Category: LATEST SUPREME COURT CASES


CASE 2011-0137: BIENVENIDO CASTILLO VS. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (G.R. NO. 182980, 22 JUNE 2011, CARPIO, J.) SUBJECT: RECONSTITUION OF TITLE.

 

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DOCTRINES/SUBJECTS:

 

We cannot simply dismiss these defects as “technical.” Liberal construction of the Rules of Court does not apply to land registration cases.29 Indeed, to further underscore the mandatory character of these jurisdictional requirements, the Rules of Court do not apply to land registration cases.30 In all cases where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by a statute, and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is prescribed by a statute, the mode of proceeding is mandatory, and must be strictly complied with, or the proceeding will be utterly void.31 When the trial court lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of a case, it lacks authority over the whole case and all its aspects.32 All the proceedings before the trial court, including its order granting the petition for reconstitution, are void for lack of jurisdiction.33

 

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SECOND DIVISION

 

 

BIENVENIDO CASTILLO,   G.R. No. 182980
Petitioner,    
    Present:
 

 

- versus -

 

 

 

  CARPIO, J., Chairperson,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,*

ABAD,

MENDOZA, and

SERENO,** JJ.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,

Respondent.

  Promulgated:

June 22, 2011

x – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - x

 

D E C I S I O N

 

CARPIO, J.:

 

The Case

 

Petitioner Bienvenido Castillo (Bienvenido) filed the present petition for review on certiorari1 of the Decision2 dated 23 October 2007 as well as the Resolution3 dated 7 May 2008 of the Court of Appeals (appellate court) in CA-G.R. CV No. 81916. The appellate court reversed the Decision4 dated 3 October 2003 of Branch 22, Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan (trial court) in P-111-2002. The trial court ordered the reconstitution of the original copy of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-16755 as well as the issuance of another owner’s duplicate copy, in the name of the registered owner and in the same terms and conditions as the original, in lieu of the lost original copy.

 

The Facts

Bienvenido filed on 7 March 2002 a Petition for Reconstitution and Issuance of Second Owner’s Copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-16755. The petition reads as follows:

 

1. That petitioner is of legal age, Filipino, widower and with residence and postal address at Poblacion, Pulilan, Bulacan;

2. That petitioner is the registered owner of a parcel of land situated at Paltao, Pulilan, Bulacan covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-16755, a zerox [sic] copy of which is hereto attached as Annex “A”;

3. That the zerox [sic] copy of technical description and subdivision plan of the parcel of land with an area of 50,199 [square meters] (Lot 6-A) are hereto attached as Annexes “B” and “C”;

4. That the original copy of the said certificate of title on file with the Register of Deeds of Bulacan was lost and/or destroyed during the fire on March 7, 1987 in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Bulacan, certification from the said office is hereto attached as Annex “D”;

5. That, the owner’s copy of the said certificate of title was likewise lost and all efforts to locate the same proved futile and in vain, copy of the the [sic] “Affidavit of Loss” is hereto attached as Annex “E”;

6. That no co-owner’s copy of duplicate of the same certificate has been issued;

7. The names and addresses of the boundary owners of said lot are the following:

a. West – Jorge Peralta

b. North – Lorenzo Calderon

c. South – Lorenzo Calderon

d. East – Melvin & Marlon Reyes

with postal address at Poblacion, Pulilan, Bulacan;

8. That said property has been declared for taxation purposes under Tax Declaration No. 97-19001-00019, zerox [sic] copy of which is hereto attached as Annex “F”;

9. That the real estate tax for the current year has been paid per official receipt no. 0287074, zerox [sic] copy of which is hereto attached as Annex “G”;

10. That said property is free from all liens and encumbrances;

11. That there exist no deeds or instruments affecting the said property which has been presented for and pending registration with the Register of Deeds of Bulacan;

 

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that after due notice and hearing judgment be rendered:

1. Declaring the Original Owner’s Duplicate Certificate of Title No. T-16755 that was lost as null and void;

2. Ordering the Register of Deeds of Bulacan to issue second owner’s duplicate copy of the said certificate of title upon payment of proper fees.5

 

The trial court furnished the Land Registration Authority (LRA) with a duplicate copy of Bienvenido’s petition and its Annexes, with a note stating that “No Tracing Cloth of Plan [sic] and Blue print of plan attached.”6 As requested by the LRA in its letter dated 17 April 2002,7 the trial court ordered Bienvenido to submit within 15 days from receipt of the order (a) the original of the technical description of the parcel of land covered by the lost/destroyed certificate of title, certified by the authorized officer of the Land Management Bureau/Land Registration Authority and two duplicate copies thereof, and (b) the sepia film plan of the subject parcel of land prepared by a duly licensed Geodetic Engineer, who shall certify thereon that its preparation was made on the basis of a certified technical description, and two blue print copies thereof.8 Bienvenido complied with the order.9

 

The trial court, in an order dated 7 August 2002, ordered Bienvenido to supply the names and addresses of the occupants of the subject property.10 Bienvenido manifested that there is no actual occupant in the subject property.11

 

On 4 October 2002, the trial court issued an order which found Bienvenido’s petition sufficient in form and substance and set the same for hearing.12

 

Copies of the 4 October 2002 order were posted on three bulletin boards: at the Bulacan Provincial Capitol Building, at the PulilanMunicipalBuilding, and at the Bulacan Regional Trial Court.13 The 4 October 2002 order was also published twice in the Official Gazette: on 13 January 2003 (Volume 99, Number 2, Pages 237 to 238), and on 20 January 2003 (Volume 99, Number 3, Pages 414 to 415).14 After two cancellations,15 a hearing was conducted on 12 March 2003.

 

During the hearing, the following were marked in evidence for jurisdictional requirements:

 

Exhibit “A” – Order of the Court dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “A-1” – Second page of the Order of the Court dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “A-2” – Third page of the Order of the Court dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “A-3” – Registry return receipt of notice to the Office of the Solicitor General

Exhibit “A-4” – Registry return receipt of notice to the Land Registration Authority

Exhibit “A-5” – Registry return receipt of notice to the Register of Deeds

Exhibit “A-6” – Registry return receipt of notice to the Public Prosecutor

Exhibit “A-7” – Registry return receipt of notice to boundary owner Jorge Peralta

Exhibit “A-8” – Registry return receipt of notice to boundary owner Lorenzo Calderon

Exhibit “A-9” – Registry return receipt of notice to boundary owners Melvin and Marlon Reyes

Exhibit “B” – Certificate of Posting

Exhibit “C” – Certificate of Publication from the Director of the National Printing Office

Exhibit “D” – Official Gazette, Volume 99, Number 2, 13 January 2003

Exhibit “D-1” – Page 237, Publication of the trial court’s Order dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “D-2” – Page 238, Publication of the trial court’s Order dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “E” – Official Gazette, Volume 99, Number 3, 20 January 2003

 

Exhibit “E-1” – Page 414, Publication of the trial court’s Order dated 4 October 2002

Exhibit “E-2” – Page 415, Publication of the trial court’s Order dated 4 October 200216

 

