[G.R. NO. 125283 : February 10, 2006]
PAN PACIFIC INDUSTRIAL SALES CO., INC., Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS and NICOLAS CAPISTRANO, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Petitioner Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc. (Pan Pacific) filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari1 assailing the Decision2 dated 4 June 1996 of the Court of Appeals Fourteenth Division in C.A. G.R. No. CV-41112. The challenged Decision affirmed in toto the Decision3 dated 24 April 1992 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 18 in Civil Case No. 88-46720.
The case arose when on 22 December 1988, private respondent Nicolas Capistrano (Capistrano) filed an Amended Complaint4 before the RTC of Manila against Severo C. Cruz III (Cruz), his spouse Lourdes Yap Miranda, and Atty. Alicia Guanzon,5 pleading two causes of action.6
The first cause of action is for the nullification, or alternatively, for the "rescission," of a Deed of Absolute Sale7 covering a parcel of land that Capistrano owned, located at 1821 (Int.), Otis Street (now Paz Guanzon Street), Paco, Manila, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 143599 to Cruz.8 This is the subject lot. Capistrano denied having executed the deed.
The second cause of action is for the rescission of another agreement with an alternative prayer for specific performance. Capistrano alleged that he agreed to sell another parcel of land in the same vicinity to Cruz. According to Capistrano, Cruz only paid
The operative facts follow.
On 10 September 1982, Capistrano executed a Special Power of Attorney10 authorizing Cruz to mortgage the subject lot in favor of Associated Bank (the Bank) as security for the latter's loan accommodation.11
Shortly, by virtue of the Special Power of Attorney, Cruz obtained a loan in the amount of
Capistrano and Cruz then executed a letter-agreement dated 23 September 1982 whereby Cruz agreed to buy the subject lot for the price of
On 15 March 1983, Capistrano executed the Deed of Absolute Sale15 over the subject lot in favor of Cruz. Two (2) days later, on 17 March 1983, Notary Public Vicente J. Benedicto (Benedicto) notarized the deed. However, it was earlier or on 9 March 1983 that Capistrano's wife, Josefa Borromeo Capistrano, signed the Marital Consent16 evidencing her conformity in advance to the sale. The Marital Consent was also sworn to before Benedicto.
Following the execution of the deed of sale, Cruz continued payments to Capistrano for the subject lot. Sometime in October 1985, Capistrano delivered to Cruz a Statement of Account17 signed by Capistrano, showing that as of 30 October 1985, Cruz's balance stood at
Thus, in May 1987, with the mortgage on the subject lot then being in danger of foreclosure by the Bank, Cruz filed a case with the RTC of Manila, Branch 11, docketed as Civil Case No. 87-40647, to enjoin the foreclosure. Cruz impleaded Capistrano and his spouse Josefa Borromeo Capistrano as defendants, the title to the subject lot not having been transferred yet to his name.18
Cruz also devised a way to save the subject lot from foreclosure by seeking a buyer for it and eventually arranging for the buyer to pay the mortgage debt. Towards this end, Cruz succeeded in engaging Pan Pacific. Thus, on 22 September 1988, Pan Pacific paid off Cruz's debt in the amount of
1988, the Bank executed a Cancellation of Real Estate Mortgage.20 On even date, Cruz executed a Deed of Absolute Sale21 over the subject lot in favor of Pan Pacific, attaching thereto the previous Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Capistrano in favor of Cruz.
Surprisingly, on 20 October 1988, Capistrano filed a Revocation of Special Power of Attorney22 with the Register of Deeds of Manila. Less than a week later, Capistrano sent the Register of Deeds another letter informing said officer of his having come to know of the sale of the subject lot by Cruz to Pan Pacific and requesting the officer to withhold any action on the transaction.23
Before long, in November 1988, Capistrano filed the precursory complaint before the Manila RTC in Civil Case No. 88-46720.
