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Today is Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 168903 June 18, 2014
MA. ANA CONSUELO A.S. MADRIGAL, Petitioner,
vs.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, UNDERSECRETARY MA. MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ, CELESTINO M. PALMA III, and HELEN
T. CHUA, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
SERENO, CJ :
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Decision
1
of the Court of Appeals
(CA) dated 31 March 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 77111, which affirmed the Department of Justice (DOJ) Resolutions in LS. No. 988-
06093 dated 7 September 2001
2
and 1 7 March 2003.
3

THE FACTS
The antecedents of the case are as follows:
Petitioner is the president of Madrigal Transport, Inc. (MTI).
On the other hand, respondent Celestino M. Palma III (Palma) is the vice-president of Far East Bank and Trust Company (FEBTC),
while respondent Helen T. Chua (Chua) is an account officer of FEBTC.
Criminal Complaint
On 12 February 1998, petitioner filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila a Complaint-Affidavit
4
charging respondent
Palma with the crime of estafa under paragraphs 1(c),
5
2(a),
6
3(a) and 3(c)
7
of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code. Later on,
respondent Chua was named as additional respondent.
It is undisputed that sometime in1997, MTI obtained and was granted a loan in the amount of USD 10 million from FEBTC for the
acquisition of the feeder vessel M/V Alicia(formerly the M.V. Artemission).
a) Petitioners version
In her Complaint-Affidavit,
8
petitioner alleged that, as president of MTI, she applied for a loan from FEBTC in the amount of USD 10.5
million to finance the acquisition of a feeder vessel, pursuant to a Joint Venture Agreement between MTI and the Lapanday Holdings
Corporation. FEBTC sent her various documents, such as a Loan Agreement, a Comprehensive Surety Agreement, a Notice of
Borrowing, a Promissory Note, a Certificate of Non-Default, Form of Opinion of Counsel to the Borrower, a Deed of Chattel
Mortgage, and a Letter of Undertaking and Deed of Assignment. She signed the documents without the material entries and sent
them back to FEBTC.
Thereafter, petitioner was advised by respondent Palma that FEBTC could only grant MTI a loan in the amount of USD 10 million
because of a lower valuation of the vessel M/V Alicia. Thus, she reapplied for a loan for this reduced amount and signed a second
set of loan documents, which included a Comprehensive Surety Agreement guaranteeing the USD 10 million loan, a Notice of
Borrowing, a Promissory Note, a Certificate of Non-Default and a Borrowing Certificate. She was also requested to sign other
documents, such as a Deed of Assignment over Charter Hires and a Chattel Mortgage.
Petitioner noticed that respondent Palma was imposing upon MTI additional obligations not originally contemplated, so she
immediately referred the matter to MTI lawyers, who wrote FEBTC and requested copies of the documents to be signed in relation to
the USD 10 million loan. To her surprise, respondent Palma insisted that petitioner was personally liable under the first
Comprehensive Surety Agreement covering the USD 10.5 million loan despite the fact that all the documents pertaining to the said
loan had all been "abandoned and considered torn." As a result of the fraudulent act of imputing to her a "legally in existent"
obligation, she was allegedly compelled to disburse from her personal funds the total amount of Php5,903,172.30, which was paid to
FEBTC, to protect her reputation.
b) Respondents version
On the other hand, respondent Palma averred that MTI had applied for a loan from FEBTC in the amount of USD 11 million to
finance the purchase of a vessel named M/V Artemission (now the M/V Alicia). The purchase was for a joint venture with Lapanday
and Macondray Company to be known as the MLM Logistics International, Incorporated. The joint venture would operate a vessel for
the carriage of goods of Del Monte Philippines, Incorporated. In connection with its loan application, MTI was required by FEBTC to
infuse acceptable equity into the acquisition of the vessel.
Respondent Palma maintains that FEBTC considered the immediate release of the proceeds of the loan, as accommodation to
petitioner, provided that the latter, together with Luis P. Lorenzo, Jr. (the president of Lapanday Holdings Corporation), would
execute "personal undertakings" as sureties for the loan of the MTI. To secure the immediate release of the proceeds of the loan,
petitioner and Lorenzo, Jr. agreed to this condition and consequently executed a Comprehensive Surety Agreement as security for
the release of the loan to MTI.
Respondent Palma further stressed that the FEBTC officers had several meetings with MTI officers for the purpose of assisting the
latter in finding ways to repay MTIs loan. Thus, it appears that the institution of the criminal complaint was merely a ploy resorted to
by petitioner to question the due execution of the Comprehensive Surety Agreement to evade her personal liability for MTIs loan.
9

Respondent Chua corroborated respondent Palmas allegations.
Initial finding of probable cause
The Resolution
10
dated 16 October 1998 issued by Assistant City Prosecutor Ramon Carisma and approved by City Prosecutor
Ramon Garcia, found probable cause for the filing of an Information
11
docketed as Criminal Case No. 98-16873 dated 29 October
1998 Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 8, against respondents for the crime of estafa but only under paragraph 1(c),
Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.
Respondents thereafter filed a Motion to Suspend Arraignment and Further Proceedings in view of their appeal before the
Department of Justice (DOJ). The RTC granted the motion on 2 June 1999.
On 23 June 2000, DOJ Secretary Artemio G. Tuquero (Sec. Tuquero) issued a Resolution
12
upholding the Resolution dated 16
October 1998 of the Manila Prosecutors Office, with the modification that the charge against respondents should be for estafa under
paragraph 3(c), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.
Respondents moved for a reconsideration of this last DOJ Resolution on 25 October 2000.
Reversal of the finding of probable cause
Subsequently, a Resolution dated 7 September 2001, then Undersecretary Merceditas Gutierrez (Usec. Gutierrez) reversed and set
aside the Resolution dated 23 June 2000.
13

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of this reversed finding on 27 September 2001.
Meanwhile, pursuant to the 7 September 2001 DOJ Resolution, Assistant City Prosecutor Elseray Faith Noro filed a Motion to
Withdraw the Information with the RTC on 8 January 2002.
On 17 March 2003, petitioners Motion for Reconsideration was denied in a Resolution also signed by then Usec. Gutierrez.
14

Petition for Certiorari with the CA
Consequently, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari
15
with the CA under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court. The Petition,
docketed as CAG.R. SP No. 77111, alleged that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in setting aside the Resolution dated 23 June 2000.
On 31 March 2005, the CA dismissed the Petition and affirmed the assailed Resolutions of the DOJ dated 7 September 2001 and 17
March 2003.
Petitioners Motion for Reconsideration was likewise denied on 8 July 2005.
The CA ruled that there was no probable cause to warrant the filing of the Information for estafa under paragraph 1(c), Article 315
against respondents. It found that the indispensable element in the crime of estafa under paragraph 1(c) that "the paper with the
signature of the offended party must be blank" was lacking. That an experienced businesswoman would thoughtlessly affix her
signature to a blank document was considered incredible by the appellate court. It likewise found to be devoid of merit the assertion
of petitioner that she did not sign the Comprehensive Surety Agreement in her personal capacity, and that the agreement referred to
an "abandoned" loan application.
THE ISSUES
Unsatisfied with the ruling of the CA, petitioner assigns the following errors:
I
The Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred when it ignored the fact that the crime at issue in the case at bar is for
violation of Article 315 paragraph 3(c) and not Article 315 paragraph 1(c) of the Revised Penal Code, in clear
disregard of the provisions of law and jurisprudence on the matter.
II
The Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred when it brushed aside the fact that there exist two sets of loan
documents that show respondents ruse to deceive petitioner, thereby ignoring unmistakable evidence which
abrogate petitioners property rights.
III
The Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred when it ruled that respondents did not commit fraudulent acts when
they concealed documents from petitioner, notwithstanding stark evidence to the contrary.
IV
The Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred when it ruled that respondents did not take advantage of petitioners
signature in blank, despite evidence showing they actually did.
V
The Honorable Court of Appeals gravely erred when it failed to address the issue of whether respondent
Undersecretary had the power and authority to reverse and set aside a resolution of the secretary of justice, thereby
nullifying numerous case law on the matter stating that acts of the Secretary of Justice cannot be abrogated by his
subordinate.
16

The foregoing issues boil down to two: (1) whether probable cause exists to hold private respondents liable for estafa under
paragraph 1(c) or 3(c) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code; and (2) whether the Undersecretary of the DOJ had the authority to
reverse a Resolution of its Secretary.
THE COURTS RULING
We find no merit in the Petition.
On the issue of existence of probable cause
At the outset, the CA found that the DOJ did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it found no probable cause to hold private
respondents liable for estafa under paragraph 1(c) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code.
The CA did not make an express finding upholding the DOJ finding of no probable cause to hold private respondents liable for estafa
under paragraph 3(c) perhaps because the Information filed in Court is for estafa under paragraph 1(c).
The elements of estafa in general are:
17

1) That the accused defrauded another (a) by abuse of confidence, or (b) by means of deceit; and
2) That damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third person.
The first element covers the following ways of committing estafa:
18

1) with unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence;
2) by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts; or
3) through fraudulent means.
The first way of committing estafa is known as estafa with abuse of confidence, while the second and the third ways cover estafa by
means of deceit.
This Court finds that the present case does not constitute estafa in either form.
1) That the accused defrauded another
(a) by abuse of confidence, or
(b) by means of deceit
As regards the first element, we find that there was neither abuse of confidence nor deceit in this case.
It is the main contention of petitioner that she was defrauded through the use of her signature in blank and through the use of the first
set of document she signed, which has supposedly been abandoned. Petitioner is being held personally liable for the loan of MTI by
virtue of the Comprehensive Surety Agreement (CSA) she signed in her personal capacity for the initial application for the USD10.5
million loan from FEBTC. Petitioner alleges that since the second application for USD 10 million loans was the one granted by
FEBTC, the second set of documents supporting that loan should be controlling. In that second application, petitioner signed the
CSA in her capacity as president of MLM Logistics International.
On the charge of abuse of confidence, we find that there is no evidence that could possibly lead to a conclusion that respondents
committed abuse of confidence in dealing with petitioner.
First, a perusal of the evidence reveals that petitioner did not sign a blank document nor was she deceived by respondents regarding
the terms of the CSA. On its face, the CSA was a standard preprinted form. A plain reading thereof shows that the signatory
guarantees the punctual payment of indebtedness that may have been due or owed by the borrower. Petitioner ought to have read
the terms of the CSA before she signed it.
Second, considering the accountability of the signatory upon signing the CSA, petitioner must have observed prudence in order to
protect her interests. Hence, she should have personally indicated her own terms in the CSA whether she was signing as a
representative, a surety, or a witness. It is unlikely that FEBTC officers would make it appear that she was personally liable as surety
of a loan without her knowledge and authority. Petitioner failed to overcome the presumption in favor of respondents that the ordinary
course of business has been followed. Further, the CA aptly found as follows:
Furthermore, it is downright incredible for the petitioner, who is evidently intelligent, and a businesswoman of experience to boot, to
affix her signature thoughtlessly on a blank instrument or document, whose material particulars are lacking. At the very least, her
business instinct must impel her to first examine the contents of the document and obtain full knowledge of its import before affixing
her signature thereto, -- especially in this case, where a huge sum of money (in the several millions of dollars at that) is involved.
On the contrary, considering further that the loan of USD10 million was approved and released to petitioner prior to the execution of
the second set of documents, it is more sensible to believe that given her financial status and capability to recompense the loan the
bank approved the loan upon her personal guarantee and execution of the first CSA.
Any intent to deceive through concealment was also negated when the FEBTC officers, herein respondents, willingly presented the
documents pertaining to the loan upon the request of petitioner. In fact, a communication letter
19
she had sent the bank reveals that
she knew all along and acknowledged the obligation that she, together with Luis P. Lorenzo of Lapanday Holdings Corp., had acted
as a surety of MTIs loan.
The existence of two (2) documents is irrelevant in this case as the original intention of the parties is evident that petitioner and
Luis P. Lorenzo, in their personal capacities are co-sureties of MTIs loan. Pursuant to Article 2047 of the Civil Code, a surety
undertakes to be bound solidarily with the principal debtor to assure the fulfillment of the obligation.
20
It would therefore be absurd to
conclude that petitioner signed the CSA in her capacity as president of MTI considering that the principle behind surety ship will be
negated. Otherwise stated, the borrower cannot at the same time be a guarantor/surety to assure the fulfillment of its own loan
application. Moreover, the CSA is a continuing guarantee that petitioner, upon executing the said document, bound herself to the
contract "until the full and due payment and performance of all the obligations of the borrower."
21
Undisputedly, there was only one
loan transaction, and FEBTC does not intend to collect from both loan documents. Thus, we find no abuse of confidence or deceit
committed by respondents in the foregoing circumstances.
2) That damage or prejudice capable of
pecuniary estimation is caused to the
offended party or third person
As a consequence, even if petitioner paid the amount of Php5,903,172.30, we find that it was legally paid pursuant to a valid and
existing agreement which petitioner voluntarily entered into. Therefore, the payment did not constitute damage or prejudice to
petitioner.
On the issue of the authority of the DOJ Undersecretary
Petitioner further contends that Usec. Gutierrez did not have the power or authority to overturn a Resolution of her superior, Sec.
Tuquero.
It bears stressing that when Usec. Gutierrez issued the first assailed Resolution on 7 September 2001, Sec. Tuquero was no longer
the DOJ Secretary.
22
Similarly, at the time Usec. Gutierrez issued the Resolution on petitioners Motion for Reconsideration on 17
March 2003, she was acting "for the Secretary" who was then Secretary Simeon A. Datumanong.
23

The assailed Resolutions were issued by Usec. Gutierrez for two different Secretaries of Justice on two different occasions by virtue
of a delegated authority. "Absent any allegation and proof of any acquired vested right, the discretion exercised by a former alter-ego
cannot tie the hands of their successors in office, since cabinet secretaries are mere projections of the Chief Executive himself."
24

"In the same vein, the presumption, disputable though it may be, that an official duty has been regularly performed applies in favor of
[respondent Usec. Gutierrez.] Omnia praesumuntur rite et solemniter esse acta. (All things are presumed to becorrectly and
solemnly done). It is petitioners burden to overcome this juris tantum presumption."
25
This, petitioner failed to do. Mere allegations will
not suffice without proof that Usec. Gutierrez did not have the authority at the time she issued the assailed Resolution.
In the light of the foregoing, we find no evidence that would constitute a prima facie case for estafa against respondents. It is true
that a finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and
was committed by the accused. In the present case, however, no such evidence exists that would engender a well-founded belief
that estafa was in fact committed by respondents.
26

