Wild Valley Shipping Co. Ltd vs Court of Appeals (GR No. 119602 October 6, 2000)

Wild Valley Shipping Co. Ltd vs Court of Appeals
GR No. 119602 October 6, 2000

Facts: Sometime in February 1988, the Philippine Roxas, a vessel owned by Philippine President Lines, Inc., private respondent herein, arrived in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, to load iron ore. Upon the completion of the loading and when the vessel was ready to leave port, Mr. Ezzar del Valle Solarzano Vasquez, an official pilot of Venezuela, was designated by the harbour authorities in Puerto Ordaz to navigate the Philippine Roxas through the Orinoco River. He was asked to pilot the said vessel on February 11, 1988 boarding it that night at 11:00 p.m. The master (captain) of the Philippine Roxas, Captain Nicandro Colon, was at the bridge together with the pilot (Vasquez), the vessel’s third mate (then the officer on watch), and a helmsman when the vessel left the port at 1:40 a.m. on February 12, 1988. Captain Colon left the bridge when the vessel was under way. The Philippine Roxas experienced some vibrations when it entered the San Roque Channel at mile 172. The vessel proceeded on its way, with the pilot assuring the watch officer that the vibration was a result of the shallowness of the channel. Between mile 158 and 157, the vessel again experienced some vibrations.These occurred at 4:12 a.m.It was then that the watch officer called the master to the bridge. The master (captain) checked the position of the vessel and verified that it was in the centre of the channel. He then went to confirm, or set down, the position of the vessel on the chart. He ordered Simplicio A. Monis, Chief Officer of the President Roxas, to check all the double bottom tanks. At around 4:35 a.m., the Philippine Roxas ran aground in the Orinoco River,thus obstructing the ingress and egress of vessels. As a result of the blockage, the Malandrinon, a vessel owned by herein petitioner Wildvalley Shipping Company, Ltd., was unable to sail out of Puerto Ordaz on that day. Subsequently, Wildvalley Shipping Company, Ltd. filed a suit with the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch III against Philippine President Lines, Inc. and Pioneer Insurance Company (the underwriter/insurer of Philippine Roxas) for damages in the form of unearned profits, and interest thereon amounting to US $400,000.00 plus attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses of litigation.

Issue: Whether or not the Venezuelan law should be applied.

Held: No. It is well-settled that foreign laws do not prove themselves in our jurisdiction and our courts are not authorized to take judicial notice of them. Like any other fact, they must be alleged and proved.

Nevertheless, we take note that these written laws were not proven in the manner provided by Section 24 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.

The Reglamento General de la Ley de Pilotaje was published in the Gaceta Oficial of the Republic of Venezuela. A photocopy of the Gaceta Oficial was presented in evidence as an official publication of the Republic of Venezuela.

The Reglamento Para la Zona de Pilotaje No 1 del Orinoco is published in a book issued by the Ministerio de Comunicaciones of Venezuela. Only a photocopy of the said rules was likewise presented as evidence.

Both of these documents are considered in Philippine jurisprudence to be public documents for they are the written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers of Venezuela.

For a copy of a foreign public document to be admissible, the following requisites are mandatory: (1) It must be attested by the officer having legal custody of the records or by his deputy; and (2) It must be accompanied by a certificate by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consular or consular agent or foreign service officer, and with the seal of his office. The latter requirement is not a mere technicality but is intended to justify the giving of full faith and credit to the genuineness of a document in a foreign country.

It is not enough that the Gaceta Oficial, or a book published by the Ministerio de Comunicaciones of Venezuela, was presented as evidence with Captain Monzon attesting it. It is also required by Section 24 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court that a certificate that Captain Monzon, who attested the documents, is the officer who had legal custody of those records made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in Venezuela, and authenticated by the seal of his office accompanying the copy of the public document. No such certificate could be found in the records of the case. With respect to proof of written laws, parol proof is objectionable, for the written law itself is the best evidence. According to the weight of authority, when a foreign statute is involved, the best evidence rule requires that it be proved by a duly authenticated copy of the statute.

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