FACTS:

On February 15, 1980, [petitioner] instituted these cases, to wit: (1) Civil Case No. 36089, entitled: Augusto Gomez, as Special Administrator of the Intestate Estate of Consuelo Gomez, Plaintiff, versus Maria Rita Gomez-Samson, Marcial Samson, Jesus B. Gomez, and the Registers of Deeds of Pasig and Marikina, Rizal, Defendants; and (2) Civil Case No. 36090, entitled: Augusto Gomez, as Special Administrator of the Intestate Estate of Consuelo Gomez, Plaintiff, versus Ariston Gomez, Sr., and Ariston B. Gomez, Jr., Defendants, both in the Regional Trial Court, Pasig City.

CONSUELO, ARISTON, SR. and Angel, all surnamed Gomez, were sister and brothers, respectively. MARIA-RITA Gomez-Samson, JESUS Gomez and ARISTON Gomez, JR. are the children of ARISTON, SR. while AUGUSTO Gomez is the child of Angel.

In Civil Case No. 36089, plaintiff AUGUSTO alleged in his complaint that CONSUELO, who died on November 6, 1979, was the owner of three real properties with TCT NO.’s 340233, 353818, 268396; that after the death of Consuelo, defendants Rita and Jesus fraudulently prepared and/or caused to be prepared a Deed of Donation Intervivos; that in the said document, Consuelo donated the above described properties to defendants Rita and Jesus; that the said defendants forged or caused to be forged the signature of the donor, Consuelo; that the notarial acknowledgement on the said document was antedated to April 21, 1979; that on the basis of the said document defendants sought the cancellation of the certificates of title in the name of Consuelo and the issuance of new ones in the names of defendants Rita and Jesus.

On the basis of the foregoing, plaintiff prayed that the Deed of Donation Intervivos be declared false, null and void ab initio, and/or be nullified; that TCT Nos. 340233, 353818, and 268396 be reinstated or be replaced by titles in the name of the Intestate Estate of Consuelo Gomez; and, that defendants be ordered to pay damages, by way of attorneys fees and expenses of litigation plus costs.

On April 24, 1980, private defendants, and nominal defendants Registers of Deeds of Pasig and Marikina, Rizal, filed their common answer, denying the material allegations in the complaint and asserting that a copy of the deed of donation was submitted to the Notarial Section of the CFI of Quezon City as early as July 2, 1979; and that the said document is valid and not a forgery or otherwise subject to similar infirmity.

In Civil Case No. 36090, the same plaintiff alleged in his complaint that Consuelo was also the sole and absolute owner of the following properties: seventy-five (75) common shares of stock of V-Tri Realty, Inc., eleven thousand eight hundred fifty three (11,853) common shares of stock of First Philippine Holdings Corporation, Jewelries and collectors items, a four-door sedan 1978 Mercedes Benz, a four-door sedan 1979 Toyota Corona, and  wo hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) including accrued interests on money market placement with the BA Finance Corporation; that after the death of Consuelo, defendants fraudulently prepared and/or caused to be prepared a Deed of Donation Intervivos; that in the said document Consuelo donated the above described properties to defendants Ariston, Sr. and Ariston, Jr.; and that the said defendants forged or caused to be forged the signature of the donor, Consuelo.

On the basis of the foregoing, the plaintiff prayed that the Deed of Donation Intervivos be declared false, null and void ab initio, and/or be nullified; that defendant Ariston, Sr., be ordered to deliver the stock certificates, jewelries, collectors items, and vehicles in his possession plus all the cash dividends earned by the shares of stock and reasonable compensation for the use of the two (2) motor vehicles; that defendant Ariston, Jr. be ordered to pay the amount of P191,533.00 received by him from BA Finance, with interest from the time he received the amount until he fully pays the plaintiff; and, damages, by way of attorneys fees and expenses of litigation, plus costs.

On March 19, 1980, defendants Ariston, Sr. and Ariston Jr., filed their answer, denying the material allegations in the complaint and asserting that a copy of the Deed of Donation was submitted to the Notarial Section of the CFI of Quezon City as early as July 2, 1979; that the said document is valid and not a forgery or otherwise subject to similar infirmity; that the said document being valid, the properties covered therein passed in ownership to defendants, as early as April 20, 1979; and that defendants have the perfect and absolute right to use, enjoy, possess and own these properties.

