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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT JURISPRUDENCE
 

   
May-1996 Jurisprudence                 

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  • G.R. No. 109609 May 8, 1996 - SEGUNDINO ROYO, ET AL. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 110597 May 8, 1996 - SERVICEWIDE SPECIALISTS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 117482 May 8, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROMEO ESGUERRA

  • G.R. No. 118794 May 8, 1996 - PHILIPPINE REFINING COMPANY, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. Nos. 84332-33 May 8, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. REYNALDO EVANGELISTA

  • G.R. No. 102078 May 15, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROLANDO A. FELICIANO

  • G.R. No. 107041 May 15, 1996 - FELICIANO MALIWAT v. COURT OF APPEALS

  • G.R. No. 109362 May 15, 1996 - CELIA A. FLORES v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 116110 May 15, 1996 - BALIWAG TRANSIT, INC. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 116237 May 15, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. FE C. ARCILLA

  • Adm. Matter No. 91-10-160 May 15, 1996 - IN RE: SAMANODIN L. AMPASO

  • G.R. No. 94980 May 15, 1996 - LITTON MILLS, INC. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • Adm. Matter No. P-95-1138 May 15, 1996 - SECURITY DIVISIONS, ET AL. v. GAMAL L. UMPA, ET AL.

  • Adm. Matter No. 95-7-65-MTCC May 15, 1996 - IN RE: FELIPE KALALO

  • G.R. Nos. 107814-107815 May 16, 1996 - TUPAY T. LOONG, ET AL. v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 119641 May 17, 1996 - PHILIPPINE AIRLINES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 117589-92 May 22, 1996 - ROMEO R. SALALIMA, ET AL. v. TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, ET AL.

  • Adm. Matter No. MTJ-94-904 May 22, 1996 - JOSEPHINE C. MARTINEZ v. CESAR N. ZOLETA

  • G.R. No. 119655 May 24, 1996 - ANTONIO A. TIBAY. ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 96923 May 24, 1996 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RENANTE PARAGUA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 108734 May 29, 1996 - CONCEPT BUILDERS, INC. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 112331 May 29, 1996 - ANASTACIA QUIMEN v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-24864 May 30, 1996 - FORTUNATO HALILI v. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 111014 May 31, 1996 - LIANA’S SUPERMARKET v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, ET AL.

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    G.R. No. 107041   May 15, 1996 - FELICIANO MALIWAT v. COURT OF APPEALS

     
    PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

    FIRST DIVISION

    [G.R. No. 107041-42. May 15, 1996.]

    FELICIANO MALIWAT, Petitioner, v. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, Former Special First Division, and the REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.


    SYLLABUS


    1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; DUE PROCESS; RIGHT NOT DENIED WHERE ACCUSED WHO TESTIFIED SOUGHT AND GRANTED THE POSTPONEMENT AND CANCELLATION OF HEARING FOR NO LESS THAN 40 TIMES. — Maliwat cannot claim that he was denied due process. The records show that he did testify on his own behalf and was cross-examined by the prosecution. Admittedly, he was unable to adduce additional documentary evidence that he claims would establish his innocence and which he now attaches as annexes in his petition for review and memorandum of law before the Court. But as noted earlier, it was Maliwat who had sought the postponements and cancellations of the hearings for no less than forty (40) times, from the date of his arraignment to the promulgation of judgment, a fact that spanned almost a decade (1978 to 1988).

    2. JUDICIAL ETHICS; JUDGES; MUST RENDER JUST AND IMPARTIAL JUDGMENT FREE FROM ANY SUSPICION; GRANTING OF ACCUSED’S SEVERAL REQUESTS FOR POSTPONEMENT, LENIENCY NOT IMPARTIALITY. — The guiding rule is that a judge must not only render a just, correct and impartial decision but should do so in such a manner as to be free from any suspicion as to his fairness, impartiality and integrity. As applied to the case at bar, the attitude exhibited by Judge Diaz speaks more of extraordinary leniency to the accused in granting all his requests for postponements, even to the extent of reconsidering his orders declaring the accused as having waived his right to present further evidence.

