THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE AGAINST [PETITIONER] ROBERT A. LASTRILLA FOR FALSIFICATION OF PUBLIC DOCUMENT UNDER ARTICLE 172 (1), IN RELATION TO ARTICLE 171 (1), (2), AND (5) OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE

Art. 172. Falsification by private individuals and use of falsified documents.– The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000 shall be imposed upon:

  1. Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; x x x

Article 171. x x x

  1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric;
  2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate; x x x
  3. Altering true dates; x x x

In the case at bar, there is no question that all the elements of falsification are present. The issue is whether there is probable cause to engender the belief that petitioner is one of the authors of the falsification.

Petitioner questions the findings of the CA that: (a) he knew that the three deeds of absolute sale in question were falsified but still signed the same as an instrumental witness; and (b) despite such knowledge, he personally and directly caused the registration of the same with the Register of Deeds of Tacloban, the cancellation of the TCTs in the name of Aurora and the issuance of the new TCTs in the names of the respective vendees. He contends that the decision of the CA finding probable cause to file three (3) informations for Falsification of Public Document under Article 172(1) in relation to Article 171(1), (2) and (5) of the Revised Penal Code against him is merely based on the allegations of respondent, unsubstantiated by any evidence on record.

We disagree.

In a preliminary investigation, probable cause for the filing of an information by the prosecutor has been defined as “the existence of such facts and circumstances as would excite the belief, in a reasonable mind, acting on the facts within the knowledge of the prosecutor, that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.” It is well-settled 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 suspects. Probable cause need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and definitely not on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt.”

From the records, there is no question that petitioner signed as an instrumental witness to the subject deeds of absolute sale. As such, he attested that the Granda spouses, as vendors, signed the said deeds in his presence on December 7, 1985. By petitioner’s own admission, however, the negotiations for the sales only started in 1998, thus, the deeds were admittedly antedated. The investigating prosecutor, the DOJ and the CA also unanimously found probable cause to believe that the signatures of the Granda spouses were falsified as evidenced by: (a) the PNP Crime Laboratory report which concluded that the specimen signatures of the spouses did not match the signatures affixed in the subject deeds; and (b) the undisputed fact that vendor-spouse Rafael died in June 1989. The disputable presumption is that a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary act and takes ordinary care of his concerns. This presumption assumes greater significance to the case of petitioner who, as “the one tasked [by his siblings] to ensure that the signatures on the subject deeds were all authentic and genuine,” is naturally expected to not have voluntarily affixed his signature in the subject deeds unless he understood the clear significance of his act.

Moreover, there is sufficient evidence to prove that petitioner “was personally and directly responsible for registering the falsified deeds with the Register of Deeds of Tacloban City” and that “he caused the cancellation of the Transfer Certificates of Title in the name of Aurora” and “effected the issuance of the new Transfer Certificates of Title.” The following pieces of evidence support such findings: (a) a copy of Control No. 183 dated February 28, 2000 and the certification of the Register of Deeds state that petitioner “presented for registration” the three deeds in question to the Register of Deeds; and (b) a copy of the entries in the Receiving and Releasing Book of the Office of the Register of Deeds of Tacloban City and the Certification dated July 4, 2001 of the Register of Deeds show that the deeds in question were released to petitioner on March 3, 2000. Petitioner’s defense that it was actually Aurora who effected the transfer cannot overcome the presumption in favor of the Register of Deeds that in issuing the certifications, official duty has been regularly performed. Notably, other than his bare assertion, petitioner did not present any other evidence to corroborate his claim, i.e., the testimony of the alleged representative of Aurora who made him sign the questioned application form. In the absence of satisfactory explanation, one found in possession of and who used a forged document is the forger of said document. If a person had in his possession a falsified document and he made use of it, taking advantage of it and profiting thereby, the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification.

The presumptions elicited by the evidence on record are not of little significance. The effect of a presumption upon the burden of proof is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima facie case created, thereby which, if no contrary proof is offered, will prevail.

Petitioner lays stress on the ruling of the DOJ that “in the absence of criminal intent, there is no falsification and the absence of damage negates criminal intent.” The following circumstances allegedly show lack of criminal intent on his part, viz: (a) Respondent did not question the effectiveness and consummation of the sale transactions in question or assail the authority of Aurora to do so. In fact, complainant himself confirmed the validity of the sale made by Aurora of her properties by executing the Deed of Assignment dated April 20, 2000; (b) Petitioner and his siblings paid the sum of P18,800,000, hence, could not have intentionally and maliciously participated in the falsification of the subject documents as it would be adverse to their interests; (c) The other heirs of Aurora did not join respondent in filing the instant complaint, thus, giving credence to the claim of petitioner that the sale transactions were regular, done in good faith and for valuable consideration; (d) Respondent had no right which was violated by the execution of the subject deeds as Aurora had the free disposition of her properties during her lifetime; and (e) It is rather “odd” for complainant to have initiated the instant action only after the death of his grandmother Aurora. Finally, petitioner also invokes the defense of good faith. He contends that assuming he knew or had a hand in the falsification of the three (3) deeds of absolute sale and used the same to process the issuance of the new TCTs, said act is not a punishable act of falsification as the same was authorized by the heirs of Aurora, including respondent.

The arguments are unmeritorious.

The mentioned circumstances in the ruling of the DOJ which allegedly negate the existence of criminal intent on the part of petitioner are unavailing. First, the contention that the validity of the sale transactions was not disputed is contrary to the allegations of respondent and the evidence on record. In his complaint-affidavit, respondent alleged that “the purported sale of the subject properties on 07 December 1985 is false and fraudulent.” Moreover, the new TCTs issued in the names of the vendees through the deeds in question have an annotation of respondent’s adverse claim that “the deed[s] of sale are simulated.” Second, petitioner’s reliance on the deeds of assignment signed by respondent and his co-heirs to prove the validity of the sale transactions is shaky. By said deeds, the heirs of Aurora merely acknowledged that they received certain sums of money from the Uys and that they “assign[ed], transfer[red] and convey[ed] unto and in favor of” Aurora “all [the] rights, interests, and participation that [they] have or may have in any and all parcels of land, wherever located, together with all the improvements thereon, two parcels of land” of which were particularly described as the ones covered by TCT No. T-816. No reference was made to the alleged contracts of sale between Aurora and the Uys. Likewise, said deeds contain a marked contradiction: if indeed, the properties were the “exclusive and paraphernal properties” of Aurora, why was there a need for her heirs (which included respondent) to assign their rights to her? Finally, the attribution of ill-motive to respondent by the fact that the complaint was only filed after Aurora died and that respondent was not joined in by his co-heirs in filing the complaint are speculative and are not sufficient to overcome the legal presumptions establishing a prima facie case for falsification against petitioner.

In any case, even assuming that the payment of the sum of P18,800,000 shows lack of damage on the part of respondent and his co-heirs, petitioner’s conclusion that there can be no criminal intent in the absence of damage is hasty, to say the least. Criminal intent is a mental state, the existence of which is shown by the overt acts of a person.[45] We have clarified that the absence of damage does not necessarily imply that there can be no falsification as it is merely an element to be considered to determine whether or not there is criminal intent to commit falsification. It is a settled rule that in the falsification of public or official documents, it is not necessary that there be present the idea of gain or the intent to injure a third person for the reason that in the falsification of a public document, the principal thing punished is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of the truth as therein solemnly proclaimed. In this case, petitioner’s voluntary acts of: (a) signing as witness to the three antedated notarized deeds of absolute sale, attesting that the Granda spouses, as vendors, signed the same in his presence, when there is probable cause to believe that such signatures were falsified; and (b) knowingly causing the registration of the three falsified deeds with the Register of Deeds to effect the cancellation of the old TCTs and the issuance of the new TCTs in his name and the names of his siblings, evidence malice and willful transgression of the law.

We likewise reject petitioner’s defense of good faith. As pointed out by respondent, the contention that even assuming petitioner had a hand in the falsification and use of the falsified instruments, he is not liable because he was authorized by Aurora and her heirs, was belatedly raised on appeal. Also, as logically pointed out by respondent, he is an heir of Aurora and definitely, he did not authorize petitioner to falsify the subject deeds and use the same to effect the transfer of the TCTs from the name of Aurora to his name and that of his siblings. Furthermore, the finding that there is probable cause to believe that the signatures of both Aurora and Rafael were falsified and the dates of the instruments were antedated lay serious doubt on the claim that the conveyance was indeed authorized by Aurora herself. To further sow doubt on the claim of authority, respondent’s claim that in 1999, his grandmother Aurora was already “too sickly and frail to execute said documents,” finds support in the evidence on record. A certain Rebecca Araza, a househelp in the residence of Aurora, attested that in 1999, she was one of those who took care of Aurora who was then “very sickly,” “could hardly recognize faces,� remember names and events and very rarely talked” and whose “condition worsened starting January 1999.” Also bolstering respondent’s claim is the noticeable fact that Aurora signed the GPOA dated February 14, 1999 in favor of Silvina by affixing her thumbmark instead of her customary signature.

While it is this Court�s general policy not to interfere in the conduct of preliminary investigations, leaving the investigating officers sufficient discretion to determine probable cause, we have nonetheless made some exceptions to the general rule, such as when the acts of the officer are without or in excess of authority. Although there is no general formula or fixed rule for the determination of probable cause since the same must be decided in the light of the conditions obtaining in given situations and its existence depends to a large degree upon the finding or opinion of the judge conducting the examination, such a finding should not disregard the facts before the judge nor run counter to the clear dictates of reason. From the records of the case at bar, it is clear that a prima facie case for falsification exists against petitioner.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED. The July 18, 2003 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 26273 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 160257, January 31, 2006 ]ROBERT LASTRILLA, PETITIONER, VS. RAFAEL A. GRANDA, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

The principal issue in this case is whether or not respondent was illegally terminated from his employment.