Pan Pacific, which bought the subject lot from the Cruz spouses, was allowed to intervene in the proceedings and joined Cruz, et al. in resisting the complaint insofar as the first cause of action on the subject lot is concerned.24
Then on 24 April 1992, a Decision was rendered by the trial court in favor of Capistrano on both causes of action, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant, Severo E. (sic) Cruz III, his spouse, Lourdes Miranda Cruz, and the intervenor, Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc., as follows:
The counterclaims of both Severo C. Cruz, III and spouse, and of the intervenor, Pan Pacific Industrial Sales Co., Inc., are both dismissed, for lack of merit.
Double costs against the defendants-Cruz spouses.
To arrive at the conclusion that the first Deed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent are spurious, the trial court mainly relied on Capistrano's disavowal of his signature and that of his wife's, together with extrinsic factors which in its opinion evinced the spuriousness.
Pan Pacific and the Cruz spouses interposed separate appeals to the Court of Appeals, their common concern being the trial court's finding that the Deed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent were spurious.26
In assailing this finding, Pan Pacific and the Cruz spouses contended that Capistrano failed to present clear and convincing evidence to overturn the presumption of regularity of public documents like the documents in question.27
The Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC Decision. Concerning the subject lot, it held that while a notarial document cannot be disproved by the mere denial of the signer, the denial in this case should be taken together with the other circumstances of the case which in sum constitute clear and convincing evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption of regularity of the documents.28
The Cruz spouses did not elevate the Court of Appeals' Decision to this Court. Thus, the RTC Decision became final as to them.
Pan Pacific, however, filed the instant Petition solely concerning the first cause of action in the Amended Complaint. Pan Pacific contends that the genuineness and due execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale and Marital Consent cannot be overridden by the self-serving testimony of Capistrano. It stresses that the trial court cannot rely on irrelevant extrinsic factors to rule against the genuineness of the deed.29 Finally, it points out that Capistrano cannot contest the sale of the subject lot to Cruz, as the sale had already been consummated.30
For his part, Capistrano posits in his Memorandum31 that Pan Pacific is not an innocent purchaser for value and in good faith as Cruz was never the registered owner of the subject lot. Pan Pacific was bound at its peril to investigate the right of Cruz to transfer the property to it. Moreover, Capistrano asserts that the legal presumption of regularity of public documents does not obtain in this case as the documents in question were not properly notarized. He adds that the parties never appeared before the notary public as in fact the deed had only been delivered by Capistrano to the house of Cruz's mother.
Furthermore, Capistrano maintains that his spouse's signature on the Marital Consent is a forgery as it was virtually impossible for her to have signed the same. Lastly, Capistrano disputes Cruz's assertion that the sale had been consummated, pointing out that the Amended Complaint consisted of two (2) causes of action pertaining to two (2) separate lots, and Cruz had only paid
The petition is imbued with merit.
Pan Pacific disputes the common conclusion reached by the courts below that the presumption of regularity of the Deed of Absolute Sale and the Marital Consent, which in its estimation are both public documents, has been rebutted by Capistrano's countervailing evidence. The correctness of the conclusions on the alleged spuriousness of the documents in question drawn by the courts below from the facts on record is before this Court. The issue is a question of law cognizable by the Court.32
Deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is the rule that notarial documents celebrated with all the legal requisites under the safeguard of a notarial certificate is evidence of a high character and to overcome its recitals, it is incumbent upon the party challenging it to prove his claim with clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence.33
A notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution, and it has in its favor the presumption of regularity which may only be rebutted by evidence so clear, strong and convincing as to exclude all controversy as to the falsity of the certificate. Absent such, the presumption must be upheld. The burden of proof to overcome the presumption of due execution of a notarial document lies on the one contesting the same. Furthermore, an allegation of forgery must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, and whoever alleges it has the burden of proving the same.34
Evidently, as he impugns the genuineness of the documents, Capistrano has the burden of making out a clear-cut case that the documents are bogus. The courts below both concluded that Capistrano had discharged this burden. However, this Court does not share the conclusion. Indeed, Capistrano failed to present evidence of the forgery that is enough to overcome the presumption of authenticity.