    3. REMEDIAL LAW; DISQUALIFICATION OF JUDGES; JUDGES NOT DISQUALIFIED FROM SITTING AND DECIDING CASE WHERE HE AS THE THEN CLERK OF COURT TESTIFIED ON THE SAME CASE AFFECTING AN ISSUED CERTIFICATION. — Under Rule 137, Sec. 1 of the Rules of Court, Judge Diaz’ previous actuations in testifying as then clerk of court on the issued official certification did not render him legally disqualified from sitting and deciding the case. The suggestion that he is not wholly free, disinterested and independent could have been buttressed by the exercise of his sound discretion in voluntarily disqualifying himself. Yet, the manner in which he exhibited himself during the trial negates any suspicion of prejudgment in the case.

    4. ID.; EVIDENCE; GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT; ESTABLISHED IN CASE AT BAR. — The only remaining issue then is whether or not petitioner’s guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. In the interest of justice, the Court treated the annexes attached to the petition which had been marked as exhibits in the course of the trial but were not formally offered, to form part of the records of this case. And after close scrutiny thereof, the Court is of the considered opinion, and so holds, that petitioner was correctly convicted of having committed the crime of falsification of public documents.

    5. ID.; ID.; PRESUMPTIONS; PERSON TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A FALSIFIED DOCUMENT, PRESUMED THE MATERIAL AUTHOR OF THE FALSIFICATION. — The settled rule is that in the absence of satisfactory explanation, one found in possession of and who used a forged document is the forger and therefore guilty of falsification. If a person had in his possession a falsified document and he made use of it (uttered it), taking advantage of it and profiting thereby, the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification.


    D E C I S I O N


    PADILLA, J.:


    Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is the decision 1 of public respondent Court of Appeals (CA) dated 29 November 1991 in CA-G.R. Nos. 09428-09429, entitled People of the Philippines versus Feliciano Maliwat, as well as the resolution dated 17 September 1992 which denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. The CA decision and resolution affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite City which convicted herein petitioner of falsification of public documents as defined and penalized under Article 172 par. 1 of the Revised Penal Code.

    In a resolution dated 16 November 1992, this Court denied the present petition for review for failure to comply with the Rules of Court and Circular 28-91. 2 Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court denied with finality on 18 January 1993. 3 Petitioner followed with a second motion for reconsideration which the Court noted without action in its 3 March 1993 resolution. 4

    On 21 June 1993, petitioner filed a motion for declaration of mistrial, pleading for the first time that his constitutional right to due process was impaired when Judge Rolando Diaz rendered the judgment of conviction in Criminal Cases Nos. 158-77 and 159-77, knowing fully well that he (Judge Diaz) previously testified against the petitioner (then accused) in said cases, while then the Clerk of Court of the Court of First Instance (CFI) Branches 2 and 3 of Cavite City.

    The Court issued a resolution 5 on 7 July 1993 requiring Judge Diaz to comment on the said motion for declaration of mistrial. On 14 July 1993, petitioner filed a motion for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and inhibition order against Judge Diaz. On 21 July 1993, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Diaz from conducting further proceedings in Criminal Cases Nos. 158-77 and 159-77 (entitled People of the Philippines v. Feliciano Maliwat, Regional Trial Court, Branch 17). 6

    Judge Diaz filed his comment on petitioner’s motion. 7 After careful deliberations, the Court resolved on 14 March 1994 to lift the entry of final judgment dated 3 February 1993 and to reinstate and give due course to this petition for review. The parties were required to file their respective memoranda as the Court ordered the RTC of Cavite City to forward the records of the cases to the Court. 8

    The antecedent facts of the case may be summarized as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

    On 18 November 1977, two (2) separate informations were filed before the then CFI of Cavite, Branch 3 (now RTC, Branch 17) charging petitioner with the crime of Falsification of Public and Official Documents.

