G. R. No. 127469 - January 15, 2004
PHILIPPINE BANKING CORPORATION, Petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and LEONILO MARCOS, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a petition for review of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 34382 dated 10 December 1996 modifying the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Assisting Court, Biñan, Laguna in Civil Case No. B-3148 entitled "Leonilo Marcos v. Philippine Banking Corporation."
The Antecedent Facts
Marcos alleged that sometime in 1982, the BANK through Florencio B. Pagsaligan ("Pagsaligan"), one of the officials of the BANK and a close friend of Marcos, persuaded him to deposit money with the BANK. Marcos yielded to Pagsaligans persuasion and claimed he made a time deposit with the BANK on two occasions. The first was on 11 March 1982 for
Marcos alleged that Pagsaligan kept the various time deposit certificates on the assurance that the BANK would take care of the certificates, interests and renewals. Marcos claimed that from the time of the deposit, he had not received the principal amount or its interest.
Sometime in March 1983, Marcos wanted to withdraw from the BANK his time deposits and the accumulated interests to buy materials for his construction business. However, the BANK through Pagsaligan convinced Marcos to keep his time deposits intact and instead to open several domestic letters of credit. The BANK required Marcos to give a marginal deposit of 30% of the total amount of the letters of credit. The time deposits of Marcos would secure 70% of the letters of credit. Since Marcos trusted the BANK and Pagsaligan, he signed blank printed forms of the application for the domestic letters of credit, trust receipt agreements and promissory notes.
Marcos executed three Trust Receipt Agreements totalling
Marcos believed that he and the BANK became creditors and debtors of each other. Marcos expected the BANK to offset automatically a portion of his time deposits and the accumulated interest with the amount covered by the three trust receipts totalling
Marcos accused the BANK of unjustly demanding payment for the total amount of the trust receipt agreements without deducting the 30% marginal deposit that he had already made. He decried the BANKs unlawful charging of accumulated interest because he claimed there was no agreement as to the payment of interest. The interest arose from numerous alleged extensions and penalties. Marcos reiterated that there was no agreement to this effect because his time deposits served as the collateral for his remaining obligation.
Marcos also denied that he obtained another loan from the BANK for
In sum, Marcos claimed that:
(1) his time deposit with the BANK "in the total sum of
(2) his indebtedness was only
Marcos prayed the trial court to declare Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 void and to order the BANK to pay the amount of his time deposits with interest. He also sought the award of moral and exemplary damages as well as attorneys fees for
On 18 September 1989, summons and a copy of the complaint were served on the BANK.6
On 9 October 1989, the BANK filed its Answer with Counterclaim. The BANK denied the allegations in the complaint. The BANK believed that the suit was Marcos desperate attempt to avoid liability under several trust receipt agreements that were the subject of a criminal complaint.
The BANK alleged that as of 12 March 1982, the total amount of the various time deposits of Marcos was only
The BANK pointed out that Marcos delivered to the BANK the time deposit certificates by virtue of the Deed of Assignment dated 2 June 1989. Marcos executed the Deed of Assignment to secure his various loan obligations. The BANK claimed that these loans are covered by Promissory Note No. 20-756-82 dated 2 June 1982 for
When Marcos defaulted in the payment of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83, the BANK debited his time deposits and applied the same to the obligation that is now considered fully paid.8 The BANK insisted that the Deed of Assignment authorized it to apply the time deposits in payment of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83.
In March 1982, the wife of Marcos, Consolacion Marcos, sought the advice of Pagsaligan. Consolacion informed Pagsaligan that she and her husband needed to finance the purchase of construction materials for their business, L.A. Marcos Construction Company. Pagsaligan suggested the opening of the letters of credit and the execution of trust receipts, whereby the BANK would agree to purchase the goods needed by the client through the letters of credit. The BANK would then entrust the goods to the client, as entrustee, who would undertake to deliver the proceeds of the sale or the goods themselves to the entrustor within a specified time.
The BANK claimed that Marcos freely entered into the trust receipt agreements. When Marcos failed to account for the goods delivered or for the proceeds of the sale, the BANK filed a complaint for violation of Presidential Decree No. 115 or the Trust Receipts Law. Instead of initiating negotiations for the settlement of the account, Marcos filed this suit.