The only direct evidence presented by petitioner on this matter is the testimony of Zenaida Torres, Document Examinerof the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Respondents, on the other hand, presented their own expert witness, Francisco Cruz, Chief of Document Examinationof the PC-INP Crime Laboratory. Other direct evidence presented by respondents includes testimonies positively stating that the Deeds of Donation were signed by Consuelo in their completed form in the presence of Notary Public Jose Sebastian. These testimonies are that of Jose Sebastian himself, and that of several of the respondents including Ariston Gomez, Jr. (Ariston, Jr.), who allegedly drafted said Deeds of Donation.

Issue: Whether or not petitioner may disqualify Jose Sebastian, the notary public who notarized the documents.

HELD:

The Court ruled that petitioner cannot disqualify Jose Sebastian.

Petitioner claims that no credence should have been given to the testimony of the notary public, Jose Sebastian, as said Jose Sebastian is the same judge whom this Court had dismissed from the service in Garciano v. Sebastian.Petitioner posits that the dismissal of Judge Jose Sebastian from the service casts a grave pall on his credibility as a witness, especially given how, in the course of the administrative proceedings against him, he had lied to mislead the investigator, as well as employed others to distort the truth.

Petitioner further claims that the reliance by the Court of Appeals on the 22 November 1979Certification by Jose Sebastian is misplaced, considering the questionable circumstances surrounding such certification. Petitioner points out that the Certification was made after the death of Consuelo, and claims that the same appears to be a scheme by Jose Sebastian to concoct an opportunity for him to make mention of the subject Deeds of Donation intervivos, despite the plain fact that the latter had utterly no relation to the matter referred to by Jose Sebastian in the opening phrase of the letter.

It is well to note that, as stated by the Court of Appeals, Jose Sebastian was originally a witness for petitioner Augusto. As such, Rule 132, Section 12, of the Rules of Court prohibits petitioner from impeaching him:

SEC. 12. Party may not impeach his own witness. Except with respect to witnesses referred to in paragraphs (d) and (e) of section 10, the party producing a witness is not allowed to impeach his credibility.

A witness may be considered as unwilling or hostile only if so declared by the court upon adequate showing of his adverse interest, unjustified reluctance to testify, or his having misled the party into calling him to the witness stand.

The unwilling or hostile witness so declared, or the witness who is an adverse party, may be impeached by the party presenting him in all respects as if he had been called by the adverse party, except by evidence of his bad character. He may also be impeached and cross-examined by the adverse party, but such cross-examination must only be on the subject matter of his examination-in-chief.

This rule is based on the theory that a person who produces a witness vouches for him as being worthy of credit, and that a direct attack upon the veracity of the witness would enable the party to destroy the witness, if he spoke against him, and to make him a good witness, if he spoke for him, with the means in his hands of destroying his credit, if he spoke against him.

Neither had there been declaration by the court that Jose Sebastian was an unwilling or hostile witness.Jose Sebastian is also neither an adverse party, nor an officer, director nor a managing agent of a public or private corporation or of a partnership or association which is an adverse party.

Be that as it may, even if Jose Sebastian had been declared by the court as an unwilling or hostile witness, the third paragraph of Section 12 as quoted above, in relation to Section 11 of the same Rule, only allows the party calling the witness to impeach such witness by contradictory evidence or by prior inconsistent statements, and never by evidence of his bad character. Thus, Jose Sebastians subsequent dismissal as a judge would not suffice to discredit him as a witness in this case.

We have also ruled in People v. Dominguez,which, in turn cited Cordial v. People, that:

(E)ven convicted criminals are not excluded from testifying in court so long as, having organs of sense, they can perceive and perceiving can make known their perceptions to others.

The fact of prior criminal conviction alone does not suffice to discredit a witness; the testimony of such a witness must be assayed and scrutinized in exactly the same way the testimony of other witnesses must be examined for its relevance and credibility. x x x. (Emphasis supplied.)

The effect of this pronouncement is even more significant in this case, as Jose Sebastian has never been convicted of a crime before his testimony, but was instead administratively sanctioned eleven years after such testimony. Scrutinizing the testimony of Jose Sebastian, we find, as the trial court and the Court of Appeals did, no evidence of bias on the part of Jose Sebastian. On top of this, Jose Sebastians testimony is supported by the records of the notarial registry, which shows that the documents in question were received by the Notarial Registrar on 2 July 1979, which was four months before the death of Consuelo on 6 November 1979.

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