Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 48

SECOND DIVISION

LARRY V. CAMINOS, JR., G.R. No. 147437


Petitioner,

Present:

CARPIO MORALES, J.*


Chairperson,
- versus - TINGA,
VELASCO, JR.,
LEONARDO DE CASTRO,** and
BRION, JJ.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Promulgated:
Respondent.

May 8, 2009

x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

TINGA, J.:
The right of a person using public streets and highways for travel in relation to othermotorists is mutual, coordinate and
reciprocal.[1] He is

bound to anticipate the presence of other persons whose rights on the street or highway are equal to his own. [2] Although he is not an
insurer against injury to persons or property,[3] it is nevertheless his duty to operate his motor vehicle with due and reasonable care and
caution under the circumstances for the safety of others[4] as well as for his own.[5]

This Petition for Review[6] seeks the reversal of the Decision[7] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14819 dated 28
February 1995. The assailed decision affirmed the judgment of conviction [8] rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch
163 in Criminal Case No. 76653one for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to propertyagainst petitioner Larry V. Caminos, Jr. but
reduced the latters civil liability on account of the finding that the negligence of Arnold Litonjua, the private offended party, had
contributed to the vehicular collision subject of the instant case.

The case is rooted on a vehicular collision that happened on the night of 21 June 1988at the intersection of Ortigas
Avenue and Columbia Street in Mandaluyong City, right in front of Gate 6 of East Greenhills Subdivision. The vehicles involved were a
1
Mitsubishi Super Saloon[9] driven by petitioner and a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia [10] driven by Arnold Litonjua (Arnold). The mishap
occurred at approximately 7:45 in the evening.[11] That night, the road was wet.[12] Arnold, who had earlier passed by Wack Wack
Subdivision, was traversing Ortigas Avenue toward the direction of Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue. He prepared to make a left turn as he
reached the intersection of Ortigas Avenue and Columbia Street, and as soon as he had maneuvered the turn through the break in the
traffic island the Mitsubishi car driven by petitioner suddenly came ramming into his car from his right-hand side. Petitioner, who was
also traversing Ortigas Avenue, was headed towards the direction of San Juan and he approached the same intersection from the opposite
direction.[13]

The force exerted by petitioners car heaved Arnolds car several feet away from the break in the island, sent it turning 180 degrees
until it finally settled on the outer lane of Ortigas Avenue.[14] It appears that it was the fender on the left-hand side of petitioners car that
made contact with Arnolds car, and that the impactwhich entered from the right-hand side of Arnolds car to the leftwas established on the
frontal center of the latter vehicle which thus caused the left-hand side of its hood to curl upward. [15]

Arnold immediately summoned to the scene of the collision Patrolman Ernesto Santos (Patrolman Santos), [16] a traffic investigator of the
Mandaluyong Police Force who at the time was manning the police outpost in front of the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration Building.[17] Patrolman Santos interrogated both petitioner and Arnold and made a sketch depicting the relative positions of
the two colliding vehicles after the impact. [18] The sketch, signed by both petitioner and Arnold and countersigned by Patrolman Santos,
shows petitioners car

which, it seems, was able to keep its momentum and general direction even upon impactwasstalled along Ortigas Avenue a few feet away
from the intersection and facing the direction of San Juan whereas Arnolds car had settled on the outer lane of Ortigas Avenue with its rear
facing the meeting point of the median lines of the intersecting streets at a 45-degree angle. [19]

At the close of the investigation, a traffic accident investigation report (TAIR) [20] was forthwith issued by P/Cpl. Antonio N. Nato of the
Eastern Police District. The report revealed that at the time of the collision, Arnolds car, which had no right of way,[21] was turning left
whereas petitioners car was going straight and was exceeding lawful speed. [22]It also indicated that the vision of the drivers was obstructed
by the center island flower bed.[23]

Petitioner was subsequently charged before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig Citywith reckless imprudence resulting in damage
to

property.[24] He entered a negative plea on arraignment.[25]

2
At the ensuing trial, Patrolman Santos admitted having executed the sketch which depicts the post-collision positions of the two
[26]
vehicles. Arnolds testimony established that his vehicle was at a full stop at the intersection when the incident happened. [27] Told by the
trial court to demonstrate how the incident transpired, he executed a sketch which showed that his car had not yet invaded the portion of
the road beyond the median line of the island and that the path taken by petitioners car, depicted by broken lines, came swerving from the
outer lane of the road to the left and rushing toward the island where Arnolds car was executing a turn. [28] On cross-examination, he
admitted the correctness of the entry in the TAIR to the effect that he was turning left when hit by petitioners car, [29] but he claimed on re-
direct examination that he had stopped at the intersection in order to keep the traffic open to other vehicles and that it was then that
petitioner bumped his car. On re-cross examination, however, he stated that he had brought his car to a full stop before turning left but that
the front portion thereof was already two (2) feet into the other lane of Ortigas Avenue and well beyond the median line of the traffic
island.[30]

Antonio Litonjua (Antonio), the father of Arnold in whose name the Volkswagen car was registered, testified that the estimation
of the cost of repairs to be made on the car was initially made by SKB Motors Philippines, Inc. The estimation report dated 30 June
1988showed the total cost of repairs to be P73,962.00. The necessary works on the car, according to Antonio, had not been performed by
SKB Motors because the needed materials had not been delivered. [31] Meanwhile, SKB Motors allegedly ceased in its operation, so
Antonio procured another repair estimation this time from Fewkes Corporation. [32] The estimation report was dated 13 December 1991,
and it bloated the total cost of repairs to P139,294.00.[33] Ricardo Abrencia, resident manager of Fewkes Corporation, admitted that he
personally made and signed the said estimation report and that Antonio had already delivered a check representing the payment for half of
the total assessment.[34]

Petitioner, the lone defense witness, was a company driver in the employ of Fortune Tobacco, Inc. assigned to drive for the
company secretary, Mariano Tanigan, who was with him at the time of the incident. In an effort to exonerate himself from liability, he
imputed negligence to Arnold as the cause of the mishap, claiming that that he, moments before the collision, was actually carefully
traversing Ortigas Avenue on second gear. He lamented that it was Arnolds car which bumped his car and not the other way around and
that he had not seen Arnolds car coming from the left side of the intersectionwhich seems to suggest that Arnolds car was in fact in motion
or in the process of making the turn when the collision occurred. His speed at the time, according to his own estimate, was between 25 and
30 kph because he had just passed by the stoplight located approximately 100 meters away at the junction of Ortigas Avenue and EDSA,
and that he even slowed down as he approached the intersection.[35]

In its 18 September 1992 Decision,[36] the trial court found petitioner guilty as charged. The trial court relied principally on the
sketch made by Patrolman Santos depicting the post-collision positions of the two vehiclesthat piece of evidence which neither of the
parties assailed at the trialand found that of the two conflicting accounts of how the collision happened it was Arnolds version that is
consistent with the evidence. It pointed out that just because Arnold had no right of way, as shown in the TAIR, does not account for fault
on his part since it was in fact petitioners car that came colliding with Arnolds car. It concluded that petitioner, by reason of his own
admission that he did not notice Arnolds car at the intersection, is solely to be blamed for the incident especially absent any showing that

3
there was any obstruction to his line of sight. Petitioner, according to the trial court, would have in fact noticed on-coming vehicles
coming across his path had he employed proper precaution. Accordingly, the trial court ordered petitioner to pay civil indemnity in the
amount of P139,294.00 as well as a fine in the same amount.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the factual findings of the trial court. In its Decision dated 28 February 1995, the appellate court
affirmed the judgment of conviction rendered by the trial court against petitioner. However, it mitigated the award of civil indemnity on its
finding that Arnold himself was likewise reckless in maneuvering a left turn inasmuch as he had neglected to look out, before entering the
other lane of the road, for vehicles that could likewise be possibly entering the intersection from his right side. [37]

This notwithstanding, petitioner was still unsatisfied with the ruling of the appellate court. Seeking an acquittal, he filed the present
petition for review in which he maintains Arnolds own negligence was the principal determining factor that caused the mishap and which
should thus defeat any claim for damages. In declaring him liable to the charge despite the existence of negligence attributable to Arnold,
petitioner believes that the Court of Appeals had misapplied the principle of last clear chance in this case.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in its Comment, [38] argues that petitioners negligence is the proximate cause of the collision
and that Arnold Litonjuas negligence was contributory to the accident which, however, does not bar recovery of damages.Additionally, it
recommends the reduction of both the fine and the civil indemnity as the same are beyond what the prosecution was able to prove at the
trial.

The Court denies the petition.

Reckless imprudence generally defined by our penal law consists in voluntarily but without malice, doing or failing to do an act
from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform
such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances
regarding persons, time and place.[39]

Imprudence connotes a deficiency of action. It implies a failure in precaution or a failure to take the necessary precaution once
the danger or

peril becomes foreseen.[40] Thus, something more than mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle is necessary to constitute the
offense of reckless driving, and a willful and wanton disregard of the consequences is required. [41] Willful, wanton or reckless disregard
for the safety of others within the meaning of reckless driving statutes has been held to involve a conscious choice of a course of action
which injures another, either with knowledge of serious danger to others involved, or with knowledge of facts which would disclose the
danger to any reasonable person.[42]

Hence, in prosecutions for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property, whether or not one of the drivers of the colliding
automobiles is guilty of the offense is a question that lies in the manner and circumstances of the operation of the motor vehicle, [43]and a

4
finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt requires the concurrence of the following elements, namely, (a) that the offender has done or
failed to do an act; (b) that the act is voluntary; (c) that the same is without malice; (d) that material damage results; and (e) that there has
been inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the offender.[44]

Among the elements constitutive of the offense, what perhaps is most central to a finding of guilt is the conclusive determination
that the accused has exhibited, by his voluntary act without malice, an inexcusable lack of precaution because it is that which supplies the
criminal intent so indispensable as to bring an act of mere negligence and imprudence under the operation of the penal law. [45] This,
because a conscious indifference to the consequences of the conduct is all that that is required from the standpoint of the frame of mind of
the accused,[46] that is, without regard to whether the private offended party may himself be considered likewise at fault.

Inasmuch as the Revised Penal Code, however, does not detail what particular act or acts causing damage to property may be
characterized as reckless imprudence, certainly, as with all criminal prosecutions, the inquiry as to whether the accused could be held
liable for the offense is a question that must be addressed by the facts and circumstances unique to a given case. Thus, if we must
determine whether petitioner in this case has shown a conscious indifference to the consequences of his conduct, our attention must
necessarily drift to the most fundamental factual predicate. And we proceed from petitioners contention that at the time the collision took
place, he was carefully driving the car as he in fact approached the intersection on second gear and that his speed allegedly was
somewhere between 25 and 30 kph which under normal conditions could be considered so safe and manageable as to enable him to bring
the car to a full stop when necessary.

Aside from the entry in the TAIR, however, which noted petitioners speed to be beyond what is lawful, the physical evidence on
record likewise seems to negate petitioners contention. The photographs taken of Arnolds car clearly show that the extent of the damage to
it could not have been caused by petitioners car running on second gear at the speed of 25-30 kph. The fact that the hood of Arnolds car
was violently wrenched as well as the fact that on impact the car even turned around 180 degrees and was hurled several feet away from
the junction to the outer lane of Ortigas Avenuewhen in fact Arnold had already established his turn to the left on the inner lane and into
the opposite laneclearly demonstrate that the force of the collision had been created by a speed way beyond what petitioners estimation.

Rate of speed, in connection with other circumstances, is one of the principal considerations in determining whether a motorist
has been reckless in driving an automobile,[47] and evidence of the extent of the damage caused may show the force of the impact from
which the rate of speed of the vehicle may be modestly inferred. [48] While an adverse inference may be gathered with respect to reckless
driving[49] from proof of excessive speed under the circumstances [50]as in this case where the TAIR itself shows that petitioner approached
the intersection in excess of lawful speedsuch proof raises the presumption of imprudent driving which may be overcome by evidence,
[51]
or, as otherwise stated, shifts the burden of proof so as to require the accused to show that under the circumstances he was not driving
in a careless or imprudent manner.[52]

5
We find, however, that petitioner has not been able to discharge that burden inasmuch as the physical evidence on record is heavy
with conviction way more than his bare assertion that his speed at the time of the incident was well within what is controllable. Indeed, the
facts of this case do warrant a finding that petitioner, on approach to the junction, was traveling at a speed far greater than that
conveniently fixed in his testimony. Insofar as such facts are consistent with that finding, their truth must reasonably be admitted. [53]

Speeding, moreover, is indicative of imprudent behavior because a motorist is bound to exercise such ordinary care and drive at a
reasonable rate of speed commensurate with the conditions encountered on the road. What is reasonable speed, of course, is necessarily
subjective as it must conform to the peculiarities of a given case but in all cases, it is that which will enable the driver to keep the vehicle
under control and avoid injury to others using the highway. [54] This standard of reasonableness is actually contained in Section 35 of R.A.
No. 4136. It states:

SEC. 35. Restriction as to speed.(a) Any person driving a motor vehicle on a highway shall drive the
same at a careful and prudent speed, not greater nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for
the traffic, the width of the highway, and of any other condition then and there existing; and no person shall
drive any motor vehicle upon a highway at such speed as to endanger the life, limb and property of any person,
nor at a speed greater than will permit him to bring the vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.

Even apart from statutory regulations as to speed, a motorist is nevertheless expected to exercise ordinary care and drive at a
reasonable rate of speed commensurate with all the conditions encountered [55] which will enable him to keep the vehicle under control
and, whenever necessary, to put the vehicle to a full stop to avoid injury to others using the highway. [56]

It is must be stressed that this restriction on speed assumes more importance where the motorist is approaching an
intersection. Ordinary or reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle at an intersection would naturally require more precaution
than is necessary when driving elsewhere in a street or highway.[57] A driver approaching an intersection is generally under duty, among
others, to be vigilant and to have the vehicle under control as to be able to stop at the shortest possible notice, [58] that is, he must look for
vehicles that might be approaching from within the radius that denotes the limit of danger.[59]

Since compliance with this duty is measured by whether an approaching motorist has exercised the level of precaution required
under the circumstances, then with more reason that he exhibit a relatively higher level of care when the intersection is blind at the point
where the roads meet. In other words, where the view at an intersection is obstructed and an approaching motorist cannot get a good view
to the right or left until he is close to the intersection, prudence would dictate that he take particular care to observe the traffic before
entering the intersection or otherwise use reasonable care to avoid a collision, [60] which means that he is bound is to move with the utmost
caution until it is determinable that he can proceed safely and at the slowest speed possible [61] so that the vehicle could be stopped within
the distance the driver can see ahead.[62]

On this score, what brings certain failure in petitioners case is his own admission that he had not seen Arnolds car making a left
turn at the intersection. Of course, there had been an arduous debate at the trial as to whether Arnolds car was in motion or at a full stop at

6
the intersection moments before the collision; nevertheless, inasmuch as he (Arnold), as shown by the evidence, had been able to establish
himself at the intersection significantly ahead of petitioner, it defies logic to accord even a semblance of truth to petitioners assertion that
he had not seen Arnolds car entering the intersection laterally from his left especially when the said car admittedly had already taken two
feet of the other lane of the roadthe lane on which petitioner was proceeding to crossand well beyond the median line of the intersecting
road on which Arnold proceeded after making the turn. Indeed, not even the fact that the view at the intersection was blocked by the
flower bed on the traffic island could provide an excuse for petitioner as it has likewise been established that he approached the
intersection at such a speed that could not, as in fact it did not, enable him to arrest his momentum and forestall the certainty of the
collision.

It can only be surmised at this point that petitioner had inexcusably fallen short of the standard of care in a situation which called
for more precaution on the highway in failing to make an observation in the interest at least of his own safety whether or not it was safe to
enter the crossing. Since he is chargeable with what he should have observed only had he exercised the commensurate care required under
the circumstances of the case, the inescapable conclusion is that he had inexcusably breached the elementary duties of a responsible,
prudent and reasonable motorist.

In general, the degree of care and attention required of a driver in a particular case in exercising reasonable care will vary with
and must be measured in the light of all the surrounding circumstances, such that it must be commensurate with the dangers which are to
be anticipated and the injuries which are likely to result from the use of the vehicle. [63] In other words, he must observe a sense of
proportionality between precaution and the peculiar risks attendant or even inherent in the condition of the road [64] which are open to
ordinary observation.[65] The ultimate test, in other words, is to be found in the reasonable foreseeability that harm might result if
commensurate care is not exercised. It is not necessary, however, that a motorist actually foresee the probability of harm or that the
particular injury which resulted was foreseeable; it would suffice that he, in the position of an ordinary prudent man, knowing what he
knew or should have known, anticipate that harm of a general nature as that suffered was to materialize. [66] The evidence in this case is
teeming with suggestion that petitioner had failed to foresee the certainty of the collision that was about to happen as he entered the
junction in question especially considering that his lateral vision at the intersection was blocked by the structures on the road. In the same
way, he failed to solidly establish that such failure to foresee the danger lurking on the road could be deemed excusable as indeed his
contention that he was running at a safe speed is totally negated by the evidence derived from the physical facts of the case.

