G.R. No. 185374, March 11, 2015
SIMPLICIA CERCADO-SIGA AND LIGAYA CERCADO-BELISON, Petitioners, v. VICENTE CERCADO, JR., MANUELA C. ARABIT, LOLITA C. BASCO, MARIA C. ARALAR AND VIOLETA C. BINADAS, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Not too long ago, we were called to pass upon the issue of the probative value of a marriage contract issued by the church to prove the fact of marriage.1 Once again, it behooves upon us to determine whether the marriage contract or Contrato Matrimonial, as it is denominated in this case, is sufficient to prove the fact of marriage.
This Petition for Review on Certiorari assails the 5 August 2008 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals and its 14 November 2008 Resolution3 in CA-G.R. CV No. 89585 reversing the 30 January 2007 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Binangonan, Rizal, Branch 69, which nullified the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate of the Deceased Vicente Cercado, Sr. (Vicente) and Leonora Ditablan (Leonora).
In their Complaint against respondents Vicente Cercado, Jr., Manuela C. Arabit, Lolita Basco, Maria C. Aralar, Violeta C. Binadas and the Registrar of Deeds of Binangonan, Rizal, petitioners Simplicia Cercado-Siga (Simplicia) and Ligaya Cercado-Belison (Ligaya) claimed that they are the legitimate children of the late Vicente and Benita Castillo (Benita), who were married last 9 October 1929 in Pililla, Rizal. Petitioners alleged that during the lifetime of their parents, their father acquired by gratuitous title a parcel of land identified as Lot No. 7627 Cad 609-D located at Barangay Kinagatan, Binangonan, Rizal with an area of 6,032 square meters and covered by Tax Declaration No. BIP-021-0253. Petitioners claimed that upon the death of their father Vicente and by virtue of intestate succession, ownership over the subject land pertained to them as heirs; that upon the death of Benita, her share was acquired by petitioners by operation of law. Sometime in September 1998, petitioners read from a newspaper a notice that the estate of Vicente and a certain Leonora Ditablan has been extrajudicially settled by their heirs, respondents herein. Upon verification, petitioners were furnished a copy of the Extrajudicial Settlement of the Estate (Deed) executed and signed by respondents. Petitioners insist that Vicente and Leonora were not married or if they were so married, then said marriage was null and void by reason of the subsisting marriage of their parents, Vicente and Benita. Petitioners prayed for the declaration of the Deed as null and void; for the Office of the Register of Deeds of Rizal to correct the entry on the marital status of Vicente; and for the payment of damages and attorney’s fees.5
To prove the marriage between Vicente and Benita, petitioners presented the following documents: 1) Contrato Matrimonial or the marriage contract;6 2) Certification dated 19 November 2000 issued by Iglesia Filipina Independiente of its acceptance of original marriage contract;7 3) Certification of non-production of record of birth of Simplicia issued by the Office of the Municipal Civil Registrar of Pililla, Rizal;8 4) Certificate of Baptism of Simplicia;9 5) Certification of non-production of record of birth of Ligaya issued by the Office of the Municipal Civil Registrar of Pililla, Rizal;10 and 6) Joint Affidavit of two disinterested persons attesting that Ligaya is the child of Vicente and Benita.11
In their Answer, respondents alleged that they are the legitimate heirs of Vicente and Leonora, who were married on 27 June 1977 as evidenced by a marriage certificate registered with the Local Civil Registrar of Binangonan, Rizal. They averred that petitioners are not the real-parties-interest to institute the case because they failed to present their birth certificates to prove their filiation to Vicente; that the marriage between Vicente and Benita was not valid; that the document showing that Vicente was married to Benita is not a certified true copy; and that they are now estopped by laches.12
On 30 January 2007, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of petitioners. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
- The Extra-Judicial Settlement of Estate of the deceased Vicente Cercado, Sr. and Benita Ditablan is hereby declared null and void and therefore no force and effect;
