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People v. Lava et al.

G.R. No. L-4974-8 May 16, 1969

FACTS: Lava et al were charged with the commission of the crime of
rebellion complexed with multiple murder, arsons and robberies. Seized
documentary and other articles were placed in the custody of the Philippine
Constabulary because they had to be presented as evidence in the trial of
rebellion cases pending in other courts. Most of the originals of the
documentary evidence were burned during the fire that gutted the
headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary on September 10, 1958. The
Solicitor General filed a petition for the reconstitution of the burned exhibits.
The petition for reconstitution was given by the Court. The appellants assail
the reconstitution of the exhibits that were destroyed, and claim that the
reconstituted exhibits should not be considered.
In. GR. No. L-4974, in the course of the trial in the RTC, the evidence
relied upon were only documents that were seized during raids on different
places were Lava had been. Some of these documents were Lava's
handwriting, or were signed by him using his alias names. These were clearly
established by the testimony of a handwriting expert that was presented by
the prosecution. The conclusion of the handwriting expert was based on the
specimens of Lava's handwriting which were used as standards in comparing
with the handwriting and/or signature (in alias) of the appellant that appear
in the documents that were presented as evidence against him. Some
documents were presented for comparison on Lavas signature are:
1. An application for employment signed by Jose Lava. The signature
thereon was testified to by witness Eduardo Romualdez (now Secretary
of Finance) as looking "like the signature of Jose Lava." Eduardo
Romualdez was acquainted with the handwriting of Jose Lava, having
received reports, parts of which were in the handwriting of Jose Lava
"not less than three or four times" while Jose Lava, was a bank
examiner; and
2. A cardboard containing a list of books requested by Jose Lava while the
latter was detained in Bilibid Prison. Buenaventura Villanueva, to whom
the list was given, testified that he saw Lava writing the list on the
Lavas counsel contended that no genuine specimen of Lava's handwriting
was presented as standard for comparison.
1. Would reconstituted documents be admitted as evidence?

2. Would the conclusion of the handwriting expert that it was Lavas

handwriting suffices?
1. Yes. The reconstitution was made in accordance with the provisions of Act
3110, which provides for the procedure in the reconstitution of court records.
Section 59 of said act provides that destroyed documentary evidence shall
be reconstituted by means of secondary evidence which may be presented
to any Justice of the Supreme Court or any other officer commissioned by the
Court. Section 14 of the act provides that the destroyed or lost documentary
evidence shall be replaced by secondary evidence. A photostatic copy of an
original document is admissible as a secondary evidence of the contents of
the originals and they constitute evidence of a satisfactory nature.
2. Yes. The handwriting of a person may be proved by any witness who believes
it to be the handwriting of such person, and has seen the person write.
Evidence respecting the handwriting may also be given by comparison,
made by the witness or the court, with writings admitted or treated as
genuine by the party against whom the evidence is offered, or proved to be
genuine to the satisfaction of the judge. The handwriting expert who made
the comparison in this case positively identified the handwriting of Jose Lava
on the documents presented as evidence against Lava, especially the
handwritten names of Gregorio Santayana, Gaston, Gaston Silayan, Gavino
and Greg.