Fernando Castillo (Fernando), Bienvenido’s son and attorney-in-fact, testified on his father’s behalf. During the course of his testimony, Fernando identified the following:

 

Exhibit “F” – Photocopy of TCT No. T-16755

Exhibit “G” – Blueprint of the subject property

Exhibit “H” – Technical description of the property

Exhibit “I” – Affidavit of Loss executed by Bienvenido Castillo

Exhibit “I-1” – Entry of the Affidavit of Loss in the book of the Register of Deeds

Exhibit “J” – Certification issued by the Office of the Register of Deeds, Malolos, Bulacan that TCT No. T-16755 was burned in a fire on 7 March 1987

Exhibit “K” – Tax declaration

Exhibit “L” – 2002 Real Estate Tax Receipt

 

Upon presentation of the photocopy of TCT No. T-16755, Fernando stated that the title was issued in the names of his parents, Bienvenido Castillo and Felisa Cruz (Felisa), and that his mother died in 1982. Fernando did not mention any sibling. Fernando further testified that on 6 February 2002, Bienvenido executed an Affidavit of Loss which stated that he misplaced the owner’s copy of the certificate of title sometime in April 1993 and that all efforts to locate the same proved futile. The title is free from all liens and encumbrances, and there are no other persons claiming interest over the land.17

 

The LRA submitted a Report dated 25 July 2003, portions of which the trial court quoted in its Decision. The LRA stated that:

 

(2) The plan and technical description of Lot 6-A of the subdivision plan Psd-37482 were verified correct by this Authority to represent the aforesaid lot and the same have been approved under (LRA) PR-03-00321-R pursuant to the provisions of Section 12 of Republic Act No. 26.

 

WHEREFORE, the foregoing information anent the lot in question is respectfully submitted for consideration in the resolution of the instant petition, and if the Honorable Court, after notice and hearing, finds justification pursuant to Section 15 of Republic Act No. 26 to grant the same, the plan and technical description having been approved, may be used as basis for the inscription of the technical description on the reconstituted certificate. Provided, however, that in case the petition is granted, the reconstituted title should be made subject to such encumbrances as may be subsisting; and provided further, that no certificate of title covering the same parcel of land exists in the office of the Register of Deeds concerned.18

 

The Trial Court’s Ruling

 

On 3 October 2003, the trial court promulgated its Decision in favor of Bienvenido. The trial court found valid justifications to grant Bienvenido’s petition as the same is in order and meritorious.

 

The dispositive portion reads:

 

WHEREFORE, the Register of Deeds for the province of Bulacan is hereby ordered, upon payment of the prescribed fees, to reconstitute the original copy of Original Certificate of Title No. 16755 and to issue another owner’s duplicate copy thereof, in the name of the registered owner and in the same terms and conditions as the original thereof, pursuant to the provisions of R.A. No. 26, as amended by P.D. No. 1529, in lieu of the lost original copy. The new original copy shall in all respects be accorded the same validity and legal effect as the lost original copy for all intents and purposes. Provided, that no certificate of title covering the same parcel of land exists in the office of the Register of Deeds concerned.

 

SO ORDERED.19

 

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Notice of Appeal on 18 November 2003. The OSG stated that it was grave error for the trial court to order reconstitution despite absence of any prayer seeking such relief in the petition and on the basis of a mere photocopy of TCT No. T-16755. Counsel for Bienvenido filed a motion for early resolution on 25 January 2006.

 

The Appellate Court’s Ruling

 

On 23 October 2007, the appellate court rendered its Decision which reversed the 3 October 2003 Decision of the trial court. Bienvenido’s counsel withdrew from the case on 11 October 2007 and was substituted by Mondragon and Montoya Law Offices.

 

The appellate court ruled that even if Bienvenido failed to specifically include a prayer for the reconstitution of TCT No. T-16755, the petition is captioned as “In re: Petition for Reconstitution and Issuance of Second Owner’s Copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-16755, Bienvenido Castillo, Petitioner.” The prayer for “such other reliefs and remedies just and proper under the premises” is broad and comprehensive enough to justify the extension of a remedy different from that prayed for.

 

However, the appellate court still ruled that the trial court erred in ordering the reconstitution of the original copy of TCT No. T-16755 and the issuance of another owner’s duplicate copy thereof in the name of the registered owner. Section 3 of Republic Act No. 26 specified the order of sources from which transfer certificates of title may be reconstituted, and Bienvenido failed to comply with the order. Moreover, the documentary evidences presented before the trial court were insufficient to support reconstitution. The loss of the original copy on file with the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan may be credible, but Bienvenido failed to adequately explain the circumstances which led to the loss of the owner’s copy. The tax declaration presented is not a conclusive evidence of ownership, but merely indicates possession. The plan and technical description of the property are merely additional documents that must accompany the petition for the LRA’s verification and approval.

 

The dispositive portion of the appellate court’s Decision reads:

 

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated October 3, 2003 of Branch 22, RTC of Malolos, Bulacan in P-111-2002 is hereby SET ASIDE and a new judgment is entered dismissing the Petition therein.

 

SO ORDERED.20

 

On 3 December 2007, Bienvenido’s counsel filed a Motion for Reconsideration and/or for New Trial.21 The motion asserted that Bienvenido presented sufficient documents to warrant reconstitution of TCT No. T-16755. Aside from the photocopy of TCT No. T-16755, Fernando presented the plan and technical description approved by the LRA. Moreover, to support the Motion for New Trial, Fernando went through Bienvenido’s papers and found the Deed of Absolute Sale22 from the original owner, Elpidio Valencia, to spouses Bienvenido and Felisa. Fernando also found the cancellation of mortgage23 of the property covered by TCT No. T-16755 issued by the Development Bank of the Philippines. Fernando also submitted a copy of the Extra-Judicial Partition24 by and among the heirs of his mother. The property covered by TCT No. T-16755 was partitioned among Bienvenido, Fernando, and Fernando’s siblings Emma Castillo Bajet (Emma) and Elpidio Castillo (Elpidio).

 

In Fernando’s affidavit attached to the Motion for Reconsideration and/or for New Trial, Fernando stated, but without presenting any proof, that Bienvenido passed away at the age of 91 on 14 February 2006.

 

 

The Republic, through the OSG, opposed the Motion for Reconsideration and/or for New Trial. Bienvenido’s petition failed to satisfy Section 3(f) of R.A. No. 26. The Affidavit of Loss is hearsay because Bienvenido failed to affirm it in court. Therefore, the loss of the owner’s duplicate copy of TCT No. T-16755 is not established. The plan and technical description approved by the LRA are not independent sources of reconstitution and are mere supporting documents. The documents submitted in support of the Motion for New Trial are not newly discovered, but could have been discovered earlier by exercise of due diligence.

 

In its Resolution25 dated 7 May 2008, the appellate court denied the Motion for Reconsideration and/or for New Trial.

 

Issues

 

 

The following were assigned as errors of the appellate court:

 

I. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in holding that the documentary evidence presented by petitioner in the lower court are insufficient to support the reconstitution prayed for.

 

II. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in finding that petitioner failed to establish the circumstances which led to the loss of his duplicate owner’s copy of TCT No. T-16755.

