G.R. NO. 173829, June 10, 2013
VALBUECO, INC., Petitioner, v. PROVINCE OF BATAAN, REPRESENTED BY ITS PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR ANTONIO ROMAN;1 EMMANUEL M. AQUINO,2 IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGISTRAR OF THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BALANGA, BATAAN; AND PASTOR P. VICHUACO,3 IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PROVINCIAL TREASURER OF BALANGA, BATAAN, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
x x x x
6. To effect collection of taxes on [petitioner’s] real property x x x in the total amount of SEVENTY THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-TWO PESOS AND NINETY CENTAVOS (P70,762.90), defendant provincial TREASURER proceeded to effect collection of taxes without first making a distraint on the personality (sic) of [petitioner] which is worth more than its alleged total tax liability, instead, distrained the real properties stated in the immediately preceeding (sic) paragraph;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
7. In making and effecting the distraint, [respondent] TREASURER failed and omitted to have the distraint annotated;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
8. Having made the annotated levy on distraint, [respondent] TREASURER caused the sale of the real properties at the auction sans the necessary publication and/or notice in at least three (3) public and conspicuous places;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
9. Likewise, no notice of the sale has been served upon the [petitioner];nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
10. To make matters worse, [respondents] caused the unlawful consolidation of title and ownership to the above-mentioned real properties in the name of the [respondent] PROVINCE x x x;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
11. It was only sometime in the first quarter of 1992, while [petitioner] was in the process of negotiating with the representatives of the Department of Agrarian Reform for the possibility of exemption of its landholdings at Bagac, Bataan, did it learn that the aforesaid parcels of land were included in the auction sale conducted by [respondent] TREASURER pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 464;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
12. On several occasions [petitioner] requested and demanded the reconveyance of the above-mentioned properties from the [respondents] but to no avail;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
13. As a consequence of the anomalous and irregular distraint, levy, auction sale and consolidation of title and ownership of the above-mentioned real properties in the name of the [respondent] PROVINCE, [petitioner] suffered actual damages in an amount to be proved at the trial of this case; x x x8
x x x x
8. That granting hypothetically that there was no distraint of personal property first of the [petitioner] before proceeding with the distraint of real properties, Presidential Decree No. 464, the law then prevailing[,] provides under Section 67, thus:"SEC. 67. — Remedies, cumulative, simultaneous and unconditional. — Collection of real property tax may be enforced through any or all of the remedies provided under this Code, and the use or non-use of one remedy shall not be a bar against the institution of the others. Formal demand for the payment of the delinquent taxes and penalties due need not be made before any of such remedies may be resorted to; notice of delinquency as required in Section sixty-five hereof shall be sufficient for the purpose." (underlining supplied)In fact, in the succeeding section, it is so provided that "payment may be enforced by distraining the personal property x x x" (underscoring supplied) which only means that distraint of personal property is not a condition sine qua non before real property could be distraint;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
9. That all legal requirements under Presidential Decree No. 464 had been properly complied with in the public auction sale of the delinquent properties;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
10. That despite repeated demands, no attempt has been made by the [petitioner] to pay the tax delinquency, much less, redeem the property from the [respondent] provincial government; x x x9
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing its complaint for lack of merit and ordering the [petitioner] to pay the Province of Bataan the sum of P50,000.00 as attorney’s fees.
The clerk of court of the Regional Trial Court of Bataan is hereby ordered to refund the sum of P133,033.90 which [petitioner] deposited on November 13, 1998 as its cash deposit under O.R. 1604701.
Q: It is not among your duties to keep records on file? A: No, sir. Q: Whose duties is it to keep in custody the records of the corporation? A: Our records department, sir. Q: Who heads the records department? A: It is now Gil Herpe, sir. Q: When did Mr. Herpe assume his position as the custodian of the corporation? A: From 1989, sir. Q: Up to the present? A: Yes, sir.29
Q: When you said that the corporation was not notified by the Provincial Treasurer you are assuming that must have been so because you could not find any record of any notice? A: I have not seen any notice, sir. Q: And so you presumed that there must have been no notice? A: Precisely, sir. Q: When you said ["]precisely[,"] you mean ["]yes["]? A: Yes, sir. Q: In the same manner that when you said that you have not received any notice of assessment you surmised that there must have been no or you have no record of notice of assessment?
x x x
That’s why you assumed that there was no assessment?
