“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. - Oscar Wilde

Friday, October 5, 2012

Associate Justice Delilah Vidallon-Magtolis vs. Cielito M. Salud

A.M. No. CA-05-20-P     September 9, 2005
Callejo, Sr., J.     En Banc


Melchor Lagua was found guilty of homicide. Lagua, who was then detained at the Bureau of Prisons National Penitentiary filed a Very Urgent Petition for Bail. The appellate court issued a Resolution directing him to post a bond. Lagua’s bond was approved, and the appellate court also directed the issuance of an order of release in favor of Lagua. The resolution was then brought to the Office of the Division Clerk of Court, Atty. Maria Isabel M. Pattugalan-Madarang, for promulgation.

The respondent, Cielito Salud, Clerk IV, Mailing Section of the Judicial Records Division, Court of Appeals, went to the National Penitentiary to serve the resolution and order of release in the Lagua case. The respondent left the prison compound at around 2:30 p.m.

In the meantime, Atty. Madarang received a telephone call from a certain Melissa Melchor, who introduced herself as Lagua’s relative. The caller asked her how much more they had to give to facilitate Lagua’s provisional liberty. The caller also told Atty. Madarang that they had sought the help of a certain Rhodora Valdez of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig, where the criminal case originated. Atty. Madarang then called the said court and asked to speak to Ms. Valdez, pretending to be Lagua’s relative.

Atty. Madarang secured Salud’s mobile phone number from Ms. Cecil Secarro, the Acting Chief of the Mailing Section and started texting him. She represented herself as Arlyn, Lagua’s relative. While she was in the office, she texted Salud for his whereabouts and he replied, that he was on his way back to Quezon City. That was before 4 p.m., adding that his deliveries were ok.

Atty. Madarang personally called up the Bureau of Prisons for the exact time the Order of Release was delivered and when accused appellant Lagua was released and learned that the Order of Release was received at 9:15 A.M. and that Lagua was released between 5-5:30 P.M. of November 7, 2003.

On November 11, 2003, Atty. Madarang brought Salud, accompanied by Ms. Secarro to Justice Magtolis. Out of the confrontation, we discovered that Salud did not properly serve the copies of the Resolution and Order of Release upon the accused-appellant and his counsel. He gave them to a certain Art, allegedly Lagua’s relative who he claimed approached him at the Bureau of Prisons in the morning of November 7, 2003. He told Justice Magtolis that he gave these documents to Art, who promised to take care of them, even before he could deliver the copy addressed to the Director of Prisons. He never mentioned that this Art was connected with the office of accused-appellant’s counsel.

Justice Magtolis lodged the complaint against the respondent in a Letter dated November 14, 2003, containing, among others, the following allegations:

The delivery of resolutions/orders to unauthorized persons and "complete strangers" who promised to "take care thereof" constitutes not only neglect of duty but also conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Staying for the whole day within the vicinity of the National Bilibid Prisons to the point of failing to fulfill his other duties for the day constitutes inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties. On the other hand, the use of my name and that of our Division Clerk of Court to illegally solicit financial or material benefit from parties with pending cases before this Court is illegal per se.

Justice Magtolis requested that Cielito Salud be subjected to an administrative investigation and disciplinary action.

In an Investigation Report, Atty. Longalong found that the respondent was guilty as charged; that he is also liable for having financial or material interest in an official transaction considering his undue interest in the service of the order of release and actual release of Lagua to the point of staying almost the whole day in the Bureau of Prisons and the aborted "deal" as can be concluded from the phone call of Melissa Melchor to Atty. Madarang and subsequent exchange of text messages with Atty. Madarang disguising as Lagua’s relative. …


            Whether or not the exchange of text messages between Atty. Madarang and herein respondent is admissible as evidence in an administrative case.


On the charge of inefficiency, the respondent is clearly administratively liable. After serving Lagua’s copy of the resolution and order of release to the prison Director, he should have immediately returned to his station or served the other resolutions and documents for personal service. As an officer of the court, the respondent plays an essential part in the administration of justice. He is required to live up to the stringent standards of his office, and his conduct must, at all times, be above reproach and suspicion. He must steer clear of any act which would tend to undermine his integrity, or erode somehow the people’s faith and trust in the courts.

