G.R. No. 232116. July 31, 2017


Challenged in this present Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court are the Decision[1] dated June 27, 2016 and the Resolution[2] dated April 19, 2017 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 03609-MIN. The assailed CA Decision affirmed the Resolution dated February 13, 2014 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City, Branch 16, in SP. PROC. No. 10,916-10, which denied petitioner Carolina T. Cabahug's Petition for the Cancellation of the Certificate of Live Birth[3] of private respondent Cyndee Tarona Cabahug, while the questioned CA Resolution denied petitioner's subsequent Motion for Reconsideration.

The antecedents are:

Per private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth,[4] her parents are Constantino Cabahug (Constantino) and Hermelina Tarona Cabahug (Hermelina). After Hermelina died[5] on February 26, 1992, Constantino remarried to petitioner on May 10, 1995. Several years, thereafter, or on June 14, 2006, Constantino died.[6] Thereupon, claiming to be the surviving spouse and the sole heir of Constantino, petitioner executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication over the estate of the former. But, private respondent, in her capacity as the legitimate daughter and the only child of Constantino with his first wife, Hermelina, executed an Affidavit of Adverse Claim[7] on October 14, 2009. In view thereof, petitioner instituted a Petition for the Cancellation of the Certificate of Live Birth of private respondent alleging, among others:
  1. That the first wife of [Constantino] was [HERMELINA], who died on February 26, 1992 in Ibabao, Mandaue City, Cebu;
  2. That during the lifetime of spouses [Constantino and Hermelina], they did not bear any child, nor they legally adopted any child;
  3. That [herein private respondent], who in her CERTIFICATE OF LIVE BIRTH, x x x, appears to be the daughter of Constantino and Hermelina, is not the true and biological daughter of spouses [Constantino and Hermelina];
  4. That her true and biological mother is one CHRISTY AGUILAR, a former co-employee of Hermelina's sister named Adette, believed to be presently residing in Cebu City, who was still unmarried at the time she gave birth to her on September 20, 1977 in San Pedro Hospital, Davao City. 8 (Emphases in the original.)
In support thereof, petitioner presented several pieces of documentary evidence, among others: (1) Affidavit of Settlement of [Hermelina's] Estate 9 dated August 29, 2001 executed by Constantino where he categorically declared that "x x x neither has she left any ascendants or descendants or any other heirs entitled to succeed to her estate, except the herein affiant who is her husband;"[10] (2) Constantino's handwritten letter dated November 22, 1994[11] addressed to private respondent where the former disclosed to the latter that she is not their (Constantino and Hermelina) daughter; (3) Constantino's handwritten letter dated November 24, 1994 addressed to petitioner where he gave her a copy of his letter to private respondent regarding the latter's real identity; (4) Constantino's handwritten letter dated July 28, 1995[12] addressed to petitioner where the former, once again, mentioned about private respondent's real identity; (5) Constantino's typewritten letter dated August 31, 1995 addressed to a certain Efren and Baby revealing private respondent's identity; (6) Constantino's typewritten letter dated October 1, 1995 12 addressed to private respondent mentioning the latter's plan to go to Cebu to look for her biological mother; (7) Constantino's typewritten letter dated October 7, 1995[13] addressed to Adette stating about private respondent's attempt to go to Cebu to look for her biological mother; (8) private respondent's handwritten letter to Constantino where the latter expressed, among other things, about "Mommy Cristy" and that the family of Cristy also has her baby pictures; (9) Amalia Te's Affidavit and Judicial Affidavit narrating that "sometime in June 2006, I had talked to Dra. Cabahug by phone when I asked Dra. Cabahug if [herein private respondent] has legal adoption papers, for which Dra. Cabahug answered that there was none because her birth was directly registered as daughter of spouses [Constantino and Hermelina], that she (Dra. Cabahug) was the one who performed pre-natal check-ups on [private respondent's] mother Cristy Aguilar" (10) Joveniana Sumayan's Affidavit and Judicial Affidavit stating that "during the lifetime of [Constantino] and for several occasions, I had personal conversations with him and his wife [herein petitioner], and [Constantino] personally told me that [private respondent] is not his real and biological daughter with his first wife [Hermelina], but of a certain Cristy Aguilar from Cebu City who was brought here in Davao City by Hermelina's sister named Adette x x x;" (11) Constantino's letter dated August 11, 1995[14] addressed to petitioner expressing that their last recourse is to return private respondent to her real mother; and (12) Constantino's letter dated December 15, 1995 addressed to petitioner with a copy of the Christmas card and letter from Adette to Constantino, which stated in part Remember the happy days when [private respondent] was still a baby and your wish that she really came from you and Mama Melly because she was a beautiful child until she started her teenage personality conflict. Well, she is already past 18 years and we have to give her this last chance as what we have promised Cristie when we tried to convince her to give you her baby — that she will be given a good future — you, Mama Mellie and me made that promise. If you were her real father, would you really give up caring for her?"[15]