Yet, petitioner clings to a chance of acquittal. In his petition, he theorizes that the negligence of Arnold, which according to the
Court of Appeals was incipient in character, was actually the principal determining factor which caused the mishap and the fact that the
TAIR indicated that Arnold had no right of way, it is he himself who had the status of a favored driver. The contention is utterly without
merit.

In traffic law parlance, the term right of way is understood as the right of one vehicle to proceed in a lawful manner in preference
to another approaching vehicle under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to a danger of collision unless
one of the vehicles grants precedence to the other.[67] Although there is authority to the effect that the right of way is merely of statutory

7
creation and exists only according to express statutory provision, [68] it is generally recognized, where no statute or ordinance governs the
matter, that the vehicle first entering an intersection is entitled to the right of way, and it becomes the duty of the other vehicle likewise
approaching the intersection to proceed with sufficient care to permit the exercise of such right without danger of collisions. [69]

In our setting, the right of way rule is governed by Section 42 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 4136,[70] which materially provides:

Section 42. Right of Way.

(a) When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver of the
vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right, except as otherwise
hereinafter provided. The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right
which he might otherwise have hereunder.
(b) The driver of a vehicle approaching but not having entered an intersection shall yield the right of a
way to a vehicle within such intersection or turning therein to the left across the line of travel of such
first-mentioned vehicle, provided the driver of the vehicle turning left has given a plainly visible
signal of intention to turn as required in this Act. x x x.

The provision governs the situation when two vehicles approach the intersection from the same direction and one of them intends
make a turn on either side of the road. But the rule embodied in the said provision, also prevalent in traffic statutes in the United States,
has also been liberally applied to a situation in which two vehicles approach an intersection from directly opposite directions at
approximately the same time on the same street and one of them attempts to make a left-hand turn into the intersecting street, so as to put
the other upon his right, the vehicle making the turn being under the duty of yielding to the other.[71]

Nevertheless, the right of way accorded to vehicles approaching an intersection is not absolute in terms. It is actually subject to
and is affected by the relative distances of the vehicles from the point of intersection. [72] Thus, whether one of the drivers has the right of
way or, as sometimes stated, has the status of a favored driver on the highway, is a question that permeates a situation where the vehicles
approach the crossing so nearly at the same time and at such distances and speed that if either of them proceeds without regard to the other
a collision is likely to occur.[73] Otherwise stated, the statutory right of way rule under Section 42 of our traffic law applies only where the
vehicles are approaching the intersection at approximately the same time and not where one of the vehicles enter the junction substantially
in advance of the other.

Whether two vehicles are approaching the intersection at the same time does not necessarily depend on which of the vehicles
enters the intersection first. Rather, it is determined by the imminence of collision when the relative distances and speeds of the two
vehicles are considered.[74] It is said that two vehicles are approaching the intersection at approximately the same time where it would
appear to a reasonable person of ordinary prudence in the position of the driver approaching from the left of another vehicle that if the two
vehicles continued on their courses at their speed, a collision would likely occur, hence, the driver of the vehicle approaching from the left
must give the right of precedence to the driver of the vehicle on his right.[75]

Nevertheless, the rule requiring the driver on the left to yield the right of way to the driver on the right on approach to the
intersection, no duty is imposed on the driver on the left to come to a dead stop, but he is merely required to approach the intersection with

8
his vehicle under control so that he may yield the right of way to a vehicle within the danger zone on his right. [76] He is not bound to wait
until there is no other vehicle on his right in sight before proceeding to the intersection but only

until it is reasonably safe to proceed. [77] Thus, in Adzuara v. Court of Appeals, [78] it was established that a motorist crossing a thru-stop
street has the right of way over the one making a turn; but if the person making the turn has already negotiated half of the turn and is
almost on the other side so that he is already visible to the person on the thru-street, he is bound to give way to the former.

Moreover, in a prosecution for reckless or dangerous driving, the negligence of the person who was injured or who was the driver
of the motor vehicle with which the accuseds vehicle collided does not constitute a defense. [79] In fact, even where such driver is said to be
guilty of a like offense, proof thereof may never work favors to the case of the accused. [80] In other words, proof that the offended party
was also negligent or imprudent in the operation of his automobile bears little weight, if at all, at least for purposes of establishing the
accuseds culpability beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, even if we are to hypothesize that Arnold was likewise negligent in neglecting to
keep a proper lookout as he took a left turn at the intersection, such negligence, contrary to petitioners contention, will nevertheless not
support an acquittal. At best, it will only determine the applicability of several other rules governing situations where concurring
negligence exists and only for the purpose of arriving at a proper assessment of the award of damages in favor of the private offended
party.

But it must be asked: do the facts of the case support a finding that Arnold was likewise negligent in executing the left turn? The
answer is in the negative. It is as much unsafe as it is unjust to assume that Arnold, just because the TAIR so indicated that he at the time
had no right of way, that Arnold had performed a risky maneuver at the intersection in failing
to keep a proper lookout for oncoming vehicles. In fact, aside from petitioners bare and self-serving assertion that Arnolds fault was the
principal determining cause of the mishap as well as his allegation that it was actually Arnolds car that came colliding with his car, there is
no slightest suggestion in the records that could tend to negate what the physical evidence in this case has established. Clearly, it was
petitioners negligence, as pointed out by the OSG, that proximately caused the accident.

Finally, on the issue of damages, inasmuch as petitioner had not extended efforts to present countervailing evidence disproving
the extent and cost of the damage sustained by Arnolds car, the award assessed and ordered by the trial court must stand.

All told, it must be needlessly emphasized that the measure of a motorists duty is such care as is, under the facts and
circumstances of the particular case, commensurate with the dangers which are to be anticipated and the injuries which are likely to result
from the use of the vehicle, and in proportion to or commensurate with the peculiar risk attendant on the circumstances and conditions in
the particular case,[81] the driver being under the duty to know and to take into consideration those circumstances and factors affecting the
safe operation of the vehicle which would be open to ordinary observation.[82]

9
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 14819 dated 28 February
1995 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch 163 in Criminal Case No. 76653
dated 18 September 1992 is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. TERESITA LEONARDO DE CASTRO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION

10
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Acting Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts
Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

*
Acting Chairperson as replacement of Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing who is on official leave per Special Order No. 618.
**
Additional member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 619.
[1]
Richards v. Begenstos, 21 N.W.2d 23; Hodges v. Smith, 298 S.W. 1023; Lawson v. Fordyce, 12 N.W.2d 301.

[2]
Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Owen, 101 S.W.2d 354.
[3]
Atlantic Greyhound Corp. v. Lyon, 107 F.2d 157; Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. v. McKee, 121 F.2d 583.
[4]
Burdick v. Powell Bros. Truck Lines, 124 F.2d 694; Dixie Motor Coach Corp. v. Lane, 116 F.2d 264; Shipley v. Komer, 154 F.2d
861.
[5]
Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Owen, 101 S.W.2d 354.

[6]
Under Rule 45 of the RULES OF COURT. Rollo, pp. 8-23.
[7]
Penned by then Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo (now retired Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines) and
concurred in by Associate Justices Alfredo L. Benipayo and Ricardo P. Galvez. CA rollo, pp. 94-113; Rollo, pp. 27-46.
[8]
In Criminal Case No. 76653. The trial court decision dated 18 September 1992 was penned by Acting Judge Rodolfo R.
Bonifacio. Records, pp. 182-194.

[9]
The Mitubishi Super Saloon with plate numbers PDU 403 was registered in the name of Antonio S. Gonzales.
[10]
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia bore plate numbers NTX 617. It was registered in the name of Antonio K. Litonjua, the father
of the private offended party, Arnold Litonjua. See Records, Exhibit E.
[11]
Records, Exhibits 1 and D; Rollo, p. 27.
[12]
See the Traffic Accident Investigation Report. Records; see also rollo, p. 27.
[13]
Rollo, p. 28.

[14]
Id. at 28.
[15]
See Records, Exhibits C, C-1, C-2, C-3 and C-4. These exhibits in the form of photographs depict the extent of the damage
caused to Arnold Litonjuas Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.
[16]
Rollo, p. 28.
[17]
TSN, 21 February 1990, pp. 5-6.
[18]
Id. at 7-8. The sketch executed by Patrolaman Ernesto Santos was marked as Exhibit A for the prosecution.
11
[19]
Records, Exhibit A.
[20]
Id., Exhibit 1 of the defense and Exhibit D of the prosecution.
[21]
Id., Exhibit 1-b.
[22]
Id., Exhibits 1 and D.
[23]
Id., Exhibit 1-a.

[24]
Id. at 1. The inculpatory portion of the Information reads:

That on or about the 21st day of June 1988, in the municipality of Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, being then the driver and/or person in charge of
the Mitsubishi 4-door sedan bearing Plate No. PDU 403, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
drive, manage and operate the same in a careless, reckless, negligent and imprudent manner, without due regard to
traffic laws, rules and regulations and without taking the necessary care and precaution to avoid damage to
property, causing by such negligence, carelessness and imprudence the said vehicle to bump/collide with a
Volkswagen bearing Plate No. NTX 617 being then driven by one Arnold M. Litonjua and owned by one Antonio
K. Litonjua, thereby causing damage to the latter motor vehicle in the amount of P73,962.00, to the damage and
prejudice of its owner in the aforesaid amount of P73,962.00, Philippine currency.

Contrary to law.
[25]
Records, p. 23.
[26]
TSN, 21 February 1990, pp. 7, 12-13.
[27]
TSN, 14 August 1991, p. 5.
[28]
Records, Exhibit B.
[29]
TSN, 25 September 1991, pp. 4-6.

[30]
TSN, 26 September 1991, pp. 2-3, 5, 7-8.
[31]
TSN, 29 October, 1991, p. 6-8. See Records, Exhibits F and F-1.
[32]
TSN, 16 January 1992, pp. 4, 6.
[33]
Records, Exhibit G and G-1.
[34]
TSN, 16 January 1992, pp. 19-22.

[35]
TSN, 3 March 1992, pp. 4-6, 8, 10-11.
[36]
The dispositive portion of the trial courts decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting [in] Damage to Property, and hereby sentences him to pay a fine of One Hundred Thirty[-nine]
Thousand Two Hundred Ninety[-four (P139,294.00) Pesos which is [the] amount equal to the damage to property
resulting from said Reckless Imprudence.

12
On the civil aspect, the accused is hereby ordered to indemnify Antonio Litonjua the similar amount of One
Hundred Thirty[-nine] Thousand Two Hundred Ninety[-four] (P139,294.00) Pesos for the damages sustained by his
motor vehicle, with costs de officio.

SO ORDERED.

13
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 128474. October 6, 2004]

ARNEL GABRIEL, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

The automobile has probably, directly or indirectly, caused more litigation than any other material objective of human endeavor in a
corresponding period of time and even more so since its invention. [1] This Court, on occasion, is constrained to determine how and why
particular motor vehicle accidents happen and whether the persons responsible are criminally liable. The applicable standards for
vehicular accident cases have long been settled by jurisprudence and the correct application of such standards invariably hinges on the
particular facts involved.[2] The Courts review though should by no means be perfunctory as the liberty of the accused is at stake.

The case emanates from a three-way vehicular collision on the night of 19 April 1990 along Maharlika Highway in San Pablo City,
Laguna. Three persons died as a result, and for their death, petitioner Arnel Gabriel (Gabriel) was found guilty of the crime of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting to Double Homicide and Damage to Property by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pablo City.[3] Gabriel
fruitlessly appealed to the Court of Appeals, which modified the RTCs decision by finding Gabriel liable instead for Reckless Imprudence
Resulting to Multiple Homicide.[4]

The Information against Gabriel reads:

The undersigned Asst. City Prosecutor accuses ARNEL GABRIEL of the crime of RECKLESS IMPRUDENCE RESULTING TO
MULTIPLE HOMICIDE, SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURIES AND DAMAGE TO PROPERTY under Art. 365 of the Revised Penal Code,
committed as follows:

That on or about April 19, 1990, in the City of San Pablo, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the accused above-named, being then the driver and person in charge of a passenger type jeep with Plate No. NCF-726, owned by
Marcelino Gabriel and insured with Interworld Assurance Corporation, Legaspi Village, Makati, Metro Manila, did then and there
recklessly, carelessly, imprudently and negligently manage and operate said vehicle along Brgy. San Vicente, this city and without due
regard to traffic rules and regulation (sic) and imprudence hit the Volkswagen car with Plate No. DAU-203 driven by Fernando Pitargue
and owned by Dr. Philip Plantilla, insured with Jon Doe Insurance, causing damage to said car in the amount of P50,000.00, Philippine
Currency and inflicting mortal wounds to Fernando Pitargue and Carlos Asistido which caused their immediate death and injuries to Dr.
Philip Plantilla which required medical attendance for a period of more than 30 days and incapacitated the said Dr. Philip Plantilla from
performing his customary labor during the same period of time.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[5]

The three vehicles involved in the collision were a passenger type jeep (jeepney), [6] a Volkswagen Beetle car (Beetle),[7] and a six-
wheeler Isuzu delivery truck (six-wheeler). [8] The Beetle carried three persons, including Dr. Philip Plantilla, director of the Nagcarlan
District Hospital, who was injured in the accident. The other two occupants of the Beetle died in the accident the driver, Fernando
Pitargue, Sr., and Carlos Asistido.[9] The third fatality, Isabela Banes, was one of the passengers of the jeepney driven by Gabriel. [10] On the
other hand, the six-wheeler was driven by Romeo Macabuhay, who also appeared as the principal witness of the prosecution. [11]

The mishap occurred on the stretch of the Maharlika Highway located in Barangay San Vicente, San Pablo City. The highway is a
two-lane, two-way road. The prosecution alleged that on the night of the accident, the Beetle and the six-wheeler were both traveling on
the same lane of Maharlika Highway, proceeding towards the direction of San Pablo City. The six-wheeler was behind the Beetle. The
jeepney, on the other hand, was travelling the opposite lane on the way to Atimonan, Quezon, purportedly at high speed. After negotiating
a curve, the jeepney veered out of its lane, swerving into the lane occupied by the Beetle and the six-wheeler. The jeepney collided with
the left side of the Beetle, forcing the latter out of the road and into the right shoulder of the highway. The collision with the Beetle also
forced the jeepney to turn turtle and thereafter hit the front portion of the truck, which was then fifteen (15) meters behind the Beetle. The
second impact forced the jeepney into the same right shoulder lane where the stricken Beetle had rested. The six-wheeler meanwhile
moved into the opposite side of the road and parked on the left shoulder of the highway.

14
The three fatalities died on the spot. Their bodies lay prostrate on the ground by the time the police arrived at the scene. The
investigation at the scene was conducted by Patrolman Jerryson Laguras, who prepared a sketch showing the relative positions of the
vehicles and other significant findings.[12] Laguras also prepared the police report. He testified as a prosecution witness. The prosecution
also presented the truck driver, Macabuhay, who recounted the collisions he had witnessed. Dr. Plantilla likewise testified on the injuries
he sustained and the expenses he incurred.[13]

Gabriel, in defense, admitted driving the jeepney on the night in question at the Maharlika Highway, on his way to Quezon. While
negotiating a curve near the scene of the accident, Gabriel noticed the headlights of an oncoming vehicle focused towards his direction.
He maneuvered his jeepney to the right of the road, and switched to low gear. Despite the defensive moves which had put the jeepneys
right front and rear wheels on the road shoulder, according to Gabriel, his jeepney was bumped by the Beetle still. The left front wheel
burst, causing the jeepney to swerve to the right, fall on its right side, and slide towards the center of the highway. At that point, the
jeepney was placed on the other direction towards San Pablo City. In that position, the jeepney was hit by the six-wheeler, causing some
of the occupants of the jeepney to be thrown out. One of them, Menandro Marquez, testified for the defense. He claimed that he was
seated at the front seat of the jeepney, adding that the jeepney, while on the extreme right of the Quezon-bound lane, was bumped by a
brightly lighted vehicle.[14]

Another witness for the defense, Barangay Chairman Dominador Gonzales, Jr. of San Vicente, San Pablo City, corroborated Gabriels
version of the events. He claimed witnessing the collision, which occurred after the Beetle had tried to overtake the six-wheeler truck.
[15]
The Beetles attempt to overtake led to its collision with the jeepney traveling on the opposite lane. [16]

In convicting Gabriel, the RTC found the prosecutions version of the facts to be more credible. The dispositive portion of the RTC
decision reads, thus:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused Arnel Gabriel guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Reckless Imprudence Resulting to
Double Homicide and Damage to Property, he is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from two
(2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional as minimum to six (6) years also of prision correccional as maximum and to make
the following indemnifications:

1. To Dr. Philip Plantilla:

a) For the expenses he

incurred during his

hospitalization at the

Makati Medical Center P181,613.00

b) For reimbursement of

his gifts to the doctors

and nurses who attended

to him at the Makati

Medical Center 10,000.00

c) For actual damages

of his Volkswagen car which

was a total wreck 50,000.00

2. To the heirs of the deceased Fernando Pitargue, Sr.:

15
a) For loss of life of the

deceased Fernando, Sr. P50,000.00

b) For transfer fee of the

cadaver of Fernando Pitargue 15,000.00

c) As reimbursement for payment

of the casket and funeral services 13,500.00

d) For the grave site 491.00

e) For the loss of earning 129,360.00

3. To the heirs of the deceased Carlos Asistido:

a) For the loss of the life of

Carlos Asistido P50,000.00

b) For the expenses

during the wake 3,000.00

c) For the casket and funeral

services 12,000.00

d) For loss of earnings 9,000.00

The Court of Appeals sustained the RTC except in two respects. The appellate court found that the RTC failed to consider that
Gabriel was also liable for the death of Isabela Banes, and thus found Gabriel guilty of Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Multiple
Homicide, instead of Double Homicide.[17] The Court of Appeals awarded Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) to the heirs of Banes.
[18]
Finally, the appellate court found no basis for the lower courts award of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to Dr. Plantilla by way of
reimbursement of his gifts to the medical staff who attended to him.[19]

His appeal having failed, Gabriel now resorts to the present petition in an attempt to free himself of liability. In his petition, Gabriel
makes the broad claim that the RTC decision is not in accord with law, jurisprudence and the record of the case, with the Court of Appeals
similarly in error with its departure from the generally accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings. [20]More particularly, he asserts
that the RTC erred in finding that his negligence was the proximate cause of the collision; in giving full credence to the testimony of
Macabuhay; in lending weight to the erroneous sketch prepared by Patrolman Laguras; and in failing to give credence to the testimonies
of Marquez and Gonzales, particularly their assertions that the first collision took place on the Quezon-bound lane not the San Pablo-
bound lane. Gabriel also raises questions on the damages awarded by the RTC and affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Finally, Gabriel
asserts that the Court of Appeals should not have awarded damages for the death of Isabela Banes, considering that he was not charged in
the Information with having caused her death.