    The first information, docketed as Criminal Case No. 158-77, reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

    "That on or about the first week of November 1975, in the City of Cavite, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, a private person, having somehow obtained possession of a blank form of a transfer certificate of title with Serial No. 1403456, which is a public and official document, did, then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit acts of falsification, by then and there, filling, typing and inserting on the blank spaces therein or causing to be filled, typed and inserted on said public and official document, the technical descriptions of a parcel of land, Lot No. 5825 of the Imus Estate Subdivision, Province of Cavite, with an area of 553,853 sq. meters including the corresponding title number, and making it appear that the same is the owner’s reconstituted copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-11850 of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite, with the herein accused as the registered owner and that the said public and official document was reconstituted by virtue of the order of the Court of First Instance of Cavite dated November 13, 1963 and causing it to appear further that the then Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite, Escolastico Cuevas had participated in the preparation and signing of the said falsified Owner’s copy of TCT No. RT-11850, when in truth and in fact, the said accused well knew that said parcel of land is already registered in the name of Green Valley Realty Corporation and that then Register of Deeds Escolastico Cuevas never intervened in the preparation and signing of said falsified document much less did he authorize anybody to write his name or affix his signature therein nor was there any judicial proceedings for reconstitution nor order from the Court regarding TCT RT-11850, and thereafter, the above-named accused presented the said falsified owner’s duplicate copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-11850, in the office of the Register of Deeds of Cavite, for the purpose of reconstituting the original thereof.

    Contrary to law." 9

    The second information was docketed as Criminal Case No. 159-77 and recited the same allegations as in the first information, except that the number of the TCT involved in the second information was TCT No. RT 11854 with serial no. 1403457, allegedly covering lot no. 5826 of the Imus Estate Subdivision, with an area of 299,403 sq. meters.

    Petitioner was arraigned on 2 August 1978 at which, he pleaded not guilty to each charge. Thereafter, joint trial of the two (2) cases ensued.

    On 12 February 1986, the trial court rendered a decision, later amended on 28 June 1988, the dispositive part of which, as amended, reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

    "WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds the accused Feliciano Maliwat guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Falsification of Public Documents as defined and penalized par. 1, Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code and he is hereby sentenced to — in Crim. Case No. 158-77 to an indeterminate prison term of from six (6) months of arresto mayor as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional as maximum and to pay a fine of P5,000.00; in Crim. Case No. 159-77 to an indeterminate [prison] term of from six (6) months of arresto mayor as minimum, to four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional as maximum and to pay a fine of P5,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs in both instances.

    SO ORDERED." 10

    The evidence for the prosecution sought to establish that sometime in October 1975, Maliwat, accompanied by two (2) other persons, went to the office of Atty. Milagros Santiago, then the acting Register of Deeds of Cavite, to inquire about the originals of TCT Nos. T-11850 and T-11854 covering lots 5825 and 5826 of the Imus Estate Subdivision. The original copies of said titles, however, could not be located by the vault keeper of the office. Meanwhile, Atty. Santiago examined the owner’s duplicate copies presented to her by Maliwat and upon closer scrutiny, she noticed the annotations on the lower part of the two (2) titles which read: "reconstituted as per order of CFI/Cavite City dated November 13, 1963 Sgd. Escolastico Cuevas." The same annotation on the two (2) titles aroused her suspicion because she was familiar with the customary signature of Escolastico Cuevas, and the signatures of Cuevas appearing in the two (2) titles, 11 appeared to be forged.

    Atty. Santiago did not confront Maliwat about the said signatures, instead, she referred the latter to the Clerk of Court (of the CFI) to verify the existence of such an order from the court records. Maliwat allegedly obliged but did not return to the office of the Register of Deeds. That same afternoon, Atty. Santiago went to see the Clerk of Court, Atty. Rolando Diaz, who informed her that the court had no record of the said orders.

    On 6 November 1975, Atty. Santiago wrote a letter to the NBI Director to report the existence of the alleged dubious certificates of title in Maliwat’s possession and requested for an investigation of the matter. 12 The following year, Atty. Santiago went on sick leave and Atty. Jorge Gutierrez was designated by the Land Registration Commission Head Office to act in her stead from 26 January — 17 February 1976. When Atty. Santiago resumed her position on 17 February, she received a letter 13 from Atty. Gutierrez informing her that during her absence, Feliciano Maliwat had applied for administrative reconstitution of title and that he (Gutierrez) approved the same, based on the owner’s duplicate certificates of title submitted to him.

