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Best Evidence Rule


1. BEST EVIDENCE RULE

Sec. 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. — When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following cases:

(a) When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;

(b) When the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

(c) When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and

(d) When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office. (2a)

Sec. 4 Original of document. —

(a) The original of the document is one the contents of which are the subject of inquiry.

(b) When a document is in two or more copies executed at or about the same time, with identical contents, all such copies are equally regarded as originals.

(c) When an entry is repeated in the regular course of business, one being copied from another at or near the time of the transaction, all the entries are likewise equally regarded as originals. (3a) (Rule 130, Rules of Court)

What is the meaning of the Best Evidence Rule?

● When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself. (Sec. 3, Rule 130)

● Under the best evidence rule, the original document must be produced whenever its contents are the subject of inquiry. (Country Bankers Insurance Corp. vs. Lagman, G.R. No. 165487, July 13, 2011)


When does the Best Evidence Rule apply?

● The best evidence rule applies only when the contents of the document are the subject of inquiry. Where the issue is only as to whether or not such document was actually executed, or exists, or in the circumstances relevant to or surrounding its execution, the best evidence rule does not apply and testimonial evidence is admissible. (People v Tandoy, G.R. No. 80505, December 4, 1990)

● The Best Evidence Rule applies only when the terms of a writing are in issue. When the evidence sought to be introduced concerns external facts, such as the existence, execution or delivery of the writing, without reference to its terms, the Best Evidence Rule cannot be invoked. In such a case, secondary evidence may be admitted even without accounting for the original. (Prodon vs. Heirs of Alvarez, G.R. No. 170604, September 2, 2013)

● Affidavits and depositions are considered as not being the best evidence, hence not admissible if the affiants or deponents are available as witnesses. [Regalado citing 4 Martin, op cit., p. 82]


When is the purpose of the rule?

The primary purpose of the Best Evidence Rule is to ensure that the exact contents of a writing are brought before the court, considering that (a) the precision in presenting to the court the exact words of the writing is of more than average importance, particularly as respects operative or dispositive instruments, such as deeds, wills and contracts, because a slight variation in words may mean a great difference in rights; (b) there is a substantial hazard of inaccuracy in the human process of making a copy by handwriting or typewriting; and (c) as respects oral testimony purporting to give from memory the terms of a writing, there is a special risk of error, greater than in the case of attempts at describing other situations generally. The rule further acts as an insurance against fraud. Verily, if a party is in the possession of the best evidence and withholds it, and seeks to substitute inferior evidence in its place, the presumption naturally arises that the better evidence is withheld for fraudulent purposes that its production would expose and defeat. Lastly, the rule protects against misleading inferences resulting from the intentional or unintentional introduction of selected portions of a larger set of writings. (Prodon vs. Heirs of Alvarez)


When is a document considered original?

(a) The original of the document is one the contents of which are the subject of inquiry.

(b) When a document is in two or more copies executed at or about the same time, with identical contents, all such copies are equally regarded as originals.

(c) When an entry is repeated in the regular course of business, one being copied from another at or near the time of the transaction, all the entries are likewise equally regarded as originals. (Sec. 4, Rule 130)


When may secondary evidence be introduced? What are the exceptions to the rule that only original documents may be admissible?

1.  When the original has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;

2.  When the original is in the custody or control of the party against whom it is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

3.  When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office

4.  When the original consists of numerous accounts or cannot be examined by the court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole.


What must the offeror prove before he could be allowed to adduce secondary evidence to prove the contents of the original?

Before a party is allowed to adduce secondary evidence to prove the contents of the original, the offeror must prove the following:

(1) the existence or due execution of the original;

(2) the loss and destruction of the original or the reason for its non-production in court; and

(3) the absence of bad faith on the part of the offeror to which the unavailability of the original can be attributed.

The correct order of proof is as follows: existence, execution, loss, and contents. (Country Bankers Insurance Corp. vs. Lagman)


Cases:
People v Tandoy
G.R. No. 80505, December 4, 1990

The best evidence rule applies only when the contents of the document are the subject of inquiry. Where the issue is only as to whether or not such document was actually executed, or exists, or in the circumstances relevant to or surrounding its execution, the best evidence rule does not apply and testimonial evidence is admissible. Since the aforesaid marked money was presented by the prosecution solely for the purpose of establishing its existence and not its contents, other substitutionary evidence, like a xerox copy thereof, is therefore admissible without the need of accounting for the original.

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