Rule 130 Sec. 3
What is the “best evidence rule” in the Philippines?
This is the former name for what is now called as “Original Document Rule” as embodied under Rule 130 Sec. 3 of the Revised Rules on Evidence.
Also known as: Best obtainable evidence rule, original evidence rule, or original document rule.
The term “best evidence” has been a source of misconception. The word “best” does not mean that it is the highest and the most reliable evidence in the hierarchy of evidence. It has nothing to do with the degree of its probative value and is not intended to be the “most superior” evidence.
The only qualification for “best evidence” is that it requires the production of “original document” or “primary evidence.” To address this misconception, the 2019 Amendments to the Rules on Evidence replaced it with the term “original document.”
It is considered as th “highest available degree” of proof. (Berboso vs. Cabral) In some terms, a party must present the original, except when he can justify its unavailability in the manner provided under the Rules of Court.”
Presenting the original and not mere photocopies are crucial in cases such as the following:
- Action against a taxpayer;
- Disbarment case against a lawyer;
What is meant by “original” or when can a document be considered original?
It refers to the first one that was written from which mere copies were made, transcribed, or imitated. From this perspective, there can only be one original.
However, it also includes any counterpart intended to have the same effect by the executing or issuing person. For example, a lawyer who writes a pleading in two or more copies which are executed at the same time, with the same contents – these shall be deemed as original. This includes copies made at the same time such as newspaper sold in the stand.
Under Rule 130 Sec. 3, the “original documentary evidence” includes the following: (a) writing; (b) recording; (c) photograph; (d) or other record.
What are examples of “original documents”
- Documents executed in multiplicate form (Anglo American Packing vs. Cannon)
- Copies produced from carbon paper (Philippine setting). This includes the signature.
- For electronic documents, the original document is equivalent to a “printout or output readable by sight or other means, shown to reflect the data accurately.” (Rules on Electronic Evidence, Rule 4, Sec. 1) Note: An electronic document means an information in which a right is established or an obligation extinguished, or by which a fact may be proved, which is recorded electronically. (Rule 2, Sec. 1(h))
Non-Examples of original document
- The original printout of facsimile transmissions (fax machines printouts). It is not a functional equivalent of an original. (MCC Industrial Sales vs. Ssangyong Corp) It is only an exact copy preserving all the marks of the original but there is no way in determining if it is authentic or a sham pleading. (Garvida v. Sales)
What is the purpose of “best evidence rule”?
- To avoid the dangers of misintransmissions and inaccuracies of the contents of the document; (Goopio v. Maglalang)
- To ensure that the exact documents are brought before the court because there are certain documents where a slight variation of words would mean a great deal of difference in the rights and obligations of the parties. Some of these examples are contracts and wills;
- This rule protects the parties from the intentional or unintentional introduction of selected portions of a larger set of writings. (Republic vs. Mupas)
- To avoid the inaccuracies in the process of copying and transmission of the original. (EDSA-Shangrila Hotel and Resort v. BF Corporation)
What if the original document is not available?
The person alleging must at least attempt to provide a plausible reason why the originals were not presented and why the photocopies should be admitted as secondary evidence. (Replublic vs. Marcos-Manotoc)
Where does “original document” rule apply?
Original document rule only applies when a person wants to prove the contents of a document. In other words, it only covers situations where the issue is the contents of the document. The contents of the writing itself must be the subject of the judicial inquiry. For example, if the subject of inquiry is the true date of the birth of a person, there are no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself.
For example, in a court room scenario, if the witness is asked of the contents of the marriage contract in relation to the officiating priest, the original document must be presented because the issue at hand is the content of the original document.
What are the exceptions to the Original Document Rule?
- Lost or destroyed. When the original is lose or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, and without bad faith on the part of the offeror. (Rule 130, Sec. 3)
- Under control of the adverse party. When the original is under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered and this custodian fails to produce it after reasonable notice or after judicial processes;
- Voluminous. When the original has numerous accounts and the examination entails great loss of time;
- Public record. When the original is a public record.
- Original is not closely related to the controlling issue. When the contents of the document is merely a collateral issue or is not closely related to a controlling issue. The original document is also not required if the purpose of the testimony is merely is not to prove the original document.
- Object evidence. If a witness presents an object evidence, the original may not be needed if the witness can prove its existence by oral testimony, (People vs. Tandoy)
What is prohibited under the “best evidence rule”?
It does not comprehend object and testimonial evidence. It does not apply to prove the fact of the execution of a document or the existence of the document or the circumstances surrounding its execution. (Arceo v. People)
- When the original document cannot be obtained by local judicial processes or procedures; (Rule 130 Sec. 3(b))
- When the original document is not related to the issue in the case or is not controlling;
What violates the “original document” rule? (best evidence rule before)
- When the prosecution presents photocopies of certain documents to prove contents of the alleged ill-gotten wealth. (Replublic vs. Marcos-Manotoc)
Can “original document” rule be waived?
Yes. If it is not raised in the trial. This means that the documents have been deemed sufficient proof of facts and their authenticity and due execution are not objected. (Sy vs. CA)