    Concerned with these developments, Atty. Santiago informed the NBI about the reconstitution of the two (2) alleged fake titles and requested for an immediate investigation. The NBI acted swiftly and sent subpoenas to Feliciano Maliwat, Atty. Gutierrez, Atty. Santiago and Atty. Cuevas who all appeared and testified before NBI agent Tobias Lozada.

    Agent Tobias Lozada’s investigation 14 revealed that on his first day in office as acting Register of Deeds (of Cavite), Atty. Gutierrez met a person in his office who introduced himself as Feliciano Maliwat. Maliwat inquired why certain titles he had presented for reconstitution as early as 14 January 1976 had not been acted upon. Atty. Gutierrez had the papers located and seeing no formal defects and believing them to be in order, reconstituted the titles. Due to some typing errors, however, only one title was delivered to Maliwat on that day.

    The following day, when the deputy Register of Deeds Atty. Alejandro Villanueva reported for work, Atty. Gutierrez recounted to him the events of the previous day including the fact that he had reconstituted the titles belonging to Feliciano Maliwat.

    Atty. Villanueva informed Atty. Gutierrez that he should not have reconstituted the titles since Atty. Santiago believed that they were spurious and had in fact requested the NBI to look into the matter. Atty. Villanueva also informed Atty. Gutierrez that Maliwat had been previously convicted for estafa thru falsification of public document and was generally believed to be part of a criminal syndicate operating in Cavite.

    With this information, Atty. Gutierrez told the NBI that he made his own investigation and discovered that Maliwat had subsequently tried to obtain a tax declaration from the Provincial Assessor’s Office (PAO) but this was denied because the PAO personnel doubted the authenticity of his titles. Upon verification with the LRC main office, he (Gutierrez) was further informed that no such titles were originally issued to Maliwat. A similar verification with the Bureau of Lands yielded the same results. Atty. Gutierrez alleged that the formal requisites presented by Maliwat for reconstitution were the following:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

    (a) a verified petition for issuance of new titles under R.A. 26 signed and sworn to by Feliciano Maliwat before Salvador R. Aguinaldo, a notary public for Manila and recorded in the latter’s notarial book as Document No. 1215 on Page 3 of Book No. 116 Series of 1976 (Annex D).

    (b) Transfer Certificate of Title No. RT-11850 on Form No. 1403456 (Annex E) and TCT No. RT-11854 on Form No. 1403457 (Annex E-2).

    Atty. Gutierrez properly identified these documents before the NBI.

    Atty. Escolastico Cuevas, retired Register of Deeds of Cavite Province, whose signatures on the certificates of title were allegedly forged, testified before the court a quo denying his alleged signature appearing on the two (2) titles, i.e. TCT No. RT-11850 on form no. 1403456 and TCT No. RT-11854 on form no. 1403457. He also stated that he executed a sworn statement 15 before the NBI where he similarly made the same denial. In that affidavit, he recalled that as witness for the prosecution in a certain criminal case before Judge Coquia (of the CFI Manila) several years before the present incident, he encountered the very same titles in open court, and he testified that the signatures attributed to him in the two (2) titles were not his, but were plain forgeries.

    Maliwat, for his part, denied authorship of the two (2) forged titles and claimed that he bought the two (2) parcels of land from a certain Benigno T. Aseo as evidenced by a Deed of Absolute Sale 16 dated 2 January 1963. He registered the same and surrendered Aseo’s titles to the Register of Deeds for cancellation, after which he was issued two (2) new titles, namely: TCT No. RT-11850 with Serial No. 603461 and RT-11854 with Serial number 603462. 17 Maliwat further claimed that he witnessed Escolastico Cuevas, the then Register of Deeds, actually sign his name over the said titles before they were issued to him. 18

    Thus, from the issuance of his titles in 1963 up to 1975, Maliwat averred that he took physical possession of the lands covered thereby, and paid real estate taxes thereon except in 1974 when he went to Canada. He was not aware of any title adverse to his own titles and that he was informed only during the trial that a certain Green Valley Corporation had titles to said property and had been paying the real estate taxes thereon. Although he had a location plan over the said properties, he did not have them relocated anymore to determine whether or not there was an overlap of titles.