A: Yes, sir. Q: In the same manner when you [testified] that there was no demand made by the Provincial Treasurer you, according to you[,] you have not received any, you assumed that there was no demand because according to you all records were lost? A: Yes, sir. Q: When you stated that there was no levy, distraint, you have to give the same reason because that is your assumption and opinion on your part because you have no record of the levy? A: We have not seen that, sir. Q: You have not seen because according to you all records of the corporation were lost? A: Not exactly[,] it must have been kept in the office, sir, but I have not noticed. Q: What do you mean that you have no notice? In other words there must have been records but you have no notice? A: Yes, sir.34 x x x x ATTY. BANZON: Q: x x x Why do you have to ask Mr. Bueno regarding the assessment? A: Because he is concerned about the property, sir. Q: But, you were the one who asked[,] it is not Mr. Bueno? A: No, sir I did not ask Mr. Bueno. Q: In your testimony of June 4 of this year the question asked of you was ["]did you not ask the president if there was a notice of assessment[?"] and your answer was ["yes, sir."].
Do you recall that you have asked that question and you made that answer?
A: Yes, sir. Q: So, you asked Mr. Bueno? A: No, sir I did not ask Mr. Bueno. [He] was the one [who probably] told me, sir. Q: So, your answer to the question is not correct? A: I think so, sir. Q: Do you recall of any other question which you answered is not correct (sic)? A: No more, sir. Q: All are correct? A: Maybe, sir. Q: When you said "maybe", you are not sure that your answer is not correct? A: Specifically yes I said maybe. Q: Do you know the meaning of ["]maybe["]? A: Not sure, sir. Q: When you said ["]maybe["], you are not sure that your other previous answers were correct? A: Yes, sir.35
Q: Why do you have to secure from the SEC[?] why you do not ask your (sic) secretary of the corporation who is the legal custodian of this corporation? A: The papers could no longer be located after we transferred office several times, sir. Q: What other papers that you cannot locate? x x x x A: There are other titles and documents that could not be located so we requested for certified true copy of these documents, sir. Q: And these papers may include notices which must have been sent to Valbueco regarding this property from the province of Bataan? A: Yes, sir. Q: And this may (sic) among those lost of the notices of assessment or levy? A: We have not seen those documents, sir. Q: You have not seen those documents because this (sic) was (sic) among those lost in your records? A: Maybe, sir. Q: The reason why you stated that you have not seen any of the documents coming from the Province of Bataan in your files? A: Yes, sir.36
CROSS EXAM. BY ATTY. BANZON: x x x x Q: When you stated that . . . by the way, Mr. Bueno used to hold office at 7th Floor of Bank of Philippine Island (sic) Building at Ayala Avenue in Makati? A: Yes, sir. Q: That is his usual address? A: From 1973 up to 1974 sir. Q: And did you notify the treasurer’s office regarding the change of address? A: I did not sir. Q: At any rate, that address appears or appeared in all certificates of title involving properties in Bagac which is the subject matter of this action? A: I am not very sure sir. Q: And these are evident in the annexes of the complaint, is it not? And Valbueco Incorporporation (sic) and I quote, Valbueco Incorporation organized and existing under the laws of Republic of the Philippines with office at 7th Floor, Bank of Philippine Island (sic), Building Ayala Avenue, Makati, Rizal? A: If that appears in the document sir. Q: There is also an office at the 4th Floor, ICOPHIL Bldg, 1081 Pedro Gil, Paco, Manila? A: Yes, sir. Q: That is for Valbueco Industrial and Development Corporation? A: The group of companies of Mr. Bueno holds office in the whole building of ICOPHIL, sir.37
x x x notices of the sale at public auction may be sent to the delinquent taxpayer, either (i) at the address as shown in the tax rolls or property tax record cards of the municipality or city where the property is located or (ii) at his residence, if known to such treasurer or barrio captain. Plainly, Section 73 gives the treasurer the option of where to send the notice of sale. In giving the treasurer the option, nowhere in the wordings is there an indication of a requirement that notice must actually be received by the intended recipient. Compliance by the treasurer is limited to strictly following the provisions of the statute: he may send it at the address of the delinquent taxpayer as shown in the tax rolls or tax records or to the residence if known by him or the barrio captain. 39
The general rule in civil cases is that the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. By "preponderance of evidence" is meant that the evidence as a whole adduced by one side is superior to that of the other.