To support the allegation of the spuriousness of his signature on the Deed of Absolute Sale and that of his wife on the Marital Consent, Capistrano relied heavily on his bare denial, at the same time taking sanctuary behind other circumstances which supposedly cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents. Capistrano did not bother to present corroborating witnesses much less an independent expert witness who could declare with authority and objectivity that the challenged signatures are forged. It befuddles the Court why both the courts below did not find this irregular considering that the Court has previously declared in Sy Tiangco v. Pablo and Apao,,35 "that the execution of a document that has been ratified before a notary public cannot be disproved by the mere denial of the alleged signer."
The case of Chilianchin v. Coquinco36 also finds application in this regard wherein we stated that:
As the lower court correctly said, the plaintiff did not even present a sample of his authentic signature to support his contention that it is not his the (sic) signature appearing in said document. He did not call a handwriting expert to prove his assertion. His attorney, at the beginning of the trial, made it of record that if the defendant present an expert in hand-writing to show that the signature in question is genuine, the plaintiff will also present an expert to the contrary, as if it were incumbent upon the defendant to show that the signature of the plaintiff in Exhibit A is genuine . . . .37
Corollarily, he who disavows the authenticity of his signature on a public document bears the responsibility to present evidence to that effect. Mere disclaimer is not sufficient. At the very least, he should present corroborating witnesses to prove his assertion. At best, he should present an expert witness.
On the other hand, the Court cannot understand why an unfavorable inference arose not from Capistrano's but from Cruz's failure to have the documents examined by an expert witness of the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) and to present the notary public as witness. Specifically, the courts below took Cruz's inability to obtain the NBI examination of the documents as he had somehow undertaken as an indication that the documents are counterfeit.38
The courts below may have forgotten that on Capistrano lies the burden to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the notarized documents are spurious. Nothing in law or jurisprudence reposes on Cruz the obligation to prove that the documents are genuine and duly executed. Hence it is not incumbent upon Cruz to call the notary public or an expert witness. In contrast, Capistrano should have called the expert witness, the notary public himself or the witnesses to the document to prove his contention that he never signed the deed of sale, that its subscribing witnesses never saw him sign the same, and that he never appeared before the notary public before whom the acknowledgment was made.
In fact, there is no evidence that the notarization of the documents did not take place. All that Capistrano could say on this matter was that he had not seen Benedicto, the notary public.39 The assertion that the parties to the deed never appeared before the notary public is not supported by evidence either. The courts below drew an inference to that effect from Cruz's testimony that the deed of sale was dropped or delivered to his mother's house.40 That is not a reasonable deduction to make as it is plainly conjectural. No conclusion can be derived therefrom which could destroy the genuineness of the deed. The testimony means what it declares: that the copy of the deed was dropped at the house of Cruz's mother. That is all.
Nor can the Court lend credence to the thinking of the courts below that since Cruz had a balance of
Indeed, a vendor may agree to a deed of absolute sale even before full payment of the purchase price. Article 1478 of the Civil Code states that "the parties may stipulate that ownership in the thing shall not pass to the purchaser until he has fully paid the price." A sensu contrario, the parties may likewise stipulate that the ownership of the property may pass even if the purchaser has not fully paid the price.
The courts below also assigned an adverse connotation to Cruz's impleading of the Capistrano spouses as party-defendants in the action against the Bank to enjoin the foreclosure of the mortgage on the subject lot. Cruz's move is congruent with both his strong desire to protect his interest in the subject lot and the reality that there was an existing deed of sale in his favor. Precisely, his interest in the lot is borne out and had arisen from the deed of sale. As purchaser of the lot, he had to avert the foreclosure of the mortgage thereon. And to ensure against the dismissal of the action for failure to join a real party-in-interest, he had to implead Capistrano in whose name the title to the subject lot was registered still.
Apart from Capistrano's abject failure to overcome the presumption of regularity and genuineness with which the Deed of Absolute Sale is impressed as a public document, Capistrano's cause is eviscerated by his own acts in writing before and after the execution of the deed. Said written acts constitute indelible recognition of the existence and genuineness of the Deed of Absolute Sale.
