ESLI vs BPI (G.R. No. 182864, January 12, 2015)

Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc., vs BPI/MS Insurance Corporation
G.R. No. 182864, January 12, 2015

Facts: A complaint for actual damages amounting to US$17,560.48 was filed by herein respondents against Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc., (ESLI) covering steel subject to its shipment. Petitioner insisted that it was through the management of the stevedore where the damages have been incurred. For failure to reach settlement on the legal issues it was submitted to trial and during the pre-trial several stipulations of facts were admitted. The trial court ruled in favor of the respondents. ESLI appealed disputing its liability as to the damaged goods and invoking further the validity of the contents of the bill of lading.

Issue: Whether or not admissions made during the pre-trial as to the validity of the bills of lading are binding.

Ruling: Yes. Judicial admissions are legally binding on the party making the admissions. Pre-trial admission in civil cases is one of the instances of judicial admissions explicitly provided for under Section 7, Rule 18 of the Rules of Court, which mandates that the contents of the pre-trial order shall control the subsequent course of the action, thereby, defining and limiting the issues to be tried. In Bayas v. Sandiganbayan, this Court emphasized that:

Once the stipulations are reduced into writing and signed by the parties and their counsels, they become binding on the parties who made them. They become judicial admissions of the fact or facts stipulated. Even if placed at a disadvantageous position, a party may not be allowed to rescind them unilaterally, it must assume the consequences of the disadvantage.

Moreover, in Alfelor v. Halasan, this Court declared that:

A party who judicially admits a fact cannot later challenge that fact as judicial admissions are a waiver of proof; production of evidence is dispensed with. A judicial admission also removes an admitted fact from the field of controversy. Consequently, an admission made in the pleadings cannot be controverted by the party making such admission and are conclusive as to such party, and all proofs to the contrary or inconsistent therewith should be ignored, whether objection is interposed by the party or not. The allegations, statements or admissions contained in a pleading are conclusive as against the pleader. A party cannot subsequently take a position contrary of or inconsistent with what was pleaded. (Citations omitted)

The admission having been made in a stipulation of facts at pre-trial by the parties, it must be treated as a judicial admission. Under Section 4, of Rule 129 of the Rules of Court, a judicial admission requires no proof.


Risos-Vidal vs COMELEC (G.R. No. 206666, January 21, 2015)

Risos-Vidal vs Commission on Elections
G.R. No. 206666, January 21, 2015

Facts: Former President Estrada was impeached and removed from presidency. He was convicted of the crime of plunder. During the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she extended an absolute pardon to herein private respondent. Estrada filed a certificate of candidacy for the position of City Mayor of Manila which was questioned by petitioner Atty. Risos-Vidal alleging that his conviction disqualified him from running for public office. The COMELEC took discretionary judicial notice on Estrada’s pardon.

Issue: Whether or not the court properly took judicial notice on the pardon of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

Ruling: Yes. On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for public respondent COMELEC, maintains that “the issue of whether or not the pardon extended to [former President Estrada] restored his right to run for public office had already been passed upon by public respondent COMELEC way back in 2010 via its rulings in SPA Nos. 09-024, 09-028 and 09-104, there is no cogent reason for it to reverse its standing pronouncement and declare [former President Estrada] disqualified to run and be voted as mayor of the City of Manila in the absence of any new argument that would warrant its reversal. To be sure, public respondent COMELEC correctly exercised its discretion in taking judicial cognizance of the aforesaid rulings which are known toit and which can be verified from its own records, in accordance with Section 2, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court on the courts’ discretionary power to take judicial notice of matters which are of public knowledge, or are capable of unquestionable demonstration, or ought to be known to them because of their judicial functions.”

Further, the OSG contends that “[w]hile at first glance, it is apparent that [former President Estrada’s] conviction for plunder disqualifies him from running as mayor of Manila under Section 40 of the [LGC], the subsequent grant of pardon to him, however, effectively restored his right to run for any public office.” The restoration of his right to run for any public office is the exception to the prohibition under Section 40 of the LGC, as provided under Section 12 of the OEC. As to the seeming requirement of Articles 36 and 41 of the Revised Penal Code, i.e., the express restoration/remission of a particular right to be stated in the pardon, the OSG asserts that “an airtight and rigid interpretation of Article 36 and Article 41 of the [RPC] x x x would be stretching too much the clear and plain meaning of the aforesaid provisions.” Lastly, taking into consideration the third Whereas Clause of the pardon granted to former President Estrada, the OSG supports the position that it “is not an integral part of the decree of the pardon and cannot therefore serve to restrict its effectivity.”