 

III. The Honorable Court of Appeals erred in finding that there is no merit in the motion for new trial filed by petitioner.26

 

The Court’s Ruling

 

The petition must fail. There can be no reconstitution as the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the present case.

 

Process of Reconstitution of

Transfer Certificates of Title under R.A. No. 26

 

Section 3 of R.A. No. 26 enumerates the sources from which transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted. Section 3 reads:

 

Sec. 3. Transfer certificates of title shall be reconstituted from such of the sources hereunder enumerated as may be available, in the following order:

(a) The owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title;

(b) The co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate of the certificate of title;

(c) A certified copy of the certificate of title, previously issued by the register of deeds or by a legal custodian thereof;

(d) The deed of transfer or other document, on file in the registry of deeds, containing the description of the property, or an authenticated copy thereof, showing that its original had been registered, and pursuant to which the lost or destroyed transfer certificate of title was issued;

(e) A document, on file in the registry of deeds, by which the property, the description of which is given in said document, is mortgaged, leased, or encumbered, or an authenticated copy of said document showing that its original had been registered; and

(f) Any other document which, in the judgment of the court, is sufficient and proper basis for reconstituting the lost or destroyed certificate of title.

 

 

Bienvenido already admitted that he cannot comply with Section 3(a) to 3(e), and that 3(f) is his last recourse. Bienvenido, through Fernando’s testimony, presented a photocopy of TCT No. T-16755 before the trial court. The owner’s original duplicate copy was lost, while the original title on file with the Register of Deeds of Malolos, Bulacan was burned in a fire on 7 March 1987. The property was neither mortgaged nor leased at the time of Bienvenido’s loss of the owner’s original duplicate copy.

 

Section 12 of R.A. No. 26 describes the requirements for a petition for reconstitution. Section 12 reads:

 

Sec. 12. Petitions for reconstitution from sources enumerated in Sections 2(c), 2(d), 2(e), 2(f), 3(c), 3(d), and/or 3(f) of this Act, shall be filed with the proper Court of First Instance, by the registered owner, his assigns, or any person having an interest in the property. The petition shall state or contain, among other things, the following: (a) that the owner’s duplicate of the certificate of title had been lost or destroyed; (b) that no co-owner’s, mortgagee’s, or lessee’s duplicate had been issued, or, if any had been issued, the same had been lost or destroyed; (c) the location and boundaries of the property; (d) the nature and description of the building or improvements, if any, which do not belong to the owner of the land, and the names and addresses of the owners of such buildings or improvements; (e) the names and addresses of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, of the owners of the adjoining properties and of all persons who may have any interest in the property; (f) a detailed description of the encumbrances, if any, affecting the property; and (g) a statement that no deeds or other instruments affecting the property have been presented for registration, or if there be any, the registration thereof has not been accomplished, as yet. All the documents, or authenticated copies thereof, to be introduced in evidence in support to the petition for reconstitution shall be attached thereto and filed with the same: Provided, That in case the reconstitution is to be made exclusively from sources enumerated in Section 2(f) or 3(f) of this Act, the petition shall be further accompanied with a plan and technical description of the property duly approved by the Chief of the General Land Registration office (now Commission of Land Registration) or with a certified copy of the description taken from a prior certificate of title covering the same property.

 

 

We compared the requirements of Section 12 to the allegations in Bienvenido’s petition. Bienvenido’s petition complied with items (a), (b), (f) and (g): in paragraph 5 of the petition, he alleged the loss of his copy of TCT No. T-16755; paragraph 6 declared that no co-owner’s copy of the duplicate title has been issued; paragraph 10 stated that the property covered by the lost TCT is free from liens and encumbrances; and paragraph 11 stated that there are no deeds or instruments presented for or pending registration with the Register of Deeds. There was substantial compliance as to item (c): the location of the property is mentioned in paragraph 2; while the boundaries of the property, although not specified in the petition, refer to an annex attached to the petition. The petition did not mention anything pertaining to item (d). There was a failure to fully comply with item (e). By Fernando’s admission, there exist two other co-owners of the property covered by TCT No. T-16755. Fernando’s siblings Emma and Elpidio were not mentioned anywhere in the petition.

Section 13 of R.A. No. 26 prescribes the requirements for a notice of hearing of the petition:

 

Sec. 13. The court shall cause a notice of the petition, filed under the preceding section, to be published, at the expense of the petitioner, twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette, and to be posted on the main entrance of the provincial building and of the municipal building of the municipality or city in which the land is situated, at least thirty days prior to the date of hearing. The court shall likewise cause a copy of the notice to be sent, by registered mail or otherwise, at the expense of the petitioner, to every person named therein whose address is known, at least thirty days prior to the date of the hearing. Said notice shall state, among other things, the number of the lost or destroyed certificate of title, if known, the name of the registered owner, the names of the occupants or persons in possession of the property, the owners of the adjoining properties and all other interested parties, the location area and boundaries of the property, and the date on which all persons having any interest therein must appear and file their claim or objections to the petition. The petitioner shall, at the hearing, submit proof of the publication, posting and service of the notice as directed by the court.

 

The trial court’s 4 October 2002 Order was indeed posted in the places mentioned in Section 13, and published twice in successive issues of the Official Gazette: Volume 99, Number 2 dated 13 January 2003 and Volume 99, Number 3 dated 20 January 2003. The last issue was released by the National Printing Office on 21 January 2003.27 The notice, however, did not state Felisa as a registered co-owner. Neither did the notice identify Fernando’s siblings Emma and Elpidio as interested parties.

 

The non-compliance with the requirements prescribed in Sections 12 and 13 of R.A. No. 26 is fatal. Hence, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the petition for reconstitution. We cannot stress enough that our jurisprudence is replete with rulings regarding the mandatory character of the requirements of R.A. No. 26. As early as 1982, we ruled:

 

Republic Act No. 26 entitled “An act providing a special procedure for the reconstitution of Torrens Certificates of Title lost or destroyed” approved on September 25, 1946 confers jurisdiction or authority to the Court of First Instance to hear and decide petitions for judicial reconstitution. The Act specifically provides the special requirements and mode of procedure that must be followed before the court can properly act, assume and acquire jurisdiction or authority over the petition and grant the reconstitution prayed for. These requirements and procedure are mandatory. The Petition for Reconstitution must allege certain specific jurisdictional facts; the notice of hearing must be published in the Official Gazette and posted in particular places and the same sent or notified to specified persons. Sections 12 and 13 of the Act provide specifically the mandatory requirements and procedure to be followed.28

 

 

We cannot simply dismiss these defects as “technical.” Liberal construction of the Rules of Court does not apply to land registration cases.29 Indeed, to further underscore the mandatory character of these jurisdictional requirements, the Rules of Court do not apply to land registration cases.30 In all cases where the authority of the courts to proceed is conferred by a statute, and when the manner of obtaining jurisdiction is prescribed by a statute, the mode of proceeding is mandatory, and must be strictly complied with, or the proceeding will be utterly void.31 When the trial court lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of a case, it lacks authority over the whole case and all its aspects.32 All the proceedings before the trial court, including its order granting the petition for reconstitution, are void for lack of jurisdiction.33

 

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 23 October 2007 and the Resolution dated 7 May 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 81916.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

ROBERTO A. ABAD JOSE C. MENDOZA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO

Associate Justice

 

 

ATTESTATION

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

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION

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

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Designated additional member per Special Order No. 1006 dated 10 June 2011.

