Republic of the Philippines
SPECIAL FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 170071 July 16, 2012
HEIRS OF JOSE MARCIAL K. OCHOA namely: RUBY B. OCHOA, MICAELA B. OCHOA and JOMAR B. OCHOA, Petitioners,
G & S TRANSPORT CORPORATION, Respondent.
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G.R. No. 170125
G & S TRANSPORT CORPORATION, Petitioner,
HEIRS OF JOSE MARCIAL K. OCHOA namely: RUBY B. OCHOA, MICAELA B. OCHOA and JOMAR B. OCHOA, Respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Before us is the Motion for Reconsideration1 of our March 9, 2011 Decision filed by G & S Transport Corporation (G & S).
On March 9, 2011, we rendered a Decision2 in the consolidated petitions of G & S3 and of the heirs.4 These petitions stemmed from a Complaint5 for Damages filed by the heirs against G & S with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Pasig City, Branch 164 on account of Jose Marcial’s death while onboard a taxicab owned and operated by G & S.
The RTC adjudged G & S guilty of breach of contract of carriage and ordered it to pay the heirs the following amounts:
1. P50,000 as civil indemnity;
2. P6,537,244.96 for loss of earning capacity of the deceased;
3. P100,000.00 for attorney’s fees; and,
4. costs of litigation.6
Acting upon the heirs’ Partial Motion for Reconsideration,7 the RTC also ordered G & S to pay the heirs the following:
1. P300,000.00 as moral damages;
2. P50,000.00 as exemplary damages.8
On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the RTC Decision but with the modifications that the awards for loss of income in the amount of P6,537,244.96 be deleted and that moral damages be reduced to P200,000.00.9
The deletion was ordered on the ground that the income certificate issued by Jose
Marcial’s employer, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is self-serving, unreliable and biased, and that the same was not supported by competent evidence such as income tax returns or receipts. With respect to moral damages, the CA found the same excessive and disproportionate to the award of P50,000.00 exemplary damages. Thus, the same was reduced to P200,000.00.10
The parties’ respective appeals11 from the CA Decision became the subject of this Court’s March 9, 2011 Decision which denied G & S’s petition and partly granted that of the heirs. The Court affirmed the assailed CA Decision with the modifications that G & S is ordered to pay the heirs P6,611,634.59 for loss of earning capacity of the deceased, as well as moral damages in the reduced amount of P100,000.00. The dispositive portion of our March 9, 2011 Decision, reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari in G.R. No. 170071 is PARTLY GRANTED while the petition in G.R. No. 170125 is DENIED. The assailed Decision and Resolution dated June 29, 2005 and October 12, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 75602 are AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that G & S is ordered to pay the heirs of Jose Marcial K. Ochoa the sum of P6,611,634.59 for loss of earning capacity of the deceased and P100,000.00 as moral damages.
G & S’s Motion for Reconsideration
G & S filed a Motion for Reconsideration13 arguing that the USAID Certification used as basis in computing the award for loss of income is inadmissible in evidence because it was not properly authenticated and identified in court by the signatory thereof; that it exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its employees and, hence, was able to overcome the presumption of fault imputed to it; and, that while settled is the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts, G & S can seek a review of facts even if it did not particularly state under which exception to such rule its case falls.
The heirs’ Comment to the Motion for Reconsideration
In their Comment,14 the heirs point out that G & S’s arguments have already been squarely passed upon by this Court and by the lower courts. Moreover, these arguments involve questions of fact which cannot be reviewed in a petition for review on certiorari. As to the USAID Certification, the heirs aver that the same was properly admitted in evidence. This is because Jose Marcial’s widow, witness Ruby Bueno Ochoa, was able to competently testify as to the authenticity and due execution of the said Certification since the signatory thereof, Jonas Cruz (Cruz), personally issued and handed the same to her. In addition, the accuracy of the contents of the Certification was never questioned by G & S as, in fact, it did not present evidence to dispute its contents.
The Court’s Ruling
The Motion for Reconsideration is denied.
The requirement of authentication of documentary evidence applies only to a private document.
