Macasaet vs Co (G.R. No. 156759 June 5, 2013)

Macasaet etal vs Co
G.R. No. 156759 June 5, 2013

Facts: On July 3, 2000, respondent, a retired police officer assigned at the Western Police District in Manila, sued Abante Tonite, a daily tabloid of general circulation; its Publisher Allen A. Macasaet; its Managing Director Nicolas V. Quijano; its Circulation Manager Isaias Albano; its Editors Janet Bay, Jesus R. Galang and Randy Hagos; and its Columnist/Reporter Lily Reyes (petitioners), claiming damages because of an allegedly libelous article petitioners published in the June 6, 2000 issue of Abante Tonite. The suit, docketed as Civil Case No. 0097907, was raffled to Branch 51 of the RTC, which in due course issued summons to be served on each defendant, including Abante Tonite, at their business address at Monica Publishing Corporation, 301-305 3rd Floor, BF Condominium Building, Solana Street corner A. Soriano Street, Intramuros, Manila. In the morning of September 18, 2000, RTC Sheriff Raul Medina proceeded to the stated address to effect the personal service of the summons on the defendants. But his efforts to personally serve each defendant in the address were futile because the defendants were then out of the office and unavailable. He returned in the afternoon of that day to make a second attempt at serving the summons, but he was informed that petitioners were still out of the office. He decided to resort to substituted service of the summons, and explained why in his sheriff’s return dated September 22, 2005.

Issue: Whether or not jurisdiction over the petitioners have been acquired.

Held: Yes. Jurisdiction over the person, or jurisdiction in personam –the power of the court to render a personal judgment or to subject the parties in a particular action to the judgment and other rulings rendered in the action – is an element of due process that is essential in all actions, civil as well as criminal, except in actions in rem or quasi in rem. Jurisdiction over the defendant in an action in rem or quasi in rem is not required, and the court acquires jurisdiction over an action as long as it acquires jurisdiction over the res that is the subject matter of the action. The purpose of summons in such action is not the acquisition of jurisdiction over the defendant but mainly to satisfy the constitutional requirement of due process.

The distinctions that need to be perceived between an action in personam, on the one hand, and an action in rem or quasi in rem, on the other hand, are aptly delineated in Domagas v. Jensen, thusly:

The settled rule is that the aim and object of an action determine its character. Whether a proceeding is in rem, or in personam, or quasi in rem for that matter, is determined by its nature and purpose, and by these only. A proceeding in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights and obligations brought against the person and is based on the jurisdiction of the person, although it may involve his right to, or the exercise of ownership of, specific property, or seek to compel him to control or dispose of it in accordance with the mandate of the court. The purpose of a proceeding in personam is to impose, through the judgment of a court, some responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the defendant. Of this character are suits to compel a defendant to specifically perform some act or actions to fasten a pecuniary liability on him. An action in personam is said to be one which has for its object a judgment against the person, as distinguished from a judgment against the property to determine its state. It has been held that an action in personam is a proceeding to enforce personal rights or obligations; such action is brought against the person. As far as suits for injunctive relief are concerned, it is well-settled that it is an injunctive act in personam. In Combs v. Combs, the appellate court held that proceedings to enforce personal rights and obligations and in which personal judgments are rendered adjusting the rights and obligations between the affected parties is in personam. Actions for recovery of real property are in personam.

On the other hand, a proceeding quasi in rem is one brought against persons seeking to subject the property of such persons to the discharge of the claims assailed. In an action quasi in rem, an individual is named as defendant and the purpose of the proceeding is to subject his interests therein to the obligation or loan burdening the property. Actions quasi in rem deal with the status, ownership or liability of a particular property but which are intended to operate on these questions only as between the particular parties to the proceedings and not to ascertain or cut off the rights or interests of all possible claimants. The judgments therein are binding only upon the parties who joined in the action.

As a rule, Philippine courts cannot try any case against a defendant who does not reside and is not found in the Philippines because of the impossibility of acquiring jurisdiction over his person unless he voluntarily appears in court; but when the case is an action in rem or quasi in rem enumerated in Section 15, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, Philippine courts have jurisdiction to hear and decide the case because they have jurisdiction over the res, and jurisdiction over the person of the non-resident defendant is not essential. In the latter instance, extraterritorial service of summons can be made upon the defendant, and such extraterritorial service of summons is not for the purpose of vesting the court with jurisdiction, but for the purpose of complying with the requirements of fair play or due process, so that the defendant will be informed of the pendency of the action against him and the possibility that property in the Philippines belonging to him or in which he has an interest may be subjected to a judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and he can thereby take steps to protect his interest if he is so minded. On the other hand, when the defendant in an action in personam does not reside and is not found in the Philippines, our courts cannot try the case against him because of the impossibility of acquiring jurisdiction over his person unless he voluntarily appears in court.

