G.R. No. 170604, September 02, 2013
HEIRS OF MARGARITA PRODON, Petitioners, v. HEIRS OF MAXIMO S. ALVAREZ AND VALENTINA CLAVE, REPRESENTED BY REV. MAXIMO ALVAREZ, JR., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
ENTRY NO. 3816/T-84797 – SALE W/ RIGHT TO REPURCHASE IN FAVOR OF: MARGARITA PRODON, SINGLE, FOR THE SUM OF P120,000.00, THE HEREIN REGISTERED OWNER RESERVING FOR HIMSELF THE RIGHTS TO REPURCHASE SAID PROPERTY FOR THE SAME AMOUNT WITHIN THE PERIOD OF SIX MONTH (sic) FROM EXECUTION THEREOF. OTHER CONDITION SET FORTH IN (DOC. NO. 321, PAGE 66, BOOK NO. VIII OF LISEO A. RAZON, NOT.PUB. OF MANILA)In her answer,5 Prodon claimed that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had executed on September 9, 1975 the deed of sale with right to repurchase; that the deed had been registered with the Register of Deeds and duly annotated on the title; that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been granted six months from September 9, 1975 within which to repurchase the property; and that she had then become the absolute owner of the property due to its non-repurchase within the given 6-month period.
DATE OF INSTRUMENT – SEPT. 9, 1975
DATE OF INSCRIPTION – SEPT. 10, 1975,
AT 3:42 P.M.4
In the case under consideration, the execution and existence of the disputed deed of sale with right to repurchase accomplished by the late Maximo Alvarez in favor of defendant Margarita Prodon has been adequately established by reliable and trustworthy evidences (sic). Defendant Prodon swore that on September 9, 1975 she purchased the land covered by TCT No. 84747 (Exhibit 1) from its registered owners Maximo S. Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave (TSN, Aug. 1, 1997, pp.5-7); that the deed of sale with right to repurchase was drawn and prepared by Notary Public Eliseo Razon (Ibid., p. 9); and that on September 10, 1975, she registered the document in the Register of Deeds of Manila (Ibid., pp.18-19).The RTC rejected the plaintiffs’ submission that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. could not have executed the deed of sale with right to repurchase because of illness and poor eyesight from cataract. It held that there was no proof that the illness had rendered him bedridden and immobile; and that his poor eyesight could be corrected by wearing lenses.
The testimony of Margarita Prodon has been confirmed by the Notarial Register of Notary Public Eliseo Razon dated September 10, 1975 (Exhibit 2), and by the Primary Entry Book of the Register of Deeds of Manila (Exhibit 4).
Page 66 of Exhibit 2 discloses, among others, the following entries, to wit: “No. 321; Nature of Instrument: Deed of Sale with Right to Repurchase; Name of Persons: Maximo S. Alvarez and Valentina Alvarez (ack.); Date and Month: 9 Sept.” (Exhibit 2-a).
Exhibit 4, on the other hand, also reveals the following data, to wit: ‘Number of Entry: 3816; Month, Day and Year: Sept. 10, 1975; Hour and Minute: 3:42 p.m.; Nature of Contract: Sale with Right to Repurchase; Executed by: Maximo S. Alvarez; In favor: Margarita Prodon; Date of Document: 9-9-75; Contract value: 120,000.’ (Exhibit 4-a). Under these premises the Court entertains no doubt about the execution and existence of the controverted deed of sale with right to repurchase.7
On August 18, 2005, the CA promulgated its assailed decision, reversing the RTC, and ruling as follows:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE DUE EXECUTION AND EXISTENCE OF THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE HAS BEEN DULY PROVED BY THE DEFENDANT.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ADMITTING THE PIECES OF EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE DEFENDANTS AS PROOFS OF THE DUE EXECUTION AND EXISTENCE OF THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE.