In fine, "[c]ourts are not empowered to substitute their judgment for that of the Secretary of Justice, save only when it was rendered
with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. In this case, we find no abuse, much less grave abuse of
discretion, on the part of the Secretary of Justice, [acting through Usec. Gutierrez], as to warrant a reversal of the CA Decision."
27

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby DENIED. Accordingly, the Decision dated 31 March 2005 and
Resolution dated 8 July 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 77111 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice, Chairperson
WE CONCUR:
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
1
Rollo, pp. 66-82; Penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Dacudao, with Associate Justices Edgardo F. Sundiam
and Japar B. Dimaampao concurring.
2
Id. at 352-362.
3
Id. at 327-328.
4
Id. at 95-109.
5
ARTICLE 315 Swindling (Estafa). Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned herein
below shall be punished by:
x x x x
1. With unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, namely:
x x x x
(c) By taking undue advantage of the signature of the offended party in blank, and by writing any document
above such signature in blank, to the prejudice of the offended party or any third person.
6
2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the
commission of the fraud:
(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit,
agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means of other similar deceits.
7
3. Through any of the following fraudulent means:
(a) By inducing another, by means of deceit, to sign any document.
x x x x
(c)By removing, concealing or destroying, in whole or in part, any court record, office files, document or any
other papers.
8
Rollo, pp. 95-109.
9
DOJ Resolution dated 23 June 2000, id. at 189-191.
10
Id. at 184-187.
11
Id. at 448.
12
Id. at 188-193.
13
CA rollo, pp. 25-35.
14
Id. at 36-37.
15
Id. at 2-24.
16
Rollo, pp. 32-33; Petition for Reviewon Certiorari, pp. 10-11.
17
Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code: Criminal Law, Book Two, p.780 (18th ed. 2012).
18
Id. at 781.
19
Rollo, pp. 581-582; Letter dated 28 October 1997.
20
Philippine Charter Insurance Corporation v. Central Colleges Of The Philippines And Dynamic Planners And
Construction Corporation, G.R. Nos. 180631-33, 22 February 2012.
21
Rollo, pp. 169-170; Comprehensive Surety Agreement dated 15 April 1997.
22
DOJ Ministers and Secretaries, <http://doj.gov.ph/ministers-and-secretaries.html> (visited 10 October 2012).
23
Id.
24
PCGG v. Jacobi, G.R. No. 155996, 27 June 2012, citing Malayan Integrated Industries Corp. v. Court of Appeals,
213 SCRA 640, 651 (1992).
25
Farolan v. Solmac Marketing Corporation, G.R. No. 83589. 13 March 1991, 195 SCRA 168, 178-179.
26
RCL Feeders PTE., Ltd. v. Perez, 487 Phil. 211, 222-223 (2004).
27
Id. at 223.

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation



Today is Wednesday, October 08, 2014





Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
A.M. No. RTJ-13-2356 June 9, 2014
[Formerly OCA No. IPI-11-3701-RTJ]
ARGEL D. HERNANDEZ, Complainant,
vs.
JUDGE VICTOR C. GELLA, PRESIDING JUDGE, CLARINCE B. JINTALAN, LEGAL RESEARCHER, and ROWENA B.
JINTALAN, SHERIFF IV, ALL FROM THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 52, SORSOGON CITY, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
BERSAMIN, J .:
We reiterate that an administrative complaint against a judge is not a substitute for a proper remedy taken in due course to review
and undo his acts or omissions done in the performance of his judicial duties and functions. For any litigant to insist otherwise is
censurable because the, complaint adversely affects the administration of justice and harms the reputation of a judicial officer.
Antecedents
In his verified complaint dated July 8, 2011,
1
complainant Argel D. Hernandez charged Judge Victor C. Gella, as the Presiding Judge
of Branch 52 of the Regional Trial Court in Sorsogon City (RTC), with gross ignorance of the law; and Sheriff IV Rowena B. Jintalan,
also of Branch 52, and Legal Researcher Clarince B. Jintalan with abuse of authority in connection with the implementation of the
writ of execution issued in Case No. 2005-7473, a proceeding for consolidation of ownership entitled Maria Purisima Borlasa v.
Spouses Jesus Hernandez and Margarita De Vera.
It appears that the property involved in Case No. 2005-7473 was sold at a public auction in which Maria Purisima Borlasa was
declared the winning bidder; that a final bill of sale was issued to Borlasa on May 30, 2007; that in 2009, Borlasas motion for the
issuance of the writ of execution was granted; that in 2010, Sheriff Jintalan started implementing the writ but was unsuccessful in
doing so because Hernandez consistently found ways to resist her implementation, including the filing of a petition for certiorari in the
Court of Appeals.
Ultimately, on May 31, 2011, Sheriff Jintalan successfully implemented the writ of execution and entered the house of Hernandez.
According to Hernandez, the implementation of the writ of execution was tainted with abuse. He claimed that Sheriff Jintalan and
Legal Researcher Jintalan, together with policemen and goons carrying bolos and mallets, had arrived at his house; that she ordered
the goons to destroy his house despite being made aware of the pendency of the petition for certiorari in the CA; that the goons
entered his house, and took his familys belongings and valuables outside the house and loaded them in a truck; that his familys
belongings and valuables were brought to a warehouse of Vicente Bonaobra, who was the brother and attorney-in- fact of the
plaintiff; that his children, who witnessed the proceedings, were traumatized; and that he had a verbal argument with Legal
Researcher Jintalan, who had owed him some money.
2

Hernandez added that such acts of Sheriff Jintalan and Legal Researcher Jintalan of destroying his house and taking his familys
belongings and valuables were in excess of their authority; and that such excess of authority would not have happened had Judge
Gella not authorized the execution of the writ of execution notwithstanding the pendency of the petition for certiorari in the CA.
3

The respondents denied the charges.
Judge Gella narrated the background of Case No. 2005-7473 and set forth the events leading to the filing of the petition for certiorari
by Hernandez in the CA and the enforcement of the writ of execution on May 31, 2011. He insisted that the RTC had afforded due
process to Hernandez; that prior to the implementation of the writ of execution Sheriff Jintalan had already accommodated
Hernandez by granting him concessions; and that Hernandez was only a disgruntled litigant who refused to accept and to bow to the
lawful orders and processes of the RTC.
4

Legal Researcher Jintalan explained that he had been tasked to assist in the implementation of the writ by Sheriff Jintalan, who was
his wife; that police assistance became necessary because Hernandez and his uncle had been resisting the writ of execution, which
was a lawful court order, by threatening Sheriff Jintalan with administrative and criminal cases, and even physical harm; that
although admitting having instructed the hired men to destroy the chain of the fence and the door lock of the main door of
Hernandezs house, he had done so only to gain entry into and to exit from the property; that Hernandez and the other occupants of
the house had earlier padlocked the gate and parked a ten-wheeler truck behind the fence to block the entry of the sheriff; that
Hernandez had also used his children as a shield by having them barricade the door to prevent entry of the sheriffs team; that
Hernandez had taunted the implementing officers into firing at his children; that no jewelry and money were taken because the
members of the sheriffs team did not go inside Hernandezs bedroom; and that he did not owe any money to Hernandez.
5

On her part, Sheriff Jintalan asserted that she had only performed her ministerial duty to implement the writ of execution; that cutting
the chain of the fence and breaking the door knob had been necessary to gain entry into the house; that her team could pull out only
a few pieces of furniture and several sacks of palay because Hernandez had used his children to barricade the entrance and had
dared them to shoot at him and the children; that at one point Hernandez had poked a gun at her; that they had loaded the
inventoried items in the truck owned by Vicente Bonaobra to be brought to the latters warehouse only for safekeeping; and that only
the assisting policemen had carried guns during the execution proceedings.
6

In its Report dated March 28, 2012,
7
the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that:
1. The administrative complaint against Judge Victor C. Gella, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 52,
Sorsogon City be DISMISSED for being premature and judicial in nature;
2. The administrative complaint against Rowena B. Jintalan, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Sorsogon
City be RE-DOCKETED as a regular administrative matter;
3. Respondent Rowena B. Jintalan be found Guilty of Simple Neglect of Duty and be SUSPENDED from office for
one (1) month and one (1) day without pay; and
4. The administrative complaint against Clarince B. Jintalan, Legal Researcher, Regional Trial Court Branch 52,
Sorsogon City be DISMISSED for being unsubstantiated.
8

Ruling
We ACCEPT the findings of the OCA because they were supported by the records, and, accordingly, ADOPT its aforequoted
recommendations.
Re: Judge Gella Hernandezs complaint against Judge Gella, being rooted in the denial of Hernandezs motion for reconsideration
(vis--vis the denial of Hernandezs motion to quash the writ of execution), unquestionably related to Judge Gellas performance of
his judicial office, and is for that reason outrightly dismissible. We reiterate that an administrative remedy is neither alternative nor
cumulative to any proper judicial review. A litigant like Hernandez who is aggrieved by an order or judgment of the judge must pursue
his proper available judicial remedies because only a higher court exercising appellate authority can review and correct any error of
judgment committed in the discharge of the judicial office. As to an order or judgment tainted by grave abuse of discretion or a
jurisdictional defect, only a higher court invested with supervisory authority can revise the order or judgment. It is always worth
stressing that an administrative remedy cannot be a proper means to undo or rectify the order or judgment.
The filing of administrative complaints or just the threats of the filing of such complaints do subvert and undermine the independence
of the Judiciary and its Judges. Thus, the Court does not tolerate unwarranted administrative charges brought against sitting
magistrates in respect of their judicial actions. Moreover, as the Court pointedly observed in Re: Verified Complaint of Engr. Oscar L.
Ongjoco, Chairman of the Board/CEO of FHGYMN Multi-Purpose and Transport Service Cooperative, against Hon. Juan Q.
Enriquez, Jr., Hon. Ramon M. Bato, Jr. and Hon. Florito S. Macalino, Associate Justices, Court of Appeals,
9
to wit:
It is evident to us that Ongjocos objective in filing the administrative complaint was to take respondent Justices to task for the regular
performance of their sworn duty of upholding the rule of law. He would thereby lay the groundwork for getting back at them for not
favoring his unworthy cause. Such actuations cannot be tolerated at all, for even a mere threat of administrative investigation and
prosecution made against a judge to influence or intimidate him in his regular performance of the judicial office always subverts and
undermines the independence of the Judiciary.1wphi 1
We seize this occasion, therefore, to stress once again that disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions brought against any judge
in relation to the performance of his official functions are neither complementary to nor suppletory of appropriate judicial remedies,
nor a substitute for such remedies. Any party who may feel aggrieved should resort to these remedies, and exhaust them, instead of
resorting to disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions.
10
(Bold emphasis supplied)
The nature of adjudication by a judicial magistrate as a function of sovereignty invests the magistrate with a great degree of immunity
from administrative and other liabilities. This the Court explained in Re: Verified Complaint For Disbarment of AMA LAND, INC.
(Represented By Joseph B. Usita) Against Court of Appeals Associate Justices Hon. Danton Q. Bueser, Hon. Sesinando E. Villon
and Hon. Ricardo G. Rosario:
11

Indeed, no judicial officer should have to fear or apprehend being held to account or to answer for performing his judicial functions
and office because such performance is a matter of public duty and responsibility. The office and duty to render and administer
justice are function of sovereignty, and should not be simply taken for granted. As a recognized commentator on public offices and
public officers has written:
It is a general principle, abundantly sustained by authority and reason, that no civil action can be sustained against a judicial officer
for the recovery of damages by one claiming to have been injured by the officers judicial action within his jurisdiction. From the very
nature of the case, the officer is called upon by law to exercise his judgment in the matter, and the law holds his duty to the individual
to be performed when he has exercised it, however erroneous or disastrous in its consequences it may appear either to the party or
to others.
A number of reasons, any one of them sufficient, have been advanced in support of this rule. Thus it is said of the judge: "His doing
justice as between particular individuals, when they have a controversy before him, is not the end and object which were in view
when his court was created, and he was selected to preside over or sit in it. Courts are created on public grounds; they are to do
justice as between suitors, to the end that peace and order may prevail in the political society, and that rights may be protected and
preserved. The duty is public, and the end to be accomplished is public; the individual advantage or loss results from the proper and
thorough or improper and imperfect performance of a duty for which his controversy is only the occasion. The judge performs his
duty to the public by doing justice between individuals, or, if he fails to do justice as between individuals, he may be called to account
by the State in such form and before such tribunal as the law may have provided. But as the duty neglected is not a duty to the
individual, civil redress, as for an individual injury, is not admissible." (Bold underscoring is part of the original text)
Re: Legal Researcher Jintalan
The complaint against Legal Researcher Jintalan was similarly bereft of factual and legal merit. There is no question that Legal
Researcher Jintalans participation in the implementation of the writ of execution was upon the prior authorization of Judge Gella in
order to assist Sheriff Jintalan in her proceedings to implement the writ of execution. To hold Legal Researcher Jintalan
administratively liable is to unreasonably disregard his having acted in the execution proceedings upon official authority of the court
itself, and would be a travesty of justice.
Re: Sheriff Jintalan
The OCAs recommendation to hold Sheriff Jintalan administratively liable for simple neglect of duty is well-taken.
With the implementation of the writ of execution being her purely ministerial duty, Sheriff Jintalan must perform her duty strictly to the
letter. She thus knew that the levied personal properties of Hernandez must be kept safely in and under her direct custody, not in
and under the custody of any of the parties.
12
Her bringing of such personal properties to the warehouse of Vicente Bonaobra despite
being aware that the latter was the plaintiffs brother and her attorney-in- fact for purposes of the case signified that she let herself
serve as the "special deputy" of the winning litigant.
13
Therein lay the irregularity. Verily, she did not live up to the standards
prescribed by her office. Her conduct as a court personnel must be beyond reproach and free from any suspicion that could taint the
Judiciary. She should avoid any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official duties.
14

Sheriff Jintalan was thereby guilty of simple neglect of duty the failure to give proper attention to a task expected of an employee,
thus signifying a disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference. Simple neglect of duty is punishable by suspension
of one month and one day to six months.
15
Under the established circumstances, the penalty for Sheriff Jintalan is suspension
without pay for one month and one day.
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the administrative complaints against Judge Victor C. Gella and Legal Researcher Clarince B.
Jintalan of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, in Sorsogon City; and PRONOUNCES Sheriff Rowena B. Jintalan GUILTY of
SIMPLE NEGLECT OF DUTY and, accordingly, SUSPENDS her from office for one month and one day without pay, with a stern
warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

Footnotes
1
Rollo, pp. 1-5.
2
Id. at 2-4.
3
Id. at 4.
4
Id. at 166-175.
5
Id. at 115-118.
6
Id. at 140-146.
7
Id. at 239.
8
Id.
9
A.M. OCA IPI No. 11-184-CA-J, January 31, 2012, 664 SCRA 465.
10
Id. at 474-475.
11
OCA IPI No. 12-204-CA-J, March 11, 2014.
12
Villanueva-Fabella v. Lee, A.M. No. MTJ-04-1518. January 15, 2004, 419 SCRA 440, 452.
13
Caja v. Nanquil, A.M. No. P-04-1885, September 13, 2004, 438 SCRA 174, 195.
14
Supra note 12, at 454.
15
Id. at 455.

