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G.R. No. L-11530           August 12, 1916


G.R. No. L-11530 August 12, 1916

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. JUAN PONS, Defendant-Appellant.

Jose Varela y Calderon for appellant.
Attorney-General Avanceña for appellee.


The information in this case reads:

The undersigned charges Gabino Beliso, Juan Pons, and Jacinto Lasarte with the crime of illegal importation of opium, committed as follows: chanrobles virtual law library

That on or about the 10th day of April, 1915, the said accused, conspiring together and plotting among themselves, did, knowingly, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and fraudulently, bring from a foreign country, to wit, that of Spain, on board the steamer Lopez y Lopez, and import and introduce into the city of Manila, Philippine Islands, and within the jurisdiction of the court, 520 tins containing 125 kilograms of opium of the value of P62,400, Philippine currency; and that, then and there, the said accused, also conspiring together and plotting among themselves, did receive and conceal the said quantity of opium and aided each other in the transportation, receipt and concealment of the same after the said opium had been imported, knowing that said drug had been unlawfully brought, imported and illegally introduced into the Philippine Islands from a foreign country; an act committed in violation of law."

On motion of counsel Juan Pons and Gabino Beliso were tried separately. (Jacinto Lasarte had not yet been arrested.) Each were found guilty of the crime charged and sentenced accordingly, the former to be confined in Bilibid Prison for the period of two years, to pay a fine of P1,000, to suffer the corresponding subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to the payment of one-half of the costs. The same penalties were imposed upon the latter, except that he was sentenced to pay a fine of P3,000. Both appealed. Beliso later withdrew his appeal and the judgment as to him has become final.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

The contentions for reversal are numerous (twenty-five assignments of error) and are greatly multiplied by their reiteration in a somewhat changed form of statement under the many propositions embraced in the elaborate printed brief, but their essence, when correctly understood, are these: The court erred (a) in denying this appellant's motion, dated May 6, 1915, and reproduced on July 27, 1915, and (b) in finding that the legal evidence of record establishes the guilt of the appellant, Juan Pons, beyond a reasonable doubt.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

In his motion above mentioned, counsel alleged and offered to prove that the last day of the special session of the Philippine Legislature for 1914 was the 28th day of February; that Act No. 2381, under which Pons must be punished if found guilty, was not passed or approved on the 28th of February but on March 1 of that year; and that, therefore, the same is null and void. The validity of the Act is not otherwise questioned. As it is admitted that the last day of the special session was, under the Governor-General's proclamation, February 28 and that the appellant is charged with having violated the provisions of Act No. 2381, the vital question is the date of adjournment of the Legislature, and this reduces itself to two others, namely, (1) how that is to be proved, whether by the legislative journals or extraneous evidence and (2) whether the court can take judicial notice of the journals. These questions will be considered in the reversed order.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

Act No. 1679 provides that the Secretary of the Commission shall perform the duties which would properly be required of the Recorder of the Commission under the existing law. And rules 15 and 16 of the Legislative Procedure of the Philippine Commission provides, among other things, "that the proceedings of the Commission shall be briefly and accurately stated on the journal," and that it shall be the duty of the Secretary "to keep a correct journal of the proceedings of the Commission." On page 793 of volume 7 of the Commission Journal for the ordinary and special sessions of the Third Philippine Legislature, the following appears:

The Journal for Saturday, February 28, 1914, was approved. Adjournment sine die of the Commission as a Chamber of the Philippine Legislature. The hour of midnight having arrived, on motion of Commissioner Palma, the Commission, as a Chamber of the Philippine Legislature, adjourned sine die.

