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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 156311 December 16, 2005]

CENTRAL BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. AURORA P. CASTRO, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

PUNO, J.:

The Central Bank of the Philippines seeks to recover in this Petition for Review on Certiorari the sum of P100,000.00 which was allegedly over-transferred to respondent Aurora P. Castro in the course of her employment as Chief of the Tellers Division of the Cash Department. Petitioner alleges that the trial court misapprehended the facts when it dismissed the case for lack of evidence and the appellate court erred when it affirmed the dismissal.

The Central Bank of the Philippines is a government corporate body created under Republic Act No. 2605, as amended. It administers the monetary, banking and credit system of the Philippines.

Aurora P. Castro was the former Chief of the Tellers Division of the bank. She was in charge of servicing the currency requirements of the Tellers Division and the Foreign Currency Division as well as the withdrawals of commercial banks.1 She was employed by petitioner in 1950 and was retired from the service effective October 1, 1988, cleared of all money and/or property accountabilities.2

Petitioner alleges that the subject money it seeks to recover was over-transferred to respondent during a cash transfer under the following routine procedure:

An accountable officer sorts the clean notes from the unclean notes. The clean notes - packaged, bundled and tied - are to be transferred to the Chief of the Tellers Division of the Cash Department - the position then held by respondent. It is the duty of the accountable officer to count the clean notes and segregate them into packages. Each package consists of one hundred notes. The packages are thereafter bundled with ten packages per bundle. The bundles are tied at the Toshiba Tying Machine by a currency laborer accompanied by an accountable officer. After the bundles are tied, they are arranged and padlocked inside transport bill carts which are kept at the office of the accountable officer. The accountable officer keeps the keys to the transport bill carts.

On the day of the transfer, the accountable officer is accompanied by a currency laborer. They take the transport bill carts to the compartment of the Chief of the Tellers Division of the Cash Department. Inside this compartment is a cash vault where the transfer takes place. The accountable officer opens the transport bill carts and hands the bundles to the Chief of the Tellers Division for verification. The Chief of the Tellers Division first conducts a per bundle verification and later a per package verification. Every currency transfer is evidenced by a Cash Transfer Slip prepared by the accountable officer. If the figures stated in the Cash Transfer Slips are verified to be correct, the Chief of the Tellers Division signs the Cash Transfer Slips in triplicate and keeps one of the copies. The accountable officer thereafter leaves the cash vault and takes the emptied transport bill carts back to his office.

Petitioner offered the testimony of Elisa M. de Vera (de Vera), the accountable officer who allegedly over-transferred P100,000.00 to respondent.3 As the previous Assistant Chief of the Operating Cash Division B at the Cash Department, de Vera was tasked to process unverified notes, segregate the clean from the unfit notes, and bundle the clean notes for cash transfer to the Chief of the Tellers Division, herein respondent.4

De Vera testified that in the evening of February 23, 1987, she started sorting the clean notes from the unclean notes. She prepared, counted and placed 442 bundles of 100-peso denomination totaling P44,200,000.00 and 108 bundles of 50-peso denomination totaling P5,400,000.00 inside three (3) transport bill carts with properly padlocked lids. At around 6:20 p.m., she was able to complete one (1) more bundle of 100-peso denomination. She placed the extra bundle inside one of the three transport bill carts. The extra bundle was improperly tied, i.e., not tied at the Toshiba Tying Machine. She also allegedly failed to note the extra bundle in her control sheet. Hence, when she prepared the two Cash Transfer Slips, she based the number of the 100-peso and 50-peso bundles on the control sheet. She accomplished the Cash Transfer Slips in triplicate.

In the morning of February 24, 1987, de Vera made a cash transfer to respondent. She was assisted by Antonio Dagot, a Currency Laborer. They went to the vault compartment of respondent to deliver the bundles which were padlocked inside three transport bill carts.

While they were unloading the bundles from the second transport bill cart, they noticed the improperly tied bundle. Dagot picked up the improperly tied bundle to have it tied at the Toshiba Tying Machine but he was stopped by de Vera. Under Central Bank Rules and Regulations, a currency laborer is not allowed to tie bundles at the Toshiba Tying Machine without being accompanied by a supervisor. Dagot returned the improperly tied bundle and placed it inside the first emptied transport bill cart.