As the initiating party, the plaintiff in a civil action voluntarily submits himself to the jurisdiction of the court by the act of filing the initiatory pleading. As to the defendant, the court acquires jurisdiction over his person either by the proper service of the summons, or by a voluntary appearance in the action.

The significance of the proper service of the summons on the defendant in an action in personam cannot be overemphasized. The service of the summons fulfills two fundamental objectives, namely: (a) to vest in the court jurisdiction over the person of the defendant; and (b) to afford to the defendant the opportunity to be heard on the claim brought against him. As to the former, when jurisdiction in personam is not acquired in a civil action through the proper service of the summons or upon a valid waiver of such proper service, the ensuing trial and judgment are void. If the defendant knowingly does an act inconsistent with the right to object to the lack of personal jurisdiction as to him, like voluntarily appearing in the action, he is deemed to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court. As to the latter, the essence of due process lies in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit any evidence the defendant may have in support of his defense. With the proper service of the summons being intended to afford to him the opportunity to be heard on the claim against him, he may also waive the process. In other words, compliance with the rules regarding the service of the summons is as much an issue of due process as it is of jurisdiction.

Under the Rules of Court, the service of the summons should firstly be effected on the defendant himself whenever practicable. Such personal service consists either in handing a copy of the summons to the defendant in person, or, if the defendant refuses to receive and sign for it, in tendering it to him. The rule on personal service is to be rigidly enforced in order to ensure the realization of the two fundamental objectives earlier mentioned. If, for justifiable reasons, the defendant cannot be served in person within a reasonable time, the service of the summons may then be effected either (a) by leaving a copy of the summons at his residence with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copy at his office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof. The latter mode of service is known as substituted service because the service of the summons on the defendant is made through his substitute.

There is no question that Sheriff Medina twice attempted to serve the summons upon each of petitioners in person at their office address, the first in the morning of September 18, 2000 and the second in the afternoon of the same date. Each attempt failed because Macasaet and Quijano were “always out and not available” and the other petitioners were “always roving outside and gathering news.” After Medina learned from those present in the office address on his second attempt that there was no likelihood of any of petitioners going to the office during the business hours of that or any other day, he concluded that further attempts to serve them in person within a reasonable time would be futile. The circumstances fully warranted his conclusion. He was not expected or required as the serving officer to effect personal service by all means and at all times, considering that he was expressly authorized to resort to substituted service should he be unable to effect the personal service within a reasonable time. In that regard, what was a reasonable time was dependent on the circumstances obtaining. While we are strict in insisting on personal service on the defendant, we do not cling to such strictness should the circumstances already justify substituted service instead. It is the spirit of the procedural rules, not their letter, that governs.

Sotto vs Palicte ( G.R. No. 159691 June 13, 2013)

Heirs of Marcelo Sotto vs Palicte
G.R. No. 159691 June 13, 2013

Facts: Filemon had four children, namely: Marcelo Sotto (Marcelo), Pascuala SottoPahang (Pascuala), Miguel Barcelona (Miguel), and Matilde. Marcelo was the administrator of the Estate of Sotto. Marcelo and Miguel were the predecessorsin-interest of petitioners. In June 1967, Pilar Teves (Pilar) and other heirs of Carmen Rallos (Carmen), the deceased wife of Filemon, filed in the Court of First Instance (CFI) of Cebu City a complaint against the Estate of Sotto (Civil Case No. R-10027) seeking to recover certain properties that Filemon had inherited from Carmen, and damages. The CFI rendered judgment awarding to Pilar and other heirs of Carmen damages of P233,963.65, among other reliefs. To satisfy the monetary part of the judgment, levy on execution was effected against six parcels of land and two residential houses belonging to the Estate of Sotto. The levied assets were sold at a public auction. Later on, Matilde redeemed four of the parcels of land in her own name (i.e., Lots No. 1049, No. 1051, No. 1052 and No. 2179-C), while her sister Pascuala redeemed one of the two houses because her family was residing there. On July 9, 1980, the Deputy Provincial Sheriff of Cebu executed a deed of redemption in favor of Matilde, which the Clerk of Court approved. On July 24, 1980, Matilde filed in Civil Case No. R-10027 a motion to transfer to her name the title to the four properties. However, the CFI denied her motion, and instead declared the deed of redemption issued in her favor null and void, holding that Matilde, although declared in Special Proceedings No. 2706-R as one of the heirs of Filemon, did not qualify as a successor-in-interest with the right to redeem the four properties. Matilde directly appealed the adverse ruling to the Court via petition for review, and on September 21, 1987, the Court, reversing the CFI’s ruling, granted Matilde’s petition for review but allowed her co-heirs the opportunity to join Matilde as co-redemptioners for a period of six months before the probate court (i.e., RTC of Cebu City, Branch 16) would grant her motion to transfer the title to her name. In November 1998, the heirs of Miguel filed a motion for reconsideration in Civil Case No. R-10027 of the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 16, praying that the order issued on October 5, 1989 be set aside, and that they be included as Matilde’s co-redemptioners. After the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration for its lack of merit on April 25, 2000, they assailed the denial by petition for certiorari and prohibition (C.A.-G.R. SP No. 60225). The CA dismissed the petition for certiorari and prohibition on January 10, 2002. Thereafter, they elevated the matter to the Court via petition for certiorari (G.R. No. 154585), which the Court dismissed on September 23, 2002 for being filed out of time and for lack of merit. On September 10, 1999, the heirs of Marcelo, specifically: Lolibeth Sotto Noble, Danilo C. Sotto, Cristina C. Sotto, Emmanuel C. Sotto, Filemon C. Sotto, and Marcela C. Sotto; and the heirs of Miguel, namely: Alberto, Arturo and Salvacion, all surnamed Barcelona (herein petitioners), instituted the present action for partition against Matilde in the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 20 (Civil Case No. CEB24293).2 Alleging in their complaint that despite the redemption of the four properties having been made in the sole name of Matilde, the four properties still rightfully belonged to the Estate of Sotto for having furnished the funds used to redeem the properties, they prayed that the RTC declare the four properties as the assets of the Estate of Sotto, and that the RTC direct their partition among the heirs of Filemon.