To determine the credibility and probative weight of the testimony of a witness, such testimony must be considered in its entirety and not in truncated parts. To determine which contradicting statements of a witness is to prevail as to the truth, the other evidence received must be considered. Thus, while it is true that there is no direct evidence that the respondent received any money to "facilitate" the release of detained Lagua, the following circumstances must be taken as contrary to the respondent’s plea of innocence:

First. The respondent admitted that he was the sender of the first three text messages in Atty. Madarang’s cellphone: "bkit, C rhodora to"; "CNO KAMAGANAK AT ANONG PANGALAN MO"; and "SINO K KC NAGHIWALAY N KAMI."

As pointed out by the Investigating Officer, the respondent’s claim of "joking around" ("nakipaglokohan") with an unknown sender of a text message by replying thereto is contrary to a normal person’s reaction. This is made even more apparent by the fact that the respondent even admitted that he called Atty. Madarang twice, and when asked why, gave a vague answer, and, when further questioned, even broke down in tears.

The respondent’s claim that the admission of the text messages as evidence against him constitutes a violation of his right to privacy is unavailing. Text messages have been classified as "ephemeral electronic communication" under Section 1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence, and "shall be proven by the testimony of a person who was a party to the same or has personal knowledge thereof." Any question as to the admissibility of such messages is now moot and academic, as the respondent himself, as well as his counsel, already admitted that he was the sender of the first three messages on Atty. Madarang’s cell phone.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, respondent Cielito M. Salud is found GUILTY of inefficiency and gross misconduct. He is SUSPENDED for a period of One (1) Year and Six (6) Months, effective immediately. He is further DIRECTED to inform the Court as to the date of his receipt of this Decision to determine when his suspension shall have taken effect.

The Office of the Court Administrator is also DIRECTED to conduct a discreet investigation on the possible involvement of Rhodora Valdez (Utility Worker), and other personnel of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 163.

Ellery March G. Torres vs. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

G.R. No. 193531     December 14, 2011
Peralta, J.     En Banc


Petitioner was a Slot Machine Operations Supervisor (SMOS) of respondent Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). On the basis of an alleged intelligence report of padding of the Credit Meter Readings (CMR) of the slot machines at PAGCOR-Hyatt Manila, then Casino Filipino-Hyatt (CF Hyatt), which involved the slot machine and internal security personnel of respondent PAGCOR, and in connivance with slot machine customers, respondent PAGCOR's Corporate Investigation Unit (CIU) allegedly conducted an investigation to verify the veracity of such report.

Based on the CIU's investigation of all the CMR receipts and slot machine jackpot slips issued by CF Hyatt for the months of February and March 2007, the CIU identified the members of the syndicate who were responsible for such CMR padding, which included herein petitioner.

On May 4, 2007, the CIU served petitioner with a Memorandum of Charges for dishonesty, serious misconduct, fraud and violation of office rules and regulations which were considered grave offenses where the penalty imposable is dismissal.

On August 4, 2007, petitioner received a letter dated August 2, 2007 from Atty. Lizette F. Mortel, Managing Head of PAGCOR's Human Resource and Development Department, dismissing him from the service.

On September 14, 2007, petitioner filed with the CSC a Complaint against PAGCOR and its Chairman Efraim Genuino for illegal dismissal, non-payment of backwages and other benefits, alleging among others that he sent a facsimile transmission of his letter reconsideration within the period prescribed by the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

Respondent PAGCOR filed its Comment wherein it alleged, among others, that petitioner failed to perfect an appeal within the period and manner provided by the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service Law.

On June 23, 2008, the CSC, treating petitioner's complaint as an appeal from the PAGCOR's decision dismissing petitioner from the service, issued Resolution No. 081204 denying petitioner's appeal.

Petitioner filed with the CA a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the twin resolutions issued by the CSC.


Whether or not the Civil Service Commission erred in ruling that there was no valid letter/motion for reconsideration submitted to reconsider petitioner's dismissal from the service.