THE TRIAL COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE QUESTIONED DEED OF SALE WITH RIGHT TO REPURCHASE HAS BEEN LOST OR OTHERWISE COULD NOT BE PRODUCED IN COURT WITHOUT THE FAULT OF THE DEFENDANT.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN REJECTING THE PLAINTIFFS’ CLAIM THAT THEIR FATHER COULD NOT HAVE EXECUTED THE QUESTIONED DOCUMENT AT THE TIME OF ITS ALLEGED EXECUTION.8
The case of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) v. Del Rosario in GR No. 146586 (January 26, 2005) is instructive in resolving this issue. The said case held:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibraryThe heirs of Margarita Prodon (who meanwhile died on March 3, 2002) filed an Omnibus Motion for Substitution of Defendant and for Reconsideration of the Decision,10 wherein they alleged that the CA erred: (a) in finding that the pre-requisites for the admission of secondary evidence had not been complied with; (b) in concluding that the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been physically incapable of personally executing the deed of sale with right to repurchase; and (c) in blaming them for not recovering the property, for not paying the realty taxes thereon, and for not transferring the title in their names.“Secondary evidence of the contents of a document refers to evidence other than the original document itself. A party may introduce secondary evidence of the contents of a written instrument not only when the original is lost or destroyed, but also when it cannot be produced in court, provided there is no bad faith on the part of the offeror. However, a party must first satisfactorily explain the loss of the best or primary evidence before he can resort to secondary evidence. A party must first present to the court proof of loss or other satisfactory explanation for non-production of the original instrument. The correct order of proof is as follows: existence, execution, loss, contents, although the court in its discretion may change this order if necessary.”It is clear, therefore, that before secondary evidence as to the contents of a document may be admitted in evidence, the existence of [the] document must first be proved, likewise, its execution and its subsequent loss.
In the present case, the trial court found all three (3) prerequisites ha[ve] been established by Margarita Prodon. This Court, however, after going through the records of the case, believes otherwise. The Court finds that the following circumstances put doubt on the very existence of the alleged deed of sale. Evidence on record showed that Maximo Alvarez was hospitalized between August 23, 1975 to September 3, 1975 (Exhibit “K”). It was also established by said Exhibit “L” that Maximo Alvarez suffered from paralysis of half of his body and blindness due to cataract. It should further be noted that barely 6 days later, on September 15, 1975, Maximo Alvarez was again hospitalized for the last time because he died on October of 1975 without having left the hospital. This lends credence to plaintiffs-appellants’ assertion that their father, Maximo Alvarez, was not physically able to personally execute the deed of sale and puts to serious doubt [on] Jose Camilion’s testimony that Maximo Alvarez, with his wife, went to his residence on September 5, 1975 to sell the property and that again they met on September 9, 1975 to sign the alleged deed of sale (Exhibits “A” and “1”). The Court also notes that from the sale in 1975 to 1996 when the case was finally filed, defendant-appellee never tried to recover possession of the property nor had she shown that she ever paid Real Property Tax thereon. Additionally, the Transfer Certificate of Title had not been transferred in the name of the alleged present owner. These actions put to doubt the validity of the claim of ownership because their actions are contrary to that expected of legitimate owners of property.
Moreover, granting, in arguendo, that the deed of sale did exist, the fact of its loss had not been duly established. In De Vera, et al. v Sps. Aguilar (218 SCRA 602 ), the Supreme Court held that after proof of the execution of the Deed it must also be established that the said document had been lost or destroyed, thus:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary“After the due execution of the document has been established, it must next be proved that said document has been lost or destroyed. The destruction of the instrument may be proved by any person knowing the fact. The loss may be shown by any person who knew the fact of its loss, or by anyone who had made, in the judgment of the court, a sufficient examination in the place or places where the document or papers of similar character are usually kept by the person in whose custody the document lost was, and has been unable to find it; or who has made any other investigation which is sufficient to satisfy the court that the instrument is indeed lost.In the case at bar, Jose Camilion’s testimony showed that a copy was given to Atty. Anacleto Lacanilao but he could not recover said copy. A perusal of the testimony does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had exerted sufficient effort to recover said copy. x x x
However, all duplicates or counterparts must be accounted for before using copies. For, since all the duplicates or multiplicates are parts of the writing itself to be proved, no excuse for non-production of the writing itself can be regarded as established until it appears that all of its parts are unavailable (i.e. lost, retained by the opponent or by a third person or the like).
In the case at bar, Atty. Emiliano Ibasco, Jr., notary public who notarized the document testified that the alleged deed of sale has about four or five original copies. Hence, all originals must be accounted for before secondary evidence can be given of any one. This[,] petitioners failed to do. Records show that petitioners merely accounted for three out of four or five original copies.” (218 SCRA at 607-608)
x x x x
The foregoing testimony does not convince this Court that Jose Camilion had exerted sufficient effort to obtain the copy which he said was with Atty. Lacanilao. It should be noted that he never claimed that Atty. Lacanilao was already too sick to even try looking for the copy he had. But even assuming this is to be so, Jose Camilion did not testify that Atty. Lacanilao had no one in his office to help him find said copy. In fine, this Court believes that the trial court erred in admitting the secondary evidence because Margarita Prodon failed to prove the loss or destruction of the deed.