In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts on which they are testifying, the nature of such facts, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility as far as the same may legitimately appear at the trial. The court may also consider the number of witnesses, although the preponderance is not necessarily with the greatest number.
It is settled that matters of credibility are addressed basically to the trial judge who is in a better position than the appellate court to appreciate the weight and evidentiary value of the testimonies of witnesses who have personally appeared before him.46
1 In the Entry of Appearance with Manifestation and Motion for Extension of Time to File Comment filed before this Court on November 21, 2006, counsel for respondents stated that the incumbent Governor of the Province of Bataan is Enrique T. Garcia, Jr. and the present Provincial Treasurer is Emerlinda S. Talento (Rollo, pp. 299-303).
2 In his Motion filed on October 17, 1996, Emmanuel M. Aquino manifested that he was already assigned as Registrar of the Register of Deeds of Olongapo City effective April 1, 1993. (Records, pp. 43-44)
3Supra note 1.
4 Penned by Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon, with Associate Justices Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos and Mariano C. Del Castillo (now Supreme Court Associate Justice) concurring; rollo, pp. 45-57.
5Id. at 60-61.
6Id. at 170-180.
7 TSN, October 25, 2002, pp. 6-7.
8 Records, pp. 2-3.
9Id. at 35. (Underscoring in the original.)
10Id. at 135-154.
11 G.R. NO. 86889, December 4, 1990, 192 SCRA 51.
12 Records, pp. 201-202.
Notably, Section 83 of Presidential Decree No. 464 provide:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Sec. 83. Suits assailing validity of tax sale. — No court shall entertain any suit assailing the validity of a tax sale of real estate under this Chapter until the taxpayer shall have paid into court the amount for which the real property was sold, together with interests of twenty per centum per annum upon that sum from the date of sale to the time of instituting suit. The money so paid into court shall belong to the purchaser at the tax sale if the deed is declared invalid, but shall be returned to the depositor if the action fails.
Neither shall any court declare a sale invalid by reason of irregularities or informalities in the proceedings committed by the officer charged with the duty of making sale, or by reason of failure by him to perform his duties within the time herein specified for their performance, unless it shall have been proven that such irregularities, informalities or failure have impaired the substantial rights of the taxpayer.
13Id. at 283-286.
14 SECTION 1. Primary and Exclusive Original and Appellate Jurisdiction. The Board shall have primary and exclusive jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 228, 229, and 129-A, Republic Act No. 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, Presidential Decree No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations. Specifically, such jurisdiction shall include but not be limited to cases involving the following:x x x x15 Section 50. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR. — The DAR is hereby vested with the primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform except those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). x x x
f) Those involving the issuance, correction and cancellation of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) which are registered with the Land Registration Authority;nadcralavvonlinelawlibrary
g) Those cases previously falling under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the defunct Court of Agrarian Relations under Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 946, except sub-paragraph (q) thereof and Presidential Decree No. 815.nadcralavvlawlibrary
x x x x
Section 57. Special Jurisdiction. — The Special Agrarian Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses under this Act. x x x
16 Section 34. Implementing Authority of the Secretary. The Secretary shall issue orders, rules and regulations and other issuances as may be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of this Executive Order.
17 Records, p. 313.
18 Id. at 325.
19Id. at 676. (Emphasis in the original.)
20 Took effect on June 1, 1974 (See Meralco Securities Industrial Corporation v. Central Board of Assessment Appeals, et al., 199 Phil. 453, 458  and De Asis v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 251 Phil. 294, 305 ) but was later on superseded by R.A. No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, which took effect on January 1, 1992 (See Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co., Inc. v. City of Cagayan De Oro, G.R. NO. 191761, November 14, 2012 and Moday v. CA, 335 Phil. 1057, 1063 ).
21De Knecht v. CA, 352 Phil. 833, 847 (1998). See also Aquino v. Quezon City, 529 Phil. 486, 500 (2006); Talusan v. Tayag, 408 Phil. 373, 387 (2001); and Pecson v. Court of Appeals, G.R. NO. 105360, May 25, 1993, 222 SCRA 580, 583.
