NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION,
- versus -
HON. RAMON G. CODILLA, JR., Presiding Judge, RTC of
G.R. No. 170491
April 4, 2007
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Before Us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CEB-SP No. 00848, dated 9 November 2005, which dismissed the Petition for Certiorari filed by the National Power Corporation seeking to set aside the Order issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Cebu, Branch 19 dated 16 November 2004, denying admission and excluding from the records plaintiffs (herein petitioner) Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J, and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R and S and its sub-markings.
Thereafter, petitioner filed an Amended Complaint dated
Petitioner, after adducing evidence during the trial of the
case, filed a formal offer of evidence before the lower court on
On 16 November 2004, public respondent judge issued the assailed order denying the admission and excluding from the records petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R and S and its sub-markings. According to the court a quo:
The Court finds merit in the
objections raised and the motion to strike out filed respectively by the
defendants. 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 (Comment to Defendant Wallem
(h) Electronic document refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other models of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally signed documents and any printout, readable by sight or other means which accurately reflects the electronic data message or electronic document. For the purpose of these Rules, the term electronic document may be used interchangeably with electronic data message.
The information in those Xerox or photocopies was not received, recorded, retrieved or produced electronically. Moreover, such electronic evidence must be authenticated (Sections 1 and 2, Rule 5, Rules on Electronic Evidence), which the plaintiff failed to do. Finally, the required Affidavit to prove the admissibility and evidentiary weight of the alleged electronic evidence (Sec. 1, Rule 9, Ibid) was not executed, much less presented in evidence.
The Xerox or photocopies offered should, therefore, be stricken off the record. Aside from their being not properly identified by any competent witness, the loss of the principals thereof was not established by any competent proof.
x x x x
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J, and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, and R are hereby DENIED admission and excluded from the records. However, these excluded evidence should be attached to the records of this case to enable the appellate court to pass upon them should an appeal be taken from the decision on the merits to be rendered upon the termination of the trial of this case.
Exhibits S and its sub-markings are also DENIED admission for lack of proper identification since the witness who brought these pictures expressly admitted that he was not present when the photos were taken and had not knowledge when the same where taken.
Upon denial of petitioners Motion for Reconsideration in an Order dated 20 April 2005, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Civil Procedure before the Court of Appeals maintaining that public respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in denying the admission of its Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, R, and S and its sub-markings.
After a judicious scrutiny of the record of the case on hand, together with the rules and jurisprudence which are applicable in the premises, we have come up with a finding that the petition for certiorari filed in this case is not meritorious.
It appears that there is no sufficient showing by the petitioner that the respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed orders in Civil Case No. CEB-18662. As what our jurisprudence tells us, grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as would be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction x x x.
In the case at bench, what has
been shown to the contrary by the totality of the record on hand is that the
respondent judge acted correctly and within the pale of his sound discretion in
issuing the assailed order, dated
Indeed, it appears that the pieces of petitioners documentary evidence which were denied admission by the respondent judge were not properly identified by any competent witness. As pointed out by the respondent Bangpai Shipping Company in its comment on the petition filed in this case which reproduces some excerpts of the testimonies in the court a quo of Atty. Marianito De Los Santos, Engr. Nestor Enriquez, Jr. and Mr. Rodulfo I. Pagaling, the said witnesses did not have personal knowledge of and participation in the preparation and making of the pieces of documentary evidence denied admission by respondent judge x x x. In other words, there was lack of proper identification of said pieces of documentary evidence. x x x.
Then another ground for
denying admission of petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O,
P, Q, R, and S by the respondent judge is that said pieces of documentary
evidence were merely photocopies of purported documents or papers. There is no gainsaying the fact that the respondent
judge acted within the pale of his discretion when he denied admission of said
documentary evidence. Section 3 of Rule
130 of the Rules of Court of the Philippines is very explicit in providing
that, when the subject of inquiry are the contents of documents, no evidence
shall be admissible other than the original documents themselves, except in
certain cases specifically so enumerated therein, and the petitioner has not
shown that the non-presentation or non-production of its original documentary
pieces of evidence falls under such exceptions.
As aptly pointed out by the respondent judge in the order issued by him
x x x The record shows that the plaintiff (petitioner herein) has been given every opportunity to present the originals of the Xerox or photocopies of the documents it offered. It never produced said originals.
So, the petitioner has only itself to blame for the respondent judges denial of admission of its aforementioned documentary evidence.
Of course, the petitioner
tries to contend that the photocopies of documents offered by it are equivalent
to the original documents that it sought to offer in evidence, based on the
Rules on Electronic Evidence which were in force and effect since
Thus, by any legal yardstick, it is manifest that the respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying admission of the aforementioned documentary evidence of petitioner.