Issue: Whether or not res judicata is applicable in the case at bar.

Held: Yes. All these judgments and order upholding Matilde’s exclusive ownership of the subject properties became final and executory except the action for partition which is still pending in this Court. The judgments were on the merits and rendered by courts having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties. There is substantial identity of parties considering that the present case and the previous cases involve the heirs of Filemon.

There is identity of parties not only when the parties in the case are the same, but also between those in privity with them, such as between their successors-in-interest. Absolute identity of parties is not required, and where a shared identity of interest is shown by the identity of relief sought by one person in a prior case and the second person in a subsequent case, such was deemed sufficient. There is identity of causes of action since the issues raised in all the cases essentially involve the claim of ownership over the subject properties. Even if the forms or natures of the actions are different, there is still identity of causes of action when the same facts or evidence support and establish the causes of action in the case at bar and in the previous cases.

Res judicata exists when as between the action sought to be dismissed and the other action these elements are present, namely; (1) the former judgment must be final; (2) the former judgment must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties; (3) the former judgment must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be between the first and subsequent actions (i) identity of parties or at least such as representing the same interest in both actions; (ii) identity of subject matter, or of the rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and, (iii) identity of causes of action in both actions such that any judgment that may be rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the action under consideration.

The first three elements were present. The decision of the Court in G.R. No. 55076 (the first case), the decision of the Court in G.R. No. 131722 (the second case), the order dated October 5, 1989 of the RTC in Civil Case No. R-10027 as upheld by the Court in G.R. No. 154585 (the third case), and the decision in G.R. No. 158642 (the fourth case) – all of which dealt with Matilde’s right to the four properties – had upheld Matilde’s right to the four properties and had all become final. Such rulings were rendered in the exercise of the respective courts’ jurisdiction over the subject matter, and were adjudications on the merits of the cases.

Philworth vs PCIB (G.R. No. 161878 June 05, 2013)

Philworth Asia’s Inc vs Philippine Commercial International Bank
G.R. No. 161878 June 05, 2013