- The [petitioners] and the [respondents] are entitled to share pro-indiviso in the subject property as follows:
- 2,639 square meters – For [petitioner] Simplicia Cercado-Siga;
- 2,639 square meters – For [petitioner]Ligaya Cercado-Belison;
- 150.8 square meters – For [respondent] Vicente Cercado, Jr.;
- 150.8 square meters – For [respondent] Manuela C. Arabit;
- 150.8 square meters – For [respondent]Lolita C. Basco;
- 150.8 square meters – For [respondent]Maria C. Aralar; and
- 150.8 square meters – For [respondent] Violeta C. Binadas;
- In the event that the property has already been sold by the [respondents], they are hereby ordered to pay the [petitioners] the amount equivalent to their share, at the time the subject property was sold;
- [respondents] to pay [petitioners] the amount of P30,000.00 attorney’s fees; and
- To pay the cost of suit.13
The [petitioners] are the legitimate children of the late Vicente Cercado, Sr. and Benita Castillote/Castillo who were married on October 9, 1929, as evidenced by a Contrato Matrimonial x x x.14
THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT AS A PUBLIC DOCUMENT – AND SO WITH ITS DUPLICATE ORIGINAL. THE CONTRATO MATRIMONIAL BUTTRESSED A CERTIFICATION ISSUED BY THE IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE IS A PUBLIC DOCUMENT, [IT] BEING REQUIRED BY LAW TO BE KEPT NOT ONLY BY THE CHURCH CONCERNED BUT BY THE OFFICE OF THE LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR – AND THE NATIONAL STATISTIC OFFICE. AND THE DUPLICATE ORIGINAL COPY OF THE SAME IS ALSO CONSIDERED ORIGINAL (SECTION 4, RULE 130) (AND HENCE ALSO A PUBLIC DOCUMENT UNDER THE RULE) ON EVIDENCE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, COMMITTED ANOTHER REVERSIBLE ERROR, WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER THE SAID DUPLICATE ORIGINAL OF THE SUBJECT MARRIAGE CONTRACT AS AN ANCIENT DOCUMENT, BESIDES, THE SAID DOCUMENT, MORE THAN 30 YEARS IN EXISTENCE IS CONSIDERED AS AN ANCIENT DOCUMENT, OUTSIDE THE NEEDED REQUIREMENT OF AUTHENTICATION APPLICABLE TO PRIVATE DOCUMENT.
THE APPELLATE COURT COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT IGNORED THE PROBATIVE VALUE OF A BAPTISMAL CERTIFICATE AND PETITIONERS’ PARENTS YEARS [OF] COHABITATION. THE BAPTISMAL CERTIFICATE WHILE NOT ADMISSIBLE AS DIRECT EVIDENCE FOR A MARITAL CONTRACT, THE SAME IS OF STRONG EVIDEN[T]IARY SUPPORT TO THE EXISTENCE OF MARRIAGE OF [PETITIONERS’] PARENTS, EVIDENCED BY EXHIBIT “A” AND EXHIBIT “A-1” AND BY THE CERTIFICATE OF ITS DESTRUCTION DURING WORLD WAR II, ALSO, BY THE OPEN AND PUBLIC COHABITATION OF [PETITIONERS’] PARENTS, ADDED THE PRESUMPTION IN FAVOR OF SUCH MARRIAGE, BOLSTERED BY THE OPEN AND PUBLIC COHABITATION.
THE APPELLATE COURT COMMITTED ANOTHER REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT IGNORED THE WEIGHT AND PROBATIVE VALUE OF THE JOINT AFFIDAVIT OF TWO (2) DISINTERESTED PERSONS. THE AFFIDAVIT OF TWO (2) DISINTERESTED PERSONS BEING A REQUIREMENT BY THE LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR AND/OR THE NSO TO SUPPORT THE EXISTENCE OF [PETITIONERS’] PARENTS MARRIAGE, AND IN THAT SINCE BECOMES ALSO A PUBLIC DOCUMENT OR AT THE VERY LEAST, A CIRCUMSTANTIAL DOCUMENTARY PROOF, WHICH IF ADDED TO THE BAPTISMAL CERTIFICATE EXHIBIT “H-1”, THE CONTRATO MATRIMONIAL AND THE CERTIFICATION ISSUED BY THE IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE TAKEN TOGETHER, PLUS THE OPEN AND PUBLIC COHABITATION OF THE [PETITIONERS’] PARENTS MARRIAGE, AND THE PRESUMPTION OF MARRIAGE PROVIDED FOR BY LAW, BANDED TOGETHER, ARE STRONG EVIDENCE TO PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF [PETITIONERS’] PARENTS MARRIAGE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED ANOTHER YET SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR, WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER THE RESPONDENTS’ PARENTS’ MARRIAGE AS BIGAMOUS. THE NULLITY OF THE [RESPONDENTS’] PARENTS’ MARRIAGE, FOR BEING BIGAMOUS, AND BEING THE INCIDENT NECESSARILY INTERTWINED IN THE ISSUES PRESENTED, AND IT BEING A BIGAMOUS MARRIAGE, CAN BE COLLATERALLY ATTACK[ED] OR SLAIN AT SIGHT WHEREVER AND WHENEVER ITS HEAD (THE [RESPONDENTS’] PARENTS MARRIAGE) IS EXHIBITED.19
