Doctrine: The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications [do] not fall within the class of public documents contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. The certifications do not reflect “entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer,” such as entries made by the Civil Registrar in the books of registries, or by a ship captain in the ship’s logbook.The certifications are not the certified copies or authenticated reproductions of original official records in the legal custody of a government office. The certifications are not even records of public documents.

Facts: Respondent Carmen Galeno filed a petition for the correction of the area of her lot covered by an Original Certificate of Title. She alleged therein that she is one go the co-owners of the subject property by virtue of a Deed of Sale. The survey and subdivision of the subject land was duly approved by the DENR. She further alleged that when she and her co-owners had the subject property resurveyed for the purpose of partition, they discovered a discrepancy in the land area of the subject property appearing in the Original Certificate of Title, that said title reflects an area of 20,948 sqm while the certification issue by the DENR shows an area of 21,298 sqm. Hence, she sought to correct the area of the subject property in order to avoid further confusion, and claimed to have notified the adjoining owners. There being no opposition to the petition, the RTC allowed the presentation of respondent’s evidence ex parte before the Branch Clerk as well as for the satisfaction of the jurisdictional requirements.

RTC directed the the Register of Deeds of Iloilo to correct such area in the OCT from 20,948 to 21,298 square meters. Aggrieved, petitioner appealed to the CA.

CA affirmed the RTC decision. It found that respondent, by a preponderance of evidence, was able to prove, based on the records of the proper government authority, i.e., the Office of the Technical Director, Land Management Services of the DENR, that the true and correct area of the subject property was 21,298 square meters as shown in the approved plan. That petitioner failed to rebut with contrary evidence respondent’s claim that she and her co- owners followed the boundaries in the technical description of OCT No. 46417 when they caused its resurvey. In fact, no proof had been adduced to show that the boundaries had been altered.

Issue: Whether or not the CA erred in upholding the correction of the area of the subject property in OCT?

Held: YES. A scrutiny of the evidence marked and formally offered by respondent before the court a quo shows that the former failed to prove that there was sufficient basis to allow the correction of the area of the subject property in OCT No. 46417 from 20,948 square meters to 21,248 square meters.

Records reveal that respondent offered in evidence the following documents: (a) the Certification 24 issued by a certain Althea C. Acevedo (Acevedo), Engineer IV, Chief of the Technical Services Section of the Office of the Regional Technical Director, Land Management Services of the DENR in Iloilo City, which states that “the true and correct area of [L]ot 2285, Cad. 246 Dingle Cadastre is 21,928 square meters”; (b) the technical description25 of Lot No. 2285, a copy of which was certified by Ameto Caballero (Caballero), Chief of the Surveys Division, while another copy was certified correct by Acevedo; and (c) the approved subdivision plan of Lot No. 2258, 26 certified by Rogelio M. Santome (Santome), Geodetic Engineer; Alfredo Muyarsas (Muyarsas), Chief of the Regional Surveys Division, and Edgardo R. Gerobin (Gerobin), OIC, Regional Technical Director of the Land Management Services, DENR. On the strength of these pieces of evidence, respondent sought a reconciliation of the area of the subject property with the records of the DENR.

Unfortunately, the foregoing documentary evidence are not sufficient to warrant the correction prayed for. The Court cannot accord probative weight upon them in view of the fact that the public officers who issued the same did not testify in court to prove the facts stated therein.

Section 23, Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:

“Sec. 23.Public documents as evidence. — Documents consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. All other public documents are evidence, even against a third person, of the fact which gave rise to their execution and of the date of the latter.”

The CENRO and Regional Technical Director, FMS-DENR, certifications [do] not fall within the class of public documents contemplated in the first sentence of Section 23 of Rule 132. The certifications do not reflect “entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer,” such as entries made by the Civil Registrar in the books of registries, or by a ship captain in the ship’s logbook.The certifications are not the certified copies or authenticated reproductions of original official records in the legal custody of a government office. The certifications are not even records of public documents. x x x 

As such,sans the testimonies of Acevedo, Caballero, and the other public officers who issued respondent’s documentary evidence to con rm the veracity of its contents, the same are bereft of probative value and cannot, by their mere issuance, prove the facts stated therein. At best, they may be considered only as prima facie evidence of their due execution and date of issuance but do not constitute prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. 

In fact, the contents of the certifications are hearsay because respondent’s sole witness and attorney-in-fact, Lea Galeno Barraca, was incompetent to testify on the veracity of their contents, as she did not prepare any of the certifications nor was she a public officer of the concerned government agencies. Notably, while it is true that the public prosecutor who represented petitioner interposed no objection to the admission of the foregoing evidence in the proceedings in the court below,  it should be borne in mind that “hearsay evidence, whether objected to or not, has no probative value unless the proponent can show that the evidence falls within the exceptions to the hearsay evidence rule,” which do not, however, obtain in this case. Verily, while respondent’s documentary evidence may have been admitted due to the opposing party’s lack of objection, it does not, however, mean that they should be accorded any probative weight. 

Besides, case law states that the “absence of opposition from government agencies is of no controlling significance because the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents. Neither is the Republic barred from assailing the decision granting the petition for reconstitution [or correction of title, as in this case] if, on the basis of the law and the evidence on record, such petition has no merit.” Moreover, “in civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must produce a preponderance of evidence thereon, with plaintiff having to rely on the strength of his own evidence and not upon the weakness of the defendant’s.”

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