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G.R. No. 172471 : Antonio Perla v. Mirasol Baring and Randy B. Perla

G.R. No. 172471 : Antonio Perla v. Mirasol Baring and Randy B. Perla

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 172471 : November 12, 2012

ANTONIO PERLA, Petitioner, v. MIRASOL BARING and RANDY PERLA, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

"An order for x x x support x x x must be issued only if paternity or filiation is established by clear and convincing evidence."1ςrνll

Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari2ςrνll is the March 31, 2005 Decision3ςrνll of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 79312 which dismissed petitioner Antonio Perlas (Antonio) appeal from the February 26, 2003 Decision4ςrνll of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Antipolo City, Branch 71 in Civil Case No. 96-3952, ordering him to give monthly support to respondent Randy Perla (Randy). Likewise assailed is the CAs May 5, 2006 Resolution5ςrνll denying the motion for reconsideration thereto.

Factual Antecedents

Respondent Mirasol Baring (Mirasol) and her then minor son, Randy (collectively respondents), filed before the RTC a Complaint6ςrνll for support against Antonio.

They alleged in said Complaint that Mirasol and Antonio lived together as common-law spouses for two years. As a result of said cohabitation, Randy was born on November 11, 1983. However, when Antonio landed a job as seaman, he abandoned them and failed to give any support to his son. Respondents thus prayed that Antonio be ordered to support Randy.

In his Answer with Counterclaim,7ςrνll Antonio, who is now married and has a family of his own, denied having fathered Randy. Although he admitted to having known Mirasol, he averred that she never became his common-law wife nor was she treated as such. And since Mirasol had been intimidating and pestering him as early as 1992 with various suits by insisting that Randy is his son, Antonio sought moral and exemplary damages by way of counterclaim from respondents.

During trial, Mirasol testified that from 1981 to 1983, she lived in Upper Bicutan, Taguig where Antonio was a neighbor.8ςrνll In the first week of January 1981, Antonio courted her9ςrνll and eventually became her first boyfriend.10ςrνll Antonio would then visit her everyday until 1982.11ςrνll Upon clarificatory question by the court whether she and Antonio eventually lived together as husband and wife, Mirasol answered that they were just sweethearts.12ςrνll

When Mirasol became pregnant in 1983, Antonio assured her that he would support her.13ςrνll Eventually, however, Antonio started to evade her.14ςrνll Mirasol last saw Antonio in 1983 but could not remember the particular month.15ςrνll

On November 11, 1983, Mirasol gave birth to Randy.16ςrνll She presented Randys Certificate of Live Birth17ςrνll and Baptismal Certificate18ςrνll indicating her and Antonio as parents of the child. Mirasol testified that she and Antonio supplied the information in the said certificates.19ςrνll Antonio supplied his name and birthplace after Erlinda Balmori (Erlinda), the "hilot" who assisted in Mirasols delivery of Randy, went to his house to solicit the said information.20ςrνll Mirasol also claimed that it was Erlinda who supplied the date and place of marriage of the parents so that the latter can file the birth certificate.21ςrνll Mirasol likewise confirmed that she is the same "Mirasol Perla" who signed as the informant therein.22ςrνll

Next to take the witness stand was Randy who at that time was just 15 years old.23ςrνll Randy claimed that he knew Antonio to be the husband of her mother and as his father.24ςrνll He recounted having met him for the first time in 1994 in the house of his Aunt Lelita, Antonios sister, where he was vacationing.25ςrνll During their encounter, Randy called Antonio "Papa" and kissed his hand while the latter hugged him.26ςrνll When Randy asked him for support, Antonio promised that he would support him.27ςrνll Randy further testified that during his one-week stay in his Aunt Lelitas place, the latter treated him as member of the family.28ςrνll

For her part, Aurora Ducay testified that she knew both Mirasol and Antonio as they were neighbors in Upper Bicutan, Taguig. Presently, Antonio is still her neighbor in the said place.29ςrνll According to her, she knew of Mirasols and Antonios relationship because aside from seeing Antonio frequenting the house of Mirasol, she asked Antonio about it.30ςrνll She further narrated that the two have a son named Randy31ςrνll and that Antonios mother even tried to get the child from Mirasol.32ςrνll

Testifying as an adverse witness for the respondents, Antonio admitted having sexual intercourse with Mirasol in February and August33ςrνll of 1981.34ςrνll When shown with Randys Certificate of Live Birth and asked whether he had a hand in the preparation of the same, Antonio answered in the negative.35ςrνll

