however, remains and should remain only in the sphere of civil law and not
unduly impede or impinge on the domain of political law.
The proof of filiation or paternity for purposes of determining his citizenship status should thus be
deemed independent from and not inextricably tied up with that prescribed for civil law purposes. The Civil
Code or Family Code provisions on proof of filiation or paternity, although good law, do not have preclusive
effects on matters alien to personal and family relations. The ordinary rules on evidence could well and
should govern. For instance, the matter about pedigree is not necessarily precluded from being applicable
by the Civil Code or Family Code provisions.
Section 39, Rule 130, of the Rules of Court provides -

Act or Declaration about pedigree. The act or declaration of a person deceased, or unable to testify, in
respect to the pedigree of another person related to him by birth or marriage, may be received in evidence
where it occurred before the controversy, and the relationship between the two persons is shown by
evidence other than such act or declaration. The word `pedigree includes relationship, family genealogy,
birth, marriage, death, the dates when and the places where these facts occurred, and the names of the
relatives. It embraces also facts of family history intimately connected with pedigree.

For the above rule to apply, it would be necessary that (a) the declarant is already dead or unable to
testify, (b) the pedigree of a person must be at issue, (c) the declarant must be a relative of the person whose
pedigree is in question, (d) declaration must be made before the controversy has occurred, and (e) the
relationship between the declarant and the person whose pedigree is in question must be shown by evidence
other than such act or declaration.
Thus, the duly notarized declaration made by Ruby Kelley Mangahas, sister of Bessie Kelley Poe
submitted as Exhibit 20 before the COMELEC, might be accepted to prove the acts of Allan F. Poe,
recognizing his own paternal relationship with FPJ, i.e, living together with Bessie Kelley and his children
(including respondent FPJ) in one house, and as one family -

"I, Ruby Kelley Mangahas, of legal age and sound mind, presently residing in Stockton, California, U.S.A.,
after being sworn in accordance with law do hereby declare that:

1. I am the sister of the late Bessie Kelley Poe.


2. Bessie Kelley Poe was the wife of Fernando Poe, Sr.

3. Fernando and Bessie Poe had a son by the name of Ronald Allan Poe, more popularly known in the Philippines
as `Fernando Poe, Jr., or `FPJ.

4. Ronald Allan Poe `FPJ was born on August 20, 1939 at St. Luke's Hospital, Magdalena Street, Manila.

xxxxxxxxx

7. Fernando Poe Sr., and my sister Bessie, met and became engaged while they were students at the University of
the Philippines in 1936. I was also introduced to Fernando Poe, Sr., by my sister that same year.

8. Fernando Poe, Sr., and my sister Bessie had their first child in 1938.

9. Fernando Poe, Sr., my sister Bessie and their first three children, Elizabeth, Ronald, Allan and Fernando II, and
myself lived together with our mother at our family's house on Dakota St. (now Jorge Bocobo St.), Malate
until the liberation of Manila in 1945, except for some months between 1943-1944.

10. Fernando Poe, Sr., and my sister, Bessie, were blessed with four (4) more children after Ronald Allan Poe.

xxxxxxxxx

18. I am executing this Declaration to attest to the fact that my nephew, Ronald Allan Poe is a natural born Filipino,
and that he is the legitimate child of Fernando Poe, Sr.

Done in City of Stockton, California, U.S.A., this 12th day of January 2004.

Ruby Kelley Mangahas

Declarant

DNA Testing
In case proof of filiation or paternity would be unlikely to satisfactorily establish or would be difficult
to obtain, DNA testing, which examines genetic codes obtained from body cells of the illegitimate child
and any physical residue of the long dead parent could be resorted to. A positive match would clear up
filiation or paternity. In Tijing vs. Court of Appeals,[42] this Court has acknowledged the strong weight of
DNA testing -

"Parentage will still be resolved using conventional methods unless we adopt the modern and scientific
ways available. Fortunately, we have now the facility and expertise in using DNA test for identification and
parentage testing. The University of the Philippines Natural Science Research Institute (UP-NSRI) DNA
Analysis Laboratory has now the capability to conduct DNA typing using short tandem repeat (STR)
analysis. The analysis is based on the fact that the DNA of a child/person has two (2) copies, one copy from
the mother and the other from the father. The DNA from the mother, the alleged father and the child are
analyzed to establish parentage. Of course, being a novel scientific technique, the use of DNA test as
evidence is still open to challenge. Eventually, as the appropriate case comes, courts should not hesitate to
rule on the admissibility of DNA evidence. For it was said, that courts should apply the results of science
when competently obtained in aid of situations presented, since to reject said result is to deny progress."
Petitioners' Argument For Jurisprudential Conclusiveness
Petitioner would have it that even if Allan F. Poe were a Filipino citizen, he could not have transmitted
his citizenship to respondent FPJ, the latter being an illegitimate child. According to petitioner, prior to his
marriage to Bessie Kelley, Allan F. Poe, on July 5, 1936, contracted marriage with a certain Paulita Gomez,
making his subsequent marriage to Bessie Kelley bigamous and respondent FPJ an illegitimate child. The
veracity of the supposed certificate of marriage between Allan F. Poe and Paulita Gomez could be most
doubtful at best. But the documentary evidence introduced by no less than respondent himself, consisting
of a birth certificate of respondent and a marriage certificate of his parents showed that FPJ was born on 20
August 1939 to a Filipino father and an American mother who were married to each other a year later, or
on 16 September 1940. Birth to unmarried parents would make FPJ an illegitimate child. Petitioner
contended that as an illegitimate child, FPJ so followed the citizenship of his mother, Bessie Kelley, an
American citizen, basing his stand on the ruling of this Court in Morano vs. Vivo,[43]citing Chiongbian vs.
de Leon[44] and Serra vs. Republic.[45]
On the above score, the disquisition made by amicus curiae Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, is most convincing;
he states -

"We must analyze these cases and ask what the lis mota was in each of them. If the pronouncement of the
Court on jus sanguinis was on the lis mota, the pronouncement would be a decision constituting doctrine
under the rule of stare decisis. But if the pronouncement was irrelevant to the lis mota, the pronouncement
would not be a decision but a mere obiter dictum which did not establish doctrine. I therefore invite the
Court to look closely into these cases.

First, Morano vs. Vivo. The case was not about an illegitimate child of a Filipino father. It was about a
stepson of a Filipino, a stepson who was the child of a Chinese mother and a Chinese father. The issue was
whether the stepson followed the naturalization of the stepfather. Nothing about jus sanguinis there. The
stepson did not have the blood of the naturalized stepfather.

Second, Chiongbian vs. de Leon. This case was not about the illegitimate son of a Filipino father. It was
about a legitimate son of a father who had become Filipino by election to public office before the 1935
Constitution pursuant to Article IV, Section 1(2) of the 1935 Constitution. No one was illegitimate here.