    In 1975, Maliwat alleged that certain buyers were interested in his property. Together with a friend named Judge Alejo, they went to the Register of Deeds to have his titles verified but the Register of Deeds allegedly could not locate the original file copy of Maliwat’s owner’s duplicate TCTs in their records. Maliwat was then informed that since the Registry of Deeds was burned twice in the past, the file (original) titles were presumably destroyed.

    Maliwat admitted that in January 1976, he filed two (2) petitions for reconstitution of the titles before the Register of Deeds, after which he received a letter from then acting Register of Deeds Gutierrez requiring him to submit the owner’s duplicate copies before the Register of Deeds as basis for the reconstitution of title. Maliwat claimed that Atty. Gutierrez got back the letter 19 when his wife and his lawyer, Moreno Gaid, went to the office of Atty. Gutierrez to surrender the owner’s duplicate copies — which bore Serial Nos. 603461 and 603462 respectively, and not Serial Nos. 1403456 and 1403457 as evidenced by a receipt 20 issued by Atty. Gutierrez. Maliwat denied having any knowledge of the existence of TCT-11850 RT and T-11854 RT with serial nos. 1403456 and 1403457 which found their way into the Register of Deeds of Cavite and maintained that what were surrendered to Atty. Gutierrez were genuine owner’s duplicate copies of TCT 11850-RT and T-11854 RT bearing serial numbers 603461 and 603462.

    After giving due course to the petition at bar, the Court painstakingly reviewed the records to inquire and determine whether or not petitioner was given a fair trial in the lower court.

    The Court notes that from the time of petitioner’s arraignment on 2 August 1978 up to the time the prosecution offered its evidence, and rested, the hearings were either reset or cancelled no less than thirty (30) times owing to a variety of reasons proffered by petitioner. As early as 20 May 1982, the case was set for hearing of the evidence for the defense, but the case was reset for another eight (8) times, again owing to petitioner’s absences. Within said period, the defense also failed to file any written objections to the prosecution’s formal offer of evidence. When Judge Diaz took over the case on 12 April 1983, Maliwat moved to postpone for yet another eight (8) times, prompting Judge Diaz to issue an order on 17 October 1983 declaring Maliwat to have waived his right to present further evidence.

    This was not, however, the end of the trial court’s leniency in Maliwat’s favor. Owing to Maliwat’s manifestation that he was suffering from chronic malaria, Judge Diaz reconsidered 21 and set the case for hearing on 26 March 1984. When Maliwat and counsel still failed to appear on said date, Judge Diaz deemed the case submitted for decision, but again reconsidered and set another hearing on 11 June 1984 to allow the defense to present additional evidence. When both accused and counsel still failed to appear, Judge Diaz deemed the case submitted for decision and required the parties to file their respective memoranda. Maliwat’s lawyer appealed this order to the Court of Appeals but the appeal was deemed abandoned and dismissed on 24 October 1987. 22

    Maliwat’s absences continued up to the promulgation of judgment by the trial court which also had to be reset four (4) times. It was only after then that Maliwat’s counsel filed a motion for new trial before the trial court. When the motion was denied on 14 September 1988, Maliwat appealed the decision to the appellate court. Maliwat could have filed another motion for new trial before the appellate court on the ground of newly discovered evidence material to his defense under Rule 124 Sec. 14 of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure, but he did not. Instead he sought affirmative relief by prosecuting his appeal from the judgment of conviction until the Court of Appeals promulgated its decision affirming the judgment of conviction of the court a quo.

