G.R. No. 216878, April 03, 2019
JOAQUINA ZAMBALES, ESTELITA ZAMBALES NARVASA, ENRICO ZAMBALES, CASTULO ZAMBALES, ADELINA ZAMBALES, AND MIGUELA ZAMBALES CAYAO, PETITIONERS, v. SALVACION VILLON ZAMBALES (SURVIVING WIFE OF DECEASED DOMINGO ZAMBALES), AS SUBSTITUTED BY HER HEIRS/CHILDREN, NAMELY: JOCELYN V. ZAMBALES, LILIBETH ZAMBALES-TERRANO, ARMSTRONG V. ZAMBALES, SUNDAY V. ZAMBALES, BLAS V. ZAMBALES, ISABEL V. ZAMBALES, ALAM ZAMBALES-JUNTERIAL AND SAMUEL ZAMBALES, RESPONDENTS.
D E C I S I O N
This is petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 seeking to annul and set aside the Decision1 dated September 30, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) which denied petitioners' appeal under Rule 41, and the Resolution2 dated December 12, 2014 of the CA which denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration in CA-G.R. CV No. 97079.
The instant case involves a document designated as Extrajudicial Settlement Among Heirs with Waiver of Rights and Sale, which petitioners claim as the basis for the cancellation of Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. G-132 under the name of Blas Zambales, and the consequent issuance of Transfer Certificate of Titles (TCT) Nos. 17729, 17731, 17735, 16387, 18351, 18352, 18353, 18354, 18355, and 18356, under the name of Domingo Zambales.
The facts, as found by the CA, are as follows:
Plaintiffs-appellants (now petitioners Joaquina Zambales, Estelita Zambales Narvasa, Enrico Zambales, et al.) are the surviving children of Enrique Zambales, the sole heir of Blas Zambales, who died intestate in 1942. Blas Zambales is the registered owner of a parcel of land with Original Certificate of Title No. G-132, of the Registry of Deeds of Puerto Princesa City, x x x.On October 19, 2010, Salvacion Zambales filed a Motion to Dismiss on Demurrer to Evidence,4 which the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City, Branch 47 granted in an Order5 dated March 23, 2011, the dispositive portion of which reads:
On December 14, 1979, a document denominated as Extrajudicial Settlement with Waiver of Rights and Sale was executed by Joaquina Zambales, the surviving wife of Enrique Zambales, Estelita, Miguela, Domingo, Castulo, Enrico, and Adelina, all surnamed Zambales, wherein they (Joaquina, Miguela, Castulo, Enrico, Adelina and Estelita) waived, renounced, ceded, transferred and conveyed all their rights, interest and shares over their 1/7 undivided interest over the land covered by OCT No. G-132 in favor of Domingo Zambales, who, in turn, accepted the waiver and transfer made by his co-heirs and expressed his appreciation and gratitude to them in the same document. Subsequently, OCT No. G-132 was canceled and TCT No. 6892 was issued in the name of Domingo Zambales. Thereafter, it was subdivided resulting in the issuance of ten titles: TCT Nos. 17729, 17731, 17735, 16387, 18351, 18352, 18353, 18354, 18355, and 18356, all under the name of Domingo Zambales.
After more than two decades, plaintiffs-appellants filed the instant complaint to cancel the document denominated as "Extrajudicial Settlement with Waiver of Rights and Sale" dated December 14, 1979 and the subsequent titles derived from OCT No. G-132.
x x x x
On March 9, 2000, plaintiff-appellants filed a complaint for Cancellation of TCT No. 17729, 17731, 17735, 16887, 18351, 18352, 18353,18354,18355, and 18356 and Extrajudicial Settlement Among Heirs with Waiver of Rights and Sale with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. 3434. In their complaint, plaintiffs-appellants alleged that they are the heirs of Enrique Zambales and the grandchildren of Blas Zambales, the original owner of a parcel of land covered by Original Certificate of Title No. G-132. On the other hand, defendant-appellee Salvacion Villon Zambales (now respondent, as substituted by her heirs, namely: Jocelyn V. Zambales, et al.) is the wife of Domingo Zambales.
On March 28, 2000, defendant-appellee filed a Motion to Dismiss stating that the complaint is barred by res judicata as the issue of the heirship of Domingo Zambales has been settled and that the questioned deed was categorically admitted in evidence in Civil Case No. 2869. On June 5, 2000, an Opposition to the Motion was filed by plaintiffs-appellants stating that the parcels of land enumerated in the said approved compromise agreement (in Civil Case No. 2869) are the properties of the late Enrique Zambales, specifically located at Brgy. Del Pilar, Roxas, Palawan, and that they have nothing to do with the property located at Puerto Princesa under Title No. G-132. However, in an Order date July 11, 2011, the court a quo denied the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, defendant-appellee filed an Answer with Counterclaim stating that the complaint was barred by prescription as the document sought to be nullified was executed 21 years ago, and that the validity of the same was expressly admitted in Civil Case No. 2869.
