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400 Phil. 776


[ G.R. No. 129189, December 05, 2000 ]




This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the Decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the decision of the trial court dismissing the complaint of petitioner Donato C. Cruz Trading Corp. for lack of sufficient evidence.

On 1 June 1989 private respondent Teresa R. Jalandoni purchased from petitioner Donato C. Cruz Trading Corporation one hundred (100) bags of Urea Viking Ship fertilizer valued at P20,800.00.   However, despite repeated demands, private respondent failed and refused to pay her obligation.  Consequently, on 8 August 1990 petitioner was constrained to file a complaint before the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City to collect from private respondent the amount of her obligation including interests thereon at 14% from June 1, 1989 until fully paid, plus 25% of the  total amount due as and for attorney's fees and liquidated damages.[1]

On 7 November 1990, for failure to file her answer, the trial court declared private respondent in default.  Pursuant thereto, petitioner was allowed to present its evidence ex parte consisting of, among others, the following items:  (a) Order Slip dated 31 May 1989, marked as Exh. "A;" (b) Charge Invoice No. 0453 dated 1 June 1989, marked as Exh. "B;" (c) Demand Letter dated 5 March 1990, marked as Exh. "C;" and, (d) Demand Letter dated 20 July 1990, marked as Exh. "D."[2]

On 14 May 1991, the trial court rendered its decision dismissing petitioner's complaint for lack of sufficient evidence.[3] The trial court noted what it perceived to be defects in certain vital documentary evidence presented by petitioner which justified the dismissal of its complaint.  Pertinent portions of said decision are quoted hereunder:

x x x x  although there are blank spaces to indicate who approved and purchased the described articles in this Order Slip, no names are filled or signed on these spaces except that immediately below  the words, "five (5) tons of Urea, the handwritten name of Ma. Teresa R. Jalandoni has been written which was marked as Exh. "A-1" by plaintiff.  Added to that, another handwritten words, "Payable on June 9th/89" with a purported signature of Manuel Rodriguez and marked Exh. "A-2" was appearing on said space.  The Order Slip which had been marked Exh. "A" did not indicate as to whose form it belongs except that printed space "Charge To," the name of the herein defendant appears on the Charge Invoice (Exh. "B") issued by the plaintiff-corporation.  The name of the defendant as the buyer on credit was handwritten.  The blank spaces for the articles had likewise been handwritten as well as the amount.  At the foot thereof, and on the dotted line under which the word, "Authorized Signature" is printed, a purported signature of a certain M. Clavez appears. Furthermore, at the upper immediate right side of the bottom portion and on top of the printed words, "Signature of Customer or representative", an initial of N.S. and an illegible signature appears.  This, the witness for the plaintiff alleged to be a signature of Manuel Rodriguez.  Going further to examine the Registry Return Card for the demand-letter (Exh. "C-2") addressed to the herein defendant, an illegible signature of the recipient is shown but which was not identified to be that of the defendant.

Correlating this examination to the testimony of Mr. Cruz in behalf of the plaintiff, there has been no convincing evidence shown that Manuel Rodriguez was authorized by herein defendant to receive this purchase in her name x x x x While there may exist a valid unpaid credit account as contended, to impute the indebtedness to the defendant as testified in this ex-parte presentation of evidence, unfortunately, did not satisfy the court even to the extent that the herein defendant did not present any evidence to controvert the same."[4]

The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court.  It reiterated the observation of the lower court that petitioner failed to overcome the burden of proof incumbent upon it in civil cases and to present enough evidence necessary to establish its claim and prove the obligation of private respondent.[5]

Petitioner comes now before us insisting that, contrary to the finding of respondent court, it has adequately established by a preponderance of evidence the liability of private respondent.  To buttress its stance, petitioner makes a recital in its petition of the testimonial and documentary evidence which are enumerated hereunder:

1) On May 31, 1989, the respondent placed an order with petitioner for five (5) tons of Urea fertilizer, as shown in the Order Slip made out in her name marked as Exhibit A, bearing her signature marked as Exhibit A-1, and that of her brother, Manuel Rodriguez, marked as Exhibit A-2. (Pp. 7-11, t.s.n., April 25, 1991).

2) The Order Slip is in the respondent's form. (p. 8, id., id.).

3) The signature of the respondent is familiar to, while the signature of Manuel Rodriguez was made in the presence of, the witness. (p. 11, id., id).

4) On June 1, 1989, the bags of Urea fertilizer valued at P20,000.00[6] were delivered by the petitioner to the respondent through her said brother, Manuel Rodriguez, as shown in Charge Invoice No. 0453 made in her name and marked as Exhibit B and bearing the signature of Manuel Rodriguez marked as Exhibit B-1. (Pp. 11-14, id., id.).

5) Manuel Rodriguez is the brother of the respondent (pp. 9-10, id., id.), and he was the one requested by the said respondent to withdraw (p. 10, id., id.) and was the one who withdrew the 100 bags of Urea fertilizer  (pp. 11 and 16, id., id.).

6) The witness made Manuel Rodriguez sign the Charge Invoice when he withdrew the 100 bags of fertilizer. (p. 15, id., id.).

7) The respondent failed to pay the value of the respondent. (P. 16, id., id.).

8) The petitioner made telephone calls to the respondent for payment of several occasions and she always promised to pay but failed to pay. (Id., id., id.).

9) On March 5, 1990 and July 20, 1990 demands were made by the petitioner to the respondent for the payment of the value of the fertilizer purchased by the respondent as shown in the demand letters sent by the petitioner's counsel to her marked as Exhibits C and D by registered  mail as shown by registry receipts marked as Exhibits C-1 and D-1. (Pp. 16-23, id., id.).

10) The respondent received the demand letter dated March 5, 1990 (Exhibit C) as shown by registry receipt marked and presented as Exhibit C-2. (Pp. 19-20, id., id.).

11) Despite the letters of demand, the respondent failed to pay for the 100 bags of Urea fertilizer she purchased from the petitioner (p. 23, id., id.).[7]

The sole issue is whether petitioner by the weight of its evidence has sufficiently established the liability of private respondent to convince this Court to grant the relief it seeks.

As a general rule the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are final and conclusive and cannot be reviewed on appeal to the Supreme Court provided they are amply supported by substantial evidence.  Such rule however is not absolute but is subject to well-established exceptions such as when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked relevant evidence which if considered would probably change the outcome of the case.  We hold that this case falls under such exception.

The decision of the trial court as subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals was premised on the supposed failure of the documentary evidence, particularly the order slip, charge invoice and registry return card for the demand letter, to either supply material particulars which could establish the identity of the purchaser of the one hundred (100) bags of fertilizer, or the signatures affixed therein were unintelligible which cast cloud on the identity of the signatory.  For the trial court, this constituted insufficiency of evidence.

We do not agree.  Respondent appellate court appears to have overlooked the fact that business forms, e.g., order slip, delivery charge invoice and the like, which are issued by the seller in the ordinary course of business are not always fully accomplished to contain all the necessary information describing in detail the whole business transaction.  In most cases the sales clerk merely indicates a description and the price of each item sold without bothering to fill up all the available spaces in the receipt or invoice.  More often than not they are accomplished perfunctorily without proper regard to any legal repercussion for such neglect.  Despite their being often incomplete, said business forms are commonly recognized in ordinary commercial transactions as valid between the parties and at the very least they serve as an acknowledgment that a business transaction has in fact transpired.  Oftentimes these forms are issued by laymen who, not fully appreciating their legal signification, prepare them in a slipshod manner.  This fact takes more relevance in this case where private respondent and her husband were long-time clients of petitioner.  In the light of the foregoing we are not inclined to give the forms in question the same standard of construction as formal documents where the contents are more closely scrutinized and every  provision strictly interpreted.

We are not saying that the order slip and the charge invoice are mere scraps of paper bereft of evidentiary value.  By themselves these disputed documents may be inadequate to establish the case for petitioner.  However their probative weight must be evaluated not in isolation but in conjunction with the other evidence adduced by petitioner, such as the testimony of Donato Cruz, proprietor of petitioner corporation, and the demand letters.  Donato Cruz testified that on several occasions he called on private respondent demanding payment of the value of the bags of fertilizer she purchased. Despite her promises, she never performed her monetary obligation.  We believe that the verbal demands coupled with the demand letters (marked as Exh. "C") cannot be ignored in view of the fact that they were never rebutted nor denied. Neither can we take lightly the testimony of the same witness who averred that he was familiar with the signature of private respondent who  apparently was a long-time client, and that the signature of Manuel Rodriguez was affixed in his presence.  Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals proffered no reason for disbelieving the aforementioned testimonies.

What is equally telling is the seemingly obdurate resolve by private respondent to altogether disregard the judicial processes as shown in the following instances:  (a) private respondent's refusal to sign the summons as shown by the sheriff's return of service dated 6 September 1990;[8] (b) her failure to file an answer to the complaint for which reason the lower court declared her in default; (c) her repeated failure to file a comment on the petition for review which prompted this Court, through the First Division, to issue several resolutions ordering her to submit the same.  She complied only after the Court declared her guilty of contempt and threatened her with arrest and imprisonment.

This Court cannot countenance the contumacious conduct of private respondent in trifling with the mandatory processes of the courts. She repeatedly failed to comply with the order of this Court to file her comment and was prevailed upon to do so only after her liberty was threatened.  There is no question that for continuously disobeying the lawful orders of the Court private respondent committed indirect contempt which this Court strongly condemns for it degrades our dignity, wastes our time and abuses the administration of justice.

Lastly, we note that the comment filed by private respondent, after protractedly defying this Court, failed to raise any defense but merely parroted the arguments of the lower court and for good measure invoked the general principle that in appeal by certiorari "only questions of law may be raised."[9] Not making any categorical denial of  her liability,  private  respondent instead sought refuge in the "haven" of the lower court's findings.  We discern a patent design by private respondent to feign ignorance of petitioner's allegations perhaps in the false hope that like a bad dream it would just fade away.  Such scheme does not sit well with this Court. Seen in the light of her obstinate refusal to give a satisfactory answer to the complaint despite many opportunities to do so, we can only interpret her conduct as a feeble attempt to evade the fulfillment of a just and valid monetary obligation.  We cannot give her the satisfaction of a victory.

In view of the foregoing, it is our considered opinion that petitioner has adduced sufficient amount of evidence to establish its claim and to substantiate and fix the liability of private respondent.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED.  The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 27 October 1995 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.  Private respondent Teresa R. Jalandoni is ordered to pay petitioner Donato C. Cruz Trading Corporation the amount of P20,800.00 plus interest thereon at 14% per annum from 1 June 1989 until fully paid.  She is likewise ordered to pay 25% of the total amount due as and for attorney's fees and liquidated damages, and to pay the costs.


Mendoza, Quisumbing, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, p. 15.

[2] Original Records, p. 8.

[3] Decision penned by Judge Bethel Katalbas-Moscardon, RTC-Br. 51, Bacolod City.

[4] Rollo, p. 57.

[5] Decision penned by Associate Justice Eubulo G. Verzola and concurred in by Associate Justices Salvador J. Valdez  and Oswaldo D. Agcaoili.

[6] The amount stated in the Complaint is P20,800.00;  see Rollo, p. 15.

[7] Rollo, pp. 8-9.

[8] Original Records, p. 7.

[9] Rollo, p. 144.

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