Negative allegation must b e proved - G.R. No. 185620

G.R. No. 185620

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In Venzon v. Spouses Juan,[29] we declared that the judgment debtor, as herein respondents, alleging lack of compliance with the posting and publication requirements of the auction sale in accordance with the rules, is behooved to prove such allegation. We held, thus:

x x x. Whoever asserts a right dependent for its existence upon a negative, must establish the truth of the negative by a preponderance of the evidence. This must be the rule, or it must follow that rights, of which a negative forms an essential element, may be enforced without proof. Thus, whenever the [party’s] right depends upon the truth of a negative, upon him is cast the onus probandi, except in cases where the matter is peculiarly within the knowledge of the adverse party.

It was error, therefore, for the trial court to hold that:

Defendants did not present evidence to rebut the “no notice” allegation of the plaintiff. Although in the defendant spouses’ pre-trial brief, there is that general allegation that the auction sale was made in accordance with law, however, there is no showing in the record that the requirements with respect to publication/posting of notices were complied with by the defendants.

Deliberating on the absence of notice, the fact that the plaintiff did not come to know that Lot 12 was being subjected to an auction sale proves two things: one, that no notice was posted in the place where the property is located [and, two, that] there was no auction sale that took place on March 30, 1992. . . .

Further, the defendants, particularly defendant sheriff, who is the most competent person to testify that a written notice of sale was made and posted in accordance with law, was not presented to the witness stand. Neither was a document presented like Sheriff’s Certificate of Posting to attest to the fact that a written notice of sale was posted before the property was allegedly sold at public auction. In fact, the record is silent as (to) where the auction sale was conducted.

By ruling in the foregoing manner, the trial court incorrectly shifted the plaintiff’s burden of proof to the defendants. It is true that the fact of posting and publication of the notices is a matter “peculiarly within the knowledge” of the Deputy Sheriff. However, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over him, as he was not served with summons. At the time of the filing of the complaint, he was “no longer connected” with the Caloocan RTC, Branch 126, which issued the writ of execution. Hence, he could not testify in his own behalf.

x x x [T]he duty imposed by Section [18] (c) is reposed upon the sheriff, who is charged with the enforcement of the writ. Respondent spouses had a right to presume that he had regularly performed his duty. It was not incumbent upon them to present him as a witness for, in the absence of the sheriff, the burden to prove lack of posting and publication remained with petitioner.[30] (Emphasis supplied)

Respondents made no attempt to meet this burden of evidence, simply maintaining lack of notice of the entire proceedings (execution and issuance of a new title over the subject property) before the trial court.

We cannot subscribe to respondents’ belated posturing. The disputable presumption that official duty has been regularly performed was not overcome by respondents.[31] The documents on record lead us to the inevitable conclusion that respondents had constructive, if not actual, notice of the execution proceedings from the issuance of the Writ of Execution, the levy on the subject property,[32] its subjection to execution sale, up to and until the proceedings in the RTC relating to the issuance of a new certificate of title over the subject property. Certainly, respondents are precluded from feigning ignorance of MFR (substituted by Reyes) staking a claim thereon.

There was substantial compliance with Section 15, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court: the documents in support thereof, i.e., the Certificate of Posting issued by Sheriff Legaspi and the Affidavit of Publication executed by the publisher of The Times Newsweekly, appear to be in order.[33] In this case, the purpose of giving notice through posting and publication under Section 15(c) of the same rule—to let the public know of the sale to the end that the best price or a better bid may be made possible to minimize prejudice to the judgment debtor—was realized.
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