In dismissing the petition, the CA found that petitioner failed to adduce clear and convincing evidence that he had filed a motion for reconsideration. It found insufficient to merit consideration petitioner's claim that he had sent through a facsimile transmission a letter/reconsideration dated August 13, 2007 addressed to PAGCOR's Chairman, members of the Board of Directors and the Merit Systems Protection Board; that assuming arguendo that a letter reconsideration was indeed sent through a facsimile transmission, such facsimile transmission is inadmissible as electronic evidence under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000; and that a review of the CSC assailed resolution revealed that the telephone numbers where petitioner claimed to be the recipient of the faxed document sent was not that of PAGCOR's Office of Board of Directors.

Petitioner contends that he filed his letter reconsideration of his dismissal on August 13, 2007, which was within the 15-day period for filing the same; and that he did so by means of a facsimile transmission sent to the PAGCOR's Office of the Board of Directors. He claims that the sending of documents thru electronic data message, which includes facsimile, is sanctioned under Republic Act No. 8792, the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000.

Clearly, a motion for reconsideration may either be filed by mail or personal delivery.

In Garvida v. Sales, Jr., we found inadmissible in evidence the filing of pleadings through fax machines and ruled that:

x x x A facsimile is not a genuine and authentic pleading. It is, at best, an exact copy preserving all the marks of an original. Without the original, there is no way of determining on its face whether the facsimile pleading is genuine and authentic and was originally signed by the party and his counsel. It may, in fact, be a sham pleading. x x x

Moreover, a facsimile transmission is not considered as an electronic evidence under the Electronic Commerce Act. In MCC Industrial Sales Corporation v. Ssangyong Corporation, we determined the question of whether the original facsimile transmissions are "electronic data messages" or "electronic documents" within the context of the Electronic Commerce Act, and We said:

We, therefore, conclude that the "electronic data message" and "electronic document," as defined under the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, do not include a facsimile transmission. Accordingly, a facsimile transmission cannot be considered as electronic evidence. It is not the functional equivalent of an original under the Best Evidence Rule and is not admissible as electronic evidence.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated April 22, 2010 and the Resolution dated July 30, 2010 of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED.

Zaldy Nuez vs. Elvira Cruz-Apao

A.M. No. CA-05-18-P     April 12, 2005
Per Curiam     En Banc


The complaint arose out of respondent’s solicitation of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) from Zaldy Nuez (Complainant) in exchange for a speedy and favorable decision of the latter’s pending case in the CA, more particularly, CA-G.R. SP No. 73460 entitled "PAGCOR vs. Zaldy Nuez." Complainant initially lodged a complaint with the Action Center of the Television program Imbestigador of GMA Network, the crew of which had accompanied him to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission–Special Projects Group (PAOCC-SPG) in MalacaƱang where he filed a complaint for extortion against respondent. This led to the conduct of an entrapment operation by elements of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) on 28 September 2004 at the Jollibee Restaurant, 2nd Floor, Times Plaza Bldg., corner Taft and United Nations Avenue, Manila, the place where the supposed hand-over of the money was going to take place.

Complainant’s case referred to above had been pending with the CA for more than two years. Desiring an expeditious decision of his case, complainant sought the assistance of respondent sometime in July 2004 after learning of the latter’s employment with the CA from her sister, Magdalena David. During their first telephone conversation and thereafter through a series of messages they exchanged via SMS, complainant informed respondent of the particulars of his pending case.

At the meeting place, complainant, respondent and Siringan negotiated for almost one hour.  Complainant and Siringan bargained for a lower price but respondent refused to accede.  When respondent finally touched the unsealed envelope to look at the money inside, the PAOCTF agents converged on her and invited her to the Western Police District (WPD) Headquarters at United Nations Avenue for questioning.

Thereafter, an administrative case was filed against the respondent.


            Whether or not the exchange of text messages between respondent and complainant may be used as evidence in an administrative case.


Complainant was able to prove by his testimony in conjunction with the text messages from respondent duly presented before the Committee that the latter asked for One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) in exchange for a favorable decision of the former’s pending case with the CA.  The text messages were properly admitted by the Committee since the same are now covered by Section 1(k), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence which provides:

"Ephemeral electronic communication" refers to telephone conversations, text messages . . . and other electronic forms of communication the evidence of which is not recorded or retained."