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Today is Wednesday, October 08, 2014





Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 184148 June 9, 2014
NORA B. CALALANG-PARULAN and ELVIRA B. CALALANG, Petitioners,
vs.
ROSARIO CALALANG-GARCIA, LEONORA CALALANG-SABILE, and CARLITO S. CALALANG, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
VILLARAMA, JR., J .:
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari assailing the Decision
1
dated December 21, 2007 and Resolution
2
dated July 25, 2008
of the Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 72531. The CA modified the Decision
3
dated July 10, 2001
of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 21, of Malolos, Bulacan, in Civil Case No. 370-M-91.
The facts, as culled from the records, follow:
In a Complaint
4
for Annulment of Sale and Reconveyance of Property filed with the RTC of Malolos, Bulacan on June 10, 1991, the
respondents Rosario Calalang-Garcia, Leonora Calalang-Sabile, and Carlito S. Calalang asserted their ownership over a certain
parcel of land against the petitioners Nora B. Calalang-Parulan and Elvira B. Calalang. The said lot with an area of 1,266 square
meters and specifically identified as Lot 1132, Cad. 333, Bigaa Cadastre situated in Brgy. Burol 2nd, Municipality of Balagtas,
Province of Bulacan, was allegedly acquired by the respondents from their mother Encarnacion Silverio, through succession as the
latters compulsory heirs.
According to the respondents, their father, Pedro Calalang contracted two marriages during his lifetime. The first marriage was with
their mother Encarnacion Silverio. During the subsistence of this marriage, their parents acquired the above-mentioned parcel of
land from their maternal grandmother Francisca Silverio. Despite enjoying continuous possession of the land, however, their parents
failed to register the same. On June 7, 1942, the first marriage was dissolved with the death of Encarnacion Silverio.
On November 6, 1967, Pedro Calalang entered into a second marriage with Elvira B. Calalang who then gave birth to Nora B.
Calalang-Parulan and Rolando Calalang. According to the respondents, it was only during this time that Pedro Calalang filed an
application for free patent over the parcel of land with the Bureau of Lands. Pedro Calalang committed fraud in such application by
claiming sole and exclusive ownership over the land since 1935 and concealing the fact that he had three children with his first
spouse. As a result, on September 22, 1974, the Register of Deeds of Bulacan issued Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. P-
2871
5
in favor of Pedro Calalang only.
On February 17, 1984, Pedro Calalang sold the said parcel of land to Nora B. Calalang-Parulan as evidenced by a Deed of
Sale
6
executed by both Pedro Calalang and Elvira B. Calalang. Accordingly, the Register of Deeds of Bulacan cancelled OCT No. P-
2871 and issued Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 283321 in the name of Nora B. Calalang-Parulan. On December 27,
1989,
7
Pedro Calalang died.
The respondents assailed the validity of TCT No. 283321 on two grounds. First, the respondents argued that the sale of the land was
void because Pedro Calalang failed to obtain the consent of the respondents who were co-owners of the same. As compulsory heirs
upon the death of Encarnacion Silverio, the respondents claimed that they acquired successional rights over the land. Thus, in
alienating the land without their consent, Pedro Calalang allegedly deprived them of their pro indiviso share in the property. Second,
the respondents claimed that the sale was absolutely simulated as Nora B. Calalang-Parulan did not have the capacity to pay for the
consideration stated in the Deed of Sale.
In their Answer,
8
the petitioners argued that the parcel of land was acquired during the second marriage of Pedro Calalang with Elvira
B. Calalang. They stressed that OCT No. P-2871 itself stated that it was issued in the name of "Pedro Calalang, married to Elvira
Berba [Calalang]." Thus, the property belonged to the conjugal partnership of the spouses Pedro Calalang and Elvira B. Calalang.
The petitioners likewise denied the allegation that the sale of the land was absolutely simulated as Nora B. Calalang-Parulan was
gainfully employed in Spain at the time of the sale. Moreover, they alleged that the respondents did not have a valid cause of action
against them and that their cause of action, if any, was already barred by laches, estoppel and prescription. By way of counterclaim,
the petitioners also sought the payment to them of moral and exemplary damages plus costs of suit for the filing of the clearly
unfounded suit.
On July 10, 2001, the trial court rendered decision in favor of the respondents. The dispositive portion of the RTC decision reads as
follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants in the following manner:
1. Ordering the defendants to reconvey in favor of the plaintiffs, their rightful share to three-fourth (3/4) of one-half
(1/2) or a total of 474.75 square meters at 158.25 square meters for each of the three plaintiffs, namely: Rosario,
Leonora, and Juanito all surname[d] Calalang, of the real property covered by TCT No. 283321 of the Registry of
Deeds of Bulacan corresponding to their shares in the conjugal estate of the late Encarnacion S. Calalang [sic];
2. Ordering defendants to pay plaintiffs the amount of P50,000.00 for moral damages; P50,000.00 for attorneys fees
and another P50,000.00 for litigation expenses.
3. Dismissing the defendants counterclaims.
With costs against the defendants.
SO ORDERED.
9

The trial court declared that the parcel of land was jointly acquired by the spouses Pedro Calalang and Encarnacion Silverio from the
parents of the latter. Thus, it was part of the conjugal property of the first marriage of Pedro Calalang. When this marriage was
dissolved upon the death of Encarnacion Silverio on June 7, 1942,the corresponding shares to the disputed property were acquired
by the heirs of the decedent according to the laws of succession. In particular, the trial court allocated half of the disputed property to
Pedro Calalang as his share in the conjugal partnership and allocated the other half to the three respondents and Pedro Calalang to
be divided equally among them. The trial court then ordered all of Pedros share to be given to Nora B. Calalang-Parulan on account
of the sale. The trial court also ruled that because the application for free patent filed by Pedro Calalang was attended by fraud and
misrepresentation, Pedro Calalang should be considered as a trustee of an implied trust.
Aggrieved by the adverse ruling, the petitioners appealed the case to the CA which rendered the assailed Decision on December 21,
2007. The dispositive portion of the CA decision reads,
WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing premises, the Decision dated July 10, 2001of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan is
hereby MODIFIED to read as follows:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs, and against the defendants in the following manner:
1. Ordering the defendants to reconvey in favor of the plaintiffs, their rightful share to the property owned by their
common father Pedro Calalang, equivalent to one half(1/2) portion of the whole area or 633 square meters to be
divided equally by the three plaintiffs, namely:
Rosario, Leonora and Carlito, all surnamed Calalang, each getting an area of 211 square meters of the
property covered by TCT No. 2883321 of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan corresponding to their shares in
the property of their late father Pedro Calalang;
2. Ordering defendants to pay plaintiffs the amount of P50,000.00 for moral damages; P50,000.00 for attorneys fees
and another P50,000.00 for litigation expenses.
3. Dismissing the defendants counterclaims.
With costs against the defendants.
SO ORDERED.
SO ORDERED.
10

The CA reversed the factual findings of the trial court and held that Pedro Calalang was the sole and exclusive owner of the subject
parcel of land. Firstly, it held that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the disputed property was indeed jointly acquired from
the parents of Encarnacion Silverio during the first marriage. Secondly, the CA upheld the indefeasibility of OCT No. P-2871. It held
that although the free patent was issued in the name of "Pedro Calalang, married to Elvira Berba [Calalang]" this phrase was merely
descriptive of the civil status of Pedro Calalang at the time of the registration of the disputed property. Thus, contrary to the ruling of
the trial court, upon the death of Encarnacion Silverio on June 7, 1942, the respondents did not acquire any successional rights to
the parcel of land which was exclusively owned by Pedro Calalang. However, applying the rules of succession, Pedros heirs
namely, Rosario Calalang-Garcia, Leonora Calalang-Sabile, Carlito Calalang, Nora B. Calalang-Parulan, Elvira B. Calalang, and
Rolando Calalang, succeeded Pedro to the land in equal shares upon his death. Thus, the CA ordered the petitioners to reconvey in
favor of the respondents their rightful shares to the land. The CA ruled that the sale by Pedro Calalang to Nora B. Calalang-Parulan
was fraudulent and fictitious as the vendee was in bad faith and the respondents were unlawfully deprived of their pro indiviso shares
over the disputed property. As regards the issue of prescription, the CA ruled that the prescriptive period for reconveyance of
fraudulently registered real property is ten years. Since the property was registered in the name of Nora in1984 and the action for
reconveyance was filed in 1991, the action has not yet prescribed.
On January 23, 2008, petitioners filed their Motion for Reconsideration. The CA, however, denied their motion in its Resolution dated
July 25, 2008.
Hence, this petition raising the sole issue:
Whether or not the court a quo gravely erred in rendering its December 21, 2007 Decision modifying the July 10, 2001 Decision of
the trial court, and in issuing its July 25, 2008 Resolution denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration dated January 23, 2008.
11

Essentially, the only issue in this case is whether Pedro Calalang was the exclusive owner of the disputed property prior to its
transfer to his daughter Nora B. Calalang-Parulan.
The petitioners argue that the disputed property belonged to the conjugal partnership of the second marriage of Pedro Calalang with
Elvira B. Calalang as evidenced by OCT No. P-2871 which was issued to Pedro Calalang during the subsistence of his marriage to
Elvira B. Calalang. On the other hand, the respondents claim that the disputed property was transferred by their maternal
grandmother, Francisca Silverio, to their parents, Pedro Calalang and Encarnacion Silverio, during the latters marriage. Thus, the
respondents argue that it belonged to the conjugal partnership of the first marriage of Pedro Calalang with Encarnacion Silverio.
The petition is meritorious.
Preliminarily, we note that the resolution of the issue in this case requires a reevaluation of the probative value of the evidence
presented by the parties in order to trace the title of the disputed property. What is involved is indeed a question of fact which is
generally beyond the jurisdiction of this Court to resolve in a petition for review on certiorari.
12
However, a recognized exception to the
rule is when the RTC and CA have conflicting findings of fact as in this case.
13
Here, while the trial court ruled that the disputed
property belonged to the conjugal partnership of the first marriage of Pedro Calalang with Encarnacion Silverio, the court a quo
declared that the evidence proved the sole and exclusive ownership of the disputed property of Pedro Calalang.
We have carefully reviewed the records of this case and sustain the finding of the CA that Pedro Calalang is the sole and exclusive
owner of the disputed property.
The trial court ruled that the respondents were able to establish that Lot 1132, Cad. 333 originated from the parents of Encarnacion,
and therefore said property "either became property of Encarnacion in her own right or jointly with her husband Pedro Calalang in
1936." In so ruling, the trial court relied on the testimony of Rosario Calalang-Garcia that her parents built a nipa house on the
subject lot and lived there before and after World War II. The trial court further noted that Rosarios testimony was corroborated by
her cousin and adjacent neighbor Manolo Calalang.
14

However, as correctly pointed out by the CA, a close perusal of the records of this case would show that the records are bereft of
any concrete proof to show that the subject property indeed belonged to respondents maternal grandparents. The evidence
respondents adduced merely consisted of testimonial evidence such as the declaration of Rosario Calalang-Garcia that they have
been staying on the property as far as she can remember and that the property was acquired by her parents through purchase from
her maternal grandparents. However, she was unable to produce any document to evidence the said sale, nor was she able to
present any documentary evidence such as the tax declaration issued in the name of either of her parents. Moreover, we note that
the free patent was issued solely in the name of Pedro Calalang and that it was issued more than 30 years after the death of
Encarnacion and the dissolution of the conjugal partnership of gains of the first marriage. Thus, we cannot subscribe to respondents
submission that the subject property originally belonged to the parents of Encarnacion and was acquired by Pedro Calalang and
Encarnacion.
We likewise cannot sustain the argument of the petitioners that the disputed property belongs to the conjugal partnership of the
second marriage of Pedro Calalang with Elvira B. Calalang on the ground that the title was issued in the name of "Pedro Calalang,
married to Elvira Berba [Calalang]."
The contents of a certificate of title are enumerated by Section 45 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property
Registration Decree:
SEC. 45. Statement of personal circumstances in the certificate. Every certificate of title shall set forth the full names of all persons
whose interests make up the full ownership in the whole land, including their civil status, and the names of their respective spouses,
if married, as well as their citizenship, residence and postal address. If the property covered belongs to the conjugal partnership, it
shall be issued in the names of both spouses.1wphi 1
A plain reading of the above provision would clearly reveal that the phrase "Pedro Calalang, married to Elvira Berba [Calalang]"
merely describes the civil status and identifies the spouse of the registered owner Pedro Calalang. Evidently, this does not mean that
the property is conjugal. In Litam v. Rivera,
15
we declared:
Further strong proofs that the properties in question are the paraphernal properties of Marcosa Rivera, are the very Torrens Titles
covering said properties. All the said properties are registered in the name of "Marcosa Rivera, married to Rafael Litam." This
circumstance indicates that the properties in question belong to the registered owner, Marcosa Rivera, as her paraphernal
properties, for if they were conjugal, the titles covering the same should have been issued in the names of Rafael Litam and Marcosa
Rivera. The words "married to Rafael Litam" written after the name of Marcosa Rivera, in each of the above mentioned titles are
merely descriptive of the civil status of Marcosa Rivera, the registered owner of the properties covered by said titles.
It must likewise be noted that in his application for free patent,
16
applicant Pedro Calalang averred that the land was first occupied
and cultivated by him since 1935 and that he had planted mango trees, coconut plants, caimito trees, banana plants and seasonal
crops and built his house on the subject lot. But he applied for free patent only in 1974 and was issued a free patent while already
married to Elvira B. Calalang. Thus, having possessed the subject land in the manner and for the period required by law after the
dissolution of the first marriage and before the second marriage, the subject property ipso jure became private property and formed
part of Pedro Calalangs exclusive property.
17
It was therefore excluded from the conjugal partnership of gains of the second
marriage.
18