23 In particular, Sections 65 and 73 of PD 464 mandate:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Sec. 65. Notice of delinquency in the payment of the real property tax. — Upon the real property tax or any installment thereof becoming delinquent, the provincial or city treasurer shall immediately cause notice of the fact to be posted at the main entrance of the provincial building and of all municipal buildings or municipal or city hall and in a public and conspicuous place in each barrio of the municipality of the province or city as the case may be. The notice of delinquency shall also be published once a week for three consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in the province or city, if any there be, and announced by a crier at the market place for at least three market days.
Such notice shall specify the date upon which tax became delinquent, and shall state that personal property may be seized to effect payment. It shall also state that, at any time, before the seizure of personal property, payment may be made with penalty in accordance with the next following section, and further, that unless the tax and penalties be paid before the expiration of the year for which the tax is due, or the tax shall have been judicially set aside, the entire delinquent real property will be sold at public auction, and that thereafter the full title to the property will be and remain with the purchaser, subject only to the right of delinquent taxpayer or any other person in his behalf to redeem the sold property within one year from the date of sale.
Sec. 73. Advertisement of sale of real property at public auction. — After the expiration of the year for which the tax is due, the provincial or city treasurer shall advertise the sale at public auction of the entire delinquent real property, except real property mentioned in subsection (a) of Section forty hereof, to satisfy all the taxes and penalties due and the costs of sale. Such advertisement shall be made by posting a notice for three consecutive weeks at the main entrance of the provincial building and of all municipal buildings in the province, or at the main entrance of the city or municipal hall in the case of cities, and in a public and conspicuous place in barrio or district wherein the property is situated, in English, Spanish and the local dialect commonly used, and by announcement at least three market days at the market by crier, and, in the discretion of the provincial or city treasurer, by publication once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation published in the province or city.
The notice, publication, and announcement by crier shall state the amount of the taxes, penalties and costs of sale; the date, hour, and place of sale, the name of the taxpayer against whom the tax was assessed; and the kind or nature of property and, if land, its approximate areas, lot number, and location stating the street and block number, district or barrio, municipality and the province or city where the property to be sold is situated. Copy of the notice shall forthwith be sent either by registered mail or by messenger, or through the barrio captain, to the delinquent taxpayer, at his address as shown in the tax rolls or property tax record cards of the municipality or city where the property is located, or at his residence, if known to said treasurer or barrio captain: Provided, however, That a return of the proof of service under oath shall be filed by the person making the service with the provincial or city treasurer concerned.
24 TSN, June 4, 2001, pp. 8, 10; TSN, July 9, 2001, p. 2.
25Id. at 8; Id. at 4.
26Id. at 8-9; Id. at 5-6.
27 TSN, July 9, 2001, pp. 6-7.
28Id. at 7.
29Id. at 8-9. (Emphasis ours.)
30 TSN, August 27, 2001, p. 3.
31Id. at 4.
32 TSN, June 4, 2001, pp. 10-11; TSN, August 27, 2001, p. 8.
33 Rules of Court, Rule 130, Sec. 36.
34 TSN, August 10, 2001, pp. 3-5. (Emphasis ours.)
35 TSN, July 9, 2001, pp. 12-13. (Emphasis ours.)
36 TSN, July 9, 2001, pp. 10-11. (Emphasis ours.)
37 TSN, September 10, 2001, pp. 2-3. (Emphasis ours.)
38Supra note 23.
39Aquino v. Quezon City, 529 Phil. 486, 501 (2006).
40 11 Phil. 492, 498-499 (1908).
41 29 Phil. 437, 444-445 (1915).
42 447 Phil. 33, 46 (2003).
43 TSN, September 27, 2002, pp. 2-3, 6; TSN, October 25, 2002, p. 2.
44Id. at 7-8; Id. at 5.
45 G.R. NO. 91869, October 19, 1992, 214 SCRA 701.
46Sapu-an v. Court of Appeals, supra note 45, at 706.
47Gomez v. Gomez-Samson, 543 Phil. 436, 464 (2007).
48Sapu-an v. Court of Appeals, supra note 45, at 705, citing Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, 1980 ed., Vol. 6, p. 134. See also Spouses Azana v. Lumbo, 547 Phil. 598, 602 (2007).
49Id. at 705-706, citing Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, 1980 ed., Vol. 6, p. 135. See also Spouses Azana v. Lumbo, 547 Phil. 598, 602 (2007).