The Act of Congress, approved July 1, 1902, provides, among other things, in section 7, that the Philippine Assembly "shall keep in journal of its proceedings, which shall be published . . . ." In obedience to this mandate, the journal of the Assembly's proceedings for the sessions of 1914 was duly published and it appears therein (vol. 9, p. 1029), that the Assembly adjourned sine die at 12 o'clock midnight on February 28, 1914.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

Section 275 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that the existence of the "official acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the United States and of the Philippine Islands ... shall be judicially recognized by the court without the introduction of proof; but the court may receive evidence upon any of the subjects in this section states, when it shall find it necessary for its own information, and may resort for its aid to appropriate books, documents, or evidence." And section 313 [as amended by sec. 1 of Act No. 2210], of the same Code also provides that:

Official documents may be proved as follows: . . . .chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

(2) The proceedings of the Philippine Commission, or of any legislative body that may be provided for the Philippine Islands, or of Congress, by the journals of those bodies or of either house thereof, or by published statutes or resolutions, or by copies certified by the clerk or secretary or printed by their order: Provided, That in the case of Acts of the Philippine Commission or the Philippine Legislature when there is in existence a copy signed by the presiding officers and the secretaries of said bodies, it shall be conclusive proof of the provisions of such Act and of the due enactment thereof.

While there are no adjudicated cases in this jurisdiction upon the exact question whether the courts may take judicial notice of the legislative journals, it is well settled in the United States that such journals may be noticed by the courts in determining the question whether a particular bill became a law or not. (The State ex rel. Herron vs. Smith, 44 Ohio, 348, and cases cited therein.) The result is that the law and the adjudicated cases make it our duty to take judicial notice of the legislative journals of the special session of the Philippine Legislature of 1914. These journals are not ambiguous or contradictory as to the actual time of the adjournment. They show, with absolute certainty, that the Legislature adjourned sine die at 12 o'clock midnight on February 28, 1914.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

Passing over the question whether the printed Act (No. 2381), published by authority of law, is conclusive evidence as to the date when it was passed, we will inquire whether the courts may go behind the legislative journals for the purpose of determining the date of adjournment when such journals are clear and explicit. From the foregoing it is clear that this investigation belongs entirely to that branch of legal science which embraces and illustrates the laws of evidence. On the one hand, it is maintained that the Legislature did not, as we have indicated, adjourn at midnight on February 28, 1914, but on March 1st, and that this allegation or alleged fact may be established by extraneous evidence; while, on the other hand, it is urged that the contents of the legislative journals are conclusive evidence as to the date of adjournment. In order to understand these opposing positions, it is necessary to consider the nature and character of the evidence thus involved. Evidence is understood to be that which proves or disproves "any matter in question or to influence the belief respecting it," and "conclusive evidence is that which establishes the fact, as in the instance of conclusive presumptions." (Bouvier's Law Dictionary, vol. 1, p. 701 et seq.) Counsel for the appellant, in order to establish his contention, must necessarily depend upon the memory or recollection of witnesses, while the legislative journals are the acts of the Government or sovereign itself. From their very nature and object the records of the Legislature are as important as those of the judiciary, and to inquiry into the veracity of the journals of the Philippine Legislature, when they are, as we have said, clear and explicit, would be to violate both the letter and the spirit of the organic laws by which the Philippine Government was brought into existence, to invade a coordinate and independent department of the Government, and to interfere with the legitimate powers and functions of the Legislature. But counsel in his argument says that the public knows that the Assembly's clock was stopped on February 28, 1914, at midnight and left so until the determination of the discussion of all pending matters. Or, in other words, the hands of the clock were stayed in order to enable the Assembly to effect an adjournment apparently within the time fixed by the Governor's proclamation for the expiration of the special session, in direct violation of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902. If the clock was, in fact, stopped, as here suggested, "the resultant evil might be slight as compared with that of altering the probative force and character of legislative records, and making the proof of legislative action depend upon uncertain oral evidence, liable to loss by death or absence, and so imperfect on account of the treachery of memory. Long, long centuries ago, these considerations of public policy led to the adoption of the rule giving verity and unimpeachability to legislative records. If that character is to be taken away for one purpose, it must be taken away for all, and the evidence of the laws of the state must rest upon a foundation less certain and durable than that afforded by the law to many contracts between private individuals concerning comparatively trifling matters." (Capito vs. Topping, W. Va., 22 L. R. A. [N. S.], 1089.) Upon the same point the court, in the State ex rel. Herron vs. Smith (44 Ohio, 348), decided in 1886, said:

Counsel have exhibited unusual industry in looking up the various cases upon this question; and, out of a multitude of citations, not one is found in which any court has assumed to go beyond the proceedings of the legislature, as recorded in the journals required to be kept in each of its branches, on the question whether a law has been adopted. And if reasons for the limitation upon judicial inquiry in such matters have not generally been stated, in doubtless arises from the fact that they are apparent. Imperative reasons of public policy require that the authenticity of laws should rest upon public memorials of the most permanent character. They should be public, because all are required to conform to them; they should be permanent, that right acquired to-day upon the faith of what has been declared to be law shall not be destroyed to-morrow, or at some remote period of time, by facts resting only in the memory of individuals.

In the case from which this last quotation is taken, the court cited numerous decisions of the various states in the American Union in support of the rule therein laid down, and we have been unable to find a single case of a later date where the rule has been in the least changed or modified when the legislative journals cover the point. As the Constitution of the Philippine Government is modeled after those of the Federal Government and the various states, we do not hesitate to follow the courts in that country in the matter now before us. The journals say that the Legislature adjourned at 12 midnight on February 28, 1914. This settles the question, and the court did not err in declining to go behind these journals.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

On or about the 5th or 6th of April, 1915, the Spanish mail steamer Lopez y Lopez arrived at Manila from Spain, bringing, among other cargo, twenty-five barrels which were manifested as "wine" and consigned to Jacinto Lasarte. Gabino Beliso had been, prior to the arrival of this cargo, engaged in the business of a wine merchant, with an office and warehouse located at 203 Calle San Anton in this city. The shipper's invoice and bill of lading for the twenty-five barrels were delivered to Gregorio Cansipit, a customs broker, by Beliso. These documents were indorsed as follows: "Deliver to Don Gabino Beliso" and signed "Jacinto Lasarte." Cansipit conducted the negotiations incident to the release of the merchandise from the customhouse and the twenty-five barrels were delivered in due course to the warehouse of Beliso at the aforementioned street and number. Beliso signed the paper acknowledging delivery. Shortly thereafter the custom authorities, having noticed that shipments of merchandise manifested as "wine" had been arriving in Manila from Spain, consigned to persons whose names were not listed as merchants, and having some doubt as to the nature of the merchandise so consigned, instituted an investigation and traced on the 10th of April, 1915, the twenty-five barrels to Beliso's warehouse, being aided by the customs registry number of the shipment, the entry number, and the serial number of each barrel. It was found that the twenty-five barrels began to arrive on bull carts at Beliso's warehouse about 11 o'clock on the morning of April 9. Before the merchandise arrived at that place, the appellant, Juan Pons, went to Beliso's warehouse and joined Beliso in the latter's office, where the two engaged in conversation. Pons then left and shortly thereafter several of the barrels arrived and were unloaded in Beliso's bodega. He called one of his employees, Cornelius Sese, and directed him to go out and get a bull cart. This Sese did and returned with the vehicle. Beliso then carefully selected five barrels out of the shipment of twenty-five and told Sese to load these five on the cart and to deliver them to Juan Pons at No. 144 Calle General Solano. This order was complied with by Sese and the barrels delivered to Pons at the place designated. Pursuing their investigation, which started on the 10th, the customs secret service agents entered Beliso's bodega on that date before the office was opened and awaited the arrival of Beliso. Sese was found in the bodega and placed under arrest. The agents then proceeded to separate the recent shipment from the other merchandise stored in the warehouse, identifying the barrels by the customs registry and entry numbers. Only twenty of the twenty-five barrels could be found on Beliso's premises. Upon being questioned or interrogated, Sese informed the customs agents that the five missing barrels had been delivered by him to Pons at 144 Calle General Solano by order of Beliso. The agents, accompanied by Sese, proceeded to 144 Calle General Solano and here found the five missing barrels, which were identified by the registry and entry numbers as well as by the serial numbers. The five barrels were empty, the staves having been sprung and the iron hoops removed. Five empty tins, each corresponding in size to the heads of the five barrels, were found on the floor nearby. The customs officers noticed several baskets of lime scattered about the basement of the house and on further search they found 77 tins of opium in one of these baskets. There was no one in the house when this search was made, but some clothing was discovered which bore the initials "J. P." It then became important to the customs agents to ascertain the owner and occupant of house No. 144 on Calle General Solano where the five barrels were delivered. The owner was found, upon investigation, to be Mariano Limjap, and from the latter's agent it was learned that the house was rented by one F. C. Garcia. When the lease of the house was produced by the agent of the owner, the agents saw that the same was signed "F. C. Garcia, by Juan Pons." After discovering these facts they returned to the house of Beliso and selected three of the twenty barrels and ordered them returned to the customhouse. Upon opening these three barrels each was found to contain a large tin fitted into the head of the barrel with wooden cleats and securely nailed. Each large tin contained 75 small tins of opium. A comparison of the large tins taken out of the three barrels with the empty ones found at 144 Calle General Solano show, says the trial court, "that they were in every way identical in size, form, etc." chanrobles virtual law library