As the sole and exclusive owner, Pedro Calalang had the right to convey his property in favor of Nora B. Calalang-Parulan by
executing a Deed of Sale on February 17, 1984. The CA therefore erred in ruling that Pedro Calalang deprived his heirs of their
respective shares over the disputed property when he alienated the same.
It is hornbook doctrine that successional rights are vested only at the time of death. Article 777 of the New Civil Code provides that
"[t]he rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent." In Butte v. Manuel Uy and Sons,
Inc.,
19
we proclaimed the fundamental tenets of succession:
The principle of transmission as of the time of the predecessor's death is basic in our Civil Code, and is supported by other related
articles. Thus, the capacity of the heir is determined as of the time the decedent died (Art. 1034); the legitime is to be computed as of
the same moment (Art. 908), and so is the in officiousness of the donation inter vivas (Art. 771). Similarly, the legacies of credit and
remission are valid only in the amount due and outstanding at the death of the testator (Art. 935), and the fruits accruing after that
instant are deemed to pertain to the legatee (Art. 948).
Thus, it is only upon the death of Pedro Calalang on December 27, 1989 that his heirs acquired their respective inheritances,
entitling them to their pro indiviso shares to his whole estate. At the time of the sale of the disputed property, the rights to the
succession were not yet bestowed upon the heirs of Pedro Calalang. And absent clear and convincing evidence that the sale was
fraudulent or not duly supported by valuable consideration (in effect an in officious donation inter vivas), the respondents have no
right to question the sale of the disputed property on the ground that their father deprived them of their respective shares. Well to
remember, fraud must be established by clear and convincing evidence. Mere preponderance of evidence is not even adequate to
prove fraud.
20
The Complaint for Annulment of Sale and Reconveyance of Property must therefore be dismissed.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. The Decision dated December 21, 2007 and Resolution dated July
25, 2008 of the Thirteenth Division of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 72531 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case
No. 370-M-91, or the Complaint for Annulment of Sale and Reconveyance of Property filed by the respondents with the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 21 of Malolos, Bulacan, on June 10, 1991, is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSMAIN
Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes
1
Rollo, pp. 25-34. Penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison, with Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez,
Jr. and Vicente S. E. Veloso, concurring.
2
Id. at 35-37.
3
Id. at 54-60. Penned by Judge Cesar M. Solis.
4
Records, pp. 3-7.
5
Id. at 8.
6
Id. at 9.
7
1990 in the Complaint but see records, pp. 32 and 648.
8
Records, pp. 32-34.
9
Rollo, pp. 59-60.
10
Id. at 33.
11
Id. at 16.
12
See Latorre v. Latorre, G.R. No. 183926, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 88, 98-99.
13
Canadian Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. v. Dalangin, Jr., G.R. No. 172223, February 6, 2012, 665 SCRA 21, 31.
14
Rollo, p. 57.
15
100 Phil. 364, 376 (1956).
16
Records, p. 209.
17
See Susi v. Razon, 48 Phil. 424, 428 (1925).
18
NEW CIVIL CODE, Art. 148.
19
114 Phil. 443, 448-449 (1962).
20
Maestrado v. CA, 384 Phil. 418, 435 (2000).

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search

Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 200920 June 9, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
vs.
JERUSALEM ESTEBAN y BALLESTEROS, Accused-Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

REYES, J.:

On appeal is the Decision1 dated July 29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03909,
which affirmed with modification the Decision2 dated April 14, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Camiling, Tarlac, Branch 68, in Criminal Case No. 03-55, finding Jerusalem Esteban y Ballesteros
(Esteban) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the felony of Rape, as defined in Article 266-A of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended.

Antecedent Facts

Esteban was charged for the felony of rape, in an information, which reads:

"That on December 17, 2002, in the evening, at Pob. Sur, Mayantoc, Tarlac and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the accused, by means of force, threat and intimidation, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the private complainant [AAA]3 against
her will and in their own house, with the aggravating circumstances, to wit: the victim [AAA] is under
eighteen (18) years of age born on November4, 1988[;] accused is the father (parent) of the victim; and
the rape was committed in the dwelling house where both accused and victim reside."4

Upon arraignment, Esteban entered a plea of not guilty. After pre-trial conference, trial on the merits
ensued.

The prosecution alleged the following:

On December 17, 2002, at around midnight, Esteban entered the room where AAA, his daughter who
was only 13 years old then, was sleeping. Their house is situated in Poblacion Sur, Mayantoc, Tarlac.
After entering the room, Esteban removed his clothes and went beside AAA. Esteban then touched
AAAs back and started to undress her. AAA shouted and struggled to prevent her fathers advances, but
the latter threatened and intimidated her. After removing AAAs clothes, Esteban went on top of AAA;
despite AAAs pleas, he inserted his penis in AAAs vagina. After satisfying his lust, Esteban left AAA in
the room.

AAA reported the incident to her brother BBB and her aunt CCC, who both did not believe her. AAA then
told her other aunt DDD what her father did to her; the latter then brought AAA to the barangay office
to report the matter. Afterwards, they proceeded to the police station in Mayantoc where AAA
executed her sworn statement.

On December 19, 2002, AAA submitted herself to medical examination by Dr. Carolyn R. Abrigo of the
Camiling District Hospital, who found old lacerations above AAAs clitoris and over her hymen.

For his part, Esteban denied the allegations against him, and claimed that:

At the time of the alleged rape incident, he was staying at the house of his employer, Engineer Luisito
Villalon, which is about 1,000 meters away from his own house. Before 2002, only four of his six children
were living with him. When AAA was only seven years old, EEE, his eldest daughter, brought AAA to live
with her in their house at Maliwalo, Tarlac City. There, EEEs husband raped AAA, but the case filed
against him was settled and eventually dismissed. Thereafter, EEE took AAA to Manila. In 2002, AAA and
her other siblings again lived with Esteban in Mayantoc, Tarlac.

Esteban likewise claimed that AAA visited him in jail after she had given her testimony in open court and
gave him a letter wherein she supposedly stated that her allegations against her father were not true
and that she was just angry at him for his failure to protect her from the sexual abuse she suffered from
her brother-in-law.

The RTC Ruling

On April 14, 2009, the RTC rendered a Decision,5 the decretal portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, accused Jerusalem Esteban y Ballesteros is hereby found guilty of the crime of Rape
punishable under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended in relation to Article 266-B (1) of
the same Code and hereby sentences him to the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua without eligibility of
parole.

Likewise, the accused Esteban is ordered to pay the victim the amount of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity,
another amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.6

As regards Estebans claim that he could not have raped AAA on December 17, 2002 since he was
sleeping in the house of his employer, the RTC opined that it was not impossible for him to be in his
house when the incident occurred since the house of his employer is only about 1,000 meters away
from his house. Moreover, the RTC pointed out that Estebans claim is uncorroborated by any evidence.
As regards the letter supposedly written by AAA, the RTC found the same to be merely an afterthought
on the part of AAA and, thus, does not dispel the fact Esteban indeed raped AAA.

Unperturbed, Esteban appealed the RTC Decision dated April 14, 2009 to the CA. In his appeal, Esteban
claimed that the RTC erred in disregarding the letter supposedly written by AAA wherein the latter
stated that her allegations against her father are all made up. Further, Esteban claimed that the absence
of fresh lacerations on AAAs hymen seriously casts doubt on his guilt of the felony charged.

The CA Ruling

On July 29, 2011, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision7 which affirmed with modification the
RTC Decision dated April 14, 2009. As regards the letter supposedly written by AAA, the CA held that,
other than Estebans claim, there is no other evidence to support the finding that AAA indeed retracted
her allegations against her father in the said letter. Further, the CA opined that the said letter is hearsay
and has no probative value as AAA was never called to testify thereon. Further, the absence of fresh
laceration on AAAs hymen, the CA pointed out, does not negate the conclusion that Esteban raped
AAA; that the conviction of Esteban would still stand on AAAs clear, convincing and credible testimony.

Nevertheless, the CA modified the accessory penalties imposed upon Esteban as follows: (1) the amount
of moral damages was increased to 75,000.00 from 50,000.00; and (2) the amount of exemplary
damages was decreased to 25,000.00 from 30,000.00.

Hence, this appeal.

Both Esteban and the Office of the Solicitor General manifested that they would no longer file with the
Court supplemental briefs, and adopted instead their respective briefs with the CA.8

Issue

Essentially, the issue for the Courts resolution is whether the CA erred in affirming the RTC Decision
dated April 14, 2009, which found Esteban guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the felony of rape under
Article 266-A of the RPC.

The Court Ruling

The appeal is dismissed for lack of merit.

The crime of rape is defined under Article 266-A of the RPC, which states that:

Article 266-A. Rape: When And How Committed. Rape is committed:

1. By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

a. Through force, threat, or intimidation;

b. When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;

c. By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and

d. When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the
circumstances mentioned above be present.

2. By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit
an act of sexual assault by inserting his penis into another persons mouth or anal orifice, or any
instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another person. (Emphasis ours)

"The elements necessary to sustain a conviction for rape are: (1) that the accused had carnal knowledge
of the victim; and (2) that said act was accomplished (a) through the use of force or intimidation, or (b)
when the victim is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, or (c) when the victim is under 12 years
of age or is demented."9

Under Article 266-B of the RPC, the felony of rape is qualified when the victim is under 18 years of age
and the offender is, inter alia, a parent.

After a thorough perusal of the records of this case, the Court finds that the prosecution was able to
establish beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of rape under Article 266-A of the RPC. AAA
testified that Esteban succeeded in having carnal knowledge with her on December 17, 2002 and, thus,
being AAAs father, is presumed to have employed force and/or intimidation.10 Both the lower courts
found AAAs testimony in this matter clear, convincing and credible.

It is well-settled that, in a criminal case, factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great
weight and respect on appeal, especially when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on
record. It is only in exceptional circumstances, such as when the trial court overlooked material and
relevant matters, that this Court will re-calibrate and evaluate the factual findings of the court below.11
The Court sees no reason to depart from the foregoing rule.

In an effort to avoid criminal liability, Esteban maintained that his guilt was not proven beyond
reasonable doubt based on the following circumstances: first, the letter that was written by AAA clearly
stated that she just made up the allegations against Esteban since he failed to protect her against the
sexual abuse she supposedly suffered from her brother-in-law; and second, the absence of fresh
laceration on AAAs hymen based on her medical examination.

The Court does not agree.

Other than Estebans testimony that AAA indeed wrote the said letter, there is no other evidence which
would support the said claim. It is but a mere unsubstantiated allegation and, hence, not worthy of
credence. Further, as aptly pointed out by the CA, the said letter is hearsay since AAA was not called
upon to testify on the contents thereof.

Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that AAA, then only 13 years old, would feign a traumatizing experience
merely out of spite towards her father, who supposedly failed to protect her from the sexual abuse she
suffered from her brother-in-law. No sane girl would concoct a story of defloration, allow an
examination of her private parts and subject herself to public trial or ridicule if she has not in truth, been
a victim of rape and impelled to seek justice for the wrong done to her. Youth and immaturity are
generally badges of truth and sincerity. The weight of such testimony may be countered by physical
evidence to the contrary or indubitable proof that the accused could not have committed the rape, but
in the absence of such countervailing proof, the testimony shall be accorded utmost value.12

Against AAAs testimony, Esteban was only able to proffer the defense of denial and alibi.1wphi1 The
Court has time and time again ruled that denial and alibi are inherently weak defenses as these are self-
serving.

Anent the absence of fresh laceration on AAAs hymen, the Court likewise finds the same insufficient to
dispel Estebans guilt of the felony charged. The absence of fresh lacerations in the hymen cannot be a
firm indication that the complainant was not raped. It is settled that hymenal lacerations are not an
element of rape.13

As regards the penalty imposed upon Esteban, the Court finds the same to be consistent with
Article266-B of the RPC, which pertinently provides that the death penalty shall be imposed "[w]hen the
victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent x x x." In view of the foregoing,
the lower courts correctly imposed upon Esteban the penalty of reclusion perpetua without the
eligibility of parole, in lieu of the death penalty, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9346.14

In conformity with prevailing jurisprudence,15 the Court affirms the award of P75,000.00 as moral
damages and P75,000.00 as civil indemnity. Further, the presence of the aggravating circumstance of
relationship entitles the offended party to exemplary damages. Thus, the Court also affirms the award
for exemplary damages, but, pursuant to established jurisprudence,16 in the amount of P30,000.00 up
from the P25,000.00 fixed by the CA.

In addition, and in conformity with current policy, the Court imposes interest on all monetary awards for
damages at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this Resolution until fully
paid.17

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision
dated July29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03909 is hereby AFFIRMED WITH
MODIFICATION in that the award of exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.00 is increased to
P30,000.00. The accused is likewise ordered to pay interest on all monetary awards for damages at the
rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this Resolution until fully satisfied.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above
Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion
of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

1 Penned by Associate Justice Rebecca De Guia-Salvador, with Associate Justices Sesinando E. Villon and
Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 99-113.

2 Issued by Presiding Judge Jose S. Vallo; id. at 13-19.

3 The real name of the victim, her personal circumstances and other information which tend to establish
or compromise her identity, as well as those of their immediate family or household members, shall not
be disclosed to protect her privacy and fictitious initials shall, instead, be used, in accordance with
People v. Cabalquinto (533 Phil. 703 [2006]), and A.M. No. 04-11-09-SC dated September 19, 2006.

4 CA rollo, p. 13.

5 Id. at 13-19.

6 Id. at 18-19.

7 Id. at 99-113.

8 Rollo, pp. 24-26, 31-34.

9 People v. Perez, G.R. No. 191265, September 14, 2011, 657 SCRA 734, 739, citing People v. Bongat,
G.R. No. 184170, February 2, 2011, 641 SCRA 496, 505.

10 See People v. Amistoso, G.R. No. 201447, January 9, 2013, 688 SCRA 376, 386.

11 See Seguritan v. People, G.R. No. 172896, April 19, 2010, 618 SCRA 406, 418.

12 See People v. Bon, 536 Phil. 897, 915 (2006).

13 See People v. Dimanawa, G.R. No. 184600, March 9, 2010, 614 SCRA 770, 781; People v. Gonzaga,
417 Phil. 176, 187 (2001); People v. Ferrer, 415 Phil. 188, 198 (2001).

14 AN ACT PROHIBITING THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH PENALTY IN THE PHILIPPINES 15 People v.
Amistoso, supra note 10, at 395; People v. Vitero, G.R. No. 175327, April 3, 2013, 695 SCRA 54; People v.
Rubio, G.R. No. 195239, March 7, 2012, 667 SCRA 753.

