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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 161330. February 20, 2007.]

RENE CABARLES , petitioner, vs . HON. JUDGE BONIFACIO SANZ


MACEDA AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES , respondents.

DECISION

QUISUMBING , J : p

In an original action led under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure,
petitioner Rene Cabarles seeks to annul the Order 1 issued by respondent Judge Bonifacio
Sanz Maceda in Criminal Case No. 99-0878, entitled People of the Philippines v. Rene
"Nonoy" Cabarles y Adizas, for murder, led with the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City,
Branch 275. The questioned Order dated April 1, 2003 cancelled the scheduled
promulgation of judgment and reopened the case for reception of evidence from two
prosecution witnesses who were not presented during trial.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On June 18, 1999, Cabarles was charged with murder under the following
information:
The undersigned Prosecutor II accuses RENE "NONOY" CABARLES Y
ADIZAS of the crime of Murder , committed as follows:
That on or about the 25th day of April, 1999 , in the City of Las Piñas,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, without justi able motive with intent to kill and by means of treachery
and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
attack, assault, and stab with a deadly weapon (fan knife) one Antonio Callosa ,
which directly caused his death.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 2

Cabarles pleaded not guilty. The trial court scheduled the case for hearing on the
following dates, to wit: pre-trial on November 22, 2000; presentation of prosecution's
evidence on April 18, May 4, 11, 18, and 23, 2001; and presentation of defense evidence on
June 20 and 27, July 4 and 18, and August 1, 2001. 3
The prosecution had subpoenas issued to its witnesses: Flocer na Callosa, the
mother of the deceased; Imelda Pedrosa, the alleged eyewitness; Carlos Callosa, brother
of the deceased; and Dr. Romeo T. Salen, Police Senior Inspector of the Southern Police
District (SPD) Crime Laboratory to testify on the contents of the death certi cate of
Antonio Callosa. CSTcEI

Through no fault of its own, the prosecution was unable to present its evidence on
the rst four hearing dates. Instead, trial on the merits began only on May 23, 2001 when
the prosecution called Carlos Callosa to the witness stand. Since defense counsel agreed
to stipulate that Carlos would testify on matters in his May 13, 1999 Sinumpaang Salaysay,
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his testimony was dispensed with.
The second prosecution witness, Police Inspector Prudencio Parejos, was
presented in court during the June 20, 2001 hearing. His testimony was likewise
dispensed with after defense counsel agreed to stipulate that Police Inspector Parejos
would testify on what was in the spot report of the stabbing incident. In the June 20, 2001
hearing, the prosecution said it would offer its evidence and rest its case should the
People fail to present a witness at the next scheduled hearing. 4
When the case was called on June 27, 2001, the prosecution failed to present a
witness. Neither Pedrosa nor Dr. Salen appeared during the said hearing. Records show
that four subpoenas were issued to Pedrosa informing her that she had to appear on
November 22, 2000, 5 April 11 6 and 18, 7 May 11 and June 20, 8 and August 1, 2001. 9 The
rst subpoena was personally received by her; the second subpoena by her husband,
Salvador Pedrosa; and the third and fourth subpoenas had no proofs of service.
Meanwhile, the three subpoenas issued to Dr. Salen requiring his attendance on May 11 1 0
and 23, 1 1 June 20, 1 2 and August 1, 2001, 1 3 were all returned with the notation "addressee
moved." There was no evidence, however, that subpoenas were issued to these two
witnesses requiring their attendance for the June 27, 2001 hearing, which would explain
why they were absent. Taking into consideration the absence of a subpoena issued to
Pedrosa and Dr. Salen and notwithstanding the vehement objection registered by Cabarles,
Judge Maceda gave the prosecution a last chance but warned:
. . . It is however understood whether the subpoena is actually issued and
served or not upon the prosecution witnesses and service of such subpoena or
notice will not relieved (sic) the prosecution to make a formal offer of evidence
should the prosecution failed (sic) to present any witness in the next scheduled
hearing. 1 4

