Friday, February 21, 2014

Case Digest: Matugas v. COMELEC


G.R. No. 151944.  January 20, 2004


On 28 February 28 2001, Private Respondent Robert Lyndon Barbers filed his certificate of candidacy as governor of Surigao del Norte for 2001 elections. Petitioner Ernesto T. Matugas, who is also a candidate for governor, filed with COMELEC a Petition to Disqualify Barbers as candidate.

His main contention is that Barbers is not a Filipino citizen. To support his claim, Matugas presented the following documents:
  1. Photocopy of a letter-request of a certain Jesus Agana, a “confidential agent” of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), addressed to one George Clarke, purportedly of the United States Embassy regarding the US citizenship of Barbers;
  2. A notation on the letter request allegedly made by George Clarke, stating that Barbers was naturalized on 11 October 1991;
  3. Photocopy of a Certification from the BID containing Barbers' travel records and indicating in some documents that he is American;
  4. Certification from the Office of the Solicitor General's Special Committee on Naturalization stating that there is no pending petition by, or grant of repatriation to, Barbers.
Meanwhile, Barbers won the gubernatorial race on 17 May 2001. Matugas then filed a Motion for Suspension/Annulment of Proclamation of Barbers. However, Barbers was proclaimed the duly elected governor of Surigao del Norte on 28 May 2001.

COMELEC then dismissed the Petition to Disqualify. It found “little or no probative value” in the notation of George Clarke to Agana’s letter-request.While noting that the BID certification involving the travel records of Barbers stated that he was an American, it held that there is no other independent evidence to justify Matugas's claim that Barbers has renounced his allegiance to the Philippines.

Matugas filed a Motion for reconsideration, which was denied. He then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Supreme Court, and presented the following additional documents:
  1. Photocopy of a document purportedly coming from the US Dirstrict Court of California showing the Naturalization of Barbers signed by its Deputy Clerk;
  2. Photocopy of a purported Authentication attached to the previous document coming from the Philippine Consul in Los Angeles, California stating the following: "The annexed document is an Information of Naturalization Re: Robert Lyndon Barbers executed by United States District Court, Central District of California."
Subsequently, petitioner filed a Manifestation with Motion for Leave to Admit Original Documents, appending the originals of the above documents.

Issue: W/N Barbers should have been disqualified.

Ruling: No.

One who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it. Matugas did not overcome his burden of presenting substantial evidence with the documents he presented.

For the purpose of their presentation in evidence, documents are either public or private. Public documents include the written official acts or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country. The record of such public documents may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record.

If the record is not kept in the Philippines, the attested copy should be accompanied by a certificate that such officer has custody thereof. Said certificate may be made by a secretary of the embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and authenticated by the seal of his office.

The grant of United States citizenship by naturalization is an official act of the United States. The document containing the record of this act is a public document, so this document can only be evidenced by its official publication or a copy duly attested by the officer having legal custody thereof.

The George Clarke's notation in the letter-request of Jesus Agana is neither an official publication of the document that contains the record of private respondent’s naturalization, nor a copy attested by the officer who has legal custody of the record. Matugas also did not show if Clarke is the officer charged with the custody of such record.

Furthermore, Matugas only presented photocopies of the letter-request and notation, as well as the BID certification, in contravention of the above-cited rule.

In any case, the BID certification contains inconsistent entries regarding the “nationality” of Barbers. While some entries indicate that he is “American,” other entries state that he is “Filipino.”

The new documents presented in the Petition for Certiorari cannot also be admitted in evidence.  In this case, the Authentication executed the Philippine Consul in Los Angeles does not state that the Deputy Clerk who signed the document has the custody of the document being authenticated.

Lastly, the Petitioner's calls to consider alleged new evidence not presented before the COMELEC is clearly beyond the the Supreme Courts’ certiorari powers. Doing so would be tantamount to holding a new investigation.

The Supreme Court is not a trier of facts, and it cannot be asked to substitute its own judgment and discretion for that of the COMELEC.

The rule in appellate procedure is that a factual question may not be raised for the first time on appeal,and documents forming no part of the proofs before the appellate court will not be considered in disposing of the issues of an action. Piecemeal presentation of evidence is simply not in accord with orderly justice.

The same rules apply with greater force in certiorari proceedings. It would be absurd to hold COMELEC guilty of grave abuse of discretion for not considering evidence not presented before it. The patent unfairness of Matugas’s plea militates against the admission and consideration of the subject documents.

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