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Civil Procedure Credit Transactions Case Digest: Radiowealth Finance Company v. Del Rosario (2000)

Radiowealth Finance Company v. Del Rosario
G.R. No. 138739 July 6, 2000

Lessons Applicable: Demurrer to Evidence, Promissory Note, When Demandable, Penalty, Interest (Credit Transactions)

Laws Applicable: Rule 33 of the 1997 Rules of Court (Civil Procedure)

FACTS:
•    March 2, 1991: Spouses Vicente and Maria Sumilang del Rosario jointly and severally executed, signed and delivered in favor of Radiowealth Finance Company a Promissory Note for P138,948 without need of notice or demand, in instalments of P11,579.00 payable for 12 consecutive months leaving the period for the instalments blank.  Upon default, the late payment, 2.5% penalty charge per month shall be added to each unpaid installment from due date thereof until fully paid.
•    June 7, 1993:  Radiowealth filed a complaint for the collection of a sum of money before the Regional Trial Court of Manila.  During the trial, Jasmer Famatico, the credit and collection officer of Radiowealth, presented in evidence the Spouses’ check payments, the demand letter dated July 12, 1991, Spouses’ customer’s ledger card, another demand letter and Metropolitan Bank dishonor slips.  Famatico admitted that he did not have personal knowledge of the transaction or the execution of any of these pieces of documentary evidence, which had merely been endorsed to him.
•    July 29, 1994: Spouses filed a Demurrer to Evidence for alleged lack of cause of action
•    RTC: Dismissed for Radiowealth’s failure to substantiate the claims, the evidence it had presented being merely hearsay
•    CA: reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings
o    During the pretrial, through judicial admissions or the spouses admitted the genuineness of the Promissory Note and demand letter dated July 12, 1991.  Their only defense was the absence of an agreement on when the installment payments were to begin
ISSUES:
1.    W/N the spouses can still present evidence after the appellate court’s reversal of the dismissal on demurer of evidence (Civil Procedure)
2.    W/N the obligation is due and demandable (Credit Transaction)

HELD: Petition is GRANTED.  Appealed Decision is MODIFIED.  Ordered to PAY P138,948, plus 2.5 percent penalty charge per month beginning April 2, 1991 until fully paid, and 10 percent of the amount due as attorney’s fees.

1.    NO.
•    Rule 33 of the 1997 Rules
o    SECTION 1.  Demurrer to evidence.—After the plaintiff has completed the presentation of his evidence, the defendant may move for dismissal on the ground that upon the facts and the law the plaintiff has shown no right to relief.  If his motion is denied, he shall have the right to present evidence.  If the motion is granted but on appeal the order of dismissal is reversed he shall be deemed to have waived the right to present evidence.
•    Defendants who present a demurrer to the plaintiff’s evidence retain the right to present their own evidence, if the trial court disagrees with them; if the trial court agrees with them, but on appeal, the appellate court disagrees with both of them and reverses the dismissal order, the defendants lose the right to present their own evidence
•    The appellate court shall resolve the case and render judgment on the merits, inasmuch as a demurrer aims to discourage prolonged litigations

2.    Yes.
•    The act of leaving blank the due date of the first installment did NOT necessarily mean that the debtors were allowed to pay as and when they could.  While the specific date on which each installment would be due was left blank, the Note clearly provided that each installment should be payable each month. It also provided for an acceleration clause and a late payment penalty, both of which showed the intention of the parties that the installments should be paid at a definite date.  Per the acceleration clause, the whole debt became due one month (April 2, 1991) after the date of the Note because the check representing their first installment bounced.
•    Respondents started paying installments on the Promissory Note, even if the checks were dishonored by their drawee bank. 
•    The Note already stipulated a late payment penalty of 2.5 percent monthly to be added to each unpaid installment until fully paid.  Payment of interest was not expressly stipulated in the Note.  Thus, it should be deemed included in such penalty.  Liquidated damages, however, should no longer be imposed for being unconscionable. Such damages should also be deemed included in the 2.5 percent monthly penalty.  Furthermore, we hold that petitioner is entitled to attorney’s fees, but only in a sum equal to 10 percent of the amount due which we deem reasonable under the proven facts

Jurisprudence: G.R. No. 138739. July 6, 2000

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 138739.  July 6, 2000

RADIOWEALTH FINANCE COMPANY, petitioner, vs. Spouses VICENTE and MA. SUMILANG DEL ROSARIO, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

PANGANIBAN, J.:

When a demurrer to evidence granted by a trial court is reversed on appeal, the reviewing court cannot remand the case for further proceedings.  Rather, it should render judgment on the basis of the evidence proffered by the plaintiff.  Inasmuch as defendants in the present case admitted the due execution of the Promissory Note both in their Answer and during the pretrial, the appellate court should have rendered judgment on the bases of that Note and on the other pieces of evidence adduced during the trial.

The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the December 9, 1997 Decision[1] and the May 3, 1999 Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR CV No. 47737.  The assailed Decision disposed as follows:

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed order (dated November 4, 1994) of the Regional Trial Court (Branch XIV) in the City of Manila in Civil Case No. 93-66507 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.  Let the records of this case be remanded to the court a quo for further proceedings.  No pronouncement as to costs.”[3]

The assailed Resolution denied the petitioner’s Partial Motion for Reconsideration.[4]

The Facts

The facts of this case are undisputed.  On March 2, 1991, Spouses Vicente and Maria Sumilang del Rosario (herein respondents), jointly and severally executed, signed and delivered in favor of Radiowealth Finance Company (herein petitioner), a Promissory Note[5] for P138,948.  Pertinent provisions of the Promissory Note read:

“FOR VALUE RECEIVED, on or before the date listed below, I/We promise to pay jointly and severally Radiowealth Finance Co. or order the sum of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY EIGHT THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FORTY EIGHT Pesos (P138,948.00) without need of notice or demand, in installments as follows:

P11,579.00 payable for 12 consecutive months starting on ________ 19__ until the amount of P11,579.00 is fully paid.  Each installment shall be due every ____ day of each month.  A late payment penalty charge of two and a half (2.5%) percent per month shall be added to each unpaid installment from due date thereof until fully paid.

x x x x x x                                   x x x

It is hereby agreed that if default be made in the payment of any of the installments or late payment charges thereon as and when the same becomes due and payable as specified above, the total principal sum then remaining unpaid, together with the agreed late payment charges thereon, shall at once become due and payable without need of notice or demand.

x x x x x x                                   x x x

If any amount due on this Note is not paid at its maturity and this Note is placed in the hands of an attorney or collection agency for collection, I/We jointly and severally agree to pay, in addition to the aggregate of the principal amount and interest due, a sum equivalent to ten (10%) per cent thereof as attorney’s and/or collection fees, in case no legal action is filed, otherwise, the sum will be equivalent to twenty-five (25%) percent of the amount due which shall not in any case be less than FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P500.00) plus the cost of suit and other litigation expenses and, in addition, a further sum of ten per cent (10%) of said amount which in no case shall be less than FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (P500.00), as and for liquidated damages.”[6]

Thereafter, respondents defaulted on the monthly installments.  Despite repeated demands, they failed to pay their obligations under their Promissory Note.