But even if it be granted just
for the sake of argument that the respondent judge committed an error in
denying the aforementioned documentary evidence of the petitioner, still the
petition for certiorari filed in this case must fail. Such error would at most be only an error of
law and not an error of jurisdiction. In
Lee vs. People, 393 SCRA 397, the Supreme Court of the
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is hereby rendered by us DISMISSING the petition filed in this case and AFFIRMING the assailed orders issued by respondent judge in Civil Case No. CEB-18662.
Aggrieved by the aforequoted decision, petitioner filed the instant petition.
The focal point of this entire controversy is petitioners obstinate contention that the photocopies it offered as formal evidence before the trial court are the functional equivalent of their original based on its inimitable interpretation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence.
Petitioner insists that, contrary to the rulings of both the trial court and the appellate court, the photocopies it presented as documentary evidence actually constitute electronic evidence based on its own premise that an electronic document as defined under Section 1(h), Rule 2 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence is not limited to information that is received, recorded, retrieved or produced electronically. Rather, petitioner maintains that an electronic document can also refer to other modes of written expression that is produced electronically, such as photocopies, as included in the sections catch-all proviso: any print-out or output, readable by sight or other means.
We do not agree.
In order to shed light to the issue of whether or not the photocopies are indeed electronic documents as contemplated in Republic Act No. 8792 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Electronic Commerce Act, as well as the Rules on Electronic Evidence, we shall enumerate the following documents offered as evidence by the petitioner, to wit:
On the other hand, an electronic document refers to information or the representation of information, data, figures, symbols or other models of written expression, described or however represented, by which a right is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved and affirmed, which is received, recorded, transmitted, stored, processed, retrieved or produced electronically. It includes digitally signed documents and any printout, readable by sight or other means which accurately reflects the electronic data message or electronic document.
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 persons 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 petitioners Exhibits A, C, D, E, H and its sub-markings, I, J and its sub-markings, K, L, M and its sub-markings, N and its sub-markings, O, P and its sub-markings, Q and its sub-markings, and R. 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. Before the onset of liberal rules of discovery, and modern technique of electronic copying, the best evidence rule was designed to guard against incomplete or fraudulent proof and the introduction of altered copies and the withholding of the originals. But the modern justification for the rule has expanded from the prevention of fraud to a recognition that writings occupy a central position in the law. The importance of the precise terms of writings in the world of legal relations, the fallibility of the human memory as reliable evidence of the terms, and the hazards of inaccurate or incomplete duplicate are the concerns addressed by the best evidence rule.
Moreover, as mandated under Section 2, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court:
"SECTION 2. Original writing must be produced; exceptions. There can be no evidence of a writing the contents of which is the subject of inquiry, other than the original writing itself, except in the following cases:
(a) When the original has been lost, destroyed, or cannot be produced in court;
(b) When the original is in the possession of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;
(c) When the original is a record or other document in the custody of a public officer;
(d) When the original has been recorded in an existing record a certified copy of which is made evidence by law;
(e) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole."
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.
Finally, it perplexes this Court why petitioner continued to obdurately disregard the opportunities given by the trial court for it to present the originals of the photocopies it presented yet comes before us now praying that it be allowed to present the originals of the exhibits that were denied admission or in case the same are lost, to lay the predicate for the admission of secondary evidence. Had petitioner presented the originals of the documents to the court instead of the photocopies it obstinately offered as evidence, or at the very least laid the predicate for the admission of said photocopies, this controversy would not have unnecessarily been brought before the appellate court and finally to this Court for adjudication. Had it not been for petitioners intransigence, the merits of petitioners complaint for damages would have been decided upon by the trial court long ago. As aptly articulated by the Court of Appeals, petitioner has only itself to blame for the respondent judges denial of admission of its aforementioned documentary evidence and consequently, the denial of its prayer to be given another opportunity to present the originals of the documents that were denied admission nor to lay the predicate for the admission of secondary evidence in case the same has been lost.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant
petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R.
CEB-SP No. 00848, dated
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
Chairperson, Third Division
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
 Penned by Associate Justice Isaias P. Dicdican with Associate Justices Ramon M. Bato, Jr. and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., concurring; rollo, pp. 40-49.
 Civil Case No. CEB-18662, penned by Judge Ramon. G. Codilla, Jr.; id. at 153-160.
 RTC Order, pp. 5-6; id. at 54-55.
 CA Decision, pp. 6-9; id. at 45-48.
 Rules on Electronic Evidence, Rule 2, Sec. 1, par. (h).
 Revised Rules on Evidence, Rule 130, Sec. 2.
 Lee v. People of the