The factual findings of the RTC and the Court of Appeals are congruent. Such concurrence is highly persuasive on the Court,
especially in a case such as this, where the determinative issues are essentially factual. Still, a review is due on whether the conclusion of
guilt is so supported by the evidence at hand that reasonable doubt could be eliminated.

We cannot overemphasize the primacy in probative value of physical evidence, that mute but eloquent manifestation of the truth.
[21]
An examination of the wreck of the Beetle, as shown by photographic evidence, clearly reveals that the vehicle was struck on its left
side in the area where the hinges of the left door would have been. The point of impact was so severe that it obliterated much of the side of
the Beetle. The photographs of the damage support the prosecutions version that the Beetle was hit from the left side by the jeepney,

16
which veered from its proper lane. The photographs also belie Gabriel and Marquezs claim that it was the Beetle which struck the jeepney,
as they depict that the Beetle was clearly bumped from the side and not from the front. Their version would have had credence if the
Beetle were moving laterally, which of course is an implausible sequence.

Just as the claims of Gabriel and Marquez on the point of impact are devoid of credence, the damage sustained by the Beetle is not
necessarily inconsistent with the defenses position that the accident occurred on the Quezon-bound lane and not on the San Pablo-bound
lane. Assuming the Beetle had veered the San Pablo-bound lane while overtaking, it could have very well been struck on the side by the
incoming jeepney. Indeed, the question on which lane the first collision occurred is the most crucial at hand, as it determines which
vehicle was on the wrong side of the road. Both the RTC and the Court of Appeals concluded that the collision occurred on the San Pablo-
bound lane and that it was the jeepney which veered to the wrong side. Such findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence.

The RTC and the Court of Appeals gave full credence to the testimony of the truck driver Macabuhay who witnessed the first
collision. Gabriel disputes the RTCs characterization of Macabuhay as a disinterested witness, asserting that the latter, as a participant in
the second collision, had every reason to proffer a biased testimony to avoid his own liability.

This disputation is quite strained. There is no serious allegation that Macabuhay was in any way responsible for the first collision. It
did not matter to him, or it would not affect his possible liability, whether it was the jeepney or the Beetle which was at fault in the first
collision. His testimony on the first collision may thus be deemed as neutral and unbiased. Neither was there any evidence presented by
Gabriel that would dispute Macabuhays credibility or impartiality. Thus, Macabuhays testimony that the first collision took place on the
San Pablo-bound lane was given proper credence by the RTC.

On the other hand, the testimonies of defense witnesses Marquez and Gonzales on the location of the first collision do not deserve
credence. By his own admission, Marquez was sleepy at the time of the accident. [22] He lost consciousness as a result of being flung out of
the jeepney because of the collision, regaining it only after he was admitted in a hospital in Manila. [23]Moreover, Marquez was a friend of
Gabriels and, according to the latter, it was at his urging that they went on that fateful trip to Atimonan in the first place. [24] It is not hard to
doubt that Marquez is a biased witness. Although biased witnesses may be honest, they cannot as long as human nature remains
unchanged overcome the tendency to distort, magnify or even minimize, as their interest persuades, the incidents which they relate. [25]

The testimony of Gonzales, which conveniently corroborates Gabriel on all material points, is even more incredulous,
notwithstanding Gonzaless being the Barangay Captain then of San Vicente, where the accident occurred. As noted by the RTC, Gonzales
declared that he was on the shoulder of the road, beside the truck, when the first collision took place. [26] From his vantage point, his view
was obstructed by the truck.[27] He claimed to have first heard the collision. He immediately took five big steps onto the highway, and then
saw the Beetle and the jeepney colliding. [28] In short, the sound of the collision took place before the actual collision itself. If true, this
would rate as one of the greatest scientific revelations of all time. But since courts are obliged to take judicial notice of the laws of nature,
[29]
this Court prefers to side with prudence.[30]

The RTC also correctly pointed out that the natural tendency in such case would be for Gonzales to have taken caution and avoid
exposure to danger.[31] Instead, Gonzales, who was already on the shoulder of the road, stepped into the highway and along the possible
course of the collision he claimed to have heard occurring. The human mind may be less predictable than the physical laws, but the
conjunction of two unnatural occurrences at once is just too much for this Court to believe but more than enough to taint the credibility of
Gonzales.

Clearly then, based on his own admissions, Gonzales could not have possibly seen the first collision. The rest of his tale is dubious as
well, and the RTC drew up a damning charge sheet against Gonzales. He claimed witnessing the accident at 8:30 p.m., and remaining at
the scene up to 1:00 a.m., conversing with at least one of the police officers on the scene. Yet nothing on the record establishes this claim,
certainly not any of the police reports which would have ordinarily noted such fact if true. [32] Gonzales also admitted that while he
witnessed the accident, he did not mention the circumstance to the police, despite the fact that the accident occurred within his
jurisdiction. Instead, Gonzales waited for more than a month before traveling all the way to Manila to execute his affidavit. It was only
then that he publicly stated that he actually saw the accident happen.

An examination of Gonzaless affidavit reveals a curious passage, wherein he averred that he did not notice the presence of a certain
Felixberto Ulan in the premises of the incident whom he knew to be an employee of the six-wheelers owner. Furthermore, Gonzales
asserts that the story about this non-witness Ulan as a biased person is incredible and unworthy of belief.

This startling declaration is apparently indicative of nothing. Felixberto Ulan, whoever he may be, was not a witness of the
prosecution, nor does he appear to have any relation to the case. It was markedly odd for Gonzales to have made such an avowal at all,
considering that he was ostensibly an accidental witness, seemingly disinterested in the case, and outwardly reliable for neutral
information. Instead, his recitals regarding Ulan further revealed his partiality as a witness, as they smacked of a pre-emptive strike

17
designed to challenge a possible or expected countervailing account. It is not hard to believe that Gonzales was in cahoots with the
defense, and his testimony especially tailored to contradict the prosecutions version and not to manifest what actually happened.

The spectacle of biased witnesses posing as neutral observers is not unusual, especially in criminal cases wherein a defendants
liberty is at stake. Many times, their testimony falls down to ruin on the witness stand. Even the most professional actor will find it more
difficult to memorize the most carefully constructed scripts than for an ordinary person to correctly narrate events that he truly witnessed
or experienced through his own senses. Not even the public office held by Gonzales could redeem the credibility of his flawed,
inconsistent, and farfetched testimony.

The lack of credibility of Gonzales as a witness is especially fatal for Gabriel since reliance was reposed on Gonzales on another
crucial factual issue. The police sketch of the accident scene, prepared by Patrolman Laguras, illustrates the debris field as confined to a
spot within the San Pablo-bound lane, with minimal debris on the Quezon-bound lane. If accurate, the location of the debris field strongly
strengthens the prosecutions claim that the first collision occurred on the San Pablo-bound lane, with the jeepney on the wrong side of the
road. Evidence tending to show the position of the vehicles immediately after the accident tends to throw light on the issue of speed and
direction of the vehicles movements prior to, and at the time of, the accident. [33] Gabriel disputes the accuracy of the sketch, asserting that
the Quezon-bound lane was likewise littered with debris, and that the sketch was prepared only after the debris had been swept to clear the
road of obstructions. However, the police sketch was disputed only through Gonzales, whose testimony has been shown to be not credible.
Hence, Gabriel can hardly argue that the presumption of regularity in the discharge of official duty has been overcome. Indeed, the Court
of Appeals correctly appreciated the presumption.

Consequently, two confirmed findings of fact militate against Gabriels defense. First, it was the Beetle which was struck by the
jeepney. Second, this collision occurred on the San Pablobound lane, thus showing that it was the jeepney which veered from the correct
lane. Gabriel, who was not attempting to overtake any vehicle, had no reason to veer to the other lane. Moreover, as Macabuhay testified,
the jeepney was travelling fast as it negotiated a curve, causing it to swerve and hit the Beetle. The very fact of speeding is indicative of
imprudent behavior, as a motorist must exercise ordinary care and drive at a reasonable rate of speed commensurate with the conditions
encountered, which will enable him or her to keep the vehicle under control and avoid injury to others using the highway. [34] It is
elementary in traffic school that a driver slows down before negotiating a curve. [35] The motorist, in approaching or rounding a curve, must
reasonably anticipate that another vehicle may appear from the opposite direction at any moment. [36]Excessive speed, combined with other
circumstances such as the occurrence of the accident on or near a curve may constitute negligence. [37] By failing to slow down, Gabriel
acted recklessly and imprudently. His behavior was the proximate cause of the fatal accident. [38] The common finding of guilt by the RTC
and the Court of Appeals was correctly arrived at.

However, the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that Gabriel was guilty of Reckless Imprudence Resulting to Multiple Homicide, and
not Double Homicide. This erroneous finding follows the appellate courts observation that the RTC omitted in its findings the fact that the
death of jeepney passenger Banes was likewise brought about by the collision. Yet, the charges in the Information only seek to hold
Gabriel liable for the deaths of Pitargue and Asistido. No mention at all was made of Banes in the Information. The Office of the Solicitor
General insists that the Court of Appeals acted correctly, arguing that the offense designated in the Information was Reckless Imprudence
Resulting in Multiple Homicide. Still, it is settled that the real nature of the criminal charge is determined, not from the caption or
preamble of the information nor from the specification of the law alleged to have been violatedthese being conclusions of lawbut by the
actual recital of facts in the complaint or information. [39] Thus, the original designation of the offense as made by the RTC is correct.
Accordingly, the indemnification award made by the Court of Appeals of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) to the heirs of Banes is
likewise improper under the circumstances.

A review of the other awards for damages is warranted. The Court of Appeals correctly deleted the award of Ten Thousand Pesos
(P10,000.00) to Dr. Plantilla. There is no basis for the award other than the lone testimony of Dr. Plantilla, and as ruled by the Court of
Appeals, the testimony was not corroborated by reliable evidence.[40]

Gabriel correctly points out that the award of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) to Dr. Plantilla for actual damages to his Beetle was
supported only by an estimate of the cost of repairs, and not by any proof of the actual amount paid or assessed for the repairs. To recover
actual damages, the amount of loss must be proven with competent proof or the best evidence obtainable, [41] and an indefinite cost-
estimate cannot suffice. However, that pecuniary loss was suffered by Dr. Plantilla by reason of damage to his Beetle is indubitable, and
since the amount can no longer be established with certainty, temperate damages may be awarded in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos
(P40,000.00).

However, we cannot sustain a similar argument raised by Gabriel regarding the actual damages awarded to Dr. Plantilla for his
hospitalization expenses. Dr. Plantilla testified on the amount he paid for hospitalization expenses, and this was duly supported by the
Summary of Charges presented in evidence. The Summary of Charges clearly indicates the amount owed by Dr. Plantilla for his
hospitalization expenses, and even notes the partial payments already made therefor. Moreover, the RTC and the defense had the
opportunity to examine the actual hospital receipts which were made available at one point during the trial by the Government Services
18
Insurance System which had custody of them. The RTC and the Court of Appeals duly appreciated the evidence and adjudged the proper
award of indemnity for the hospitalization expenses of Dr. Plantilla.

Gabriel likewise challenges the award of actual damages to the heirs of Pitargue and Asistido due to loss of earnings. He poses the
bizarre argument that the seminal case of Villa Rey Transit v. Court of Appeals[42] does not apply, as the ruling therein applied only in cases
of breach of contract of carriage. There is nothing in Villa Rey Transit that qualifies the application of the formula adopted therein only to
breaches of the contract of carriage. Villa Rey Transit applies to all cases of wrongful death for the purpose of ascertaining the appropriate
amount of actual damages due the heirs, based on life expectancy and the rate at which losses sustained should be fixed. However, the
RTC did not apply the proper formula consistently adopted by this Court in computing the damages for loss of earning capacity. [43] The
correct award for loss of earning capacity to the heirs of Pitargue is Eighty-Six Thousand Two Hundred Six Pesos (P86,206.00),[44]while
that owing to the heirs of Asistido is Sixty-Two Thousand Three Hundred Eighty-Eight Pesos ( P62,388.00).[45] These awards are apart
from the standard death indemnities and funeral expenses correctly evaluated by the RTC.

Finally, Gabriels argument that there is no proof on the monthly income of Asistido for the purpose of computing loss of earning
capacity deserves short shrift. It is settled that the absence of documentary evidence to support a claim for damages for loss of earning
capacity of the deceased does not preclude recovery of said damages. [46] Asistido earned his income by working as a carpenter. His son
testified in court that Asistido earned at least One Thousand Five Hundred Pesos ((P1,5000.00) a month.[47] The testimony is sufficient
basis for determining compensatory damages for loss of earnings as a result of Asistidos wrongful death.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court dated 3 October 1991 is affirmed, subject to the
following modifications: (1) the earlier finding that accused Arnel Gabriel is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting to Double Homicide and Damage to Property is REINSTATED; (2) the award of actual damages to Dr. Philip
Plantilla for the damage to his Volkswagen car is DELETED, and in lieu thereof, an award for temperate damages for the property damage
to the Volkswagen car in the amount of Forty Thousand Pesos (P40,000.00) is AWARDED; (3) the award for the loss of earnings to the
heirs of Fernando Pitargue Sr. is hereby reduced to Eighty-Six Thousand Two Hundred Six Pesos ((P86,206.00); and (4) the award for the
loss of earnings to the heirs of Carlos Asistido is hereby reduced to Sixty- Two Thousand Three Hundred Eighty Eight Pesos
(P62,388.00). The deletion ordered by the Court of Appeals of the award of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to Dr. Philip Plantilla for
reimbursement of his gifts to the medical staff who attended to him is SUSTAINED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, (Chairman), and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.

Callejo, Sr., and Chico-Nazario, JJ., on leave.

19
THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 202692 November 12, 2014

EDMUND SYDECO y SIONZON, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Assailed and sought to be set aside in this petition for review under Rule 45 are the December 28, 2011 Decision and July 18, 2012
1

Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 33567. The assailed issuances affirmed the decision of the Regional
2 3

Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 12, in Criminal Case Nos. 09-270107-08 which, in turn, affirmed that of the Metropolitan
Trial Court (MeTC) in Manila adjudging petitioner Edmund Sydeco (Sydeco) guilty of drunk driving and resisting arrest. 4

The factual backdrop:

On July 20, 2006, separate Informations, one for Violation of Section 56(f) of Republic Act No. (RA) 4136 and another, for
5

Violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) were filed against petitioner Sydeco with the MeTC in Manila and
6

eventually raffled to Branch 14 of that court. The accusatory portions of the interrelated informations, docketed as Crim. Case No.
052527-CN for the first offense and Crim. Case No. 052528-CN for the second, respectively read:

1. Crim. Case No. 052527-CN

That on or about June 11, 2006, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, being then the driver and owner of a car, did
then and there willfully and unlawfully, drive, manage and operate the same along Roxas Blvd. cor. Quirino Avenue, Malate, in said
city, while under the influence of liquor, in violation of Section 56(f) of Republic Act 4136.

Contrary to law.

2. Crim. Case No. 052528-CN

That on or about June 11, 2006, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there willfully and unlawfully
resist and disobey P/INSP Manuel Aguilar, SPO2 Virgilio Paulino, SPO4 Efren Bodino and PO3 Benedict Cruz III, bonafide
member of the Philippine National Police, Malate Police Station-9, duly qualified and appointed, and while in the actual
performance of their official duties as such police officers, by then and there resisting, shoving and pushing, the hands of said
officers while the latter was placing him under arrest for violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code.

Contrary to law.

By Order of September 19, 2006, the MeTC classified the cases as falling under, thus to be governed by, the Rule on Summary
Procedure.

When arraigned, petitioner, as accused, pleaded "Not Guilty" to both charges.