With no witness for the August 1, 2001 hearing, the prosecution rested its case and
formally offered its evidence. 1 5
Thereafter, Cabarles, with leave of court, led a demurrer to evidence but it was
denied by Judge Maceda. 1 6 Two witnesses were called for the defense, accused Cabarles
and Luisito Javier, a fisherman.
A day before the scheduled promulgation of judgment on April 2, 2003, Judge
Maceda motu proprio issued the questioned order reopening the case. In it, he observed
that the prosecution may not have been given its day in court resulting in a miscarriage of
justice. He explained that because there was a mix-up in the dates speci ed in the
subpoena and the hearing dates of when the case was actually heard, the prosecution was
unable to present its evidence on the rst four of the ve hearing dates: April 18, May 4, 11
and 18, 2001 assigned to it. Judge Maceda found that there was no hearing conducted on
April 18, 2001. Thereafter, the subpoena issued to Pedrosa required her to appear on April
11, 2001, which was not a date assigned for the prosecution but May 11, 2001. Also,
Judge Maceda noted that another subpoena was issued to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen
requiring them to appear on May 11 and June 20, 2001. But, the May 11, 2001 hearing was
reset to May 25, 2001 because the judge was indisposed, and insofar as the June 20, 2001
setting was concerned, it was not one of the days set by the court for the prosecution.
Judge Maceda further observed that the May 18, 2001 hearing was never scheduled and
May 25, 2001 was likewise not a hearing date set by the court. According to Judge
Maceda, since the prosecution was not able to present its evidence on the rst four
hearing dates and there was either no return on the subpoenas subsequently issued or
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there was no subpoena issued at all to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen, the prosecution should have
been given a last chance to present the alleged eyewitness and the doctor. His order in
part read:
. . . As a consequence[,] the promulgation set tomorrow, April 2, is canceled.
Set the reception of the testimony of the eye witness and the doctor on May 1,
2003 at 2:00 [p.]m. to enable the prosecution to avail [of] the last chance granted
by this Court. caITAC

Issue the corresponding subpoena to Imelda Pedrosa and Dr. Romeo T.


Salen directing them to appear on the aforesaid date and time, to be served by the
Branch Sheriff who is required to make a prompt return thereof.

SO ORDERED. 1 7

Judge Maceda denied Cabarles's motion for reconsideration in an Order dated April
25, 2003 and set the case for hearing on May 8, 2003 to hear the testimonies of Pedrosa
and Dr. Salen. The subpoena issued to Pedrosa for that hearing was duly served, 1 8 but
service upon Dr. Salen failed since the doctor was no longer assigned to the SPD Crime
Laboratory. Notwithstanding the service upon Pedrosa, the prosecution still failed to
present a witness during the May 8, 2003 hearing. Nonetheless, Judge Maceda, upon
motion, again decided to extend to the prosecution another chance, giving the People June
19 and July 3, 2003 as additional hearing dates. 1 9
Finally, on June 19, 2003, Pedrosa took the witness stand and completed her direct
examination. A few days thereafter, Cabarles led the present petition questioning Judge
Maceda's order, alleging that it was issued with grave abuse of discretion. Since trial in the
lower court continued, on July 3, 2003, the Public Attorney's O ce conducted its cross-
examination of Pedrosa.
On July 24, 2003, the defense counsel agreed on the facts contained in the death
certi cate of the victim, so the testimony of Dr. Salen was dispensed with. Thereafter,
Judge Maceda set the date for the reception of evidence on the civil aspect of the criminal
case on August 14, 2003, when Carlos, the deceased's brother, was recalled to the witness
stand. 2 0
Cabarles was then given a chance to adduce further evidence on his behalf.
On August 9, 2004, Judge Maceda deferred the promulgation of judgment and
ordered the case archived pending this Court's resolution of the case. 2 1
In his petition, Cabarles raises as issues the following:
[1] WHETHER THE RESPONDENT HONORABLE JUDGE GRAVELY ABUSED HIS
DISCRETION WHEN HE ISSUED THE QUESTIONED ORDER DESPITE THE
ABSENCE OF A FINAL JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION.
[2] WHETHER PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AND SPEEDY
DISPOSITION OF HIS CASE WAS VIOLATED. 2 2

Did Judge Maceda act with grave abuse of discretion in issuing motu proprio the
April 1, 2003 Order reopening the case, before judgment was rendered, to receive the
testimonies of two prosecution witnesses after both parties had rested their case? Did the
said order violate Cabarles's right to due process and speedy disposition of his case?
On the rst issue, Cabarles insists that Judge Maceda gravely abused his discretion
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when he ordered the reopening of the case before promulgation of judgment although
both parties had already rested their case. Cabarles argues that a case may only be
reopened after a judgment of conviction has been made but before its nality, as provided
in Section 24, 2 3 Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Cabarles insists that
the reopening of a case under Section 24 presupposes that judgment has already been
promulgated, which is not the case here. According to petitioner, the cases cited by the
People are not at all applicable in this case since they were tried and decided before the
introduction of Section 24 under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. aCSHDI