On June 7, 1993, petitioner filed a Complaint[7] for the collection of a sum of money before the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 14.[8] During the trial, Jasmer Famatico, the credit and collection officer of petitioner, presented in evidence the respondents’ check payments, the demand letter dated July 12, 1991, the customer’s ledger card for the respondents, another demand letter and Metropolitan Bank dishonor slips.  Famatico admitted that he did not have personal knowledge of the transaction or the execution of any of these pieces of documentary evidence, which had merely been endorsed to him.

On July 4, 1994, the trial court issued an Order terminating the presentation of evidence for the petitioner.[9] Thus, the latter formally offered its evidence and exhibits and rested its case on July 5, 1994.

Respondents filed on July 29, 1994 a Demurrer to Evidence[10] for alleged lack of cause of action.  On November 4, 1994, the trial court dismissed[11] the complaint for failure of petitioner to substantiate its claims, the evidence it had presented being merely hearsay.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Hence, this recourse.[12]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

According to the appellate court, the judicial admissions of respondents established their indebtedness to the petitioner, on the grounds that they admitted the due execution of the Promissory Note, and that their only defense was the absence of an agreement on when the installment payments were to begin.  Indeed, during the pretrial, they admitted the genuineness not only of the Promissory Note, but also of the demand letter dated July 12, 1991.  Even if the petitioner’s witness had no personal knowledge of these documents, they would still be admissible “if the purpose for which [they are] produced is merely to establish the fact that the statement or document was in fact made or to show its tenor[,] and such fact or tenor is of independent relevance.”

Besides, Articles 19 and 22 of the Civil Code require that every person must -- in the exercise of rights and in the performance of duties -- act with justice, give all else their due, and observe honesty and good faith.  Further, the rules on evidence are to be liberally construed in order to promote their objective and to assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy and inexpensive determination of an action.

Issue

The petitioner raises this lone issue:

“The Honorable Court of Appeals patently erred in ordering the remand of this case to the trial court instead of rendering judgment on the basis of petitioner’s evidence.”[13]

For an orderly discussion, we shall divide the issue into two parts: (a) legal effect of the Demurrer to Evidence, and (b) the date when the obligation became due and demandable.

The Court’s Ruling

The Petition has merit.  While the CA correctly reversed the trial court, it erred in remanding the case "for further proceedings."

Consequences of a Reversal, on Appeal, of a Demurrer to Evidence

Petitioner contends that if a demurrer to evidence is reversed on appeal, the defendant should be deemed to have waived the right to present evidence, and the appellate court should render judgment on the basis of the evidence submitted by the plaintiff.  A remand to the trial court "for further proceedings" would be an outright defiance of Rule 33, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Court.

On the other hand, respondents argue that the petitioner was not necessarily entitled to its claim, simply on the ground that they lost their right to present evidence in support of their defense when the Demurrer to Evidence was reversed on appeal.  They stress that the CA merely found them indebted to petitioner, but was silent on when their obligation became due and demandable.

The old Rule 35 of the Rules of Court was reworded under Rule 33 of the 1997 Rules, but the consequence on appeal of a demurrer to evidence was not changed.  As amended, the pertinent provision of Rule 33 reads as follows:

“SECTION 1.  Demurrer to evidence.—After the plaintiff has completed the presentation of his evidence, the defendant may move for dismissal on the ground that upon the facts and the law the plaintiff has shown no right to relief.  If his motion is denied, he shall have the right to present evidence.  If the motion is granted but on appeal the order of dismissal is reversed he shall be deemed to have waived the right to present evidence.”[14]

Explaining the consequence of a demurrer to evidence, the Court in Villanueva Transit v. Javellana[15] pronounced:

“The rationale behind the rule and doctrine is simple and logical.  The defendant is permitted, without waiving his right to offer evidence in the event that his motion is not granted, to move for a dismissal (i.e., demur to the plaintiff’s evidence) on the ground that upon the facts as thus established and the applicable law, the plaintiff has shown no right to relief.  If the trial court denies the dismissal motion, i.e., finds that plaintiff’s evidence is sufficient for an award of judgment in the absence of contrary evidence, the case still remains before the trial court which should then proceed to hear and receive the defendant’s evidence so that all the facts and evidence of the contending parties may be properly placed before it for adjudication as well as before the appellate courts, in case of appeal.  Nothing is lost.  The doctrine is but in line with the established procedural precepts in the conduct of trials that the trial court liberally receive all proffered evidence at the trial to enable it to render its decision with all possibly relevant proofs in the record, thus assuring that the appellate courts upon appeal have all the material before them necessary to make a correct judgment, and avoiding the need of remanding the case for retrial or reception of improperly excluded evidence, with the possibility thereafter of still another appeal, with all the concomitant delays.  The rule, however, imposes the condition by the same token that if his demurrer is granted by the trial court, and the order of dismissal is reversed on appeal, the movant losses his right to present evidence in his behalf and he shall have been deemed to have elected to stand on the insufficiency of plaintiff’s case and evidence.  In such event, the appellate court which reverses the order of dismissal shall proceed to render judgment on the merits on the basis of plaintiff’s evidence.”  (Underscoring supplied)

In other words, defendants who present a demurrer to the plaintiff’s evidence retain the right to present their own evidence, if the trial court disagrees with them; if the trial court agrees with them, but on appeal, the appellate court disagrees with both of them and reverses the dismissal order, the defendants lose the right to present their own evidence.[16] The appellate court shall, in addition, resolve the case and render judgment on the merits, inasmuch as a demurrer aims to discourage prolonged litigations.[17]

In the case at bar, the trial court, acting on respondents’ demurrer to evidence, dismissed the Complaint on the ground that the plaintiff had adduced mere hearsay evidence.  However, on appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court because the genuineness and the due execution of the disputed pieces of evidence had in fact been admitted by defendants.

Applying Rule 33, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Court, the CA should have rendered judgment on the basis of the evidence submitted by the petitioner.  While the appellate court correctly ruled that “the documentary evidence submitted by the [petitioner] should have been allowed and appreciated xxx,” and that “the petitioner presented quite a number of documentary exhibits xxx enumerated in the appealed order,”[18] we agree with petitioner that the CA had sufficient evidence on record to decide the collection suit.  A remand is not only frowned upon by the Rules, it is also logically unnecessary on the basis of the facts on record.

Due and Demandable Obligation

Petitioner claims that respondents are liable for the whole amount of their debt and the interest thereon, after they defaulted on the monthly installments.

Respondents, on the other hand, counter that the installments were not yet due and demandable.  Petitioner had allegedly allowed them to apply their promotion services for its financing business as payment of the Promissory Note.  This was supposedly evidenced by the blank space left for the date on which the installments should have commenced.[19] In other words, respondents theorize that the action for immediate enforcement of their obligation is premature because its fulfillment is dependent on the sole will of the debtor.  Hence, they consider that the proper court should first fix a period for payment, pursuant to Articles 1180 and 1197 of the Civil Code.

This contention is untenable.  The act of leaving blank the due date of the first installment did not necessarily mean that the debtors were allowed to pay as and when they could.  If this was the intention of the parties, they should have so indicated in the Promissory Note.  However, it did not reflect any such intention.

On the contrary, the Note expressly stipulated that the debt should be amortized monthly in installments of P11,579 for twelve consecutive months.  While the specific date on which each installment would be due was left blank, the Note clearly provided that each installment should be payable each month.