The BANK denied falsifying Promissory Note No. 20-979-83. The BANK claimed that the promissory note is supported by documentary evidence such as Marcos application for this loan and the microfilm of the cashiers check issued for the loan. The BANK insisted that Marcos could not deny the agreement for the payment of interest and penalties under the trust receipt agreements. The BANK prayed for the dismissal of the complaint, payment of damages, attorneys fees and cost of suit.
On 15 December 1989, the trial court on motion of Marcos counsel issued an order declaring the BANK in default for filing its answer five days after the 15-day period to file the answer had lapsed.9 The trial court also held that the answer is a mere scrap of paper because a copy was not furnished to Marcos. In the same order, the trial court allowed Marcos to present his evidence ex parte on 18 December 1989. On that date, Marcos testified and presented documentary evidence. The case was then submitted for decision.
On 19 December 1989, Marcos received a copy of the BANKs Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim.
On 29 December 1989, the BANK filed an opposition to Marcos motion to declare the BANK in default. On 9 January 1990, the BANK filed a motion to lift the order of default claiming that it had only then learned of the order of default. The BANK explained that its delayed filing of the Answer with Counterclaim and failure to serve a copy of the answer on Marcos was due to excusable negligence. The BANK asked the trial court to set aside the order of default because it had a valid and meritorious defense.
On 7 February 1990, the trial court issued an order setting aside the default order and admitting the BANKs Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim. The trial court ordered the BANK to present its evidence on 12 March 1990.
On 5 March 1990, the BANK filed a motion praying to cross-examine Marcos who had testified during the ex-parte hearing of 18 December 1989. On 12 March 1990, the trial court denied the BANKs motion and directed the BANK to present its evidence. Trial then ensued.
The BANK presented two witnesses, Rodolfo Sales, the Branch Manager of the BANKs Cubao Branch since 1987, and Pagsaligan, the Branch Manager of the same branch from 1982 to 1986.
On 24 April 1990, the counsel of Marcos cross-examined Pagsaligan. Due to lack of material time, the trial court reset the continuation of the cross-examination and presentation of other evidence. The succeeding hearings were postponed, specifically on 24, 27 and 28 of August 1990, because of the BANKs failure to produce its witness, Pagsaligan. The BANK on these scheduled hearings also failed to present other evidence.
On 7 September 1990, the BANK moved to postpone the hearing on the ground that Pagsaligan could not attend the hearing because of illness. The trial court denied the motion to postpone and on motion of Marcos counsel ruled that the BANK had waived its right to present further evidence. The trial court considered the case submitted for decision. The BANK moved for reconsideration, which the trial court denied.
On 8 October 1990, the trial court rendered its decision in favor of Marcos. Aggrieved, the BANK appealed to the Court of Appeals.
On 10 December 1996, the Court of Appeals modified the decision of the trial court by reducing the amount of actual damages and deleting the attorneys fees awarded to Marcos.
The Ruling of the Trial Court
The trial court ruled that the total amount of time deposits of Marcos was
The trial court pointed out that no receipt was issued for the 12 March 1982 time deposit because the letter of certification was sufficient. The trial court made a finding that the certification letter did not include the time deposit made on 11 March 1982. The 12 March 1982 deposit was in cash while the 11 March 1982 deposit was in checks which still had to clear. The checks were not included in the certification letter since the BANK could not credit the amounts of the checks prior to clearing. The trial court declared that even the Deed of Assignment acknowledged that Marcos made several time deposits as the Deed stated that the assigment was charged against "various" time deposits.
The trial court recognized the existence of the Deed of Assignment and the two loans that Marcos supposedly obtained from the BANK on 28 May 1982 for
The trial court found it strange that Marcos borrowed money from the BANK at a higher rate of interest instead of just withdrawing his time deposits. The trial court saw no rhyme or reason why Marcos had to secure the loans from the BANK. The trial court was convinced that Marcos did not know that what he had signed were loan applications and a Deed of Assignment in payment for his loans. Nonetheless, the trial court recognized "the said loan of
If the BANKs claim is true that the time deposits of Marcos amounted only to
According to the trial court, a security of only
The trial court required the BANK to produce the original copies of the loan application and Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 so that it could determine who applied for this loan. However, the BANK presented to the trial court only the "machine copies of the duplicate" of these documents.