For Judge Maceda, the O ce of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that Section
24 is a new provision which merely formalized the long accepted practice of judges of
reopening a case to avoid a miscarriage of justice. This being the case, jurisprudence
providing that a judge has the discretion to reopen a case even before promulgation of
judgment still holds.
After a thorough consideration of the submissions by the parties, we nd that the
petition is meritorious.
A motion to reopen a case to receive further proofs was not in the old rules but it
was nonetheless a recognized procedural recourse, deriving validity and acceptance from
long, established usage. 2 4 This lack of a speci c provision covering motions to reopen
was remedied by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which took effect on December
1, 2000.
The April 1, 2003 Order was issued under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Section 24, Rule 119 and existing jurisprudence stress the following requirements for
reopening a case: (1) the reopening must be before the finality of a judgment of conviction;
(2) the order is issued by the judge on his own initiative or upon motion; (3) the order is
issued only after a hearing is conducted; (4) the order intends to prevent a miscarriage of
justice; and (5) the presentation of additional and/or further evidence should be
terminated within thirty days from the issuance of the order.
Generally, after the parties have produced their respective direct proofs, they are
allowed to offer rebutting evidence only. However, the court, for good reasons, in the
furtherance of justice, may allow new evidence upon their original case, and its ruling will
not be disturbed in the appellate court where no abuse of discretion appears. 2 5 A motion
to reopen may thus properly be presented only after either or both parties had formally
offered and closed their evidence, but before judgment is rendered, 2 6 and even after
promulgation but before nality of judgment 2 7 and the only controlling guideline
governing a motion to reopen is the paramount interest of justice. 2 8 This remedy of
reopening a case was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice. 2 9
However, while Judge Maceda is allowed to reopen the case before judgment is
rendered, Section 24 requires that a hearing must rst be conducted. Judge Maceda
issued the April 1, 2003 Order without notice and hearing and without giving the
prosecution and accused an opportunity to manifest their position on the matter. This
failure, to our mind, constitutes grave abuse of discretion and goes against the due
process clause of the Constitution which requires notice and opportunity to be heard. 3 0
The issuance of the said order, without the bene t of a hearing, is contrary to the express
language of Section 24, Rule 119.
Although the defense counsel had cross-examined Pedrosa and had participated in
the proceedings after the case was reopened by Judge Maceda, the same does not
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amount to a waiver of Cabarles's objection to the April 1, 2003 Order. To be effective, a
waiver must be certain and unequivocal. 3 1 Here, Cabarles led the present petition
seeking for a writ of certiorari against Judge Maceda before Pedrosa was cross-
examined. Also, when asked to comment on the prosecution's formal offer of evidence
taken after the case was reopened, Cabarles objected to its admission on the ground that
the same was inadmissible having been received by the court after Judge Maceda issued
the questioned order.
On the second issue, Cabarles maintains that contrary to Judge Maceda's
observation, the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present its case as seen by
the issuance of several subpoenas to Pedrosa and Dr. Salen. Cabarles argues that he is
presumed innocent until proven guilty and should not be made to wait inde nitely for
prosecution witnesses to testify. To do so would violate his constitutional right to due
process and a speedy disposition of his case. According to Cabarles, the reopening of the
case is clearly detrimental to him since it meant another day in prison.
The OSG counters that the reopening of the case was made in accordance with
Section 24 since the prosecution is entitled to the reopening of the case to prevent a
miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, Cabarles's right to a speedy trial had not been violated
since delays caused by the absence of a prosecution witness are excluded when
computing the time within which trial should start under Section 3, 3 2 Rule 119 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Although the matter of reopening a case for reception of further evidence is largely a
matter of discretion on the part of the trial court judge, this judicial action must not,
however, be done whimsically, capriciously and/or unreasonably. 3 3 In this particular case,
the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present all its witnesses but it failed to do
so. The failure of the prosecution to take full advantage of the opportunities given does
not change the fact that it was accorded such opportunities. Contrary to the justi cation
stated in the April 1, 2003 Order, the prosecution was not deprived of its day in court.
While it may be true that due to some confusion with the trial court's calendar, some of the
trial dates assigned to the prosecution did not push through and some of the subpoenas
issued to Pedrosa and/or Dr. Salen pertained to hearing dates which were different from
those assigned for reception of prosecution's evidence, still the prosecution had a total of
four hearing dates when it was given the chance to prove its case: May 23, June 20 and 27,
and August 1, 2001. The presence of prosecution witnesses in court is the responsibility
of the public prosecutor and it is incumbent upon him to take the initiative of ensuring the
attendance of his witnesses at the trial. 3 4
Since Judge Maceda issued the questioned order without complying with the third
requirement of Section 24, that there be a hearing conducted before the order to reopen is
issued, then the assailed order must be annulled and set aside for having been issued
contrary to law and consequently with grave abuse of discretion. 3 5
On Cabarles's right to a speedy disposition of his case, we agree that under the
Constitution, all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases.
Nowhere is this guaranty more signi cant and meaningful than in criminal cases where not
only the fortune, but the life and liberty of the accused as well, are at stake. 3 6
Although a discussion on the right to speedy disposition of the case is mooted by
our nulli cation of Judge Maceda's April 1, 2003 Order as having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion, we are constrained to reiterate that the concept of speedy disposition
is relative or exible. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved is not su cient.
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Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. 3 7
The right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed violated
only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or
when unjusti ed postponements of the trial are asked for and secured; or when without
cause or justi able motive, a long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party
having his case tried. 3 8
With regard to the OSG's allegation in its Comment and Memorandum, that Cabarles
failed to observe the rule on hierarchy of courts since the petition for certiorari was led
directly with the Supreme Court, Cabarles insists that he is a detention prisoner needing
immediate resolution of his case. He also argues that this case not only involves grave
abuse of discretion but also a pure question of law involving the application of Section 24,
which is a new provision. 3 9
It is necessary to stress that a direct recourse to this Court is highly improper for it
violates the established policy of strict observance of the hierarchy of courts. This Court's
original jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is concurrent with the Court of Appeals and
with the regional trial courts in proper cases within their respective regions. However, this
concurrence of jurisdiction does not grant a party seeking any of the extraordinary writs
the absolute freedom to le his petition with the court of his choice. This Court is a court
of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned
to it by the Constitution and immemorial tradition. The hierarchy of courts determines the
appropriate forum for such petitions. Thus, petitions for the issuance of such extraordinary
writs against a regional trial court should be led with the Court of Appeals. A direct
invocation of this Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only
when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and speci cally set out in
the petition. This is the established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent
inordinate demands upon this Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those
matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further overcrowding of its docket.
40