Furthermore, it also provided for an acceleration clause and a late payment penalty, both of which showed the intention of the parties that the installments should be paid at a definite date.  Had they intended that the debtors could pay as and when they could, there would have been no need for these two clauses.

Verily, the contemporaneous and subsequent acts of the parties manifest their intention and knowledge that the monthly installments would be due and demandable each month.[20] In this case, the conclusion that the installments had already became due and demandable is bolstered by the fact that respondents started paying installments on the Promissory Note, even if the checks were dishonored by their drawee bank.  We are convinced neither by their avowals that the obligation had not yet matured nor by their claim that a period for payment should be fixed by a court.

Convincingly, petitioner has established not only a cause of action against the respondents, but also a due and demandable obligation.  The obligation of the respondents had matured and they clearly defaulted when their checks bounced.  Per the acceleration clause, the whole debt became due one month (April 2, 1991) after the date of the Note because the check representing their first installment bounced.

As for the disputed documents submitted by the petitioner, the CA ruling in favor of their admissibility, which was not challenged by the respondents, stands.  A party who did not appeal cannot obtain affirmative relief other than that granted in the appealed decision.[21]

It should be stressed that respondents do not contest the amount of the principal obligation.  Their liability as expressly stated in the Promissory Note and found by the CA is “P13[8],948.00[22] which is payable in twelve (12) installments at P11,579.00 a month for twelve (12) consecutive months.” As correctly found by the CA, the "ambiguity" in the Promissory Note is clearly attributable to human error.[23]

Petitioner, in its Complaint, prayed for “14% interest per annum from May 6, 1993 until fully paid.” We disagree.  The Note already stipulated a late payment penalty of 2.5 percent monthly to be added to each unpaid installment until fully paid.  Payment of interest was not expressly stipulated in the Note.  Thus, it should be deemed included in such penalty.

In addition, the Note also provided that the debtors would be liable for attorney’s fees equivalent to 25 percent of the amount due in case a legal action was instituted and 10 percent of the same amount as liquidated damages.  Liquidated damages, however, should no longer be imposed for being unconscionable.[24] Such damages should also be deemed included in the 2.5 percent monthly penalty.  Furthermore, we hold that petitioner is entitled to attorney’s fees, but only in a sum equal to 10 percent of the amount due which we deem reasonable under the proven facts.[25]

The Court deems it improper to discuss respondents' claim for moral and other damages.  Not having appealed the CA Decision, they are not entitled to affirmative relief, as already explained earlier.[26]

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED.  The appealed Decision is MODIFIED in that the remand is SET ASIDE and respondents are ordered TO PAY P138,948, plus 2.5 percent penalty charge per month beginning April 2, 1991 until fully paid, and 10 percent of the amount due as attorney’s fees.  No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Jurisprudence: G.R. No. 157216. November 20, 2003

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 157216.  November 20, 2003

246 Corporation, doing business under the name and style of ROLEX MUSIC LOUNGE, petitioner, vs. hon. Reynaldo b. daway, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 90 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, MONTRES ROLEX S.A. and ROLEX CENTRE PHIL. LIMITED, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure assailing the November 28, 2002 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 64660 which dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioner, as well as the Resolution[2] dated February 13, 2003 denying its motion for reconsideration.

The undisputed facts show that on November 26, 1998, respondents Montres Rolex S.A. and Rolex Centre Phil., Limited, owners/proprietors of Rolex and Crown Device, filed against petitioner 246 Corporation the instant suit for trademark infringement and damages with prayer for the issuance of a restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction[3] before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 90.  Respondents alleged that sometime in July 1996, petitioner adopted and, since then, has been using without authority the mark “Rolex” in its business name “Rolex Music Lounge” as well as in its newspaper advertisements as – “Rolex Music Lounge, KTV, Disco & Party Club.”

In its answer raising special affirmative defenses, petitioner argued that respondents have no cause of action because no trademark infringement exist; that no confusion would arise from the use by petitioner of the mark “Rolex” considering that its entertainment business is totally unrelated to the items catered by respondents such as watches, clocks, bracelets and parts thereof.  It also contended that the complaint was not properly verified and certified against forum shopping considering that Atty. Alonzo Ancheta, the counsel of record of respondents who signed the verification and certification, was not authorized to represent respondents.[4]

On July 21, 2000, petitioner filed a motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defenses.[5] Subsequently, on motion of petitioner, the trial court issued a subpoena ad testificandum requiring Atty. Alonzo Ancheta to appear at the preliminary hearing.[6] Respondents, in the meantime, filed a Comment and Opposition[7] to the motion for preliminary hearing and a motion to quash the subpoena ad testificandum.

In an Order dated October 27, 2000, the trial court quashed the subpoena ad testificandum and denied petitioner’s motion for preliminary hearing on affirmative defenses with motion to dismiss.[8]

With the denial of the motion for reconsideration on March 16, 2001, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals contending that the trial court gravely abused its discretion in issuing the October 27, 2000 and March 16, 2001 orders.

On November 28, 2002, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition.  The motion for reconsideration filed by petitioner was denied.  Hence, the instant petition anchored on the following grounds:

I

IN ISSUING THE ASSAILED DECISIONS, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PERFUNCTORILY BRUSHED ASIDE THE CONTROLLING PRECEDENTS LAID DOWN BY THIS HONORABLE COURT IN ESSO STANDARD EASTERN, INC. VS. COURT OF APPEALS AND UNITED CIGARETTE CORPORATION AND OTHER COMPANION CASES HOLDING THAT NO TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT CAN POSSIBLY OCCUR WHERE THE CONTENDING PARTIES DEAL WITH GOODS AND SERVICES THAT ARE TOTALLY UNRELATED AND NON-COMPETING WITH EACH OTHER.

II

IN ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY RULING THAT THE ISSUES RAISED IN PETITIONER’S CERTIORARI PETITION ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED NOT ONLY PETITIONERS SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS BUT ALSO THE WELL-SETTLED RULE THAT THE ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT IS HYPOTHETICALLY ADMITTED WHEN THE MOTION TO DISMISS IS GROUNDED UPON LACK OF CAUSE OF ACTION.  MOREOVER, INDEPENDENT OF THE HYPOTHETICALLY ADMITTED FACTS EMBODIED IN THE COMPLAINT A QUO, THERE ARE SELF-EVIDENT FACTS AND IMPLIEDLY ADMITTED FACTS CONTAINED IN PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ PLEADINGS THAT WOULD CLEARLY AND UNMISTAKABLY SHOW PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ LACK OF CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST HEREIN PETITIONER.

III

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED PETITIONER’S RIGHT TO SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS WHEN IT ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY RULED THAT WHAT WAS SPECIFICALLY DENIED IN THE ASSAILED OCTOBER 20, 2000 ORDER IS PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY HEARING ON DEFENDANT’S AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES AND NOT PETITIONER’S MOTION TO DISMISS PER SE CONSIDERING THAT:

A.    THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THE ORDER DATED OCTOBER 20, 2000 OF RESPONDENT JUDGE WHICH SUGGESTS THAT THE RESOLUTION OF PETITIONER’S MOTION TO DISMISS PER SE WAS HELD IN ABEYANCE BY THE RESPONDENT JUDGE.  HENCE THE SAID ORDER DATED OCTOBER 20, 2000 ALSO CONSTITUTES A DENIAL ON THE MERITS OF PETITIONER’S MOTION TO DISMISS PER SE AND NOT MERELY OF PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY HEARING THEREON.