While the customs officers were still at the office and warehouse of Beliso on the morning of April 10, Pons, apparently unaware that anything unusual was going on, arrived there and was placed under arrest, and taken to the office of Captain Hawkins, chief of the customs secret service, and according to Hawkins, voluntarily confessed his participation in the smuggling of the opium. He maintained, however, that the 77 tins of opium found at 144 Calle General Solano represented the entire importation. Pons, being at the customhouse under arrest at the time the three barrels were opened and the customs officers appearing to be no doubt as to which end of the barrels contained the opium, Pons showed the officers how to open the barrels and pointed out that the end of the barrel, which had the impression of a bottle stamped in the wood, contained the opium. On seeing the 195 tins of opium taken from the three barrels, Pons further stated that he had delivered some 250 tins of opium of this shipment to a Chinaman at 7.30 a. m. on the morning of April 10, following the instructions given him by Beliso. On being further questioned, Pons stated that he and Beliso had been partners in several opium transactions; that the house at No. 144 Calle General Solano had been leased by him at the suggestion of Beliso for the purpose of handling the prohibited drug; and that he and Beliso had shared the profits of a previous importation of opium. Sese testified that he had delivered a previous shipment to 144 Calle General Solano. The customs agents then went with Pons to his house and found in his yard several large tin receptacles, in every way similar to those found at 144 Calle General Solano and those taken from the barrels at the customhouse. At first Pons stated that F. C. Garcia was a tobacco merchant traveling in the between the Provinces of Isabela and Cagayan, and later he retracted this statement and admitted that Garcia was a fictitious person. But during the trial of this case in the court below Pons testified that Garcia was a wine merchant and a resident of Spain, and that Garcia had written him a letter directing him to rent a house for him (Garcia) and retain it until the arrival in the Philippine Islands of Garcia. According to Pons this letter arrived on the same steamer which brought the 25 barrels of "wine," but that he had destroyed it because he feared that it would compromise him. On being asked during the trial why he insisted, in purchasing wine from Beliso, in receiving a part of the wine which had just arrived on the Lopez y Lopez, answered, "Naturally because F. C. Garcia told me in this letter that this opium was coming in barrels of wine sent to Beliso by a man the name of Jacinto Lasarte, and that is the reason I wanted to get these barrels of wine." chanrobles virtual law library

The foregoing are substantially the fats found by the trial court and these fats establish the guilt of the appellant beyond any question of a doubt, notwithstanding his feeble attempt to show that the opium as shipped to him from Spain by a childhood fried named Garcia. The appellant took a direct part in this huge smuggling transaction and profited thereby. The penalty imposed by the trial court is in accordance with la and the decisions of this court in similar cases.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment appealed from is affirmed, with costs. So ordered.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary chanrobles virtual law library

Torres, Johnson, Moreland, and Araullo, JJ., concur.

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