In response thereto, private respondent, in her Comment/Opposition, insisted that she is Constantino and Hermelina's daughter; that Constantino's statement in his Affidavit of Settlement of [Hermelina's] Estate is not a declaration that she was never recognized as a daughter; that it was her who was deprived of her share in her father's estate considering that petitioner executed an Affidavit of Self-Adjudication and, thereafter, successfully transferred in her name a real property bought during the marriage of Constantino and Hermelina.[16]

After taking into consideration the parties' arguments and evidence, the trial court ruled in favor of private respondent and against petitioner. It held that the latter failed to sufficiently establish that the former's Certificate of Live Birth was falsified or simulated. It also found petitioner's allegations as self-serving.[17]

On appeal, the CA, in its now assailed Decision dated June 27, 2016, affirmed the trial court's ruling. It explained that the pieces of evidence presented by petitioner to prove that private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth is fictitious or simulated were all private documents, mostly letters, whose due execution and authenticity were not proven as no witness ever testified that he/she saw the maker write those letters. There is also no testimony as regards the genuineness of the handwriting and the signature thereof. Notably, petitioner mentioned four persons in her Petition who would surely have personal knowledge on the alleged simulation of private respondent's birth certificate, namely: Constantino, Hermelina, Adette (Constantino's sister-in-law), and Cristy (alleged biological mother of private respondent). Nonetheless, none of these individuals testified before the trial court, thus, reducing petitioner's evidence, particularly the letters, to a mere hearsay. With that, they cannot be considered as proofs of the truth of the statements made therein. And, while it is true that Constantino and Hermelina were already dead, petitioner could have requested the trial court to compel the attendance of other persons who have personal knowledge on the fact in issue, but this she failed to do. Further, petitioner, who has the burden of proof, did not present any hospital record or the lack thereof of the fact that Hermelina gave birth to a child nor any testimonial evidence on the latter's pregnancy or the lack thereof. Given the foregoing, petitioner's pieces of evidence were not enough to defeat the presumption accorded to a public document, like private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth.[18] Petitioner sought reconsideration but was denied for lack of merit in the now questioned Resolution dated April 19, 2017.

Hence, this certiorari petition ascribing grave abuse of discretion on the part of the CA in denying petitioner's appeal and affirming the trial court's ruling. Petitioner now submits these issues for resolution: (1) whether or not petitioner's testimonial and documentary evidence are sufficient to prove that private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth is fictitious and simulated; and (2) whether or not the numerous handwritten and typewritten letters of petitioner's deceased husband, Constantino, handwritten letter of private respondent, and handwritten letter of Adette (Hermelina's sister) in a Christmas card, are sufficient to prove private respondent's real identity.[19]

This Court resolves to DISMISS the Petition outright for being an improper remedy. The proper action is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 and not a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65. At any rate, the court a quo did not commit any reversible error.

Certiorari is not a remedy for correcting errors of fact or law, but was created for the purpose of protecting interested parties from acts which judges or courts, without jurisdiction or acting in excess thereof as granted by the law, may commit.[20] It cannot be used for any other purpose, as its function is limited to keeping the inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction.[21] The rationale thereof is that, when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. Otherwise, every mistake made by a court will deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment will be a void judgment. When the court has jurisdiction, any mistake it committed in the application of the law and the appreciation of evidence[22] will amount to nothing more than an error of judgment reviewable and may be corrected by a timely appeal[23] and not by certiorari. Further, for certiorari to prosper, petitioner must not only prove that the tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or gwosv-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, she must also show that she has no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law against what she perceives to be a legitimate grievance.

Here, the CA sustained the trial court's findings that petitioner's evidence is insufficient to declare private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth as fictitious or simulated. Granting that this is an erroneous determination, the mistake does not amount to an error of jurisdiction but of judgment, thus, not correctible by certiorari but by an appeal to this Court by way of a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45. Likewise, appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 is the plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to petitioner. Given the foregoing, petitioner's resort to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari under Rule 65 cannot prosper. The remedies of appeal in the ordinary course of law and that of certiorari under Rule 65 are mutually exclusive and not alternative or cumulative.[24]

Besides, certiorari is not and cannot be made a substitute for a lapsed or lost appeal.[25] It is true that, in the past, this Court has treated a Petition for Certiorari as a Petition for Review on Certiorari, particularly (1) if the Petition for Certiorari was filed within the reglementary period within which to file a Petition for Review on Certiorari; (2) when errors of judgment are averred; and (3) when there is sufficient reason to justify the relaxation of the rules.[26] But, this Court cannot do so in this case. Here, petitioner received the CA Resolution dated April 19, 2017 denying her Motion for Reconsideration on April 27, 2017. Under the rules,[27] petitioner , had until May 12, 2017 to file an appeal by way of a Petition for Review in this Court. Petitioner could have even filed a motion for a 30-day extension of time, which this Court grants for justifiable reasons. But all of these, she failed to do, thus, the assailed CA Decision and Resolution became final and executor and could no longer be the subject of an appeal.[28] An appeal is a mere statutory right to be exercised in the manner and according to procedures laid down by law, and its timely perfection within the statutory period is mandatory and jurisdictional.[29]

Even brushing aside the procedural flaw in this Petition, this Court finds the thesis advanced by petitioner to be bereft of merit.

Firstly, petitioner failed to substantiate her claim of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the CA in rendering its questioned Decision and Resolution. Secondly, the issues raised herein are factual, which are clearly beyond the ambit of a special civil action for certiorari and even of an appeal by certiorari. Lastly, the CA correctly affirmed the trial court's ruling denying petitioner's Petition for the Cancellation of the Certificate of Live Birth of private respondent for insufficiency of evidence. As a public document, a registered certificate of live birth enjoys the presumption of validity. Thus, the burden to prove that the facts stated in private respondent's Certificate of Live Birth are false rests upon the petitioner, which she miserably failed to do.

WHEREFORE, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the CA, the instant Petition is DISMISSED. The Decision and the Resolution dated June 27, 2016 and April 19, 2017, respectively, of the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 03609-MIN are AFFIRMED.


[1] Rollo, pp. 20-32. Penned by Associate Justice Perpetua T. Atal-Pano with Associate Justices Edgardo A. Camello and Oscar V. Badelles, concurring.

[2] Id. at 35-37.

[3] Id. at 77-81.

[4] Id. at 43.

[5] Per his Certificate of Death, id. at 41.

[6] Per her Certificate of Death, id. at 42. Per his Certii

[7] Id. at 71-72.

[8] Id. at 78.

[9] Id. at 69-70.

[10] Id. at 69.

[11] Id. at 44-48.

[12] Id. at 51-52.

[13] Id. at 49-50.

[14] Id. at 57-59.

[15] Id. at 22-25.

[16] Id. at 25.

[17] Id.

[18] Id. at 30-31.

[19] Id. at 9-10.

[20] Ello v. Judge of First Instance of Antique, G.R. No. L-26802, July 23, 1926. 21

[21] Tagle v. Equitable PCI Bank, G.R. No. 172299, April 22, 2008, 552 SCRA 424.

[22] Candelaria v. Regional Trial Court, Branch 42, City of San Fernando, G.R. No. 173861, July 14, 2014, 730SCRA 1.

[23] Rigor v. Tenth Division of the Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 167400, June 30, 2006, 494 SCRA 375.

[24] Tagle v. Equitable PCI Bank, supra note 21.

[25] Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., G.R. No. 171626, August 6, 2014, 732 SCRA 132.

[26] Tagle v. Equitable PCI Bank, supra note 21.

[27] Section 2, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, provides: The petition shall be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of the petitioner's motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment. On motion duly filed and served, with full payment of the docket and other lawful fees and the deposit for costs before the expiration of the reglementary period, the Supreme Court may for justifiable reasons grant an extension of thirty (30) days only within which to file the petition.

[28] Olongapo City v. Subic Water and Sewerage Co., Inc., supra note 24.

[29] Rigor v. Tenth Division of the Court of Appeals, supra note 20.