Petitioner’s main contention is that the Court of Appeals erred in failing to consider that respondent’s actions of allowing the opening of fictitious accounts, facilitating the anomalous transactions of Wynster Chua, participating in the unauthorized lending activities of Wynster Chua, convincing bank clients to invest in the CNRI, and failing to report and stop such activities constituted serious misconduct, willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the employer in connection with his work, and gross and habitual neglect of his duties. Since the acts of respondent, according to petitioner, already constitute just causes for dismissal, petitioner asserts that respondent was legally dismissed and therefore not entitled to the monetary award in the assailed decision.

It should be noted that respondent’s alleged infractions are the same acts which had been declared by the Labor Arbiter—and affirmed by the NLRC and the Court of Appeals—as not constitutive of just cause for dismissal. According to the forums below, their uniform verdict of illegal dismissal is supported by substantial evidence.

More specifically, it was established that respondent did not allow the opening of a fictitious account since the account name John B.K. Chua was the Chinese name of Wynster Chua. The account was opened before respondent became the Branch Manager but was merely a cashier and in his capacity then he had no authority to approve new accounts. There was no proof that the account was used for any illegal purpose, the same having been used for payments of PLDT, electric and water bills of Wynster Chua. The account had also passed several auditing procedures by petitioner itself. Wynster Chua was even able to obtain an accommodation for bills purchase using said account. There was likewise no evidence that the interbranch transactions made by Wynster Chua to respondent’s account was for an illegal purpose or for Wynster Chua’s unauthorized lending activities. It was pointed out that the use by Wynster Chua of the name “John A.J. Jazal” in making such interbranch deposits does not translate to respondent’s facilitating alleged anomalous transactions. Respondent had no way of knowing that Wynster Chua used a different name in making interbranch deposits unless he was informed beforehand. In any case, no proof was presented that respondent knew that the deposits came from one John A.J. Jazal.

As to the charge that respondent actively participated in soliciting investors for the CNRI, in particular convincing Emilia Laño Borromeo to withdraw her money with petitioner bank and invest it in CNRI, this was belied by the Affidavit[ executed by Borromeo stating that she voluntarily withdrew her money with petitioner bank since it offered very low interest rates. Petitioner alleges that Borromeo had written a letter dated 16 June 2000 addressed to the bank demanding from the latter the payment or return of her deposit in the total sum of P4,100,000.00 which she placed with the CNRI as investment. However, the letter had not been admitted in evidence before the Labor Arbiter but was merely attached to petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration of the Labor Arbiter’s Decision. Said letter cannot prevail over the sworn statement, especially when the letter did not form part of the records of the case.

Petitioner could also not be held liable for failing to disclose and stop the lending activities of Wynster Chua and CNRI. CNRI had its principal office and operations at the Cebu North Road branch, while respondent was Branch Manager of the Ramos branch. The CNRI was outside respondent’s area of responsibility. It was also established that other credit union cooperatives existed and operated in other branches of the bank but the officers and employees responsible were not disciplined.

The petition seeks a reversal of the findings of facts of the forums below and raises issues the resolution of which involves a review of the evidence presented by both parties. The Court has repeatedly ruled that the findings of the Labor Arbiter, when affirmed by the NLRC and the Court of Appeals, are binding on the Supreme Court, unless patently erroneous. It is not the function of this Court to analyze or weigh all over again the evidence already considered in the proceedings below. The jurisdiction of this Court in a petition for review on certiorari is limited to reviewing only errors of law, not of fact, unless the factual findings being assailed are not supported by the evidence on record or the impugned judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts. Both exceptions are not present in the case at bar.

The Labor Arbiter had found that petitioner failed to observe due process in terminating respondent’s employment and on that basis awarded moral, exemplary, and nominal damages in addition to separation pay and backwages. On appeal, the NLRC in its Decision affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s findings that there was no just cause to dismiss respondent, extensively quoted with approval passages in the Labor Arbiter’s Decision concerning its finding about the absence of just cause. The NLRC no longer discussed whether due process had been observed by petitioner and instead proceeded to its determination of awards for other benefits prayed for by petitioner. However, the dispositive portion of the NLRC Decision deleted the awards for moral, exemplary, and nominal damages. The Court of Appeals, for its part, affirmed the finding that there was no compliance with the due process requirements in terminating respondent. The appellate court cited San Antonio v. NLRC as basis in saying that consultations and conferences, like the one conducted in this case, may not be valid substitutes for actual observance of notice and hearing.

This Court must disagree, however, with the determination that there was no due process in effecting respondent’s dismissal. In the dismissal of employees, it has been consistently held that the twin requirements of notice and hearing are essential elements of due process. The employer must furnish the worker with two written notices before termination of employment can be legally effected: (a) a notice apprising the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought, and (b) a subsequent notice informing the employee of the employer’s decision to dismiss him. With regard to the requirement of a hearing, the essence of due process lies simply in an opportunity to be heard, and not that an actual hearing should always and indispensably be held.

In the case at bar, petitioner appears to have complied with these requirements. Petitioner furnished respondent with a memorandum dated 16 January 1998 informing him that he had been found to have committed acts constituting serious misconduct and requiring him to explain why he should not be dismissed for cause for such acts. Respondent submitted his written explanation and later, petitioner set up a conference attended by respondent and other employees connected with the creation and operation of CNRI to give them further opportunity to be heard on the charges against them. Despite the explanations, petitioner still decided to dismiss respondent from the service and subsequently informed him of its decision through the Interoffice Letter dated 12 February 1998.

San Antonio v. NLRC may not be applied to the case at bar since it is not on all fours with the facts of the case. In San Antonio, after petitioner therein, in compliance with the company’s directive, had explained why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with, he received forthwith the company’s decision to dismiss him from employment. No hearing or a semblance thereof was conducted, unlike in the case at bar, where respondent’s written explanation was followed by a conference before petitioner’s final decision to terminate his employment.

Finding that petitioner had observed due process in terminating respondent’s employment, the award of moral, exemplary, and nominal damages has no basis and was correctly deleted in the decision of the NLRC as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
We affirm the award of “other benefits” in the assailed Decision, since such benefits were included in the prayer in petitioner’s complaint as “bonuses and other benefits,” reiterated in his position paper as “all his lawful claims,” and in his other pleadings as “such other reliefs,” and respondent’s entitlement thereto had been duly proven.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED and the Decision dated 24 September 2002 and Resolution dated 20 January 2003 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 157028, January 31, 2006 ]METROPOLITAN BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, PETITIONER, VS. LUIS B. BARRIENTOS, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

The pivotal issue for resolution is whether petitioners are entitled to the death benefits provided for under the POEA Standard Employment Contract.

1. In case of death of the seaman during the term of his Contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of US$50,000 and an additional amount of US$7,000 to each child under the age of twenty-one (21) but not exceeding four children at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.

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3. The other liabilities of the employer when the seaman dies as a result of injury or illness during the term of employment are as follows:

a. The employer shall pay the deceased’s beneficiary all outstanding obligations due the seaman under this Contract.

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c. In all cases, the employer shall pay the beneficiaries of seamen the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of US$1,000 for burial expenses at exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment. (Underscoring supplied)

In order to give effect to the aforequoted benefits, it must be shown that the employee died during the effectivity of the contract of employment.

Part I, Section H, Nos. 1 and 2(a) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract provide:

Section H. Termination of Employment

  1. The employment of the seaman shall cease on expiration of the contract period indicated in the Crew Contract unless the Master and the Seaman, by mutual consent, in writing, agree to an early termination in which case the seaman is entitled to earned wages and benefits only.
  2. The master shall have the right to discharge or sign off the seaman at any place abroad in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Contract and specifically for the following reasons:
    1. If the seaman is incompetent, or is continuously incapacitated for the duties for which he was employed by reason of illness or injury (Underscoring supplied)

Upon mutual consent of Aya-ay and respondents, he was on July 5, 1995 repatriated on account of his eye injury. Thus his employment had been effectively terminated on that particular date.

At all events, under the October 15, 1994 Contract of Employment, Aya-ay ceased to be an employee on September 26, 1995,[36] hence, he was no longer an employee when he died on December 1, 1995.

It is, therefore, crucial to determine whether Aya-ay died as a result of, or in relation to, the eye injury he suffered during the term of his employment. If the injury is the proximate cause, or at least increased the risk, of his death for which compensation is sought, recovery may be had for said death.

Unless there is substantial evidence showing that: (a) the cause of Aya-ay’s death was reasonably connected with his work; or (b) the sickness/ailment for which he died is an accepted occupational disease; or (c) his working conditions increased the risk of contracting the disease for which he died, death compensation benefits cannot be awarded.

Aya-ay died due to CVA or stroke, a disease not listed as a compensable illness under Appendix 1 of the POEA Standard Employment Contract.

Hence, it was incumbent on petitioners to present substantial evidence, or such relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion, that the eye injury sustained by Aya-ay during the term of his employment with respondents caused, or increased the risk of, CVA.

Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. The evidence must be real and substantial, and not merely apparent; for the duty to prove work-causation or work-aggravation imposed by law is real and not merely apparent.

To buttress their position that there is a causal link between Aya-ay’s eye injury and his death, petitioners argue as follows:

If only Aya-ay, Jr. was immediately medically treated by a competent doctor and not by the respondents’ Captain with, among others, salt water, severe corneal infection (admitted and stated in paragraph 11 of the respondents’ Answer) could have been prevented. If the same was prevented, there will be no need for a “corneal graft” (Annex “2”, respondent’s Answer). If “corneal graft” have (sic) been unnecessary, there will be no “corneal graft rejection” and “repeat corneal transplantation” (Annex “4”, respondents’ Answer). If not because of the recommended “repeat corneal transplantation”, Dr. Anthony King could not have granted cardiac clearance. The seafarer was subjected to extreme anxiety and depression about the thought of totally losing his right eye. His blood pressure would not have risen and would not have suffered from CVA or stroke. He would not have died on December 1, 1995. Clearly, it is the negligence and fault of the respondents in taking for granted the situation of Aya-ay, Jr. that led to his untimely demise. The complications in his eye triggered the series of infections and operations and other procedures on the poor seafarer. These (sic) series of events logically presented, were (sic) more than enough to constitute substantial evidence.