Based on the "machine copies of the duplicate" of the two documents, the trial court noticed the following discrepancies: (1) Marcos signature on the two documents are merely initials unlike in the other documents submitted by the BANK; (2) it is highly unnatural for the BANK to only have duplicate copies of the two documents in its custody; (3) the address of Marcos in the documents is different from the place of residence as stated by Marcos in the other documents annexed by the BANK in its Answer; (4) Pagsaligan made it appear that a check for the loan proceeds of
The trial court noted the BANKs "defective" documentation of its transaction with Marcos. First, the BANK was not in possession of the original copies of the documents like the loan applications. Second, the BANK did not have a ledger of the accounts of Marcos or of his various transactions with the BANK. Last, the BANK did not issue a certificate of time deposit to Marcos. Again, the trial court attributed the BANKs lapses to Pagsaligans scheme to defraud Marcos of his time deposits.
The trial court also took note of Pagsaligans demeanor on the witness stand. Pagsaligan evaded the questions by giving unresponsive or inconsistent answers compelling the trial court to admonish him. When the trial court ordered Pagsaligan to produce the documents, he "conveniently became sick"15 and thus failed to attend the hearings without presenting proof of his physical condition.
The trial court disregarded the BANKs assertion that the time deposits were converted into a savings account at 14% or 10% per annum upon maturity. The BANK never informed Marcos that his time deposits had already matured and these were converted into a savings account. As to the interest due on the trust receipts, the trial court ruled that there is no basis for such a charge because the documents do not stipulate any interest.
In computing the amount due to Marcos, the trial court took into account the marginal deposit that Marcos had already paid which is equivalent to 30% of the total amount of the three trust receipts. The three trust receipts totalling
In the alternative, the trial court ruled that even if Marcos had only one time deposit of
The dispositive portion of the decision of the trial court reads:
The Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals addressed the procedural and substantive issues that the BANK raised.
The appellate court ruled that the trial court committed a reversible error when it denied the BANKs motion to cross-examine Marcos. The appellate court ruled that the right to cross-examine is a fundamental right that the BANK did not waive because the BANK vigorously asserted this right. The BANKs failure to serve a notice of the motion to Marcos is not a valid ground to deny the motion to cross-examine. The appellate court held that the motion to cross-examine is one of those non-litigated motions that do not require the movant to provide a notice of hearing to the other party.
The Court of Appeals pointed out that when the trial court lifted the order of default, it had the duty to afford the BANK its right to cross-examine Marcos. This duty assumed greater importance because the only evidence supporting the complaint is Marcos ex-parte testimony. The trial court should have tested the veracity of Marcos testimony through the distilling process of cross-examination. The Court of Appeals, however, believed that the case should not be remanded to the trial court because Marcos testimony on the time deposits is supported by evidence on record from which the appellate court could make an intelligent judgment.
On the second procedural issue, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err when it declared that the BANK had waived its right to present its evidence and had submitted the case for decision. The appellate court agreed with the grounds relied upon by the trial court in its Order dated 7 September 1990.
The Court of Appeals, however, differed with the finding of the trial court as to the total amount of the time deposits. The appellate court ruled that the total amount of the time deposits of Marcos is only
The Court of Appeals further explained:
The Court of Appeals sustained the factual findings of the trial court in ruling that Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 is void. There is no evidence of a bank ledger or computation of interest of the loan. The appellate court blamed the BANK for failing to comply with the orders of the trial court to produce the documents on the loan. The BANK also made inconsistent statements. In its Answer to the Complaint, the BANK alleged that the loan was fully paid when it debited the time deposits of Marcos with the loan. However, in its discussion of the assigned errors, the BANK claimed that Marcos had yet to pay the loan.