B.    PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ COMMENT AND OPPOSITION DATED 11 AUGUST 2000, WHICH WAS CITED AND SUSTAINED BY RESPONDENT JUDGE, CLEARLY TRAVERSED THE MERITS OF THE GROUNDS FOR PETITIONER’S MOTION TO DISMISS PER SE.  HENCE, THE SAID 20 OCTOBER 2000 ORDER’S DENIAL OF PETITIONER’S MOTION IS NOT LIMITED TO THE MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY HEARING BUT ALSO CONSTITUTES A DENIAL OF PETITIONER’S MOTION TO DISMISS PER SE.

IV

IN ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY RULING THAT ATTY. ALONZO ANCHETA PROPERLY VERIFIED AND CERTIFIED PRIVATE RESPONDENTS’ COMPLAINT A QUO, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED NOT ONLY PETITIONER’S SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS, BUT ALSO THE DOCTRINE OF SEPARATE CORPORATE PERSONALITY; CONSIDERING THAT THE RECORDS OF THIS CASE IS (sic) COMPLETELY BEREFT AND DEVOID OF ANY DULY EXECUTED SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY, EMANATING FROM PRIVATE RESPONDENTS, WHICH EXPLICITLY AND SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZES ATTY. ALONZO ANCHETA TO REPRESENT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS MONTRES ROLEX S.A. IN THE FILING OF THE COMPLAINT A QUO. BY REASON THEREOF, PRIVATE RESPONDENTS COULD NOT BE DEEMED TO HAVE VOLUNTARILY APPEARED BEFORE THE RESPONDENT JUDGE; CONSEQUENTLY, THE TRIAL COURT COULD NOT HAVE VALIDLY ACQUIRED JURISDICTION OVER THE PERSON OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS.

V

IN ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY AFFIRMING RESPONDENT JUDGE’S QUASHAL OF THE SUBPOENA DATED 14 AUGUST 2000 DIRECTED AGAINST ATTY. ALONZO ANCHETA, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED NOT ONLY PETITIONER’S SUBSTANTIVE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS, BUT ALSO SECTION 9, RULE 132 AND SECTION 7 RULE 133 OF THE 1989 REVISED RULES ON EVIDENCE, AND THE RULING OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN THE CASE OF PEOPLE VS. RIVERA.[9]

Simply put, the issues are as follows – (1) whether the trial court denied not only petitioner’s motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defenses but its motion to dismiss as well; (2) if the answer is in the affirmative, whether or not the trial court gravely abused its discretion in denying said motions; and (3) whether the trial court gravely abused its discretion in quashing the subpoena ad testificandum issued against Atty. Ancheta.

Anent the first issue, we find that what was denied in the order dated October 27, 2000 was not only the motion for preliminary hearing but the motion to dismiss as well.  A reading of the dispositive portion of said order shows that the trial court neither qualified its denial nor held in abeyance the ruling on petitioner’s motion to dismiss thus –

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the aforecited Motion To Quash Subpoena Ad Testificandum is granted; and the aforecited Motion For Preliminary Hearing On Defendant’s Affirmative Defenses With Motion To dismiss The Instant Complaint Based On Said Affirmative Defenses is denied.[10] (Emphasis supplied)

In issuing the assailed order, the trial court ruled on the merits of petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss vis-à-vis respondents’ Comment and Opposition which clearly traversed the affirmative defenses raised by petitioner, to wit:

After carefully going over the pleadings, this Court finds, on the first motion that the arguments raised in the said motion and the reply filed in connection thereto appear to be meritorious; and on the second motion, that the arguments raised in the comments and opposition and the rejoinder filed by the plaintiffs likewise appear to be meritorious.[11]

Moreover, it is presumed that all matters within an issue raised in a case were passed upon by the court.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption is that the court a quo discharged its task properly.[12]

In Municipality of Biñan Laguna v. Court of Appeals,[13] decided under the old Rules of Civil Procedure, it was held that a preliminary hearing permitted under Rule 16, Section 5, is not mandatory even when the same is prayed for.  It rests largely on the sound discretion of the trial court, thus –

SEC. 5.  Pleading grounds as affirmative defenses. — Any of the grounds for dismissal provided for in this Rule, except improper venue, may be pleaded as an affirmative defense, and a preliminary hearing may be had thereon as if a motion to dismiss had been filed. (Emphasis supplied)

The use of the word "may" in the aforequoted provision shows that such a hearing is not a matter of right demandable from the trial court; it is not mandatory but discretionary.  “May” is an auxiliary verb indicating liberty, opportunity, permission and possibility.[14]  Such interpretation is specifically stated under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.  Rule 16, Section 6, now provides that a grant of a preliminary hearing rests on the sound discretion of the court, to wit –

SEC. 6. Pleading grounds as affirmative defenses.— If no motion to dismiss has been filed, any of the grounds for dismissal provided for in this Rule may be pleaded as an affirmative defense in the answer and, in the discretion of the court, a preliminary hearing may be had thereon as if a motion to dismiss had been filed.  (Emphasis supplied)

In the case at bar, the Court of Appeals did not err in finding that no abuse of discretion could be ascribed to the trial court’s denial of petitioner’s motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defenses with motion to dismiss.  The issue of whether or not a trademark infringement exists, is a question of fact that could best be determined by the trial court.

Under the old Trademark Law[15] where the goods for which the identical marks are used are unrelated, there can be no likelihood of confusion and there is therefore no infringement in the use by the junior user of the registered mark on the entirely different goods.[16]  This ruling, however, has been to some extent, modified by Section 123.1(f) of the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act No. 8293), which took effect on January 1, 1998.  The said section reads:

Sec. 123.  Registrability. – 123.1.  A mark cannot be registered if it:

x x x            x x x     x x x

(f)      Is identical with, or confusingly similar to, or constitutes a translation of a mark considered well-known in accordance with the preceding paragraph, which is registered in the Philippines with respect to goods or services which are not similar to those with respect to which registration is applied for: Provided, That use of the mark in relation to those goods or services would indicate a connection between those goods or services, and the owner of the registered mark: Provided, further, That the interest of the owner of the registered mark are likely to be damaged by such use; (Emphasis supplied)

A junior user of a well-known mark on goods or services which are not similar to the goods or services, and are therefore unrelated, to those specified in the certificate of registration of the well-known mark is precluded from using the same on the entirely unrelated goods or services, subject to the following requisites, to wit:

1.       The mark is well-known internationally and in the Philippines.  Under Rule 102 of the Rules and Regulations on Trademarks, Service Marks, Trade Names and Marked or Stamped Containers,[17] in determining whether a mark is well known, the following criteria or any combination thereof may be taken into account:

(a)          the duration, extent and geographical area of any use of the mark, in particular, the duration, extent and geographical area of any promotion of the mark, including advertising or publicity and presentation, at fairs or exhibitions, of the goods and/or services to which the mark applies;

(b)          the market share in the Philippines and in other countries, of the goods and/or services to which the mark applies;

(c)          the degree of the inherent or acquired distinction of the mark;

(d)          the quality-image or reputation acquired by the mark;

(e)          the extent to which the mark has been registered in the world;

(f)           the exclusivity of the registration attained by the mark in the world;

(g)          the extent to which the mark has been used in the world;

(h)          the exclusivity of use attained by the mark in the world;

(i)           the commercial value attributed to the mark in the world;

(j)           the record of successful protection of the rights in the mark;

(k)          the outcome of litigations dealing with the issue of whether the mark is a well-known mark; and

(l)           the presence of absence of identical or similar marks validly registered for or used on identical or similar goods or services and owned by persons other than the person claiming that his mark is a well-known mark.