Facts: On May 31, 1991, the former Philippine Commercial International Bank (PCIB) sued petitioners in the RTC to recover upon an unpaid debt (Civil Case No. 911536), alleging that on September 22, 1988, petitioner Philworth Asia, Inc. (Philworth) had borrowed P270,000.00 from PCIB to be paid on or before November 8, 1988 in accordance with a promissory note; that petitioners Spouses Luisito and Elizabeth Mactal (Mactals) and Spouses Luis and Eloisa Reyes (Reyeses) had executed a deed of suretyship binding themselves to pay Philworth’s obligations under the promissory note should Philworth refuse to perform its obligation; that Philworth had paid only partially, leaving an unpaid balance of P225,533.33, inclusive of interest and penalty charges; that Philworth had not paid its balance despite repeated demands; and that attempts to collect from the Mactals and Reyeses had likewise failed. On July 5, 1991, the Reyeses filed their answer with special and affirmative defenses, specifically countering that PCIB had no cause of action against them; that Luis Reyes had signed the promissory note as an employee of Philworth, but had not signed the deed of suretyship in November 1988 because he had already resigned from Philworth on October 16, 1988; that Luisito Mactal, the President and General Manager of Philworth, should be the person liable under the deed of suretyship; that PCIB had not made demands upon all the parties; and that PCIB did not exhaust all the available properties of Philworth before bringing the suit also against them. JUNE2013 In their answer filed on August 20, 1991, the Mactals averred that the defendants had substantially paid their obligation, but that PCIB had unreasonably refused to properly account for and credit the payments; that PCIB had been charging exorbitant and unconscionable interest, penalties and other charges; and that if the previous payments were duly credited, the unpaid balance would only be minimal. The first pre-trial conference, which was set on May 19, 1994, was moved several times afterwards, until the parties were notified that the conference would finally be held on April 25, 1995. On April 3, 1995, petitioners sought the transfer of the conference of April 25, 1995 to May 2, 1995. They later on further moved for the conference to be held on May 12, 1995. But no conference was held on May 12, 1995. Instead, the conference was reset on two later dates, i.e., June 2, 1995 and July 21, 1995. Although petitioners again moved to reset the conference on June 1, 1995, the RTC denied petitioners’ motion for postponement on June 2, 1995, and declared them as in default because of their non-appearance and allowed PCIB to present evidence ex parte.

Issue: Whether or not petitioners were denied due process.

Held: No. It is basic that as long as a party is given the opportunity to defend his interest in due course, he would have no reason to complain, for it is this opportunity to be heard that makes up the essence of due process. Where opportunity to be heard, either through oral argument or through pleadings, is accorded there can be no denial of procedural due process. The most basic tenet of due process is the right to be heard. Where a party had been afforded an opportunity to participate in the proceedings but failed to do so, he cannot complain of deprivation of due process.

Due process is satisfied as long as the party is accorded an opportunity to be heard. If it is not availed of, it is deemed waived or forfeited without violating the Bill of Rights.

Petitioners were not denied their right to be heard. As outlined above, the RTC set the case several times for the pre-trial and the trial. In so doing, the RTC undeniably relaxed the rigid application of the rules of procedure out of its desire to afford to petitioners the opportunity to fully ventilate their side on the merits of the case. The RTC thereby acted with liberality. This was in line with the time honored principle that cases should be decided only after giving all the parties the chance to argue and prove their respective sides. Here, however, they apparently stretched the limits of the RTC’s liberality, to the point of abusing it. A review of the proceedings has given the Court the impression that they deliberately delayed the presentation of their evidence by asking postponements of the hearings. The pattern of delay that followed indicated that they did not intend to present any evidence in their favor, and that they were simply temporizing as a way of avoiding the inevitable adverse outcome of the case. Otherwise, they and their counsel would have easily completed the task of presenting their evidence and shunned the delays. They did present Ms. Garcia on direct examination, but they thereafter did not see to the completion of her testimony.

SICI vs Cuenca (G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013)

Stronghold Insurance Company Inc. vs Cuenca
G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013

Facts: On January 19, 1998, Marañon filed a complaint in the RTC against the Cuencas for the collection of a sum of money and damages. His complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 98-023, included an application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment. On January 26, 1998, the RTC granted the application for the issuance of the writ of preliminary attachment conditioned upon the posting of a bond of P1,000,000.00 executed in favor of the Cuencas. Less than a month later, Marañon amended the complaint to implead Tayactac as a defendant. On February 11, 1998, Marañon posted SICI Bond No. 68427 JCL (4) No. 02370 in the amount of P1,000,000.00 issued by Stronghold Insurance. Two days later, the RTC issued the writ of preliminary attachment. The sheriff served the writ, the summons and a copy of the complaint on the Cuencas on the same day. The service of the writ, summons and copy of the complaint were made on Tayactac on February 16, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the respondents have the legal standing to sue petitioner for the recovery of the attached properties and damages.

Held: No. To ensure the observance of the mandate of the Constitution, Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court requires that unless otherwise authorized by law or the Rules of Court every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. Under the same rule, a real party in interest is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or one who is entitled to the avails of the suit. Accordingly, a person , to be a real party in interest in whose name an action must be prosecuted, should appear to be the present real owner of the right sought to be enforced, that is, his interest must be a present substantial interest, not a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest.

Where the plaintiff is not the real party in interest, the ground for the motion to dismiss is lack of cause of action. The reason for this is that the courts ought not to pass upon questions not derived from any actual controversy. Truly, a person having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff in an action. Nor does a court acquire jurisdiction over a case where the real party in interest is not present or impleaded.