16 People v. Vitero, id.; People v. Masagca, Jr., G.R. No. 184922, February 23, 2011, 644 SCRA 278.

17 People v. Veloso, G.R. No. 188849, February 13, 2013, 690 SCRA 586.


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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 204029 June 4, 2014

AVELINA ABARIENTOS REBUSQUILLO [substituted by her heirs, except Emelinda R. Gualvez] and
SALVADOR A. OROSCO, Petitioners,
vs.
SPS. DOMINGO and EMELINDA REBUSQUILLO GUALVEZ and the CITY ASSESSOR OF LEGAZPI CITY,
Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 assailing the Decision1 and Resolution2
dated March 30, 2012 and September 25, 2012, respectively, of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV
No. 93035, which reversed and set aside the Decision dated January 20, 2009 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 4 in Legazpi City, in Civil Case No. 10407.

The antecedent facts may be summarized as follows:

On October 26, 2004, petitioners Avelina Abarientos Rebusquillo (Avelina) and Salvador Orosco
(Salvador) filed a Complaint for annulment and revocation of an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication dated
December 4, 2001 and a Deed of Absolute Sale dated February 6, 2002 before the court a quo. In it,
petitioners alleged that Avelina was one of the children of Eulalio Abarientos (Eulalio) and Victoria
Villareal (Victoria). Eulalio died intestate on July 3, 1964, survived by his wife Victoria, six legitimate
children, and one illegitimate child, namely: (1) Avelina Abarientos-Rebusquillo, petitioner in this case;
(2) Fortunata Abarientos-Orosco, the mother of petitioner Salvador; (3) Rosalino Abarientos; (4) Juan
Abarientos; (5) Feliciano Abarientos; (6) Abraham Abarientos; and (7) Carlos Abarientos. His wife
Victoria eventually died intestate on June 30, 1983.

On his death, Eulalio left behind an untitled parcel of land in Legazpi City consisting of two thousand
eight hundred sixty-nine(2,869) square meters, more or less, which was covered by Tax Declaration ARP
No. (TD) 0141.

In 2001, Avelina was supposedly made to sign two (2) documents by her daughter Emelinda Rebusquillo-
Gualvez (Emelinda) and her son-in-law Domingo Gualvez (Domingo), respondents in this case, on the
pretext that the documents were needed to facilitate the titling of the lot. It was only in 2003, so
petitioners claim, that Avelina realized that what she signed was an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and a
Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of respondents.

As respondents purportedly ignored her when she tried to talk to them, Avelina sought the intervention
of the RTC to declare null and void the two (2) documents in order to reinstate TD0141 and so correct
the injustice done to the other heirs of Eulalio.

In their answer, respondents admitted that the execution of the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and the
Deed of Sale was intended to facilitate the titling of the subject property. Paragraph 9 of their Answer
reads:

Sometime in the year 2001, [petitioner] Avelina together with the other heirs of Eulalio Abarientos
brought out the idea to [respondent] Emelinda Rebusquillo-Gualvez to have the property described in
paragraph 8 of the complaint registered under the Torrens System of Registration. To facilitate the
titling of the property, so that the same could be attractive to prospective buyers, it was agreed that the
propertys tax declaration could be transferred to [respondents] Spouses [Emelinda] R. Gualvez and
Domingo Gualvez who will spend all the cost of titling subject to reimbursement by all other heirs in
case the property is sold; That it was agreed that all the heirs will be given their corresponding shares on
the property; That pursuant to said purpose Avelina Abarientos-Rebusquillo with the knowledge and
consent of the other heirs signed and executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and a Deed of Absolute
Sale in favor of [respondents] Gualvez. In fact, [petitioner] Avelina Rebusquillo was given an advance
sum of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) by [respondent] spouses and all the delinquent taxes paid
by [respondents].3

After trial, the RTC rendered its Decision dated January 20, 2009 annulling the Affidavit of Self-
Adjudication and the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Avelina on the grounds that (1) with regard to
the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication, she was not the sole heir of her parents and was not therefore solely
entitled to their estate; and (2) in the case of the Deed of Absolute Sale, Avelina did not really intend to
sell her share in the property as it was only executed to facilitate the titling of such property. The
dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered, as follows:

1. The subject Affidavit of Self-Adjudication of the Estate of the Deceased Spouses Eulalio Abarientos
and Victoria Villareal, dated December 4, 2001 as well as the subject Deed of Absolute Sale, notarized on
February 6, 2002, covering the property described in par. 8 of the Amended Complaint are hereby
ordered ANNULLED;

2. That defendant City Assessors Officer of Legazpi City is hereby ordered to CANCEL the Tax Declaration
in the name of private [respondents] spouses Gualvez under ARP No. 4143 and to REINSTATE the Tax
Declaration under ARP No. 0141 in the name of Eulalio Abarientos;

3. By way of restitution, [petitioner] Avelina Abarientos Rebusquillo is hereby ordered to return or
refund to [respondents] spouses Domingo Gualvez and Emelinda Gualvez, the P50,000.00 given by the
latter spouses to the former.4

Assailing the trial courts decision, respondents interposed an appeal with the CA arguing that the Deed
of Sale cannot be annulled being a public document that has for its object the creation and transmission
of real rights over the immovable subject property. The fact that Avelinas testimony was not offered in
evidence, so respondents argued, the signature on the adverted deed remains as concrete proof of her
agreement to its terms. Lastly, respondents contended that the Complaint filed by petitioners Avelina
and Salvador before the RTC is not the proper remedy provided by law for those compulsory heirs
unlawfully deprived of their inheritance.

Pending the resolution of respondents appeal, Avelina died intestate on September 1, 2009 leaving
behind several living heirs5 including respondent Emelinda.

In its Decision dated March 30, 2012, the appellate court granted the appeal and reversed and set aside
the Decision of the RTC. The CA held that the RTC erred in annulling the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication
simply on petitioners allegation of the existence of the heirs of Eulalio, considering that issues on
heirship must be made in administration or intestate proceedings, not in an ordinary civil action.
Further, the appellate court observed that the Deed of Absolute Sale cannot be nullified as it is a
notarized document that has in its favor the presumption of regularity and is entitled to full faith and
credit upon its face.

Aggrieved by the CAs Decision, petitioner Avelina, as substituted by her heirs except respondent
Emelinda, and petitioner Salvador are now before this Court ascribing reversible error on the part of the
appellate court.

We find merit in the instant petition.

It has indeed been ruled that the declaration of heirship must be made in a special proceeding, not in an
independent civil action. However, this Court had likewise held that recourse to administration
proceedings to determine who heirs are is sanctioned only if there is a good and compelling reason for
such recourse.6 Hence, the Court had allowed exceptions to the rule requiring administration
proceedings as when the parties in the civil case already presented their evidence regarding the issue of
heirship, and the RTC had consequently rendered judgment upon the issues it defined during the pre-
trial.7 In Portugal v. Portugal-Beltran,8 this Court held:

In the case at bar, respondent, believing rightly or wrongly that she was the sole heir to Portugals
estate, executed on February 15, 1988 the questioned Affidavit of Adjudication under the second
sentence of Rule 74, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Court. Said rule is an exception to the general rule
that when a person dies leaving a property, it should be judicially administered and the competent court
should appoint a qualified administrator, in the order established in Sec. 6, Rule 78 in case the deceased
left no will, or in case he did, he failed to name an executor therein.

Petitioners claim, however, to be the exclusive heirs of Portugal. A probate or intestate court, no doubt,
has jurisdiction to declare who are the heirs of a deceased.

It appearing, however, that in the present case the only property of the intestate estate of Portugal is
the Caloocan parcel of land to still subject it, under the circumstances of the case, to a special
proceeding which could be long, hence, not expeditious, just to establish the status of petitioners as
heirs is not only impractical; it is burdensome to the estate with the costs and expenses of an
administration proceeding. And it is superfluous in light of the fact that the parties to the civil case -
subject of the present case, could and had already in fact presented evidence before the trial court
which assumed jurisdiction over the case upon the issues it defined during pre-trial.

In fine, under the circumstances of the present case, there being no compelling reason to still subject
Portugals estate to administration proceedings since a determination of petitioners status as heirs
could be achieved in the civil case filed by petitioners, the trial court should proceed to evaluate the
evidence presented by the parties during the trial and render a decision thereon upon the issues it
defined during pre-trial x x x. (emphasis supplied)

Similar to Portugal, in the present case, there appears to be only one parcel of land being claimed by the
contending parties as the inheritance from Eulalio. It would be more practical, as Portugal teaches, to
dispense with a separate special proceeding for the determination of the status of petitioner Avelina as
sole heir of Eulalio, especially in light of the fact that respondents spouses Gualvez admitted in court
that they knew for a fact that petitioner Avelina was not the sole heir of Eulalio and that petitioner
Salvador was one of the other living heirs with rights over the subject land. As confirmed by the RTC in
its Decision, respondents have stipulated and have thereby admitted the veracity of the following facts
during the pre-trial:

IV UNCONTROVERTED FACTS: (Based on the stipulation of facts in the Pre-Trial Order)

A. x x x

B. [Petitioners] and private [respondents] spouses Gualvez admitted the following facts:

1. Identity of the parties;

2. Capacity of the [petitioners] and private [respondents] to sue and be sued;

3. [Petitioner] Avelina Abarientos-Rebusquilllo is not the only surviving heir of deceased spouses Eulalio
and Victoria Abarientos;

4. Petitioner Salvador Orosco is a co-owner/possessor of a portion of the subject property;

5. Fortunata Abarientos-Orosco is the sister of Avelina Abarientos;

6. [Respondent] Emelinda Rebusquillo-Gualves is a daughter of [petitioner] Avelina A. Rebusquillo;

7. [Petitioner] Avelina Rebusquillo was born on Nov. 10, 1923;

8. The existence of Affidavit of Self-Adjudication of Estate of the Deceased and Deed of Absolute Sale
executed by [petitioner] Avelina A. Rebusquillo on the subject property.9 (emphasis supplied)

In light of the admission of respondents spouses Gualvez, it is with more reason that a resort to special
proceeding will be but an unnecessary superfluity. Accordingly, the court a quo had properly rendered
judgment on the validity of the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication executed by Avelina. As pointed out by the
trial court, an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication is only proper when the affiant is the sole heir of the
decedent. The second sentence of Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court is patently clear that self-
adjudication is only warranted when there is only one heir:

Section 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. x x x If there is only one heir, he may
adjudicate to himself the entire estate by means of an affidavit filed in the office of the register of
deeds. x x x (emphasis supplied)

As admitted by respondents, Avelina was not the sole heir of Eulalio. In fact, as admitted by
respondents, petitioner Salvador is one of the co-heirs by right of representation of his mother. Without
a doubt, Avelina had perjured herself when she declared in the affidavit that she is "the only daughter
and sole heir of spouses EULALIO ABARIENTOS AND VICTORIA VILLAREAL."10 The falsity of this claim
renders her act of adjudicating to herself the inheritance left by her father invalid. The RTC did not,
therefore, err in granting Avelinas prayer to declare the affidavit null and void and so correct the wrong
she has committed.

In like manner, the Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Avelina in favor of respondents was correctly
nullified and voided by the RTC. Avelina was not in the right position to sell and transfer the absolute
ownership of the subject property to respondents. As she was not the sole heir of Eulalio and her
Affidavit of Self-Adjudication is void, the subject property is still subject to partition. Avelina, in fine, did
not have the absolute ownership of the subject property but only an aliquot portion. What she could
have transferred to respondents was only the ownership of such aliquot portion. It is apparent from the
admissions of respondents and the records of this case that Avelina had no intention to transfer the
ownership, of whatever extent, over the property to respondents. Hence, the Deed of Absolute Sale is
nothing more than a simulated contract.

The Civil Code provides:

Art. 1345. Simulation of a contract may be absolute or relative. The former takes place when the parties
do not intend to be bound at all; the latter, when the parties conceal their true agreement. (emphasis
supplied)

Art. 1346. An absolutely simulated or fictitious contract is void. A relative simulation, when it does not
prejudice a third person and is not intended for any purpose contrary to law, morals, good customs,
public order or public policy binds the parties to their real agreement.

In Heirs of Policronio Ureta Sr. v. Heirs of Liberato Ureta,11 this Court explained the concept of the
simulation of contracts:

In absolute simulation, there is a colorable contract but it has no substance as the parties have no
intention to be bound by it. The main characteristic of an absolute simulation is that the apparent
contract is not really desired or intended to produce legal effect or in any way alter the juridical
situation of the parties. As a result, an absolutely simulated or fictitious contract is void, and the parties
may recover from each other what they may have given under the contract. However, if the parties
state a false cause in the contract to conceal their real agreement, the contract is relatively simulated
and the parties are still bound by their real agreement. Hence, where the essential requisites of a
contract are present and the simulation refers only to the content or terms of the contract, the
agreement is absolutely binding and enforceable between the parties and their successors in interest.
(emphasis supplied)

In the present case, the true intention of the parties in the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale is
immediately apparent from respondents very own Answer to petitioners Complaint. As respondents
themselves acknowledge, the purpose of the Deed of Absolute Sale was simply to "facilitate the titling of
the [subject] property," not to transfer the ownership of the lot to them. Furthermore, respondents
concede that petitioner Salvador remains in possession of the property and that there is no indication
that respondents ever took possession of the subject property after its supposed purchase. Such failure
to take exclusive possession of the subject property or, in the alternative, to collect rentals from its
possessor, is contrary to the principle of ownership and is a clear badge of simulation that renders the
whole transaction void.12

Contrary to the appellate courts opinion, the fact that the questioned Deed of Absolute Sale was
reduced to writing and notarized does not accord it the quality of incontrovertibility otherwise provided
by the parole evidence rule. The form of a contract does not make an otherwise simulated and invalid
act valid. The rule on parole evidence is not, as it were, ironclad. Sec. 9, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court
provides the exceptions:

Section 9. Evidence of written agreements. x x x

However, a party may present evidence to modify, explain or add to the terms of written agreement if
he puts in issue in his pleading:

(a) An intrinsic ambiguity, mistake or imperfection in the written agreement;

(b) The failure of the written agreement to express the true intent and agreement of the parties thereto;

(c) The validity of the written agreement; or

(d) The existence of other terms agreed to by the parties or their successors in interest after the
execution of the written agreement.

The term "agreement" includes wills. (emphasis supplied)

The failure of the Deed of Absolute Sale to express the true intent and agreement of the contracting
parties was clearly put in issue in the present case. Again, respondents themselves admit in their Answer
that the Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and the Deed of Absolute Sale were only executed to facilitate the
titling of the property. The RTC is, therefore, justified to apply the exceptions provided in the second
paragraph of Sec. 9, Rule 130 to ascertain the true intent of the parties, which shall prevail over the
letter of the document. That said, considering that the Deed of Absolute Sale has been shown to be void
for being absolutely simulated, petitioners are not precluded from presenting evidence to modify,
explain or add to the terms of the written agreement.13

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated March 30, 2012 and the Resolution
dated September 25, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 93035 are hereby REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The Decision dated January 20, 2009 in Civil Case No. 10407 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC),Branch 4 in Legazpi City is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.*
Associate Justice JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice
MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, A1iicle VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I
certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* Acting member per Special Order No. 1691 dated May 22, 2014.