Refuting petitioners’ arguments, respondents aver that, among other things, “there is no established link between seaman Aya-ay’s eye injury and the CVA that killed him; otherwise stated, the former is not the cause of the latter. CVA is not a ‘natural consequence’ of such an injury.”

That a seaman died several months after his repatriation for illness does not necessarily mean that: (a) he died of the same illness; (b) his working conditions increased the risk of contracting the illness which caused his death; and (c) the death is compensable, unless there is some reasonable basis to support otherwise.

This Court finds that under the circumstances petitioners’ bare allegations do not suffice to discharge the required quantum of proof of compensability. Awards of compensation cannot rest on speculations or presumptions. The beneficiaries must present evidence to prove a positive proposition.

While petitioners attempted to scientifically establish that Aya-ay’s eye injury resulted to, or increased the risk of, CVA by resorting to a “detailed medical discussion” lifted from medical sources and subjecting them to their own layman’s interpretation and randomly applying them to the circumstances attendant to the case, the same fails. Without an expert witness to evaluate and explain how the statements contained in such medical sources actually relate to the facts surrounding the case, they are insufficient to establish the nexus to support their claims.

Petitioners nevertheless argue that there is no need to resort to the intricacies of the Rules on Evidence to establish that the death of Aya-ay was caused by the eye injury, citing Section 10, Rule VII of the Rules of Procedure of the NLRC:

Section 10. Technical rules not binding. – The rules of procedure and evidence prevailing in courts of law and equity shall not be controlling and the Commission shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively, without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process.

That administrative quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC are not bound by technical rules of procedure in the adjudication of cases does not mean that the basic rules on proving allegations should be entirely dispensed with. A party alleging a critical fact must still support his allegation with substantial evidence. Any decision based on unsubstantiated allegation cannot stand as it will offend due process.

xxx the liberality of procedure in administrative actions is subject to limitations imposed by basic requirements of due process. As this Court said in Ang Tibay v. CIR, the provision for flexibility in administrative procedure “does not go so far as to justify orders without a basis in evidence having rational probative value.” More specifically, as held in Uichico v. NLRC:

It is true that administrative and quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC are not bound by the technical rules of procedure in the adjudication of cases. However, this procedural rule should not be construed as a license to disregard certain fundamental evidentiary rules.

While this Court commiserates with petitioners’ plight, absent substantial evidence from which reasonable basis for the grant of death benefits prayed for can be drawn, it is left with no alternative but to deny their petition.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated January 24, 2002 and the Resolution dated September 10, 2002 of the Court of Appeals are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 155359, January 31, 2006 ]SPOUSES PONCIANO AYA-AY, SR. AND CLEMENCIA AYA-AY, PETITIONERS, VS. ARPAPHIL SHIPPING CORP., AND MAGNA MARINE, INC., RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

WHETHER OR NOT THE LETTER-AGREEMENT SHOULD STAND AS LAW BETWEEN THE PARTIES.

Attys. Roxas and Pastor, petitioners in G.R. No. 152072, contend in the main that the Zuzuarreguis are only entitled to the amount of P17.00 per square meter for the 1,790,570.36 square meters expropriated by the government. This was, according to them, embodied in the Letter-Agreement dated 10 December 1985, wherein the Zuzuarreguis agreed to accept the price of P17.00 per square meter. Besides, Attys. Roxas and Pastor contend that the price of P17.00 was even way above the P11.00 that the Zuzuarreguis were willing to accept for their properties under the Letter of Engagement executed by the parties earlier on 22 April 1983. Computed at P17.00 per square meter, they stress that the amount that should go to the Zuzuarreguis for their 1,790,570.36 square meters property should be P30,439,696.10, and that in fact the Zuzuarreguis have received P30,520,000.00. The Letter-Agreement dated 10 December 1985 should thus stand as law between the parties. Since this Letter-Agreement, which was “as plain and simple as can be such that there is no need for any further construction,” already fixed the amount that would go to the Zuzuarreguis (P17.00 per square meter), then it should be so.

Attys. Roxas and Pastor further assert that the receipts issued by the Zuzuarreguis dated 14 February 1986 and 17 February 1986 indicated that the amounts received by the latter were in “full and final payment” for the subject properties.

The NHA, for its part, insists that there was no conspiracy between Attys. Roxas and Pastor on the one hand, and the NHA and Atty. Pedrosa on the other, on the application of yields from NHA bonds. The Zuzuarreguis, according to the NHA, “miserably failed to substantiate and establish conspiracy” between them.

The Zuzuarreguis, for their part, though they were triumphant in the Court of Appeals, insist that the amounts awarded them were not enough. According to them, the P12,596,696.425 awarded by the Court of Appeals was not correct. They should have been awarded the amount of P17,073,122.70. Quoting the Zuzuarreguis:

Respondents Roxas and Pastor retained for themselves the amount of P3,980,000.00 which represented the agreed attorney’s fees of Roxas and Pastor at P2.50 per square meter. The amount of P20,000,000.00 representing the yield of all the bearer bonds was, in the words of the Court of Appeals, “deliberately hidden” by respondents Roxas and Pastor from petitioners. By mathematical computation, the P20,000,000.00 yield should be proportionately divided at the ratio of P17.00 (petitioners’) and P2.50 (share of respondents Roxas and Pastor). Following this ratio of division, of the P20,000,000.00 yield, P17,073,122.70 should pertain to petitioners and the balance of P2,926,877.30 to respondents Roxas and Pastor. Add this amount to the total of P3,980,000.00 at the agreed rate of P2.50 per square meter, the total attorney’s fees of respondents Roxas and Pastor should be P6,906,877.30, not bad, again in the words of the Court of Appeals, for handling “a simple expropriation case which ended up in a compromise agreement.” It was, therefore, in error to still deduct the amount of P4,476,426.28 from petitioners share in the yield in the amount of P17,073,122.70 leaving then only P12,596,696.42.

What was done, however, is that the product of 1,790,570.36 sq m. (area of the expropriated land of petitioners) and P2.50 which is 4,476,426.28 was again deducted from the P17,073,122.70 which is the corresponding share of the petitioners out of the total yield of P20,000,000.00. If this were a criminal case, petitioners were being sentenced twice for the same offense.

The Zuzuarreguis further insist that legal interest on the amount of P17,073,122.70 be imposed from the date of the filing of the complaint, including moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.

We sustain the Court of Appeals, but with modification in the computation.

A contract is a meeting of the minds between two persons whereby one binds himself, with respect to the other, to give something or to render some service. Contracts shall be obligatory, in whatever form they may have been entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are present.

Under Article 1318 of the Civil Code, there are three essential requisites which must concur in order to give rise to a binding contract: (1) consent of the contracting parties; (2) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract; and (3) cause of the obligation which is established.

All these requisites were present in the execution of the Letter-Agreement.

Consent is manifested by the meeting of the offer and the acceptance upon the thing and the cause which are to constitute the contract. The Zuzuarreguis, in entering into the Letter-Agreement, fully gave their consent thereto. In fact, it was them (the Zuzuarreguis) who sent the said letter to Attys. Roxas and Pastor, for the purpose of confirming all the matters which they had agreed upon previously. There is absolutely no evidence to show that anybody was forced into entering into the Letter-Agreement. Verily, its existence, due execution and contents were admitted by the Zuzuarreguis themselves.

The second requisite is the object certain. The objects in this case are twofold. One is the money that will go to the Zuzuarreguis (P17.00 per square meter), and two, the money that will go to Attys. Roxas and Pastor (any and all amount in excess of P17.00 per square meter). There was certainty as to the amount that will go to the Zuzuarreguis, and there was likewise certainty as to what amount will go to Attys. Roxas and Pastor.

The cause is the legal service that was provided by Attys. Roxas and Pastor. In general, cause is the why of the contract or the essential reason which moves the contracting parties to enter into the contract.

It is basic that a contract is the law between the parties. Obligations arising from contracts have the force of law between the contracting parties and should be complied with in good faith. Unless the stipulations in a contract are contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy, the same are binding as between the parties.

In Licudan v. Court of Appeals, we did not allow the Contract for Professional Services between the counsel and his client to stand as the law between them as the stipulation for the lawyer’s compensation was unconscionable and unreasonable. We said:

Although the Contract for Professional Services dated August 30, 1979 was apparently voluntarily signed by the late Aurelio Licudan for himself and on behalf of his daughter, petitioner Cristina Licudan-Campos and by the petitioner Wilfredo Licudan who both manifested in open court that they gave their free and willing consent to the said contract, we cannot allow the said contract to stand as the law between the parties involved considering that the rule that in the presence of a contract for professional services duly executed by the parties thereto, the same becomes the law between the said parties is not absolute but admits an exception – that the stipulations therein are not contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy or public order.

Under the contract in question, Attys. Roxas and Pastor are to receive contingent fees for their professional services. It is a deeply-rooted rule that contingent fees are not per se prohibited by law. They are sanctioned by Canon 13 of the Canons of Professional Ethics, viz:

13. Contingent Fees. –

A contract for contingent fee, where sanctioned by law, should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case including the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness.

and Canon 20, Rule 20.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, [viz:

CANON 20 – A LAWYER SHALL CHARGE ONLY FAIR AND REASONABLE FEES.

Rule 20.01. – A lawyer shall be guided by the following factors in determining his fees:

(a) The time spent and the extent of the services rendered or required;
(b) The novelty and difficulty of the question involved;
(c) The importance of the subject matter;
(d) The skill demanded;
(e) The probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proffered case;
(f) The customary charges for similar services and the schedule of fees of the IBP chapter to which he belongs;
(g) The amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client from the service;
(h) The contingency or certainty of compensation;
(i) The character of the employment, whether occasional or established; and
(j) The professional standing of the lawyer.

However, in cases where contingent fees are sanctioned by law, the same should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case, and should always be subject to the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness, such that under Canon 20 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer is tasked to charge only fair and reasonable fees.