The appellate court deleted the award of attorneys fees. It noted that the trial court failed to justify the award of attorneys fees in the text of its decision. The dispositive portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals reads:
The BANK anchors this petition on the following issues:
The Ruling of the Court
The petition is without merit.
There was no violation of the BANKs right to procedural due process when the trial court denied the BANKs motion to cross-examine Marcos. Prior to the denial of the motion, the trial court had properly declared the BANK in default. Since the BANK was in default, Marcos was able to present his evidence ex-parte including his own testimony. When the trial court lifted the order of default, the BANK was restored to its standing and rights in the action. However, as a rule, the proceedings already taken should not be disturbed.20 Nevertheless, it is within the trial courts discretion to reopen the evidence submitted by the plaintiff and allow the defendant to challenge the same, by cross-examining the plaintiffs witnesses or introducing countervailing evidence.21 The 1964 Rules of Court, the rules then in effect at the time of the hearing of this case, recognized the trial courts exercise of this discretion. The 1997 Rules of Court retained this discretion.22 Section 3, Rule 18 of the 1964 Rules of Court reads:
The records show that the BANK did not ask the trial court to restore its right to cross-examine Marcos when it sought the lifting of the default order on 9 January 1990. Thus, the order dated 7 February 1990 setting aside the order of default did not confer on the BANK the right to cross-examine Marcos. It was only on 2 March 1990 that the BANK filed the motion to cross-examine Marcos. During the 12 March 1990 hearing, the trial court denied the BANKs oral manifestation to grant its motion to cross-examine Marcos because there was no proof of service on Marcos. The BANKs counsel pleaded for reconsideration but the trial court denied the plea and ordered the BANK to present its evidence. Instead of presenting its evidence, the BANK moved for the resetting of the hearing and when the trial court denied the same, the BANK informed the trial court that it was elevating the denial to the "upper court."23
To repeat, the trial court had previously declared the BANK in default. The trial court therefore had the right to decide whether or not to disturb the testimony of Marcos that had already been terminated even before the trial court lifted the order of default.
We do not agree with the appellate courts ruling that a motion to cross-examine is a non-litigated motion and that the trial court gravely abused its discretion when it denied the motion to cross-examine. A motion to cross-examine is adversarial. The adverse party in this case had the right to resist the motion to cross-examine because the movant had previously forfeited its right to cross-examine the witness. The purpose of a notice of a motion is to avoid surprises on the opposite party and to give him time to study and meet the arguments.24 In a motion to cross-examine, the adverse party has the right not only to prepare a meaningful opposition to the motion but also to be informed that his witness is being recalled for cross-examination. The proof of service was therefore indispensable and the trial court was correct in denying the oral manifestation to grant the motion for cross-examination.
We find no justifiable reason to relax the application of the rule on notice of motions25 to this case. The BANK could have easily re-filed the motion to cross-examine with the requisite notice to Marcos. It did not do so. The BANK did not make good its threat to elevate the denial to a higher court. The BANK waited until the trial court rendered a judgment on the merits before questioning the interlocutory order of denial.
While the right to cross-examine is a vital element of procedural due process, the right does not necessarily require an actual cross-examination, but merely an opportunity to exercise this right if desired by the party entitled to it.26 Clearly, the BANKs failure to cross-examine is imputable to the BANK when it lost this right27 as it was in default and failed thereafter to exhaust the remedies to secure the exercise of this right at the earliest opportunity.
The two other procedural lapses that the BANK attributes to the appellate and trial courts deserve scant consideration.
The BANK raises for the very first time the issue of judicial admission on the part of Marcos. The BANK even has the audacity to fault the Court of Appeals for not ruling on this issue when it never raised this matter before the appellate court or before the trial court. Obviously, this issue is only an afterthought. An issue raised for the first time on appeal and not raised timely in the proceedings in the lower court is barred by estoppel.28
The BANK cannot claim that Marcos had admitted the due execution of the documents attached to its answer because the BANK filed its answer late and even failed to serve it on Marcos. The BANKs answer, including the actionable documents it pleaded and attached to its answer, was a mere scrap of paper. There was nothing that Marcos could specifically deny under oath. Marcos had already completed the presentation of his evidence when the trial court lifted the order of default and admitted the BANKs answer. The provision of the Rules of Court governing admission of actionable documents was not enacted to reward a party in default. We will not allow a party to gain an advantage from its disregard of the rules.