1 Rollo, pp. 24-39. Penned by Associate Justice Franchito N. Diamante and concurred in by Associate
Justices Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo and Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez.

2 Id. at 67-68.

3 Records, Folder 1, pp. 24-25.

4 CA rollo, pp. 77-78.

5 Rollo, pp. 65-66. The following, including herein respondent Emelinda Rebusquillo Gualvez, are the
only living heirs of petitioner Avelina Abarientos Gualvez Rebusquillo:

Children:

1. Consuelo R. Espedido Tagdon, Barcelona, Sorsogon;

2. Teresita A. Rebusquillo Oas, Albay;

3. Shirley R. Reduta Salitran 3, Blk 23, Cardinal Village, Dasmarias, Cavite;

4. Susan A. Rebusquillo, Oas, Albay;

5. Alicia A. Rebusquillo, 350 Dr. Fernandez St., Mauway, Mandalauyong City;

6. Josefina R. Raro who died intestate on July 24, 2005, is represented by: Maria Joyce R. Birrey, Romero
Raro, Jr., Johncarlo R. Raro, Celso R. Raro III, Jayrome R. Raro;

7. Abdon A. Rebusquillo, who died intestate on May 30, 2004, is represented by Shiela R. Rebancos,
Ryan B. Rebusquillo, Arjay B. Rebusquillo, Cyrene B. Rebusquillo, Donna B. Rebusquillo, and Cyril B.
Rebusquillo.

6 Pereira v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 81147, June 20, 1989, 174 SCRA 154; Intestate Estate of Mercado
v. Magtibay, 96 Phil. 383 (1953).

7 Heirs of Magdaleno Ypon v. Gaudioso Ponteras Ricaforte, G.R. No. 198680, July 8, 2013, 700 SCRA 778;
Republic v. Mangotara, G. R. No. 170375, July 7, 2010, 624 SCRA 360; Heirs of Teofilo Gabatan v. Court
of Appeals, G.R. No. 150206, March 13, 2009, 581 SCRA 70, 80-81; Fidel v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
168263, July 21, 2008, 559 SCRA 186, 194.

8 G.R. No. 155555, August 16, 2005, 467 SCRA 184, 199.

9 CA rollo, pp. 71-72.

10 Paragraph 1, Affidavit of Self-Adjudication, Annex "3" of the Complaint, records, p. 17.

11 G.R. Nos. 165748 & 165930, September 14, 2011, 657 SCRA 555, 575; citing Valerio v. Refresca, G.R.
No. 163687, March 28, 2006, 485 SCRA 494, 500-501.

12 Id.

13 See Heirs of Policronio Ureta Sr. v. Heirs of Liberato Ureta, id.


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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 185092 June 4, 2014

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,
vs.
CORAZON C. SESE and FE C. SESE, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Republic
of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSGJ, assailing the November 21,
2007 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 81439, which dismissed its appeal and
affirmed the October 3, 2003 Decision2 of the Municipal Trial Court of Pulilan, Bulacan (MTC), in LRC
Case No. 026.

Factual and Procedural Antecedents:

Records show that on September 17, 2002, Corazon C. Sese and Fe C. Sese (respondents) filed with the
MTC an application for original registration of land over a parcel of land with an area of 10, 792 square
meters, situated in Barangay Sto. Cristo, Municipality of Pulilan, Province of Bulacan, and more
particularly described as Lot 11247, Cad. 345, Pulilan Cadastre, under Plan No. AP-03-004226.

Respondents alleged that on July 22, 1972, they acquired, through a donation inter vivos from their
mother, Resurreccion L. Castro (Resurreccion), the subject agricultural land; that they, through their
predecessors-in-interest, had been in possession of the subject property; and that the property was not
within a reservation.

In support of their application, respondents submitted the following documents, namely: (1) Tax
Declaration No. 99-19015-01557 "in the name of Corazon Sese and Fe Sese, minor, representing their
mother Resurreccion Castro, as her Natural Guardian"; (2) Certificate of Technical Description which was
approved on December 10, 1998 by the Land Management Service, Region III, of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); (3) Certification in lieu of lost Surveyors Certificate issued
by the same authority; (4) Official Receipt of payment of real property tax over the subject property; (5)
Certification from the Office of the Municipal Treasurer of Pulilan, stating that the registered owners of
a property under Tax Declaration No. 99-19-015-01557 were Corazon Sese and others; and (6) Survey
plan of Lot 11247, CAD 345,Pulilan Cadastre, approved by the Regional Technical Director of the Land
Management Service, Region III, of the DENR, stating that the land subject of the survey was alienable
and disposable land, and as certified to by the Bureau of Forestry on March 1, 1927, was outside of any
civil or military reservation. On the lower portion of the plan, there was a note stating that a deed of
absolute sale over the subject property was executed by a certain Luis Santos and Fermina Santos (the
Santoses) in favor of Resurreccion on October 4, 1950.

On the lower portion of the survey plan, a note stated, among others, that: "This survey is inside the
alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 20 LC Map No. 637 certified by the Bureau of Forestry
on March 1, 1927. It is outside any civil or military reservation." The said plan was approved by the
DENR, Land Management Services, Regional Office III, San Fernando, Pampanga, on December 3, 1998.

Finding the application sufficient in form and substance, the MTC issued the Order, dated October 10,
2002, setting the case for hearing with the corresponding publication. After compliance with all the
requirements of the law regarding publication, mailing and posting, hearing on the merits of the
application followed.

During the trial on June 4, 2003, respondent Corazon C. Sese (Corazon) testified on their claim over the
subject lot. Thereafter, respondents submitted their formal offer of evidence, after which the evidence
offered were admitted by the MTC in the Order, dated July 10, 2003, without objection from the public
prosecutor.

The OSG did not present any evidence to oppose the application.

On October 3, 2003, the MTC rendered its Decision,3 ordering the registration of the subject property in
the name of respondents. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, finding the instant application to be sufficient in form and substance and the applicants
having established their right of ownership over the subject parcel of land and are therefore entitled to
registration thereof, the Court thereby grants the petition.

Accordingly, the Court hereby orders the registration of the parcel of land subject matter of this petition
which is more particularly described in Plan Ap-03-004226 Pulilan Cadastre and in their corresponding
technical descriptions in the name of Resureccion Castro.

Upon this decision becoming final, let an Order for the decree be issued.

SO ORDERED.

The MTC reasoned out that there was evidence to show that the subject lots had been in open,
continuous, adverse, and public possession, either by the applicants themselves or their predecessor-in-
interest. Such possession since time immemorial conferred an effective title on the applicants, whereby
the land ceased to be public and became private property. It had been the accepted norm that open,
adverse and continuous possession for at least 30 years was sufficient. The MTC noted that evidence
showed that the parcel of land involved was not covered by land patent or a public land application as
certified to by the Community Environment and Natural Resources of Tabang, Guiguinto, Bulacan.
Moreover, it added that the technical descriptions of Lot 11247 were prepared and secured from the
Land Management Sector, DENR, Region III, San Fernando, Pampanga, and were verified and found to
be correct by Eriberto Almazan, In-Charge of the Regional Survey Division.

On December 19, 2003, the OSG interposed an appeal with the CA, docketed as CA-GR. CV No. 81439. In
its brief,4 the OSG presented the following assignment of errors: a) only alienable lands of the public
domain occupied and possessed in concept of owner for a period of at least thirty (30) years is entitled
to confirmation of title; and b) respondents failed to prove specific acts of possession.

The OSG argued that there was no proof that the subject property was already segregated from
inalienable lands of the public domain. Verily, it was only from the date of declaration of such lands as
alienable and disposable that the period for counting the statutory requirement of possession would
start.

Also, there was absolutely no proof of respondents supposed possession of the subject property. Save
for the testimony of Corazon that "at present, the worker of (her) mother is occupying the subject
property," there was no evidence that respondents were actually occupying the subject tract of land or
that they had introduced improvement thereon.

On November 21, 2007, the CA rendered a Decision5 affirming the judgment of the MTC ordering the
registration of the subject property in the name of respondents. The decretal portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed decision dated October 3, 2003 of the MTC of
Pulilan, Bulacan, in LRC Case No. 026 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

The CA reasoned out, among others, that the approved survey plan of the subject property with an
annotation, stating that the subject property was alienable and disposable land, was a public document,
having been issued by the DENR, a competent authority. Its contents were prima facie evidence of the
facts stated therein. Thus, the evidence was sufficient to establish that the subject property was indeed
alienable and disposable.

With respect to the second issue, the CA was of the view that the doctrine of constructive possession
was applicable. Respondents acquired the subject property through a donation inter vivos executed on
July 22, 1972 from their mother. The latter acquired the said property from the Santoses on October 4,
1950 by virtue of a deed of absolute sale. Further, respondent Corazon testified that a small hut was
built on the said land, which was occupied by the worker of her mother. Moreover, neither the public
prosecutor nor any private individual appeared to oppose the application for registration of the subject
property.

The CA also stated that respondents claim of possession over the subject property was buttressed by
the Tax Declaration No. 99-19015-01557 "in the name of Corazon Sese and Fe Sese, minor, representing
their mother Resurreccion Castro, as her Natural Guardian"; the official receipt of payment of real
property tax over the subject property; and the certificate from the Office of the Municipal Treasurer of
Pulilan, stating that the registered owner of a property under Tax Declaration No. 99-19015-01557 were
respondents.

The CA added that although tax declaration or realty tax payments of property were not conclusive
evidence of ownership, nevertheless, they were good indicia of possession in the concept of owner.

Hence, the OSG filed this petition.

ISSUES

I

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN RULING THAT THE APPROVED SURVEY PLAN
IDENTIFIED BY ONE OF THE RESPONDENTS IS PROOF THAT THE SUBJECT LAND IS ALIENABLE AND
DISPOSABLE.

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED ON A QUESTION OF LAW IN GRANTING THE APPLICATION FOR
REGISTRATION.

The OSG argues that unless a piece of land is shown to have been classified as alienable and disposable,
it remains part of the inalienable land of the public domain. In the present case, the CA relied on the
approved survey indicating that the survey was inside alienable and disposable land. It is well-settled,
however, that such notation does not suffice to prove that the land sought to be registered is alienable
and disposable. What respondents should have done was to show that the DENR Secretary had
approved the land classification and released the land of the public domain as alienable and disposable,
and that the land subject of the application for registration fell within the approved area per verification
through survey by the PENRO or CENRO. In addition, they should have adduced a copy of the original
classification approved by the DENR Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the
official records.

To bolster its argument, the OSG cites the case of Republic of the Philippine v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.,6
where the Court stated that the trial court should not have accepted the contents of the certifications as
proof of the facts stated therein. Even if the certifications are presumed duly issued and admissible in
evidence, they have no probative value in establishing that the land is alienable and disposable. Such
government certifications do not, by their mere issuance, prove the facts stated therein. As such, the
certifications are prima facie evidence of their due execution and date of issuance but they do not
constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.

With respect to the second assignment of error, the OSG argues that respondents failed to present
specific acts of ownership to prove open, continuous, exclusive, notorious, and adverse possession in
the concept of an owner. Facts constituting possession must be duly established by competent
evidence. As to the tax declaration adduced by respondents, it cannot be said that it clearly manifested
their adverse claim on the property. If respondents genuinely and consistently believed their claim of
ownership, they should have regularly complied with their real estate obligations from the start of their
supposed occupation.

Position of Respondents

On the other hand, respondents assert that the CA correctly found that the subject land was alienable
and disposable. The approved survey plan of the subject property with an annotation, stating that the
subject property is alienable and disposable land, is a public document, having been issued by the DENR,
a competent authority. Its contents are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein and are
sufficient to establish that the subject property is indeed alienable and disposable.

Respondents cite the case of Republic v. Serrano,7 where the Court stated that a DENR Regional
Technical Directors certification, which was annotated on the subdivision plan submitted in evidence,
constituted substantial compliance with the legal requirement. The DENR certification enjoyed the
presumption of regularity absent any evidence to the contrary.

Anent the second assignment of error, respondents contend that the CA correctly applied the doctrine
of constructive possession because they acquired the subject land from their mother, Resurreccion,
through a donation inter vivos, dated July 22, 1972.Their mother, in turn, acquired the subject land from
the Santoses on October 4, 1950 by virtue of an absolute sale. They claim that a small hut was built in
the said land and was occupied by a worker of her mother. They countered that although tax
declarations or realty tax payment of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership, nevertheless,
they are good indicia of possession in the concept of owner, for no one in his right mind would be paying
taxes for a property which is not in his actual or constructive custody.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

The vital issue to be resolved by the Court is whether respondents are entitled to the registration of land
title under Section 14(1) of Presidential Decree (P.D.)No. 1529, or pursuant to Section 14(2) of the same
statute. Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529 in relation to Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No. 141,8 as
amended by Section 4 of P.D. No. 1073,9 provides:

SECTION 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:

(1) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain under a bona fide claim of ownership since June 12, 1945, or earlier.

x x x x

Section 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or
claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or
completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance now Regional Trial Court of the province where the
land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under
the Land Registration Act, to wit:

x x x x

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in-interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a
bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945, or earlier, immediately preceding the
filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These
shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant
and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter.

Based on the above-quoted provisions, applicants for registration of land title must establish and prove:
(1) that the subject land forms part of the disposable and alienable lands of the public domain; (2) that
the applicant and his predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
possession and occupation of the same; and (3) that it is under a bona fide claim of ownership since
June 12, 1945, or earlier.10 Compliance with the foregoing requirements is indispensable for an
application for registration of land title, under Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529, to validly prosper. The
absence of any one requisite renders the application for registration substantially defective.

Anent the first requisite, respondents presented evidence to establish the disposable and alienable
character of the subject land through a survey plan, where on its lower portion, a note stated, among
others, as follows: "This survey is inside the alienable and disposable area as per Project No. 20 LC Map
No. 637 certified by the Bureau of Forestry on March 1, 1927. It is outside any civil or military
reservation." The said plan was approved by the DENR, Land Management Services, Regional Office III,
San Fernando, Pampanga on December 3, 1998. The annotation in the survey plan, however, fell short
of the requirement of the law in proving its disposable and alienable character.