Under the present circumstances however, we are willing to take cognizance of this
case as an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts. Cabarles invokes the
jurisdiction of this Court in the interest of speedy justice since the information against him
was led way back in June 1999, 4 1 and almost eight years thereafter, no judgment has yet
been rendered. Any further delay in the resolution of the instant petition will be prejudicial
to Cabarles. Also, the Court has full discretionary power to take cognizance of the petition
led directly to it for compelling reasons or if warranted by the nature of the issues raised.
4 2 Since Section 24 is a new provision, and considering the irregularities in the issuance of
the April 1, 2003 Order, it is necessary to resolve the issues raised in this petition. TCcIaA

As a nal word, we nd the Supreme Court's pronouncement in the case of People v.


Monje instructive:
A proposal has been expressed for the remand of this case to the trial court
for further proceedings, apparently to enable the prosecution to prove again what
it failed to prove in the rst instance. We cannot agree because it will set a
dangerous precedent. Aside from its being unprocedural, it would open the
oodgates to endless litigations because whenever an accused is on the brink of
acquittal after trial, and realizing its inadequacy, the prosecution would insist to
be allowed to augment its evidence which should have been presented much
earlier. This is a criminal prosecution, and to order the remand of this case to the
court a quo to enable the prosecution to present additional evidence would violate
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the constitutional right of the accused to due process, and to speedy
determination of his case. The lamentable failure of the prosecution to ll the
vital gaps in its evidence, while prejudicial to the State and the private offended
party, should not be treated by this Court with indulgence, to the extent of
affording the prosecution a fresh opportunity to refurbish its evidence.
In ne, we are not unmindful of the gravity of the crime charged; but justice
must be dispensed with an even hand. Regardless of how much we want to
punish the perpetrators of this ghastly crime and give justice to the victim and her
family, the protection provided by the Bill of Rights is bestowed upon all
individuals, without exception, regardless of race, color, creed, gender or political
persuasion — whether privileged or less privileged — to be invoked without fear or
favor. Hence, the accused deserves no less than an acquittal; ergo, he is not called
upon to disprove what the prosecution has not proved. 4 3

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. We hold that the assailed Order
dated April 1, 2003 was issued with grave abuse of discretion. Said Order is hereby
ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, any evidence received and offered in this case as
a result of the April 1, 2003 Order is hereby stricken off the record. Let the records of this
case be REMANDED immediately to the trial court concerned for its appropriate action
without further delay. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Carpio-Morales, Tinga and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1. Rollo, pp. 14-15.