Under Section 2, Rule 11 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence, "Ephemeral electronic communications shall be proven by the testimony of a person who was a party to the same or who has personal knowledge thereof . . . ." In this case, complainant who was the recipient of said messages and therefore had personal knowledge thereof testified on their contents and import.  Respondent herself admitted that the cellphone number reflected in complainant’s cellphone from which the messages originated was hers. Moreover, any doubt respondent may have had as to the admissibility of the text messages had been laid to rest when she and her counsel signed and attested to the veracity of the text messages between her and complainant. It is also well to remember that in administrative cases, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied.68 We have no doubt as to the probative value of the text messages as evidence in determining the guilt or lack thereof of respondent in this case.

By soliciting the amount of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) from complainant, respondent committed an act of impropriety which immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the judiciary and the people’s confidence in it.

In view of the facts narrated above and taking into account the applicable laws and jurisprudence, the Committee in their Report recommended that respondent be dismissed from government service for GRAVE MISCONDUCT and violation of Sections 1 and 2, Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent Elvira Cruz-Apao is found GUILTY of GRAVE MISCONDUCT and violation of SECTIONS 1 and 2 of the CODE OF CONDUCT FOR COURT PERSONNEL and is accordingly DISMISSED from government service, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch, instrumentality or agency of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.  Her retirement and all benefits except accrued leave credits are hereby FORFEITED.

National Power Corp. vs. Hon. Ramon G. Codilla, Jr. et al.

G.R. No. 170491     April 4, 2007
Chico-Nazario, J.     Third Division


M/V Dibena Win, a vessel of foreign registry owned and operated by private respondent Bangpai Shipping, Co., allegedly bumped and damaged petitioner’s Power Barge 209 which was then moored at the Cebu International Port. Petitioner filed before the Cebu RTC a complaint for damages. Petitioner later impleaded herein private respondent Wallem Shipping, Inc., as additional defendant.

Petitioner, after adducing evidence during the trial of the case, filed a formal offer of evidence consisting of Exhibits "A" to "V" together with the sub-marked portions thereof. Consequently, private respondents filed their respective objections to petitioner’s formal offer of evidence.

The Court found merit in the objections raised and the motion to strike out filed respectively by the defendants. It denied admission of petitioner’s Exhibits A, C, D, E, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, and S on the ground that the pieces of documentary evidence were merely photocopies of purported documents or papers.

The record shows that the plaintiff has been given every opportunity to present the originals of the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it offered. It never produced the originals. The plaintiff attempted to justify the admission of the photocopies by contending that "the photocopies offered are equivalent to the original of the document" on the basis of the Electronic Evidence.

Further the Xerox or photocopies offered were not properly identified by any competent witness and the loss of the principals thereof was not established by any competent proof.


Whether or not the photocopies offered as formal evidence before the trial court are the functional equivalent of their original based on the petitioner’s inimitable interpretation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence.


The instant petition was DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals was AFFIRMED.

The rules use the word "information" to define an electronic document received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. This would suggest that an electronic document is relevant only in terms of the information contained therein, similar to any other document which is presented in evidence as proof of its contents. However, what differentiates an electronic document from a paper-based document is the manner by which the information is processed; clearly, the information contained in an electronic document is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically.

A perusal of the information contained in the photocopies submitted by petitioner will reveal that not all of the contents therein, such as the signatures of the persons who purportedly signed the documents, may be recorded or produced electronically. By no stretch of the imagination can a person’s signature affixed manually be considered as information electronically received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced. Hence, the argument of petitioner that since these paper printouts were produced through an electronic process, then these photocopies are electronic documents as defined in the Rules on Electronic Evidence is obviously an erroneous, if not preposterous, interpretation of the law. Having thus declared that the offered photocopies are not tantamount to electronic documents, it is consequential that the same may not be considered as the functional equivalent of their original as decreed in the law.

Furthermore, no error can be ascribed to the court a quo in denying admission and excluding from the records petitioner’s Exhibits. The trial court was correct in rejecting these photocopies as they violate the best evidence rule and are therefore of no probative value being incompetent pieces of evidence.