In Republic v. Espinosa,11 citing Republic v. Sarmiento12 and Menguito v. Republic,13 the Court
reiterated the rule that that a notation made by a surveyor-geodetic engineer that the property
surveyed was alienable and disposable was not the positive government act that would remove the
property from the inalienable domain and neither was it the evidence accepted as sufficient to
controvert the presumption that the property was inalienable. Thus:

To discharge the onus, respondent relies on the blue print Copy of the conversion and subdivision plan
approved by the DENR Center which bears the notation of the surveyor-geodetic engineer that "this
survey is inside the alienable and disposable area, Project No. 27-B. L.C. Map No. 2623, certified on
January 3, 1968 by the Bureau of Forestry."

Menguito v. Republic teaches, however, that reliance on such annotation to prove that the lot is
alienable is insufficient and does not constitute incontrovertible evidence to overcome the presumption
that it remains part of the inalienable public domain.


"To prove that the land in question formed part of the alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain, petitioners relied on the printed words which read: This survey plan is inside Alienable and
Disposable Land Area, Project No. 27-B as per L.C. Map No. 2623, certified by the Bureau of Forestry on
January 3, 1968, appearing on Exhibit "E" (Survey Plan No. Swo-13-000227).

This proof is not sufficient. Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, provides: "All lands of the
public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the
State..."

For the original registration of title, the applicant (petitioners in this case) must overcome the
presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. Unless public land is
shown to have been reclassified or alienated to a private person by the State, it remains part of the
inalienable public domain. Indeed, "occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long,
cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title." To overcome such presumption,
incontrovertible evidence must be shown by the applicant. Absent such evidence, the land sought to be
registered remains inalienable.

In the present case, petitioners cite a surveyor geodetic engineers notation in Exhibit "E" indicating that
the survey was inside alienable and disposable land. Such notation does not constitute a positive
government act validly changing the classification of the land in question. Verily, a mere surveyor has no
authority to reclassify lands of the public domain. By relying solely on the said surveyors assertion,
petitioners have not sufficiently proven that the land in question has been declared alienable."
(Citations omitted and emphases supplied)

The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the lands of the public
domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming ownership), who must prove that the land
subject of the application is alienable or disposable. To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible
evidence must be established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or
disposable. The applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a
presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation reports of
Bureau of Lands investigators; or a legislative act or a statute. The applicant may also secure a
certification from the government that the land claimed to have been possessed for the required
number of years is alienable and disposable.14

Republic v. T.A.N. Properties, Inc.15 declared that a CENRO certification was insufficient to prove the
alienable and disposable character of the land sought to be registered. The applicant must also show
sufficient proof that the DENR Secretary approved the land classification and released the land in
question as alienable and disposable.

Thus, the present rule is that an application for original registration must be accompanied by (1) a
CENRO or PENRO Certification; and (2) a copy of the original classification approved by the DENR
Secretary and certified as a true copy by the legal custodian of the official records.16

Here, the only evidence presented by respondents to prove the disposable and alienable character of
the subject land was an annotation by a geodetic engineer in a survey plan. Although this was certified
by the DENR, it clearly falls short of the requirements for original registration.

With regard to the third requisite, it must be shown that the possession and occupation of a parcel of
land by the applicant, by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, started on June 12, 1945 or
earlier.17 A mere showing of possession and occupation for 30 years or more, by itself, is not
sufficient.18

In this regard, respondents likewise failed. As the records and pleadings of this case will reveal, the
earliest that respondents and their predecessor-in-interest can trace back possession and occupation of
the subject land was only in the year 1950,when their mother, Resurreccion, acquired the subject land
from the Santoses on October 4, 1950 by virtue of an absolute sale. Evidently, their possession of the
subject property commenced roughly five (5) years beyond June 12, 1945, the reckoning date expressly
provided under Section 14(1) of P.D. No. 1529. Thus, their application for registration of land title was
legally infirm.

The respondents cannot invoke Section 14 (2) of P.D. No. 1529 which provides:

SEC. 14. Who may apply. The following persons may file in the proper Court of First Instance an
application for registration of title to land, whether personally or through their duly authorized
representatives:

x x x x

(2) Those who have acquired ownership of private lands by prescription under the provisions of existing
laws.1avvphi1 The case of Malabanan v. Republic19 gives a definitive clarity to the applicability and
scope of original registration proceedings under Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree. In
the said case, the Court laid down the following rules:

We synthesize the doctrines laid down in this case, as follows:

x x x x

(2) In complying with Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree, consider that under the Civil
Code, prescription is recognized as a mode of acquiring ownership of patrimonial property. However,
public domain lands become only patrimonial property not only with a declaration that these are
alienable or disposable. There must also be an express government manifestation that the property is
already patrimonial or no longer retained for public service or the development of national wealth,
under Article 422 of the Civil Code. And only when the property has become patrimonial can the
prescriptive period for the acquisition of property of the public dominion begin to run.

(a) Patrimonial property is private property of the government. The person acquires ownership of
patrimonial property by prescription under the Civil Code is entitled to secure registration thereof under
Section 14(2) of the Property Registration Decree.

(b) There are two kinds of prescription by which patrimonial property may be acquired, one ordinary
and other extraordinary. Under ordinary acquisitive prescription, a person acquires ownership of a
patrimonial property through possession for at least ten (10) years, in good faith and with just title.
Under extraordinary acquisitive prescription, a persons uninterrupted adverse possession of
patrimonial property for at least thirty (30) years, regardless of good faith or just title, ripens into
ownership. (Emphasis supplied)

Accordingly, there must be an express declaration by the State that the public dominion property is no
longer intended for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the property has
been converted into patrimonial. Without such express declaration, the property, even if classified as
alienable or disposable, remains property of the public dominion, pursuant to Article 420(2), and, thus,
incapable of acquisition by prescription. It is only when such alienable and disposable lands are
expressly declared by the State to be no longer intended for public service or for the development of the
national wealth that the period of acquisitive prescription can begin to run. Such declaration shall be in
the form of a law duly enacted by Congress or a Presidential Proclamation in cases where the President
is duly authorized by law.20

Thus, under Section 14(2) of P.D. No. 1529, for acquisitive prescription to commence and operate
against the State, the classification of land as alienable and disposable alone is not sufficient. The
applicant must be able to show that the State, in addition to the said classification, expressly declared
through either a law enacted by Congress or a proclamation issued by the President that the subject
land is no longer retained for public service or the development of the national wealth or that the
property has been converted into patrimonial. Consequently, without an express declaration by the
State, the land remains to be a property of public dominion and, hence, not susceptible to acquisition by
virtue of prescription.21 The classification of the subject property as alienable and disposable land of the
public domain does not change its status as property of the public dominion under Article 420(2) of the
Civil Code. It is still insusceptible to acquisition by prescription.22

For the above reasons, the respondents cannot avail of either Section 14 (1) or 14 (2) of P.O. No. 1529.
Under Section 14 (1), respondents failed to prove (a) that the property is alienable and disposable; and
(b) that their possession of the property dated back to June 12, 1945 or earlier. Failing to prove the
alienable and disposable nature of the subject land, respondents all the more cannot apply for
registration by way of prescription pursuant to Section 14 (2) which requires possession for 30 years to
acquire or take. Not only did respondents need to prove the classification of the subject land as
alienable and disposable, but also to show that it has been converted into patrimonial. As to whether
respondents were able to prove that their possession and occupation were of the character prescribed
by law, the resolution of this issue has been rendered unnecessary by the foregoing considerations.

In fine, the Court holds that the ruling of the CA lacks sufficient factual or legal justification.1wphi1
Hence, the Court is constrained to reverse the assailed CA decision and resolution and deny the
application for registration of land title of respondents.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The November 21, 2007 Decision and the October 8, 2008
Resolution of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CV No. 81439, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly,
the Application for Registration of Title of Respondents Corazon C. Sese and Fe C. Sese in Land
Registration Case No. 026 is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.*
Associate Justice
Concur subject to my separate opinion in Heirs of Malabanan v. Republic, GR 179987 (2013)
MARVIC MARIO VICTOR F. LEONEN
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion or the Court's Division.

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, A1iicle VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I
certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* Designated Acting Member in view of the vacancy in the Third Division. per Special Order No. 1691
elated May 22. 2014.

1 Rollo. pp. 26-33, Penned by Associate Justice Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Associate Justice Rodrigo V.
Cosico and Associate Justice Arturo G. Tayag, concurring

2 Id. at 40-45. Penned by Hon. Horacio T. Viola. Jr.

3 Id. at 26-40.

4 Id. at 50.

5 Id. at 26-33.

6 578 Phil. 441 (2008).

7 G.R. No. 183063, February 4, 2010.

8 Public Land Act.

9 Extending the Period of Filing Applications for Administrative Legalization (Free Patent) and Judicial
Confirmation of Imperfect and Incomplete Titles to Alienable and Disposable Lands in the Public Domain
under Chapter vii and Chapter viii of Commonwealth Act No. 141, As Amended, For Eleven (11) years
commencing January 1, 1977.

10 Republic v. Aboitiz, G.R. No. 174626, October 23, 2013.

11 G.R. No. 171514, July 18, 2012, 677 SCRA 92, 108109.

12 547 Phil. 157, 166167 (2007).

13 401 Phil. 274, 287-288 (2000).

14 Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources v. Yap, 589 Phil. 156, 182183
(2008).

15 Supra note 6, at 451452.

16 Republic v. Bantigue Point Development Corporation, G. R. No. 162322, March 14, 2012, 668 SCRA
158, 171.

17 Malabanan v. Republic, 605 Phil. 244, 279 (2009).

18 Republic v. Tsai, 608 Phil. 224, 234 (2009).

19 Supra note 17, at 284286.

20 Supra note 17.

21 Republic v. Aboitiz, supra note 10.

22 Malabanan v. Republic, supra note 17 at 286.


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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 201858 June 4, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
vs.
JENNY LIKIRAN alias "Loloy", Accused-Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

REYES, J.:

Jenny Likiran (accused-appellant) was convicted of the crime of Murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Malaybalay City, Branch 8, for the death of Rolando Sareno, Sr. (Sareno ). In its Decision1 dated July
17, 2006, the RTC disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, this court finds accused Loloy Likiran guilty of the crime of Murder and imposes upon him
the penalty of Reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim the sum of [P]50,000.00 as civil
indemnity; [P]50,000.00 moral damages; [P]30,000.00 actual damages, and [P]10,000.00 attorney's fee
and to pay the costs. This court has no jurisdiction over Jerome alias Caro Likiran as he is not impleaded
in the information.

SO ORDERED.2

The incident that led to the death of Sareno happened on the wee hour of March 19, 2000 in
BarangayBugca-on, Lantapon, Bukidnon. It was the eve of the town fiesta and a dance was being held at
the basketball court. Prosecution witnesses Celso Dagangon (Dagangon), Prescado Mercado (Mercado)
and Constancio Goloceno (Goloceno) testified that on said night, they were at the dance together with
Sareno at around 8:00 p.m. After a few hours, while Mercado and Goloceno were inside the dance area,
Jerome Likiran3 (Jerome), the accused-appellants brother, punched Mercado on the mouth. Goloceno
was about to assist Mercado when he saw that Jerome was armed with a short firearm while the
accused-appellant was holding a hunting knife, so he backed off. Dagangon and Sareno, who were
outside the dance area, heard the commotion. Afterwards, Jerome approached Sareno and shot him
several times. With Sareno fallen, the accused-appellant stabbed him on the back. It was Dagangon who
saw the incident first-hand as he was only three meters from where Sareno was. Dagangon was able to
bring Sareno to the hospital only after Jerome and the accused-appellant left, but Sareno was already
dead at that point. Sareno suffered multiple gunshot wounds and a stab wound at the left scapular
area.4

The accused-appellant, however, denied any involvement in the crime. While he admitted that he was
at the dance, he did not go outside when the commotion happened. Heand Jerome stayed within the
area where the sound machine was located and they only heard the gunshots outside. Other witnesses
testified in the accused-appellants defense, with Edgar Indanon testifying that he saw the stabbing
incident and that it was some other unknown person, and not the accused-appellant, who was the
culprit; and Eleuterio Quiopa stating that he was with the accused-appellant and Jerome inside the
dance hall at the time the commotion occurred.

The RTC found that the prosecution was able to establish the accused-appellants culpability.5
Prosecution witness Dagangons positive identification of the accused-appellant was held sufficient by
the RTC to convict the latter of the crime of murder.6 The RTC also rejected the accused-appellants
defense of denial as it was not supported by evidence. It also ruled that alibi cannot favor the accused-
appellant since he failed to prove that it was impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime on the
night of March 19, 2000.7

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the RTC decision in toto per assailed Decision8 dated July 27, 2011,
to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed Decision dated July 17, 2006 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 8 of Malaybalay City, in Criminal Case No. 10439-00 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.9

The CA sustained the findings of the RTC as regards the identity of the accused-appellant as one of the
perpetrators of the crime. The CA, nevertheless, deviated from the RTCs conclusion that there was
conspiracy between Jerome and the accused-appellant, and that abuse of superior strength attended
the commission of the crime. According to the CA, the information failed to contain the allegation of
conspiracy, and the evidence for the prosecution failed to establish that Jerome and the accused-
appellant ganged up on the victim.10

The CA, however, sustained the RTCs finding of treachery.11

The accused-appellant protested his conviction.12 According to him, the prosecution failed to establish
his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Specifically, the accused-appellant argued that the prosecution failed
to prove the identity of the assailant and his culpability.13

Upon review, the Court finds no cogent reason to disturb the findings and conclusions of the RTC, as
affirmed by the CA, including their assessment of the credibility of the witnesses. Factual findings of the
trial court are, except for compelling or exceptional reasons, conclusive to the Court especially when
fully supported by evidence and affirmed by the CA.14

The first duty of the prosecution is not to prove the crime but to prove the identity of the criminal.15In
this case, the identity of the accused-appellant as one of the perpetrators of the crime has been
adequately established by the prosecution, more particularly by the testimony of Dagangon. The Court
cannot sustain the accused-appellants argument that it was impossible for Dagangon to see the
assailant considering that there was no evidence to show that the place where the crime occurred was
lighted. As found by the CA, Dagangon was only three meters away from the accused-appellant and
Jerome and had a good view of them. Moreover, there was no distraction that could have disrupted
Dagangons attention. He even immediately identified the accused-appellant and Jerome during police
investigation, and there is no showing that Dagangon was informed by the police beforehand that the
accused-appellant was one of the suspects.16 Positive identification by a prosecution witness of the
accused as one of the perpetrators of the crime is entitled to greater weight than alibi and denial.17
Such positive identification gains further ground in the absence of any ill motive on the part of a witness
to falsely testify against an accused.18

The accused-appellant also asserted that the information charged him of murder committed by
attacking, assaulting, stabbing and shooting Sareno, thereby causing his instantaneous death.19 The
accused-appellant argued that the evidence on record established that Sareno was in fact shot by some
other person.20 At this juncture, the Court notes that the testimony of Dagangon, indeed, identified two
assailants the accused-appellant and his brother, Jerome; however, it was only the accused-appellant
who was charged with the death of Sareno. Defense witnesses also testified that Jerome died on March
12, 2005.21

The CA disregarded the accused-appellants contention and ruled that "the cause of death was not
made an issue in the court a quo" and the Certificate of Death was admitted during the pre-trial
conference as proof of the fact and cause of death.22 And even assuming that the cause of death was
an issue, the CA still held the accused-appellant liable for the death of Sareno on the basis of the Courts
ruling in People v. Pilola.23

The Court reviewed the records of this case and finds sufficient basis for the CAs disregard of the
accused-appellants argument.