Testifying for himself, Antonio denied having courted Mirasol on January 5, 1981 because during that time, he was studying in Iloilo City. He graduated from the Iloilo Maritime Academy in March of 198136ςrνll as shown by his diploma.37ςrνll It was only in May 1981 or after his graduation that he came to Manila. Further, he denied having any relationship with Mirasol.38ςrνll He claimed that he had sexual intercourse with Mirasol only once which happened in the month of September or October of 1981.39ςrνll

Antonio came to know that he was being imputed as the father of Randy only when Mirasol charged him with abandonment of minor in 1994, which was also the first time he saw Randy.40ςrνll Prior to that, neither Mirasol nor her sister, Norma, whom he met a few times told him about the child.41ςrνll

Anent Randys Certificate of Live Birth, Antonio testified as to several inaccuracies in the entries thereon. According to him, his middle initial is "E" and not "A" as appearing in the said certificate of live birth.42ςrνll Also, he is not a protestant and a laborer as indicated in said certificate.43ςrνll Antonio likewise alleged that Mirasol only made up the entries with respect to their marriage on October 28, 1981.44ςrνll

Daisy Balmori Rodriguez (Daisy), for her part, testified that she came to know Mirasol through her mother Erlinda who was the "hilot" when Mirasol gave birth to Randy.45ςrνll She narrated that her mother asked Mirasol the details to be entered in the childs Certificate of Live Birth such as the names of the parents, date and place of marriage, and the intended name of the child.46ςrνll Her mother also told her that Mirasols son has no acknowledged father.47ςrνll Daisy likewise claimed that Mirasol later left to her care the then infant Randy until Mirasol took him away without permission when the child was almost five years old.48ςrνll

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

After trial, the RTC rendered a Decision49ςrνll dated February 26, 2003 ordering Antonio to support Randy.

The RTC ruled that Mirasol and Randy are entitled to the relief sought since Antonio himself admitted that he had sex with Mirasol. It also noted that when the 15-year old Randy testified, he categorically declared Antonio as his father. The RTC opined that Mirasol would not have gone through the trouble of exposing herself to humiliation, shame and ridicule of public trial if her allegations were untrue. Antonios counterclaim was denied due to the absence of bad faith or ill-motive on the part of Mirasol and Randy.

The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff Randy Perla and against the defendant Antonio Perla, ordering the latter to give a reasonable monthly support of P5,000.00 to Randy Perla for his sustenance and support to be given to him from the time of the filing of this Complaint.

Defendants counterclaim is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.50ςrνll

Antonio filed a Notice of Appeal51ςrνll which was given due course by the RTC.52ςrνll

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In its Decision53ςrνll of March 31, 2005, the CA upheld Randys illegitimate filiation based on the certified true copies of his birth certificate and of his baptismal certificate identifying Antonio as his father. According to the appellate court, while these documents do not bear the signature of Antonio, they are proofs that Antonio is the known, imputed and identified father of Randy. The CA also affirmed the trial courts findings on the credibility of the witnesses and its appreciation of facts, as there was nothing to suggest that the RTC erred in such respects. It highlighted Antonios vacillation in his testimony regarding the number of times he had sex with Mirasol and concluded that the same is a clear badge of his lack of candor - a good reason to disregard his denials. Thus:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED and the appealed Decision is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.54ςrνll

Antonio filed a Motion for Reconsideration55ςrνll which was denied by the CA in its Resolution56ςrνll of May 5, 2006.

Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari.

Issue

The pivotal issue to be resolved in this case is whether the lower courts correctly ordered Antonio to support Randy.

Our Ruling

There is merit in the petition.

A re-examination of the factual findings
of the RTC and the CA is proper in this
case.

"Generally, factual findings of trial courts, when affirmed by the CA, are binding on this Court."57ςrνll However, this rule admits of certain exceptions such as when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures or when the judgment of the CA is based on misapprehension of facts.58ςrνll As this case falls under these exceptions, the Court is constrained to re-examine the factual findings of the lower courts.

Since respondents complaint for support
is anchored on Randys alleged
illegitimate filiation to Antonio, the lower
courts should have first made a
determination of the same.

Respondents Complaint for support is based on Randys alleged illegitimate filiation to Antonio. Hence, for Randy to be entitled for support, his filiation must be established with sufficient certainty. A review of the Decision of the RTC would show that it is bereft of any discussion regarding Randys filiation. Although the appellate court, for its part, cited the applicable provision on illegitimate filiation, it merely declared the certified true copies of Randys birth certificate and baptismal certificate both identifying Antonio as the father as good proofs of his filiation with Randy and nothing more. This is despite the fact that the said documents do not bear Antonios signature. "Time and again, this Court has ruled that a high standard of proof is required to establish paternity and filiation. An order for x x x support may create an unwholesome situation or may be an irritant to the family or the lives of the parties so that it must be issued only if paternity or filiation is established by clear and convincing evidence."59ςrνll

Respondents failed to establish Randys
illegitimate filiation to Antonio.