In fine, the Court finds that the secondary evidence should not have been admitted because Margarita Prodon failed to prove the existence of the original deed of sale and to establish its loss.
x x x x
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35 in Civil Case No. 96-78481 is hereby REVERSED and a new one entered ordering the cancellation of Entry No. 3816/T-84797 inscribed at the back of TCT No. 84797 in order to remove the cloud over plaintiff-appellants’ title.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Section 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. — When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following cases:The Best Evidence Rule stipulates that in proving the terms of a written document the original of the document must be produced in court. The rule excludes any evidence other than the original writing to prove the contents thereof, unless the offeror proves: (a) the existence or due execution of the original; (b) the loss and destruction of the original, or the reason for its non-production in court; and (c) the absence of bad faith on the part of the offeror to which the unavailability of the original can be attributed.13cralaw virtualaw library
(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;
(b) When the original is in the custody or under control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;
(c) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and
(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office.
x x x xOn her part, Prodon specifically denied the allegation, averring in her answer that “sometime [o]n September 9, 1975, deceased Maximo S. Alvarez lawfully entered into a Contract of Sale with Right to Repurchase, object of which is the titled lot located at Endaya Street, Tondo, Manila, in favor of defendant.”22 In the pre-trial order, the RTC defined the issue to be tried as “[w]hether or not the alleged document mentioned in the said entry is existing, valid or unenforceable,”23 and did not include the terms of the deed of sale with right to repurchase among the issues.
9. Such entry which could have been maliciously and deliberately done by the defendant Margarita Prodon created cloud and [is] prejudicial to the title of the property subject matter of this case, since while it is apparently valid or effective, but in truth and in fact it is invalid, ineffective or unenforceable inasmuch that the instrument purporting to be a Deed of Sale with right of repurchase mentioned in the said entry does not exist.21cralaw virtualaw library
x x x x
The foregoing testimony could not be credible for the purpose of proving the due execution of the deed of sale with right to repurchase for three reasons.
Q Do you also know the deceased plaintiff in this case, Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and his wife Valentina Clave, Mr. Witness? A Yes, sir. Q
Under what circumstance were you able to know the deceased plaintiff Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and his wife?
When they went to our house, sir.
When was this specifically?
A Sometime the first week of September or about September 5, 1975, sir. Q What was the purpose of the spouses Maximo and Valentina in meeting you on that date? A They were selling a piece of land, sir. x x x x Q At the time when the spouses Maximo Alvarez, Sr. and Valentina Clave approached you to sell their piece of land located at Endaya, Tondo, Manila, what document, if any, did they show you? A The title of the land, sir. x x x x Q You said that on the first week of September or September 5, 1975 spouses Maximo and Valentina approached you at the time, what did you tell the spouses, if any? A I asked them to come back telling them that I was going to look for a buyer, sir. x x x x Q You said that you told the spouse[s] Alvarez to just come back later and that you will look for a buyer, what happened next, if any? A I went to see my aunt Margarita Prodon, sir. Q
What did you tell your aunt Margarita Prodon?
I convinced her to buy the lot.
ATTY. REAL Q What was the reply of Margarita Prodon, if any? A She agreed, provided that she should meet the spouses, sir. Q After Margarita Prodon told you that[,] what happened next, if any? A I waited for the spouses Alvarez to bring them to my aunt, sir. Q Were you able to finally bring the spouses before Margarita Prodon? A Valentina Clave returned to our house and asked me if they can now sell the piece of land, sir. Q What did you tell Valentina Clave? A
We went to the house of my aunt so she can meet her personally, sir.
And did the meeting occur?
WITNESS A Yes, sir. ATTY. REAL Q What happened at the meeting? A I told Valentina Clave in front of the aunt of my wife that they, the spouses, wanted to sell the land, sir. Q What was the reply of your aunt Margarita Prodon at the time? A That Valentina Clave should come back with her husband because she was going to buy the lot, sir.28
The medical history showing the number of very serious ailments the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had been suffering from rendered it highly improbable for him to travel from Manila all the way to Meycauayan, Bulacan, where Prodon and Camilon were then residing in order only to negotiate and consummate the sale of the property. This high improbability was fully confirmed by his son, Maximo, Jr., who attested that his father had been seriously ill, and had been in and out of the hospital in 1975.33 The medical records revealed, too, that on September 12, 1975, or three days prior to his final admission to the hospital, the late Maximo Alvarez, Sr. had suffered from “[h]igh grade fever, accompanied by chills, vomiting and cough productive of whitish sticky sputum;”had been observed to be “conscious” but “weak” and “bedridden” with his heart having “faint” sounds, irregular rhythm, but no murmurs; and his left upper extremity and left lower extremity had suffered 90% motor loss.34 Truly, Prodon’s allegation that the deed of sale with right to repurchase had been executed on September 9, 1975 could not command belief.