2.       The use of the well-known mark on the entirely unrelated goods or services would indicate a connection between such unrelated goods or services and those goods or services specified in the certificate of registration in the well known mark.  This requirement refers to the likelihood of confusion of origin or business or some business connection or relationship between the registrant and the user of the mark.

3.       The interests of the owner of the well-known mark are likely to be damaged.  For instance, if the registrant will be precluded from expanding its business to those unrelated good or services, or if the interests of the registrant of the well-known mark will be damaged because of the inferior quality of the good or services of the user.[18]

Section 123.1(f) is clearly in point because the Music Lounge of petitioner is entirely unrelated to respondents’ business involving watches, clocks, bracelets, etc.  However, the Court cannot yet resolve the merits of the present controversy considering that the requisites for the application of Section 123.1(f), which constitute the kernel issue at bar, clearly require determination facts of which need to be resolved at the trial court.  The existence or absence of these requisites should be addressed in a full blown hearing and not on a mere preliminary hearing.  The respondent must be given ample opportunity to prove its claim, and the petitioner to debunk the same.

The same is true with respect to the issue of whether Atty. Alonzo Ancheta was properly authorized to sign the verification and certification against forum shopping in behalf of respondents.  This could be properly resolved during the trial together with the substantive issues raised by petitioner.

Considering that the trial court correctly denied petitioner’s motion for preliminary hearing on its affirmative defenses with motion to dismiss, there exists no reason to compel Atty. Ancheta to testify.  Hence, no abuse of discretion was committed by the trial court in quashing the subpoena ad testificandum issued against Atty. Ancheta.

Grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.  None of these was committed by the trial court; hence, the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed the petition.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition for review on certiorari filed by petitioner is DENIED.   The November 28, 2002 Decision and the February 13, 2003 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 64660 which dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioner are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Panganiban, Carpio and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

IPL Case Digest: 246 Corporation v. Daway G.R. No. 157216. November 20, 2003

246 Corporation v. Daway

G.R. No. 157216  November 20, 2003

Lessons Applicable: Jurisdiction of Trial court, special affirmative defences on infringement

Laws Applicable:

FACTS:
•    Montres Rolex S.A. and Rolex Centre Phil., Limited, owners/proprietors of Rolex and Crown Device, filed against 246 Corporation the instant suit for trademark infringement and damages with prayer for the issuance of a restraining order or writ of preliminary injunctionbefore the RTC of QC
o    July 1996: 246 adopted and , since then, has been using without authority the mark “Rolex” in its business name “Rolex Music Lounge” as well as in its newspaper advertisements as “Rolex Music Lounge, KTV, Disco & Party Club.”
•    246 answered special affirmative defences: no confusion would arise from the use by petitioner of the mark “Rolex” considering that its entertainment business is totally unrelated to the items catered by respondents such as watches, clocks, bracelets and parts thereof
•    RTC: quashed the subpoena ad testificandum and denied petitioner’s motion for preliminary hearing on affirmative defenses with motion to dismiss
•    CA: affirmed

ISSUE: W/N RTC performed a grave abuse of discretion

HELD: NO. petition denied. RTC affirmed
•    The issue of whether or not a trademark infringement exists, is a question of fact that could best be determined by the trial court.
•    Section 123.1(f) of the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act No. 8293)
o    (f)      Is identical with, or confusingly similar to, or constitutes a translation of a mark considered well-known in accordance with the preceding paragraph, which is registered in the Philippines with respect to goods or services which are not similar to those with respect to which registration is applied for: Provided, That use of the mark in relation to those goods or services would indicate a connection between those goods or services, and the owner of the registered mark: Provided, further, That the interest of the owner of the registered mark are likely to be damaged by such use
•    Section 123.1(f) is clearly in point because the Music Lounge of petitioner is entirely unrelated to respondents’ business involving watches, clocks, bracelets, etc.  However, the Court cannot yet resolve the merits of the present controversy considering that the requisites for the application of Section 123.1(f), which constitute the kernel issue at bar, clearly require determination facts of which need to be resolved at the trial court.  The existence or absence of these requisites should be addressed in a full blown hearing and not on a mere preliminary hearing.  The respondent must be given ample opportunity to prove its claim, and the petitioner to debunk the same.

Jurisprudence: G.R. No. 172966 February 8, 2007


SECOND DIVISION

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES  vs. EUGENIO PILIIN y GARCIA

G.R. No. 172966             February 8, 2007

Tinga, J.:

          For automatic review is the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals dated   31 March 2006, affirming with modification the Regional Trial Court’s (RTC’s) Decision[2] convicting Eugenio Piliin (appellant) for the crime of murder.

On 1 December 1997, an Information[3] for murder of Rodrigo Zayenis (Rodrigo) was filed against appellant, Alex Yu (Yu) and Giovanni Caballes (Caballes)  before the RTC of Siniloan, Laguna.  It reads:

That on or about 7:20 in the evening of November 19, 1997 at Jose Rizal St., Municipality of Siniloan, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused EUGENIO PILIIN, while conveniently armed with a Cal. 38 Revolver (paltic) handgun, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping with the other accused, Alex A. Yu and Giovanni E. Caballes, who acted as lookouts, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation and the commission of the crime was committed during nighttime, in consideration of a price, reward and promise and in disregard of the respect due to the offended party/victim, being an Assisstant Provincial Prosecutor of Laguna, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot and hit RODRIGO B. ZAYENIS on the head, thereby inflicting upon the victim fatal gunshot wou[n]d which caused his instantaneous death, to the damage and prejudice of his surviving heirs.

That the [qualifying] and aggravating circumstances of treachery, evident premeditation, and the crime was committed during [nighttime], were all present.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The three accused pleaded not guilty.  Thereafter, upon motion of the prosecution, this Court ordered a change of venue and the case was transferred to Branch 275 of RTC Las Piñas.[4]

During the trial that ensued, the prosecution sought to establish the following facts.  On 19 November 1997, at around 7:20 p.m., Rodrigo, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Laguna,  arrived  at  the  gate of his house in Siniloan, Laguna, aboard an owner-type jeep he was driving. His wife, Norma Zayenis (Norma), who was inside the house at the time, went out to open the gate. When Rodrigo was about to park his jeep, a man, later identified as appellant, suddenly approached him, poked his gun, and fired at him, hitting the left side of his neck.  Rodrigo fell unconscious and the man quickly ran away.[5]  Rodrigo was initially brought to two (2) hospitals in Laguna, but for reasons not appearing on record, he was refused admission. He was then brought to St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City, where he fell into coma and succumbed to a gunshot wound.[6]

          The police received a tip from an informant that three persons were involved in the shooting incident, two of whom acted as lookouts.  Appellant was invited for questioning in connection with a carnapped tricycle.  He later confessed to the killing of Rodrigo and implicated Yu and Caballes as his co-perpetrators.  He also identified the house at Libis ng Nayon Resort, Bgy. Paagahan, Mabitac, Laguna where the firearm used was kept. The police proceeded to the resort and found Yu and Caballes sleeping inside a room. They were apprehended.  The police also recovered the firearm, a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson, on the bedside.[7]  

          A paraffin test was conducted and appellant was found positive for gun powder nitrates.[8]

           During the custodial investigation, the three (3) accused executed three (3) separate extra-judicial confessions,[9] admitting their complicity in the killing of Rodrigo.