x x x x
On August 10, 2004, a Motion to Intervene as parties defendants with Answer-in-Intervention was filed by the intervenors-heirs of Domingo Zambales which was granted in an Order dated December 1, 2004. Thereafter, trial ensued and plaintiffs-appellants' witnesses were presented. However, no formal offer of exhibits was presented in view of the Certification issued by the Registry of Deeds of Puerto Princesa City, to the effect that the Extrajudicial Settlement With Waiver of Rights executed by the heirs of the late Enrique Zambales involving a parcel of land with an area of 2.9670 hectares, covered by OCT No. G-132, in the name of Blas Zambales cannot be located from the existing and available records of the registry.3
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion to dismiss is hereby GRANTED on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. Accordingly, this case is ordered DISMISSED.The RTC held that while the petitioners submitted testimonial evidence to show that the subject extrajudicial settlement was allegedly forged, which would thus render the subsequent titles issued pursuant thereto void, herein petitioners did not offer the said document nor the titles sought to be cancelled during trial.6 It noted that during the hearing held on June 2, 2010, the counsel for herein petitioners categorically manifested that they were not offering any exhibits.7
x x x x
I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT STRICTLY APPLIED THE RULE ON OFFER OF EVIDENCE CONTRARY TO THE RULING OF THE HONORABLE SUPREME COURT IN THE CASE OF MATO VDA. DE OÑATE V. CA (G.R. NO. 116149, 23 NOVEMBER 1995)On September 30, 2013, the CA issued its assailed Decision affirming the trial court's dismissal of the case, denying petitioners' appeal for lack of merit.
II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT APPLIED THE BEST EVIDENCE RULE IN THE CASE AT BAR.
III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE CASE ON THE GROUND OF INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.8
In a Resolution12 dated September 4, 2017, this Court required the respondents to comment on the Petition to Review.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE CASE OF MATO VDA. DE OÑATE VS. COURT OF APPEALS IS NOT APPLICABLE IN THE INSTANT CASE.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT UPHELD THE APPLICATION OF THE BEST EVIDENCE RULE IN THE PRESENT CASE.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT UPHELD THE VALIDITY OF A FALSIFIED DOCUMENT ON THE SOLE GROUND THAT IT WAS NOTARIZED.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT UPHELD THE DISMISSAL OF THE INSTANT CASE ON THE GROUND OF INSSUFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.11
SECTION 1. Filing of Petition with Supreme Court. — A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.15In their third and fourth assigned errors, petitioners assail the factual findings of the CA. Petitioners submit, among others, that the appellate court erred when it upheld the validity of a falsified document on the sole ground that it was notarized,16 arguing that one of their witnesses was a "disinterested witness, who has no ill motive to testify falsely" and whose testimony, "if properly appreciated," would alter the outcome of the case.17
A demurrer to evidence is defined as "an objection by one of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue." We have also held that a demurrer to evidence "authorizes a judgment on the merits of the case without the defendant having to submit evidence on his part, as he would ordinarily have to do, if plaintiffs evidence shows that he is not entitled to the relief sought."In this case, the records show that apart from the fact that the Extrajudicial Settlement Among Heirs with Waiver of Rights and Sale sought to be annulled and the titles sought to be cancelled were not offered in evidence,26 the Extrajudicial Settlement itself alluded to in the testimonial evidence presented was not offered in order to allow the trial court to determine the veracity of the claims of the witnesses.27
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Very truly yours,
(SGD) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court
* Designated Additional Member per Special Order No. 2624 dated November 28, 2018.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Stephen C. Cruz, with Associate Justices Magdangal M. De Leon and Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez concurring; rollo, pp. 42-51.
3Id. at 45-46; 43-45. (Emphasis ours; citations omitted)
4 Records, pp. 261-263.
5Rollo, pp. 195-197.
6Id. at 195.
8Id. at 202.
9 320 Phil. 344, 350 (1995).
10 Sec. 34. Offer of evidence. — The court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered. The purpose for which the evidence is offered must be specified.
11Rollo, pp. 20-21.
12 Per this Court's Resolution dated July 17, 2017, it was directed that respondent Salvacion Villon Zambales, who died on May 23, 2011, be substituted by her heirs/children, namely: Jocelyn V. Zambales, Lilibeth Zambales-Terrano, Armstrong V. Zambales, Sunday V. Zambales, Blas V. Zambales, Isabel V. Zambales, Alma Zambales-Junterial, and Samuel Zambales; id. at 183.
13Rollo, pp. 190-193.
14Spouses Alcazar v. Arante, 700 Phil. 614, 624 (2012).
15 Emphasis ours.
16Rollo, p. 27.
17Id. at 28.
18Id. at 30.
19Navaja v. Hon. De Castro, et al., 761 Phil. 142, 156 (2015).
20DST Movers Corporation v. People's General Insurance Corporation, 778 Phil. 235, 246 (2016).
21Development Rank of the Philippines v. Traders Royal Bank, et al., 642 Phil. 547, 556-557 (2010); Techno Development & Chemical Corp. v. Viking Metal Industries, Inc., 789 Phil. 10, 24 (2016).
22Rollo, p. 47.
23Id. at 195.
25 686 Phil. 877, 888 (2012).
26Rollo, p. 195.