** Designated additional member per Raffle dated 15 June 2011.

1 Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Rollo, pp. 9-32.

2 Rollo, pp. 34-38. Penned by Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe with Justices Portia Aliño- Hormachuelos and Lucas P. Bersamin, concurring.

3Id. at 44-45.

4Id. at 40-42.

5 Records, pp. 3-5.

6Id. at 15.

7Id. at 16.

8Id. at 18.

9Id. at 19-27.

10Id. at 28.

11Id. at 32.

12Id. at 34-36.

13Id. at 39.

14Id. at 41-42.

15Id. at 46-48.

16 TSN, 12 March 2003, p. 2.

17Id. at 3-15.

18 Records, p. 69.

19 Rollo, p. 42.

20 Rollo, p. 38.

21 CA rollo, pp. 111-119.

22Id. at 124-125.

23Id. at 126.

24Id. at 127-130.

25Id. at 158-159.

26 Rollo, pp. 16-17.

27 Records, p. 41. Certified by Director IV Melanio S. Torio.

28 Tahanan Development Corp. v. Court of Appeals, 203 Phil. 652, 681 (1982).

29 Section 6, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

30 Section 4, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

31 Caltex Filipino Managers & Supervisors Ass’n. v. CIR, 131 Phil. 1022, 1030 (1968).

32 Register of Deeds of Malabon v. RTC, Malabon, MM, Br. 170, G.R. No. 88623, 5 February 1990, 181 SCRA 788, citing Pinza v. Aldovino, 134 Phil. 217 (1968).

33 Allama v. Republic, G.R. No. 88226, 26 February 1992, 206 SCRA 600.

 

CASE 2011-0136: HOME GUARANTY CORPORATION VS. R-II BUILDERS INC. and NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY (G.R. NO. 192649, 22 JUNE 2011, PEREZ, J.) SUBJECTS: COLLABORATING COUNSEL NOT ENTITLED TO COPIES OF NOTICES; FILING FEES; HOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER AN ACTION FOR NULLIFICATION OF A CONTRACT IS INCAPABLE OF PECUNIARY ESTIMATION. (BRIEF TITLE: HOME GUARNTEE VS. R-II BUILDERS).

 

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SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES:

 

SUBJECT: IS A COLLABORATING COUNSEL ENTITLED TO SERVICE OF COURT PROCESSES?

 

NO. ONLY THE LEAD COUNSEL IS ENTITLED.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to:

(a)      NOTE the Entry of Appearance of Atty. Lope E. Feble of Tuquero Exconde  Manalang Feble Law Offices as collaborating counsel for respondent R-II Builders, Inc.; and DENY counsel’s prayer to be furnished with all pleadings notices and other court processes at Unit 2704-A, West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Centre, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center Pasig, since only the lead counsel is entitled to service of court processes;

. . . . . .

 

SUBJECT: IS THERE AN EXCEPTION TO THE MANCHESTER DOCTRINE WHICH RULED THAT PAYMENT OF DOCKET FEES IS BOTH MANDATORY AND JURISDICTIONAL?

 

YES, WHEN THERE IS NO INTENTION TO DEFRAUD THE GOVERNMENT.

Having consistently sought the transfer of possession and control of the properties comprising the Asset Pool over and above the nullification of the Deed of Conveyance in favor of HGC, it follows R-II Builders should have paid the correct and appropriate docket fees, computed according to the assessed value thereof.  This much was directed in the 19 May 2008 Order issued by Branch 22 of the Manila RTC which determined that the case is a real action and admitted the Amended and Supplemental Complaint R-II Builders subsequently filed in the case.[1][11]  In obvious evasion of said directive to pay the correct docket fees, however, R-II Builders withdrew its Amended and Supplemental Complaint and, in lieu thereof, filed its Second Amended Complaint which, while deleting its causes of action for accounting and conveyance of title to and/or possession of the entire Asset Pool, nevertheless prayed for its appointment as Receiver of the properties comprising the same.  In the landmark case of Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[2][12] this Court ruled that jurisdiction over any case is acquired only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee which is both mandatory and jurisdictional.  Although it is true that the Manchester Rule does not apply despite insufficient filing fees when there is no intent to defraud the government,[3][13] R-II Builders’ evident bad faith should clearly foreclose the relaxation of said rule.

 

SUBJECT: HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHETHER AN ACTION TO NULLIFY A CONTRACT IS INCAPABLE OF PECUNIARY ESTIMATION?

FIRST, DETERMINE THE NATURE OF THE PRINCIPAL ACTION. IF THE PRINCIPAL ACTION IS TO RECOVER PROPERTY, THEN IT IS NOT INCAPABLE OF PECUNIARY ESTIMATION.

In De Leon v. Court of Appeals,[4][8] this Court had, of course, ruled that a case for rescission or annulment of contract is not susceptible of pecuniary estimation although it may eventually result in the recovery of real property.  Taking into consideration the allegations and the nature of the relief sought in the complaint in the subsequent case of Serrano v. Delica,[5][9] however, this Court determined the existence of a real action and ordered the payment of the appropriate docket fees for a complaint for cancellation of sale which prayed for both permanent and preliminary injunction aimed at the restoration of possession of the land in litigation is a real action.  In discounting the apparent conflict in said rulings, the Court went on to rule as follows in Ruby Shelter Builders and Realty Development Corporation v. Hon. Pablo C, Formaran,[6][10] to wit:

The Court x x x does not perceive a contradiction between Serrano and the Spouses De Leon.  The Court calls attention to the following statement in Spouses De Leon: “A review of the jurisprudence of this Court indicates that in determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation, this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought.”  Necessarily, the determination must be done on a case-to-case basis, depending on the facts and circumstances of each.  What petitioner conveniently ignores is that in Spouses De Leon, the action therein that private respondents instituted before the RTC was “solely for annulment or rescission” of the contract of sale over a real property. There appeared to be no transfer of title or possession to the adverse party x x x.  (Underscoring Supplied)

 

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SPECIAL FIRST DIVISION

 

HOME GUARANTY CORPORATION,                                         Petitioner,

 

 

 

 

 - versus –

R-II BUILDERS INC. and NATIONAL HOUSING AUTHORITY,

                                    Respondents.  

 

  G.R. No.  192649 

 

 

Present:

CORONA, C. J.,

       Chairperson,

VELASCO, JR.,

LEONARDO DE-CASTRO,

PERALTA,* and

PEREZ, JJ.