The rules for establishing filiation are found in Articles 172 and 175 of the Family Code which provide as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Article 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or

(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

x x x

Article 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as legitimate children.

x x x

Respondents presented the Certificate of Live Birth of Randy identifying Antonio as the father. However, said certificate has no probative value to establish Randys filiation to Antonio since the latter had not signed the same.60ςrνll It is settled that "a certificate of live birth purportedly identifying the putative father is not competent evidence of paternity when there is no showing that the putative father had a hand in the preparation of said certificate."61ςrνll We also cannot lend credence to Mirasols claim that Antonio supplied certain information through Erlinda. Aside from Antonios denial in having any participation in the preparation of the document as well as the absence of his signature thereon, respondents did not present Erlinda to confirm that Antonio indeed supplied certain entries in Randys birth certificate. Besides, the several unexplained discrepancies in Antonios personal circumstances as reflected in the subject birth certificate are manifestations of Antonios non-participation in its preparation. Most important, it was Mirasol who signed as informant thereon which she confirmed on the witness stand.

Neither does the testimony of Randy establish his illegitimate filiation. That during their first encounter in 1994 Randy called Antonio "Papa" and kissed his hand while Antonio hugged him and promised to support him; or that his Aunt Lelita treated him as a relative and was good to him during his one-week stay in her place, cannot be considered as indications of Randys open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child under the second paragraph of Article 172(1). "[T]o prove open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child, there must be evidence of the manifestation of the permanent intention of the supposed father to consider the child as his, by continuous and clear manifestations of parental affection and care, which cannot be attributed to pure charity. Such acts must be of such a nature that they reveal not only the conviction of paternity, but also the apparent desire to have and treat the child as such in all relations in society and in life, not accidentally, but continuously."62ςrνll Here, the single instance that Antonio allegedly hugged Randy and promised to support him cannot be considered as proof of continuous possession of the status of a child. To emphasize, "[t]he fathers conduct towards his son must be spontaneous and uninterrupted for this ground to exist."63ςrνll Here, except for that singular occasion in which they met, there are no other acts of Antonio treating Randy as his son.64ςrνll Neither can Antonios paternity be deduced from how his sister Lelita treated Randy. To this Court, Lelitas actuations could have been done due to charity or some other reasons.

Anent Randys baptismal certificate, we cannot agree with the CA that the same is a good proof of Antonios paternity of Randy. Just like in a birth certificate, the lack of participation of the supposed father in the preparation of a baptismal certificate renders this document incompetent to prove paternity.65ςrνll And "while a baptismal certificate may be considered a public document, it can only serve as evidence of the administration of the sacrament on the date specified but not the veracity of the entries with respect to the childs paternity. Thus, x x x baptismal certificates are per se inadmissible in evidence as proof of filiation and they cannot be admitted indirectly as circumstantial evidence to prove the same."66ςrνll

This Court cannot likewise agree with the RTCs conclusion that Antonio fathered Randy merely on the basis of his admission that he had sexual encounters with Mirasol. Neither does it agree with the CA that the inconsistencies in Antonios testimony with regard to the number of times he had sexual intercourse with Mirasol are good reasons to disregard his denials and uphold the respondents claims. It is well to stress that as plaintiff, Mirasol has the burden of proving her affirmative allegation that Antonio is the father of her son Randy.67ςrνll She must rely on the strength of her evidence and not on the weakness of the defense.68ςrνll As Randy was born on November 11, 1983, it was incumbent upon Mirasol to prove that she had sexual intercourse with Antonio prior to the usual period of pregnancy or nine months before the birth of Randy. This crucial period therefore is during the early part of the first quarter of 1983. However, nothing from Mirasols testimony indicates that she had sexual intercourse with Antonio during that time.

She merely testified that she last met with Antonio in 1983 but could not remember the particular month.69ςrνll Plainly, this hardly means anything not only because it was not established that the said meeting took place during that crucial period but also because Mirasol never mentioned that they had sexual contact during their meeting.

Antonios admission of sexual intercourse with Mirasol does not likewise by any means strengthen respondents theory that he fathered Randy. When Antonio testified as an adverse witness for the respondents, he stated that he had sexual intercourse with Mirasol in February and August of 1981. Later testifying as witness for his own behalf, he mentioned that he had a one night affair with Mirasol which happened in the month of September or October of 1981. Assuming that he indeed had sexual contact with Mirasol on the dates mentioned, still, none of these sexual congresses could have led to the conception of Randy who was born two years later in 1983.