As to the issue of its right to present additional evidence, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the trial court correctly ruled that the BANK had waived this right. The BANK cannot now claim that it was deprived of its right to conduct a re-direct examination of Pagsaligan. The BANK postponed the hearings three times29 because of its inability to secure Pagsaligans presence during the hearings. The BANK could have presented another witness or its other evidence but it obstinately insisted on the resetting of the hearing because of Pagsaligans absence allegedly due to illness.
The BANKs propensity for postponements had long delayed the case. Its motion for postponement based on Pagsaligans illness was not even supported by documentary evidence such as a medical certificate. Documentary evidence of the illness is necessary before the trial court could rule that there is a sufficient basis to grant the postponement.30
The BANKs Fiduciary Duty to its Depositor
The BANK is liable to Marcos for offsetting his time deposits with a fictitious promissory note. The existence of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 could have been easily proven had the BANK presented the original copies of the promissory note and its supporting evidence. In lieu of the original copies, the BANK presented the "machine copies of the duplicate" of the documents. These substitute documents have no evidentiary value. The BANKs failure to explain the absence of the original documents and to maintain a record of the offsetting of this loan with the time deposits bring to fore the BANKs dismal failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty to Marcos.
Section 2 of Republic Act No. 8791 (General Banking Law of 2000) expressly imposes this fiduciary duty on banks when it declares that the State recognizes the "fiduciary nature of banking that requires high standards of integrity and performance." This statutory declaration merely echoes the earlier pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Simex International (Manila) Inc. v. Court of Appeals31 requiring banks to "treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of their relationship."32 The Court reiterated this fiduciary duty of banks in subsequent cases.33
Although RA No. 8791 took effect only in the year 2000,34 at the time that the BANK transacted with Marcos, jurisprudence had already imposed on banks the same high standard of diligence required under RA No. 8791.35 This fiduciary relationship means that the banks obligation to observe "high standards of integrity and performance" is deemed written into every deposit agreement between a bank and its depositor.
The fiduciary nature of banking requires banks to assume a degree of diligence higher than that of a good father of a family. Thus, the BANKs fiduciary duty imposes upon it a higher level of accountability than that expected of Marcos, a businessman, who negligently signed blank forms and entrusted his certificates of time deposits to Pagsaligan without retaining copies of the certificates.
The business of banking is imbued with public interest. The stability of banks largely depends on the confidence of the people in the honesty and efficiency of banks. In Simex International (Manila) Inc. v. Court of Appeals36 we pointed out the depositors reasonable expectations from a bank and the banks corresponding duty to its depositor, as follows:
As the BANKs depositor, Marcos had the right to expect that the BANK was accurately recording his transactions with it. Upon the maturity of his time deposits, Marcos also had the right to withdraw the amount due him after the BANK had correctly debited his outstanding obligations from his time deposits.
By the very nature of its business, the BANK should have had in its possession the original copies of the disputed promissory note and the records and ledgers evidencing the offsetting of the loan with the time deposits of Marcos. The BANK inexplicably failed to produce the original copies of these documents. Clearly, the BANK failed to treat the account of Marcos with meticulous care.
The BANK claims that it is a reputable banking institution and that it has no reason to forge Promissory Note No. 20-979-83. The trial court and appellate court did not rule that it was the bank that forged the promissory note. It was Pagsaligan, the BANKs branch manager and a close friend of Marcos, whom the trial court categorically blamed for the fictitious loan agreements. The trial court held that Pagsaligan made up the loan agreement to cover up his inability to account for the time deposits of Marcos.
Whether it was the BANKs negligence and inefficiency or Pagsaligans misdeed that deprived Marcos of the amount due him will not excuse the BANK from its obligation to return to Marcos the correct amount of his time deposits with interest. The duty to observe "high standards of integrity and performance" imposes on the BANK that obligation. The BANK cannot also unjustly enrich itself by keeping Marcos money.
