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CASE 2017-0041: TOMAS R. LEONIDAS VS. TANCREDO VARGAS AND REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (G.R. NO. 201031, 14 DEC 2017, DEL CASTILLO, J.) (SUBJECT/S: LAND REGISTRATION; TAX DECLARATION ONLY CORROBORATIVE PROOF OF POSSESSION; IRREGULAR LAND TAX PAYMENTS DO NOT PROVE CLAIM OF POSSESSION OR OWNERSHIP) (BRIEF TITLE: LEONIDAS VS. VARGAS ET AL).

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

“WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED. We AFFlRM with MODIFICATION  the August 13, 2009 Decision and the February 22, 2012 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 02296 in that the award by the Regional Trial Court of Barotac Viejo, Hoilo, Branch 66 in LRC Case No. 02~ 195 of Lot No. 1677 with aP.. area of 2.3642 hectares and Lot No. 566 with an area of 1.1 782 hectares, both in ‘favor of Respondent Tancredo Vargas, is OVERTURNED and NULLIFIED.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

 HOW IS TAX DECLARATIONS CONSIDERED IN LAND CASES?

 

TAX DECLARATIONS ARE MERELY CORROBORATIVE OF A PERSON’S CLAIM OF POSSESSION.

 

HOW ABOUT IRREGULAR TAX PAYMENTS?

 

THEY DO NOT REALLY PROVIDE STRONG SUPPORT FOR A CLAIM OF OWNERSHIP OR POSSESSION.

 

 It would thus appear that Tancredo had erected his opposition/claim to the lots in question upon the said photocopies of four tax declarations whose authenticity or genuineness is open to the most serious doubts. And, even on the assumption that the said tax declarations are in fact authentic and genuine, still it is settled that tax declarations are not conclusive proof of ownership. If anything, tax declarations are merely corroborative of a person’s claim of possession. More than that, as elsewhere indicated, intermittent and irregular tax payments, as in this case, do not really provide  strong support for a claim of ownership or possession.

 

WHAT IS THE POLICY OF THE STATE IN CONNECTION WITH ALIENABLE PUBLIC LANDS?

 

TO ENCOURAGE AND PROMOTE THE DISTRIBUTION OF ALIENABLE PUBLIC LANDS TO SPUR ECONOMIC GROWTH BUT SAFEGUARDS ARE IMPOSED LEST SUCH LANDS FALL INTO WRONG HANDS TO THE PREJUDICE OF THE NATIONAL PATRIMONY.

 

It is axiomatic of course that “[i]t is the policy of the State to encourage and promote the distribution of alienable public lands as a spur to economic growth and in line with the social justice ideal enshrined in the Constitution. At the same time, the law imposes stringent safeguards upon the grant of such resources lest they fall into the wrong hands to the prejudice of the national patrimony.”63 This ruling controls the present case.

  

TO READ THE DECISION, JUST CLICK/DOWNLOAD THE FILE BELOW.

 

SCD-2017-0041-TOMAS R. LEONIDAS VS. TANCREDO VARGAS AND REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

 

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CASE 2017-0040: EXPEDITION CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION ET AL VS ALEXANDER M. AFRICA ET AL. (G.R. NO. 228671, 14 DEC 2017, DEL CASTILLO, J.) (SUBJECT/S: FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE EVEN WITHOUT ILLEGAL DISMISSAL) (BRIEF TITLE: EXPEDITION CONSTRUCTION VS AFRICA ET AL)

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

 “WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is PARTLY GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated March 3 l, 2016 and Resolution dated December 9, 2016 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 142007 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that the awards of reinstatement, back wages, attorney’s fees and.legal interest are DELETED there being no illegal dismissal. The award of separation pay, as a form of financial assistance, in the National Labor Relations Commission’s Resolution dated April 30, 2015 is REINSTATED.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

 SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

THERE IS NO FINDING OF ILLEGAL DISMISSAL. IS AWARD OF SEPARATION PAY/FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE STILL PROPER?

 

YES AS A MEASURE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE UNDER EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

“As a measure of social justice, the award of separation pay/financial assistance has been upheld in some cases 40 even if there is no finding of illegal dismissal. The Court, in Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Sedan,41 had this to say:

 

x x x We are not unmindful of the rule that financial assistance is allowed only in instances where the employee is validly dismisse<l for causes other than serious misconduct or those reflecting on his moral character. Neither are we unmindful of this Court’s pronouncements in Arc~Men Food Industries Corporation v. NLRC, and Lemery Savings and Loan Bank v. NLRC, where the Court ruled that when there is no dismissal to spe~1k of, an award of financial assistance is not in order.

 

But we must stress that this Court did allow, in several instances, the grant of financial assistance. In the words of Justice Sabino de Leon, Jr., now deceased, financial assistance may be allowed as a measure of social justice [under] exceptional circumstances, and as an equitable concession. The instant case equally calls for balancing the interests of the employer with those of the worker, if only to approximate what Justice Laurel calls justice in its secular sense.

 

In a Manifestation42 submitted before the CA, Expedition expressed willingness to extend gratuitous assistance to respondents and to pay them the amounts equivalent to the separation pay awarded to each respondent in the April 30, 2015 NLRC Resolution. ln view of this and taking into account respondents’ long years of service ranging from four to 1 5 years, the Court finds that the grant of separation pay at the rate of one-half (Yi) month’s salary for every year of service, as adjudged in the April 30, 2015 Resolution of the NLRC, is proper.”

  

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SCD-2017-0040-EXPEDITION CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION ET AL VS ALEXANDER M. AFRICA ET AL.

 

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CASE 2017-0039: OPHELIA HERNAN, Petitioner, VS. THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN, RESPONDENT (G.R. NO. 217874, 05 DEC 2017,  PERALTA, J.) (WHEN FINAL JUDGMENT CAN STILL BE MODIFIED) (BRIEF TITLE: HERNAN VS. PEOPLE)

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is DENIED. The Resolution dated February 2, 2015 and Decision dated November 13, 2009 of the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six ( 6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum term, to three (3) years, six (6) months, and twenty (20) days prision correccional, as maximum term.

 

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator ( OCA) for dissemination to the First and Second Level courts, and also to the Presiding Justices of the appellate courts, the Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General, Public Attorney’s Office, Prosecutor General’s Office, the Directors of the National Penitentiary and Correctional Institution for Women, and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for their information, guidance, and appropriate action.

 

Likewise, let the Office of the President, the Senate of the Philippines, and the House of Representatives, be furnished copies of this Decision for their information.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

THE GENERAL RULE IS THAT A JUDGMENT THAT HAS ACQUIRED FINALITY BECOMES IMMUTABLE AND UNALTERABLE, AND MAY NO LONGER BE MODIFIED IN ANY RESPECT EVEN IF THE MODIFICATION IS MEANT TO CORRECT ERRONEOUS CONCLUSIONS OF FACT OR LAW AND WHETHER IT WILL BE MADE BY THE COURT THAT RENDERED IT OR BY THE HIGHEST COURT OF THE LAND.

 

IS THERE AN EXCEPTION?


YES, THERE IS AN EXCEPTION:  WHEN, HOWEVER, CIRCUMSTANCES TRANSPIRE AFTER THE FINALITY OF THE DECISION RENDERING ITS EXECUTION UNJUST AND INEQUITABLE, THE COURT MAY SIT EN BANE AND GIVE DUE REGARD TO SUCH EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCE WARRANTING THE RELAXATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF IMMUTABILITY.

 

“The foregoing notwithstanding, the Court finds that it is still necessary to reopen the instant case and recall the Entry of Judgment dated June 26, 2013 of the Sandiganbayan, not for further reception of evidence, however, as petitioner prays for, but in order to modify the penalty imposed by said court. The general rule is that a judgment that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it will be made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land. 54 When, however, circumstances transpire after the finality of the decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable, the Court may sit en bane and give due regard to such exceptional circumstance warranting the relaxation of the doctrine of immutability. The same is in line with Section 3(c),55 Rule II of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Comi, which provides that cases raising novel questions of law are acted upon by the Court en bane. To the Court, the recent passage of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10951 entitled An Act Adjusting the Amount or the Value of Property and Damage on which a Penalty is Based and the Fines Imposed Under the Revised Penal Code Amending for the Purpose Act No. 3815 Otherwise Known as the “Revised Penal Code” as Amended which accordingly reduced the penalty applicable to the crime charged herein is an example of such exceptional circumstance. . .”

 

R.A. NO. 10951, THEN NEWLY PASSED, ENTITLED AN ACT ADJUSTED THE AMOUNT OR THE VALUE OF PROPERTY AND DAMAGE ON WHICH A PENALTY IS BASED AND THE FINES IMPOSED. WILL THIS APPLY TO PETITIONER?

 

YES. THUS FINAL JUDGMENT MUST BE MODIFIED.

 

 

“Thus, in order to effectively avoid any injustice that petitioner may suffer as well as a possible multiplicity of suits arising therefrom, the Court deems it proper to reopen the instant case and recall the Entry of Judgment dated June 26, 2013 of the Sandiganbayan, which imposed the penalty of six ( 6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to eleven (11) years, six (6) months, and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum. Instead, since the amount involved herein is Pl 1,300.00, which does not exceed !!40,000.00, the new penalty that should be imposed is prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, which has a prison term of two (2) years, four (4) months, and one (1) day, to six (6) years. The Court, however, takes note of the presence of the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender appreciated by the Sandiganbayan in favor of petitioner.60 Hence, taking into consideration the absence of any aggravating circumstance and the presence of one ( 1) mitigating circumstance, the range of the penalty that must be imposed as the maximum term should be prision correccional medium to prision correccional maximum in its minimum period, or from two (2) years, four ( 4) months, and one (1) day, to three (3) years, six (6) months, and twenty (20) days, in accordance with Article 6461 of the RPC. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the range of the minimum term that should be imposed upon petitioners is anywhere within the period of arresto mayor, maximum to prision correccional minimum with a range of four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months. Accordingly, petitioner is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six ( 6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three (3) years, six (6) months, and twenty (20) days prision correccional, as maximum.”

 

TO READ THE DECISION, JUST CLICK/DOWNLOAD THE FILE BELOW.

 

SCD-2017-0039-PHELIA HERNAN VS. SANDIGANBAYAN – G.R. NO. 217874. DECEMBER 5, 2017

 

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