Indubitably entwined with the lawyer’s duty to charge only reasonable fees is the power of this Court to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees if the same is excessive and unconscionable. Thus, Section 24, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court partly states:

SEC. 24. Compensation of attorneys; agreement as to fees. – An attorney shall be entitled to have and recover from his client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, with a view to the importance of the subject matter of the controversy, the extent of the services rendered, and the professional standing of the attorney. x x x. A written contract for services shall control the amount to be paid therefore unless found by the court to be unconscionable or unreasonable.

Attorney’s fees are unconscionable if they affront one’s sense of justice, decency or reasonableness. It becomes axiomatic therefore, that power to determine the reasonableness or the, unconscionable character of attorney’s fees stipulated by the parties is a matter falling within the regulatory prerogative of the courts.

In the instant case, Attys. Roxas and Pastor received an amount which was equal to forty-four percent (44%) of the just compensation paid (including the yield on the bonds) by the NHA to the Zuzuarreguis, or an amount equivalent to P23,980,000.00 of the P54,500,000.00. Considering that there was no full blown hearing in the expropriation case, ending as it did in a Compromise Agreement, the 44% is, undeniably, unconscionable and excessive under the circumstances. Its reduction is, therefore, in order. This is in accordance with our ruling in the earlier case of Tanhueco v. De Dumo where we reduced the amount of attorney’s fees from sixty percent (60%) to fifteen percent (15%), for being excessive and unreasonable.

It is imperative that the contingent fees received by Attys. Roxas and Pastor must be equitably reduced. In the opinion of this Court, the yield that corresponds to the percentage share of the Zuzuarreguis in the P19.50 per square meter just compensation paid by the NHA must be returned by Attys. Roxas and Pastor.

The yield on the NHA bonds amounted to P19,583,878.00. This amount must therefore be divided between the Zuzuarreguis, on the one hand, and Attys. Roxas and Pastor, on the other. The division must be pro rata. The amount of P17.00 that should go to the Zuzuarreguis represents 87.18% of the P19.50 per square meter just compensation, The P2.50 per square meter that was to go to Attys. Roxas and Pastor, on the other hand, represents 12.82%.

The Zuzuarreguis are entitled to the yield equal to 87.18% of the P19,583,878.00, while Attys. Roxas and Pastor are entitled to 12.82% of said amount. The amount corresponding to 87.17% of P19,583,878.00 is P17,073,224.84. This is the yield that the Zuzuarreguis are entitled to. Attys. Roxas and Pastor, on the other hand, are entitled to P2,510,653.16.

Attys. Roxas and Pastor, in the opinion of this Court, were not shortchanged for their efforts for they would still be earning or actually earned attorney’s fees in the amount of P6,987,078.75 (P4,476,425.59 + P2,510,653.16).

The amount of P17,073,224.84 must therefore be returned by Attys. Roxas and Pastor to the Zuzuarreguis. They can take this out from the yield in the amount of P19,583,878.00 which they have appropriated for themselves.

On the issue of moral and exemplary damages, we cannot award the same for there was no direct showing of bad faith on the part of Attys. Roxas and Pastor, for as we said earlier, contingency fees are not per se prohibited by law. It is only necessary that it be reduced when excessive and unconscionable, which we have already done.

We likewise cannot hold the NHA and Atty. Pedrosa jointly and severally liable to the Zuzuarreguis for there is no evidence to show conspiracy between them.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated 25 June 2001 and 06 February 2002, respectively, are AFFIRMED but with the MODIFICATION that Attys. Romeo G. Roxas and Santiago N. Pastor are hereby ordered to return to the Zuzuarreguis the amount of P17,073,224.84. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 152072, January 31, 2006 ]ROMEO G. ROXAS AND SANTIAGO N. PASTOR, PETITIONERS, VS. ANTONIO DE ZUZUARREGUI, JR., ENRIQUE DE ZUZUARREGUI, PACITA JAVIER, ELIZABETH R. GONZALES, JOSEFINA R. DAZA, ELIAS REYES, NATIVIDAD REYES, TERESITA REYES, JOSE REYES AND ANTONIO REYES, RESPONDENTS. G.R. NO. 152104] ANTONIO DE ZUZUARREGUI, JR., ENRIQUE DE ZUZUARREGUI, PACITA JAVIER, ELIZABETH R. GONZALES, JOSEFINA R. DAZA, ELIAS REYES, NATIVIDAD REYES, TERESITA REYES, JOSE REYES AND ANTONIO REYES, PETITIONERS, VS. THE NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY, JOSE B. H. PEDROSA, ROMEO G. ROXAS AND SANTIAGO N. PASTOR, RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

The Court finds the allegations of petitioner that the findings of fact of the CA are contrary to evidence and admissions of the parties and that it erred in declaring the contract between the parties as an equitable mortgage to be absolutely unfounded.

A close examination of the records of this case reveals that the findings of fact of the CA are all based on documentary evidence and on admissions and stipulation of facts made by the parties. The CA’s finding that there was no gross inadequacy of the price of respondent’s residential house as stated in the contract, was based on respondent’s own evidence, Tax Declaration No. 44250, which stated that the actual market value of subject residential house in 1986 was only P93,080.00. The fact that respondent has remained in actual physical possession of the property in question, and that respondent has been the one paying the real property taxes on the subject property was established by the admission made by petitioner during the pre-trial conference and embodied in the Pre-Trial Order dated May 25, 1994. The finding that the purchase price in the amount of P165,000.00 earns monthly interest was based on petitioner’s own testimony and admission in her appellee’s brief that the amount of P165,000.00, if not paid on July 29, 1987, shall bear an interest of 10% per month.

The Court sees no reversible error with the foregoing findings of fact made by the CA. The CA correctly ruled that the true nature of the contract entered into by herein parties was one of equitable mortgage.

Article 1602 of the Civil Code enumerates the instances when a purported pacto de retro sale may be considered an equitable mortgage, to wit:

Art. 1602. The contract shall be presumed to be an equitable mortgage, in any of the following cases:

(1) When the price of a sale with right to repurchase is unusually inadequate;
 
(2) When the vendor remains in possession as lessee or otherwise;
 
(3) When upon or after the expiration of the right to repurchase another instrument extending the period of redemption or granting a new period is executed;
 
(4) When the purchaser retains for himself a part of the purchase price;
 
(5) When the vendor binds himself to pay the taxes on the thing sold;
 
(6) In any other case where it may be fairly inferred that the real intention of the parties is that the transaction shall secure the payment of a debt or the performance of any other obligation.


In any of the foregoing cases, any money, fruits, or other benefit to be received by the vendee as rent or otherwise shall be considered as interest which shall be subject to the usury laws. (Emphasis supplied)

In Legaspi vs. Ong, the Court further explained that:

The presence of even one of the above-mentioned circumstances as enumerated in Article 1602 is sufficient basis to declare a contract of sale with right to repurchase as one of equitable mortgage. As stated by the Code Commission which drafted the new Civil Code, in practically all of the so-called contracts of sale with right of repurchase, the real intention of the parties is that the pretended purchase price is money loaned and in order to secure the payment of the loan, a contract purporting to be a sale with pacto de retro is drawn up.

In the same case, the Court cited Article 1603 of the Civil Code, which provides that in case of doubt, a contract purporting to be a sale with right to repurchase shall be construed as an equitable mortgage.

In the instant case, the presence of the circumstances provided for under paragraphs (2) and (5) of Article 1602 of the Civil Code, and the fact that petitioner herself demands payment of interests on the purported purchase price of the subject property, clearly show that the intention of the parties was merely for the property to stand as security for a loan. The transaction between herein parties was then correctly construed by the CA as an equitable mortgage.

The allegation that the appellate court should not have deleted the award for actual and/or compensatory damages is likewise unmeritorious.

Section 8, Rule 51 of the Rules of Court provides as follows:

Sec. 8. Questions that may be decided. – No error which does not affect the jurisdiction over the subject matter or the validity of the judgment appealed from or the proceedings therein will be considered unless stated in the assignment of errors, or closely related to or dependent on an assigned error and properly argued in the brief, save as the court may pass upon plain errors and clerical errors.

Clearly, the appellate court may pass upon plain errors even if they are not stated in the assignment of errors. In Villegas vs. Court of Appeals, the Court held:

[T]he Court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors in the appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case.

In the present case, the RTC’s award for actual damages is a plain error because a reading of said trial court’s Decision readily discloses that there is no sufficient evidence on record to prove that petitioner is entitled to the same. Petitioner’s only evidence to prove her claim for actual damages is her testimony that she has spent P3,000.00 in going to and from respondent’s place to try to collect payment and that she spent P1,000.00 every time she travels from Bulacan, where she resides, to Baguio in order to attend the hearings.

In People vs. Sara, the Court held that a witness’ testimony cannot be “considered as competent proof and cannot replace the probative value of official receipts to justify the award of actual damages, for jurisprudence instructs that the same must be duly substantiated by receipts.” Hence, there being no official receipts whatsoever to support petitioner’s claim for actual or compensatory damages, said claim must be denied.

The appellate court was also correct in ordering respondent to pay “legal interest” on the amount of P165,000.00.

Both parties admit that they came to an agreement whereby respondent shall pay petitioner interest, at 9% (according to respondent) or 10% (according to petitioner) per month, if she is unable to pay the principal amount of P165,000.00 on July 29, 1987.

In the Pre-Trial Order dated May 25, 1994, one of the issues for resolution of the trial court was “whether or not the interest to be paid under the agreement is 10% or 9% or whether or not this amount of interest shall be reduced equitably pursuant to law.”