Third, Serra vs. Republic. The case was not about the illegitimate son of a Filipino father. Serra was an
illegitimate child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. The issue was whether one who was already a
Filipino because of his mother who still needed to be naturalized. There is nothing there about invidious jus
sanguinis.

Finally, Paa vs. Chan.[46] This is a more complicated case. The case was about the citizenship of Quintin
Chan who was the son of Leoncio Chan. Quintin Chan claimed that his father, Leoncio, was the illegitimate
son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Quintin therefore argued that he got his citizenship from
Leoncio, his father. But the Supreme Court said that there was no valid proof that Leoncio was in fact the
son of a Filipina mother. The Court therefore concluded that Leoncio was not Filipino. If Leoncio was not
Filipino, neither was his son Quintin. Quintin therefore was not only not a natural-born Filipino but was
not even a Filipino.

The Court should have stopped there. But instead it followed with an obiter dictum. The Court
said obiter that even if Leoncio, Quintin's father, were Filipino, Quintin would not be Filipino because
Quintin was illegitimate. This statement about Quintin, based on a contrary to fact assumption, was
absolutely unnecessary for the case. x x x It was obiter dictum, pure and simple, simply repeating the obiter
dictum in Morano vs. Vivo.
xxxxxxxxx

"Aside from the fact that such a pronouncement would have no textual foundation in the Constitution, it
would also violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution not once but twice. First, it would make
an illegitimate distinction between a legitimate child and an illegitimate child, and second, it would make
an illegitimate distinction between the illegitimate child of a Filipino father and the illegitimate child of a
Filipino mother.

The doctrine on constitutionally allowable distinctions was established long ago by People vs. Cayat. [47] I
would grant that the distinction between legitimate children and illegitimate children rests on real
differences. x x x But real differences alone do not justify invidious distinction. Real differences may justify
distinction for one purpose but not for another purpose.

x x x What is the relevance of legitimacy or illegitimacy to elective public service? What possible state
interest can there be for disqualifying an illegitimate child from becoming a public officer. It was not the
fault of the child that his parents had illicit liaison. Why deprive the child of the fullness of political rights
for no fault of his own? To disqualify an illegitimate child from holding an important public office is to
punish him for the indiscretion of his parents. There is neither justice nor rationality in that. And if there is
neither justice nor rationality in the distinction, then the distinction transgresses the equal protection clause
and must be reprobated.

The other amici curiae, Mr. Justice Vicente Mendoza (a former member of this Court), Professor
Ruben Balane and Dean Martin Magallona, at bottom, have expressed similar views. The thesis of
petitioner, unfortunately hinging solely on pure obiter dicta, should indeed fail.
Where jurisprudence regarded an illegitimate child as taking after the citizenship of its mother, it did
so for the benefit the child. It was to ensure a Filipino nationality for the illegitimate child of an alien father
in line with the assumption that the mother had custody, would exercise parental authority and had the duty
to support her illegitimate child. It was to help the child, not to prejudice or discriminate against him.
The fact of the matter perhaps the most significant consideration is that the 1935 Constitution, the
fundamental law prevailing on the day, month and year of birth of respondent FPJ, can never be more
explicit than it is. Providing neither conditions nor distinctions, the Constitution states that among the
citizens of the Philippines are those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines. There utterly is no cogent
justification to prescribe conditions or distinctions where there clearly are none provided.
In Sum
(1) The Court, in the exercise of its power of judicial review, possesses jurisdiction over the petition
in G. R. No. 161824, filed under Rule 64, in relation to Rule 65, of the Revised Rules of Civil
Procedure. G.R. No. 161824 assails the resolution of the COMELEC for alleged grave abuse of discretion
in dismissing, for lack of merit, the petition in SPA No. 04-003 which has prayed for the disqualification
of respondent FPJ from running for the position of President in the 10th May 2004 national elections on the
contention that FPJ has committed material representation in his certificate of candidacy by representing
himself to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.
(2) The Court must dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction and prematurity, the petitions in G. R. No. 161434
and No. 161634 both having been directly elevated to this Court in the latters capacity as the only tribunal
to resolve a presidential and vice-presidential election contest under the Constitution. Evidently, the
primary jurisdiction of the Court can directly be invoked only after, not before, the elections are held.
(3) In ascertaining, in G.R. No. 161824, whether grave abuse of discretion has been committed by the
COMELEC, it is necessary to take on the matter of whether or not respondent FPJ is a natural-born citizen,
which, in turn, depended on whether or not the father of respondent, Allan F. Poe, would have himself been
a Filipino citizen and, in the affirmative, whether or not the alleged illegitimacy of respondent prevents him
from taking after the Filipino citizenship of his putative father. Any conclusion on the Filipino citizenship
of Lorenzo Pou could only be drawn from the presumption that having died in 1954 at 84 years old, Lorenzo
would have been born sometime in the year 1870, when the Philippines was under Spanish rule, and that
San Carlos, Pangasinan, his place of residence upon his death in 1954, in the absence of any other evidence,
could have well been his place of residence before death, such that Lorenzo Pou would have benefited from
the en masse Filipinization that the Philippine Bill had effected in 1902. That citizenship (of Lorenzo Pou),
if acquired, would thereby extend to his son, Allan F. Poe, father of respondent FPJ. The 1935 Constitution,
during which regime respondent FPJ has seen first light, confers citizenship to all persons whose fathers
are Filipino citizens regardless of whether such children are legitimate or illegitimate.
(4) But while the totality of the evidence may not establish conclusively that respondent FPJ is a
natural-born citizen of the Philippines, the evidence on hand still would preponderate in his favor enough
to hold that he cannot be held guilty of having made a material misrepresentation in his certificate of
candidacy in violation of Section 78, in relation to Section 74, of the Omnibus Election Code. Petitioner
has utterly failed to substantiate his case before the Court, notwithstanding the ample opportunity given to
the parties to present their position and evidence, and to prove whether or not there has been material
misrepresentation, which, as so ruled in Romualdez-Marcos vs. COMELEC,[48] must not only be material,
but also deliberate and willful.
WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to DISMISS
1. G. R. No. 161434, entitled "Maria Jeanette C. Tecson and Felix B. Desiderio, Jr.,
Petitioners, versus Commission on Elections, Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (a.k.a. "Fernando Poe, Jr.,) and
Victorino X. Fornier, Respondents," and G. R. No. 161634, entitled "Zoilo Antonio Velez,
Petitioner, versus Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, a.k.a. Fernando Poe, Jr., Respondent," for want of jurisdiction.
2. G. R. No. 161824, entitled Victorino X. Fornier, Petitioner, versus Hon. Commission on Elections
and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe, also known as Fernando Poe, Jr., for failure to show grave abuse of discretion
on the part of respondent Commission on Elections in dismissing the petition in SPA No. 04-003.
No Costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 184762 February 25, 2015


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. DOMINGO GALLANO

To convict an accused charged with qualified rape instead of rape in its simple form not only condemns
him to a more serious offense but also exposes him to an even greater liability. As such, the State is
mandated to sufficiently allege in the information and to competently prove during trial the qualifying
circumstances of minority and relationship with the same certainty as the crime itself.