During the trial of the two consolidated cases, the prosecution presented in evidence the oral testimonies of SPO4 Efren Bodino
(Bodino), PO2 Emanuelle Parungao and Ms. Laura Delos Santos, plus the documents each identified while in the witness box,
7 8 9

among which was Exh. "A", with sub-markings, the Joint Affidavit of Arrest executed by SPO2 Bodino and two other police
10

officers. The defenses witnesses, on the other hand, consisted of Sydeco himself, his wife, Mildred, and Joenilo Pano.

The prosecutions version of the incident, as summarized in and/or as may be deduced from, the CA decision now on appeal is as
follows:

20
On or about June 11, 2006, P/Insp. Manuel Aguilar (Aguilar), SPO4 Bodino, PO3 Benedict Cruz III and another officer were
manning a checkpoint established along Roxas Boulevard corner Quirino Ave., Malate, Manila when, from about twenty (20)
meters away, they spotted a swerving red Ford Ranger pick up with plate number XAE-988. Petitioner was behind the wheel. The
team members, all inuniform, flagged the vehicle down and asked the petitioner to alightfrom the vehicle so he could take a rest at
the police station situated nearby,before he resumes driving. Petitioner, who the policemen claimed was smelling of liquor, denied
11

being drunk and insisted he could manage to drive. Then in a raised voice, petitioner started talking rudely to the policemen and in
fact yelled at P/Insp. Aguilar blurting: "Pg ina mo, bakit mo ako hinuhuli." Atthat remark, P/Insp. Aguilar, who earlier pointed
out to petitioner that his team had seen him swerving and driving under the influence of liquor, proceeded to arrestpetitioner who
put up resistance. Despite petitioners efforts to parry the hold on him, the police eventually succeeded in subduing him who was
then brought to the Ospital ng Maynila where he was examined and found to be positive of alcoholic breath per the Medical
Certificate issuedby that hospital, marked as Exh. "F". Petitioner was then turned over to the Malate Police Station for
disposition. Petitioner, on the other hand, claimed tobe a victim in the incident in question, adding in this regard that he has in fact
12

filed criminal charges for physical injuries, robbery and arbitrary detention against P/Insp. Aguilar et al. In his Counter-
Affidavit and his Complaint-Affidavit appended thereto, petitioner averred that, in the early morning of June 12, 2006, he
13 14

together with Joenilo Pano and Josie Villanueva, cook and waitress, respectively, in his restaurant located along Macapagal Ave.,
Pasay City, were on the way home from on board his pick-up when signaled to stop by police officers at the area immediately
referred to above. Their flashlights trained on the inside of the vehicle and its occupants, the policemen then asked the petitioner to
open the vehicles door and alight for a body and vehicle search, a directive he refused to heed owing to a previous extortion
experience. Instead, he opened the vehicle window, uttering, "plain view lang boss, plain view lang." Obviously irked by this
remark, one of the policemen, P/Insp. Aguilar, as it turnedout, then told the petitioner that he was drunk, pointing to three cases of
empty beer bottles in the trunk of the vehicle. Petitioners explanation about being sober and that the empty bottles adverted to
came from his restaurant was ignored as P/Insp. Aguilar suddenly boxed him (petitioner) on the mouth and poked a gun at his head,
at the same time blurting, "Pg ina mo gusto mo tapusin na kita dito marami ka pang sinasabi." The officers then pulled the
petitioner out of the drivers seat and pushed him into the police mobile car, whereupon he, petitioner, asked his companions to call
up his wife. The policemen then brought petitioner to the Ospital ng Maynila where they succeeded in securing a medical certificate
under the signature of one Dr. Harvey Balucating depicting petitioner as positive of alcoholic breath, although he refused to be
examined and no alcohol breath examination was conducted. He was thereafter detained from 3:00 a.m.of June 12, 2006 and
released in the afternoon of June 13, 2006. Before his release, however, he was allowed to undergo actual medical examination
where the resulting medical certificate indicated that he has sustained physical injuries but negative for alcohol breath. Ten days
later, petitioner filed his Complaint-Affidavit against Dr. Balucating, P/Insp. Aguilar and the other police officers.

Petitioner also stated in his counter-affidavit that, under Sec. 29 of R.A. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, the
procedure for dealing with a traffic violation is not to place the erring driver under arrest, but to confiscate his drivers license.

On June 26, 2009, the MeTC rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty as charged, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the prosecution having established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, his
conviction of the offenses charges is hereby pronounced. Accordingly, he is sentenced to:

1. Pay a fine of two hundred fifty pesos (P250.00) for Criminal Case No. 052527-CN; and

2. Suffer imprisonment of straight penalty of three (3) months and pay a fine of two hundred fifty pesos (P250.00) for
Criminal Case No. 052528-CN.

For lack of basis, no civil liability is adjudged.

The Branch Clerk of Court is directed to certify to the Land Transportation Office the result of this case, stating further the data
required under Section 58 of Republic Act 4136.
15

Therefrom, petitioner appealed to the RTC on the main submissions that the MeTC erred in: 1) according credit to the medical
certificate issued by Dr. Balucating, although the records custodian of Ospital ng Maynila was presented to testify thereon instead
of the issuing physician, and 2) upholding the veracity of the joint affidavit of arrest of P/INSP Manuel Aguilar, SPO4 Efren
Bodino, and PO3 Benedict Cruz III, considering that only SPO4 Bodino appeared in court to testify.

By Decision dated February 22, 2010, the RTC affirmed the conviction of the petitioner, addressing the first issue thus raised in the
16

appeal in the following wise: Dr. Balucatings failure to testify relative to petitioners alcoholic breath, as indicatedin the medical
21
certificate, is not fatal as such testimony would only serve to corroborate the testimony on the matter of SPO4 Bodino, noting
thatunder the Rules of Court, observations of the police officers regarding the petitioners behavior would suffice to support the
17

conclusion of the latters drunken state on the day he was apprehended. 18

Apropos the second issue, the RTC pointed out that the prosecution has the discretion as to how many witnesses it needs to present
before the trial court, the positive testimony of a single credible witness as to the guilt of the accused being reasonable enough to
warrant a conviction. The RTC cited established jurisprudence enunciating the rule that preponderance is not necessarily with the
19

greatest number as "[W]itnesses are to be weighed, not numbered." Following the denial by the RTC of his motion for
reconsideration, petitioner went to the CA on a petition for review, the recourse docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 33567. By a Decision
dated December 28, 2011, as would be reiterated in a Resolution of July 18, 2012, the appellatecourt affirmed that of the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated February 22, 2010 of the RTC, Manila, Branch 12, is
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, this petition on the following stated issues:

I. The CA erred in upholding the presumption of regularity in the performance of duties by the police officers; and

II. The CA erred in giving weight to the Medical Certificate issued by Dr. Harvey Balucating, in the absence of his
testimony before the Court.

The petition is meritorious.

Prefatory, the rule according great weight, even finality at times, to the trial courts findings of fact does hold sway when, as here, it
appears in the record that facts and circumstancesof weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied in
a case under appeal. Corollary, it is basic that an appeal in criminal prosecutions throws the whole case wide open for review,
20

inclusive of the matter of credibility and appreciation of evidence. ` Peace officers and traffic enforcers,like other public officials
21

and employees are bound to discharge their duties with prudence, caution and attention, which careful men usually exercise in the
management of their own affairs. 22

In the case at bar, the men manning the checkpoint in the subject area and during the period material appearednot to have performed
their duties as required by law, or at least fell short of the norm expected of peace officers. They spotted the petitioners purported
swerving vehicle. They then signaled him to stop which he obeyed. But they did not demand the presentation of the drivers license
orissue any ticket or similar citation paper for traffic violation as required under the particular premises by Sec. 29 of RA 4136,
which specifically provides:

SECTION 29. Confiscation of Drivers License. Law enforcement and peace officers of other agencies duly deputized by the
Director shall, in apprehending a driver for any violation of this Act or any regulations issued pursuant thereto, or of local traffic
rules and regulations x x x confiscate the license ofthe driver concerned and issue a receipt prescribed and issuedby the Bureau
therefor which shall authorize the driver to operate a motor vehicle for a period not exceeding seventy-two hours from the time and
date of issue of said receipt. The period so fixed in the receipt shall not be extended, and shall become invalid thereafter.x x x
(Emphasis added.) Instead of requiring the vehicles occupants to answer one or two routinary questions out of respectto what the
Court has, in Abenes v. Court of Appeals, adverted to as the motorists right of "free passage without [intrusive] interruption,"
23

P/Insp. Aguilar, et al. engaged petitioner in what appears to be an unnecessary conversation and when utterances were made
doubtless not to their liking, they ordered the latter to step out of the vehicle, concluding after seeing three (3) empty cases of beer
at the trunk of the vehicle that petitioner was driving under the influence of alcohol. Then petitioner went on with his "plain view
search" line. The remark apparently pissed the police officers off no end as one of them immediately lashed at petitioner and his
companions as "mga lasing" (drunk) and to get out of the vehicle, an incongruous response to an otherwise reasonable plea.
Defense witness, Joenilo Pano, graphically described this particular event in his sinumpaang salaysay, as follows:

x x x matapos kami huminto ay naglapitan sa amin ang mga pulis, nag flash light sa loob ng sasakyan at sa aming mga mukha.

x x x isang pulis ang nag-utos sa aminna kami ay magsi-baba at buksan ang pintuan ng nasabing sasakyan.

22
x x x dahil doon sinabi ni Kuya sa mga pulis, na hindi pwede iyon at pinigilan niya ako at ang aking kasama kong waitress na
bumaba.

x x x iginiit ni Kuya sa mga pulisang salitang "PLAIN VIEW LANG BOSS, PLAIN VIEW LANG" pero iyon ayhindi nila
pinansin. Sa halip as isang pulis ang nagsabi na "MGA LASING KAYO HETO MAY CASE PA KAYO NG BEER".

x x x habang nagpapaliwanag si Kuya, isang pulis ang biglang kumuha ng susi ng sasakyan habang ang isang pulis ang biglang
sumuntok sa bibig ni Kuya, nagbunot ng baril at tinutukan sa ulo si Kuya.

x x x dahil doon ay nagmakaawa ako na wag barilin si Kuya subalit ako rin ay tinutukan ng baril. x x x na matapos suntukin si
Kuya aypinagtulungan siya ng mga pulis na ilabas sa sasakyan at nang mailabas siyaay pinagtulakan siya ng mga pulis sa gilid ng
kalsada habang hawak ang kanilang baril. 24

Panos above account ironicallyfinds in a way collaboration from the arresting officers themselves who admitted that they originally
had no intention to search the vehicle in question nor subject its occupants to a body search. The officers wrote in their
aforementioned joint affidavit:

xxxx

That we arrested the suspect, Edmund Sydeco y Siozon x x x for violation of RA 4136 (Driving under the influence of liquor), and
violation of Article 151 of the RPC (Resisting Arrest) x x x committed on or about 3:30A.M., June 11, 2006 along x x x Malate,
Manila. x x x He began to raise his voice and converse with us rudely without considering that we are in uniform, on duty and
performing our job. P/INSP Manuel Aguilar pointed out that we saw him swerving and driving under the influence of liquor that
was why we are inviting him to our police station in which our intention was to make him rest for a moment before he continue to
drive. x x x (Emphasis added.)

In fine, at the time of his apprehension, or when he was signaled to stop, to be precise, petitioner has not committed any crime or
suspected of having committed one. "Swerving," as ordinarily understood,refers to a movement wherein a vehicle shifts from a lane
to another or to turn aside from a direct course of action or movement. The act may become punishable when there is a sign
25

indicating that swerving is prohibited or where swerving partakes the nature ofreckless driving, a concept defined under RA 4136,
as:

SECTION 48. Reckless Driving. Noperson shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway recklessly or without reasonable caution
considering the width, traffic, grades, crossing, curvatures, visibility and other conditions of the highway and the conditions of the
atmosphere and weather, or so as to endanger the property or the safetyor rights of any person or so as to cause excessive or
unreasonable damage to the highway.

Swerving is not necessarily indicative of imprudent behavior let alone constitutive of reckless driving. To constitute the offense of
reckless driving, the act must be something more than a mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle, and a willful and
wantondisregard of the consequences is required. Nothing in the records indicate that the area was a "no swerving or overtaking
26

zone." Moreover, the swerving incident, if this be the case, occurred at around 3:00 a.m. when the streets are usually clear of
moving vehicles and human traffic, and the danger to life, limb and property to third persons is minimal. When the police officers
stopped the petitioners car, they did not issue any ticket for swerving as required under Section 29 of RA 4136. Instead, they
inspected the vehicle, ordered the petitioner and his companions to step down of their pick up and concluded that the petitioner was
then drunk mainly because of the cases of beer found at the trunk of the vehicle. On re-direct examination, SPO4 Bodino testified:

Q: On that particular date, time and place what exactly prompted you to arrest the accused (sic) the charged in for Viol. of
Section 56(f) of R.A. 4136?

A: Noong mag check-up kami, naamoynamin na amoy alak siya at yung sasakyan ay hindi maganda ang takbo.

Q: Now you stated in your affidavit of arrest Mr. Witness that you spotted the vehicle of the accused swerving, is that correct?

A: Yes, sir.

23
Q. Is that also the reason why you apprehended him?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And what happened after Mr. Witness, when you approached the vehicle of the accused?

A: The accused was in a loud voice. He was asking, "Bakit daw siya pinahihinto?"

xxxx

Q: How do you describe the resistance Mr. Witness?

A: He refused to ride with usgoing to the hospital, Your Honor.

xxxx 27

Going over the records, it is fairly clear that what triggered the confrontational stand-off between the police team, on one hand, and
petitioner on the other, was the latters refusal to get off of the vehicle for a body and vehicle search juxtaposed by his insistence on
a plain view search only. Petitioners twin gestures cannot plausibly be considered as resisting a lawful order. He may have
28

sounded boorish or spoken crudely at that time, but none of this would make him a criminal. It remains to stress that the petitioner
has not, when flagged down, committed a crime or performed an overt act warranting a reasonable inference of criminal activity.
He did not try to avoid the road block established. He came to a full stop when so required to stop. The two key elements of
resistance and serious disobedience punished under Art. 151 of the RPC are: (1) That a person in authority or his agent is engaged
in the performance of official duty or gives a lawful order to the offender; and (2) That the offender resists or seriously disobeys
such person or his agent.29

There can be no quibble that P/Insp. Aguilar and his apprehending team are persons in authority or agents of a person in authority
manning a legal checkpoint. But surely petitioners act of exercising ones right against unreasonable searches to be conducted in
30

the middle of the night cannot, in context, be equated to disobedience let alone resisting a lawful order in contemplation of Art. 151
of the RPC. As has often been said, albeit expressed differently and under dissimilar circumstances, the vitality of democracy lies
not in the rights it guarantees, but in the courage of the people to assert and use them whenever they are ignored or worse
infringed. Moreover, there is, to stress, nothing in RA 4136 that authorized the checkpoint-manning policemen to order petitioner
31

and his companions to get out of the vehicle for a vehicle and body search. And it bears to emphasize that there was no reasonable
suspicion of the occurrence of a crime that would allow what jurisprudence refers to as a "stop and frisk" action. As SPO4 Bodino
no less testified, the only reason why they asked petitioner to get out of the vehicle was not because he has committed a crime, but
because of their intention toinvite him to Station 9 so he could rest before he resumes driving. But instead of a tactful invitation, the
apprehending officers, in an act indicative of overstepping of their duties, dragged the petitioner out of the vehicle and, in the
process of subduing him, pointed a gun and punched him on the face. None of the police officers, to note, categorically denied the
petitioners allegation aboutbeing physically hurt before being brought to the Ospital ng Maynila to be tested for intoxication. What
the policemen claimed was that it took the three (3) of them to subdue the fifty-five year old petitioner. Both actions were done in
excess of their authority granted under RA 4136. They relied on the medical certificate issued by Dr. Balucating attesting that
petitioner showed no physical injuries. The medical certificate was in fact challenged not only because the petitioner insisted at
every turn that he was not examined, but also because Dr. Balucating failed to testify as to its content. Ms. Delos Santos, the
medical record custodian ofthe Ospital ng Maynila, testified, but only to attest that the hospital has a record of the certificate. The
trial court, in its decision, merely stated:

At the outset, the records of the case show that the same were not testified upon by the doctor who issued it. Instead, the Records
1wphi1

Custodian of the Ospital ng Maynila was presented by the Prosecution to testify on the said documents.

However, although the doctor who examined the accused was unable to testify to affirm the contents of the Medical Certificate he
issued (re: that he was found to have an alcoholic breath), this court finds that the observation of herein private complainants as to
the accuseds behavior and condition after the incident was sufficient.