    Under the foregoing facts and circumstances, Maliwat certainly cannot claim that he was denied due process. The records show that he did testify on his own behalf and was cross-examined by the prosecution. Admittedly, he was unable to adduce additional documentary evidence that he claims would establish his innocence and which he now attaches as annexes in his petition for review and memorandum of law before the Court. But as noted earlier, it was Maliwat who had sought the postponements and cancellations of the hearings for no less than forty (40) times, from the date of his arraignment to the promulgation of judgment, a fact that spanned almost a decade (1978 to 1988).

    Although admittedly a belated plea, petitioner argues that there was a mistrial since a vital prosecution witness, then Clerk of Court Rolando Diaz, became the judge of the case and had no choice but to render a judgment of conviction against him.

    The records show that Rolando Diaz, then Clerk of Court of the CFI of Cavite City, indeed testified for the prosecution. But as explained by the Solicitor General, his testimony was limited to certain facts directly connected with or arising from the performance of his official duties as Clerk of Court, without any reference to or pronouncement as to the innocence or guilt of the accused. And as explained by Judge Diaz himself in his comment before this Court dated 19 January 1994,

    "That the only participation of the undersigned Judge as [then] Clerk of Court was to issue a certification and the only testimony given in this case was, while still a Clerk of Court of the Court of First Instance of Cavite with station at Cavite City, he saw the accused Feliciano Maliwat in his office after he was referred to him by the Acting Register of Deeds of Cavite Province, Atty. Milagros Santiago and who presented to him two certificates of title and requested for the production of the order annotated at the bottom of the face of said certificates of title wherein it was shown that the same had been reconstituted as per order of the Court of First Instance dated November 30, 1983 and which after diligent search he could not produce, as either the said order or a copy of the petition were actually inexistent (sic) and he noticed further that the signature of Escolastico Cuevas, Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite at the time said order was issued was not the signature of Atty. Cuevas with which he was familiar;

    That the undersigned did not consider said testimony as bias on his part against the herein accused and he based his conviction of the accused in these cases not on his prejudgment but rather on the over-all evidence presented before the Court;

    That accused did not question his actuations in these cases during the trial and instead opted for the continuation thereof thus perhaps believing that the undersigned would render judgment according to the evidence presented,

    That he did not likewise question the actuations of the Judge in his appeal to the Court of Appeals nor on certiorari to this Honorable Court which denied his petition for review for failure to comply the Rules of Court in Circular No. 28-91 in a resolution of November 13, 1992 whereby entry of Judgment was issued on February 3, 1993 by the Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief Judicial Records Office and it was only on June 21, 1993 did he file the instant motion so as to hold in abeyance the promulgation of judgment on the ground of mistrial;" 23

    The guiding rule is that a judge must not only render a just, correct and impartial decision but should do so in such a manner as to be free from any suspicion as to his fairness, impartiality and integrity. As applied to the case at bar, the attitude exhibited by Judge Diaz speaks more of extraordinary leniency to the accused in granting all his requests for postponements, even to the extent of reconsidering his orders declaring the accused as having waived his right to present further evidence.

    Under Rule 137, Sec. 1 of the Rules of Court, Judge Diaz’ previous actuations did not render him legally disqualified from sitting and deciding the case. The suggestion that he is not wholly free, disinterested and independent could have been buttressed by the exercise of his sound discretion in voluntarily disqualifying himself. Yet, the manner in which he exhibited himself during the trial negates any suspicion of prejudgment in the case.

    The only remaining issue then is whether or not petitioner’s guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. In the interest of justice, the Court treated the annexes attached to the petition which had been marked as exhibits in the course of the trial but were not formally offered, to form part of the records of this case. And after close scrutiny thereof, the Court is of the considered opinion, and so holds, that petitioner was correctly convicted of having committed the crime of falsification of public documents. As clearly observed by the trial court which was evidently in the best position to weigh and evaluate the evidence:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