The pre-trial agreement issued by the RTC states that one of the matters stipulated upon and admitted
by the prosecution and the defense was that the Certificate of Death issued by Dr. Cidric Dael (Dr. Dael)
of the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital and reviewed by the Rural Health Physician of Malaybalay City "is
admitted as proof of fact and cause of death due to multiple stab wound scapular area."24 Stipulation of
facts during pre-trial is allowed by Rule 118 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Section 2 of Rule
118, meanwhile, prescribes that all agreements or admissions made or entered during the pre-trial
conference shall be reduced in writing and signed by the accused and counsel, otherwise, they cannot
be used against the accused.25 In this case, while it appears that the pre-trial agreement was signed
only by the prosecution and defense counsel, the same may nevertheless be admitted given that the
defense failed to object to its admission.26 Moreover, a death certificate issued by a municipal health
officer in the regular performance of his duty is prima facie evidence of the cause of death of the
victim.27 Note that the certificate of death issued by Dr. Dael provides the following:

CAUSES OF DEATH

Immediate cause : DOA
Antecedent cause : Multiple GSW
Underlying cause : Stab wound scapular area (L)28
The accused-appellant, therefore, is bound by his admission of Sarenos cause of death.29

More importantly, the accused-appellant is criminally liable for the natural and logical consequence
resulting from his act of stabbing Sareno. It may be that he was not the shooter, it is nevertheless true
that the stab wound he inflicted on Sareno contributed to the latters death. In Quinto v. Andres,30 the
Court stated that:

If a person inflicts a wound with a deadly weapon in such a manner as to put life in jeopardy and death
follows as a consequence of their felonious act, it does not alter its nature or diminish its criminality to
prove that other causes cooperated in producing the factual result. The offender is criminally liable for
the death of the victim if his delictual act caused, accelerated or contributed to the death of the victim.
A different doctrine would tend to give immunity to crime and to take away from human life a salutary
and essential safeguard. x x x[.]31 (Citations omitted and emphasis ours)

The Court, however, cannot agree with the RTC and CAs conclusion that the killing of Sareno was
attended by treachery, qualifying the crime to murder.

Treachery is appreciated as a qualifying circumstance when the following elements are shown: a) the
malefactor employed means, method, or manner of execution affording the person attacked no
opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and b) the means, method, or manner of execution was
deliberately or consciously adopted by the offender.32 Treachery is not present when the killing is not
premeditated, or where the sudden attack is not preconceived and deliberately adopted, but is just
triggered by a sudden infuriation on the part of the accused as a result of a provocative act of the victim,
or when the killing is done at the spur of the moment.33

In this case, the testimony of the prosecution witnesses all point to the fact that the shooting and
stabbing of Sareno was actually a spur of the moment incident, a result of the brawl that happened
during the barrio dance. The prosecution failed to show that the accused-appellant and his brother
Jerome deliberately planned the means by which they would harm Sareno. In fact, what was revealed by
the prosecution evidence was that Sareno was an innocent bystander who unfortunately became a
target of the accused-appellant and Jeromes rampage. Consequently, the accused-appellant should be
liable only for the lesser crime of Homicide.

In convictions for homicide, Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) prescribes the penalty of
reclusion temporal, which ranges from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years.34 In the
absence of any modifying circumstances, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period,35 or
from fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months.
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law,36 the maximum of the penalty to be imposed on the
accused-appellant shall be within the range of reclusion temporal medium,37 and the minimum shall be
within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the RPC for the offense,38 or prision
mayor in any of its periods, which ranges from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years.39 There
being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the Court thereby sentences the accused-appellant to
suffer an indeterminate penalty of ten (10) years of prision mayor medium, as minimum, to fourteen
(14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal medium, as maximum.

With regard to the damages awarded, the Court affirms the award of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00)
civil indemnity and Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) moral damages, as these are in accord with the
Court's judicial policy on the matter.40 These, on top of the Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) actual
damages and Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) attorney's fees awarded by the RTC and affirmed by the
CA. Further, the monetary awards shall earn interest at the rate of six percent ( 6%) per annum from the
date of the finality of this judgment until fully paid.41

The Court, moreover, deletes the attorney's fees awarded by the RTC as there is nothing on record
proving that the heirs of Sareno actually incurred such expense. Attorney's fees are in the concept of
actual or compensatory damages allowed under the circumstances provided for in Article 2208 of the
Civil Code,42 and absent any evidence supporting its grant, the same must be deleted for lack of factual
basis.1wphi1

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated July 27, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00484 is
MODIFIED in that accused-appellant Jenny Likiran alias "Loloy" is hereby found guilty of the lesser crime
of HOMICIDE, and is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty often (10) years of prision mayor
medium, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal
medium, as maximum. Further, the award of attorney's fees is hereby DELETED.

Interest at the rate of six percent ( 6%) per annum shall be imposed on all the damages awarded, to earn
from the date of the finality of this judgment until fully paid.

In all other respects, the Court of Appeals decision is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above
Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion
of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

1 Issued by Presiding Judge Pelagio B. Estopia; CA rollo, pp. 20A-42.

2 Id. at 42.

3 Also known as Caro in other parts of the records.

4 Rollo, p. 4.

5 Jerome was not named co-accused in the Information for murder filed in Criminal Case No. 10439-00.

6 CA rollo, p. 32.

7 Id. at 34-37.

8 Penned by Associate Justice Carmelita Salandanan Manahan, with Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja
and Edgardo T. Lloren, concurring; rollo, pp. 3-18.

9 Id. at 17.

10 Id. at 13-15.

11 Id. at 15.

12 The accused-appellant, through the Public Attorneys Office, manifested that he will not file a
supplemental brief, the arguments for his acquittal having been exhaustively discussed in the
Appellants Brief filed with the CA. See Resolution dated July 17, 2013.

13 CA rollo, p. 15.

14 People v. Nazareno, G.R. No. 196434, October 24, 2012, 684 SCRA 604, 608.

15 People v. Villarico, Sr., G.R. No. 158362, April 4, 2011, 647 SCRA 43, 53.

16 Rollo, pp. 10-12.

17 People v. Tomas,Sr., G.R. No. 192251, February 16, 2011, 643 SCRA 530, 547-548.

18 People v. Rarugal, G.R. No. 188603, January 16, 2013, 688 SCRA 646, 654.

19 CA rollo, p. 17.

20 Id.

21 Id. at 26, 28.

22 Rollo, pp. 13-14.

23 453 Phil. 1 (2003).

24 Records, p. 83-A.

25 See Chua-Burce v. Court of Appeals, 387 Phil. 15, 24 (2000).

26 People v. Marollano, 342 Phil. 38, 54-55 (1997).

27 People v. Crisostomo, 243 Phil. 211, 217-218 (1988).

28 Records, p. 9.

29 Section 4, Rule 118 provides: "After the pre-trial conference, the court shall issue an order reciting
the actions taken, the facts stipulated, and evidence marked. Such order shall bind the parties, limit the
trial to matters not disposed of, and control the course of the action during the trial, unless modified by
the court to prevent manifest injustice." (Emphasis ours)

30 493 Phil. 643 (2005).

31 Id. at 653.

32 People of the Philippines v. Javier Caaveras, G.R. No. 193839, November 27, 2013.

33 Id., citing People v. Teriapil, G.R. No. 191361, March 2, 2011, 644 SCRA 491, People v. Tigle, 465 Phil.
368 (2004), and People v. Badajos, 464 Phil. 762 (2004).

34 REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 27.

35 REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 64(1).

36 Act No. 4103, as amended.

37 Act No. 4103, Section 1.

38 Id.

39 REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 27.

40 People of the Philippines v. Erwin Tamayo y Bautista, G.R. No. 196960, March 12, 20 I 4; Rodolfo
Guevarra and Joey Guevarra v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 170462, February 5, 2014.

41 People v. Cabungan, G.R. No. 189355, January 23, 2013, 689 SCRA 236.

42 See People v. Hernandez, 476 Phil. 66, 91 (2004).


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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 199096 June 2, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,
vs.
FRED TRAIGO, Appellant.

R E S O L U T I O N

BRION, J.:

We resolve the appeal, filed by appellant Fred Traigo, from the March 14, 2011 decision1 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04158. The challenged CA decision2 affirmed the July 16, 2009
decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 163, Taguig City, finding the appellant guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of rape and qualified rape in Criminal Case Nos. 133721 and 133722, respectively.

In its July 16, 2009 decision, the RTC convicted the appellant of the crimes. of rape and qualified rape for
the sexual abuses committed against AAA on March 2006 and September 2004, respectively. It found
credible AAAs testimony that the appellant inserted his penis into her vagina on two occasions; her
testimony was corroborated by the Initial Medico-Legal Report showing that she suffered deep-healed
hymenal lacerations. The CA also ruled that the exact date of the rape is immaterial, and that AAAs
delay in reporting this first rape was understandable since the appellant threatened to kill her mother,
BBB, if she would reveal the incident to anyone.

For the simple rape committed in March 2006, the RTC sentenced the appellant to suffer the penalty of
reclusion perpetua, and ordered him to pay AAA the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity,
P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages, all with legal interest. For the
qualified rape committed in September 2004, the RTC sentenced the appellant to suffer the penalty of
reclusion perpetua, and ordered him to pay the victim the following amounts: P75,000.00 as civil
indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages, also with legal
interest until fully paid.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC decision. It found AAA to be a "credible, honest, and straightforward
witness;"3 AAA never wavered in her identification of the appellant as her abuser despite the defenses
grueling cross-examination. According to the CA, the testimony of a sole witness is sufficient for
conviction if it is free from any sign of impropriety or falsehood. The CA also found unmeritorious the
appellants denial, and reasoned out that the presence of other persons inside the room did not negate
the commission of rape.

Our Ruling

We deny the appeal, but modify the crime committed,4 the penalty imposed, and the awarded
indemnities.

As a general rule, the findings of facts and assessment of credibility of witnesses are matters best left to
the trial court because of its unique position of having observed that elusive and incommunicable
evidence of the witnesses' deportment on the stand while testifying.5

In the present case, the CA affirmed the RTCs finding on the truthfulness of AAAs testimony. We see no
reason to deviate from the trial and appellate courts factual findings that the appellant had carnal
knowledge of AAA on two (2) occasions. In the absence of any evidence showing that the trial judge
overlooked or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight which would affect the result of the
case, or that the judge acted arbitrarily, we are bound by the lower courts factual findings.

Notably, the appellant did not impute any improper motive on AAAs part to falsely testify against him.
AAAs testimony was also corroborated by the medical findings of Dr. Joseph Palmero showing that the
victim suffered "deep-healed lacerations at 3 & 8 oclock position" on her hymen.

It is settled that when a rape victim's account is straightforward and candid, and is corroborated by the
medical findings of the examining physician, the testimony is sufficient to support a conviction.6

We find unmeritorious the appellants defense that it was impossible for him to rape AAA because the
latters two sisters also slept in the same place when the rapes allegedly happened. It is recognized that
lust is no respecter of time and place; rape can thus be committed even in places where people
congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, inside a house where there are other
occupants, and even in the same room where other members of the family are also sleeping. To our
mind, it is not impossible or incredible for the members of the victim's sisters to be in deep slumber and
not to be awakened while a sexual assault is being committed.7

We modify the crime committed by the appellant in Criminal Case No. 133721from simple rape to
qualified rape. The evidence showed that the appellant was 12 years old when she was raped on March
2006, as evidenced by her Certificate of Live Birth8 showing that she was born on

November, 18, 1993. The evidence also established that the appellant was the common-law spouse of
BBB.1wphi1 Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the death penalty shall be imposed when
the victim is below 18 years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian,
relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common law spouse of the
parent of the victim. We cannot, however, impose the death penalty in view of Republic Act No. 9346,
entitled "An Act Prohibiting the imposition of the Death Penalty in the Philippines." In lieu of the death
penalty, we impose on the appellant the penalty of reclusion Perpetua without eligibility for parole.
Accordingly, we increase the awarded moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00.

We point out in Criminal Case No. 133722 that AAA was only ten (10) years old when the appellant
raped her in September 2004. The minority of the victim and her relationship to the appellant, however,
raised the crime from statutory rape to qualified rape. Simply put, qualified rape is statutory rape in its
qualified form.9 Accordingly, we sentence the appellant to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
without eligibility for parole; and increase the awarded moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00
to conform to prevailing jurisprudence on qualified rape cases.10

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04158 is
AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:

I. In Criminal Case No. 133721

(a) appellant Fred Traigo is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of qualified rape; (b) he is sentenced
to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole; and ( c) the amount of moral
damages is increased from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00.

II. In Criminal Case No. 133722

(a) the appellant Fred Traigo is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility
for parole; and (b) the amount of moral damages is increased from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00.

SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.*
Associate Justice
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case
was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I
certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case
was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* Designated as additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe per Raffle dated
October 17, 2012.

1 Rollo, pp. 2-9; penned by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now a member of this Court),
and concurred in by Associate Justices Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla and Elihu A. Ybanez.

2 CA rollo, pp. 17-22.

3 Supranote 1, at 7.

4 In Criminal Case No. 133721.

5 See People v. Lasola, 376 Phil. 349, 358 (1999).

6 See People v. Sumingwa, G.R. No. 183619, October 13, 2009, 603 SCRA 638, 652.

7 See People v. Cabral, G.R. No. 179946, December 23, 2009, 609 SCRA 160, 166.

8 Records, pp. 124-125.

9 People v. Barcela, G.R. No. 179948, December 8, 2010, 637 SCRA 599, 613.

10 See People v. Amistoso, G.R. No. 201447, January 9, 2013, 688 SCRA 376, 395.


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