When the original document has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, the offeror, upon proof of its execution or existence and the cause of its unavailability without bad faith on his part, may prove its contents by a copy, or by a recital of its contents in some authentic document, or by the testimony of witnesses in the order stated. The offeror of secondary evidence is burdened to prove the predicates thereof: (a) the loss or destruction of the original without bad faith on the part of the proponent/offeror which can be shown by circumstantial evidence of routine practices of destruction of documents; (b) the proponent must prove by a fair preponderance of evidence as to raise a reasonable inference of the loss or destruction of the original copy; and (c) it must be shown that a diligent and bona fide but unsuccessful search has been made for the document in the proper place or places. However, in the case at bar, though petitioner insisted in offering the photocopies as documentary evidence, it failed to establish that such offer was made in accordance with the exceptions as enumerated under the abovequoted rule. Accordingly, we find no error in the Order of the court a quo denying admissibility of the photocopies offered by petitioner as documentary evidence.

Sinforoso P. Ang vs. Arniel E. Cruz

A.M. No. P-04-1822     February 6, 2006
Carpio, J.     Third Division


Sinforoso P. Ang ("complainant") stated that he filed a Petition for the Exercise of Substitute Parental Authority over Minor Roumeina Lyn Felize Sta. Maria ("Yza") against oppositors May Lyn G. Sta. Maria, Erlina Sta. Maria and Christopher Sta. Maria ("oppositors"). Presiding Judge Evelyn L. Dimaculangan-Querijero issued an Order directing Deputy Sheriff Angelito B. Annang ("Sheriff Annang") to take custody of Yza from her maternal grandmother Erlina Sta. Maria, and entrust her temporary custody to complainant.

Complainant and Sheriff Annang proceeded to the College of Immaculate Concepcion, the school of Yza, to implement the Order. Cristina De Guzman ("Ms. De Guzman"), Yza’s teacher, told them that Yza was fetched by her mother May Lyn Sta. Maria ("Ms. Sta. Maria"). Ms. Sta. Maria told Ms. De Guzman that she "will undertake to hide" Yza since they had been informed "by their relative" that the court would issue an order giving temporary custody of Yza to complainant.

At this point, Sheriff Annang informed complainant that he received a text message from respondent stating "Pre, pamangkin ko yung bata, baka puede mo gawan ng paraan, kawawa naman yung nanay." And so, despite serious efforts to locate Yza and implement the Order of the court, the Order was left unsatisfied. Complainant alleged that it was because of the "surreptitious relaying of advance information" by respondent to Ms. Sta. Maria that she was able to take away and hide Yza thus "circumventing" the Order of the court.

Respondent claimed that the Order "was dictated in open court, overheard by the intriguing ears of several people inside the courtroom during that time and highly susceptible of being leaked out by anybody who was present when the order was issued and dictated." 

About the text message, respondent did not deny sending the same to Sheriff Annang. He claimed that "there was no statement therein made to suggest that he had diffused to the oppositors the information regarding the tenor of the order thereby enabling the oppositors, specifically the biological mother, to hide the minor child Yza."

The Complaint was referred for investigation, report and recommendation.


Whether or not the test message is admissible in an administrative complaint against for Obstruction of Justice, and Conduct Unbecoming and Unfit for an Officer of the Court.


The OCA correctly noted that there is no direct evidence that respondent leaked to oppositors the Order of the court. Indeed, anyone present in the courtroom that morning could have informed the oppositors about the Order.

However, respondent does not deny sending the text message to Sheriff Annang. Neither does respondent dispute the contents of the message. By this act alone, respondent is administratively liable.

Parties seeking redress from the courts for grievances look on court personnel as part of the Judiciary. In performing their duties and responsibilities, court personnel serve as sentinels of justice and any act of impropriety on their part immeasurably affects the honor and dignity of the Judiciary and the people’s confidence in it.

The respondent’s relationship with oppositors made him take undue interest in the case. Being a court employee, respondent ought to have known that it was improper for him to communicate with Sheriff Annang on the pending Order of the court. Respondent tried to interfere with the duty of the sheriff in implementing the Order. In doing so, respondent undermined the faith of complainant and, ultimately, of the public in the court’s administration of justice.

WHEREFORE, we FIND respondent Arniel E. Cruz, Clerk III, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Cabanatuan City, GUILTY of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service for which we FINE him P2,000.