After the bundles were unloaded, de Vera and respondent signed Cash Transfer Slip Nos. 206256 and 206258 attesting that all notes listed in the Cash Transfer Slips were counted and received by respondent. Cash Transfer Slip No. 206256 bore that 442 bundles of 100-peso denomination totaling P44,200,000.00 were transferred, while Cash Transfer Slip No. 206258 stated that 108 bundles of 50-peso denomination totaling P5,400,000.00 were transferred. De Vera and Dagot, with the improperly tied bundle inside one of the transport bill carts, left the office of respondent.

At around 6:00 p.m. of the same day, de Vera discovered that she was short of P100,000.00. She asked her bookkeeper to review all her transactions but the shortage remained. She reported the shortage to Milagros Mijares, the Assistant to the Governor of the Central Bank. De Vera also approached respondent and inquired if her account for the day was balanced. Respondent answered that it was balanced. De Vera informed respondent that she was missing one (1) bundle of 100-peso denomination equivalent to P100,000.00.

Two (2) days after the transfer, de Vera informed Dagot about the shortage. Dagot allegedly told her about the improperly tied bundle which he tied at the Toshiba Tying Machine. Believing that it was part of the cash transfer made that morning, he allegedly immediately brought it to respondent who told him to give it to Librado Flores. Flores was respondent's currency laborer who was then sitting at his office table which was inside the vault of respondent. After Flores verified the contents of the bundle, he placed the bundle in the money shelf. Dagot left thereafter. De Vera stated that she authorized Dagot to tie the improperly tied bundle at the Toshiba Tying Machine but admitted that she forgot to give him further instruction. Hence, the delivery of the extra bundle was allegedly done without her knowledge.

Based on the circumstances, petitioner contends that the cash shortage of de Vera was due to the mistake committed by Dagot. Petitioner however avers that the over-transfer of P100,000.00 made respondent the trustee of an implied trust for its benefit. Respondent cannot therefore unjustly enrich herself as the law requires her to return the subject amount which was delivered to her by mistake.5

Respondent Aurora P. Castro testified6 that in the morning of February 24, 1987, de Vera, assisted by Currency Laborer Antonio Dagot, transferred to her 442 bundles of clean 100-peso denomination and 108 bundles of clean 50-peso denomination.7 The cash transfer took place inside her cash vault which was located within her compartment.8

The bundles of 50-peso denomination were first unloaded. She verified if there were ten packages per bundle and if each bundle matched the figures in the Cash Transfer Slips. After verification, the bundles were stockpiled in the rack. The bundles of 100-peso denomination were unloaded next. While she was verifying the bundles, respondent allegedly noticed that one bundle was improperly tied. Dagot picked up the improperly tied bundle to tie it at the Toshiba Tying Machine but he was stopped by de Vera. The latter set aside the bundle in one of the emptied carts.

After the transfer, respondent stated that she requested de Vera to have Dagot tie the bundle and return the same to her immediately. Dagot allegedly did as he was told and returned the now properly tied bundle to respondent after approximately two (2) minutes. After verification, respondent requested Dagot to hand the bundle to Flores, her currency laborer, who stockpiled the bundle in the money shelf. Respondent stated that it was only after the subject bundle was delivered that she signed the Cash Transfer Slips. She allegedly asked Teresita Manigque, who was in her cash vault at that time, to deliver the Cash Transfer Slips to de Vera. These Cash Transfer Slip Nos. 206256 and 206258 prove that 442 bundles of clean 100-peso denomination and 108 bundles of clean 50-peso denomination were transferred by de Vera to respondent on February 24, 1987.