Promulgated:

June 22, 2011

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RESOLUT I O N

 

 

PEREZ, J.:

 

Before the Court are: (a) the Entry of Appearance filed by Atty. Lope E. Feble of the Toquero Exconde Manalang Feble Law Offices as collaborating counsel for respondent R-II Builders, Inc. (R-II Builders), with prayer to be furnished all pleadings, notices and other court processes at its given address; and (b) the motion filed by R-II Builders, seeking the reconsideration of Court’s decision dated 9 March 2011 on the following grounds:[7][1]

I

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT RTC MANILA, BRANCH 22, HAD NO JURISDICTION OVER THE PRESENT CASE SINCE RTC-MANILA, BRANCH 24, TO WHICH THE INSTANT CASE WAS INITIALLY RAFFLED HAD NO AUTHORITY TO HEAR THE CASE BEING A SPECIAL COMMERCIAL COURT.

 

II.

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CORRECT DOCKET FEES WERE NOT PAID.

          In urging the reversal of the Court’s decision, R-II Builders argues that it filed its complaint with the Manila RTC which is undoubtedly vested with jurisdiction over actions where the subject matter is incapable of pecuniary estimation; that through no fault of its own, said complaint was raffled to Branch 24, the designated Special Commercial Court (SCC) tasked to hear intra-corporate controversies; that despite the determination subsequently made by Branch 24 of the Manila RTC that the case did not involve an intra-corporate dispute, the Manila RTC did not lose jurisdiction over the same and its Executive Judge correctly directed its re-raffling to Branch 22 of the same Court; that the re-raffle and/or amendment of pleadings do not affect a court’s jurisdiction which, once acquired, continues until the case is finally terminated; that since its original Complaint, Amended and Supplemental Complaint and Second Amended Complaint all primarily sought the nullification of the Deed of Assignment and Conveyance (DAC) transferring the Asset Pool in favor of petitioner Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC), the subject matter of the case is clearly one which is incapable of pecuniary estimation; and, that the court erred in holding that the case was a real action and that it evaded the payment of the correct docket fees computed on the basis of the assessed value of the realties in the Asset Pool.

          R-II Builders’ motion is bereft of merit.

          The record shows that, with the raffle of R-II Builders’ complaint before Branch 24 of the Manila RTC and said court’s grant of the application for temporary restraining order incorporated therein, HGC sought a preliminary hearing of its affirmative defenses which included, among other grounds, lack of jurisdiction and improper venue.  It appears that, at said preliminary hearing, it was established that R-II Builders’ complaint did not involve an intra-corporate dispute and that, even if it is, venue was improperly laid since none of the parties maintained its principal office in Manila.  While it is true, therefore, that R-II Builders had no hand in the raffling of the case, it cannot be gainsaid that Branch 24 of the RTC Manila had no jurisdiction over the case.  Rather than ordering the dismissal of the complaint, however, said court issued the 2 January 2008 order erroneously ordering the re-raffle of the case.  In Atwel v. Concepcion Progressive Association, Inc.[8][2] and Reyes v. Hon. Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 142[9][3] which involved SCCs trying and/or deciding cases which were found to be civil in nature, this Court significantly ordered the dismissal of the complaint for lack of jurisdiction instead of simply directing the re-raffle of the case to another branch.

Even then, the question of the Manila RTC’s jurisdiction over the case is tied up with R-II Builder’s payment of the correct docket fees which should be paid in full upon the filing of the pleading or other application which initiates an action or proceeding.[10][4]  While it is, consequently, true that jurisdiction, once acquired, cannot be easily ousted,[11][5] it is equally settled that a court acquires jurisdiction over a case only upon the payment of the prescribed filing and docket fees.[12][6]  Already implicit from the filing of the complaint in the City of Manila where the realties comprising the Asset Pool are located, the fact that the case is a real action is evident from the allegations of R-II Builders’ original Complaint, Amended and Supplemental Complaint and Second Amended Complaint which not only sought the nullification of the DAC in favor of HGC but, more importantly, prayed for the transfer of possession of and/or control of the properties in the Asset Pool.  Its current protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, no less than R-II Builders – in its opposition to HGC’s motion to dismiss – admitted that the case is a real action as it affects title to or possession of real property or an interest therein.[13][7]  Having only paid docket fees corresponding to an action where the subject matter is incapable of pecuniary estimation, R-II Builders cannot expediently claim that jurisdiction over the case had already attached.  

In De Leon v. Court of Appeals,[14][8] this Court had, of course, ruled that a case for rescission or annulment of contract is not susceptible of pecuniary estimation although it may eventually result in the recovery of real property.  Taking into consideration the allegations and the nature of the relief sought in the complaint in the subsequent case of Serrano v. Delica,[15][9] however, this Court determined the existence of a real action and ordered the payment of the appropriate docket fees for a complaint for cancellation of sale which prayed for both permanent and preliminary injunction aimed at the restoration of possession of the land in litigation is a real action.  In discounting the apparent conflict in said rulings, the Court went on to rule as follows in Ruby Shelter Builders and Realty Development Corporation v. Hon. Pablo C, Formaran,[16][10] to wit:

The Court x x x does not perceive a contradiction between Serrano and the Spouses De Leon.  The Court calls attention to the following statement in Spouses De Leon: “A review of the jurisprudence of this Court indicates that in determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation, this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought.”  Necessarily, the determination must be done on a case-to-case basis, depending on the facts and circumstances of each.  What petitioner conveniently ignores is that in Spouses De Leon, the action therein that private respondents instituted before the RTC was “solely for annulment or rescission” of the contract of sale over a real property. There appeared to be no transfer of title or possession to the adverse party x x x.  (Underscoring Supplied)

Having consistently sought the transfer of possession and control of the properties comprising the Asset Pool over and above the nullification of the Deed of Conveyance in favor of HGC, it follows R-II Builders should have paid the correct and appropriate docket fees, computed according to the assessed value thereof.  This much was directed in the 19 May 2008 Order issued by Branch 22 of the Manila RTC which determined that the case is a real action and admitted the Amended and Supplemental Complaint R-II Builders subsequently filed in the case.[17][11]  In obvious evasion of said directive to pay the correct docket fees, however, R-II Builders withdrew its Amended and Supplemental Complaint and, in lieu thereof, filed its Second Amended Complaint which, while deleting its causes of action for accounting and conveyance of title to and/or possession of the entire Asset Pool, nevertheless prayed for its appointment as Receiver of the properties comprising the same.  In the landmark case of Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[18][12] this Court ruled that jurisdiction over any case is acquired only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee which is both mandatory and jurisdictional.  Although it is true that the Manchester Rule does not apply despite insufficient filing fees when there is no intent to defraud the government,[19][13] R-II Builders’ evident bad faith should clearly foreclose the relaxation of said rule.

In addition to the jurisdictional and pragmatic aspects underlying the payment of the correct docket fees which have already been discussed in the decision sought to be reconsidered, it finally bears emphasizing that the Asset Pool is comprised of government properties utilized by HGC as part of its sinking fund, in pursuit of its mandate as statutory guarantor of government housing programs.  With the adverse consequences that could result from the transfer of possession and control of the Asset Pool, it is imperative that R-II Builders should be made to pay the docket and filing fees corresponding to the assessed value of the properties comprising the same.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to:

(a)      NOTE the Entry of Appearance of Atty. Lope E. Feble of Tuquero Exconde  Manalang Feble Law Offices as collaborating counsel for respondent R-II Builders, Inc.; and DENY counsel’s prayer to be furnished with all pleadings notices and other court processes at Unit 2704-A, West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Centre, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center Pasig, since only the lead counsel is entitled to service of court processes;

(b)     DENY with FINALITY R-II Builders, Inc.’s Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision dated 9 March 2011 for lack of merit, the basic issues having been already passed upon and there being no substantial argument to warrant a modification of the same.  No further pleadings or motions shall be entertained herein.