The factual milieu of Carpo vs. Chua is closely analogous to the present case. In the Carpo case, petitioners therein contracted a loan in the amount of P175,000.00 from respondents therein, payable within six months with an interest rate of 6% per month. The loan was not paid upon demand. Therein petitioners claimed that following the Court’s ruling in Medel vs. Court of Appeals, the rate of interest of 6% per month or 72% per annum as stipulated in the principal loan agreement is null and void for being excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant. The Court then held thus:

In a long line of cases, this Court has invalidated similar stipulations on interest rates for being excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant. In Solangon v. Salazar, we annulled the stipulation of 6% per month or 72% per annum interest on a P60,000.00 loan. In Imperial v. Jaucian, we reduced the interest rate from 16% to 1.167% per month or 14% per annum. In Ruiz v. Court of Appeals, we equitably reduced the agreed 3% per month or 36% per annum interest to 1% per month or 12% per annum interest. The 10% and 8% interest rates per month on a P1,000,000.00 loan were reduced to 12% per annum in Cuaton v. Salud. Recently, this Court, in Arrofo v. Quino, reduced the 7% interest per month on a P15,000.00 loan amounting to 84% interest per annum to 18% per annum.

There is no need to unsettle the principle affirmed in Medel and like cases. From that perspective, it is apparent that the stipulated interest in the subject loan is excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant. Pursuant to the freedom of contract principle embodied in Article 1306 of the Civil Code, contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. In the ordinary course, the codal provision may be invoked to annul the excessive stipulated interest.

In the case at bar, the stipulated interest rate is 6% per month, or 72% per annum. By the standards set in the above-cited cases, this stipulation is similarly invalid. x x x.

Applying the afore-cited rulings to the instant case, the inescapable conclusion is that the agreed interest rate of 9% per month or 108% per annum, as claimed by respondent; or 10% per month or 120% per annum, as claimed by petitioner, is clearly excessive, iniquitous, unconscionable and exorbitant. Although respondent admitted that she agreed to the interest rate of 9%, which she believed was exorbitant, she explained that she was constrained to do so as she was badly in need of money at that time. As declared in the Medel case and Imperial vs. Jaucian, “[i]niquitous and unconscionable stipulations on interest rates, penalties and attorney’s fees are contrary to morals.” Thus, in the present case, the rate of interest being charged on the principal loan of P165,000.00, be it 9% or 10% per month, is void. The CA correctly reduced the exhorbitant rate to “legal interest.”

In Trade & Investment Development Corporation of the Philippines vs. Roblett Industrial Construction Corporation, the Court held that:

In Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, this Court laid down the following rules with respect to the manner of computing legal interest:

  1. When an obligation, regardless of its source, i.e., law, contracts, quasi-contracts, delicts or quasi-delicts is breached, the contravenor can be held liable for damages. The provisions under Title XVIII on ‘Damages’ of the Civil Code govern in determining the measure of recoverable damages.
  2. With regard particularly to an award of interest in the concept of actual and compensatory damages, the rate of interest, as well as the accrual thereof, is imposed, as follows:
  3. When the obligation is breached, and it consists in the payment of a sum of money, i.e., a loan or forbearance of money, the interest due should be that which may have been stipulated in writing. Furthermore, the interest due shall itself earn legal interest from the time it is judicially demanded. In the absence of stipulation, the rate of interest shall be 12% per annum to be computed from default, i.e., from judicial or extrajudicial demand under and subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code.  (Underscoring supplied)

Applied to the present case, since the agreed interest rate is void, the parties are considered to have no stipulation regarding the interest rate. Thus, the rate of interest should be 12% per annum to be computed from judicial or extrajudicial demand, subject to the provisions of Article 1169 of the Civil Code, to wit:

Art. 1169. Those obliged to deliver or to do something incur in delay from the time the obligee judicially or extrajudicially demands from them the fulfillment of the obligation.

However, the demand by the creditor shall not be necessary in order that delay may exist:

(1) When the obligation or the law expressly so declares; or

(2) When from the nature and the circumstances of the obligation it appears that the designation of the time when the thing is to be delivered or the service is to be rendered was a controlling motive for the establishment of the contract; or

(3) When demand would be useless, as when the obligor has rendered it beyond his power to perform.

x x x x

The records do not show any of the circumstances enumerated above. Consequently, the 12% interest should be reckoned from the date of extrajudicial demand.

Petitioner testified that she went to respondent’s place several times to try to collect payment, but she (petitioner) failed to specify the dates on which she made such oral demand. The only evidence which clearly shows the date when petitioner made a demand on respondent is the demand letter dated March 19, 1989 (Exh. “C”), which was received by respondent or her agent on March 29, 1989 per the Registry Return Receipt (Exh. “C-1”). Hence, the interest of 12% per annum should only begin to run from March 29, 1989, the date respondent received the demand letter from petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 9, 2000 is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the legal interest rate to be paid by respondent on the principal amount of P165,000.00 is twelve (12%) percent per annum from March 29, 1989 until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 145871, January 31, 2006 ]LEONIDES C. DIÑO, PETITIONER, VS. LINA JARDINES, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

THE COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECIDED A QUESTION IN A WAY NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE LAW AND APPLICABLE DECISIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT

Petitioner offers five arguments in support thereof:

First, it contends that the provisions of the POEA Rules and Regulations on transfer of accreditation is inapplicable because of the express provision of Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8042, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, that the liability of the principal and the recruitment agency is joint and several and continues during the entire duration of the employment contract and shall not be affected by any substitution, amendment or modification made locally or in a foreign country of the said contract.

Second, it alleges that the CA misapplied ABD Overseas Manpower Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission to the effect that Section 6, Rule I, Book III of the POEA Rules should not be used as a shield against liability by a recruitment agency.

Third, it argues that the conclusions of the Labor Arbiter and NLRC, as affirmed by the CA, were not supported by substantial evidence. It claims that the Solicitor General, in his Comment before the CA, even noted that the defenses presented by the petitioner were not touched in the decisions of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC and suggested that there is a need to remand the case back to the Labor Arbiter for further proceedings on the factual issue of whether respondent is entitled to her monetary claims.

Fourth, it submits that the CA misapplied the rule on caveat emptor; that the rule is inapplicable to labor employment contracts which are imbued with public interest and subservient to the police power of the State.

Fifth, it maintains that the CA disregarded the doctrine of stare decisis in the light of the Court’s ruling on January 14, 1998 in G.R. No. 130953 entitled Lilibeth Lazaga v. National Labor Relations Commission where the Court sustained the NLRC’s dismissal for lack of merit of an identical complaint for unpaid monetary claims of respondent’s co-worker in Philips.

In her Comment, respondent alleges that the instant petition merits outright dismissal for being filed out of time since petitioner admitted that its counsel on record, Atty. Ricardo C. Orias, Jr., received copy of the CA Resolution dated January 7, 2000 on January 25, 2000 and the petition was filed only on May 5, 2000 or 101 days late. Respondent submits that the argument that the filing of the petition was delayed because the notice of withdrawal of Atty. Orias, Jr. was not filed on time with the CA by the petitioner as it is not adept to legal intricacies is but a tactical ploy to delay the case and avoid payment of its monetary liability. At any rate, respondent insists that the arguments raised in the petition have already been raised and squarely resolved by the NLRC and the CA.

In its Reply, petitioner points out that: it received a copy of the CA Resolution dated January 7, 2000 only on March 23, 2000; within fifteen days thereafter it filed before this Court a motion for a thirty-day extension of time or up to May 7, 2000 to file a petition for review on certiorari which was granted by the Court; the petition was filed on May 6, 2000, within the extended period; the failure of Atty. Orias, Jr., who had already withdrawn from the case, to duly inform it that the motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA upon receipt of the CA Resolution dated January 7, 2000 was not its fault and should not be taken against it. It submits that it should be deemed to have notice of the denial of the motion for reconsideration only as of the date of its actual receipt, i.e., March 23, 2000. It insists that it should not be made to bear the adverse consequences of Atty. Orias, Jr.’s negligence.

The Court finds for the petitioner.

To begin with, the Court is fully aware that procedural rules are not to be belittled or simply disregarded for these prescribed procedures insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice. However, it is equally true that litigation is not merely a game of technicalities. The law and jurisprudence grant to courts the prerogative to relax compliance with procedural rules of even the most mandatory character, mindful of the duty to reconcile both the need to put an end to litigation speedily and the parties’ right to an opportunity to be heard.

The Court has often stressed that rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They were conceived and promulgated to effectively aid the court in the dispensation of justice. Courts are not slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. In rendering justice, courts have always been, as they ought to be, conscientiously guided by the norm that on the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights, and not the other way around. Thus, if the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than promote justice, it is always within our power to suspend the rules or except a particular case from its operation.

In numerous cases, the Court has allowed liberal construction of the Rules of Court with respect to the rules on the manner and periods for perfecting appeals, when to do so would serve the demands of substantial justice and in the exercise of equity jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Indeed, laws and rules should be interpreted and applied not in a vacuum or in isolated abstraction but in light of surrounding circumstances and attendant facts in order to afford justice to all. Thus, where a decision may be made to rest on informed judgment rather than rigid rules, the equities of the case must be accorded their due weight because labor determinations should not only be secundum rationem but also secundum caritatem.

In this particular case, the suspension of the Rules is warranted since the procedural infirmity was not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of petitioner. Petitioner and its counsel, Atty. Orias, Jr., agreed to terminate the services of the latter on January 25, 2000. Atty. Orias, Jr. received the CA Resolution on January 28, 2000. The “Withdrawal of Appearance” which Atty. Orias, Jr. gave to petitioner was sent by the latter thru registered mail only on March 24, 2000 and received by the CA on March 27, 2000.

Considering that only three days have elapsed since the termination of his services, Atty. Orias, Jr. should have promptly relayed to petitioner that he received the Resolution dated January 7, 2000 denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. Had he done so, he would have known that his Withdrawal of Appearance has not been sent yet by petitioner. It is the duty of a lawyer to pay heed to the urgency and importance of registered letter sent by the court. Before the date of receipt on March 27, 2000 by the CA of the Withdrawal of Appearance, Atty. Orias, Jr. remained as petitioner’s counsel of record.

Ordinarily, until his dismissal or withdrawal is made of record in court, any judicial notice sent to a counsel of record is binding upon his client even though as between them the professional relationship may have been terminated. However, under the peculiar circumstances of this case, Atty. Orias, Jr. was negligent in not adequately protecting petitioner’s interest, which necessarily calls for a liberal construction of the Rules. Verily, the negligence of Atty. Orias, Jr. cannot be deemed as negligence of petitioner itself in the present case. A notice to a lawyer who appears to have been unconscionably irresponsible cannot be considered as notice to his client. Thus, petitioner is deemed to have filed its petition for review on certiorari within the reglementary period as alleged in its Reply.