At the end of the day, respondent made an inventory of her cash holdings and found her cash accountability balanced.9 She submitted her balanced proof sheet to the Accounting Division.10

Respondent agreed with the testimony of de Vera that in the evening of the same day, the latter asked if her account was balanced. She affirmed that it was balanced while de Vera admitted that she was missing one bundle of clean P100-peso denomination equivalent to P100,000.00.11

Respondent maintained that the bundle of clean 100-peso denomination which was separately and belatedly delivered to her by Dagot was part of the cash transfer as reflected in Cash Transfer Slip No. 206256. She was required to submit to a polygraph test conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation. It yielded negative results. Petitioner was also "cleared of all money and/or property accountabilities" when she applied for Optional Retirement as evidenced by her Clearance Certificate dated September 27, 1988.12

Antonio Dagot,13 the Currency Laborer who assisted de Vera during the cash transfer, testified that after he and de Vera left the cash vault of respondent, they brought the improperly tied bundle to the Toshiba Tying Machine. After tying, he allegedly returned to the cash vault of respondent despite the lack of instruction from de Vera. Upon delivery, respondent allegedly instructed him to hand the bundle to Flores, respondent's Currency Laborer who was then inside the cash vault. Dagot further testified that he tied the bundle at the Toshiba Tying Machine in the presence of de Vera. He alleged that the subject bundle was part of the 442 bundles of 100-peso denomination transferred on February 24, 1987.14

Librado Flores, another Currency Laborer at Central Bank, testified that at the time of the questioned cash transfer, he was assigned to respondent's compartment. His work area was also located inside respondent's cash vault. He admitted that when Dagot returned to the office of respondent to deliver the subject bundle, respondent told Dagot to hand it to him. After he had verified the contents of the bundle, he allegedly placed the subject bundle in the money shelf. Dagot left respondent's cash vault thereafter.15

The court a quo ruled for respondent, viz.:

x x x The evidence, as evaluated, has not at all sufficiently convinced the Court of defendant's liability. While the possibility perhaps remains that an [over-transfer] to the defendant was made, no preponderance of evidence has been shown to substantiate plaintiff's claim.16

The Court of Appeals denied petitioner's appeal for lack of merit. Hence, this petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court raising the lone issue, viz.:

THERE IS A GRAVE MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS AND ERROR OF LAW ON THE PART OF THE COURT OF APPEALS IN RULING THAT RESPONDENT MS. CASTRO HAS NO LIABILITY OR LEGAL DUTY TO ACCOUNT FOR THE UNTIED BUNDLE OF P100.00[-] BILL DENOMINATION AMOUNTING TO P100,000.00.17

Petitioner contends that respondent, as the former Chief of the Tellers Division, is an accountable officer under Presidential Decree No. 1445, otherwise known as the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines. It invokes the following provisions of the law, viz.:

Section 63. Accounting for moneys and property received by public officials. Except as may otherwise be specifically provided by law or competent authority all moneys and property officially received by a public officer in any capacity or upon any occasion must be accounted for as government funds and government property.

x x x

Section 101. Accountable officers; x x x

1. Every officer of any government agency whose duties permit or require the possession or custody of government funds or property shall be accountable therefor and for the safekeeping thereof in conformity with law.

Petitioner argues that by operation of law, respondent is accountable for all money and property which came into her possession or custody by reason of her office. According to petitioner, it suffices to prove that she had possession or control of the funds. Proof of formal receipt thereof is not necessary to make her liable.18 Hence, since respondent authorized Flores, her subordinate, to receive the subject bundle in her behalf, the latter's receipt and possession of the subject amount is deemed receipt and possession on her part. Thus, she has the legal duty to account for and return the over-transferred amount.19

We deny the petition.

An appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court shall only raise questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.20 A question is one of law when there is doubt or controversy as to what the law is on a certain state of facts. It is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of facts or when the resolution of the issue raised requires a calibration of the whole evidence.21

The test of whether a question is one of law or fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising the same. It is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without reviewing or evaluating the evidence and would only limit itself to the inquiry of whether the law was properly applied given the facts and supporting evidence.22 Such is a genuine question of law. Otherwise, it is a question of fact.

In the case at bar, it is clear that petitioner is raising a question of fact which is not proper in a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45. To resolve the issue raised by petitioner, the Court is called upon to consider the credibility of witnesses and calibrate the probative value of the evidence on record.