       

          On 24 November 1997, a criminal complaint[10] was filed before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Siniloan Famy, Laguna.  A preliminary investigation was conducted.  In a Resolution[11] dated 27 November 1997, Judge Solemnidad Evasco-Urriza forwarded the case to the Office of the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor for the filing of the corresponding information.

          The evidence of the defense consisted of the testimonies of the three (3) accused who denied knowing the victim Rodrigo, much less their involvement in the crime.   They each interposed alibi as their defense.

          Appellant claimed that he was at the “peryahan” in Bgy. San Miguel, Mabitac, Laguna in the evening of 19 November 1997.  He allegedly  arrived  at  around  7:15 p.m.  and  went home at 10:00 p.m.

An hour later, his grandfather asked him to go to the Barangay Hall and answer questions about a missing tricycle.  When he returned home, the police went to his house at 2:00 a.m. and asked him again about the tricycle.  He was then brought to the Municipal Hall of Famy, Laguna and detained.  At 5:30 a.m., he was transferred to the detention cell in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.  Three (3) hours after, he was brought to the provincial hospital for examination.  When he returned to the detention cell, he was then asked to sign a document.  When he refused to sign, he was mauled by two (2) policemen.  He was then forced to sign the document.[12]

          Yu was allegedly on duty as a lifeguard of a resort owned by Tirso dela Cruz on 19 November 1997.  His shift ended at 7:00 p.m. after which he ate dinner and went to sleep.  At around 5:00 a.m., he was arrested by police operatives on charge of carnapping.  Upon reaching the Sta. Cruz police station, he was asked to sign a document in exchange for his release.  After signing, the policemen informed Yu that he was a suspect in the murder of Rodrigo.  He was likewise brought to the hospital for examination and brought back to his detention cell.[13]

          Caballes narrated that he and his brother, Alvin, were sleeping at Yu’s house at around 7:20 p.m. on 19 November 1997. Upon waking up the following day, he saw Alvin being invited by the police

officers for questioning.  He then volunteered to accompany Alvin.  While in the precinct, he was asked to write his name on a blank sheet of paper.  Caballes, together with Yu, was brought to the hospital and then transferred to the detention cell in Sta. Cruz and eventually to the Provincial Jail.[14]

After trial, appellant was found guilty for murder.  The two other accused, Yu and Caballes were acquitted for insufficiency of evidence.  The trial court considered the extrajudicial confessions of the three accused as inadmissible on the ground that they were not adequately informed of their constitutional right to engage a counsel of their own choice.[15]  The court a quo nevertheless found that the prosecution evidence is sufficient to convict appellant.  It relied on the testimony of the widow, Norma, who positively identified appellant as the one who shot her husband.  The trial court appreciated the qualifying and aggravating circumstances of treachery, evident premeditation and nighttime in sentencing appellant to the penalty of death for the crime of murder.

The records of this case were originally transmitted to this Court on automatic review. However, pursuant to the ruling in People v. Mateo,[16] this Court issued a Resolution[17] dated 24 August 2004 transferring the case to the Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the appellate court rendered judgment affirming the RTC decision, with modification that the death penalty be reduced to reclusion perpetua.  The fallo of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City (Branch 275) is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that (i) the death penalty imposed on accused-appellant Eugenio Piliin is lowered to reclusion perpetual; (ii) the award of moral damages and civil indemnity is reduced to P50,000.00 each; and (iii) accused-appellant Eugenio Piliin is ordered to pay to the heirs of the deceased Rodrigo B. Zayenis the sum of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.[18]

The appellate court ruled out the aggravating circumstance of nighttime when it modified the sentence to reclusion perpetua in accordance with Article 63(2) of the Revised Penal Code.

The two issues presented before us are: (1) whether the trial court erred in convicting appellant of murder and (2) whether the trial court erred in disregarding appellant’s defense of alibi.  The Office of the Solicitor General, in behalf of the People, did not contest before this Court the non-appreciation of nighttime as an aggravating circumstance.

          Appellant argues that the prosecution failed to establish the existence  of  treachery.   According  to appellant, the witness failed to

see the inception of the attack because she was in the act of opening the gate for her husband when the latter was shot.  She lacked knowledge of the attending circumstances prior to the shooting incident.  Hence, the trial court’s finding of treachery becomes speculative.[19]

          The conviction of appellant, as well as the appreciation of treachery, was based on the testimony of Norma, an eyewitness to the shooting of her husband.  We reiterate the rule that factual findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are binding on us.  The trial court’s evaluation of the testimonies of witnesses is accorded great respect because it had the opportunity to observe the demeanor and conduct of witnesses on the stand.[20]

The trial court properly appreciated the presence of the qualifying circumstance of treachery.  There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in their execution, without risk to himself arising from the defenses which the offended party might make.[21]  To establish treachery, two elements must concur: (1) that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the particular means of attack employed.[22]  The essence of treachery is the unexpected and sudden attack on the victim which renders the latter unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the attack.[23]  Appellant’s wife witnessed the incident from its inception up to its consummation. She testified:

Q-        Madam Witness, at about 7:20 in the evening of November 19, 1997, do you recall where were you then?

A-        I was inside our house and I went out of the house to open our gate, Sir.

Q-        When was that?

A-        More or less 7:20 in the evening.

Q-        What was the reason why you went outside to open the gate?

A-        Because my husband will enter our gate and park his jeep inside.

Q-        Who is your husband?

A-        Fiscal Rodrigo B. Zayenis, Sir.

Q-        And while you were then opening your gate, do you remember what happened next, if any?

A-        My husband was on the act of parking his jeepney when one person suddenly arrived holding a gun.

Q-        What happened next when you noticed one person suddenly appeared?

A-        That person, Sir, who appeared approached my husband and poked his gun and fired at him.

Q-        What happened to your husband when this person shot your husband?

A-        He lost consciousness, and I ran towards him to help him.

Q-        Do you know where was your husband hit?  What part of his body, if you remember?

A-        On the left side. (Witness pointing on her left neck).

Q-        How many times did this man shot [sic] your husband?

A-        As far as I can remember, one (1) shot.

Q-        After this man shot your husband, what did this man do?

A-        He ran away.[24]

In this case, the victim was about to park his car when appellant suddenly appeared and shot him without any warning.  The attack was so sudden that the latter had no opportunity to repel it or defend himself.  It can readily be inferred that the manner of the attack adopted by appellant manifested treachery.  Furthermore, as correctly observed by the Solicitor General, the weapon used and the nature of the injury inflicted, which pertained to the lone gunshot fatally wounding appellant, established that appellant deliberately and consciously adopted the particular mode of attack to ensure the commission of the offense with impunity.