Period of confinement Diagnosis March 31 – May 19, 1975 • Prostatitis, chronic • Arteriosclerotic heart disease • Atrial fibrillation • Congestive heart failure • CFC III29 June 2- June 6, 1975 • Chest pains (Atrial Flutter) • Painful urination (Chronic prostatitis)30 August 23-September 3, 1975 • Arteriosclerotic heart disease • Congestive heart failure, mild • Atrial fibrillation • Cardiac functional capacity III-B31 September 15-October 2, 1975 • Arteriosclerotic heart disease • Atrial fibrillation • Congestive heart failure • Pneumonia • Urinary tract infection • Cerebrovascular accident, old • Upper GI bleeding probably secondary to stress ulcers32
1Rollo, pp. 20-33; penned by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr., with Associate Justice Delilah Vidallon-Magtolis (retired) and Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion (now a Member of this Court) concurring.cralawnad
2 Id. at 67-72.cralawnad
3 Id. at 51-56.cralawnad
4 Id. at 66.cralawnad
5 Id. at 57-60.cralawnad
6 Id. at 67-72.cralawnad
7 Id. at 68-69.cralawnad
8 CA Rollo, pp. 23-24.cralawnad
9Rollo, pp. 25-32.cralawnad
10 CA rollo, pp. 101-108.cralawnad
11 Id. at 117.cralawnad
12Rollo, p. 11.cralawnad
13Citibank, N.A. Mastercard v. Teodoro, G.R. No. 150905, September 23, 2003, 411 SCRA 577, 584-585, citing De Vera v. Aguilar, G.R. No. 83377, February 9, 1993, 218 SCRA 602, 606.cralawnad
14 Lempert and Saltzburg, A Modern Approach to Evidence, (American Casebook Series), Second Edition, 1982, p. 1007.cralawnad
15 McCormick on Evidence (Hornbook Series), Third Edition 1984, § 233, p. 707.cralawnad
16 Lempert and Saltzburg, supra.cralawnad
17 Francisco, Evidence: Rules of Court in the Philippines (Rules 128-134), Third Edition 1996, p. 56.cralawnad
18 Lempert and Saltzburg, supra.cralawnad
19 McCormick on Evidence, supra; R. Francisco, supra.cralawnad
20Phil-Ville Development and Housing Corporation v. Bonifacio, G.R. No. 167391, June 8, 2011, 651 SCRA 327, 341.cralawnad
21 Records, p. 5.cralawnad
22 Id. at 26.cralawnad
23 Id. at 148.cralawnad
24 TSN, August 1, 1997, p. 10.cralawnad
26 Lempert and Saltzburg, supra, at 1007, to wit:
The best evidence rule does not require that a writing be produced when its existence rather than its contents is at issue. If, for example, the question arises whether a particular report was written and filed, a witness could testify that the report was made without accounting for the original. Of course, if it were important to one party to show that the report existed, good trial tactics usually would require the party to produce the report or account for its absence.cralawnad
27 See Lee v. People, G.R. No. 159288, October 19, 2004, 440 SCRA 662 (“xxx It has been held that where the missing document is the foundation of the action, more strictness in proof is required than where the document is only collaterally involved. xxx If the document is one in which other persons are also interested, and which has been placed in the hands of a custodian for safekeeping, the custodian must be required to make a search and the fruitlessness of such search must be shown, before secondary evidence can be admitted. The certificate of the custody of the document is incompetent to prove the loss or destruction thereof. Such fact must be proved by some person who has knowledge of such loss.”)
28 TSN, August 14, 1997, pp. 54-59.cralawnad
29 Records, p. 182.cralawnad
30 Id. at 184.cralawnad
31 Id. at 186.cralawnad
32 Id. at 188.cralawnad
33 TSN, June 6, 1997, p. 11.cralawnad
34 Records, p. 188.cralawnad
35Autocorp Group v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 157553, September 8, 2004, 437 SCRA 678, 688.cralawnad