The purposes of the requirement for the real party in interest prosecuting or defending an action at law are: (a) to prevent the prosecution of actions by persons without any right, title or interest in the case; (b) to require that the actual party entitled to legal relief be the one to prosecute the action; (c) to avoid a multiplicity of suits; and (d) to discourage litigation and keep it within certain bounds, pursuant to sound public policy. Indeed, considering that all civil actions must be based on a cause of action, defined as the act or omission by which a party violates the right of another, the former as the defendant must be allowed to insist upon being opposed by the real party in interest so that he is protected from further suits regarding the same claim. Under this rationale, the requirement benefits the defendant because “the defendant can insist upon a plaintiff who will afford him a setup providing good res judicata protection if the struggle is carried through on the merits to the end.”

The rule on real party in interest ensures, therefore, that the party with the legal right to sue brings the action, and this interest ends when a judgment involving the nominal plaintiff will protect the defendant from a subsequent identical action. Such a rule is intended to bring before the court the party rightfully interested in the litigation so that only real controversies will be presented and the judgment, when entered, will be binding and conclusive and the defendant will be saved from further harassment and vexation at the hands of other claimants to the same demand.

But the real party in interest need not be the person who ultimately will benefit from the successful prosecution of the action. Hence, to aid itself in the proper identification of the real party in interest, the court should first ascertain the nature of the substantive right being asserted, and then must determine whether the party asserting that right is recognized as the real party in interest under the rules of procedure. Truly, that a party stands to gain from the litigation is not necessarily controlling.

Given the separate and distinct legal personality of Arc Cuisine, Inc., the Cuenca’s and Tayactac lacked the legal personality to claim the damages sustained from the levy of the former’s properties. According to Asset Privatization Trust v. Court of Appeals,  even when the foreclosure on the assets of the corporation was wrongful and done in bad faith the stockholders had no standing to recover for themselves moral damages; otherwise, they would be appropriating and distributing part of the corporation’s assets prior to the dissolution of the corporation and the liquidation of its debts and liabilities. Moreover, in Evangelista v. Santos, the Court, resolving whether or not the minority stockholders had the right to bring an action for damages against the principal officers of the corporation for their own benefit.

Bongalon vs People (G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013)

Bongalon vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013

Facts: The Prosecution showed that on May 11, 2002, Jayson Dela Cruz (Jayson) and Roldan, his older brother, both minors, joined the evening procession for the Santo Niño at Oro Site in Legazpi City; that when the procession passed in front of the petitioner’s house, the latter’s daughter Mary Ann Rose, also a minor, threw stones at Jayson and called him “sissy”; that the petitioner confronted Jayson and Roldan and called them names like “strangers” and “animals”; that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand, and slapped Jayson on the face; that the petitioner then went to the brothers’ house and challenged Rolando dela Cruz, their father, to a fight, but Rolando did not come out of the house to take on the petitioner; that Rolando later brought Jayson to the Legazpi City Police Station and reported the incident; that Jayson also underwent medical treatment at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital; that the doctors who examined Jayson issued two medical certificates attesting that Jayson suffered the following contusions, to wit: (1) contusion .5 x 2.5 scapular area, left; and (2) +1×1 cm. contusion left zygomatic area and contusion .5 x 2.33 cm. scapular area, left. On his part, the petitioner denied having physically abused or maltreated Jayson. He explained that he only talked with Jayson and Roldan after Mary Ann Rose and Cherrylyn, his minor daughters, had told him about Jayson and Roldan’s throwing stones at them and about Jayson’s burning Cherrylyn’s hair. He denied shouting invectives at and challenging Rolando to a fight, insisting that he only told Rolando to restrain his sons from harming his daughters. To corroborate the petitioner’s testimony, Mary Ann Rose testified that her father did not hit or slap but only confronted Jayson, asking why Jayson had called her daughters “Kimi” and why he had burned Cherrlyn’s hair. Mary Ann Rose denied throwing stones at Jayson and calling him a “sissy.” She insisted that it was instead Jayson who had pelted her with stones during the procession. She described the petitioner as a loving and protective father.

Issues: Whether or not the proper remedy of the petitioner is via a petition for certiorari.

Whether or not petitioner is liable for child abuse.

Held: No. The special civil action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. As observed in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al. “the special civil action for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment. The raison d’etre for the rule is when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprived it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. In such a scenario, the administration of justice would not survive. Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision–not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision–the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. The proper recourse of the aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Section 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. – (a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.  x x x x

Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

Section 3. Definition of terms. – x x x x (b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: (1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; (2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; (3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or (4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of child abuse.