Let an Entry of Judgment in this case be made in due course.

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

 Associate Justice

 

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.       TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice                                           Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

       DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

    Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

                                                                           RENATO C. CORONA

                                                                        Chief Justice



[1][11]       Rollo, pp. 490-495.

[2][12]       233 Phil. 579, 584 (1987).

[3][13]       Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) v. Hon. Rose Marie Alonzo Legasto, G.R. No. 169108,  18 April 2006, 487 SCRA 339.

[4][8]        G.R. No. 104796, 6 March 1998, 278 SCRA 94.

[5][9]        G.R. No. 136325, 29 July 2005, 465 SCRA 82.

[6][10]       G.R. No. 175914, 10 February 2009, 578 SCRA 283.

*                      Per Raffle dated 22 June 2011.

[8][2]        G.R. No. 169370, 14 April 2008, 551 SCRA 272.

[9][3]        G.R. No. 165744, 11 August 2008, 561 SCRA 593.

[10][4]       Section 1, Rule 141 of the Revised Rules of Court.

[11][5]       PNB v. Tejano, Jr., G,R, No. 173615, 16 October 2009, 604 SCRA 147.

[12][6]       Lacson v. Reyes, G.R. No. 86250, 26 February 1990, 182 SCRA 729, 733.

[13][7]       Rollo, p. 436.

[14][8]       G.R. No. 104796, 6 March 1998, 278 SCRA 94.

[15][9]       G.R. No. 136325, 29 July 2005, 465 SCRA 82.

[16][10]      G.R. No. 175914, 10 February 2009, 578 SCRA 283.

[17][11]      Rollo, pp. 490-495.

[18][12]      233 Phil. 579, 584 (1987).

[19][13]      Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) v. Hon. Rose Marie Alonzo Legasto, G.R. No. 169108,  18 April 2006, 487 SCRA 339.

CASE 2011-0135: PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. ROSAURO ASETRE Y DURAN (G.R. NO. 175834, 08 JUNE 2011,DELCASTILLO, J.) SUBJECT: RAPE (BRIEF TITLE: PEOPLE VS. ASETRE).

 

 

Republic of thePhilippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

FIRST DIVISION

 

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,   G.R. No. 175834

Appellee,

   

 

   

 

  Present:

 

   

 

  CORONA, C.J.,  Chairperson,

- versus -

  VELASCO, JR.,

 

  LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

 

  DELCASTILLO, and

 

  PEREZ, JJ.
     
ROSAURO ASETRE Y DURAN,   Promulgated:

Appellant.

  June 8, 2011

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D E C I S I O N

 

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

 

 

On appeal is the September 1, 2006 Decision[1][1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 00367 which affirmed in its entirety the March 8, 2004 Decision[2][2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Santiago City, Branch 21 finding appellant Rosauro Asetre y Duran guilty beyond reasonable doubt of four counts of the crime of rape.

 

Factual Antecedents

 

On June 11, 2001, four Informations[3][3] were filed charging appellant with four counts of rape. Except for the dates of commission, the Informations similarly read as follows:

                That on or about (the first week of March 2001,[4][4]  the second week of March 2001,[5][5] the third week of March 2001,[6][6] the 23rd day of March 2001,[7][7]) at Barangay “BBB,”[8][8] “CCC,” and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused by means of force, threat, and intimidation, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously did lie, and succeeded in having carnal knowledge of “AAA,” a thirteen year-old minor.

                CONTRARY TO LAW.

During his arraignment on September 26, 2001, appellant entered the plea of “not guilty”.[9][9]  Thereafter, the four cases were jointly tried.  During the pre-trial conference, the defense admitted, among others, that “AAA” was born on March 23, 1988 as shown in her birth certificate[10][10] and was thus only 13-years of age when the alleged rape incidents happened.

Version of the Prosecution

 

            The prosecution established that appellant was the common-law husband of “DDD”, who is the aunt of “AAA”.  According to “AAA”, she started living with “DDD” and appellant when she was still small.[11][11]  “AAA” narrated that in March 2001, particularly during her summer vacation at “BBB”, appellant raped her four times.[12][12]  The first rape happened during the first week[13][13] of March 2001 at around noontime.[14][14]  Appellant took off her clothes[15][15] then inserted his penis into her vagina.[16][16]  “AAA” felt pain in her private parts.[17][17]  “AAA” struggled against the advances of appellant[18][18] but to no avail.  Appellant even threatened “AAA” that she and “DDD” would be killed if she would report the incident. Thereafter, appellant sexually molested “AAA” three more times.  The second rape transpired during the second week of March 2001;[19][19] while the third rape was committed shortly thereafter.[20][20]  The fourth and last rape incident happened on March 23, 2001.[21][21]  

            Another witness for the prosecution was Dr. Jeffrey M. Barcena (Dr. Barcena) who testified that on April 25, 2001, he conducted a medical examination on “AAA”.[22][22]  He testified that “AAA” had multiple old hymenal lacerations which could have been caused by anything which penetrated her vagina.[23][23]  He also noted a recent abrasion on the labia minora.[24][24]

Version of the Defense

 

            The first witness for the defense was Rosita Clarin (Clarin) who testified that appellant was her neighbor for four years.[25][25]  Clarin asserted that at the time the alleged rapes were committed, “AAA” was not in “BBB” but in “EEE” attending school,[26][26] hence appellant could not have raped her.  Clarin averred that “AAA” arrived at “BBB” only on March 24, 2001,[27][27] or one day after the latest alleged rape was committed.

            Romualdo Dulay (Dulay), another defense witness, testified that he was also a neighbor of the appellant.[28][28]  He claimed that during the time material to this case, “AAA” was not in “BBB” but in “EEE” attending school.[29][29]  He allegedly saw “AAA” in “BBB” only on March 25, 2001.[30][30]

            The last witness for the defense was the appellant himself.  He denied having raped “AAA”.  He claimed that from the first week up to the third week of March 2001, he was at “BBB” together with “DDD”, his live-in partner, and his helpers.  He averred that at that time, or until March 23, 2001, “AAA” was not in “BBB” but in “EEE” attending school.[31][31]  Appellant insisted that “AAA” arrived at “BBB” only on March 24, 2001[32][32] at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.[33][33]

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court 

 

In its Decision dated March 8, 2004, the RTC rendered its Decision finding appellant guilty as charged.  The trial court found “AAA’s” testimony to be credible and without any showing of ulterior motive to falsely testify against the appellant.[34][34]  The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:

            WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing considerations the Court finds the accused Rosauro Asetre y Duran GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of four counts of rape and hereby sentences him to the penalty of reclusion perpetua in each of the four (4) cases.  He is also ordered to pay “AAA” the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) in each of [these] cases or a total of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00).

