163. Gomez v Gomez-Samson
Gomez v. Gomez-Samson Feb. 6, 2007 Chico-Nazario, J. Recit-Ready Version: Augusto Gomez assailed the alleged deeds of donation inter vivos made by his aunt Consuelo in favor of his cousins Rita and Jesus, claiming that the same were made by intercalating the deeds onto blank pieces of paper onto which Consuelo affixed her signature. Despite presenting various witnesses, Augusto could not prove that such was the case. The trial court and CA awarded moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees, to Rita and Jesus on alleged bad faith in filing the case by Augusto. The SC did not find such bad faith, and reasoned that Augusto only meant to prove his case with zeal. Thus, he was not entitled to moral damages. If he was not entitled to moral damages, or any of compensatory, temperate or nominal damages, he was likewise not entitled to exemplary damages. Not having filed the case in bad faith, he was also not liable for attorney’s fees. Facts: Chico-Nazario begins her ponencia by asking “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This case, having nothing to do with chickens or eggs, does not resolve that question. Augusto Gomez, claimed that his aunt Consuelo owned 2 parcels of land in Marikina and 1 parcel in Pasig, and that after her death, Rita and Jesus Gomez, his cousins, fraudulently prepared a Deed on donation inter vivos donating to themselves the said parcels of land. In another case, Augusto also alleged that his cousins Rita and Jesus, using the same modus operandi prepared a deed of donation donating to themselves 75 shares in V-Tri Realty, 11, 853 shares of stock of First Philippine Holdings, Jewelry and Collector’s items in Consuelo’s safety deposit box at PCI Bank, Marikina, a 1978 Mercedes Benz 200, a 1979 Toyota Corona and P200,000 on money market placement with BA finance as per a promissory note. Augusto thus filed 2 complaints praying to nullify the donations, and the TCTs be reconveyed to the estate of Consuelo Gomez. The RTC dismissed the complaints. CA affirmed. MR denied. Thus, this review on certiorari. Issues:
1. WON the not the instant petition presents several exceptions to the general rule that an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 may only raise questions of law and that factual findings of the Court of Appeals are binding on this Honorable Court; 2. WON the Court of Appeals’ Decision is based on a misapprehension of facts and on inferences that are manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; 3. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred in its finding of fact that Consuelo Gomez herself paid the donor’s tax of the properties subject of the donation on 09 October 1979 when the evidence on record point to the contrary; 4. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred in giving credence to the testimony of former judge Jose Sebastian, the Notary Public who notarized the assailed Deeds of Donation; 5. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred in dismissing the irregularities apparent on the face of the assailed Deeds of Donation as mere lapses of a non-lawyer who prepared them; 6. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred in totally disregarding the very unusual circumstances relative to the alleged totally execution and notarization of the assailed Deeds of Donation; 7. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred and is manifestly mistaken in inferring that respondents were able to sufficiently and substantially explain the reason for the belated transfer of the pertinent properties covered by the assailed Deeds of Donation 8. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred and is manifestly mistaken in not giving due weight to the expert opinion of the NBI representative, which the lower court itself sought 9. WON the Court of Appeals seriously erred in not finding that the totality of circumstantial evidence presented by petitioner produced a single network of circumstances establishing the simulation and falsification of the assailed Deeds of Donation. Summarizing the shotgun issues presented by Augusto’s counsel, the SC only resolved the ff. core issue: WON Augusto was able to prove that the Deeds of Donation were merely intercalated into two sheets of paper signed by Consuelo Gomez. (No.) If you want to study evidence in advance, I’ll digest this in full in a separate digest. However, suffice it to say that the only evidence that Augusto presented was the testimony of his witnesses. The first one testified that an analysis of the deeds showed that they were prepared at the same time, and Consuelo’s signature appeared to have been affixed on top of the ink. The second one testified that just because a legal document was prepared on short bond instead of legal size is not a
ground for considering it forged. Lastly, the notary public who notarized and recorded the donations was proven to be credible. But REALLY, the only topic here related to Damages is WON Augusto was liable for damages. (No) Ratio: The trial court held Augusto Gomez and the estate of Consuelo jointly and solidarily liable for moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees. It found that the plaintiff was so desperate for evidence to press his charges that he repeatedly subpoenaed the defendants themselves, at the risk of presenting evidence contradictory to his legal position, and which actually happened, when plaintiff subpoenaed Ariston Gomez Jr., Ariston Gomez Sr., and Maria Rita GomezSamson, as his witnesses. The TC found Augusto motivated by a desire to cause injury to the defendants and to appropriate for himself the rest of the Gomez brothers and nephews, aside from the donees, properties which were validly disposed of by Consuelo. The SC disagreed. Rita and Jesus never assailed Augusto’s evidence, and merely presented their own evidence to support their assertions. While the evidence did not sufficiently show that the documents were forged, it was sufficient to convince the Court that the case was instituted in good faith. The subpoenas merely demonstrate the zealous effort of Augusto’s counsel to represent its client, which cannot be taken against the counsel or Augusto. While the burden of proof regarding the alleged intercalation lies with Augusto, such burden as regards damages lies with Rita and Jesus. They failed to show Augusto’s bad faith in instituting the case. Augusto cannot thus be held liable for moral damages. In the absence of moral damages, no exemplary damages can be granted, as exemplary damages are allowed only in addition to moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages. Attorney’s fees should also be deleted, as they are only supposed to be the consequence of a clearly unfounded civil action or proceeding by a plaintiff. Petition Denied. CA decision affirmed, with the modification that the liability for damages is deleted.