Under Section 50 of Rule 130 of the Revised Rules of evidence:

24
The opinion of a witness for which proper basis is given, may be received in evidence regarding x x x x

The witness may also testify on his impressions of the emotion, behavior, condition or appearance of a person Under Section 15 of
the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure, "at the trial, the affidavits submitted by the parties shall constitute the direct testimonies
of the witnesses who executed the same." 32

In sum, the MeTC, as echoed by RTC and CA later, did not rely on the medical certificate Dr. Balucating issued on June 12, 2006 as
to petitioners intoxicated state, as the former was not able to testify as to its contents, but on the testimony of SPO4Bodino, on the
assumption that he and his fellow police officers were acting in the regular performance of their duties. It cannot be emphasized
enough that smelling of liquor/alcohol and be under the influence of liquor are differing concepts. Corollarily, it is difficult to
determine with legally acceptable certainty whether a person is drunk in contemplation of Sec. 56(f) of RA 4136 penalizing the act
of driving under the influence of alcohol. The legal situation has of course changed with the approval in May 2013 of the Anti-
Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 (RA 10586) which also penalizes driving under the influence of alcohol (DUIA), a term 33

defined under its Sec. 3(e) as the "act of operating a motor vehicle while the drivers blood alcohol concentration level has, after
being subjected to a breath analyzer test reached the level of intoxication as established jointly by the [DOH], the NAPOLCOM]
and the [DOTC]. And under Sec. 3(g) of the IRR of RA 10586, a driver of a private motor vehicle with gross vehicle weight not
exceeding 4,500 kilograms who has BAC [blood alcohol concentration] of 0.05% or higher shall be conclusive proof that said
driver isdriving under the influence of alcohol. Viewed from the prism of RA 10586, petitioner cannot plausibly be convicted of
driving under the influence of alcohol for this obvious reason: he had not been tested beyond reasonable doubt, let alone
conclusively, for reaching during the period material the threshold level of intoxication set under the law for DUIA, i.e., a BAC of
0.05% or over. Under Art. 22 of the RPC, penal laws shall be given retroactive insofar asthey are favorable to the accused. Section
34

19 of RA 10586 expressly modified Sec. 56(f) of RA 4136. Verily, even by force of Art. 22 ofthe RPC in relation to Sec. 3(e) of RA
10586 alone, petitioner could very well be acquitted for the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, even if the supposed
inculpatory act occurred in 2006.

Parenthetically, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila, per its Resolution of November 21, 2006 found, on the strength of
35

another physical examination from the same Ospital ng Maynila conducted by Dr. Devega on the petitioner on the same day,June
12, but later hour, probable cause for slight physical injuries against P/Insp. Aguilar et al. That finding to be sure tends to indicate
that the police indeed man handled the petitioner and belied, or at least cancelled out, the purported Dr. Balucatings finding as to
petitioners true state.

The Court must underscore at this juncture that the petitioner, after the unfortunate incident, lost no time incommencing the
appropriate criminal charges against the police officers and Dr. Balucating, whomhe accused of issuing Exh. "F" even without
examining him. The element of immediacy in the filing lends credence to petitioners profession of innocence, particularly of the
charge of disobeying lawful order or resisting arrest. Certainly not to be overlooked is the fact that petitioner,in so filing his
complaint, could not have possibly been inspired by improper motive, the police officers being complete strangers to him and vice
versa. Withal, unless he had a legitimate grievance, it is difficult to accept the notion that petitioner would expose himself to harms
way by filing a harassment criminal suit against policemen.

Conviction must come only after it survives the test of reason. It is thus required that every circumstance favoring ones innocence
36

be duly taken into account. Given the deviation of the police officers from the standard and usual procedure in dealing with traffic
37

violation by perceived drivers under the influence of alcoholand executing an arrest, the blind reliance and simplistic invocation by
the trial court and the CA on the presumption of regularity in the conduct of police duty is clearly misplaced. As stressed in People
v. Ambrosio, the presumption of regularity is merely just that, a presumption disputable by contrary proof and which when
38

challenged by the evidence cannot be regarded as binding truth. And to be sure, this presumption alone cannot preponderate over
the presumption of innocence that prevails if not overcome by proof that obliterates all doubts as to the offenders culpability. In the
present case, the absence of conclusive proof being under the influence of liquor while driving coupled with the forceful manner the
police yanked petitioner out of his vehicle argues against or at least cast doubt on the finding of guilt for drunken driving and
resisting arrest.

In case of doubt as to the moral certainty of culpability, the balance tips in favor of innocence or at least infavor of the milderform
of criminal liability. This is as it should be. For, it is basic, almost elementary, that the burden of proving the guiltof an accused lies
on the prosecution which must rely on the strength of its evidence and noton the weakness of the defense.

25
WHEREFORE, in light of all the foregoing, the appealed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
33567 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASI:OE. Petitioner is hereby acquitted of the crimes charged in Criminal Case No. 052527-
CN and Criminal Case No. 052528-CN.

No pronouncement as to costs.

26
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 136066-67. February 4, 2003]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. BINAD SY CHUA, accused-


appellant.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Accused-appellant Binad Sy Chua was charged with violation of Section 16, Article III of R.A. 6425, as
amended by R.A. 7659, and for Illegal Possession of ammunitions in two separate Informations which read as
follows:

Criminal Case No. 96-507 [1]

That on or about the 21st day of September 1996, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession and under his control two (2) plastic bags
containing Methamphetamine Hydrochloride (SHABU) weighing more or less two (2) kilos and one
(1) small plastic bag containingMethamphetamine Hydrocloride weighing more or less fifteen (15)
grams, which is a regulated drug, without any authority whatsoever.

Criminal Case No. 96-513 [2]

That on or about the 21st day of September 1996, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession and under his control twenty (20) pieces of live .22
cal. ammunitions, without first having obtained a license or permit to possess or carry the same.

Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty on arraignment. The two cases were then jointly tried.

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses, all members of the police force of Angeles City. Their
testimonies can be synthesized as follows:

On September 21, 1996, at around 10:00 in the evening, SPO2 Mario Nulud and PO2 Emmeraldo Nunag
received a report from their confidential informant that accused-appellant was about to deliver drugs that night at
the Thunder Inn Hotel in Balibago, Angeles City. The informer further reported that accused-appellant distributes
illegal drugs in different karaoke bars in Angeles City. On the basis of this lead, the PNP Chief of Angeles City,
Col. Neopito Gutierrez, immediately formed a team of operatives composed of Major Bernardino, Insp. Tullao,
Insp. Emmanuel Nunag, P02 Emmeraldo Nunag, SP01 Fernando Go, and some civilian assets, with SPO2 Mario
Nulud, as team investigator. The group of SPO2 Nulud, PO2 Nunag and the civilian informer positioned
themselves across McArthur Highway near Bali Hai Restaurant, fronting Thunder Inn Hotel. The other group acted
as their back up.

27
At around 11:45 in the evening, their informer pointed to a car driven by accused-appellant which just arrived
and parked near the entrance of the Thunder Inn Hotel. After accused-appellant alighted from the car carrying a
sealed Zest-O juice box, SPO2 Nulud and PO2 Nunag hurriedly accosted him and introduced themselves as police
officers. As accused-appellant pulled out his wallet, a small transparent plastic bag with a crystalline substance
protruded from his right back pocket. Forthwith, SPO2 Nulud subjected him to a body search which yielded twenty
(20) pieces of live .22 caliber firearm bullets from his left back pocket. When SPO2 Nunag peeked into the
contents of the Zest-O box, he saw that it contained a crystalline substance. SPO2 Nulud instantly confiscated the
small transparent plastic bag, the Zest-O juice box, the twenty (20) pieces of .22 caliber firearm bullets and the car
used by accused-appellant. Afterwards, SPO2 Nulud and the other police operatives who arrived at the scene
brought the confiscated items to the office of Col. Guttierez at the PNP Headquarters in Camp Pepito, Angeles
City.
[3]

When Col. Gutierrez opened the sealed Zest-O juice box, he found 2 big plastic bags containing crystalline
substances. The initial field test conducted by SPO2 Danilo Cruz at the PNP Headquarters revealed that the siezed
items contained shabu. Thereafter, SPO2 Nulud together with accused-appellant brought these items for further
[4]

laboratory examination to the Crime Laboratory at Camp Olivas, San Fernando, Pampanga. After due testing,
forensic chemist S/Insp. Daisy Babor concluded that the crystalline substances yielded positive results for shabu.
The small plastic bag weighed 13.815 grams while the two big plastic bags weighed 1.942 kilograms of shabu. [5]

Accused-appellant vehemently denied the accusation against him and narrated a different version of the
incident.

Accused-appellant alleged that on the night in question, he was driving the car of his wife to follow her and his
son to Manila. He felt sleepy, so he decided to take the old route along McArthur Highway. He stopped in front of a
small store near Thunder Inn Hotel in Balibago, Angeles City to buy cigarettes and candies. While at the store, he
noticed a man approach and examine the inside of his car. When he called the attention of the onlooker, the man
immediately pulled out a .45 caliber gun and made him face his car with raised hands. The man later on identified
himself as a policeman. During the course of the arrest, the policeman took out his wallet and instructed him to
open his car. He refused, so the policeman took his car keys and proceeded to search his car. At this time, the police
officers companions arrived at the scene in two cars. PO2 Nulud, who just arrived at the scene, pulled him away
from his car in a nearby bank, while the others searched his car.

Thereafter, he was brought to the Salakot Police Station and was held inside a bathroom for about fifteen
minutes until Col. Guttierez arrived, who ordered his men to call the media. In the presence of reporters, Col.
Guttierez opened the box and accused-appellant was made to hold the box while pictures were being taken. [6]

Wilfredo Lagman corroborated the story of the accused-appellant in its material points. He testified that he
witnessed the incident while he was conducting a routine security check around the premises of the Guess
Building, near Thunder Inn Hotel. [7]

On September 15, 1998 the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 59, rendered a decision, the [8]

dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing considered, judgement is hereby rendered as follows:

1. In Criminal Case No. 96-513 for Illegal Possession of Ammunitions, the accused is hereby
acquitted of the crime charged for insufficiency of evidence.

28
2. In Criminal Case No. 96-507 for Illegal Possession of 1,955.815 grams of shabu, accused Binad Sy
Chua is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charge and is hereby sentenced to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of One Million (P1,000,000.00) Pesos.

SO ORDERED. [9]

Hence, the instant appeal where accused-appellant raised the following errors:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED GRAVELY IN ITS FOLLOWING FINDINGS:

A. THE ARREST OF ACCUSED-APPELLANT BINAD SY CHUA WAS LAWFUL;

B. THE SEARCH OF HIS PERSON AND THE SUBSEQUENT CONFISCATION OF SHABU


ALLEGEDLY FOUND ON HIM WERE CONDUCTED IN A LAWFUL AND VALID MANNER;

C. THE PROSECUTION EVIDENCE SUPPORTING THE CRIME CHARGED IS SUFICIENT TO


PROVE THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT BEYOND REAONABLE DOUBT. [10]

Accused-appellant maintains that the warrantless arrest and search made by the police operatives was
unlawful; that in the light of the testimony of SPO2 Nulud that prior to his arrest he has been under surveillance for
two years, there was therefore no compelling reason for the haste within which the arresting officers sought to
arrest and search him without a warrant; that the police officers had sufficient information about him and could
have easily arrested him. Accused-appellant further argues that since his arrest was null an void, the drugs that
were seized should likewise be inadmissible in evidence since they were obtained in violation of his constitutional
rights against unreasonable search and seizures and arrest.

Accused-appellants argument is impressed with merit.

Although the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is entitled to great
respect and will not be disturbed on appeal, however, this rule is not a hard and fast one.

It is a time-honored rule that the assessment of the trial court with regard to the credibility of
witnesses deserves the utmost respect, if not finality, for the reason that the trial judge has the
prerogative, denied to appellate judges, of observing the demeanor of the declarants in the course of
their testimonies. The only exception is if there is a showing that the trial judge overlooked,
misunderstood, or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have
affected the case. [11]

In the case at bar, there appears on record some facts of weight and substance that have been overlooked,
misapprehended, or misapplied by the trial court which casts doubt on the guilt of accused-appellant. An appeal in
a criminal case opens the whole case for review and this includes the review of the penalty and indemnity imposed
by the trial court. We are clothed with ample authority to review matters, even those not raised on appeal, if we
[12]

find that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just disposition of the case. Every circumstance in favor of
the accused shall be considered. This is in keeping with the constitutional mandate that every accused shall be
[13]

presumed innocent unless his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt.

First, with respect to the warrantless arrest and consequent search and seizure made upon accused-appellant,
the court a quo made the following findings:
29
Accused was searched and arrested while in possession of regulated drugs (shabu). A crime was
actually being committed by the accused and he was caught in flagrante delicto. Thus, the search
made upon his personal effects x x x allow a warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest. x x x x

While it is true that the police officers were not armed with a search warrant when the search was
made over the personal affects (sic) of the accused, however, under the circumstances of the case,
there was sufficient probable cause for said officers to believe that accused was then and there
committing a crime.

xxxxxxxxx

In the present case, the police received information that the accused will distribute illegal drugs that
evening at the Thunder Inn Hotel and its vicinities. The police officer had to act quickly and there was
no more time to secure a search warrant. The search is valid being akin to a stop and frisk. [14]

A thorough review of the evidence on record belies the findings and conclusion of the trial court. It confused
the two different concepts of a search incidental to a lawful arrest (in flagrante delicto) and of a stop-and-frisk.

In Malacat v. Court of Appeals, we distinguished the concepts of a stop-and-frisk and of a search incidental
[15]

to a lawful arrest, to wit:

At the outset, we note that the trial court confused the concepts of a stop-and-frisk and of a search
incidental to a lawful arrest. These two types of warrantless searches differ in terms of the requisite
quantum of proof before they may be validly effected and in their allowable scope.

In a search incidental to a lawful arrest, as the precedent arrest determines the validity of the
incidental search, the legality of the arrest is questioned in a large majority of these
cases, e.g., whether an arrest was merely used as a pretext for conducting a search. In this
instance, the law requires that there first be arrest before a search can be madethe process
cannot be reversed. At bottom, assuming a valid arrest, the arresting officer may search the person of
the arrestee and the area within which the latter may reach for a weapon or for evidence to destroy,
and seize any money or property found which was used in the commission of the crime, or the fruit of
the crime, or that which may be used as evidence, or which might furnish the arrestee with the means
of escaping or committing violence.

xxxxxxxxx

We now proceed to the justification for and allowable scope of a stop-and-frisk as a limited
protective search of outer clothing for weapons, as laid down in Terry, thus:

We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him
reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the
persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of
investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries,
and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own
or others safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully
30
limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be
used to assault him. Such a search is a reasonable search under the Fourth amendment.

Other notable points of Terry are that while probable cause is not required to conduct a stop-and-frisk,
it nevertheless holds that mere suspicion or a hunch will not validate a stop-and-frisk. A genuine
reason must exist, in light of the police officers experience and surrounding conditions, to
warrant the belief that the person detained has weapons concealed about him. Finally, a stop-
and-frisk serves a two-fold interest: (1) the general interest of effective crime prevention and
detection, which underlies the recognition that a police officer may, under appropriate circumstances
and in an appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating possible criminal
behavior even without probable cause; and (2) the more pressing interest of safety and self-
preservation which permit the police officer to take steps to assure himself that the person with whom
he deals is not armed with a deadly weapon that could unexpectedly and fatally be used against the
police officer. (Emphasis ours)
[16]

In the case at bar, neither the in flagrante delicto nor the stop and frisk principles is applicable to justify the
warrantless arrest and consequent search and seizure made by the police operatives on accused-appellant.

In in flagrante delicto arrests, the accused is apprehended at the very moment he is committing or attempting
to commit or has just committed an offense in the presence of the arresting officer. Emphasis should be laid on the
fact that the law requires that the search be incidental to a lawful arrest. Therefore it is beyond cavil that a lawful
arrest must precede the search of a person and his belongings. Accordingly, for this exception to apply two
[17]

elements must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed,
is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within
the view of the arresting officer.
[18]

We find the two aforementioned elements lacking in the case at bar. The record reveals that when accused-
appellant arrived at the vicinity of Thunder Inn Hotel, he merely parked his car along the McArthur Highway,
alighted from it and casually proceeded towards the entrance of the Hotel clutching a sealed Zest-O juice box.
Accused-appellant did not act in a suspicious manner.For all intents and purposes, there was no overt manifestation
that accused-appellant has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime.

However, notwithstanding the absence of any overt act strongly manifesting a violation of the law, the group
of SPO2 Nulud hurriedly accosted accused-appellant and later on introduced themselves as police officers.
[19]

Accused-appellant was arrested before the alleged drop-off of shabu was done. Probable cause in this case was
[20]

more imagined than real. Thus, there could have been no in flagrante delicto arrest preceding the search, in light of
the lack of an overt physical act on the part of accused-appellant that he had committed a crime, was committing a
crime or was going to commit a crime. As applied to in flagrante delicto arrests, it has been held that reliable
information alone, absent any overt act indicative of a felonious enterprise in the presence and within the view of
the arresting officers, is not sufficient to constitute probable cause that would justify an in flagrante delicto arrest.
Hence, in People v. Aminudin, we ruled that the accused-appellant was not, at the moment of his arrest,
[21] [22]

committing a crime nor was it shown that he was about to do so or that he had just done so . What he was
doing was descending the gangplank of the M/V Wilcon 9 and there was no outward indication that called for his
arrest. To all appearances, he was like any of the other passengers innocently disembarking from the vessel. It was
only when the informer pointed to him as the carrier of the marijuana that he suddenly became suspect and
so subject to apprehension (Emphasis supplied).

