Sunday, April 01, 2012

Chua Gaw vs. Chua (April 16, 2008)

Facts: Spouses Chua Chin and Chan Chi were the founders of 3 business enterprises: Hagonoy Lumber, Capitol Sawmill Corporation and Columbia Wood Industries. The couple had 7 children, among them were Concepcion Chua, Suy Ben Chua and Chua Sioc Huan. Chua Chin died and left his wife and children as the only surviving heirs. 

The surviving heirs executed a Deed of Partition, wherein the heirs settled their interest in Hagonoy Lumber as follows: ½ to Chan Chi, as her share in the conjugal partnership; and the other half will be divided among Chan Chi and the seven children in equal pro indiviso shares. In said document, Chan Chi and the six children likewise agreed to voluntarily renounce and waive their shares over Hagonoy Lumber in favor of their co-heir, Chua Sioc Huan. 

Petitioner Concepcion Chua Gaw and her husband, Antonio Gaw (Spouses Gaw), borrowed P200,000 from Suy Ben Chua to be used for the construction of their house. Suy Ben Chua issued a check for the amount. The parties agreed that the loan will be payable in 6 months without interest. 

Chua Sioc Huan executed a Deed of Sale over all her rights and interests in Hagonoy Lumber for P255,000 in favor of respondent Suy Ben Chua. 

Spouses Gaw failed to pay the amount they borrowed within the designated period. Suy Ben Chua filed a Complaint for Sum of Money against the Spouses Gaw. 

In their Answer, the Spouses Gaw contend that Concepcion asked Suy Ben Chua for an accounting and payment of her share in the profits of the 3 business enterprises but Suy Ben Chua persuaded Concepcion to temporarily forego her demand as it would offend their mother who still wanted to remain in control of the family businesses. To insure that she will defer her demand, Suy Ben Chua allegedly gave her P200,000.00 as her share in the profits of Hagonoy Lumber 

During trial, Spouses Gaw called Suy Ben Chua to testify as an adverse witness under Rule 132, Section 10. On cross-examination, Suy Ben Chua explained that he ceased to be a stockholder of Capitol Sawmill when he sold his shares of stock to the other stockholders. He further testified that Chua Sioc Huan acquired Hagonoy Lumber by virtue of a Deed of Partition, executed by the heirs of Chua Chin. He, in turn, became the owner of Hagonoy Lumber when he bought the same from Chua Sioc Huan through a Deed of Sale. 

On re-direct examination, Suy Ben Chua stated that he sold his shares of stock in Capitol Sawmill for P254,000.00, which payment he received in cash. He also paid the purchase price of P255,000.00 for Hagonoy Lumber in cash. 

RTC ruled in favor of Suy Ben Chua and ordered Concepcion Gaw (her husband Antonio had passed away) to pay P200,000. RTC held that the P200,000.00 was a loan advanced by the Suy Ben Chua from his own funds and not remunerations for services rendered to Hagonoy Lumber nor Concepcion’s advance share in the profits of their parents’ businesses. 

Concepcion appealed to the CA alleging that the TC erred in considering evidence for Concepcion, Suy Ben Chua’s testimony when he was called to testify as an adverse party. 

CA affirmed the decision of the RTC. CA found Concepcion’s argument that the RTC should not have included respondent’s Suy Ben Chua as part of petitioner Concepcion’s evidence as baseless. 

Issue: Whether or not Concepcion was unduly prejudiced when RTC treated Suy Ben Chua’s testimony as adverse witness during cross-examination by his own counsel as part of Concepcion’s evidence. 

Held: NO. The delineation of a piece of evidence as part of the evidence of one party or the other is only significant in determining whether the party on whose shoulders lies the burden of proof was able to meet the quantum of evidence needed to discharge the burden. In civil cases, the rule is that the plaintiff must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not upon the weakness of the defendant’s evidence. Preponderance of evidence is determined by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, culled from the evidence, regardless of who actually presented it. 

That the witness is the adverse party does not necessarily mean that the calling party will not be bound by the former’s testimony. The fact remains that it was at his instance that his adversary was put on the witness stand. Under a rule permitting the impeachment of an adverse witness, although the calling party does not vouch for the witness’ veracity, he is nonetheless bound by his testimony if it is not contradicted or remains unrebutted. 

A party who calls his adversary as a witness is, therefore, not bound by the latter’s testimony only in the sense that he may contradict him by introducing other evidence to prove a state of facts contrary to what the witness testifies on. A rule that provides that the party calling an adverse witness shall not be bound by his testimony does not mean that such testimony may not be given its proper weight, but merely that the calling party shall not be precluded from rebutting his testimony or from impeaching him. 

This, Concepcion failed to do as in her own testimony, she failed to discredit the Suy Ben Chua’s testimony on how Hagonoy Lumber became his sole property. 

In arriving at a decision, the entirety of the evidence presented will be considered, regardless of the party who offered them in evidence. The testimony of an adverse witness is evidence in the case and should be given its proper weight, and such evidence becomes weightier if the other party fails to impeach the witness or contradict his testimony.

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