Claridad vs Esteban (G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013)

Callo-Claridad vs Esteban
G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013

Facts: Around 5:30 p.m. of February 27, 2007, Chase returned home from visiting his girlfriend, Ramonna Liza “Monnel” Hernandez. Around 7:00 p.m., Chase’s sister Ariane was sitting at the porch of their house when she noticed a white Honda Civic car parked along the street. Recognizing the driver to be Philip, Ariane waved her hand at him. Philip appeared nonchalant and did not acknowledge her gesture. Ariane decided to stay behind and leave with their house helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, only after Chase had left on board the white Honda Civic car. Marivic Rodriguez, a house helper of Shellane Yukoko, the resident of No. 9 Cedar Place, Ferndale Homes, was with her co-employee nanny Jennylyn Buri and the latter’s ward, Joei Yukoko, when they heard somebody crying coming from the crime scene: Help! Help! This was at about 7:30 p.m. Even so, neither of them bothered to check who had been crying for help. It was noted, however, that No. 10 Cedar Place, which was owned by one Mrs. Howard, was uninhabited at the time. Based on the initial investigation report of the Megaforce Security and Allied Services, Inc., the Estebans were illegally parking their cars at Mrs. Howard’s carport. The initial investigation report stated that the SGs would regularly remind the Estebans to use their own parking garage, which reminders had resulted in heated discussions and altercations. The SGs kept records of all the illegal parking incidents, and maintained that only the Estebans used the carport of No. 10 Cedar Place. Around 7:45 p.m., respondent Teodora Alyn Esteban (Teodora) arrived at Ferndale Homes on board a vehicle bearing plate XPN 733, as recorded in the subdivision SG’s logbook. At that time, three cars were parked at the carport of No. 10 Cedar place, to wit: a Honda CRV with plate ZAE 135 parked parallel to the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999, and another Honda Civic with plate JTG 333, the car frequently used by Philip, then parked diagonally behind the two cars. Some witnesses alleged that prior to the discovery of the Chase’s body, they had noticed a male and female inside the car bearing plate JTG 333 engaged in a discussion. At around 7:50 p.m., SG Abelardo Sarmiento Jr., while patrolling around the village, noticed that the side of the Honda Civic with plate JTG 333 had red streaks, which prompted him to move towards the parked cars. He inspected the then empty vehicle and noticed that its radio was still turned on. He checked the cars and discovered that the rear and side of the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999 were smeared with blood. He saw on the passenger seat a cellular phone covered with blood. It was then that he found the bloodied and lifeless body of Chase lying between the parallel cars. The body was naked from the waist up, with a crumpled bloodied shirt on the chest, and with only the socks on. SG Sarmiento called for back-up. SG Rene Fabe immediately barricaded the crime scene. Around 7:55 p.m., SG Solis received a phone call from an unidentified person who reported that a “kid” had met an accident at Cedar Place. SG Solis later identified and confirmed the caller to be “Mr. Esteban Larry” when the latter entered the village gate and inquired whether the “kid” who had met an accident had been attended to. Moreover, when SG Fabe and SG Sarmiento were securing the scene of the crime, they overheard from the radio that somebody had reported about a “kid” who had been involved in an accident at Cedar Place. SG Fabe thereafter searched the village premises but did not find any such accident. When SG Fabe got back, there were already several onlookers at the crime scene.

Issue: Whether or not the evidence is sufficient to charge the respondents of murder.

No. For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all the circumstances must be consistent with one another and must constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that a crime has been committed and that the respondents are probably guilty thereof. The pieces of evidence must be consistent with the hypothesis that the respondents were probably guilty of the crime and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that they were innocent, and with every rational hypothesis except that of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, therefore, if: (a) there is more than one circumstance, (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived have been proven, and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The records show that the circumstantial evidence linking Philip to the killing of Chase derived from the bare recollections of Ariane (sister of Chase), and of Guray and Corpus (respectively, the househelp and nanny in the household of a resident of the subdivision) about seeing Chase board the white Honda Civic at around 7:00 p.m. of February 27, 2007, and about Philip being the driver of the Honda Civic. But there was nothing else after that, because the circumstances revealed by the other witnesses could not even be regarded as circumstantial evidence against Philip. To be sure, some of the affidavits were unsworn. The statements subscribed and sworn to before the officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) having the authority to administer oaths upon matters connected with the performance of their official duties undeniably lacked the requisite certifications to the effect that such administering officers had personally examined the affiants, and that such administering officers were satisfied that the affiants had voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.

Thus, it is imperative that the circumstantial evidence that the victim was last seen in the company of respondent Philip must be established by competent evidence required by the rules in preliminary investigation. Here, it was allegedly Chase’s sister, Ariane, and their two household helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, who saw respondent Philip pick up Chase at around 7:00 o’clock in the evening of February 27, 2007. Yet, such fact from which the inference is derived was not duly proven. The statements of Marivic and Michelle both executed on February 28, 2007 were not sworn to before the proper officer.

Neither was the affidavit dated July 3, 2009 of Ariane Claridad duly notarized nor is there any explanation why the same was belatedly executed.