Petitioner raises the issue that respondent is an accountable officer and must return all money and property she received by way of her office. However, the petition would only prosper if the fact of over-transfer to respondent was proven with preponderance of evidence. The supporting theory of petitioner that respondent is deemed to have received the subject bundle through Flores does not likewise disturb the assailed decision unless the over-transfer of the subject bundle was proven. Petitioner miserably failed to prove it.

To decide the instant petition on the merits is to dwell on a question of fact which had long been decided by the court a quo and affirmed by the appellate court. Petitioner cannot re-litigate the same decided factual issue and cloak it under the purported legal question of accountability. The record is clear that petitioner failed to present evidence which would categorically corroborate de Vera's testimony that the subject bundle was not part of the bundles recorded in the Cash Transfer Slip. To be sure, basing on the testimony of de Vera herself, her negligence is apparent. First, in the evening of February 23, 1987, she placed the subject bundle, allegedly an extra bundle, inside the transport bill cart without recording it in her control sheet and in the Cash Transfer Slip.23 Second, on the day of the transfer, she gave the subject bundle to Dagot without any instruction.24

Petitioner's contention that it is not raising a factual issue but is rather presenting the facts for the Court to have a better appreciation of the case contradicts the entire tenor of its petition - it is raising a question of fact which is not proper under Rule 45. The Rules of Court25 and case law26 provide exceptions to this rule but none of these obtains in the case at bar.

This Court is not a trier of facts and a review is not a matter of right but of sound judicial discretion. It will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor.27 But where petitioner failed to meet the quantum of proof necessary to show respondent's civil liability, we rule that the court a quo correctly dismissed the case and the appellate court correctly affirmed the dismissal. The fact of over-transfer having been not proven, the obligation to return the subject amount does not arise.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is DENIED for failing to raise a genuine question of law. The Decision and the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 52175 dated July 29, 2002 and November 26, 2002, respectively, are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Memorandum (For the Respondent), 2; Rollo, 82.

2 Answer, 4; Original Records (OR), 4.

3 TSN, November 12, 1992 and April 29, 1993.

4 TSN, November 12, 1992 at 7-8.

5 Complaint, 4; OR, 4.

6 Respondent previously suffered a stroke. The following findings of fact were based on the Sworn Statements which respondent identified during her testimony. See Exhibits 1 and 2; OR, 272-281.

7 Memorandum (For the Respondent), 3; Rollo, 83.

8 Complaint, 1; OR, 1.

9 Pre-Trial Brief, 1-2; OR, 49-50.

10 TSN, March 23, 1995 at 7; Memorandum (For the Respondent), 4; Rollo, 84.

11 Ibid; Pre-Trial Brief, 2; OR, 50.

12 TSN, March 23, 1998 at 8; Annex 1, Answer; OR, 29.

13 A Currency Assistant at the time of his testimony.

14 TSN, February 15, 1994 at 1-9.

15 TSN, December 14, 1993.

16 Decision, 3; Rollo, 41.

17 Petition for Review on Certiorari, 7; Id. at 15.

18 Id. at 8-9; Id. at 16-17.

19 Id. at 10-14; Id. at 18-22.

20 Section 1, Rule 45, Revised Rules on Civil Procedure.

21 China Road and Bridge Corporation v. CA, G.R. No. 137898, December 15, 2000,348 SCRA 401.

22 Ibid.

23 TSN, November 12, 1992 at 16-18.

24 Id. at 18.

25 Section 6, Rule 45, Revised Rules on Civil Procedure.

26 Exceptional circumstances that would compel the Supreme Court to review the findings of fact of the lower courts are: (1) when the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly absurd, mistaken or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts; (4) when the judgment is premised on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when the Court of Appeals in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and (8) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court, or are mere conclusions without citation of specific evidence, or where the facts set forth by the petitioner are not disputed by the respondent, or where the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on absence of evidence but are contradicted by the evidence of record. (See Naguiat v. CA, G.R. No. 118375, October 3, 2003, 412 SCRA 591, quoting Sacay v. . Sandiganbayan, 226 Phil. 496, 510 [1986].)

27 See Sec. 6, Rule 45, Revised Rules on Civil Procedure.




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