Teñido vs People (G.R. No. 211642 March 09, 2016)

Teñido vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 211642 March 09, 2016
Facts: This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, from the Decision dated September 20, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 34325 which affirmed with modification the Decision dated May 23, 2011 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 25, in Criminal Case No. 88-67398 finding Nelson Teñido y Silvestre (Teñido) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Robbery in the manner, date and circumstances stated in the criminal information accusing him and his co-accused, Rizaldo Alvarade y Valencia (Alvarade), as follows: That on or about June 22, 1988, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring and confederating together and helping each other, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent of gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof, by means of force upon things, break into and enter house no. 1250, Kahilom I, Pandacan, Manila, inhabited by Lolita Sus de Enriquez, by the[n] and there destroying the chicken wire of their door at the store and removing a small piece of lawanit nailed to it, and passing through the same, an opening not intended for entrance or egress, and once inside, took, stole and carried away therefrom cash money amounting to P600.00, one (1) male wristwatch (Rolex) worth P2,000.00, one (1) Citizen wristwatch worth P995, one (1) gold ring with stone (brillante) worth P1,500.00, one (1) wallet containing cash money of P1,200.00, and one (1) gold[-]plated Seiko 5 watch worth P1,200.00 with a total value of P7,495.00, belonging to Lolita Sus de Enriquez, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforesaid amount of P7,495.00, Philippine currency. Contrary to law.
Issue: Whether or not a review on the credibility of a witness is a question of fact outside the bounds of a petition for certiorari under Rule 45.
Held: Yes. Questions pertaining to the credibility of a witness are factual in nature and are, generally, outside the ambit of the Court’s appellate jurisdiction. It is a settled rule that a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court shall raise only questions of law. “A question that invites a review of the factual findings of the lower tribunals or bodies is beyond the scope of this Court’s power of review and generally justifies the dismissal of the petition.”
Moreover, it is axiomatic that absent any showing that the trial court overlooked substantial facts and circumstances that would affect the final disposition of the case, appellate courts are bound to give due deference and respect to its evaluation of the credibility of an eyewitness and his testimony as well as its probative value as it was certainly in a better position to rate the credibility of the witnesses after hearing them and observing their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. 
The Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the foregoing tenets especially in view of the absence of any exceptional circumstances that will justify a re-evaluation of the RTC’s factual findings. 
The fact of delay attributed to a prosecution witness cannot be taken against her. What is important is that her testimony regarding the incident bears the earmarks of truth and dependability. Time and again, the Court has stressed: 
Delay in revealing the identity of the perpetrators of a crime does not necessarily impair the credibility of a witness, especially where sufficient explanation is given. No standard form of behavior can be expected from people who had witnessed a strange or frightful experience. Jurisprudence recognizes that witnesses are naturally reluctant to volunteer information about a criminal case or are unwilling to be involved in criminal investigations because of varied reasons. Some fear for their lives and that of their family; while others shy away when those involved in the crime are their relatives or townmates. And where there is delay, it is more important to consider the reason for the delay, which must be sufficient or well-grounded, and not the length of delay.
Guinto sufficiently explained that she got nervous and frightened. Further, there is no showing that Guinto was impelled by any ill motive to fabricate facts and attribute a serious offense against Teñido. Where there is no evidence to indicate that the prosecution witness was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that she was not so actuated and that her testimony is entitled to full faith and credit.

Maliksi vs COMELEC (G.R. No. 203302 April 11, 2013)

Maliksi vs COMELEC
G.R. No. 203302 April 11, 2013

Facts: During the 2010 Elections, the Municipal Board of Canvassers proclaimed Saquilayan the winner for the position of Mayor of Imus, Cavite. Maliksi, the candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes, brought an election protest in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Imus, Cavite alleging that there were irregularities in the counting of votes in 209 clustered precincts. Subsequently, the RTC held a revision of the votes, and, based on the results of the revision, declared Maliksi as the duly elected Mayor of Imus commanding Saquilayan to cease and desist from performing the functions of said office. Saquilayan appealed to the COMELEC. In the meanwhile, the RTC granted Maliksi’s motion for execution pending appeal, and Maliksi was then installed as Mayor. In resolving the appeal, the COMELEC First Division, without giving notice to the parties, decided to recount the ballots through the use of the printouts of the ballot images from the CF cards. Thus, it issued an order dated March 28, 2012 requiring Saquilayan to deposit the amount necessary to defray the expenses for the decryption and printing of the ballot images. Later, it issued another order dated April 17, 2012 for Saquilayan to augment his cash deposit.

Issue: Whether or not the conduct of recount by the first division of the COMELEC is proper.

Held: No. It bears stressing at the outset that the First Division should not have conducted the assailed recount proceedings because it was then exercising appellate jurisdiction as to which no existing rule of procedure allowed it to conduct a recount in the first instance. The recount proceedings authorized under Section 6, Rule 15 of COMELEC Resolution No. 8804, as amended, are to be conducted by the COMELEC Divisions only in the exercise of their exclusive original jurisdiction over all election protests involving elective regional (the autonomous regions), provincial and city officials.