The reliance of the prosecution in People v. Tangliben to justify the polices actions is misplaced. In the said
[23]

case, based on the information supplied by informers, police officers conducted a surveillance at the Victory Liner
31
Terminal compound in San Fernando, Pampanga against persons who may commit misdemeanors and also on
those who may be engaged in the traffic of dangerous drugs. At 9:30 in the evening, the policemen noticed a person
carrying a red travelling bag who was acting suspiciously. They confronted him and requested him to open his bag
but he refused. He acceded later on when the policemen identified themselves. Inside the bag were marijuana
leaves wrapped in a plastic wrapper. The police officers only knew of the activities of Tangliben on the night of
his arrest.

In the instant case, the apprehending policemen already had prior knowledge from the very same informant of
accused-appellants activities. No less than SPO2 Mario Nulud, the team leader of the arresting operatives, admitted
that their informant has been telling them about the activities of accused-appellant for two years prior to his actual
arrest on September 21, 1996. An excerpt of the testimony of SPO2 Mario Nulud reveals the illegality of the arrest
of accused-appellant as follows:

Q. Did the civilian informer of yours mentioned to you the name of this chinese drug pusher?

A. He is mentioning the name of Binad or Jojo Chua.

Q. And he had been mentioning these names to you even before September 21, 1996?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long did this civilian informant have been telling you about the activities of this chinese drug pusher
reckoning in relation to September 21, 1996?

A. That was about two years already.

Q. Nothwithstanding his two years personal knowledge which you gained from the civilian informant that this
chinese drug pusher have been engaged pushing drugs here in Angeles City, you did not think of applying for a
search warrant for this chinese drug pusher?

A. No, sir.

xxxxxxxxx

Q. When you accosted this Binad Chua, he was casually walking along the road near the Thunder Inn Hotel, is that
right?

A. He was pinpointed by the civilian informer that he is the chinese drug pusher that will deliver to him also.

Q. My question Mr. Witness, is this Jojo Chua or Binad Chua the accused in this case he alighted with a Corolla car
with plate number 999, I think, he just alighted when you saw him?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. From the car when he alighted, he casually walked towards near the entrance of the Thunder Inn Hotel?

A. He was about to proceed towards Thunder Inn Hotel but he was pinpointed already by the civilian informer.

Q. But he was just walking towards the entrance of the Thunder Inn Hotel?

A. Yes, sir, he is about to enter Thunder Inn Hotel.

32
xxxxxxxxx

Q. While he was walking, then you and PO2 Nunag pounced on him as you used pounced on him in your affidavit?

A. Yes, sir.

xxxxxxxxx

Q. And you pounced on Jojo Chua before you saw that alleged small plastic bag, is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And after that you also confiscated this Zesto juice box?

A. Yes, sir.

xxxxxxxxx

Q. But would you agree with me that not all crystalline substance is shabu?

A. No, that is shabu and it is been a long time that we have been tailing the accused that he is really a drug pusher.

Q. So you have been tailing this accused for quite a long time that you are very sure that what was brought by him
was shabu?

A. Yes, sir.[24]

The police operatives cannot feign ignorance of the alleged illegal activities of accused-appellant. Considering
that the identity, address and activities of the suspected culprit was already ascertained two years previous to the
actual arrest, there was indeed no reason why the police officers could not have obtained a judicial warrant before
arresting accused-appellant and searching his person. Whatever information their civilian asset relayed to them
hours before accused-appellants arrest was not a product of an on-the-spot tip which may excuse them from
obtaining a warrant of arrest. Accordingly, the arresting teams contention that their arrest of accused-appellant was
a product of an on-the-spot tip is untenable.

In the same vein, there could be no valid stop-and-frisk in this case. A stop-and-frisk was defined as the act of
a police officer to stop a citizen on the street, interrogate him, and pat him for weapon(s) or contraband. The
[25]

police officer should properly introduce himself and make initial inquiries, approach and restrain a person who
manifests unusual and suspicious conduct, in order to check the latters outer clothing for possibly concealed
weapons. The apprehending police officer must have a genuine reason, in accordance with the police officers
[26]

experience and the surrounding conditions, to warrant the belief that the person to be held has weapons (or
contraband) concealed about him. It should therefore be emphasized that a search and seizure should precede the
[27]

arrest for this principle to apply.[28]

This principle of stop-and-frisk search was invoked by the Court in Manalili v. Court of Appeals. In said [29]

case, the policemen chanced upon the accused who had reddish eyes, walking in a swaying manner, and who
appeared to be high on drugs. Thus, we upheld the validity of the search as akin to a stop-and-frisk. In People v.
Solayao, we also found justifiable reason to stop-and-frisk the accused after considering the following
[30]

circumstances: the drunken actuations of the accused and his companions, the fact that his companions fled when
they saw the policemen, and the fact that the peace officers were precisely on an intelligence mission to verify
reports that armed persons where roaming the vicinity.
33
The foregoing circumstances do not obtain in the case at bar. There was no valid stop-and-frisk in the case of
accused-appellant. To reiterate, accused-appellant was first arrested before the search and seizure of the alleged
illegal items found in his possession. The apprehending police operative failed to make any initial inquiry into
accused-appellants business in the vicinity or the contents of the Zest-O juice box he was carrying. The
apprehending police officers only introduced themselves when they already had custody of accused-appellant.
Besides, at the time of his arrest, accused-appellant did not exhibit manifest unusual and suspicious conduct
reasonable enough to dispense with the procedure outlined by jurisprudence and the law. There was, therefore, no
genuine reasonable ground for the immediacy of accused-appellants arrest.

Obviously, the acts of the police operatives wholly depended on the information given to them by their
confidential informant. Accordingly, before and during that time of the arrest, the arresting officers had no personal
knowledge that accused-appellant had just committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime.

At any rate, even if the fact of delivery of the illegal drugs actually occurred, accused-appellants warrantless
arrest and consequent search would still not be deemed a valid stop-and frisk. For a valid stop-and-frisk the search
and seizure must precede the arrest, which is not so in this case. Besides, as we have earlier emphasized, the
information about the illegal activities of accused-appellant was not unknown to the apprehending officers. Hence,
the search and seizure of the prohibited drugs cannot be deemed as a valid stop-and-frisk.

Neither can there be valid seizure in plain view on the basis of the seized items found in accused-appellants
possession. First, there was no valid intrusion. Second, the evidence, i.e., the plastic bags found in the Zest-O juice
box which contained crystalline substances later on identified as methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) and the
20 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition, were not inadvertently discovered. The police officers first arrested accused-
appellant and intentionally searched his person and peeked into the sealed Zest-O juice box before they were able
to see and later on ascertain that the crystalline substance was shabu. There was no clear showing that the sealed
Zest-O juice box accused-appellant carried contained prohibited drugs. Neither were the small plastic bags which
allegedly contained crystalline substance and the 20 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition visible. These prohibited
substances were not in plain view of the arresting officers; hence, inadmissible for being the fruits of the poisonous
tree.

In like manner, the search cannot be categorized as a search of a moving vehicle, a consented warrantless
search, or a customs search. It cannot even fall under exigent and emergency circumstances, for the evidence at
hand is bereft of any such showing.

All told, the absence of ill-motive on the part of the arresting team cannot simply validate, much more cure,
the illegality of the arrest and consequent warrantless search of accused-appellant. Neither can the presumption of
regularity of performance of function be invoked by an officer in aid of the process when he undertakes to justify
an encroachment of rights secured by the Constitution. In People v. Nubla, we clearly stated that:
[31] [32]

The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot be used as basis for affirming
accused-appellants conviction because, first, the presumption is precisely just that a mere
presumption. Once challenged by evidence, as in this case, xxx [it] cannot be regarded as binding
truth. Second, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot
preponderate over the presumption of innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond
reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, we entertain doubts whether the items allegedly seized from accused-appellant were the very
same items presented at the trial of this case. The record shows that the initial field test where the items seized were
identified as shabu, was only conducted at the PNP headquarters of Angeles City. The items were therefore not
[33]

34
marked at the place where they were taken. In People v. Casimiro, we struck down with disbelief the reliability of
[34]

the identity of the confiscated items since they were not marked at the place where they were seized, thus:

The narcotics field test, which initially identified the seized item as marijuana, was likewise not
conducted at the scene of the crime, but only at the narcotics office. There is thus reasonable doubt as
to whether the item allegedly seized from accused-appellant is the same brick of marijuana marked by
the policemen in their headquarters and given by them to the crime laboratory.

The governments drive against illegal drugs needs the support of every citizen. But it should not undermine
the fundamental rights of every citizen as enshrined in the Constitution. The constitutional guarantee against
warrantless arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures cannot be so carelessly disregarded as overzealous
police officers are sometimes wont to do. Fealty to the constitution and the rights it guarantees should be
paramount in their minds, otherwise their good intentions will remain as such simply because they have blundered.
The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more
quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.
[35]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch
59, in Criminal Cases Nos. 96-507 and 96-513, convicting accused-appellant Binad Sy Chua of violation of
Section 16, Article III, Republic Act No. 6425 and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to
pay a fine of P1,000,000.00, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Binad Sy Chua is ACQUITTED
on the ground of reasonable doubt. Consequently, he is ordered forthwith released from custody, unless he is being
lawfully held for another crime.

SO ORDERED.

35
SECOND DIVISION

G. R. No. 91378 June 9, 1992

FIRST MALAYAN LEASING AND FINANCE CORPORATION, petitioner,


vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, CRISOSTOMO B. VITUG and ESTATE OF VICENTE TRINIDAD, Represented by
Widow GLORIA D. TRINIDAD, respondents.

GRIO-AQUINO. J.:

This case brings to the fore the importance of motor vehicle registration in determining who should be liable for the death or
injuries suffered by passengers or third persons as a consequence of the operation of a motor vehicle.

On June 26, 1984, Crisostomo B. Vitug filed Civil Case No. 84-25186 in the Regional Trial Court of Manila. Branch XLIII, against
the defendant. First Malayan Leasing and Finance Corporation (FMLFC for short), to recover damages for physical injuries, loss of
personal effects, and the wreck of his car as a result of a three-vehicle collision on December 14, 1983. involving his car, another
car, and an Isuzu cargo truck registered in the name of FMLFC and driven by one Crispin Sicat.

The evidence shows that while Vitug's car was at a full stop at the intersection of New York Street and Epifanio delos Santos
Avenue (EDSA) in Cubao, Quezon City, northward-bound, the on-coming Isuzu cargo truck bumped, a Ford Granada car behind
him with such force that the Ford car was thrown on top of Vitug's car crushing its roof. The cargo truck thereafter struck Vitug's
car in the rear causing the gas tank to explode and setting the car ablaze.

Stunned by the impact. Vitug was fortunately extricated from his car by solicitous bystanders before the vehicle exploded.
However, two of his passengers were burned to death. Vitug's car, valued at P70,000, was a total loss.

When he regained consciousness in the hospital, Vitug discovered that he had lost various personal articles valued at P48,950,
namely a necklace with a diamond pendant, a GP watch, a pair of Christian Dior eyeglasses. a gold Cross pen and a pair of Bally
shoes. Vitug also suffered injuries producing recurring pains in his neck and back. Upon his physician's advice, he received further
medical treatment in the United States which cost him US$2,373.64 for his first trip, and US$5,596.64 for the second.

At the time of the accident on December 14, 1983, the Isuzu cargo truck was registered in the name of the First Malayan Leasing
and Finance Corporation (FMLFC).

However, FMLFC denied any liability, alleging that it was not the owner of the truck. neither the employer of the driver Crispin
Sicat, because it had sold the truck to Vicente Trinidad on September 24. 1980, after the latter had paid all his monthly
amortizations under the financing lease agreement between FMLFC and Trinidad.

On FMLFC's motion, the lower court granted FMLFC's leave to file a third-party complaint against Trinidad and admitted the third-
party complaint filed therewith.

Answering the third-party complaint the Estate of Vicente Trinidad admitted that the truck was operated by the deceased during his
lifetime. Nevertheless it raised the defense that the estate of Vicente Trinidad was no longer existing because the same had long
been settled and partitioned extra judicially by his heirs.

On August 25, 1986, the trial court rendered a decision sentencing FMLFC to pay Vitug the sum of P133,950 with interest at the
legal rate from the filing of the complaint until fully paid, plus the sum of P10,000 as attorneys fees and costs.

36
FMLFC appealed in due time to the Court of Appeals which rendered a decision on November 27, 1989 modifying the appealed
judgment by ordering the third-party defendant-appellee (Estate of Vicente Trinidad) to indemnify the appellant, FMLFC, for
whatever amount the latter may pay Vitug under the judgment. In all other respects, the trial court's decision was affirmed.

FMLFC has filed this petition for review on certiorari praying that the decision of the appellate court be reversed and set aside.

On February 14, 1990, the Court dismissed the petition for insufficiency in form and substance, having failed to comply with the
Rules of Court and Circular 1-88 requiring the submission of (1) proof of service of the petition on the adverse party, and (2) a
certified true copy of the decision of the Court of Appeals. Moreover, the petition was filed late on February 1, 1990, the due date
being January 27, 1990.

The petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. On April 16, 1990. we granted the same and reinstated the petition. Without
giving it due course, we required the respondents to comment.

After deliberating on the petition, the comments of the private respondents and the petitioner's reply thereto, we find the petition to
be bereft of merit, hence, resolved to deny it.

In the first place, the factual finding of the trial court and the Court of Appeals that the Isuzu vehicle which figured in the mishap
was still registered in the name of FMLFC at the time of the accident is not reviewable by this Court in a petition
for certiorari under Rule 45 of Rules of Court.

This Court has consistently ruled that regardless of who the actual owner of a motor vehicle might be, the registered owner is the
operator of the same with respect to the public and third persons, and as such, directly and primarily responsible for the
consequences of its operation. In contemplation of law, the owner/operator of record is the employer of the driver, the actual
operator and employer being considered merely as his agent (MYC-Agro-Industrial Corporation vs. Vda. de Caldo, 132 SCRA
10. citing Vargas vs. Langcay. 6 SCRA 174; Tamayo vs. Aquino. 105 Phil. 949).

We believe that it is immaterial whether or not the driver was actually employed by the operator of record. It is
even not necessary to prove who the actual owner of the vehicle and the employer of the driver is. Granting that, in
this case, the father of the driver is the actual owner and that he is the actual employer, following the well-settled
principle that the operator of record continues to be the operator of the vehicle in contemplation of law, as regards
the public and third persons, and as such is responsible for the consequences incident to its operation we must hold
and consider such owner-operator of record as the employer, in contemplation of law, of the driver. And, to give
effect to this policy of law as enunciated in the above cited decisions of this Court, we must now extend the same
and consider the actual operator and employer as the agent of the operator of record." (Vargas vs. Langcay, 6
SCRA 178; citing Montoya vs. Ignacio, G.R. No. L-5868, Dec. 29, 1953; Timbol vs. Osias, G.R. No. L-7547,
April 30, 1955; Vda. de Medina vs. Cresencia, G.R. No. L-8194, July 11, 1956; Necesito vs. Paras, G.R. No.
L10605, June 30, 1955.)

. . . Were the registered owner allowed to evade responsibility by proving who the supposed transferee or owner is,
it would be easy for him by collusion with others or otherwise, to escape said responsibility and transfer the same
to an indefinite person, or to one who possesses no property with which to respond financially for the damage or
injury done (Erezo vs. Jepte, 102 Phil 103.)

. . . The registered owner or operator of record is the one liable for damages caused by a vehicle regardless of any
alleged sale or lease made thereon." (MYC-Agro- Industrial Corp. vs. Vda. de Caldo, 132 SCRA 11.)

In order for a transfer of ownership of a motor vehicle to be valid against third persons. it must be recorded in the Land
Transportation Office. For, although valid between the parties, the sale cannot affect third persons who rely on the public
registration of the motor vehicle as conclusive evidence of ownership. In law, FMLFC was the owner and operator of the Izusu
cargo truck, hence, fully liable to third parties injured by its operation due to the fault or negligence of the driver thereof.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

37
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 115381 December 23, 1994

KILUSANG MAYO UNO LABOR CENTER, petitioner,


vs.
HON. JESUS B. GARCIA, JR., the LAND TRANSPORTATION FRANCHISING AND REGULATORY BOARD, and the
PROVINCIAL BUS OPERATORS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

Potenciano A. Flores for petitioner.

Robert Anthony C. Sison, Cesar B. Brillantes and Jose Z. Galsim for private respondent.

Jose F. Miravite for movants.

KAPUNAN, J.:

Public utilities are privately owned and operated businesses whose service are essential to the general public. They are enterprises
which specially cater to the needs of the public and conduce to their comfort and convenience. As such, public utility services are
impressed with public interest and concern. The same is true with respect to the business of common carrier which holds such a
peculiar relation to the public interest that there is superinduced upon it the right of public regulation when private properties are
affected with public interest, hence, they cease to be juris privati only. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which
the public has an interest, he, in effect grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to the control by the public for
the common good, to the extent of the interest he has thus created. 1

An abdication of the licensing and regulatory government agencies of their functions as the instant petition seeks to show, is indeed
lamentable. Not only is it an unsound administrative policy but it is inimical to public trust and public interest as well.

The instant petition for certiorari assails the constitutionality and validity of certain memoranda, circulars and/or orders of the
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board
LTFRB) 2 which, among others, (a) authorize provincial bus and jeepney operators to increase or decrease the prescribed transportation
fares without application therefor with the LTFRB and without hearing and approval thereof by said agency in violation of Sec. 16(c) of
Commonwealth Act No. 146, as amended, otherwise known as the Public Service Act, and in derogation of LTFRB's duty to fix and
determine just and reasonable fares by delegating that function to bus operators, and (b) establish a presumption of public need in favor of
applicants for certificates of public convenience (CPC) and place on the oppositor the burden of proving that there is no need for the
proposed service, in patent violation not only of Sec. 16(c) of CA 146, as amended, but also of Sec. 20(a) of the same Act mandating that
fares should be "just and reasonable." It is, likewise, violative of the Rules of Court which places upon each party the burden to prove his
own affirmative allegations. 3 The offending provisions contained in the questioned issuances pointed out by petitioner, have resulted in
the introduction into our highways and thoroughfares thousands of old and smoke-belching buses, many of which are right-hand driven,
and have exposed our consumers to the burden of spiraling costs of public transportation without hearing and due process.

The following memoranda, circulars and/or orders are sought to be nullified by the instant petition, viz: (a) DOTC Memorandum
Order 90-395, dated June 26, 1990 relative to the implementation of a fare range scheme for provincial bus services in the country;
(b) DOTC Department Order No.
92-587, dated March 30, 1992, defining the policy framework on the regulation of transport services; (c) DOTC Memorandum
dated October 8, 1992, laying down rules and procedures to implement Department Order No. 92-587; (d) LTFRB Memorandum
Circular No. 92-009, providing implementing guidelines on the DOTC Department Order No. 92-587; and (e) LTFRB Order dated
March 24, 1994 in Case No. 94-3112.

The relevant antecedents are as follows:

38
On June 26, 1990; then Secretary of DOTC, Oscar M. Orbos, issued Memorandum Circular No. 90-395 to then LTFRB Chairman,
Remedios A.S. Fernando allowing provincial bus operators to charge passengers rates within a range of 15% above and 15% below
the LTFRB official rate for a period of one (1) year. The text of the memorandum order reads in full:

One of the policy reforms and measures that is in line with the thrusts and the priorities set out in the Medium-
Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 1987 1992) is the liberalization of regulations in the transport
sector. Along this line, the Government intends to move away gradually from regulatory policies and make
progress towards greater reliance on free market forces.

Based on several surveys and observations, bus companies are already charging passenger rates above and below
the official fare declared by LTFRB on many provincial routes. It is in this context that some form of liberalization
on public transport fares is to be tested on a pilot basis.

In view thereof, the LTFRB is hereby directed to immediately publicize a fare range scheme for all provincial bus
routes in country (except those operating within Metro Manila). Transport Operators shall be allowed to charge
passengers within a range of fifteen percent (15%) above and fifteen percent (15%) below the LTFRB official rate
for a period of one year.

Guidelines and procedures for the said scheme shall be prepared by LTFRB in coordination with the DOTC
Planning Service.

The implementation of the said fare range scheme shall start on 6 August 1990.

For compliance. (Emphasis ours.)

Finding the implementation of the fare range scheme "not legally feasible," Remedios A.S. Fernando submitted the following
memorandum to Oscar M. Orbos on July 24, 1990, to wit:

With reference to DOTC Memorandum Order No. 90-395 dated 26 June 1990 which the LTFRB received on 19
July 1990, directing the Board "to immediately publicize a fare range scheme for all provincial bus routes in the
country (except those operating within Metro Manila)" that will allow operators "to charge passengers within a
range of fifteen percent (15%) above and fifteen percent (15%) below the LTFRB official rate for a period of one
year" the undersigned is respectfully adverting the Secretary's attention to the following for his consideration:

1. Section 16(c) of the Public Service Act prescribes the following for the fixing and
determination of rates (a) the rates to be approved should be proposed by public service
operators; (b) there should be a publication and notice to concerned or affected parties in the
territory affected; (c) a public hearing should be held for the fixing of the rates; hence,
implementation of the proposed fare range scheme on August 6 without complying with the
requirements of the Public Service Act may not be legally feasible.

2. To allow bus operators in the country to charge fares fifteen (15%) above the present LTFRB
fares in the wake of the devastation, death and suffering caused by the July 16 earthquake will
not be socially warranted and will be politically unsound; most likely public criticism against the
DOTC and the LTFRB will be triggered by the untimely motu propio implementation of the
proposal by the mere expedient of publicizing the fare range scheme without calling a public
hearing, which scheme many as early as during the Secretary's predecessor know through
newspaper reports and columnists' comments to be Asian Development Bank and World Bank
inspired.

3. More than inducing a reduction in bus fares by fifteen percent (15%) the implementation of the
proposal will instead trigger an upward adjustment in bus fares by fifteen percent (15%) at a time
when hundreds of thousands of people in Central and Northern Luzon, particularly in Central
Pangasinan, La Union, Baguio City, Nueva Ecija, and the Cagayan Valley are suffering from the
devastation and havoc caused by the recent earthquake.

39
4. In lieu of the said proposal, the DOTC with its agencies involved in public transportation can
consider measures and reforms in the industry that will be socially uplifting, especially for the
people in the areas devastated by the recent earthquake.

In view of the foregoing considerations, the undersigned respectfully suggests that the implementation of the
proposed fare range scheme this year be further studied and evaluated.

On December 5, 1990, private respondent Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PBOAP) filed an
application for fare rate increase. An across-the-board increase of eight and a half centavos (P0.085) per kilometer for all types of
provincial buses with a minimum-maximum fare range of fifteen (15%) percent over and below the proposed basic per kilometer
fare rate, with the said minimum-maximum fare range applying only to ordinary, first class and premium class buses and a fifty-
centavo (P0.50) minimum per kilometer fare for aircon buses, was sought.

On December 6, 1990, private respondent PBOAP reduced its applied proposed fare to an across-the-board increase of six and a
half (P0.065) centavos per kilometer for ordinary buses. The decrease was due to the drop in the expected price of diesel.

The application was opposed by the Philippine Consumers Foundation, Inc. and Perla C. Bautista alleging that the proposed rates
were exorbitant and unreasonable and that the application contained no allegation on the rate of return of the proposed increase in
rates.

On December 14, 1990, public respondent LTFRB rendered a decision granting the fare rate increase in accordance with the
following schedule of fares on a straight computation method, viz:

AUTHORIZED FARES

LUZON
MIN. OF 5 KMS. SUCCEEDING KM.

REGULAR P1.50 P0.37


STUDENT P1.15 P0.28

VISAYAS/MINDANAO

REGULAR P1.60 P0.375


STUDENT P1.20 P0.285
FIRST CLASS (PER KM.)
LUZON P0.385
VISAYAS/
MINDANAO P0.395
PREMIERE CLASS (PER KM.)
LUZON P0.395
VISAYAS/
MINDANAO P0.405

AIRCON (PER KM.) P0.415. 4

On March 30, 1992, then Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications Pete Nicomedes Prado issued
Department Order No.
92-587 defining the policy framework on the regulation of transport services. The full text of the said order is reproduced below in
view of the importance of the provisions contained therein:

WHEREAS, Executive Order No. 125 as amended, designates the Department of Transportation and
Communications (DOTC) as the primary policy, planning, regulating and implementing agency on transportation;

40
WHEREAS, to achieve the objective of a viable, efficient, and dependable transportation system, the
transportation regulatory agencies under or attached to the DOTC have to harmonize their decisions and adopt a
common philosophy and direction;

WHEREAS, the government proposes to build on the successful liberalization measures pursued over the last five
years and bring the transport sector nearer to a balanced longer term regulatory framework;

NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to the powers granted by laws to the DOTC, the following policies and principles
in the economic regulation of land, air, and water transportation services are hereby adopted:

1. Entry into and exit out of the industry. Following the Constitutional dictum against monopoly, no franchise
holder shall be permitted to maintain a monopoly on any route. A minimum of two franchise holders shall be
permitted to operate on any route.

The requirements to grant a certificate to operate, or certificate of public convenience, shall be: proof of Filipino
citizenship, financial capability, public need, and sufficient insurance cover to protect the riding public.

In determining public need, the presumption of need for a service shall be deemed in favor of the applicant. The
burden of proving that there is no need for a proposed service shall be with the oppositor(s).

In the interest of providing efficient public transport services, the use of the "prior operator" and the "priority of
filing" rules shall be discontinued. The route measured capacity test or other similar tests of demand for
vehicle/vessel fleet on any route shall be used only as a guide in weighing the merits of each franchise application
and not as a limit to the services offered.

Where there are limitations in facilities, such as congested road space in urban areas, or at airports and ports, the
use of demand management measures in conformity with market principles may be considered.

The right of an operator to leave the industry is recognized as a business decision, subject only to the filing of
appropriate notice and following a phase-out period, to inform the public and to minimize disruption of services.

2. Rate and Fare Setting. Freight rates shall be freed gradually from government controls. Passenger fares shall
also be deregulated, except for the lowest class of passenger service (normally third class passenger transport) for
which the government will fix indicative or reference fares. Operators of particular services may fix their own
fares within a range 15% above and below the indicative or reference rate.

Where there is lack of effective competition for services, or on specific routes, or for the transport of particular
commodities, maximum mandatory freight rates or passenger fares shall be set temporarily by the government
pending actions to increase the level of competition.

For unserved or single operator routes, the government shall contract such services in the most advantageous terms
to the public and the government, following public bids for the services. The advisability of bidding out the
services or using other kinds of incentives on such routes shall be studied by the government.

3. Special Incentives and Financing for Fleet Acquisition. As a matter of policy, the government shall not engage
in special financing and incentive programs, including direct subsidies for fleet acquisition and expansion. Only
when the market situation warrants government intervention shall programs of this type be considered. Existing
programs shall be phased out gradually.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Maritime Industry
Authority are hereby directed to submit to the Office of the Secretary, within forty-five (45) days of this Order, the
detailed rules and procedures for the Implementation of the policies herein set forth. In the formulation of such
rules, the concerned agencies shall be guided by the most recent studies on the subjects, such as the Provincial
Road Passenger Transport Study, the Civil Aviation Master Plan, the Presidential Task Force on the Inter-island
Shipping Industry, and the Inter-island Liner Shipping Rate Rationalization Study.

41
For the compliance of all concerned. (Emphasis ours)

On October 8, 1992, public respondent Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications Jesus B. Garcia, Jr.
issued a memorandum to the Acting Chairman of the LTFRB suggesting swift action on the adoption of rules and procedures to
implement above-quoted Department Order No. 92-587 that laid down deregulation and other liberalization policies for the
transport sector. Attached to the said memorandum was a revised draft of the required rules and procedures covering (i) Entry Into
and Exit Out of the Industry and (ii) Rate and Fare Setting, with comments and suggestions from the World Bank incorporated
therein. Likewise, resplendent from the said memorandum is the statement of the DOTC Secretary that the adoption of the rules and
procedures is a pre-requisite to the approval of the Economic Integration Loan from the World Bank. 5

On February 17, 1993, the LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular


No. 92-009 promulgating the guidelines for the implementation of DOTC Department Order No. 92-587. The Circular provides,
among others, the following challenged portions:

xxx xxx xxx

IV. Policy Guidelines on the Issuance of Certificate of Public Convenience.

The issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience is determined by public need. The presumption of public need
for a service shall be deemed in favor of the applicant, while burden of proving that there is no need for the
proposed service shall be the oppositor'(s).

xxx xxx xxx

V. Rate and Fare Setting

The control in pricing shall be liberalized to introduce price competition complementary with the quality of
service, subject to prior notice and public hearing. Fares shall not be provisionally authorized without public
hearing.

A. On the General Structure of Rates

1. The existing authorized fare range system of plus or minus 15 per cent for provincial buses and jeepneys shall
be widened to 20% and -25% limit in 1994 with the authorized fare to be replaced by an indicative or reference
rate as the basis for the expanded fare range.

2. Fare systems for aircon buses are liberalized to cover first class and premier services.

xxx xxx xxx

(Emphasis ours).

Sometime in March, 1994, private respondent PBOAP, availing itself of the deregulation policy of the DOTC allowing provincial
bus operators to collect plus 20% and minus 25% of the prescribed fare without first having filed a petition for the purpose and
without the benefit of a public hearing, announced a fare increase of twenty (20%) percent of the existing fares. Said increased fares
were to be made effective on March 16, 1994.

On March 16, 1994, petitioner KMU filed a petition before the LTFRB opposing the upward adjustment of bus fares.

On March 24, 1994, the LTFRB issued one of the assailed orders dismissing the petition for lack of merit. The dispositive portion
reads:

PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Board after considering the arguments of the parties, hereby DISMISSES FOR
LACK OF MERIT the petition filed in the above-entitled case. This petition in this case was resolved with

42
dispatch at the request of petitioner to enable it to immediately avail of the legal remedies or options it is entitled
under existing laws.

SO ORDERED. 6

Hence, the instant petition for certiorari with an urgent prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order.

The Court, on June 20, 1994, issued a temporary restraining order enjoining, prohibiting and preventing respondents from
implementing the bus fare rate increase as well as the questioned orders and memorandum circulars. This meant that provincial bus
fares were rolled back to the levels duly authorized by the LTFRB prior to March 16, 1994. A moratorium was likewise enforced on
the issuance of franchises for the operation of buses, jeepneys, and taxicabs.

Petitioner KMU anchors its claim on two (2) grounds. First, the authority given by respondent LTFRB to provincial bus operators
to set a fare range of plus or minus fifteen (15%) percent, later increased to plus twenty (20%) and minus twenty-five (-25%)
percent, over and above the existing authorized fare without having to file a petition for the purpose, is unconstitutional, invalid and
illegal. Second, the establishment of a presumption of public need in favor of an applicant for a proposed transport service without
having to prove public necessity, is illegal for being violative of the Public Service Act and the Rules of Court.

In its Comment, private respondent PBOAP, while not actually touching upon the issues raised by the petitioner, questions the
wisdom and the manner by which the instant petition was filed. It asserts that the petitioner has no legal standing to sue or has no
real interest in the case at bench and in obtaining the reliefs prayed for.

In their Comment filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, public respondents DOTC Secretary Jesus B. Garcia, Jr. and the
LTFRB asseverate that the petitioner does not have the standing to maintain the instant suit. They further claim that it is within
DOTC and LTFRB's authority to set a fare range scheme and establish a presumption of public need in applications for certificates
of public convenience.

We find the instant petition impressed with merit.

At the outset, the threshold issue of locus standi must be struck. Petitioner KMU has the standing to sue.

The requirement of locus standi inheres from the definition of judicial power. Section 1 of Article VIII of the Constitution provides:

xxx xxx xxx

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are
legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.

In Lamb v. Phipps, 7 we ruled that judicial power is the power to hear and decide causes pending between parties who have the right to
sue in the courts of law and equity. Corollary to this provision is the principle of locus standi of a party litigant. One who is directly
affected by and whose interest is immediate and substantial in the controversy has the standing to sue. The rule therefore requires that a
party must show a personal stake in the outcome of the case or an injury to himself that can be redressed by a favorable decision so as to
warrant an invocation of the court's jurisdiction and to justify the exercise of the court's remedial powers in his behalf. 8

In the case at bench, petitioner, whose members had suffered and continue to suffer grave and irreparable injury and damage from
the implementation of the questioned memoranda, circulars and/or orders, has shown that it has a clear legal right that was violated
and continues to be violated with the enforcement of the challenged memoranda, circulars and/or orders. KMU members, who avail
of the use of buses, trains and jeepneys everyday, are directly affected by the burdensome cost of arbitrary increase in passenger
fares. They are part of the millions of commuters who comprise the riding public. Certainly, their rights must be protected, not
neglected nor ignored.

Assuming arguendo that petitioner is not possessed of the standing to sue, this court is ready to brush aside this barren procedural
infirmity and recognize the legal standing of the petitioner in view of the transcendental importance of the issues raised. And this
act of liberality is not without judicial precedent. As early as the Emergency Powers Cases, this Court had exercised its discretion

43
and waived the requirement of proper party. In the recent case of Kilosbayan, Inc., et al. v. Teofisto Guingona, Jr., et al., 9 we ruled in
the same lines and enumerated some of the cases where the same policy was adopted, viz:

. . . A party's standing before this Court is a procedural technicality which it may, in the exercise of its discretion,
set aside in view of the importance of the issues raised. In the landmark Emergency Powers Cases, [G.R. No. L-
2044 (Araneta v. Dinglasan); G.R. No. L-2756 (Araneta
v. Angeles); G.R. No. L-3054 (Rodriguez v. Tesorero de Filipinas); G.R. No. L-3055 (Guerrero v. Commissioner
of Customs); and G.R. No. L-3056 (Barredo v. Commission on Elections), 84 Phil. 368 (1949)], this Court
brushed aside this technicality because "the transcendental importance to the public of these cases demands that
they be settled promptly and definitely, brushing aside, if we must, technicalities of procedure. (Avelino vs.
Cuenco, G.R. No. L-2621)." Insofar as taxpayers' suits are concerned, this Court had declared that it "is not devoid
of discretion as to whether or not it should be entertained," (Tan v. Macapagal, 43 SCRA 677, 680 [1972]) or that
it "enjoys an open discretion to entertain the same or not." [Sanidad v. COMELEC, 73 SCRA 333 (1976)].

xxx xxx xxx

In line with the liberal policy of this Court on locus standi, ordinary taxpayers, members of Congress, and even
association of planters, and
non-profit civic organizations were allowed to initiate and prosecute actions before this court to question the
constitutionality or validity of laws, acts, decisions, rulings, or orders of various government agencies or
instrumentalities. Among such cases were those assailing the constitutionality of (a) R.A. No. 3836 insofar as it
allows retirement gratuity and commutation of vacation and sick leave to Senators and Representatives and to
elective officials of both Houses of Congress (Philippine Constitution Association, Inc. v. Gimenez, 15 SCRA 479
[1965]); (b) Executive Order No. 284, issued by President Corazon C. Aquino on 25 July 1987, which allowed
members of the cabinet, their undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries to hold other government offices or
positions (Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, 194 SCRA 317 [1991]); (c) the automatic appropriation
for debt service in the General Appropriations Act (Guingona v. Carague, 196 SCRA 221 [1991]; (d) R.A. No.
7056 on the holding of desynchronized elections (Osmea v. Commission on Elections, 199 SCRA 750 [1991]);
(e) P.D. No. 1869 (the charter of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) on the ground that it is
contrary to morals, public policy, and order (Basco v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., 197 SCRA 52
[1991]); and (f) R.A. No. 6975, establishing the Philippine National Police. (Carpio v. Executive Secretary, 206
SCRA 290 [1992]).

