CASE BrieF NO. 2007-0541

CASE: Teofisto I. Verceles vs. Maria Clarissa Posada, in her own behalf, and as mother of minor Verna Aiza Posada, Constantino Posada and Francisca Posada [G.R. NO. 159785 April 27, 2007]

PONENTE: Justice Leonardo Quisumbing

SUBJECT:

  1. Family Code:
    i. Paternity and Filiation – Proof of Filiation
  2. Civil Law:
    i. Damages
  3. Remedial Law:
    i. Pleading – Caption; Determination of nature of action

“Any authentic writing is treated not just a ground for compulsory recognition; it is in itself a voluntary recognition that does not require a separate action for judicial approval.”


FACTS:        Maria Clarissa Posada (Clarissa), a young lass, sometime in 1986 met a close family friend, Teofisto I. Verceles, mayor of Pandan, Catanduanes. He offered Clarissa a job. Clarissa accepted the offer and worked as a casual employee in the mayor’s office. Sometime in November 1986, she accompanied Verceles to Legaspi City to attend a seminar on town planning. They stayed at the Mayon Hotel. Verceles fetched Clarissa from “My Brother’s Place” where the seminar was being held. Clarissa avers that he told her that they would have lunch at Mayon Hotel. After Verceles ordered food, he started making amorous advances on her. She panicked, ran and closeted herself inside a comfort room where she stayed until someone knocked. She said she hurriedly exited and left the hotel. Afraid of the mayor, she kept the incident to herself. She went on as casual employee.
In December 1986, on orders of Verceles, she went to Virac, Catanduanes, to follow up funds for barangay projects. At around 11:00 a.m. the same day, she went to Catanduanes Hotel on instructions of Verceles who asked to be briefed on the progress of her mission. They met at the lobby and he led her upstairs because he said he wanted the briefing done at the restaurant at the upper floor.
Instead, however, Verceles opened a hotel room door, led her in, and suddenly embraced her, as he told her that he was unhappy with his wife and would “divorce” her anytime. He also claimed he could appoint her as a municipal development coordinator. She succumbed to his advances. But again Clarissa kept the incident to herself.
Sometime in January 1987, when Clarissa missed her menstruation, she said she wrote Verceles that she feared she was pregnant. In another letter in February 1987, she told him she was pregnant. In a handwritten letter dated February 4, 1987, Verceles replied:

“My darling Chris,
Should you become pregnant even unexpectedly, I should have no regret, because I love you and you love me.
Let us rejoice a common responsibility – you and I shall take care of it and let him/her see the light of this beautiful world.
We know what to do to protect our honor and integrity.
Just relax and be happy, if true.
With all my love,
Ninoy”

Clarissa explained that Verceles used an alias “Ninoy” and addressed her as “Chris,” probably because of their twenty-five (25)-year age gap. In court, she identified Verceles’ penmanship which she claims she was familiar with as an employee in his office.
Clarissa presented three other handwritten letters sent to her by Verceles, two of which were in his letterhead as mayor of Pandan. She also presented the pictures Verceles gave her of his youth and as a public servant, all bearing his handwritten notations at the back.
Clarissa avers that on March 3, 1987, Verceles, aware of her pregnancy, handed her a letter and P2,000 pocket money to go to Manila and to tell her parents that she would enroll in a CPA review course or look for a job. In June 1987, Verceles went to see her in Manila and gave her another P2,000 for her delivery. When her parents learned of her pregnancy, sometime in July, her father fetched her and brought her back to Pandan. On September 23, 1987, she gave birth to a baby girl, Verna Aiza Posada.
The Clarissa and her parents (Clarissa et. al.) filed a Complaint for Damages coupled with Support Pendente Lite before the RTC.
The trial court issued a judgment in their favor. The trial court further directed Verceles to pay Clarissa the amount of  P30,000.00 as moral damages;P30,000.00 as exemplary damages;and P10,000.00 as attorney’s fees
Verceles appealed to the Court of Appeals which affirmed the judgment with modification as to the award of damages.
Hence, Verceles filed a petition for review to the Supreme Court.
Verceles asserts that the issue of filiation should be resolved in a direct and not a collateral action.

ISSUE:
A. Could paternity and filiation be resolved in an action for damages?
B. Whether love letters may be considered as proof of filiation.
C. Whether Clarissa and her parents are entitled to damages.

RULING:
A.       The caption is not determinative of the nature of a pleading. It is not the caption but the facts alleged which give meaning to a pleading. Courts are called upon to pierce the form and go into the substance thereof. In determining the nature of an action, it is not the caption, but the averments in the petition and the character of the relief sought, that are controlling.
A perusal of the Complaint before the RTC shows that although its caption states “Damages coupled with Support Pendente Lite,” Clarissa’s averments therein, her meeting with petitioner, his offer of a job, his amorous advances, her seduction, their trysts, her pregnancy, birth of her child, his letters, her demand for support for her child, all clearly establish a case for recognition of paternity. We have held that the due recognition of an illegitimate child in a record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record, or in any authentic writing is, in itself, a consummated act of acknowledgement of the child, and no further court action is required. In fact, any authentic writing is treated not just a ground for compulsory recognition; it is in itself a voluntary recognition that does not require a separate action for judicial approval.
The letters of Verceles are declarations that lead nowhere but to the conclusion that he sired Verna Aiza. Although he used an alias in these letters, the similarity of the penmanship in these letters vis the annotation at the back of Verceles’ fading photograph as a youth is unmistakable. Even an inexperienced eye will come to the conclusion that they were all written by one and the same person.
We also note that in his Memorandum, Verceles admitted his affair with Clarissa, the exchange of love letters between them, and his giving her money during her pregnancy.

B.       Articles 172 and 175 of the Family Code are the rules for establishing filiation. They are as follows:

Art. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:
(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or
(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned.
In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:
(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or
(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

Art. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as legitimate children.
The action must be brought within the same period specified in Article 173, except when the action is based on the second paragraph of Article 172, in which case the action may be brought during the lifetime of the alleged parent.

The letters are private handwritten instruments of Verceles which establish Verna Aiza’s filiation under Article 172 (2) of the Family Code. In addition, the array of evidence presented by Clarissa, the dates, letters, pictures and testimonies, to us, are convincing, and irrefutable evidence that Verna Aiza is, indeed, Verceles’ illegitimate child.

C.       Clarissa is not entitled to damages. Article 2219 of the Civil Code which states moral damages may be recovered in cases of seduction is inapplicable in this case because Clarissa was already an adult at the time she had an affair with Verceles.
Neither can her parents be entitled to damages. Besides, there is nothing in law or jurisprudence that entitles the parents of a consenting adult who begets a love child to damages. Respondents Constantino and Francisca Posada have not cited any law or jurisprudence to justify awarding damages to them.
The Court, however, affirm the grant of attorney’s fees in consonance with Article 2208 (2) and (11) of the New Civil Code.
———————————————-

THINGS DECIDED:

A) The caption is not determinative of the nature of a pleading. It is not the caption but the facts alleged which give meaning to a pleading. Courts are called upon to pierce the form and go into the substance thereof. In determining the nature of an action, it is not the caption, but the averments in the petition and the character of the relief sought, that are controlling.

B) Any authentic writing is treated not just a ground for compulsory recognition; it is in itself a voluntary recognition that does not require a separate action for judicial approval.

C) Letters are private handwritten instruments of which may establish filiation under Article 172 (2) of the Family Code.

D) There is nothing in law or jurisprudence that entitles the parents of a consenting adult who begets a love child to damages.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


For more Case Briefs visit us at Stare Decisis or like us on Facebook @staredecisispage

======================