The general rule is that findings of fact of the NLRC, as affirmed by the CA, are conclusive upon the Supreme Court when supported by substantial evidence that is manifest in the decision and on the records. However, this Court has recognized several exceptions to this rule, to wit: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings, the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (11) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. In the present case, the Court is constrained to review the NLRC’s findings of fact, which the CA chose not to pass upon, as there is ample evidence on record to show that certain facts were overlooked which would clearly affect the disposition of the case.

Foremost to consider and point out is that there is no factual basis for the monetary award in respondent’s favor. Significantly, the Labor Arbiter merely accepted per se private respondent’s computation on her monetary claims in view of JSCI’s failure to refute her allegations. He did not assess and weigh or even touch upon herein petitioner’s arguments and evidence against respondent’s claims. Clearly, the Labor Arbiter should not have precipitately granted private respondent’s claims because petitioner had adduced evidence to refute her allegations. Since the Labor Arbiter’s decision did not touch upon or rule on petitioner’s arguments and evidence against respondent’s claims, the NLRC and the CA had no basis for affirming his findings.

Petitioner submits that the NLRC already resolved the same issues in this case in its Decision dated June 25, 1997 in NLRC OCW CA 012269-97, entitled, “Lilibeth Lazaga v. Grand Placement & General Services Corp., et al.” and should not be relitigated under the principle of stare decisis.

Stare decisis et non quieta movere
. Stand by the decision and disturb not what is settled. Stare decisis simply means that for the sake of certainty, a conclusion reached in one case should be applied to those that follow if the facts are substantially the same, even though the parties may be different. It proceeds from the first principle of justice that, absent any powerful countervailing considerations, like cases ought to be decided alike. Thus, where the same questions relating to the same event have been put forward by parties similarly situated as in a previous case litigated and decided by a competent court, the rule of stare decisis is a bar to any attempt to relitigate the same issue.

In the Lazaga case, Lazaga was contracted to work as factory worker for Philips in Chupei City, Taiwan for one year, from July 26, 1994 to July 26, 1995 with a stipulated salary of NT$13,350.00. On April 27, 1995, she was transferred to the Philips factory in Chungli City. Upon the expiration of her contract, she extended the same until she was voluntarily repatriated on February 15, 1996. Thereafter, she filed her complaint for non-payment of salary differential, night shift differential, full attendance bonus and payment of excessive placement fee against petitioner, Philips and Labor International Corp., before the NLRC, National Capital Region, Quezon City.

In her complaint, Lazaga alleged that: she is entitled to salary differential as the salary of NT$13,350.00 in the OFW Info Sheet refers to the basic salary, exclusive of other benefits such as shift allowance, factory incentives, full attendance bonus, monthly dormitory bonus and others; she is entitled to night shift allowance of NT$215.00 and full attendance bonus of NT$900.00 per month, benefits she enjoyed in Chupei City; she paid an excessive placement fee of P30,000.00.

On December 9, 1996, Labor Arbiter Ariel Cadiente Santos, dismissed Lazaga’s complaint for lack of merit. Said the Labor Arbiter in that case:

Complainant therefore cannot capitalize on the entry on the OCW Info Sheet indicating NT$13,350.00 as the basic salary. This is in light of the clear terms of the Employment Contract she duly executed with respondents. x x x Moreover, complainant herself admits that “in addition to NT$13,350.00, she also enjoyed other emoluments in the form of bonuses and differential (p; 3, Amended Complaint). Hence, the claim for salary differential is patently without basis.

The claim for night shift differential is resolved in respondents” favor. x x x The records of this case disclose that the giving of night differential to the workers at respondents Philips was the subject of a meeting/negotiation on December 21, 1996 and was agreed upon to take effect three (3) months thereafter, i.e., on April 1996. Complainant however, by her own volition, had already caused herself to be repatriated before the effectivity of the giving of night shift differential. She therefore cannot claim entitlement thereto. x x x In the absence of proof that the benefit was agreed upon to have a retroactive effect, complainant’s claim for night differential cannot be granted.

The claim for full attendance bonus is likewise denied for lack of basis. The records indicate that complainant was duly paid the same, as shown by the Employee Payment/Deduct Detail Analysis Report (Annex “1”, Answer to Amended Complaint). Complainant’s allegation cannot prevail over the documentary evidence on record which establish the fact of payment of full attendance bonus. x x x

x x x

x x x [C]omplainant’s claim for refund of alleged placement fee cannot be sustained against respondent Grand. There is in fact no proof on record that she ever paid respondent Grand the alleged excessive placement fee. xxx

On appeal, the NLRC in its Decision dated June 25, 1997, sustained the Labor Arbiter’s findings and conclusions. When the NLRC Decision dated June 25, 1997 was elevated to this Court via a petition for certiorari, the First Division, in a minute resolution dated January 14, 1998 dismissed the petition for failure to show that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in rendering the questioned judgment. The resolution became final and executory on February 16, 1998.

The Lazaga case is not stare decisis to the present case since the factual circumstances surrounding each case is different. The contracts of employment of Lazaga and respondent spanned different periods. Lazaga’s contract was from July 26, 1994 to July 26, 1995 and she opted to extend her employment until her repatriation on February 15, 1996, while herein respondent Paragas was employed from December 14, 1994 to December 13, 1995. Furthermore, the contract stipulations in their respective contracts have not been shown to be the same. Lazaga’s contract of employment is not part of the evidence on record for a detailed comparison with respondent’s contract. Besides, evidence to establish their respective claims for salary differential, night shift differential, full attendance bonus and excessive placement fee are different.

Verily, the resolution of the interpretation of the respondent’s contract and her entitlement to salary differential, night shift differential, full attendance bonus and excessive placement fee requires conscientious evaluation and assessment of the evidence adduced by the parties, which is best undertaken by the Labor Arbiter. This Court is not the proper venue to consider factual issues nor is it its function to analyze or weigh the probative value of the evidence presented. Needless to stress, the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. Ordinarily, the case should be remanded to the Labor Arbiter for proper evaluation of the evidence adduced by the parties. However, considering that the records of the NLRC are before the Court, the Court deems it more appropriate and practical to resolve the present controversy in order to avoid further delay.

Anent the interpretation of the contract of employment regarding the amount of NT$13,350.00, the Court finds that the OCW Info Sheet of respondent indicating NT$13,350.00 as “basic salary” cannot be the basis for her claim of salary differential since Article IV of her employment contract specifically provides that the wage for a full month of working shall be NT$13,350.00 only with free food and accommodation. Moreover, the official interpretation of the Philippine Labor Representative to Taiwan, Guerrero N. Cirilo, that the stipulated salary is the “totality of the amount given to an employee as his compensation for work done on a monthly basis” should stand, in the absence of evidence that said interpretation is patently erroneous.

As to the issue on night shift differential, evidence for the petitioner has shown that the employees’ agreement with Philips to grant night shift allowance became effective only after February 1996. In the absence of express provision in the agreement, the grant of night shift allowance cannot be interpreted to apply retroactively. In this case, since the grant of night shift allowance became effective three months after respondent’s repatriation to the Philippines on December 23, 1995, she is clearly not entitled to night shift differential.

With regard to the question of respondent’s entitlement to salary differential, annual bonus and full attendance bonus, a thorough review of the evidence adduced by the petitioner, comprising of the Employee Payment/Deduct Detail Analysis Report and bank remittance sheets show that respondent has been duly paid her salary, annual bonus and full attendance bonus. The documentary evidence confirms that private respondent’s salary and other benefits have been religiously remitted to her bank account. Against petitioner’s documentary evidence, respondent offered none of her own to fully substantiate her allegations. Necessarily therefore, her case must fail.

As to respondent’s claim for excessive placement fee, not only did respondent fail to substantiate her claim that she paid the amount of P52,000.00, but JSCI Official Receipt No. 5890 dated October 28, 1994 is ample proof that respondent only paid the amount of P18,350.00. Consequently, the Labor Arbiter’s decision to refund the excess placement fee is barren of factual basis. On this score, the NLRC, as affirmed by the CA, aptly deleted the refund of excess placement fee.

Having ruled that the respondent is not entitled to her monetary claims in the first place, the Court sees no more need to address the other arguments of petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated September 14, 1999 and January 7, 2000, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 51965, are REVERSED and SET ASIDE insofar as it affirms the NLRC’s award in favor of respondent Mary Ann Paragas for salary differential, night shift differential, annual bonus and full attendance bonus. The complaint for unpaid monetary benefits is DISMISSED.

Atty. Ricardo C. Orias, Jr. is admonished to be more conscientious of his duties as counsel for a party.
SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 142358, January 31, 2006 ]GRAND PLACEMENT AND GENERAL SERVICES CORPORATION, PETITIONER, VS. COURT OF APPEALS, NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, AND MARY ANN PARAGAS, RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

The sole issue is whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the resolution of the NLRC, which upheld the decision of the Labor Arbiter that petitioners illegally dismissed private respondents who should therefore receive separation pay, backwages, attorney’s fees and salary differential.

The Ruling of the Court


The petition is without merit.

Factual Findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC


We uphold the ruling of the Court of Appeals sustaining the findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC that petitioners illegally dismissed private respondents. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence on record supported such findings.

Factual findings of labor officials, who possess the expertise in matters within their jurisdiction, have conclusive effect on this Court provided substantial evidence support such factual findings. More so in this case, where the findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC coincide, and the Court of Appeals sustained such findings.

As found by the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, petitioners failed to prove their assertion that Alcovendas voluntarily resigned. Petitioners assert that Alcovendas stole his letter of resignation. However, the Prosecutor dismissed for insufficiency of evidence the charge for qualified theft against Alcovendas for allegedly stealing company documents, including his own letter of resignation. In the labor case, petitioners also failed to present substantial evidence to establish the charge of qualified theft against Alcovendas.