                SO ORDERED.[35][35]

                Appellant filed his Notice of Appeal;[36][36] hence, the trial court ordered the records of the case to be forwarded to the CA.[37][37]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals  

            On September 1, 2006, the CA rendered its Decision dismissing the appeal and affirming in its entirety the Decision of the trial court.  Just as the trial court disregarded appellant’s arguments on the alleged inconsistencies in the testimony of “AAA” regarding the dates of the commission of the crimes, the appellate court likewise found the same to be inconsequential. 

            The appellate court also found no compelling reason to overturn the findings of the trial court on the credibility of “AAA”,[38][38] more so because there was no evidence of any improper motive on her part.[39][39]

            The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant APPEAL is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the decision of Branch 21 of theRegionalTrialCourtofSantiagoCity, in Criminal Case Nos. 21-3516 to 21-3519, is hereby AFFIRMED.

                SO ORDERED.[40][40]

                On February 19, 2007, we accepted appellant’s appeal and required the parties to file their respective supplemental briefs.[41][41]  However, on April 17, 2007[42][42] and May 7, 2007,[43][43] respectively, appellee and appellant manifested that they are no longer filing their supplemental briefs considering that they have already exhaustively discussed their arguments in their respective briefs filed before the CA.  Hence, this appeal is being resolved based on the briefs submitted by the parties before the CA.

Issues

 

            In his brief,[44][44] appellant assigns the following errors:

I.                THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF THE CRIMES CHARGED DESPITE THE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

II.           THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE INCREDIBLE AND INCONSISTENT TESTIMONY OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT.

Appellant argues that he deserves an acquittal considering the glaring inconsistencies in “AAA’s” testimony regarding the dates of the commission of the offenses and the places where the crimes were allegedly committed.[45][45]  Citing People v. Ladrillo,[46][46] appellant claims that contrary to the ruling of the trial court, the failure of “AAA” to specify the dates of the commission of the crimes creates serious doubts on whether she was indeed raped.  Appellant also insists that “AAA” contradicted herself as to who reported the incidents to her aunt “DDD”.

On the other hand, appellee insists that the issue boils down to the credibility of the witnesses and that the trial court did not err in giving full faith and credence to the testimony of “AAA”[47][47] which is consistent, candid and steadfast.[48][48]  Appellee argues that any inconsistency in the testimony of “AAA” as regards the dates of the commission of the crimes is understandable considering her young age and the traumatic experience she had undergone.[49][49]  Besides, it claims that said inconsistencies did not discredit the credibility of “AAA” because “discrepancies on the exact dates of the sexual abuses are inconsequential, the exact date of  the  commission of  the  rape not  being  an  essential element  of  the

crime.”[50][50]

Finally, appellee asserts that in addition to civil indemnity, “AAA” is likewise entitled to an award of moral damages as well as exemplary damages for each count of rape.[51][51]

Our Ruling

 

            The appeal is partially meritorious.

            We have thoroughly reviewed the records of the case and we find that the evidence presented by the prosecution showed that appellant is guilty of only one count of rape, and not four counts. 

            The Informations charged appellant with having raped “AAA” on the first week, second week, and third week, of March 2001, and on March 23, 2001.  However, as argued by the defense, the testimony of “AAA” with regard to the first three incidents particularly on the dates when and the places where the offenses were supposedly committed contains disturbing discrepancies.

During her direct examination, “AAA” testified, viz:

Q            You stated [that] you were staying with “DDD” and the [appellant] in the month of March, 2001 in a tent located in “BBB”, “CCC”, do you recall x x x any incident that happened?

A             x x x I was raped, sir.

x x x x

Q            You stated that you were rape[d], who raped you?

A             He was the one, sir.

INTERPRETER:

                Witness pointed to the accused x x x

PROS. DAMASEN:

Q            When did the accused [rape] you?

A             March 23, sir.

Q            What year?

A             2001, sir.

Q            Do you recall how many times the accused raped you?

A             Four (4) times, sir.

Q            When was the first time?

A             During the first week, sir.

Q            First week of what month?

A             March, 2001, sir.

Q            When the accused first raped you, where was that?

A             In our tent at “BBB,” sir.

x x x x

Q            How did he rape you?

A             He took off my clothes, sir.

x x x x

Q            After the accused removed [your shorts], what happened?

A             x x x [H]e raped me, sir.

x x x x

Q            How did he rape you?

A             He just inserted his penis [into] my vagina, sir.

Q            What did you do when the accused inserted his penis into [your] vagina?

A             I continued struggling, sir.

x x x x

Q            You said you were raped four (4) times in the month of March, 2001[,] where did the second rape [happen]?

A             x x x [A]t “BBB,” sir.

x x x x

Q            Who raped you?

A             Also my [stepfather], sir.

x x x x

Q            How about the 3rd time where did the rape [happen]?

A             Also at “BBB,” sir.[52][52]

            However, during cross-examination, “AAA” testified that:

Q            Madam Witness you said that you were raped by the accused x x x in the first week of March, 2001, isn’t it?

A             What I know, sir, that was March 23.

Q            So the accused did not rape you in the first week of March, so you were only raped by the accused [on] the 23rd of March, is that correct Madam Witness?

A             Yes, sir.

Q            The accused also did not rape you on the second week of March, 2001?

A             Yes, sir.

Q            Also in the third week?

A             Yes, sir.[53][53]

It will be recalled that in her direct examination, “AAA” testified that she was raped inside their tent in “BBB”.  However, in her re-direct examination, “AAA” testified that she was raped elsewhere, viz:

Q            Now, you said you were raped four times in March 2001 where did the first rape [happen]?

A             “FFF”, sir.

Q            How about the second rape where did it happen x x x?

A             “EEE”, Nueva Vizcaya, sir.

Q            How about the third rape where did it [happen]?

A             Also at “EEE,” sir.[54][54]

We thus could not agree with the findings of the trial court and the CA that the inconsistencies in the testimony of “AAA” regarding the first three rape incidents are inconsequential.  These inconsistencies create a reasonable doubt in our mind as to whether appellant did in fact rape “AAA” during those occasions.  Consequently, we are constrained to acquit appellant of the charges of rape allegedly committed during the first week, second week, and third week, of March 2001 based on reasonable doubt.

In contrast, “AAA’s” testimony as regards the March 23, 2001 incident was candid and consistent.  She never wavered in her narration that through threats and intimidation, appellant had carnal knowledge of her against her will.  During her cross-examination, she testified, viz:

Q            Madam Witness can you remember what time were you raped by the accused on that 23rd of March, 2001?

A             That was evening because he came to fetch me from my place at about 2:00 o’clock, sir.

Q            2:00 o’clock in the morning or afternoon Ms. Witness?

A             In the afternoon, sir.

Q            Where did the accused fetch you in that afternoon of March 23, 2001?

A             From our house, sir.

Q            And that is in “EEE”, isn’t it?

A             Yes, sir.

Q            What time did you arrive at “BBB”, “CCC” when you were fetche[d] by the accused in “EEE”?

A             It is already night, sir.