x x x that thereby credit is given to its genuineness. Were it not for its antiquity, and the presumption that consequently arises that evidence of its execution cannot be obtained, it would have to be proved. It is not that any one particular place of deposit can have more virtue in it than another, or make that true which is false; but the fact of its coming from the natural and proper place, tends to remove presumptions of fraud, and strengthens the belief in its genuineness. It may be false, and so shown, notwithstanding the presumptions in its favor. If found where it would not properly and naturally be, its absence from the proper place must be satisfactorily accounted for; but that being done and all suspicions against its genuineness removed, we can discover no reason why it may not be read in evidence. The real question which is to affect its consideration is, whether the instrument offered is genuine, and contains a true statement of what it purports to. In the Bishop of Meath v. Marquis of Winchester, 2 Bing. 183, Tindal, C. J., speaking of ancient documents, holds this language. "It is not necessary that they should be found in the best and most proper place of deposit. If documents continued in such custody, there never would be any question as to their authenticity; but it is when documents are found in other than their proper place of deposit, that the investigation commences whether it was reasonable and natural under the circumstances in the particular case, to expect that they should have been in the place where they are actually found; for it is obvious, that while there can be only one place of deposit strictly and absolutely proper, there may be many and various that are reasonable and probable, though differing in degree; some being more so, some less; and in those cases the proposition to be determined is, whether the actual custody is so reasonably and probably accounted for, that it impresses the mind with the conviction, that the instrument found in such custody must be genuine." Some authorities hold, that the antiquity of the document is alone sufficient to entitle it to be read, and that the other circumstances only go to its effect in evidence.
1Macua Vda. de Avenido v. Avenido, G.R. No. 173540, 22 January 2014, 714 SCRA 447, 457-458.
2Rollo, pp. 76-108; Penned by Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo with Associate Justices Mario L. Guariña III and Mariflor P. Punzalan-Castillo concurring.
3 Id. at 142-143.
4 Id. at 144-171; Penned by Presiding Judge Narmo P. Noblejas.
5 Records, pp. 1-5.
6 Id. at 7.
7 Id. at 20.
8 Id. at 34.
9 Id. at 35.
10 Id. at 37.
11 Id. at 36.
12 Id. at 74-77.
13Rollo, pp. 170-171.
14 Id. at 167.
15 Id. at 168.
16 Id. at 45-46.
17 Id. at 100.
18 Id. at 142-143.
19 Id. at 61-66.
20 Id. at 190-196.
21 Id. at 178.
22 29 Phil. 215 (1915).
23 On December 18, 1899, at the beginning of the American occupation of the Philippines, Major General Otis, exercising the legislative power vested in him as Commander-in-Chief of an American army in occupied territory, promulgated General Order No. 68 the purpose of which was to establish rules of law relating to marriage. It provides that marriages may be solemnized by a judge of a court inferior to the Supreme Court, by a justice of the peace, or by a priest or minister of the gospel of any denomination. x x x. (visited 10 November 2014.)
24U.S. v. Evangelista, supra note 21.
25 Rule 132, Section 20. Proof of private document. – Before any private document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either:(a) By anyone who saw the document executed or written; or26Malayan Insurance, Co., Inc. v. Philippines Nails and Wires Corp., 430 Phil. 163, 168 (2002).
(b) By evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker.
27 246 Phil. 596, 603 (1988) citing Mahilum v. CA, 123 Phil. 1335 (1966); and U.S. v. Zapanta, 33 Phil. 567 (1916). See Herrera, Remedial Law Vol. V, 1999 Edition, pp. 182-183.
29 29A Am Jur 2d Evidence § 1204 citing McGuire v. Blount, 199 U.S. 142, 26 S. Ct. 1, 50 L. Ed. 125 (1905); Nicholson v. Eureka Lumber Co., 156 N.C. 59, 72 S.E. 86 (1911); Gibson v. Poor, 21 N.H. 440, 1850 WL 2344 (1850). See Herrera, Remedial Law Vol. V, 1999 Edition, pp. 186-187.
30 21 N.H. 440.
31 262 Phil. 113, 122-123 (1990).
32Heirs of Cabais v. Court of Appeals, 374 Phil. 681, 689 (1999) citing Macadangdang v. Court of Appeals, 188 Phil. 192, 201 (1980); Paa v. Chan, 128 Phil. 815, 822 (1967).