  Appellant insists that he was in Barangay San Miguel, Mabitac, Laguna from 7:20 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., while the shooting incident took place in Siniloan, Laguna at 7:20 p.m.  It was physically impossible for him to have been present in Siniloan, which is seven (7) kilometers away from Mabitac.  The Solicitor General maintains that alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the witness, who does not show any ill-motive on her part to testify falsely.  He further asserts that it was not physically impossible for appellant to be at the scene of the crime.

The appellate court correctly rejected the defense of alibi set up by appellant. For alibi to be credible, the accused must not only prove his presence at another place at the time of the commission of the offense but must also demonstrate that it would be physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene at that time.[25]  In the case at bar, appellant claims that he was in Mabitac, which was seven (7) kilometers away from the locus criminis. The appellate court noted that it was not impossible for appellant to traverse this distance. Moreover, his alibi is uncorroborated.  Alibi is a weak defense in light of the positive identification by an eyewitness to the offense.[26]  Norma categorically identified appellant as the man who shot her husband.  She testified, thus:

FISCAL MANGROBANG:

Q-         Madam Witness, did you recognize who was the man who shot your husband during that particular date and time?

A-        Yes, sir.  I was able to recognize the face of the man.

Q-        Would you describe the lighting condition at that time when this man shot your husband?

A-        It was properly lighted because there was light from the bakery and from the post.

Q-        How far were you from this man who shot your husband?

A-        More or less two (2) meters.



Q-        Would you describe this man which you saw who shot your husband?

A-        He is fair complexion[ed] with short hair and with [a] moustache.



Q-        If you see again this man who shot your husband, would you be able to recognize him?

A-        Yes, sir.



Q-        Will you please look around and point to him?

A-        He is Eugenio Piliin. (Witness points to a man who stands up and identified himself to be Eugenio Piliin).[27]

 There is no showing that she has ill motive to testify falsely against appellant. On the contrary, her relationship to the victim strengthens her credibility, for it is unnatural for an aggrieved relative to falsely accuse someone other than the actual culprit. Their natural interest in securing the conviction of the guilty would deter them from implicating a person other than the true offender.[28]

WHEREFORE,  the  decision  of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of EUGENIO PILIIN y GARCIA of the crime of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua, as well as ordering him to pay  to  the heirs of  Rodrigo  Zayenis   P50,000.00  as

indemnity for death, P50,000.00 for moral damages, and P25,000.00 for exemplary damages, is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Crim Law 1 Case Digest: People v. Piliin

People v. Piliin
G.R. No. 172966  February 8, 2007

Lesson Applicable: treachery, aggravating circumstance of nighttime,



FACTS:

·         November 19, 1997 7:20 pm: Rodrigo, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Laguna,  arrived at the gate of his house in Siniloan, Laguna, driving his owner-type jeep. His wife, Norma Zayenis went out to open the gate. As he was about to park, Piliin suddenly approached him, poked his gun, and fired at him, hitting the left side of his neck.  Rodrigo fell unconscious and the man quickly ran away

·         Rodrigo was brought to 2 hospitals in Laguna, but was refused admission so he was brought to St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City, where he fell into coma and succumbed to a gunshot wound.

·         The police received a tip from an informant that 3 persons were involved in the shooting incident, 2 of whom acted as lookouts.  Piliin was invited for questioning in connection with a carnapped tricycle.  He later confessed to the killing of Rodrigo and implicated Yu and Caballes as his co-perpetrators.  He also identified the house at Libis ng Nayon Resort, Laguna where the firearm used was kept . The police proceeded to the resort and apprehended Yu and Caballes who were sleeping inside a room and also recovered a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson on the bedside.  Paraffin test on Piliin was positive for gun powder nitrates.

·         Norma positively identified Piliin as the one who shot her husband

·         Piliin’s Alibi: November 19, 1997 7:15 p.m, he was at the “peryahan” in Bgy. San Miguel, Mabitac, Laguna and went home at 10:00 pm.  At 11:00 pm, his grandfather asked him to go to the barangay hall to answer the questions of the police about . When he returned home, the police went to his house at 2:00 a.m. and brought him to the Municipal hall.  At 5:30 am, he was transferred to the detention cell in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. 3 hours after, he was brought to the provincial hospital for examination.  When he returned to the detention cell, he was then asked to sign a document.  He was mauled and forced to sign the document.

·         Yu’s alibi: His shift as a lifeguard of a resort owned by Tirso dela Cruz on ended November 19, 1997 7:00 pm so he ate dinner and went to sleep.  At 5:00 am, he was arrested on charge of carnapping.  Upon reaching the Sta. Cruz police station, he was asked to sign a document in exchange for his release.  After signing, the policemen informed him that he was a suspect in the murder of Rodrigo.  He was brought to the hospital for examination and brought back to his detention cell.

·         Caballes’ Alibi: He and his brother, Alvin, slept at Yu’s house. Upon waking up on November 20, 1997, he saw Alvin being invited by the police officers for questioningso he volunteered to accompany Alvin.  While in the precinct, he was asked to write his name on a blank sheet of paper.  Then together with Yu, he was brought to the hospital and then transferred to the detention cell in Sta. Cruz.

·         RTC:  Piliin guilty for murder. Yu and Caballes were acquitted for insufficiency of evidence.  Extrajudicial confessions were inadmissible on the ground that they were not adequately informed of their constitutional right to engage a counsel of their own choice.  Appreciated the qualifying and aggravating circumstances of treachery, evident premeditation and nighttime in sentencing appellant to the penalty of death for the crime of murder.

·         CA: Affirmed RTC but ruled out the aggravating circumstance of nighttime

·         Piliin argues that the prosecution failed to establish the existence  of treachery because Norma was in the act of opening the gate for her husband when the latter was shot.  She lacked knowledge of the attending circumstances prior to the shooting incident.

ISSUE: W/N there is treachery

HELD: YES. CA Affirmed.

·         There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in their execution, without risk to himself arising from the defenses which the offended party might make.

·         To establish treachery, 2 elements must concur:

    (1) that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself

§  He suddenly appeared and shot him without any warning so Rodrigo had no opportunity to repel it or defend himself

    (2) that the offender consciously adopted the particular means of attack employed

§  weapon used and the nature of the injury inflicted, which pertained to the lone gunshot fatally wounding Rodrigo, established that Piliin deliberately and consciously adopted the particular mode of attack to ensure the commission of the offense with impunity

·         The essence of treachery is the unexpected and sudden attack on the victim which renders the latter unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the attack

·         Norma witnessed the incident from its inception up to its consummation

Jurisprudence: G.R. NO. 168100 November 20, 2007

Second division

People of the Philippines v. Mateo Daleba, Jr.

G.R. NO.  168100          November 20, 2007



CARPIO, J.:

         This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated 19 April 2005 of the Court of Appeals affirming with modification the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 116 (trial court), finding appellant Mateo Daleba, Jr. (appellant) guilty of Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

         Around noon of 18 March 1997, appellant and the victim, Renato Angeles (Renato), “barkers” in a bus terminal in Pasay City, quarreled over the division of their earnings. A certain Edwin Bernarte (Bernarte) intervened and pacified appellant and Renato. Renato walked away and headed to his house which was near the terminal. For his part, appellant joined Bernarte’s group who had just taken their lunch nearby. Suddenly, appellant ran after Renato, pulled a knife from his waistline, held Renato’s shoulder by his left hand, slashed Renato on the right forearm and stabbed him at the back, above the right side of the waistline. Renato died that evening from the stab wound. Appellant, who had gone to his home province in Camarines Sur, was arrested four years after the stabbing incident.