First is the letter-agreement41 dated 23 September 1982 made and signed by Capistrano in favor of Cruz, which the latter also signed subsequently, stating that Cruz will, as he did, purchase the subject lot for
Second is the Statement of Account42 signed by Capistrano, which he delivered to Cruz, showing that as of 30 October 1985, Cruz's balance of the stipulated purchase price consisted of
Third is Capistrano's Amended Complaint itself which illustrates his own manifest uncertainty as to the relief he was seeking in court. He demanded that the Deed of Absolute Sale be nullified yet he prayed in the same breath for the "rescission" of the same43 'evidently, a self-defeating recognition of the contract. In asking for "rescission," Capistrano obviously was invoking Article 1191 of the Civil Code which provides that the "power to rescind," which really means to resolve or cancel, is implied in reciprocal obligations "in case one of the obligors should not comply with what is incumbent upon him." When a party asks for the resolution or cancellation of a contract it is implied that he recognizes its existence. A non-existent contract need not be cancelled.
These are unmistakable written admissions of Capistrano that he really intended to sell the subject lot to Cruz and that he received payments for it from the latter as late as the year 1985. It is thus a little baffling why in 1988, he decided to disown the Deed of Absolute Sale. The most plausible explanation for his sudden change of mind would be his belated realization that he parted with the subject lot for too small an amount (
Now, to the Marital Consent. The fact that the document contains a jurat, not an acknowledgment, should not affect its genuineness or that of the related document of conveyance itself, the Deed of Absolute Sale. In this instance, a jurat suffices as the document only embodies the manifestation of the spouse's consent,44 a mere appendage to the main document.
The use of a jurat, instead of an acknowledgement does not elevate the Marital Consent to the level of a public document but instead consigns it to the status of a private writing.45 The lack of acknowledgment, however, does not render a deed invalid. The necessity of a public document for contracts which transmit or extinguish real rights over immovable property, as mandated by Article 1358 of the Civil Code, is only for convenience; it is not essential for validity or enforceability.46
From the perspective of the law on evidence, however, the presumption of regularity does not hold true with respect to the Marital Consent which is a private writing. It is subject to the requirement of proof under Section 20, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court which states:
Section 20. Proof of private document. - Before any private document offered as authentic is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either:
Any other private document need only be identified as that which is claimed to be.
The requirement of proof of the authenticity of the Marital Consent was adequately met, in this case, through the testimony of Cruz to the effect that, together with the other witnesses to the document, he was present when Capistrano's wife affixed her signature thereon before notary public Benedicto.47 Viewed against this positive declaration, Capistrano's negative and self-serving assertions that his wife's signature on the document was forged because "(i)t is too beautiful" and that his wife could not have executed the Marital Consent because it was executed on her natal day and she was somewhere else, crumble and become unworthy of belief.
That the Marital Consent was executed prior to the Deed of Absolute Sale also does not indicate that it is phoney. A fair assumption is that it was executed in anticipation of the Deed of Absolute Sale which was accomplished a scant six (6) days later.
With respect to whatever balance Cruz may still owe to Capistrano, the Court believes that this is not a concern of Pan Pacific as the latter is not a party to the Deed of Absolute Sale between Capistrano and Cruz. But of course, Pan Pacific should enjoy full entitlement to the subject lot as it was sold to him by Cruz who earlier had acquired title thereto absolutely and unconditionally by virtue of the Deed of Absolute Sale. Otherwise laid down, Cruz had the right to sell the subject lot to Pan Pacific in 1988, as he in fact did. Thus, the question of whether or not Pan Pacific is a purchaser in good faith should be deemed irrelevant.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated 4 June 1996 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 41112 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondent Nicolas Capistrano is ordered to surrender the owner's duplicate certificate of Transfer of Certificate of Title No. 143599 to the Register of Deeds of Manila to enable the issuance of a new title over the subject lot in the name of petitioner Pan Pacific Industrial Sales, Inc. Costs against respondent Nicolas Capistrano.
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