Petitioners were likewise unable to support their claim that Labrador was involved in faking the licenses of security guards who were not qualified. The Labor Arbiter held:

Respondents herein alleged that Labrador was validly terminated on June 5, 1993 for dishonesty involving the faking of guards’ licenses. Again, this alleged offense was never established by evidence. Invisible on record are the supposed documents issued to Labrador such as the notice of offense, notice requiring him to explain and the sworn statement of witnesses attesting to the charge. Even the very letter of termination dated June 14, 1993 served to Labrado[r] terminating the latter’s services does not contain the alleged cause for his termination. We therefore rule that the termination of complainant Labrador from employment was contrary to law.[11]

Petitioners also failed to substantiate their claim that Tacanloy engaged in black propaganda to discredit petitioners’ reputation. The Labor Arbiter held that petitioners failed to establish fraud and breach of trust on the part of Tacanloy which would justify termination of his employment.

We find no reason to deviate from the findings of the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC. Petitioners failed to substantiate their allegations and accusations against private respondents. Although proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required, substantial evidence is necessary and the burden lies on the employer to establish that there was no illegal dismissal. This is in accord with Article 277 of the Labor Code, which explicitly states that the employer has the burden of proving that the termination of the employee is for a valid or authorized cause. The petitioners failed to discharge this burden, which makes a finding for illegal dismissal inevitable.

Loss of Trust and Confidence


Article 282(c) of the Labor Code provides that an employer may terminate an employee for fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by his employer or duly authorized representative. An employer cannot be compelled to continue the employment of an employee who is guilty of acts inimical to the interest of the employer and which justifies loss of confidence in the employee. However, the right of an employer to terminate an employee based on loss of confidence must not be exercised arbitrarily and without just cause.

In Northwest Tourism Corp. v. Court of Appeals, Former Special Third Division, we held:

Loss of trust and confidence as a ground for dismissal does not entail proof beyond reasonable doubt of the employee’s misconduct. However, the evidence must be substantial and must establish clearly and convincingly the facts on which the loss of confidence in the employee rests. To be a valid reason for dismissal, loss of confidence must be genuine. Uncorroborated assertions and accusations by the employer will not suffice, otherwise it will jeopardize the constitutional guaranty of security of tenure of the employee.

In this case, petitioners failed to prove the acts and misconduct imputed upon private respondents which would justify their dismissal on the ground of loss of confidence.

Salary Differential, Attorney’s Fees, Separation Pay, and Backwages


We affirm the award of salary differential. As found by the Labor Arbiter, PMVSIA paid private respondents wages which were below the minimum rate for security guards as prescribed and adopted by the Philippine Association of Detective [and Protective] Agency Operators, Inc. (PADPAO). Petitioners failed to refute the Labor Arbiter’s finding of underpayment of wages.

We also sustain the award of attorney’s fees. We have held that “[i]n actions for recovery of wages or where an employee was forced to litigate and incur expenses to protect his rights and interest, he is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees.”

We, however, modify the amount of separation pay. The payment of separation pay may be granted when reinstatement is no longer feasible. Separation pay is equivalent to one (1) month pay for every year of service up to the finality of this Decision. Thus, the computation for the separation pay should be adjusted accordingly.

Finally, we rule that private respondents are entitled to backwages. Article 279 of the Labor Code reads:

ART. 279. Security of Tenure. – In cases of regular employment, the employer shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when authorized by this Title. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement.

In accordance with this provision, illegally dismissed private respondents are entitled to full backwages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits. Where reinstatement is no longer possible, as in this case, the backwages shall be computed from the time of the employee’s illegal termination up to the finality of the decision.

WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM with MODIFICATION the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 31 March 1999 and its Resolution dated 23 June 1999. We SUSTAIN the award of salary differential and attorney’s fees. We REMAND this case to the Labor Arbiter for the computation, within thirty days from receipt of this Decision, of separation pay and backwages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits due to Teodulo C. Alcovendas, Cesar W. Labrador and Jordan T. Tacanloy, from the time of their illegal dismissal until the finality of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 139159, January 31, 2006 ]PHILIPPINE MILITARY VETERANS SECURITY AND INVESTIGATION AGENCY AND/OR RAMON MACOROL, PETITIONERS, VS. COURT OF APPEALS, NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, TEODULO C. ALCOVENDAS, CESAR W. LABRADOR, AND JORDAN T. TACANLOY, RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

WHETHER OR NOT AN ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCY, SUCH AS THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM CAN ISSUE AN ORDER WHICH HAS A FORCE AND EFFECT OF A WRIT OF DEMOLITION

The instant petition is accompanied by a prayer for the issuance of a restraining order to maintain the status quo and to prevent private respondent from committing acts of demolition against petitioners’ properties. Before the prayer for a restraining order could be resolved, petitioners filed a motion to declare the Order of Execution null and void for want of jurisdiction because as per cadastral survey conducted by the Land Management Services Division of the DENR, private respondent’s Lot No. 16306 is within the site of the Kotkot-Lusaran Watershed and petitioners’ homelots are among those listed as within the premises of the same watershed reservation. Petitioners manifested their intention to request for a declaration of status as tenured migrants with the DENR.

On August 12, 1996, the Court issued a Resolution, granting petitioners’ prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order enjoining the Court of Appeals and the DAR from enforcing the questioned Decision and Resolution in CA-G.R. SP No. 37333.[7]

On October 16, 1996, the Court resolved to deny the petition for failure of petitioners to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals had committed any reversible error in rendering the assailed Decision.[8] Petitioners moved for the reconsideration of the denial on the ground that the DAR has no jurisdiction over the property in question since it is a portion of a watershed. On August 25, 1999, the Court resolved to grant petitioners’ motion for reconsideration, reinstate the petition and require respondents to file their respective comments on the petition.

Petitioner contends that the DAR Regional Director is not authorized to issue the questioned Order of Execution because only the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), the quasi-judicial arm of the DAR, is empowered to issue a writ having the effect of a writ of demolition. Petitioners also opine that the Order of Execution suffers from procedural defects as it was issued without notice and hearing to determine key issues such as the relocation site for the displaced farmers, the expenses for relocation, and who should be liable therefor, among others.

The petition is meritorious.

The Court finds that the December 22, 1994 Order of Execution issued by the DAR Regional Director suffers from jurisdictional and procedural defects as it directed the relocation of petitioners without first conducting a hearing or survey to determine the portion of the subject property excluded from the CARP.

A writ of execution should conform to the dispositive portion of the decision to be executed, and the execution is void if it is in excess of and beyond the original judgment or award, for it is a settled general principle that a writ of execution must conform strictly with every essential particular of the judgment promulgated.[9] It may not vary the terms of the judgment it seeks to enforce. Nor may it go beyond the terms of the judgment sought to be executed.[10] Where the writ of execution is not in harmony with and exceeds the judgment which gives it life, the writ has pro tanto no validity.[11]

The Order of Execution does not conform to the tenor of the orders supposed to be implemented. The twin orders dated August 30, 1994 and November 29, 1994 merely declared that only 808 hectares of the Complex would be excluded from the CARP’s coverage and directed that a survey be made to delineate the area. In the Order dated November 29, 1994, the DAR Secretary clarified that a table survey is necessary to identify the farmers affected by the exclusion from the CARP coverage. Neither order categorically declared that private respondent’s property is excluded from the CARP, wholly or partially, or that petitioners would be affected by the exemption. Hence, the indispensability of the survey. However, as admitted by respondent DAR Secretary in his order affirming the assailed Order of Execution, no survey was conducted by the appropriate DAR officials.

The August 30, 1994 Order directed the suspension of development activities in the area exempted from the CARP coverage pending actual relocation of the farmers and recommended the creation of temporary usufructuary agreements on the excluded area. The import of these directives suggests that an immediate relocation of the farmers would be premature since a survey is yet to be undertaken and a possible contentious proceeding would follow once the exact boundaries of the properties to be excluded from the CARP are identified. As a matter of fact, in his Comment on the instant petition, respondent DAR Secretary explained that the orders did “not outrightly contemplate demolition which, under the Rules, would require a separate order issuable only after notice and hearing and in compliance with the prescribed conditions.”[12] On the other hand, the questioned Order of Execution directed the immediate relocation of herein petitioners and even enjoined the Philippine National Police to assist the DAR personnel in its implementation. This significant variance alone indubitably demonstrates that the Order of Execution goes beyond the content and tenor of the orders sought to be implemented.

Petitioners’ contention that the authority to issue the Order of Execution is vested with the DARAB and not with the DAR Regional Director is likewise correct.

A Regional Director is the head of a DAR Regional Office which, under the Administrative Code of 1987, is responsible for “supporting the field units and supervising program implementation of the Department within the region.” The function of the DAR Regional Office includes “[implementing] laws, policies, plans, rules and regulations of the Department in the regional area.” A similar function is delegated to the DAR Regional Offices under Executive Order No. 129-A.[13] Thus, the functions of the DAR Regional Director are purely administrative, that is, to put into operation agrarian laws and fill out the details necessary for their implementation, and not adjudicatory.

On the other hand, when a dispute arises between parties affected by the operation of agrarian laws, the controversy should be settled in an adversarial proceeding before the DARAB, the quasi-judicial arm of the DAR.[14] A function becomes judicial or quasi-judicial in nature when the exercise thereof involves the determination of rights and obligations of the parties.

