Sunday, April 01, 2012

Raymundo vs. Lunaria

Facts: Petitioners approached respondent Lunaria to help them find a buyer for their property situated at Marilao, Bulacan with an area of 12,126 square meters for the amount of P60,630,000. Respondent Lunaria was promised a 5% agent's commission in the event that he finds a buyer. After respondents found a buyer, Cecilio Hipolito, an "Exclusive Authority to Sell" was executed embodying the agreement made by the parties.  After the corresponding Deed of Absolute Sale of Real Property was registered in the Registry of Deeds, a copy thereof was given to the Far East Bank and Trust Co., which was then holding in escrow the amount of P50,000,000 to be disbursed or paid against the total consideration or price of the property.

Ceferino G. Raymundo, one of the co-owners, advised respondents to go to the bank to receive the amount of P1,196,000 as partial payment of their total commission. Also, respondents were instructed to return after seven days to get the balance of the commission due them.

Respondents returned to the bank. However, the check covering the balance of their commission was already given by the bank manager to Lourdes R. Raymundo, the representative of the petitioners. Respondents tried to get the check from the petitioners, however, they were told that there is nothing more due them by way of commission as they have already divided and distributed the balance of the commissions among their nephews and nieces.

For their part, petitioners counter that there was a subsequent verbal agreement entered into by the parties after the execution of the written agreement. Said verbal agreement provides that the 5% agent's commission shall be divided as follows: 2/5 for the agents, 2/5 for Lourdes Raymundo, and 1/5 for the buyer, Hipolito. The share given to Lourdes Raymundo shall be in consideration for the help she would extend in the processing of documents of sale of the property, the payment of the capital gains tax to the Bureau of Internal Revenue and in securing an order from the court. The 1/5 commission given to Hipolito, on the other hand, will be used by him for the payment of realty taxes.

Hence, for failure of the respondents to receive the balance of their agent's commission, they filed an action for the collection of a sum of money before the RTC of Valenzuela City. The trial court rendered a Decision in favor of the respondents. Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court with the modification that the amount of moral and exemplary damages awarded to respondents shall be reduced.

Issue: Whether or not CA erred in requiring petitioners to establish their case by more than a preponderance of evidence. 

Held: No. Petitioners contend that the appellate court erred in requiring them to prove the existence of the subsequent verbal agreement by more than a mere preponderance of evidence since no rule of evidence requires them to do so. In support of this allegation, petitioners presented petitioner Lourdes Raymundo who testified that she was given 2/5 share of the commission pursuant to the verbal sharing scheme because she took care of the payment of the capital gains tax, the preparation of the documents of sale and of securing an authority from the court to sell the property.

For their part, respondents counter that the appellate court did not require petitioners to prove the existence of the subsequent oral agreement by more than a mere preponderance of evidence.  What the appellate court said is that the petitioners failed to prove and establish the alleged subsequent verbal agreement even by mere preponderance of evidence.

Petitioners' abovecited allegation has no merit.  By preponderance of evidence is meant that the evidence as a whole adduced by one side is superior to that of the other. It refers to the weight, credit and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered to be synonymous with the term "greater weight of evidence" or "greater weight of the credible evidence". It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.

Both the appellate court and trial court ruled that the evidence presented by the petitioners is not sufficient to support their allegation that a subsequent verbal agreement was entered into by the parties. In fact, both courts correctly observed that if Lourdes Raymundo was in reality offered the 2/5 share of the agent's commission for the purpose of assisting respondent Lunaria in the documentation requirement, then why did the petitioners not present any written court order on her authority, tax receipt or sales document to support her self-serving testimony? Moreover, even the worksheet allegedly reflecting the commission sharing was unilaterally prepared by petitioner Lourdes Raymundo without any showing that respondents participated in the preparation thereof or gave their assent thereto. Even the alleged payment of 1/5 of the commission to the buyer to be used in the payment of the realty taxes cannot be given credence since the payment of realty taxes is the obligation of the owners, and not the buyer. Lastly, if the said sharing agreement was entered into pursuant to the wishes of the buyer, then he should have been presented as witness to corroborate the claim of the petitioners. However, he was not.

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