Other cases where we have followed a liberal policy regarding locus standi include those attacking the validity or
legality of (a) an order allowing the importation of rice in the light of the prohibition imposed by R.A. No. 3452
(Iloilo Palay and Corn Planters Association, Inc. v. Feliciano, 13 SCRA 377 [1965]; (b) P.D. Nos. 991 and 1033
insofar as they proposed amendments to the Constitution and P.D. No. 1031 insofar as it directed the COMELEC
to supervise, control, hold, and conduct the referendum-plebiscite on 16 October 1976 (Sanidad v. Commission on
Elections, supra); (c) the bidding for the sale of the 3,179 square meters of land at Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo,
Japan (Laurel v. Garcia, 187 SCRA 797 [1990]); (d) the approval without hearing by the Board of Investments of
the amended application of the Bataan Petrochemical Corporation to transfer the site of its plant from Bataan to
Batangas and the validity of such transfer and the shift of feedstock from naphtha only to naphtha and/or liquefied
petroleum gas (Garcia v. Board of Investments, 177 SCRA 374 [1989]; Garcia v. Board of Investments, 191 SCRA
288 [1990]); (e) the decisions, orders, rulings, and resolutions of the Executive Secretary, Secretary of Finance,
Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Commissioner of Customs, and the Fiscal Incentives Review Board
exempting the National Power Corporation from indirect tax and duties (Maceda v. Macaraig, 197 SCRA 771
[1991]); (f) the orders of the Energy Regulatory Board of 5 and 6 December 1990 on the ground that the hearings
conducted on the second provisional increase in oil prices did not allow the petitioner substantial cross-
examination; (Maceda v. Energy Regulatory Board, 199 SCRA 454 [1991]); (g) Executive Order No. 478 which
levied a special duty of P0.95 per liter of imported oil products (Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 211 SCRA 219
[1992]); (h) resolutions of the Commission on Elections concerning the apportionment, by district, of the number
of elective members of Sanggunians (De Guia vs. Commission on Elections, 208 SCRA 420 [1992]); and (i)
memorandum orders issued by a Mayor affecting the Chief of Police of Pasay City (Pasay Law and Conscience
Union, Inc. v. Cuneta, 101 SCRA 662 [1980]).

In the 1975 case of Aquino v. Commission on Elections (62 SCRA 275 [1975]), this Court, despite its unequivocal
ruling that the petitioners therein had no personality to file the petition, resolved nevertheless to pass upon the
44
issues raised because of the far-reaching implications of the petition. We did no less in De Guia v. COMELEC
(Supra) where, although we declared that De Guia "does not appear to have locus standi, a standing in law, a
personal or substantial interest," we brushed aside the procedural infirmity "considering the importance of the
issue involved, concerning as it does the political exercise of qualified voters affected by the apportionment, and
petitioner alleging abuse of discretion and violation of the Constitution by respondent."

Now on the merits of the case.

On the fare range scheme.

Section 16(c) of the Public Service Act, as amended, reads:

Sec. 16. Proceedings of the Commission, upon notice and hearing. The Commission shall have power, upon
proper notice and hearing in accordance with the rules and provisions of this Act, subject to the limitations and
exceptions mentioned and saving provisions to the contrary:

xxx xxx xxx

(c) To fix and determine individual or joint rates, tolls, charges, classifications, or schedules thereof, as well as
commutation, mileage kilometrage, and other special rates which shall be imposed, observed, and followed
thereafter by any public service: Provided, That the Commission may, in its discretion, approve rates proposed by
public services provisionally and without necessity of any hearing; but it shall call a hearing thereon within thirty
days thereafter, upon publication and notice to the concerns operating in the territory affected: Provided, further,
That in case the public service equipment of an operator is used principally or secondarily for the promotion of a
private business, the net profits of said private business shall be considered in relation with the public service of
such operator for the purpose of fixing the rates. (Emphasis ours).

xxx xxx xxx

Under the foregoing provision, the Legislature delegated to the defunct Public Service Commission the power of fixing the
rates of public services. Respondent LTFRB, the existing regulatory body today, is likewise vested with the same under
Executive Order No. 202 dated June 19, 1987. Section 5(c) of the said executive order authorizes LTFRB "to determine,
prescribe, approve and periodically review and adjust, reasonable fares, rates and other related charges, relative to the
operation of public land transportation services provided by motorized vehicles."

Such delegation of legislative power to an administrative agency is permitted in order to adapt to the increasing complexity of
modern life. As subjects for governmental regulation multiply, so does the difficulty of administering the laws. Hence,
specialization even in legislation has become necessary. Given the task of determining sensitive and delicate matters as
route-fixing and rate-making for the transport sector, the responsible regulatory body is entrusted with the power of subordinate
legislation. With this authority, an administrative body and in this case, the LTFRB, may implement broad policies laid down in a
statute by "filling in" the details which the Legislature may neither have time or competence to provide. However, nowhere under
the aforesaid provisions of law are the regulatory bodies, the PSC and LTFRB alike, authorized to delegate that power to a common
carrier, a transport operator, or other public service.

In the case at bench, the authority given by the LTFRB to the provincial bus operators to set a fare range over and above the
authorized existing fare, is illegal and invalid as it is tantamount to an undue delegation of legislative authority. Potestas delegata
non delegari potest. What has been delegated cannot be delegated. This doctrine is based on the ethical principle that such a
delegated power constitutes not only a right but a duty to be performed by the delegate through the instrumentality of his own
judgment and not through the intervening mind of another. 10 A further delegation of such power would indeed constitute a negation of
the duty in violation of the trust reposed in the delegate mandated to discharge it directly. 11 The policy of allowing the provincial bus
operators to change and increase their fares at will would result not only to a chaotic situation but to an anarchic state of affairs. This
would leave the riding public at the mercy of transport operators who may increase fares every hour, every day, every month or every
year, whenever it pleases them or whenever they deem it "necessary" to do so. In Panay Autobus Co. v. Philippine Railway Co., 12 where
respondent Philippine Railway Co. was granted by the Public Service Commission the authority to change its freight rates at will, this
Court categorically declared that:

45
In our opinion, the Public Service Commission was not authorized by law to delegate to the Philippine Railway
Co. the power of altering its freight rates whenever it should find it necessary to do so in order to meet the
competition of road trucks and autobuses, or to change its freight rates at will, or to regard its present rates as
maximum rates, and to fix lower rates whenever in the opinion of the Philippine Railway Co. it would be to its
advantage to do so.

The mere recital of the language of the application of the Philippine Railway Co. is enough to show that it is
untenable. The Legislature has delegated to the Public Service Commission the power of fixing the rates of public
services, but it has not authorized the Public Service Commission to delegate that power to a common carrier or
other public service. The rates of public services like the Philippine Railway Co. have been approved or fixed by
the Public Service Commission, and any change in such rates must be authorized or approved by the Public
Service Commission after they have been shown to be just and reasonable. The public service may, of course,
propose new rates, as the Philippine Railway Co. did in case No. 31827, but it cannot lawfully make said new
rates effective without the approval of the Public Service Commission, and the Public Service Commission itself
cannot authorize a public service to enforce new rates without the prior approval of said rates by the commission.
The commission must approve new rates when they are submitted to it, if the evidence shows them to be just and
reasonable, otherwise it must disapprove them. Clearly, the commission cannot determine in advance whether or
not the new rates of the Philippine Railway Co. will be just and reasonable, because it does not know what those
rates will be.

In the present case the Philippine Railway Co. in effect asked for permission to change its freight rates at will. It
may change them every day or every hour, whenever it deems it necessary to do so in order to meet competition or
whenever in its opinion it would be to its advantage. Such a procedure would create a most unsatisfactory state of
affairs and largely defeat the purposes of the public service law. 13(Emphasis ours).

One veritable consequence of the deregulation of transport fares is a compounded fare. If transport operators will be authorized to
impose and collect an additional amount equivalent to 20% over and above the authorized fare over a period of time, this will
unduly prejudice a commuter who will be made to pay a fare that has been computed in a manner similar to those of compounded
bank interest rates.

Picture this situation. On December 14, 1990, the LTFRB authorized provincial bus operators to collect a thirty-seven (P0.37)
centavo per kilometer fare for ordinary buses. At the same time, they were allowed to impose and collect a fare range of plus or
minus 15% over the authorized rate. Thus P0.37 centavo per kilometer authorized fare plus P0.05 centavos (which is 15% of P0.37
centavos) is equivalent to P0.42 centavos, the allowed rate in 1990. Supposing the LTFRB grants another five (P0.05) centavo
increase per kilometer in 1994, then, the base or reference for computation would have to be P0.47 centavos (which is P0.42 +
P0.05 centavos). If bus operators will exercise their authority to impose an additional 20% over and above the authorized fare, then
the fare to be collected shall amount to P0.56 (that is, P0.47 authorized LTFRB rate plus 20% of P0.47 which is P0.29). In effect,
commuters will be continuously subjected, not only to a double fare adjustment but to a compounding fare as well. On their part,
transport operators shall enjoy a bigger chunk of the pie. Aside from fare increase applied for, they can still collect an additional
amount by virtue of the authorized fare range. Mathematically, the situation translates into the following:

Year** LTFRB authorized Fare Range Fare to be


rate*** collected per
kilometer

1990 P0.37 15% (P0.05) P0.42


1994 P0.42 + 0.05 = 0.47 20% (P0.09) P0.56
1998 P0.56 + 0.05 = 0.61 20% (P0.12) P0.73
2002 P0.73 + 0.05 = 0.78 20% (P0.16) P0.94

Moreover, rate making or rate fixing is not an easy task. It is a delicate and sensitive government function that requires dexterity of
judgment and sound discretion with the settled goal of arriving at a just and reasonable rate acceptable to both the public utility and
the public. Several factors, in fact, have to be taken into consideration before a balance could be achieved. A rate should not be
confiscatory as would place an operator in a situation where he will continue to operate at a loss. Hence, the rate should enable
public utilities to generate revenues sufficient to cover operational costs and provide reasonable return on the investments. On the

46
other hand, a rate which is too high becomes discriminatory. It is contrary to public interest. A rate, therefore, must be reasonable
and fair and must be affordable to the end user who will utilize the services.

Given the complexity of the nature of the function of rate-fixing and its far-reaching effects on millions of commuters, government
must not relinquish this important function in favor of those who would benefit and profit from the industry. Neither should the
requisite notice and hearing be done away with. The people, represented by reputable oppositors, deserve to be given full
opportunity to be heard in their opposition to any fare increase.

The present administrative procedure, 14 to our mind, already mirrors an orderly and satisfactory arrangement for all parties involved. To
do away with such a procedure and allow just one party, an interested party at that, to determine what the rate should be, will undermine
the right of the other parties to due process. The purpose of a hearing is precisely to determine what a just and reasonable rate
is. 15 Discarding such procedural and constitutional right is certainly inimical to our fundamental law and to public interest.

On the presumption of public need.

A certificate of public convenience (CPC) is an authorization granted by the LTFRB for the operation of land transportation
services for public use as required by law. Pursuant to Section 16(a) of the Public Service Act, as amended, the following
requirements must be met before a CPC may be granted, to wit: (i) the applicant must be a citizen of the Philippines, or a
corporation or co-partnership, association or joint-stock company constituted and organized under the laws of the Philippines, at
least 60 per centum of its stock or paid-up capital must belong entirely to citizens of the Philippines; (ii) the applicant must be
financially capable of undertaking the proposed service and meeting the responsibilities incident to its operation; and (iii) the
applicant must prove that the operation of the public service proposed and the authorization to do business will promote the public
interest in a proper and suitable manner. It is understood that there must be proper notice and hearing before the PSC can exercise
its power to issue a CPC.

While adopting in toto the foregoing requisites for the issuance of a CPC, LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 92-009, Part IV,
provides for yet incongruous and contradictory policy guideline on the issuance of a CPC. The guidelines states:

The issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience is determined by public need. The presumption of public need
for a service shall be deemed in favor of the applicant, while the burden of proving that there is no need for the
proposed service shall be the oppositor's. (Emphasis ours).

The above-quoted provision is entirely incompatible and inconsistent with Section 16(c)(iii) of the Public Service Act which
requires that before a CPC will be issued, the applicant must prove by proper notice and hearing that the operation of the public
service proposed will promote public interest in a proper and suitable manner. On the contrary, the policy guideline states that the
presumption of public need for a public service shall be deemed in favor of the applicant. In case of conflict between a statute and
an administrative order, the former must prevail.

By its terms, public convenience or necessity generally means something fitting or suited to the public need. 16 As one of the basic
requirements for the grant of a CPC, public convenience and necessity exists when the proposed facility or service meets a reasonable
want of the public and supply a need which the existing facilities do not adequately supply. The existence or
non-existence of public convenience and necessity is therefore a question of fact that must be established by evidence, real and/or
testimonial; empirical data; statistics and such other means necessary, in a public hearing conducted for that purpose. The object and
purpose of such procedure, among other things, is to look out for, and protect, the interests of both the public and the existing transport
operators.

Verily, the power of a regulatory body to issue a CPC is founded on the condition that after full-dress hearing and investigation, it
shall find, as a fact, that the proposed operation is for the convenience of the public. 17 Basic convenience is the primary consideration
for which a CPC is issued, and that fact alone must be consistently borne in mind. Also, existing operators in subject routes must be given
an opportunity to offer proof and oppose the application. Therefore, an applicant must, at all times, be required to prove his capacity and
capability to furnish the service which he has undertaken to
render. 18 And all this will be possible only if a public hearing were conducted for that purpose.

Otherwise stated, the establishment of public need in favor of an applicant reverses well-settled and institutionalized judicial, quasi-
judicial and administrative procedures. It allows the party who initiates the proceedings to prove, by mere application, his
affirmative allegations. Moreover, the offending provisions of the LTFRB memorandum circular in question would in effect amend

47
the Rules of Court by adding another disputable presumption in the enumeration of 37 presumptions under Rule 131, Section 5 of
the Rules of Court. Such usurpation of this Court's authority cannot be countenanced as only this Court is mandated by law to
promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure. 19

Deregulation, while it may be ideal in certain situations, may not be ideal at all in our country given the present circumstances.
Advocacy of liberalized franchising and regulatory process is tantamount to an abdication by the government of its inherent right to
exercise police power, that is, the right of government to regulate public utilities for protection of the public and the utilities
themselves.

While we recognize the authority of the DOTC and the LTFRB to issue administrative orders to regulate the transport sector, we
find that they committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing DOTC Department Order No. 92-587 defining the policy framework
on the regulation of transport services and LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 92-009 promulgating the implementing guidelines on
DOTC Department Order No. 92-587, the said administrative issuances being amendatory and violative of the Public Service Act
and the Rules of Court. Consequently, we rule that the twenty (20%) per centum fare increase imposed by respondent PBOAP on
March 16, 1994 without the benefit of a petition and a public hearing is null and void and of no force and effect. No grave abuse of
discretion however was committed in the issuance of DOTC Memorandum Order No. 90-395 and DOTC Memorandum dated
October 8, 1992, the same being merely internal communications between administrative officers.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED and the challenged administrative issuances and
orders, namely: DOTC Department Order No. 92-587, LTFRB Memorandum Circular
No. 92-009, and the order dated March 24, 1994 issued by respondent LTFRB are hereby DECLARED contrary to law and invalid
insofar as they affect provisions therein (a) delegating to provincial bus and jeepney operators the authority to increase or decrease
the duly prescribed transportation fares; and (b) creating a presumption of public need for a service in favor of the applicant for a
certificate of public convenience and placing the burden of proving that there is no need for the proposed service to the oppositor.

The Temporary Restraining Order issued on June 20, 1994 is hereby MADE PERMANENT insofar as it enjoined the bus fare rate
increase granted under the provisions of the aforementioned administrative circulars, memoranda and/or orders declared invalid.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

48