    "From the evidence submitted, there is no question that the two certificates of title RT-11850 with serial no. 1403456 and RT-11854 with Serial No. 1403457 Exhibits A and B are falsified; that as per finding of the NBI, testified to by then Senior Agent Toribio Lozada the same were among those intended for the province of Cotabato but which were lost in transit as per certification issued by Fortunato T. Pascual of the Land Registration Commission (Exhs. Q and Q-2), and a memorandum circular of the loss was issued by then Acting Commissioner Gregorio Bilog Jr. of the LRC (Exh. O) and the titles found their way into the office of the Register of Deeds of Cavite Province pursuant to a petition for reconstitution filed by the herein accused on January 8, 1976 (Exh. R) and the same were administratively reconstituted by then Acting Register of Deeds of Cavite province Atty. Jorge V. Gutierrez and for which the said owners duplicate were surrendered to the office of the Register of Deeds of Cavite province and new owner’s duplicates issued to the herein accused. The Court cannot give credence thereto over the positive identification made by Atty. Santiago in open Court together with the confirmation made by the NBI agent on the case. Atty. Tobias Lozada and the former Register of Deeds Atty. Escolastico Cuevas whose signature thereon was forged. (Emphasis supplied)

    Moreover, a closer scrutiny of the numbering of the titles in question which accused alleges to have gotten from the office of the Register of Deeds of Cavite Province when he registered the sale executed in his favor by Benigno T. Aseo shows the letters ‘RT’ precedes the number which the Court can take judicial notice of that the letters RT stand for reconstituted title and these initials with the corresponding number follow the original number of the title issued, but in this case the same is missing and does not state the original number of the title which is out of the ordinary procedure of the Register of Deeds.

    Likewise, it is quite absurd to see that Exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’ which are accountable forms bearing consecutive serial numbers (1403456 and 1403457) respectively would have been given nonconsecutive title numbers (RT-11850 and RT-11854) and would have been issued ten months apart (RT-11850) was issued on November 15, 1983 while RT-11854 was issued on January 18, 1963.

    Moreover, RT-11850 does not bear the number of the certificate of titles from which it was transferred whereas TCT No. RT-11854 is supposed to have canceled T-8331 and which apparently conflicts with the allegation of the accused that he acquired these two parcels of land from Benigno T. Aseo whose ownership was evidenced by. TCT No. T-2474 and T-2475. If that were the case then, the said title number would have appeared on Exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’.

    Anent, the testimony of the accused that the certificate of title, the owner’s duplicate of TCT No. RT-11850 and RT-11854 which he presented for reconstitution bore the serial Nos. 603461 and 603462 it will be noted that he only presented xerox copies of the said titles without producing the originals and during the investigation at the NBI as per report marked as Exhibits H and H-4 he never submitted the originals thereof. Whichever serial numbers they bore. it appears that said title forms were falsified in view of the attestations of the Land Registration Commission that they were never intended for the Register of Deeds of Cavite Province." (Emphasis supplied) 24

    Additionally, the Court observes that the titles presented by Maliwat for reconstitution were allegedly owner’s duplicate reconstituted titles, since the numbers were preceded by the letters RT. This fact, assuming it to be true, negates petitioner’ s allegation that these titles were obtained from the Registry of Deeds by canceling Aseo’s (the vendor’s) titles which were not reconstituted titles. It also bears stressing that there must have been a petition for reconstitution, whether judicial or administrative, before Maliwat could be issued said reconstituted titles. But no such petition was produced. From Maliwat’s testimony, he averred that he obtained the said title when Aseo’s title were canceled by virtue of a deed of absolute sale between him and Aseo.

    The Court also observes that Exh. 1-A, which is TCT Nos. RT-11850 and Exh. 4-A which is TCT No. RT-11854 25 were made to appear by accused as reconstituted titles. Thus, whether or not what were issued to the accused bore SN 603461 and 603462 or SN 1403456 and 1403457 is of no moment — because both titles should never have been reconstituted titles in the first place. More so, because the evidence 26 shows that Judicial Forms with SN 603461 and 603462 were issued to the Registry of Deeds of Cotabato province in May 1963. Hence, the titles in Maliwat’s possession cannot be genuine.