Assuming Pagsaligan was behind the spurious promissory note, the BANK would still be accountable to Marcos. We have held that a bank is liable for the wrongful acts of its officers done in the interest of the bank or in their dealings as bank representatives but not for acts outside the scope of their authority.37 Thus, we held:
The Existence of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 was not Proven
The BANK failed to produce the best evidence the original copies of the loan application and promissory note. The Best Evidence Rule provides that the court shall not receive any evidence that is merely substitutionary in its nature, such as photocopies, as long as the original evidence can be had.39 Absent a clear showing that the original writing has been lost, destroyed or cannot be produced in court, the photocopy must be disregarded, being unworthy of any probative value and being an inadmissible piece of evidence.40
What the BANK presented were merely the "machine copies of the duplicate" of the loan application and promissory note. No explanation was ever offered by the BANK for its inability to produce the original copies of the documentary evidence. The BANK also did not comply with the orders of the trial court to submit the originals.
The purpose of the rule requiring the production of the best evidence is the prevention of fraud.41 If a party is in possession of evidence and withholds it, and seeks to substitute inferior evidence in its place, the presumption naturally arises that the better evidence is withheld for fraudulent purposes, which its production would expose and defeat.42
The absence of the original of the documentary evidence casts suspicion on the existence of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 considering the BANKs fiduciary duty to keep efficiently a record of its transactions with its depositors. Moreover, the circumstances enumerated by the trial court bolster the conclusion that Promissory Note No. 20-979-83 is bogus. The BANK has only itself to blame for the dearth of competent proof to establish the existence of Promissory Note No. 20-979-83.
Total Amount Due to Marcos
The BANK and Marcos do not now dispute the ruling of the Court of Appeals that the total amount of time deposits that Marcos placed with the BANK is only
Marcos claimed that the certificates of time deposit were with Pagsaligan for safekeeping. Marcos was only able to present the receipt dated 11 March 1982 and the letter-certification dated 12 March 1982 to prove the total amount of his time deposits with the BANK. The letter-certification issued by Pagsaligan reads:
The foregoing certification is clear. The total amount of time deposits of Marcos as of 12 March 1982 is
We are not swayed by Marcos testimony that the certification is actually for the first time deposit that he placed on 11 March 1982. The letter-certification speaks of "various Time Deposits Certificates with an aggregate value of
We modify the amount that the Court of Appeals ordered the BANK to return to Marcos. The appellate court did not offset Marcos outstanding debt with the BANK covered by the three trust receipt agreements even though Marcos admits his obligation under the three trust receipt agreements. The total amount of the trust receipts is
The trial and appellate courts found that the parties did not agree on the imposition of interest on the loan covered by the trust receipts and thus no interest is due on this loan. However, the records show that the three trust receipt agreements contained stipulations for the payment of interest but the parties failed to fill up the blank spaces on the rate of interest. Put differently, the BANK and Marcos expressly agreed in writing on the payment of interest46 without, however, specifying the rate of interest. We, therefore, impose the legal interest of 12% per annum, the legal interest for the forbearance of money,47 on each of the three trust receipts.
Based on Marcos testimony48 and the BANKs letter of demand,49 the trust receipt agreements became due in March 1987. The records do not show exactly when in March 1987 the obligation became due. In accordance with Article 2212 of the Civil Code, in such a case the court shall fix the period of the duration of the obligation.50 The BANKs letter of demand is dated 6 March 1989. We hold that the trust receipts became due on 6 March 1987.
Marcos payment of the marginal deposit of
When the trust receipts became due on 6 March 1987, Marcos owed the BANK
Upon maturity of the three trust receipts, the BANK should have automatically deducted, by way of offsetting, Marcos outstanding debt to the BANK from his time deposits and its accumulated interest. Marcos time deposits of
The BANKs dismal failure to account for Marcos money justifies the award of moral58 and exemplary damages.59 Certainly, the BANK, as employer, is liable for the negligence or the misdeed of its branch manager which caused Marcos mental anguish and serious anxiety.60 Moral damages of
We also award
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner Philippine Banking Corporation is ordered to return to private respondent Leonilo Marcos
Costs against petitioner.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
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