Metrobank vs Sandoval (G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013)

Metrobank vs Sandoval
G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013

Facts: On July 17, 1987, the Republic brought a complaint for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages in the Sandiganbayan against Andres V. Genito, Jr., Ferdinand E. Marcos, Imelda R. Marcos and other defendants. The action was obviously to recover allegedly ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, their nominees, dummies and agents. Among the properties subject of the action were two parcels of commercial land located in Tandang Sora (Old Balara), Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 266423 and TCT No. 266588 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City registered in the names of Spouses Andres V. Genito, Jr. and Ludivina L. Genito. On February 5, 2001, the Republic moved for the amendment of the complaint in order to implead Asian Bank as an additional defendant. The Sandiganbayan granted the motion. It appears that Asian Bank claimed ownership of the two parcels of land as the registered owner by virtue of TCT No. N-201383 and TCT No. N-201384 issued in its name by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. Asian Bank was also in possession of the properties by virtue of the writ of possession issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City. When the Republic was about to terminate its presentation of evidence against the original defendants in Civil Case No. 0004, it moved to hold a separate trial against Asian Bank.

Issue: Whether or not a motion for separate trial is proper.

Held: No. The rule on separate trials in civil actions is found in Section 2, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court, which reads:

Section 2. Separate trials. – The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a separate trial of any claim, crossclaim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.

The text of the rule grants to the trial court the discretion to determine if a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues should be held, provided that the exercise of such discretion is in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice to any party.

Further, Corpus Juris Secundum makes clear that neither party had an absolute right to have a separate trial of an issue; hence, the motion to that effect should be allowed only to avoid prejudice, further convenience, promote justice, and give a fair trial to all parties.

Exceptions to the general rule are permitted only when there are extraordinary grounds for conducting separate trials on different issues raised in the same case, or when separate trials of the issues will avoid prejudice, or when separate trials of the issues will further convenience, or when separate trials of the issues will promote justice, or when separate trials of the issues will give a fair trial to all parties. Otherwise, the general rule must apply.

People vs PO2 Valdez (G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs PO2 Valdez
G.R. No. 175602 February 13, 2013

Facts: The two accused were tried for three counts of murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 86, in Quezon City. On January 20, 2005, after trial, the RTC convicted them as charged, prescribed on each of them the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, and ordered them to pay to the heirs of each victim P93,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the RTC on July 18, 2006, subject to the modification that each of the accused pay to the heirs of each victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs of suit. The two accused then came to the Court on final appeal, but on May 9, 2007, Edwin Valdez filed a motion to withdraw appeal, which the Court granted on October 10, 2007, thereby deeming Edwin’s appeal closed and terminated. On January 18, 2012, the Court promulgated its judgment on the appeal of PO2 Eduardo Valdez, finding him guilty of three counts of homicide, instead of three counts of murder, and meting on him for each count of homicide the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal as maximum. Subsequently, Edwin sent to the Court Administrator a self- explanatory letter dated March 12, 2012, where he pleaded for the application to him of the judgment promulgated on January 18, 2012 on the ground that the judgment would be beneficial to him as an accused.

Issue: Whether or not the judgement by the appellate court downgrading the penalty of Edwin’s co-accused is applicable to him.

Held: Yes. On his part, Edwin cannot be barred from seeking the application to him of the downgrading of the crimes committed (and the resultant lighter penalties) despite the finality of his convictions for three counts of murder due to his withdrawal of his appeal. The downgrading of the crimes committed would definitely be favorable to him. Worth pointing out is that to deny to him the benefit of the lessened criminal responsibilities would be highly unfair, considering that this Court had found the two accused to have acted in concert in their deadly assault against the victims, warranting their equal liabiliy under the principle of conspiracy.

We grant Edwin’s plea based on Section 11(a), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, which relevantly provides:

Section 11. Effect of appeal by any of several accused. – (a) An appeal taken by one or more of several accused shall not affect those who did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter.

A literal interpretation of the phrase “did not appeal,” as espoused by private respondent, will not give justice to the purpose of the provision.

It should be read in its entirety and should not be myopically construed so as to defeat its reason, i.e., to benefit an accused who did not join in the appeal of his co-accused in case where the appellate judgment is favorable. In fact, several cases rendered by the Court applied the foregoing provision without regard as to the filing or non-filing of an appeal by a co- accused, so long as the judgment was favorable to him.