It is true that before a private document offered as authentic be received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must first be proved.15 However, it must be remembered that this requirement of authentication only pertains to private documents and "does not apply to public documents, these being admissible without further proof of their due execution or genuineness. Two reasons may be advanced in support of this rule, namely: said documents have been executed in the proper registry and are presumed to be valid and genuine until the contrary is shown by clear and convincing proof; and, second, because public documents are authenticated by the official signature and seals which they bear and of which seals, courts may take judicial notice."16 Hence, in a case, the Court held that in the presentation of public documents as evidence, due execution and authenticity thereof are already presumed.17
The subject USAID Certification is a public document, hence, does not require authentication.
It therefore becomes necessary to first ascertain whether the subject USAID Certification is a private or public document before this Court can rule upon the correctness of its admission and consequent use as basis for the award of loss of income in these cases.
Sec. 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court classifies documents as either public or private, viz:
Sec. 19. Classes of Documents – For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are either public or private.
Public documents are:
(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country;
(b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and (c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein.
All other writings are private. (Emphasis supplied.)
Paragraph (a) of the above-quoted provision classifies the written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country, as public documents. As mentioned in our March 9, 2011 Decision, USAID is the principal United States agency that extends assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms and that it is an independent federal government agency that receives over-all foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State of the United States.18
A further research on said agency shows that it was created through Executive Order 1097319 by President John F. Kennedy on November 3, 1961 pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.20 It is headed by an Administrator and Deputy Administrator, both appointed by the President of the Unites States and confirmed by its Senate.21 From these, there can be no doubt that the USAID is an official government agency of a foreign country, the United States. Hence, Cruz, as USAID’s Chief of the Human Resources Division in the Philippines, is actually a public officer. Apparently, Cruz’s issuance of the subject USAID Certification was made in the performance of his official functions, he having charge of all employee files and information as such officer. In view of these, it is clear that the USAID Certification is a public document pursuant to paragraph (a), Sec. 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. Hence, and consistent with our above discussion, the authenticity and due execution of said Certification are already presumed. Moreover, as a public document issued in the performance of a duty by a public officer, the subject USAID Certification is prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.22
And, there being no clear and sufficient evidence presented by G & S to overcome these presumptions, the RTC is correct when it admitted in evidence the said document. The USAID Certification could very well be used as basis for the award for loss of income to the heirs.
G & S failed to overcome the presumption that "the common carrier is at fault or is negligent when a passenger dies or is injured."23
G & S insists that it exercised the required diligence of a good father of a family when it hired and continued to employ Bibiano Padilla, Jr. (the driver of the ill-fated Avis taxicab). It claims that it was able to prove this through the documentary exhibits it submitted before the trial court and that the same are sufficient to relieve it from liability to the heirs.
The reasons advanced by G & S in support of this argument are mere rehash if not a repetition of those raised in its petition which have already been considered and passed upon in our March 9, 2011 Decision and, hence, do not require reconsideration. The conclusion therefore that G & S failed to overcome the presumption that the common carrier is at fault or is negligent when a passenger dies or is injured stands.
There is no compelling reason to re-examine the factual findings of the lower courts.
G & S questions the portion of our March 9, 2011 Decision which reads:
In this case, the said three issues boil down to the determination of the following questions: What is the proximate cause of the death of Jose Marcial? Is the testimony of prosecution witness Clave credible? Did G & S exercise the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its employees? Suffice it to say that these are all questions of fact which require this Court to inquire into the probative value of the evidence presented before the trial court. As we have consistently held, "[t]his Court is not a trier of facts. It is not a function of this court to analyze or weigh evidence. When we give due course to such situations, it is solely by way of exception. Such exceptions apply only in the presence of extremely meritorious cases." Here, we note that although G & S enumerated in its Consolidated Memorandum the exceptions to the rule that a petition for review on certiorari should only raise questions of law, it nevertheless did not point out under what exception its case falls. And, upon review of the records of the case, we are convinced that it does not fall under any. Hence, we cannot proceed to resolve said issues and disturb the findings and conclusions of the CA with respect thereto. x x x24 (Emphasis supplied.)
G & S avers that its failure to indicate the specific ground/exception for this Court to review the facts of the case should not be taken against it. It contends that even if it failed to specify which of the exceptions is applicable here, the Court should have nonetheless determined the existence of any of the said exceptions on its own.