The Case
This appeal assails the decision promulgated on December 14, 2007,1 whereby the Court of Appeals (CA)
affirmed with modification the judgment2 rendered on March 22, 2004 by the Regional Trial Court (R TC),
Branch 69, in Silay City, Negros Occidental finding appellant Domingo Gallano y Jaranilla guilty of the
crime of rape, qualified by minority and relationship, and sentencing him to the supreme penalty of death
therefor.

Antecedents

Gallano was arraigned and tried under the following information, viz:

That on or about 2 January 2003, in Silay City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the herein accused, with lewd design, and with force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with his niece, AAA,3 a 12-year-old minor, against the
latter's will.

The aggravating circumstance of minority and relationship is present, the victim being 12 years old, and
the accused being the victim's relative by affinity within the third civil degree. ACTS CONTRARY TO
LAW.4

The facts presented by the Prosecution were summed up thusly:

Private complainant, AAA, and her brother lived with their maternal aunt, BBB, BBB's husband, herein
appellant, their children and BBB 's brother in Baranggay Guimbala-on, Silay City (TSN, October 6, 2003,
pp. 3-4).

On January 2, 2003, BBB went to the hospital to take care of her father and stayed there for days. AAA
was home and was about to make her brother go to sleep. She went inside the bedroom to a mat when
appellant took her aside, undressed her and laid her down on the bed. Standing over her, appellant pointed
his penis at her and warned her not to tell her mother, otherwise, he would kill her. When appellant's penis
touched AAA's vagina, she felt pain and instinctively kicked him away. Feeling distraught, AAA ran
outside and cried (TSN, October 20, 2003, pp. 5-7).

On January 8, 2003, BBB's brother went to the hospital, he told BBB that he saw AAA and appellant inside
the room, standing and facing each other. This prompted BBB to ask AAA about the incident. At first, AAA
hesitated and refused to talk but later admitted that she was raped. BBB brought AAA to the city health
officer for examination on January 9, 2003 (TSN, October 6, 2003, pp. 4-5).5

The City Health Officer who examined AAA found hymenal lacerations on AAA's private part.6

Gallano denied the charge, and asserted alibi, insisting that on the day the rape was committed he had been
working in the sugarcane field, having left home for that purpose at 5:00 a.m. and returning only at 5:00
p.m.; that he had brought his lunch then because he would take an hour to walk from the sugarcane field to
his house; and that he had learned of the charge of rape against him only after his arrest and detention.7
Decision of the RTC

In its judgment, the RTC convicted Gallano of rape, qualified by minority and relationship, disposing:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court finds accused DOMINGO GALLANO Y


JARANILLA, Guilty (sic.) of the crime of Rape, defined in Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B,
paragraph 5, sub-paragraph 1, of Republic Act No. 8353, as his guilt had been established by the prosecution
beyond any reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, this Court sentences accused, DOMINGO GALLANO y JARANILLA, to suffer the Supreme
Penalty of Death (sic.)

Accused, Domingo Gallano y Jaranilla, is, further, ordered by this Court to pay minor, [AAA], the sum of
FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) as Moral Damages, and the sum of FIFTY THOUSAND
PESOS (P50,000.00), all in Philippine Currency, as Exemplary Damages. Accused, Domingo Gallano y
Jaranilla, is ordered remitted to the National Penitentiary, Muntinlupa City, Rizal.

NO COSTS. SO ORDERED.8

The RTC found AAA's testimony as credible, observing as follows:

Though a child, [AAA], demonstrated to this Court her capacity of observation, recollection and
communication. She showed that she can perceive and perceiving, can make known her perception to this
Court as she clearly and capably related the details of her sad and horrible experience at the hands of the
accused. She withstood a thorough and exhaustive cross-examination. x x x It was a positive and credible
account she presented before this Court. There was not a motive ascribed and/or, in the very least, suggested
by the defense that might have raised doubt on her credibility and the credibility of the statements she made
before this Court.9

Anent Gallano's alibi, the RTC stated:

The sugarcane field where accused, Domingo Gallano y J aranilla, claimed he was at the time of the
occurrence of the incident subject of the present criminal action was, likewise, located at Hda. Bias,
Barangay Guimbala-on, a submitted distance of only four (4) kilometers away from the house where the
submitted offense was committed easily accessible to the accused even by foot. Accused's statement was
not corroborated nor substantiated by other evidence, oral or otherwise. Under the given circumstances, the
physical impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime, had not been established sufficiently and
convincingly. The burden of proof in setting in evidence the factual circumstance/circumstances of the
defense of alibi lies on the one who claims said defense, the accused in the present criminal action, which
failed to do miserably.10

In characterizing the offense as qualified rape, the RTC ruled that AAA was definitely below 18 years old
on January 2, 2003; and that such fact was not contested by Gallano.11 As to the fact that AAA was Gallano'
s relative by affinity within the third civil degree, the RTC declared that such relationship had been
sufficiently established.12

Judgment of the CA

On appeal, Gallano challenged his conviction, contending that the RTC committed the following errors, to
wit:

I.

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY


BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE
II.

GRANTING ARGUENDO THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS GUILTY OF RAPING [AAA], THE


COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEA TH PENALTY.13

The CA affirmed Gallano' s conviction for rape nonetheless because the State had established all the
elements of rape, including the force and intimidation employed by Gallano.14 It opined that there was no
reason advanced by Gallano to warrant disturbing the RTC's appreciation of AAA's testimony; and agreed
with the RTC that his alibi and denial were worthless. Anent the second error, the CA said that the records
were "bereft of any independent evidence which would accurately show AAA's age," 15 pointing out that
even AAA had been uncertain about her own age;16 and that contrary to the State's theory, as advanced by
the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), AAA's testimony to prove her age had been insufficient because
Gallano' s admission of it had not been express and clear.17 Prescinding from these observations, the CA
sustained the RTC's finding of AAA's minority because:

Be that as it may, the minority age of the victim was not questioned by the defense. Although this Court
held that the age of the victim is not certain, her still being a minor below eighteen ( 18) years old is not
contested. This Court has to rely on the observation as stated in the assailed decision that the Court a quo
is quite certain that the victim is definitely below 18 years of age on January 2, 2003.18

The CA modified the penalty because of the intervening passage of Republic Act No. 9346,19 whereby the
death penalty was prohibited from being imposed in case of conviction, and instead imposed reclusion
perpetua on Gallano.20 The CA awarded civil indemnity of P75,000.00, moral damages awarded to
1!75,000.00, and exemplary damages to P25,000.00.21

Issues

Hence, this appeal, with Gallano reiterating the alleged errors by the CA, arguing that he should not be
convicted of rape upon the sole testimony of AAA that had been tainted with improbabilities and
contrariness to human experience. Hence, his guilt had not been established beyond reasonable doubt.22

Ruling

The conviction of Gallano is affirmed, but the characterization of the crime as qualified rape is set aside.
He could be held guilty only of simple rape.

Rape is a crime that is almost always committed in isolation or in secret, usually leaving only the victim to
testify about the commission of the crime.23 As such, the accused may be convicted of rape on the basis of
the victim's sole testimony provided such testimony is logical, credible, consistent and
convincing.24 Moreover, the testimony of a young rape victim is given full weight and credence considering
that her denunciation against him for rape would necessarily expose herself and her family to shame and
perhaps ridicule.25 Indeed, it is more consistent with human experience to hold that a rape victim of tender
age will truthfully testify as to all matters necessary to show that she was raped.26

After reviewing the records, the Court concludes that the trial court was not arbitrary in its appreciation of
the proof of rape, and, therefore, the CA correctly ruled that the crime of rape was established beyond
reasonable doubt even upon the lone testimony of the victim herself. With the lower courts not being shown
by Gallano to have overlooked any matter or circumstance of weight that could alter the result in his favour,
their appreciation must be viewed with respect. It is settled that the findings of fact by the trial court are
accorded great weight, and are even held to be conclusive and binding unless they were tainted with
arbitrariness or oversight.27 This respect is but a recognition that the trial court is better situated to assess
the testimonies and evidence laid out before it during the trial.28

Nonetheless, Gallano was guilty only of simple rape, not of qualified rape. In order that the accused is
convicted of qualified rape under Article 266-B (1) of the Revised Penal Code, two requisites must be met,
namely: (1) the victim must be a less than 18 years old; and (2) the offender must either be related to the
victim by consanguinity of by affinity within the third civil degree, or is the common-law spouse of the
parent of the victim. These two requisites must be both alleged and proved with absolute
certainty.29 Otherwise, the accused could only be held guilty of simple rape. The qualifying circumstances
of relationship and minority remain to be relevant in the crime of rape despite the abolition of the death
penalty under R.A. No. 9346. The accused's civil liability depends on the mode of rape he committed.30

Although Gallano's relationship with AAA went uncontroverted because both he and BBB had testified
that they were legally married,31 AAA's minority was not thereby competently established.

People v. Pruna32 states the controlling guidelines in evaluating evidence presented to prove a rape victim's
minority, to wit:

x x x [W]e hereby set the following guidelines in appreciating age, either as an element of the crime or as
a qualifying circumstance.

1. The best evidence to prove the age of the offended party is an original or certified true copy of the
certificate of live birth of such party.

2. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, similar authentic documents such as baptismal certificate and
school records which show the date of birth of the victim would suffice to prove age.

3. If the certificate of live birth or authentic document is shown to have been lost or destroyed or otherwise
unavailable, the testimony, if clear and credible, of the victim's mother or a member of the family either by
affinity or consanguinity who is qualified to testify on matters respecting pedigree such as the exact age or
date of birth of the offended party pursuant to Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence shall be
sufficient under the following circumstances:

a. If the victim is alleged to be below 3 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than
7 years old;

b. If the victim is alleged to be below 7 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than
12 years old;

c. If the victim is alleged to be below 12 years of age and what is sought to be proved is that she is less than
18 years old.

4. In the absence of a certificate of live birth, authentic document, or the testimony of the victim's mother
or relatives concerning the victim's age, the complainant's testimony will suffice provided that it is expressly
and clearly admitted by the accused.

5. It is the prosecution that has the burden of proving the age of the offended party. The failure of the
accused to object to the testimonial evidence regarding age shall not be taken against him. (Emphasis
supplied)"33
The testimonies relevant to AAA's age were given as follows:

1. BBB testified that AAA was 13 years old at the time when her testimony was taken but there was no
birth certificate to prove AAA's age.34

2. BBB declared that she took AAA when the latter was only nine months old.35

3. AAA attested that she was 13 years old at the time of the taking of her testimony but she did not know
when she was born.36

4 . AAA said that she had been staying with BBB for about four years prior to the time her testimony was
taken.37

5. Gallano mentioned that he did not know AAA's age,38 but he answered on cross-examination that AAA
was from 12 to 13 years old when asked if he knew AAA's age in 2003.39

6. Galiano stated on cross-examination that AAA had been living with them since she was seven years
old.40

It is clear that the Prosecution failed to adduce AAA' s certificate of live birth, the best evidence to prove
AAA's age in the context of Pruna. The Prosecution did not also present any acceptable substitutionary
documentary evidence to prove the same. Instead, the Prosecution relied on the testimonies of AAA and
BBB to establish AAA's minority.

Did the testimonies of AAA and BBB suffice to prove AAA' s minority even if coupled with Gallano's
supposed admission of the same?

We answer in the negative.

BBB, who was AAA's aunt, was qualified to testify on AAA's pedigree, like her age and her date of
birth. Section 40, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court expressly stated so.41 Conformably with
Pruna,42 BBB's testimony would have sufficed considering that the information alleged that AAA was
12 years old at the time of the commission of the crime, and the Prosecution was trying to prove that
AAA was below 18 years old for the purpose of qualifying the rape committed by the accused. Yet,
Pruna dictated that BBB's testimony must be clear and credible.43 BBB's testimony failed this test.
Although BBB recalled that she had taken AAA under her wing when the latter had been nine months
old,44 BBB was apparently contradicted by AAA' s declaration that she had been staying with BBB
and her family for about four years reckoned from the time she gave her testimony in court.45 Galiano
complicated the contradiction between BBB and AAA by attesting that AAA had started staying with
them when she had been only seven years old.46 The effect of the contradictions was to cast doubt on
BBB's personal knowledge of AAA's age and date of birth, rendering BBB's testimony on AAA's
minority unreliable.

Nevertheless, the OSG submits that AAA's testimony was enough to prove her age because Gallano
admitted to the same during crossexamination.47

We disagree with the State. The guidelines under Pruna require that the accused's admission of the age of
the victim must be express and clear.48 That was not the case herein, for not only did Gallano declare that
he did not know how old AAA was at the time of the commission of the crime, but also that he had been
vague and indefinite on the matter as borne out by his tentative response of "12 or 13 years old" when asked
during cross-examination if he knew AAA's age in 2003.49 In other words, Gallano's admission was not
express and clear enough to establish AAA' s minority beyond moral certainty.

With the State not having established AAA's minority with absolute certainty, the Court rules out qualified
rape as the crime committed by Gallano. We reiterate that in the prosecution of rape in its qualified form,
the victim's minority must be averred and established "with equal certainty and clearness as the crime
itself."50 As a consequence, Gallano committed only simple rape, thus precluding the application of R.A.
No. 9346. Pursuant to Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, the proper penalty is reclusion perpetua.

It further appears that despite already entertaining doubt about AAA' s minority, the CA still affirmed
Gallano's conviction for qualified rape by depending on the "certainty" of the RTC's findings on AAA's
minority.51 Such affirmance by the CA was unwarranted because it was contrary to the guidelines defined
by the Court in Pruna.52The affirmance should be treated as another reversible error on the part of the CA,
considering that all doubts in a criminal prosecution should be resolved in favor of the accused.

The modification of Gallano's civil liabilities is another consequence of the Prosecution's failure to establish
AAA's minority. To conform to prevailing jurisprudence, the award of civil indemnity must be reduced
to P50,000.00.53 The award of moral damages is similarly reduced to P50,000.00 in view of prevailing
jurisprudence.54 Meanwhile, the award for exemplary damages is increased to P30,000.00 to conform to
recent jurisprudence.55 The amounts of damages awarded should earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum
from the finality of this judgment until said amounts are fully paid.56

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on December 14, 2007 with the
MODIFICATION that appellant DOMINGO GALLANO y JARANILLA is pronounced GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of SIMPLE RAPE and is sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua, and to pay the victim
AAA P50,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as moral damages, and P30,000 as exemplary damages, with all
such amounts to earn interest of 6% per annum from the finality of this decision until full payment. The
petitioner shall pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 132164. October 19, 2004]
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION vs. ALLYSON BELAGAN
When the credibility of a witness is sought to be impeached by proof of his reputation, it is necessary
that the reputation shown should be that which existed before the occurrence of the circumstances out of
which the litigation arose,[1] or at the time of the trial and prior thereto, but not at a period remote from the
commencement of the suit.[2] This is because a person of derogatory character or reputation can still change
or reform himself.
For our resolution is the petition for review on certiorari of the Court of Appeals Decision[3] dated
January 8, 1998, in CA-G.R. SP. No. 44180, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, Resolution No. 966213 dated September 23, 1996 and Resolution No. 972423 dated April
11, 1997 of the respondent Civil Service Commission are hereby set aside. The complaint against petitioner
Allyson Belagan filed by Magdalena Gapuz is hereby DISMISSED.
The dismissal of petitioner Belagan is lifted and he is hereby ordered to be immediately reinstated to his
position without loss of seniority, retirement, backwages and other rights and benefits.

SO ORDERED.

The instant case stemmed from two (2) separate complaints filed respectively by Magdalena Gapuz,
founder/directress of the Mother and Child Learning Center, and Ligaya Annawi, a public school teacher
at Fort Del Pilar Elementary School, against respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the
Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), all from Baguio City. Magdalena charged
respondent with sexual indignities and harassment, while Ligaya accused him of sexual harassment and
various malfeasances.
Magdalenas sworn complaint alleges that sometime in March 1994, she filed an application with the
DECS Office in Baguio City for a permit to operate a pre-school. One of the requisites for the issuance of
the permit was the inspection of the school premises by the DECS Division Office. Since the officer
assigned to conduct the inspection was not present, respondent volunteered his services. Sometime in June
1994, respondent and complainant visited the school. In the course of the inspection, while both were
descending the stairs of the second floor, respondent suddenly placed his arms around her shoulders and
kissed her cheek. Dumbfounded, she muttered, Sir, is this part of the inspection? Pati ba naman kayo sa
DECS wala ng values? Respondent merely sheepishly smiled. At that time, there were no other people in
the area.
Fearful that her application might be jeopardized and that her husband might harm respondent,
Magdalena just kept quiet.
Several days later, Magdalena went to the DECS Division Office and asked respondent, Sir, kumusta
yung application ko? His reply was Mag-date muna tayo. She declined, explaining that she is married. She
then left and reported the matter to DECS Assistant Superintendent Peter Ngabit.
Magdalena never returned to the DECS Division Office to follow up her application. However, she
was forced to reveal the incidents to her husband when he asked why the permit has not yet been released.
Thereupon, they went to the office of the respondent. He merely denied having a personal relationship with
Magdalena.
Thereafter, respondent forwarded to the DECS Regional Director his recommendation to approve
Magdalenas application for a permit to operate a pre-school.
Sometime in September 1994, Magdalena read from a local newspaper that certain female employees
of the DECS in Baguio City were charging a high-ranking DECS official with sexual harassment. Upon
inquiry, she learned that the official being complained of was respondent. She then wrote a letter-complaint
for sexual indignities and harassment to former DECS Secretary Ricardo Gloria.
On October 4, 1994, respondent was placed under suspension.
On the part of Ligaya Annawi, she alleged in her complaint that on four separate occasions, respondent
touched her breasts, kissed her cheek, touched her groins, embraced her from behind and pulled her close
to him, his organ pressing the lower part of her back.
Ligaya also charged respondent with: (1) delaying the payment of the teachers salaries; (2) failing to
release the pay differentials of substitute teachers; (3) willfully refusing to release the teachers uniforms,
proportionate allowances and productivity pay; and (4) failing to constitute the Selection and Promotion
Board, as required by the DECS rules and regulations.
The DECS conducted a joint investigation of the complaints of Magdalena and Ligaya. In his defense,
respondent denied their charge of sexual harassment. However, he presented evidence to disprove Ligayas
imputation of dereliction of duty.
On January 9, 1995, the DECS Secretary rendered a Joint Decision[4] finding respondent guilty of four
(4) counts of sexual indignities or harassments committed against Ligaya; and two (2) counts of sexual
advances or indignities against Magdalena. He was ordered dismissed from the service. The dispositive
portion of the Joint Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, foregoing disquisitions duly considered, decision is hereby rendered in the two above-
entitled cases, finding:

a) Respondent Dr. Allyson Belagan, Superintendent of the DECS Baguio City Schools
Division GUILTY of the four counts of sexual indignities or harassments committed
against the person and honor of complainant Miss Ligaya Annawi, a Baguio City public school
teacher, while in the performance of his official duties and taking advantage of his office. He
is, however, ABSOLVED of all the other charges of administrative malfeasance or
dereliction of duty.
b) Respondent Baguio City Superintendent Allyson Belagan likewise GUILTY of the two
counts of sexual advances or indignities committed against the person and honor of
complainant Mrs. Magdalena Gapuz, a private school teacher of Baguio City, while in the
performance of his official duties and taking advantage of his office.

Consequently, respondent Allyson Belagan is HEREBY ORDERED DISMISSED from the government
service, with prejudice to reinstatement and all his retirement benefits and other remunerations due him
are HEREBY DECLARED FORFEITED in favor of the government.

SO ORDERED.[5]

Upon appeal, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), on September 23, 1996, promulgated Resolution
No. 966213[6] affirming the Decision of the DECS Secretary in the case filed by Magdalena but dismissing
the complaint of Ligaya. The CSC ruled that respondents transgression against Magdalena constitutes grave
misconduct. Thus:

The acts of Belagan are serious breach of good conduct since he was holding a position which requires the
incumbent thereof to maintain a high degree of moral uprightness. As Division Superintendent, Belagan
represents an institution tasked to mold the character of children. Furthermore, one of his duties is to ensure
that teachers in his division conduct themselves properly and observe the proper discipline. Any improper
behavior on his part will seriously impair his moral ascendancy over the teachers and students which can
not be tolerated. Therefore, his misconduct towards an applicant for a permit to operate a private pre-
school cannot be treated lightly and constitutes the offense of grave misconduct.