All told, it is clear that respondents failed to establish Randys illegitimate filiation to Antonio. Hence, the order for Antonio to support Randy has no basis.ςηαοblενιrυαllαωlιbrαr

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated March 31, 2005 and Resolution dated May 5, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 79312 are REVERSED and SER ASIDE and the Decision dated February 26, 2003 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 71, in Civil Case No. 96-3952 is VACATED. A new one is entered DISMISSING the Complaint for Support filed by Mirasol Baring and Randy Perla against Antonio Perla.ςrαlαωlιbrαr

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1ςrνll Cabatania v. Court of Appeals, 484 Phil. 42, 50 (2004).

2ςrνll Rollo, pp. 10-26.

3ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 91-97; penned by Associate Justice Roberto A. Barrios and concurred in by Associate Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Vicente S.F. Veloso.

4ςrνll Records, pp. 188-190; penned by Presiding Judge Felix S. Caballes.

5ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 124-126.

6ςrνll Records, pp. 1-3.

7ςrνll Id. at 35-38.

8ςrνll TSN, April 7, 1999, pp. 6-7.

9ςrνll Id. at 10-11, 25.

10ςrνll Id. at 25.

11ςrνll Id. at 25-26.

12ςrνll Id. at 10.

13ςrνll Id. at 11.

14ςrνll Id. at 26.

15ςrνll Id.

16ςrνll Id. at 13.

17ςrνll Id. at 14; See the certified true copy of said birth certificate which was issued by the National Statistics Office, records, p. 122.

18ςrνll Id. at 16-17; id. at 123.

19ςrνll TSN, April 21, 1999, p. 4.

20ςrνll Id. at 4-5.

21ςrνll Id. at 5.

22ςrνll Id. at 4-5.

23ςrνll TSN, September 8, 1999, p. 3.

24ςrνll Id. at 4-5.

25ςrνll Id. at 6-10.

26ςrνll Id. at 8.

27ςrνll Id. at 8-9.

28ςrνll Id. at 10-11.

29ςrνll TSN, October 7, 1999, pp. 3-4.

30ςrνll Id. at 4-5.

31ςrνll Id. at 5.

32ςrνll Id. at 5-6.

33ςrνll TSN, February 10, 2000, p. 13.

34ςrνll Id. at 16.

35ςrνll Id. at 15.

36ςrνll TSN, August 1, 2001, p. 6.

37ςrνll Id. at 7; records, p. 168.

38ςrνll Id. at 5.

39ςrνll Id at 6.

40ςrνll Id. at 26-27; The said charge and the counter-charges filed by Antonio against Mirasol were eventually dismissed by the Provincial Prosecution Office of Rizal on July 28, 1994, records, pp. 19-20.

41ςrνll Id.

42ςrνll Id. at 19.

43ςrνll Id. at 20.

44ςrνll Id.

45ςrνll TSN, August 15, 2001, pp. 11-12.

46ςrνll Id. at 14.

47ςrνll Id. at 37.

48ςrνll Id. at 17-20.

49ςrνll Records, pp. 188-190.

50ςrνll Id. at 190.

51ςrνll Id. at 191.

52ςrνll Id., unpaginated, following p.194.

53ςrνll CA rollo, pp. 124-126.

54ςrνll Id. at 96.

55ςrνll Id. at 98-107.

56ςrνll Id. at 124-126.

57ςrνll Navales v. Navales, G.R. No. 167523, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 272, 285.

58ςrνll Dimaranan v. Heirs of Spouses Hermogenes Arayata and Flaviana Arayata, G.R. No. 184193, March 29, 2010, 617 SCRA 101, 113.

59ςrνll Cabatania v. Court of Appeals, supra note 1.

60ςrνll Nepomuceno v. Lopez, G.R. No. 181258, March 18, 2010, 616 SCRA 145, 153.

61ςrνll Cabatania v. Court of Appeals, supra note 1 at 51.

62ςrνll Jison v. Court of Appeals, 350 Phil. 138, 172 (1998).

63ςrνll Ong v. Court of Appeals, 339 Phil. 109, 119 (1997).

64ςrνll Id.

65ςrνll Jison v. Court of Appeals, supra at 176.

66ςrνll Cabatania v. Court of Appeals, supra note 1 at 51.

67ςrνll Spouses Angeles v. Spouses Tan, 482 Phil. 635, 646 (2004).

68ςrνll Ek Lee Steel Works Corporation v. Manila Castor Oil Corporation, G.R. No. 119033, July 9, 2008, 557 SCRA 339, 352.

69ςrνll TSN, April 7, 1999, p. 26.

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