         Appellant was charged before the trial court with Murder qualified by treachery and evident premeditation.[2]

         Appellant invoked self-defense, claiming that around noon of 18 March 1997, he went to the Pasay City bus terminal and, once inside,  Renato suddenly grabbed his neck, dragged him to the back of the terminal, and, using his right hand which also held a knife, repeatedly boxed appellant in the face. When appellant was able to free himself from Renato’s  hold, he grabbed a knife lying at a nearby table and stabbed Renato with it. Appellant also claimed that Renato had earlier assaulted him at around 9:00 a.m. of the same day.

         In a Decision dated 28 February 2002, the trial court found appellant guilty as charged, sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, and ordered him to pay P100,000 actual damages, P75,000 indemnity, and P165,000 for loss of Renato’s earning capacity. The trial court gave credence to the testimonies of Bernarte and another eyewitness, Federico Angeles (Federico), over the uncorroborated claims of appellant. The trial court also held that (1) the killing was qualified by treachery as appellant stabbed Renato at the back, while the latter was walking away; (2) evident premeditation did not attend the killing as appellant had no time to mull over his resolve to attack Renato; and (3) appellant’s flight should be taken against him as further evidence of guilt.

         Appellant appealed to this Court, contending that the trial court erred in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery since the quarrel which preceded the killing must have put Renato on-guard. Appellant pointed to the testimony of Dr. Ravell Ronald Baluyot (Dr. Baluyot), the physician who autopsied Renato, that the incised wound on Renato’s forearm was a defensive wound. Appellant also took exception to the trial court’s finding that his flight proves his guilt since he left for fear of retaliation from Renato’s father who was a policeman.

         Following the ruling in People v. Mateo,[3]  we transferred the case to the Court of Appeals.

         In its Decision dated 19 April 2005, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling except for the amount of the  indemnity which it lowered to P50,000. The Court of Appeals sustained the trial court’s finding of treachery because there was an interval after the time appellant and Renato quarreled until appellant stabbed Renato. On the import of appellant’s flight,  the Court of Appeals found merit in appellant’s claim that the same should not be taken against him as appellant feared retaliation from Renato’s policeman father.

         Hence, this appeal. In separate manifestations, the parties informed the Court that they are no longer filing supplemental briefs.

         We affirm the Court of Appeals’ ruling with the modification that appellant is further ordered to pay P25,000 as exemplary damages.

Since appellant invoked   self-defense, he effectively admitted committing the acts leading to Renato’s death albeit  under circumstances justifying its commission. Appellant bears the burden of proving such circumstances[4] and we sustain the lower courts’ findings that appellant  failed to discharge this burden as he did not prove the elements of self-defense.[5] As the trial court noted, appellant’s uncorroborated version of the events leading to Renato’s death strains credulity.  If, indeed,  Renato suddenly attacked appellant inside a bus terminal in broad daylight by grabbing him by the neck and dragging appellant towards the back of the terminal, the ensuing commotion would have attracted the attention of the people around them. Appellant does not explain why no one came to his rescue. In contrast, the testimonies of the prosecution’s two eyewitnesses dovetailed on how appellant, moments after quarreling with Renato, ran up to the latter and stabbed him from behind, just above the waistline.

We also find merit in the lower courts’ finding that treachery qualified  Renato’s killing. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense that the offended party might make.[6] This circumstance will be appreciated if  (1) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself and (2) the offender consciously adopted the form of attack he employed.[7]

Here, Renato was walking away from appellant with no inkling of what would soon befall him, when appellant stealthily came up behind Renato, held the latter’s shoulder, slashed his forearm and stabbed him just above the waistline. In People v. Delada, Jr.,[8] we held that treachery qualified the stabbing from behind of a victim who, minutes earlier, had quarreled with the assailant.

Regarding Dr. Baluyot’s testimony on the nature of the wound Renato sustained in his forearm, what Dr. Baluyot stated was that the same “maybe considered as defense [sic] wound.”[9]  The sketch of the wound[10] shows that it is located at the back of Renato’s right forearm, highlighting                 Dr. Baluyot’s ambivalent statement.

Consistent with prevailing jurisprudence, appellant must further pay the heirs of Renato exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.[11]

         WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the Decision dated 19 April 2005 of the Court of Appeals with the MODIFICATION that appellant Mateo Daleba, Jr. is further ordered to pay P25,000 as exemplary damages.

         SO ORDERED.

Crim Law 1 Case Digest: People v. Daleba

People v. Daleba
G.R. No.  168100   November 20, 2007

Lessons Applicable: Treachery, Evident Premeditation, Self-Defense, Murder

Laws Applicable:

FACTS:

    March 18, 1997: Renato Angeles and Mateo Daleba, Jr., “barkers” in a bus terminal in Pasay City, quarreled over the division of their earnings.  Edwin Bernarte intervened and pacified them. Renato walked away and headed to his house near the terminal. While, Daleba joined Bernarte’s group who had just taken their lunch nearby.   Suddenly, Daleba ran after Renato, pulled a knife from his waistline, held Renato’s shoulder by his left hand, slashed Renato on the right forearm and stabbed him at the back, above the right side of the waistline. Renato died that evening from the stab wound. Appellant, who had gone to his home province in Camarines Sur, was arrested four years after the stabbing incident
    Prosecution presented 2 witness who witnessed the quarrel and stabbing
    Daleba invoked self-defense

o    he went to the Pasay City bus terminal and once inside,  Renato suddenly grabbed his neck, dragged him to the back of the terminal, and, using his right hand which also held a knife, repeatedly boxed him in the face. Once he was able to free himself from Renato’s hold, he grabbed a knife lying at a nearby table and stabbed Renato with it. Renato had earlier assaulted him at around 9:00 a.m. of the same day.

    RTC: Murder qualified by treachery and evident premeditation
    Daleba appealed that RTC erred in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery since the quarrel which preceded the killing must have put Renato on-guard
    CA: affirmed RTC because of the interval of time between the quarrel and stabbing

ISSUE: W/N there was treachery

HELD: YES. CA affirmed with modification.

    By invoking self-defense, he effectively admitted committing the acts leading to Renato’s death  under circumstances justifying its commission.  If, indeed,  Renato suddenly attacked him inside a bus terminal in broad daylight by grabbing him by the neck and dragging him towards the back of the terminal, the ensuing commotion would have attracted the attention of the people around them. Yet, he couldn’t explain why there was no rescue.
    There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense that the offended party might make
    This circumstance will be appreciated if

o    (1) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself

§  Renato was walking away

o    (2) the offender consciously adopted the form of attack he employed

§  Stabbed from behind

CENTENNIAL PRAYER for the COURTS

Almighty God, we stand in Your holy presence as our Supreme Judge. We humbly beseech You to bless and inspire us so that what we think say, and do will be in accordance with Your will. Enlighten our minds, strengthen our spirit, and fill our hearts with fraternal love, wisdom and understanding, so that we canbe effective channels of truth, justice, and peace. In our proceedings today, guide us in the path of righteousness for the fulfillment of Your greater glory.

Amen.

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