WHEREFORE, respondent Allyson Belagan is hereby found guilty of grave misconduct and imposed
the penalty of DISMISSAL from the service with all the accessory penalties. The decision of the DECS
Secretary is modified accordingly.[7]

On October 29, 1996, respondent seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration, contending that he has
never been charged of any offense in his thirty-seven (37) years of service. By contrast, Magdalena was
charged with several offenses before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Baguio City, thus:
1. Criminal Case No. 43416 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION (December 3, 1980)
2. Criminal Case No. 45629 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES (May 13, 1982)
3. Criminal Case No. 45630 for GRAVE THREATS (May 13, 1982)
4. Criminal Case No. 45914 for GRAVE THREATS (June 24, 1982)
5. Criminal Case No. 51532 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (January 25, 1985)
6. Criminal Case No. 51533 for LIGHT THREATS (January 25, 1985)
7. Criminal Case No. 51556 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (January 30, 1985)
8. Criminal Case No. 51818 for LIGHT ORAL DEFAMATION (March 18, 1985)
9. Criminal Case No. 51819 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (March 18, 1985)
10. Criminal Case No. 51820 for MALICIOUS MISCHIEF (March 18, 1985)
11. Criminal Case No. 51821 for UNJUST VEXATION (March 18, 1985)
12. Criminal Case No. 62173 for UNJUST VEXATION (May 29, 1991)
13. Criminal Case No. 62172 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (May 29, 1991)
14. Criminal Case No. 62754 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (December 2, 1986)
15. Criminal Case No. 55642 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (December 2, 1986)
16. Criminal Case No. 55423 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (October 24, 1986)
17. Criminal Case No. 55846 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (November 4, 1986)
18. Criminal Case No. 55800 for GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION (January 7, 1987)
19. Criminal Case No. 57312 for UNJUST VEXATION (November 29, 1987)
20. Criminal Case No. 55643 for SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES (December 13, 1985)
21. Criminal Case No. 53404 for UNJUST VEXATION (December 13, 1985)
22. Criminal Case No. 55422 for UNJUST VEXATION (October 24, 1986) [8]
In addition, the following complaints against Magdalena were filed with the Barangay Chairmen of
Barangay Gabriela Silang and Barangay Hillside, both in Baguio City:
1. Ordana vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 11-19-02-A) for GRAVE THREATS, UNJUST VEXATION,
RUMOR MONGERING
2. Teresita De Los Santos vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 86-8-26-8) for GRAVE THREATS & ORAL
DEFAMATION
3. Mrs. Conchita Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 029) for ORAL DEFAMATION and FALSE
ACCUSATION
4. Mrs. Clara Baoas vs. Gapuz (Brgy. Case No. 030) for HARASSMENT and THREATS
5. GABRIELA SILANG TANOD FORCES vs. Gapuz (Case No. 031) for HABITUAL TROUBLE
MAKER
6. Pablo Ortiz vs. Gapuz (November 1, 1979) for ORAL DEFAMATION
7. C. Ballesteros vs. Gapuz (September 11, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION
8. Mrs. Liza Ancheta vs. Gapuz (September 27, 1978) for RUMOR MONGERING
9. Mr. Pananin (Beneco Personnel) (October 8, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION
10. Mrs. Minda Valdez vs. Gapuz (November 6, 1978) for ORAL DEFAMATION
11. WOMENS CLUB vs. GAPUZ (February 9, 1979) for ORAL DEFAMATION
12. Vistro Salcedo case (May 8, 1979)
Where Mrs. Gapuz was spreading rumors against Barangay Captain and Police Chief
13. Demolition Scandal (May 10, 1979)
Where she called all the residents of their Barangay for an emergency meeting and where
she shouted invectives against the residents
14. Incident of June 13, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the Barangay Sanitary Inspector
15. Incident of August 25, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz shouted invectives against the servants of Mr. De Leon
16. Incident of August 26, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz terrorized the council meeting
17. Incident of September 2, 1978
Mrs. Clara Baoas was harassed by Mrs. Gapuz
18. Incident of September 9, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz quarreled with Mrs. C. Ballesteros during the council meeting
19. Incident of September 10, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz was hurling invectives along her alley in the early morning
20. Incident of September 13, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz tapped electric wire from Mrs. Tessie de los Santos with the latters consent
21. Incident of September 21, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz was shouting and hurling invectives scandalously around her residence
22. Incident of September 21, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz was shouting, complaining about alleged poisoned sardines near the premises
of her residence which killed her hen.
23. Incident of September 23, 1979
Mrs. Gapuz was shouting unpleasant words around the neighborhood. She did not like the
actuations of a bayanihan group near the waiting shed.[9]
Respondent claimed that the numerous cases filed against Magdalena cast doubt on her character,
integrity, and credibility.
In its Resolution No. 972423[10] dated April 11, 1997, the CSC denied respondents motion for
reconsideration, holding that:

The character of a woman who was the subject of a sexual assault is of minor significance in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the person accused of having committed the offense. This
is so because even a prostitute or a woman of ill repute may become a victim of said offense.

As such, the fact that complainant Magdalena Gapuz is shown to have had cases before the regular courts
for various offenses and was condemned by her community for wrongful behavior does not discount the
possibility that she was in fact telling the truth when she cried about the lecherous advances made to her by
the respondent. x x x

Respondent then filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review. As stated earlier, it reversed the
CSC Resolutions and dismissed Magdalenas complaint.
The Appellate Court held that Magdalena is an unreliable witness, her character being questionable.
Given her aggressiveness and propensity for trouble, she is not one whom any male would attempt to steal
a kiss. In fact, her record immediately raises an alarm in any one who may cross her path. [11] In absolving
respondent from the charges, the Appellate Court considered his unblemished service record for 37 years.
Unsatisfied, the CSC, through the Solicitor General, filed the instant petition raising the following
assignments of error:
I. The Supreme Court may rule on factual issues raised on appeal where the Court of Appeals
misappreciated the facts. Furthermore, where the findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial
court are contrary to each other, the Supreme Court may review the record and evidence. The
Court of Appeals erred in not giving credence to the testimony of complainant Magdalena Gapuz
despite convincing and overwhelming signs of its truthfulness.
II. The Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it failed to give due weight to the findings
of the DECS, which conducted the administrative investigation, specifically with respect to the
credibility of the witnesses presented.
III. The Court of Appeals erred in ruling that respondent should be penalized under Sec. 22 (o) of
the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V and not Sec. 22 (e) of said rules.[12]
In his comment, respondent maintains that Magdalenas derogatory record undermines the verity of her
charge and that the Court of Appeals is correct in dismissing it.
The petition is impressed with merit.
The pivotal issue before us is whether complaining witness, Magdalena Gapuz, is credible. This is a
question of fact which, as a general rule, is not subject to this Courts review.
It is a rule of long standing that factual findings of the Court of Appeals, if supported by substantial
evidence, are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court.[13] This Court is,
after all, not a trier of facts. One of the exceptions, however, is when the findings of the Court of Appeals
are contrary to those of the trial court or a quasi-judicial body, like petitioner herein.[14]
Here, the Court of Appeals and the CSC are poles apart in their appreciation of Magdalenas derogatory
record. While the former considered it of vital and paramount importance in determining the truth of her
charge, the latter dismissed it as of minor significance. This contrariety propels us to the elusive area of
character and reputation evidence.
Generally, the character of a party is regarded as legally irrelevant in determining a
controversy.[15] One statutory exception is that relied upon by respondent, i.e., Section 51 (a) 3, Rule 130
of the Revised Rules on Evidence, which we quote here:

SEC. 51. Character evidence not generally admissible; exceptions.

(a) In Criminal Cases:

xxxxxx

(3) The good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved if it tends to establish in
any reasonable degree the probability or improbability of the offense charged.

It will be readily observed that the above provision pertains only to criminal cases, not to administrative
offenses. And even assuming that this technical rule of evidence can be applied here, still, we cannot sustain
respondents posture.
Not every good or bad moral character of the offended party may be proved under this provision. Only
those which would establish the probability or improbability of the offense charged. This means that the
character evidence must be limited to the traits and characteristics involved in the type of offense
charged.[16] Thus, on a charge of rape - character for chastity, on a charge of assault - character for
peaceableness or violence, and on a charge of embezzlement - character for honesty.[17] In one rape case,
where it was established that the alleged victim was morally loose and apparently uncaring about her
chastity, we found the conviction of the accused doubtful.[18]
In the present administrative case for sexual harassment, respondent did not offer evidence that has a
bearing on Magdalenas chastity. What he presented are charges for grave oral defamation, grave threats,
unjust vexation, physical injuries, malicious mischief, etc. filed against her. Certainly, these pieces of
evidence are inadmissible under the above provision because they do not establish the probability or
improbability of the offense charged.
Obviously, in invoking the above provision, what respondent was trying to establish is Magdalenas
lack of credibility and not the probability or the improbability of the charge. In this regard, a different
provision applies.
Credibility means the disposition and intention to tell the truth in the testimony given. It refers to a
persons integrity, and to the fact that he is worthy of belief.[19] A witness may be discredited by evidence
attacking his general reputation for truth,[20] honesty[21] or integrity.[22] Section 11, Rule 132 of the same
Revised Rules on Evidence reads:

SEC. 11. Impeachment of adverse partys witness. A witness may be impeached by the party against whom
he was called, by contradictory evidence, by evidence that his general reputation for truth, honesty, or
integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has made at other times statements inconsistent with his present
testimony, but not by evidence of particular wrongful acts, except that it may be shown by the
examination of the witness, or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an offense.