In issuing the questioned Order of Execution, the DAR Regional Director overstepped the limits of his office and crossed the realm of adjudication. While the orders sought to be implemented merely directed the survey of the areas to be excluded from the CARP, the Order of Execution, however, included the search for a relocation site for the benefit of farmers who would be affected by the order of exemption and the determination of appropriate disturbance compensation. Thus, the DAR Regional Director turned what was supposed to be an administrative process into an adjudicatory proceeding. The relocation of occupants is normally conducted with the issuance of a writ of demolition, an act which is within the competence of the DARAB.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 37333 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the Order of Execution issued by the DAR Regional Director on December 22, 1994 is likewise NULLIFIED. Costs against private respondent.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 125202, January 31, 2006 ]ERNESTO INGLES, MAXIMO CANOY, ISMAEL BONTILAO, CONRADO BONTILAO, SERGIO CANOY, ZALDY CANOY, REMITSOR CANOY, ROBERTO CANOY, RODULFO NABLE, GUILLERMO BORRES, ENRIQUE BORRES, LOBERTA BONTILAO, AND NESTOR PIALDA, PETITIONERS, VS. MANUEL CANTOS, DAR SECRETARY ERNESTO GARILAO, AND DAR VII REGIONAL DIRECTOR ELMO BANARES, RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A MOST GRIEVOUS ERROR WHEN IT DID NOT EXPRESSLY RULE ON THE ISSUE OF THE RIGHT OF PETITIONERS TO BACKWAGES AND IN EFFECT AFFIRMED THE TERRIBLY WRONG RULING OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION THAT PETITIONERS HAVE NO RIGHT TO BACKWAGES

Petitioners are no longer pleading for exoneration from the administrative charges filed against them. Instead, petitioners are merely asking for the payment of back wages computed from the time they could not teach pursuant to Secretary Cariño’s dismissal orders minus the six months suspension until their actual reinstatement.[8]

Petitioners have no right to back wages because they were neither exonerated nor unjustifiably suspended.  Petitioners admitted participating in the teachers’ strike which disrupted the education of public school students.  For this offense, the CSC reduced Secretary Cariño’s dismissal orders to six months suspension without pay.  The Court has already put to rest the issue of the award of back wages to public school teachers whom the CSC reinstated in the service after commuting Secretary Cariño’s dismissal orders to six months suspension without pay.[9] In Alipat v. Court of Appeals,[10] the Court denied the teachers’ claim for back wages stating thus:

This Court has also resolved the issue of whether back wages may be awarded to the teachers who were ordered reinstated to the service after the dismissal orders of Secretary Cariño were commuted by the Civil Service Commission to six (6) months’ suspension.  The issue was resolved in the negative in Bangalisan vs. Court of Appeals on the ground that the teachers were neither exonerated nor unjustifiably suspended.  The Bangalisan case also ruled that the immediate implementation of the dismissal orders, being clearly sanctioned by law, was not unjustified.  The Court held that as regards the payment of back salaries during the period of suspension of a member of the civil service who is subsequently ordered reinstated, the payment of back wages may be decreed if “he is found innocent of the charges which caused the suspension and when the suspension is unjustified.”

Citing the Bangalisan ruling, this Court in Jacinto vs. Court of Appeals held that when the teachers have given cause for their suspension – i.e., the unjustified abandonment of classes to the prejudice of their students – they were not fully innocent of the charges against them although they were eventually found guilty only of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and not grave misconduct or other offense warranting their dismissal from the service; “being found liable for a lesser offense is not equivalent to exoneration.”[11]

The facts in this case are substantially the same as those in Bangalisan v. Court of Appeals,[12]De la Cruz v. Court of Appeals,[13]Alipat v. Court of Appeals[14] and Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports v. Court of Appeals.[15] In these cases, the Court categorically declared that the payment of back wages during the period of suspension of a civil servant who is subsequently reinstated is proper if he is found innocent of the charges and the suspension is unjustified.  These two circumstances are absent in the present case.  When a court has laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain state of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to all future cases where the facts are substantially the same.[16]

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition.  We AFFIRM the Decision dated 31 July 1996 and Resolution dated 29 February 2000 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 37794-99 and SP Nos. 37800-05.  Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NOS. 142332-43, January 31, 2005 ]YOLANDA BRUGADA, ANGELINA CORPUZ, EVELYN ESCANO, SHIRLEY GARMA, DEDAICA JUSAY, PARSIMA LERIA, SONIA C. MAHINAY, ADELA SOLO, ELSIE SOMERA, VIRGINIA TALICURAN, JOSE S. VALLO, AND TEOFILA VILLANUEVA, PETITIONERS, VS. THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

THE RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN PRESUMING NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE PETITIONER, AND MERELY RELYING IN CONJECTURE, SURMISE AND SPECULATION THEREBY DIRECTLY CONTRAVENING THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF THE TRIAL COURT.

On the first assigned error, petitioner cites the findings of fact of the CA and alleges that the same was “in direct contravention to the findings of fact of the trial court.” He then cites certain portions of the trial court’s Decision to show the supposed disparity. Upon scrutiny, however, this Court notes that the said quoted portion of the RTC Decision, which was purportedly contravened by the CA, was nothing more than the portion of the RTC Decision which merely narrates the accused’s version of the incident. A reading of the RTC Decision shows that the RTC first narrated the version of the prosecution, and thereafter did the same with the version of the defense. Ultimately, however, the trial court did find that the prosecution’s version was worthy of credence, as amply supported by the evidence submitted.

The RTC found:

After a thorough and careful evaluation of the foregoing evidence of the prosecution and the defense and after going over the transcripts of stenographic notes, . . . the Court finds that the prosecution, by the streng[th] of its own evidence, has established beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused ROBERT VENERACION of the offense of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property charged against him.

. . .

. . .  [T]he Court is convinced that the evidence of the    prosecution clearly and beyond doubt established that on December 10, 1989 at about 10:45 a.m., Dr. Conrado Triguero was driving his two-door Toyota Corolla car, model 1981 with Certificate of Registration No. 05248901 of the Land Transportation Office (Exh. “A”) and O.R. No. 33405884 dated October 12, 1990 (Exh. “B”) along EDSA and turning left to B. Serrano St., Kalookan City. He exhibited his driver’s license (Exh. “D”) during the trial.

In contrast, the accused during his entire testimony never so much as produced his driver’s license. All he did was to state that it has never been confiscated.

The pictures (Exhs. “E” to “M”) introduced by the prosecution were all admitted by the accused to be true and correct pictures of the traffic accident. Not one of those pictures ever showed that the trailer-truck being driven by the accused was ahead of the car being driven by Dr. Triguero. On the contrary, those pictures depicted that the car of Dr. Triguero was the one ahead even at the time of impact. These pictures also substantiated the testimony of Dr. Triguero that his car was ahead of, and was being followed by[,] the trailer truck. That fact was seen by him through his side mirror. Moreover, those pictures tended to substantiate, the truth of Dr. Triguero’s testimony that when he was already at full stop and thereafter making the left turn to B. Serrano St., the trailer truck was still about ten (10) meters away from his truck.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Accused could say his version of the accident in so many words as testified to by him in his defense, but the prosecution’s Exh[s.] “E” to “M” would belie these words.

Also duly proved by said pictures was the fact that the trailer truck was not making a left turn to B. Serrano St., prior to the time of impact. It was Dr. Triguero’s car which was already making a left turn but while doing so, the trailer truck bumped its left side.

. . .

Another circumstance which established the truth of D[r]. Triguero’s testimony as to how the accident occurred, was the introduction of the documentary exhibit by the prosecution to support said testimony, (actually from Exh[s.] “A” to “T”), as compared to absolutely none at all from the accused. Even the latter’s purported Exh. “1” was not introduced by the defense.

. . .

Coming now to the issue of who was recklessly driving his vehicle at the time of the accident, the people’s evidence overwhelmingly points to the accused as the culprit. 

Upon its review, the CA fully agreed with findings of the RTC and consequently affirmed said Decision in toto. The appellate Court found that “[c]ontrary to the appellant’s position, though, the record is teeming with evidence supporting the version of the prosecution.”

The CA found:

Moreover, a close examination of the left side of the car as seen from the pictures (Exhibits “F”, “J”, “K” and “L”), reveals scratch marks running from the back of the car towards its center. It is therefore not a far-fetched conclusion that the scratch marks were caused by the right fender of the trailer-truck before it rested on the center of the car. The presence of those scratch marks at the back of the car indicates that the trailer-truck bumped the car from behind.

Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code provides that reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place. Here, the prosecution proved and as sustained by the lower court, the car was clearly ahead of the trailer truck prior to the collision. Hence, it was incumbent upon the appellant to reduce his speed or apply on the brakes of the truck in order to allow the car to safely negotiate a left turn at the intersection. Failing, thus, in observing the necessary precaution to avoid inflicting injury or damage to others, We consider appellant to be recklessly imprudent in operating his vehicle.

Appellant further laments the lower court’s opinion finding him negligent in his driving on the ground that as between him and Dr. Triguero, he was the one with the shorter driving experience. He argues that Dr. Triguero’s considerable driving experience does not guarantee that at the time of the accident he was not recklessly driving his car. We agree to some extent with this contention. It is true that lack of experience in the operation of a vehicle may cause damage or injury.  But if a person, with a short period of experience in the operation a motor vehicle, operates it with that degree of care and skill that is required of a seasoned driver, negligence cannot be predicated upon the mere fact of inexperience on the part of a driver. However, the issue involved in the instant case is whether appellant operated the truck imprudently at the time of the accident. This is where Our concurrence should cease. Having found earlier that appellant was imprudent in the operation of the trailer-truck, the fact of appellant’s inexperience thus becomes relevant. Besides, his conviction was not based solely on his relative inexperience. 

In conclusion, the CA stated that “the court a quo based its ruling on the totality of the testimonial and documentary evidence[] proffered in the case,” such that the CA refused to disturb said factual findings, there being no overlooked facts of substance nor other compelling reason to warrant a change or modification.

Thus, the argument that the CA contravened the findings of fact of the RTC has no basis.

Another look at petitioner’s assigned errors, as well as the arguments he advanced in support thereof, would show that petitioner is asking for a review of the facts and circumstances of the incident in question. The main thrust of his defense is that it was Dr. Triguero who was at fault, who was negligent and who was the proximate cause of the collision.

Both the RTC and the CA are in agreement as to the particulars of what happened. In such a case, the rule is that their findings on the facts will not be disturbed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, and the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 14512 are AFFIRMED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 137447, January 31, 2005 ] ROBERT VENERACION, PETITIONER VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries