The case stems from a Complaint filed by petitioner Republic, represented by the Presidential Commission on Good Government, for “Accounting, Reconveyance, Forfeiture, Restitution, and Damages” (Complaint) before the Sandiganbayan (SB) for the recovery of ill-gotten assets allegedly amassed by the individual respondents therein, singly or collectively, during the administration of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Geronimo Z. Velasco (Velasco), one of the defendants in a Civil Case was the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC). Herein respondent De Borja is Velasco’ s nephew.
It appears from the records that PNOC, in the exercise of its functions, would regularly enter into charter agreements with vessels and, pursuant to industry practice, vessel owners would pay “address commissions” to PNOC as charterer, amounting to five percent (5%) of the total freight. Allegedly, during the tenure of Velasco, no address commissions were remitted to PNOC.
Petitioner Republic claimed that it was De Borja who collected the address commissions in behalf of Velasco, basing its allegation on the testimony of Epifanio F. Verano (Verano), a witness for petitioner Republic. De Borja was further alleged to have acted as Velasco’s dummy, nominee, and/or agent for corporations he owned and/or controlled, such as DRMC.
After the filing of the parties’ responsive pleadings, trial on the merits ensued. Subsequently, upon the conclusion of its presentation of evidence, petitioner Republic submitted its Formal Offer of Evidence dated March 6, 1995.
On April 15, 2005, respondent De Borja filed his Demurrer to Evidence of even date. In turn, petitioner Republic filed a Comment/Opposition dated May 9, 2005,20 to which respondent De Borja filed a Reply dated June 2, 2005.
In its Resolution SB found that the evidence presented was insufficient to support a claim for damages against De Borja, thereby granting respondent De Borja’s Demurrer to Evidence.
Petitioner Republic then filed its Motion for Reconsideration which was denied by the SB. Hence this petition.
Whether SB erred in granting the Demurrer to Evidence and the petitioner Republic was not able to adduce sufficient evidence to prove the alleged complicity of respondent De Borja with the required quantum of evidence.
No, Case law has defined “burden of proof’ as the duty to establish the truth of a given proposition or issue by such quantum of evidence as the law demands in the case at which the issue arises. In civil cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish his case by preponderance of evidence, i.e., superior weight of evidence on the issues involved. “Preponderance of evidence” means evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing than that which is offered in opposition to it.
In a demurrer to evidence, however, it is premature to speak of “preponderance of evidence” because it is filed prior to the defendant’s presentation of evidence; it is precisely the office of a demurrer to evidence to expeditiously terminate the case without the need of the defendant’s evidence. Hence, what is crucial is the determination as to whether the plaintiffs evidence entitles it to the relief sought.
Specifically, the inquiry in this case is confined to resolving whether petitioner Republic is entitled to “Accounting, Reconveyance, Forfeiture, Restitution, and Damages” based on the evidence it has presented.
In the face of the foregoing testimony, the insinuations of petitioner Republic in the instant Petition can best be described as speculative, conjectural, and inconclusive at best. Nothing in the testimony of Verano reasonably points, or even alludes, to the conclusion that De Borja acted as a dummy or conduit of Velasco in receiving address commissions from vessel owners.
The Court joins and concurs in the SB’s observations pertaining to Verano’s want of knowledge with respect to the contents of the envelopes allegedly delivered to respondent De Borja’s office, which remained sealed the entire time it was in Verano’ s possession. As admitted by Verano himself, he did not and could not have known what was inside the envelopes when they were purportedly entrusted to him for delivery. In the same vein, Verano did not even confirm respondent De Borja’s receipt of the envelopes, despite numerous opportunities to do so. Relatedly, it was further revealed during the cross-examination of Verano that in the first place, Velasco did not even deal directly with brokers.
All told, the Court finds that the evidence adduced is wholly insufficient to support the allegations of the Complaint before the SB. Thus, for failure of petitioner Republic to show any right to the relief sought, the Court affirms the SB in granting the Demurrer to Evidence.