Although she is the offended party, Magdalena, by testifying in her own behalf, opened herself to
character or reputation attack pursuant to the principle that a party who becomes a witness in his own
behalf places himself in the same position as any other witness, and may be impeached by an attack
on his character or reputation.[23]
With the foregoing disquisition, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding that the character or
reputation of a complaining witness in a sexual charge is a proper subject of inquiry. This leads us to the
ultimate question is Magdalenas derogatory record sufficient to discredit her credibility?
A careful review of the record yields a negative answer.
First, most of the twenty-two (22) cases filed with the MTC of Baguio City relate to acts committed
in the 80s, particularly, 1985 and 1986. With respect to the complaints filed with the Chairmen of Barangay
Gabriela Silang and Barangay Hillside, the acts complained of took place in 1978 to 1979. In the instant
administrative case, the offense was committed in 1994. Surely, those cases and complaints are no longer
reliable proofs of Magdalenas character or reputation. The Court of Appeals, therefore, erred in according
much weight to such evidence. Settled is the principle that evidence of ones character or reputation
must be confined to a time not too remote from the time in question.[24] In other words, what is to be
determined is the character or reputation of the person at the time of the trial and prior thereto, but
not at a period remote from the commencement of the suit.[25] Hence, to say that Magdalenas credibility
is diminished by proofs of tarnished reputation existing almost a decade ago is unreasonable. It is unfair to
presume that a person who has wandered from the path of moral righteousness can never retrace his steps
again. Certainly, every person is capable to change or reform.
Second, respondent failed to prove that Magdalena was convicted in any of the criminal cases specified
by respondent. The general rule prevailing in a great majority of jurisdictions is that it is not permissible to
show that a witness has been arrested or that he has been charged with or prosecuted for a criminal
offense, or confined in jail for the purpose of impairing his credibility.[26] This view has usually been based
upon one or more of the following grounds or theories: (a) that a mere unproven charge against the witness
does not logically tend to affect his credibility, (b) that innocent persons are often arrested or accused of a
crime, (c) that one accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until his guilt is legally established,
and (d)that a witness may not be impeached or discredited by evidence of particular acts of
misconduct.[27] Significantly, the same Section 11, Rule 132 of our Revised Rules on Evidence provides
that a witness may not be impeached by evidence of particular wrongful acts. Such evidence is rejected
because of the confusion of issues and the waste of time that would be involved, and because the witness
may not be prepared to expose the falsity of such wrongful acts.[28] As it happened in this case, Magdalena
was not able to explain or rebut each of the charges against her listed by respondent.
But more than anything else, what convinces us to sustain the Resolution of the CSC is the fact that it
is supported by substantial evidence. As aptly pointed out by the Solicitor General, Magdalena testified in
a straightforward, candid and spontaneous manner. Her testimony is replete with details, such as the number
of times she and respondent inspected the pre-school, the specific part of the stairs where respondent kissed
her, and the matter about her transient boarders during summer. Magdalena would not have normally
thought about these details if she were not telling the truth. We quote her testimony during the cross-
examination conducted by DECS Assistant Secretary Romeo Capinpin and Undersecretary Antonio
Nachura, thus:
Q Was there any conversation between you and Dr. Belagan during the inspection on the first
floor and the second floor?
A There was, sir. It was a casual conversation that we had with regard to my family, background,
how the school came about, how I started with the project. That was all, sir.
Q Nothing about any form of sexual harassment, in words or in deeds?
A Sir, because he inspected the second floor twice, sir. We went up to the stairs twice, sir.
Q Why?
A I really dont know what was the reason behind, sir. But on the second inspection, sir, I told him
that as of that time I had some transients with me. I was making use of the premises for
transients because that was summer then, sir. And I already started paying the place so I said,
Sir, I have some transients with me in the evening and he said, You know Mrs. Gapuz, I am
interested to stay in one of the rooms as one your boarders. But I respectfully declined saying,
Sir, I think for delicadeza I cannot accept you. Not that I dont want you to be here but people
might think that I am keeping you here and that would prejudice my permit, sir.
ASEC R. CAPINPIN:
Q When did the alleged kissing occur? Was it during the first time that you went up with
him or the second time?
A No, sir, on the second time, sir.
Q Second time?
A Yes, sir. We were going down, sir.
Q And you were going down?
A Yes, sir.
Q Do you recall what portion of the stairs where you were during the alleged kissing?
A Sir, on the topmost of the stairs.
Q Before you went down?
A Yes, sir. At the topmost because there is a base floor going up to the stairs and it has 16
steps.
Q So, it was not on the 16th step but still on the topmost?
A Yes sir.
Q Part of the floor of the building?
A Yes, sir. Topmost, sir?
ASEC R. CAPINPIN:
Q Will you kindly tell us your relative position at that time?
A Sir, on the second time that we went up and I mentioned about these transients that I had
then and he wanted to stay in the place in one of the rooms and then I declined and I
was still showing the rooms simultaneously. On the last, the biggest room that I had, he
said, No. Never mind, I am not going to see that anymore. So he waited for me there
and upon reaching the place, as I was to step down on the first step going down, he
placed his arm and held me tightly and planted the kiss on my cheek, sir.
Q You said that he wanted to stay in one of the rooms?
A Yes, sir, as a boarder.
Q Is that room used for transients?
A During that time, sir, during the summertime, I made use of the time to get some transients.
Q And he was telling you that he wanted to occupy one of the rooms?
A Yes, but I declined, sir for delicadeza.
Q At that time, there were no transients yet.
A When he came over for the inspection sir, nobody was there.[29]
The above testimony does not stand in isolation. It is corroborated by Peter Ngabit, DECS Assistant
Division Superintendent. Ngabit testified that Magdalena reported to him that respondent kissed her and
asked her for a date.
Q I would like to call your attention to Exhibit A which is the affidavit of Mrs. Magdalena B.
Gapuz, particularly item no. 8, and may I read for your information That the Monday after
the incident, I went to the DECS Division Office expecting to get favorable recommendation
from the DECS Regional Office for the issuance of my permit. That I proceeded to the
Superintendent and asked him, Sir, kumusta yung application ko and he said, mag date muna
tayo but I refused and explained that I am married, after which I proceeded to the Office of
Asst. Superintendent Peter Ngabit to relate the incident and then left the Division Office. Do
you remember if Mrs. Gapuz went to your Office on the particular day?
A Yes, sir.
Q What time was that?
A I cannot remember, sir.
Q Was it morning, afternoon?
A I think it was in the morning, sir.
Q Morning.
A Yes, sir.
Q Early morning?
A About noon, sir.
Q What transpired between you and Mrs. Gapuz in your office?
A When she came to my Office, she was relating about that and she was even insulting me saying
among others that I was a useless fixture in that Office because I cannot do anything with
the processing of her paper or application.
Q It says here that she would relate the incident to you. Did she relate any incident?
A Yes, she did sir.
Q What was that incident all about?
A She was saying that when Mr. Belagan went to visit her school, he stole a kiss from her
and that she was saying that when she asked Supt. Belagan for her papers, she was
asked for a date before the Indorsement. After that, she left.[30]
With Magdalenas positive testimony and that of Ngabit, how can we disregard the findings of the
DECS and the CSC? Surely, we cannot debunk it simply because of the Court of Appeals outdated
characterization of Magdalena as a woman of bad reputation. There are a number of cases where the triers
of fact believe the testimony of a witness of bad character[31] and refuse to believe one of good
character.[32] As a matter of fact, even a witness who has been convicted a number of times is worthy of
belief, when he testified in a straightforward and convincing manner.[33]
At this juncture, it bears stressing that more than anybody else, it is the DECS investigating officials
who are in a better position to determine whether Magdalena is telling the truth considering that they were
able to hear and observe her deportment and manner of testifying.[34]
In reversing the CSCs Resolutions, the Court of Appeals ruled that there is ample evidence to show
that Magdalena had a motive in accusing respondent, i.e., to pressure him to issue a permit. This is
unconvincing. The record shows that respondent had already issued the permit when Magdalena filed her
letter-complaint. Indeed, she had no more reason to charge respondent administratively, except of course
to vindicate her honor.
Petitioner prays that we sustain its ruling penalizing respondent for grave misconduct and not merely
for disgraceful or immoral conduct which is punishable by suspension for six (6) months and one (1) day
to one (1) year for the first offense.[35] Misconduct means intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of
a rule of law or standard of behavior, especially by a government official.[36] To constitute an administrative
offense, misconduct should relate to or be connected with the performance of the official functions and
duties of a public officer.[37] In grave misconduct as distinguished from simple misconduct, the elements
of corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rule, must be
manifest.[38]Corruption as an element of grave misconduct consists in the act of an official or fiduciary
person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefit for himself or
for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.[39] This is apparently present in respondents
case as it concerns not only a stolen kiss but also a demand for a date, an unlawful consideration for the
issuance of a permit to operate a pre-school. Respondents act clearly constitutes grave misconduct,
punishable by dismissal.[40]
We are, however, not inclined to impose the penalty of dismissal from the service. Respondent has
served the government for a period of 37 years, during which, he made a steady ascent from an Elementary
Grade School Teacher to Schools Division Superintendent. In devoting the best years of his life to the
education department, he received numerous awards.[41]This is the first time he is being administratively
charged. He is in the edge of retirement. In fact, he had filed his application for retirement when Magdalena
filed her complaint. Section 16, Rule XIV, of the Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292
provides:
SEC. 16. In the determination of penalties to be imposed, mitigating and aggravating circumstances
may be considered. x x x.

The mitigating circumstances are enumerated in Section 53, Rule IV, of the Uniform Rules on
Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,[42] which reads in part:

SEC. 53. Extenuating, Mitigating, Aggravating, or Alternative Circumstances. In the determination of the
penalties to be imposed, mitigating, aggravating and alternative circumstances attendant to the commission
of the offense shall be considered.

The following circumstances shall be appreciated:

xxxxxx

j. length of service

xxxxxx

l. and other analogous cases.

Conformably with our ruling in a similar case of sexual harassment,[43] and respondents length of
service, unblemished record in the past and numerous awards,[44] the penalty of suspension from office
without pay for one (1) year is in order.
While we will not condone the wrongdoing of public officers and employees, however, neither will
we negate any move to recognize and remunerate their lengthy service in the government.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 8,
1998 in CA-G.R. SP No. 44180 is REVERSED. The CSC Resolution Nos. 966213 and 972423 are
AFFIRMED, subject to the modification that respondent ALLYSON BELAGAN is SUSPENDED from
office without pay for ONE (1) YEAR, with full credit of his preventive suspension.
SO ORDERED.