This matter has been properly addressed in our March 9, 2011 Decision.1âwphi1 While we indeed mentioned that G & S failed to indicate under which of the exceptions its case falls, the line following that portion states that "And, upon review of the records of the case, we are convinced that it does not fall under any." It is plain from this statement that although G & S failed to specify the reason why we should resolve factual questions in these cases, we nevertheless have carefully studied the records to ascertain whether there exists sufficient justification for us to re-examine the factual findings of the lower courts. And convinced that there is none, we adhered to the settled principle that a review of the factual findings of the lower courts is outside the province of a Petition for Review on Certiorari.
The award of attorney’s fees and cost of litigation should be deleted.
While we are constrained to deny the present Motion for Reconsideration for the reasons above-stated, we cannot, however, end without discussing the awards of attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.
In Mercury Drug Corporation v. Banking,25 the Court held, viz:
On the matter of attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, it is settled that the reasons or grounds for the award thereof must be set forth in the decision of the court. Since the trial court’s decision did not give the basis of the award, the same must be deleted. In Vibram Manufacturing Corporation v. Manila Electric Company, we held:
Likewise, the award for attorney’s fees and litigation expenses should de deleted. Well-enshrined is that an award for attorney’s fees must be stated in the text of the court’s decision and not in the dispositive portion only (Consolidated Bank and Trust Corporation Solidbank v. Court of Appeals, 246 SCRA 193 1995 and Keng Hua Paper Products, Inc. v. Court of Appeals. 286 SCRA 257 1998). This is also true with the litigation expenses where the body of the decision discusses nothing for its basis.
The text of the court a quo’s Decision is bereft of any factual or legal justification for the awards of attorney’s fees and costs of litigation. It merely declared the grant of said awards to the heirs in the dispositive portion of its decision. Hence, the same should be declared.
WHEREFORE, the awards of attorney’s fees and costs of litigation are DELETED. G & S’s Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED with FINALITY.
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|ROBERTO A. ABAD*
|MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.**
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusion in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
I certify that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice
(Per Section 12, R.A. 296, The Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended)
* Vice Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, per Special Order No. 1252 dated July 12, 2012.
** Vice former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, per raffle dated June 27, 2012.
1 Rollo (G.R. No. 170071, pp. 358-397 and G.R. No. 170125, pp. 449-487).
2 Id. at 326-350 and 424-448; 645 SCRA 93.
3 Docketed as G.R. No. 170125
4 Docketed as G.R. No. 170071.
5 Records, pp. 1-8.
6 See RTC Decision dated December 27, 2001, id. at 298-303.
7 Id. at 316-323.
8 See RTC Order dated March 5, 2002, id. at 342-343.
9 See CA’s June 29, 2005 Decision, CA rollo, pp. 216-233.
11 Supra notes 3 and 4.
12 645 SCRA 120.
13 Supra note 1.
14 Id. at 399-409 and 489-498.
15 Sec. 20, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:
Sec. 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:
(a) By anyone who saw the document executed or written; or
(b) By evidence of the genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the maker.
Any other private document need only be identified as that which it is claimed to be.
16 FRANCISCO, RICARDO, J., Basic Evidence, 1992 Ed., p. 274.
17 Teoco v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 162333, December 23, 2008, 575 SCRA 82, 97.
18 March 9, 2011 Decision, p. 9. Citations omitted; 645 SCRA 115.
19 Administration of Foreign Assistance and Related Functions <http://www.thecre.com/fedlaw/legal20eo10973.htm> (visited January 16, 2012).
20 USAID History, USAID Website <http://www.usaid.gov/about_usaid/usaidhist.html> (visited January 16, 2012).
21 USAID Organization, USAID Website <http://www.usaid.gov/about_usaid/usaidorg.html> (visited January 16, 2012).
22 RULES OF COURT, Rule 132, Section 23. Public documents as evidence. – Documents consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated. All other public documents are evidence, even against a third person, of the fact which gave rise to their execution and of the date of the latter.
23 Diaz v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 149749, July 25, 2006, 496 SCRA 468, 472.
24 March 9, 2011 Decision, pp. 14-15. Citations omitted; emphasis supplied; 645 SCRA 109-110.
25 G.R. No. 156037, May 25, 2007, 523 SCRA 484, 492.
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