Only questions of law via Rule 45 petition; exceptions

In the case of UCPB v. Spouses Uy (G.R. No. 204039, January 10, 2018), UCPB did not contest the Court of Appeals' conclusion that it is jointly liable with PPGI to the unit owners of Kiener Hills. It, however, assails that the CA erred in computing its actual liability because it was only bound to refund the amount it had actually received. Meanwhile, respondents Uy contest that the resolution of the correct amount of UCPB's liability is a question of fact, which is beyond the ambit of a petition for review under Rule 45.

It is axiomatic that, as a rule, only questions of law may be raised under a petition for review under Rule 45 because the Court is not a trier of facts and the factual findings of lower courts are final, binding or conclusive on the parties and to the Court.[1] As with every rule, however, it admits certain exceptions. Among the recognized exceptions are when the conclusion of the lower court is one grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures or when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts.[2]
The Supreme Court found that the exceptions are present to warrant a review of the factual matters.Jurisprudence has settled UCPB's liability to unit owners to refund the amount it indubitably received from the purchasers of Kiener Hills. In this case, the CA determined UCPB's actual liability of P552,152.34 by subtracting the amounts already paid to PPGI from the total purchase price of P1,151,718.75.

Such computation of the appellate court, however, merely assumes that the said balance was actually paid by respondents and received by UCPB. A closer scrutiny of the records, nonetheless, shows that the said amount is not supported by the evidence at hand. The only document that identifies the amount respondents had paid to UCPB is the demand letter it sent to the former. It is noteworthy that the said demand letter was materially reproduced in respondents' complaint before the HLURB Regional Office. In the said letter, the amount UCPB received from respondents is only P157,757.82.

While respondents alleged that they had paid in full the purchase price of the condominium units, only P157,757.82 was sufficiently substantiated to have been actually received by UCPB. Thus, UCPB should only be held liable for P157,757.82 because it was the only amount which was unequivocally shown it had received. This is especially true considering that one who pleads payment has the burden of proving the fact of payment.[3] Thus, it was incumbent upon respondents to prove the actual amount UCPB had unquestionably received.

[1] Pascual v. Burgos, G.R. No. 171122, 11 January 2016, 778 SCRA 189, 204-205.
[2] Swire Realty Development Corporation v. Specialty Contracts General and Construction Services, Inc. and Jose Javellana, G.R. No. 188027, 9 August 2017, citing Medina v. Asistio, Jr., 269 Phil. 225, 232 (1990).
[3] Bognot v. RRI Lending Corporation, 744 Phil. 59, 69 (2014).

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