    The Court further notes that the signatures of Escolastico Cuevas in SN-1403456; SN-1403457 and SN-603461 and SN-603462 were not the same and, as plain to the naked eye, very different from the specimen signature of Register of Deeds Escolastico Cuevas 27 executed before the NBI. It is ineluctable, therefore, that these titles were falsified and the evidence points to Maliwat as the author of the falsification under par. 1 of Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the revised Penal Code.

    As correctly observed by the Court of Appeals:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

    "When Judicial forms 109-D, with Serial Nos. 1403456 and 1403457 were filled up, issued and made to appear in form, as Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. RT-11850 and RT-11854, respectively, both in the name of Feliciano Maliwat to show his ownership of lots Nos. 5825 and 5826 which are included in the Imus Estate Subdivision although they were not, falsification as defined in paragraph 7 of Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code was committed.

    Again, when in the same forms it was made to appear that they were signed and issued by Register of Deeds Escolastico Cuevas, although in truth and in fact he has neither signed, issued nor filled up the same, falsification penalized under paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the same Article of the Revised Penal Code has also been committed.

    The fact that no proof was introduced to prove or show as to who committed the falsification abovementioned, does not exempt or exculpate the herein accused-appellant from liability. The accused-appellant is the person who stood to benefit by the falsification of the documents in question as such, ‘it is presumed that he is the material author of the falsifications.’ (Sarep v. Sandiganbayan, 177 SCRA 440; 449). 28

    The settled rule is that in the absence of satisfactory explanation, one found in possession of and who used a forged document is the forger and therefore guilty of falsification. 29

    If a person had in his possession a falsified document and he made use of it (uttered it), taking advantage of it and profiting thereby, the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification. 30

    WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED and the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. Nos. 09428-29 dated 29 November 1991, which upholds the amended decision of the Court of First Instance of Cavite dated 28 June 1988 in Criminal Cases Nos. 158-77 and 159-77 is hereby AFFIRMED en toto. Costs against petitioner.

    SO ORDERED.

    Bellosillo, Vitug and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

    Kapunan, J., is on leave.

    Endnotes:



    1. Penned by Justice Asaali Isnani and concurred in by Justices Rodolfo A. Nocon and Antonio M. Martinez.

    2. Rollo, p. 119.

    3. Rollo, p. 167.

    4. Rollo, p. 174.

    5. Rollo, p. 207.

    6. Rollo, p. 216.

    7. Rollo, pp. 223-225.

    8. Rollo, p. 227.

    9. Original record, pp. 1.

    10. Original records, p. 632.

    11. Exhibit A-1 and Exhibit B-l.

    12. Exhibit C.

    13. Exhibit D.

    14. Exhibit H.

    15. Exhibit 2.

    16. Exhibit 2.

    17. Exhibits 1 and 4.

    18. TSN, 19 July 1993, p. 22.

    19. Tsn, 19 July 1983, pp. 8-9.

    20. Exhibit 3

    21. Rollo, p. 461.

    22. Rollo, p. 584.

    23. Rollo, pp. 224-225.

    24. Rollo, pp. 26-27.

    25. Annex C-D.

    26. Exhibit Q.

    27. See Exhibit F-2.

    28. Rollo, p. 16; Court of Appeals decision, p. 7.

    29. Pecho v. Sandiganbayan, 238 SCRA 116 citing Alarcon v. CA, 125 Phil. 1110 [1967], People v. Cu Unjieng, 61 Phil. 906 [1935]; People v. Lotegro, 50 O.G. No. 2632; People v. Dala, 50 O.G. 612675; People v. Manansala L-13142, 30 June 1959; People v. Caragao, 30 SCRA 993; Caubong v. People 210 SCRA 377.

    30. U.S. v. Castillo, 6 Phil. 453; People v. de Lara, 45 Phil. 754; People v. Domingo, 49 Phil. 28 People v. Astudillo, 60 Phil. 338; People v. Manansala, cited in People v. Sendaydiego, 81 SCRA 120 [1978].

    G.R. No. 107041   May 15, 1996 - FELICIANO MALIWAT v. COURT OF APPEALS


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