William and Nelia Enriquez’s son, Sonny, was one of the victims who died in a collision involving a bus owned by Isarog Line Express Transport, Inc. (Isarog Line) driven by Victor Sedenio, and a Philtranco Service Enterprises, Inc. (Philtranco) bus on July 7, 1997 at Pagbilao, Quezon. At the time of his death, Sonny was earning P185.00 per day as a security guard, as shown by a certification ASLAN Security Systems, Inc. (ASLAN) . The spouses filed a case for damages against the respondent. After trial, the RTC ruled in favour of the spouses. Among the award of damages was PHP 1,038,960.00 – for unrealized income. Respondents appealed to the CA, which affirmed the RTC judgment but modified the RTC judgment by deleting the award for unrealised income, holding that the ASLAN certification had no probative value because the signatory did not identify the document. The spouses appealed to the Supreme Court.
Whether or not the certification should be given probative value, and thus, entitle the spouses to award of unrealised income.
Under Article 2206 of the Civil Code, the heirs of the victim are entitled to indemnity for loss of earning capacity, thus:
Article 2206. The amount of damages for death caused by a crime or quasi-delict shall be at least three thousand pesos, even though there may have been mitigating circumstances. In addition:
(1) The defendant shall be liable for the loss of the earning capacity of the deceased, and the indemnity shall be paid to the heirs of the latter; such indemnity shall in every case be assessed and awarded by the court, unless the deceased on account of permanent physical disability not caused by the defendant, had no earning capacity at the time of his death;
x x x
Compensation of this nature is awarded not for loss of earnings, but for loss of capacity to earn. The indemnification for loss of earning capacity partakes of the nature of actual damages which must be duly proven by competent proof and the best obtainable evidence thereof. Thus, as a rule, documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity. By way of exception, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when (1) the deceased was self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the deceased’s line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased was employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the ‘minimum wage under current labor laws.
Here, contrary to the CA’s pronouncement, the Spouses Enriquez were able to present competent proof and the best obtainable evidence of their departed son’s income. There is no showing that the defense objected when they presented the certification from ASLAN Security Systems, Inc. (ASLAN) during the trial. In People v. Lopez, the Court ruled that documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate a claim for loss of earning capacity. The claimant presented a similar certification from Tanod Publishing, showing that the deceased was a photo correspondent for Tanod Newspaper and that his monthly salary ranges from P1,780.00 to P3,570.00 on per story basis. The Court noted that since the defense did not object when the prosecution presented said document, it was deemed admitted and could be validly utilized by the trial court.
In the case at bar, while the CA itself ruled that the certification from ASLAN stating that Sonny was earning P185.00 per day as a security guard is admissible in evidence, it held that the same has no probative value since the signatory was never presented to testify. However, the rule is that evidence not objected to is deemed admitted and may be validly considered by the court in arriving at its judgment, as what the RTC in this case aptly did, since it was indubitably in a better position to assess and weigh the evidence presented during trial.
Serra v. Mumar, as relied upon by the appellate court, does not apply because in said case they only presented testimonial evidence to prove damages for loss of earning capacity. No documentary evidence was submitted. The Court ruled that damages for loss of earning capacity is in the nature of actual damages, which must be duly proven by documentary evidence, not merely by the widow’s self-serving testimony. Also, in People v. Villar, the prosecution merely relied on the widow’s self-serving statement on her deceased husband’s monthly earning. Here, however, there is actual documentary evidence to support the claim. The Spouses Enriquez presented a certification from Sonny’s employer to duly prove his income.
Using the settled formula, the amount of damages for loss of earning capacity is P1,038,960.00, thus:
Net Earning Capacity = Life expectancy x Gross Annual Income – Living Expenses
= [2/3 (80 – age at death)] x GAI – [50% of GAI]
= [2/3 (80 – 26)] x P57,720.00 – P28,860.00
= [2/3 (54)] x P28,860.00
= 36 x P28,860.00
Net Earning Capacity = P1,038,960.00
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court GRANTS the petition and SETS ASIDE the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated June 13, 2013 and Resolution dated March 4, 2014 in CA-G.R. CV No. 97376, and REINSTATES the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Branch 29 dated February 24, 2011 in Civil Case No. L-896, with interest at six percent (6%) per annum of the amount of damages awarded from the time of the finality of this Decision until its full satisfaction.
Perez, Reyes, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), J., on official leave.
(Citations omitted, please clink the link below to see the original)