Q            Can you estimate the time?

A             No, sir.  I don’t know.

Q            When you arrived at “BBB”, “CCC”, isn’t it that your [aunt] “DDD” was there?

A             She was not there, sir.

Q            Why is it that your [aunt] “DDD” was not there when you arrived from “EEE”?

A             She went to attend [a] wedding x x x

Q            When you arrived at “BBB” where did you go Ms. Witness together with the accused?

A             At the place where [he] raped me, sir.

Q            Where is that place?

A             At the waiting shed which is covered, sir.

Q            Covered with what Ms. Witness?

A             Galvanize[d] iron, sir.

Q            Isn’t it that there are [other] tents near your tent where you stayed when you arrived from “EEE”?

A             There was none, sir.

Q            But when you arrived at the place where the tent is located there are other people around isn’t it Ms. Witness?

A             There was none, sir.

Q            x x x [A]re there no houses around near the tent that you stayed on the night of March 23, 2001?

A             There was none, sir.

Q            How did the accused rape you?

A             He removed my clothing, sir.

Q            How did he [remove] your clothing?

A             I was then wearing skirt and he removed my panty, sir.

Q            And you voluntarily consented isn’t it Ms. Witness?

A             No, sir.

Q            You did not shout isn’t [it] Ms. Witness?

A             I [shouted], sir.  I even cried.

Q            But isn’t it that the accused when he raped you he was not arm[ed] x x x?

A             There is none, sir.

Q            He did not even tell you any threatening words, isn’t it Ms. Witness?

A             He threatened me, sir.  He said that he is going to kill me if I will not accede to his desire.

Q            You said that it was too painful when you were raped?

A             Yes, sir.

Q            And that was the reason why you cried because it was painful?

A             Yes, sir.

Q            And that was also the reason why you struggled because it was painful, isn’t it?

A             Yes, sir.[55][55]

In her re-direct examination, “AAA” remained consistent in her testimony that she was raped by the appellant.  Thus:

Q            Now, you stated that you were brought by your stepfather to “BBB”, “CCC”, in the month of March 2001, do you still recall when was that, when in March, 2001?

A             March 23, sir.

Q            And who was his companion when he fetch[ed] you in “EEE”?

A             He was alone, sir.

x x x x

Q            Do you recall what time you left “EEE”?

A             2:00 o’clock, sir.

x x x x

Q            Why do you remember March 23, 2001 from among the three (3) rapes that happened earlier?

A             Because that was the time when he fetch[ed] me from our house at “EEE”, sir.

x x x x

Q            How about on March 23, 2001 when the accused raped you[,] where [did it happen]?

A             Here at “BBB,” sir.[56][56]

As defined under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, rape is committed –

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

a.               Through force, threat or intimidation;

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

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

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

x x x x

As regards the March 23, 2001 incident, the prosecution established that appellant had carnal knowledge of “AAA” through force, threat or intimidation.  “AAA’s” confusion relative to the first three incidents does not warrant his acquittal as regards the March 23, 2001 incident; neither does it detract us from the fact that she was indeed raped by the appellant on March 23, 2001. Notably, “AAA’s” testimony was corroborated by the medical findings of Dr. Barcena.  Moreover, appellant could not ascribe any ill motive on the part of “AAA” on why she would charge appellant with such a serious crime. 

Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for rape committed under the circumstances is reclusion perpetua.  Moreover, pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, “AAA” is entitled to an award of civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00, as well as exemplary damages of P30,000.00.  Finally, an interest of six percent (6%) per annum should be imposed on all damages awarded from the finality of judgment until fully paid.[57][57]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is PARTIALLY GRANTED.  Appellant Rosauro Asetre y Duran is hereby ACQUITTED of the three counts of rape docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 3516, 3517 and 3519 on reasonable doubt.  He is, however, found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of one count of rape in Criminal Case No. 3518 and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay “AAA” P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and  P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.  All damages awarded in this case should be imposed with interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

                                   

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

 

 

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

 

            Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice



[1][1]   CA rollo, pp. 111-130; penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo and concurred in by Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Hakim S. Abdulwahid.

[2][2]           Records, Vol. 1, pp. 96-107; penned by Judge Fe AlbanoMadrid.

[3][3]           Records, Vol. 1, p. 1; Records, Vol. 2, p. 1; Records, Vol. 3, p. 1; Records, Vol. 4, p. 1.

[4][4]           Records, Vol. 1, p. 1; docketed as Crim. Case No. 3516.

[5][5]           Records, Vol. 2, p. 1; docketed as Crim. Case No. 3517.

[6][6]           Records, Vol. 4, p. 1; docketed as Crim. Case No. 3519.

[7][7]           Records, Vol. 3, p. 1; docketed as Crim. Case No. 3518.

[8][8]           The identity of the victim or any information which could establish or compromise her identity, as well as those of her immediate family or household members, shall be withheld pursuant to Republic Act No. 7610, An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes; Republic Act No. 9262, An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefor, and for Other Purposes; and Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children, effective November 5, 2004.

[9][9]           Records, Vol. 1, p. 39.

[10][10]        Id. at 36.

[11][11]         TSN, November 15, 2001, p. 5.

[12][12]        Id. at 11.

[13][13]        Id.

[14][14]        Id. at 12.

[15][15]        Id. at 13.

[16][16]        Id. at 15.

[17][17]        Id.

[18][18]        Id. at 14.

[19][19]        Id. at 16.

[20][20]        Id. at 17-19.

[21][21]        Id. at 19.

[22][22]         TSN, December 10, 2001, p. 9.

[23][23]        Id. at 13.

[24][24]        Id.

[25][25]         TSN, January 9, 2002, pp. 5-6.

[26][26]        Id. at 8-10.

[27][27]        Id. at 10-11.

[28][28]         TSN, January 14, 2002, p. 5.

[29][29]        Id. at 7.

[30][30]        Id. at 10.

[31][31]         TSN, September 11, 2002, pp. 6-11.

[32][32]        Id. at 15.

[33][33]        Id. at 16.

[34][34]         Records, Vol. 1, p. 101.

[35][35]        Id. at 107.

[36][36]        Id. at 109-110.

[37][37]        Id. at 111.

[38][38]         CA rollo, p. 127.

[39][39]        Id.

[40][40]        Id. at 129-130.

[41][41]         Rollo, p. 22.

[42][42]        Id. at 23-25.

[43][43]        Id. at 26-27.

[44][44]         CA rollo, pp. 36-50.

[45][45]        Id. at 46.

[46][46]         377 Phil. 904 (1999).

[47][47]         CA rollo, p. 82.

[48][48]        Id. at 89.

[49][49]        Id. at 91-92.

[50][50]        Id. at 92.  Citations omitted.

[51][51]        Id. at 103-104.

[52][52]         TSN, November 15, 2001, pp. 9-18.

[53][53]         TSN, November 22, 2001, p. 5.

[54][54]        Id. at 23-24.

[55][55]         TSN, November 22, 2001, pp. 6-10.

[56][56]        Id. at 19-24.

[57][57]    People v. Olesco, G.R. No. 174861, April 11, 2011.

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