2. Id. at 13.
3. Records, p. 37.
4. Id. at 66.
5. Id. at 41.

6. Id. at 47.
7. Supra note 5.
8. Id. at 55.
9. Id. at 72.
10. Id. at 52.

11. Id. at 59.


12. Supra note 10.
13. Id. at 70.
14. Id. at 68.

15. Id. at 74.

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16. Id. at 91.
17. Rollo, p. 15.

18. Records, pp. 133-134.


19. Id. at 136.
20. Id. at 172.
21. Id. at 223.
22. Rollo, p. 85.

23. SEC. 24. Reopening. — At any time before finality of the judgment of conviction, the judge
may, motu proprio or upon motion, with hearing in either case, reopen the proceedings to
avoid a miscarriage of justice. The proceedings shall be terminated within thirty (30)
days from the order granting it.
24. Alegre v. Reyes, No. L-56923, May 9, 1988, 161 SCRA 226, 231.
25. Gacayan v. Pamintuan, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1483 (OCA-IPI No. 98-578-RTJ), September 17,
1999, 314 SCRA 682, 694; People v. Castro-Bartolome, G.R. No. 45037, November 21,
1991, 204 SCRA 38, 42.
26. Alegre v. Reyes, supra note 24; II F. Regalado, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM 551 (10th ed.,
2004), citing People v. Concepcion, 84 Phil. 787, 788 (1949).
27. REVISED RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, Rule 119, Sec. 24; II F. Regalado, REMEDIAL
LAW COMPENDIUM, supra.
28. People v. Tee, G.R. Nos. 140546-47, January 20, 2003, 395 SCRA 419, 444.

29. II F. Regalado, REMEDIAL LAW COMPENDIUM, supra.


30. See Lam v. Chua, G.R. No. 131286, March 18, 2004, 426 SCRA 29, 40.

31. Larranaga v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 130644, March 13, 1998, 287 SCRA 581, 591.
32. SEC. 3. Exclusions. — The following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the
time within which trial must commence:

(a) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the accused,
including but not limited to the following:

(1) Delay resulting from an examination of the physical and mental condition of the
accused;

(2) Delay resulting from proceedings with respect to other criminal charges against the
accused;

(3) Delay resulting from extraordinary remedies against interlocutory orders;


(4) Delay resulting from pre-trial proceedings; provided, that the delay does not exceed
thirty (30) days;

(5) Delay resulting from orders of inhibition, or proceedings relating to change of venue
of cases or transfer from other courts;

(6) Delay resulting from a finding of the existence of a prejudicial question; and
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(7) Delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty (30) days, during
which any proceeding concerning the accused is actually under advisement.
(b) Any period of delay resulting from the absence or unavailability of an essential
witness.
For purposes of this subparagraph, an essential witness shall be considered absent
when his whereabouts are unknown or his whereabouts cannot be determined by due
diligence. He shall be considered unavailable whenever his whereabouts are known but
his presence for trial cannot be obtained by due diligence.
(c) Any period of delay resulting from the mental incompetence or physical inability of
the accused to stand trial.
(d) If the information is dismissed upon motion of the prosecution and thereafter a
charge is filed against the accused for the same offense, any period of delay from the
date the charge was dismissed to the date the time limitation would commence to run as
to the subsequent charge had there been no previous charge.

(e) A reasonable period of delay when the accused is joined for trial with a co-accused
over whom the court has not acquired jurisdiction, or, as to whom the time for trial has
not run and no motion for separate trial has been granted.
(f) Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by any court motu proprio,
or on motion of either the accused or his counsel, or the prosecution, if the court granted
the continuance on the basis of its findings set forth in the order that the ends of justice
served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the accused in
a speedy trial.
33. Gacayan v. Pamintuan, supra note 25, at 695.

34. People v. Monje, G.R. No. 146689, September 27, 2002, 390 SCRA 160, 174.
35. See Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines v. Commission on Elections,
G.R. No. 159139, January 13, 2004, 419 SCRA 141, 148.

36. Clave v. Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R. No. 102502 and Cruz, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R.
No. 103143, June 19, 2001, p. 5 (Unsigned Resolution).

37. Dela Peña v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 144542, June 29, 2001, 360 SCRA 478, 485.
38. Dela Rosa v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 116945, February 9, 1996, 253 SCRA 499, 504, citing
Gonzales v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 94750, July 16, 1991, 199 SCRA 298, 307.
39. Rollo, pp. 51-52, 100-102.
40. Page-Tenorio v. Tenorio, G.R. No. 138490, November 24, 2004, 443 SCRA 560, 567-568.
41. Records, p. 1; Rollo, p. 13.
42. Ark Travel Express, Inc. v. Abrogar, G.R. No. 137010, August 29, 2003, 410 SCRA 148, 157.

43. Supra note 34, at 179-180.

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