People vs Whisenhunt (GR No. 123819 November 14, 2001)

People of the Philippines vs Whisenhunt
GR No. 123819 November 14, 2001

Facts: That on or about September 24, 1993, in the municipality of San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, the above named accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to kill and taking advantage of superior strength, attack, assault and use personal violence upon the person of one Elsa Santos-Castillo by then and there stabbing her with a bladed weapon in different parts of her body, thereby inflicting upon her mortal wounds which were the direct and immediate cause of her death and thereafter outraged or scofted her corpse by then and there chopping off her head and different parts of her body. The medico-legal officer, found contusions on accused-appellant’s left periumbilical region, right elbow, left and right forearms and right leg. Dr. Ronaldo Mendez, the medico-legal officer who conducted the autopsy, concluded that the cause of death of Elsa were stabbed wounds. Respondent, Whisenhunt as his witness his lawyer who is also a medico-legal officer.

Issue: Whether or not the testimony of respondent’s presented witness as a lawyer-witness will be given.

Held: No. Accused-appellant makes capital of the fact that the medico-legal officer, Dr. Mendez, did not examine the pancreas of the deceased notwithstanding Demetrio’s statement that according to accused-appellant, Elsa died of “bangungot”, hemorrhage of the pancreas, because of this accused-appellant insist that the cause of death was not adequately established. Then, he relied on the controverting testimony of his witness, lawyer-doctor, Ernesto Brion, who was himself a medico-legal officer of the NBI for several years, to the effect that the autopsy report prepared by Dr. Mendez was unreliable and inconclusive. The trial court, however, noted that Dr. Brion was a biased witness whose testimony cannot be relied upon because he entered his appearance as one of the counsel for the accused-appellant and, in such capacity, extensively cross-examined Dr. Mendez accused-appellant counters that there’s no prohibition against lawyers giving testimony. Moreover, the trial court’s ruling would imply that lawyers who testify on behalf of their clients are presumed to be lying.

By rejecting the testimony of Dr. Brion, the trial court did not mean that he perjured himself on the witness stand. Notably, Dr. Brion was presented as expert witness. His testimony and the questions propounded on him dealt with his opinion on the probable cause of death of the victim. Indeed the presentation of expert testimony is one of the well-known exceptions to the rule against admissibility of opinions in evidence. In like manner, Dr. Mendez was presented on the stand to give his own opinion on the same subject. His opinion differed from that of Brion, which is not at all unusual. What the trial court simply did was to choose which — between two conflicting medico-legal opinions – was the more plausible. The trial court correctly lent more credence to Dr. Mendez’s testimony not only because Dr. Brion was a biased witness, but more importantly, because it was Dr. Mendez who conducted the autopsy and personally examined Elsa’s corpse up close.

Physical evidence is a mute but eloquent manifestation of truth, and it ranks high in the hierarchy of our trustworthy evidence.

People vs Larrañaga (GR No. 138874-75 February 3, 2004)

People of the Philippines vs Larrañaga
GR No. 138874-75 February 3, 2004

Facts: On July 16, 1997 at about 10 o’clock more or less in the evening, in the City of Cebu, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, the said accused all private individuals, conniving, confederating and mutually helping each other, with deliberate intent, did then and there willfully and feloniously kidnap or deprive Marijoy Chiong and Jacqueline Chiong, of their liberty and on the occasion thereof, and in connection, accused, with deliberate intent, did then and there have carnal knowledge against them with the use of force and intimidation and subsequent thereto and on the occasion thereof, accused with intent to kill did then and there inflict physical injuries and threw Marijoy into a deep ravine which caused her death.

Issue: Whether or not witness who is also one of the perpetrators is a credible witness for the crime charged.

Held: Yes. Rustia positively identified the appellants. The settled rule is that positive identification of an accused by a credible as the perpetrator of the crime demolishes alibi, the much abused sanctuary of felons. Rusia’s testimony was corroborated by several disinterested witnesses who also identified the appellants. Most of them are neither friends, relatives nor acquaintances of the victim’s family. As we received closely the transcript of stenographic notes, we could not discern any motive on their part why they should testified falsely against the appellants. In the same vein, it is improbable that the prosecution would tirelessly go through the rigors of litigation just to destroy innocent lives.

Meanwhile, appellants argue that the prosecution failed to prove that the body found at the foot of a deep ravine in Tan-awan, Carcar was that of Marijoy. We are not convinced, Rusia testified that Josman instructed Rowen “to get Rid” of Marijoy, and following such instruction, Rowen  and Ariel pushed her into the deep ravine. Furthermore, inspector Edgardo Lenizo, a fingerprint expert, testified that the fingerprints of the corpse matched those of Marijoy. The packaging tape and the handcuff found on the dead body were the same items placed on Marijoy and Jacqueline while they were being detained. The body had the same clothes worn by Marijoy on the day she was abducted. The members of the Chiong family personally identified the corpse to be that of Marijoy which they eventually buried. They erected commemorative at the ravine, cemetery, and every place which mattered to Marijoy. Indeed, there is overwhelming and convincing evidence that it was the body of Marijoy that was found in the ravine.