Section 6, Rule 10 (Conduct of Revision) of the 2010 Rules of Procedure for Municipal Election Contests, which governs the proceedings in the Regional Trial Courts exercising original jurisdiction over election protests, provides:

x x x x

(m) In the event that the revision committee determines that the integrity of the ballots and the ballot box have not been preserved, as when proof of tampering or substitution exists, it shall proceed to instruct the printing of the picture image of the ballots stored in the data storage device for the precinct. The court shall provide a non-partisan technical person who shall conduct the necessary authentication process to ensure that the data or image stored is genuine and not a substitute. Only after this determination can the printed picture image be used for the recount.

The foregoing rules further require that the decryption of the images stored in the CF cards and the printing of the decrypted images take place during the revision or recount proceedings. There is a good reason for thus fixing where and by whom the decryption and the printing should be conducted. It is during the revision or recount conducted by the Revision/Recount Committee when the parties are allowed to be represented, with their representatives witnessing the proceedings and timely raising their objections in the course of the proceedings. Moreover, whenever the Revision/Recount Committee makes any determination that the ballots have been tampered and have become unreliable, the parties are immediately made aware of such determination.

The disregard of Maliksi’s right to be informed of the decision to print the picture images of the ballots and to conduct the recount proceedings during the appellate stage cannot be brushed aside by the invocation of the fact that Maliksi was able to file, after all, a motion for reconsideration. To be exact, the motion for reconsideration was actually directed against the entire resolution of the First Division, while Maliksi’s claim of due process violation is directed only against the First Division’s recount proceedings that resulted in the prejudicial result rendered against him. Notably, the First Division did not issue any order directing the recount. Without the written order, Maliksi was deprived of the chance to seek any reconsideration or even to assail the irregularly-held recount through a seasonable petition for certiorari in this Court. In that context, he had no real opportunity to assail the conduct of the recount proceedings.

The service of the First Division orders requiring Saquilayan to post and augment the cash deposits for the printing of the picture images did not sufficiently give Maliksi notice of the First Division’s decision to print the picture images. The said orders did not meet the requirements of due process because they did not specifically inform Maliksi that the ballots had been found to be tampered. Nor did the orders offer the factual bases for the finding of tampering. Hence, to leave for Maliksi to surmise on the factual bases for finding the need to print the picture images still violated the principles of fair play, because the responsibility and the obligation to lay down the factual bases and to inform Maliksi as the party to be potentially prejudiced thereby firmly rested on the shoulders of the First Division.

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.

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.

People vs Belocura (G.R. No. 173474 August 29, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Belocura
G.R. No. 173474 August 29, 2012

Facts: Belocura was charged on April 13, 1999 by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila with a violation of Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, in the Manila RTC through the information: That on or about March 22, 1999, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and under his custody and control one (1) plastic bag colored red and white, with label “SHIN TON YON”, containing the following: One (1) newspaper leaf used to wrap one (1) brick of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing 830.532 grams; One (1) newspaper leaf used to wrap one (1) brick of dried marijuana fruiting tops weighing 959.291 grams. With a total weight of 1,789.823 grams, a prohibited drug.

Issue: Whether or not the prosecution established the guilt of the accused using the evidence obtained.

Held: No. The Court holds that the guilt of Belocura for the crime charged was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Mere suspicion of his guilt, no matter how strong, should not sway judgment against him. Every evidence favoring him must be duly considered. Indeed, the presumption of innocence in his favor was not overcome.

The elements of illegal possession of marijuana under Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, are that: (a) the accused is in possession of an item or object that is identified to be marijuana, a prohibited drug; (b) such possession is not authorized by law; and (c) the accused freely and consciously possessed the said drug. What must be proved beyond reasonable doubt is the fact of possession of the prohibited drug itself. This may be done by presenting the police officer who actually recovered the prohibited drugs as a witness, being the person who has the direct knowledge of the possession.

The Prosecution thereby failed to establish the linkage between the bricks of marijuana supposedly seized by PO2 Santos from Belocura’s jeep following his arrest and the bricks of marijuana that the Prosecution later presented as evidence in court. That linkage was not dispensable, because the failure to prove that the specimens of marijuana submitted to the forensic chemist for examination were the same marijuana allegedly seized from Belocura irreparably broke the chain of custody that linked the confiscated marijuana to the marijuana ultimately presented as evidence against Belocura during the trial. Proof beyond reasonable doubt demanded that unwavering exactitude must be observed in establishing the corpus delicti – the body of the crime whose core was the confiscated prohibited substances. Thus, every fact necessary to constitute the crime must be established.

That this case was a prosecution brought under Republic Act No. 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972), as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, did not matter. The chain-of-custody requirement applied under both laws by virtue of the universal need to competently and sufficiently establish the corpus delicti. It is basic under the Rules of Court, indeed, that evidence, to be relevant, must throw light upon, or have a logical relation to, the facts in issue to be established by one party or disproved by the other. The test of relevancy is whether an item of evidence will have any value, as determined by logic and experience, in proving the proposition for which it is offered, or whether it would reasonably and actually tend to prove or disprove any matter of fact in issue, or corroborate other relevant evidence. The test is satisfied if there is some logical connection either directly or by inference between the fact offered and the fact to be proved.