Petitioner Metrobank also argues that respondent Custodio’s prior involvement in a cash shortage in its Cubao branch is admissible as evidence to prove a scheme or habit on her part.
The general evidentiary rule is that evidence that one did or did not do a certain thing at one time is not admissible to prove that one did or did not do the same or a similar thing at another time. However, evidence of similar acts may be received to prove a specific intent or knowledge, identity, plan system, scheme, habit, custom or usage and the like. In Citibank N.A., (Formerly First National City Bank) v. Sabeniano, the Court explained the rationale for this rule:
The rule is founded upon reason, public policy, justice and judicial convenience. The fact that a person has committed the same or similar acts at some prior time affords, as a general rule, no logical guaranty that he committed the act in question. This is so because, subjectively, a man’s mind and even his modes of life may change; and, objectively, the conditions under which he may find himself at a given time may likewise change and thus induce him to act in a different way. Besides, if evidence of similar acts are to be invariably admitted, they will give rise to a multiplicity of collateral issues and will subject the defendant to surprise as well as confuse the court and prolong the trial.
Evidence of similar acts may frequently become relevant, especially to actions based on fraud and deceit, because it sheds light on the state of mind or knowledge of a person; it provides insight into such person’s motive or intent; it uncovers a scheme, design or plan, or it reveals a mistake.
In this case however, respondent Custodio’s prior involvement in a cash shortage in the bank’s Cubao branch does not conclusively prove that she is responsible for the loss of PhP600,000 in theLaoagCitybranch, subject of the instant case.
Although the previous cash shortage in Cubao could possibly shed light on the intent, scheme or habit of respondent Custodio, that previous cash shortage is not sufficient to affirm a definitive finding of fact that she took the funds in theLaoagCitybranch. If the prior cash shortage in Cubao showed a reasonable intent or habit on the part of respondent, then there was no reason for petitioner Metrobank to continue to employ her, considering the degree of trust and confidence required of a bank teller. Nevertheless, respondent Custodio continued to serve the bank even after the case in petitioner Metrobank’s Cubao branch. Her continued employment was an affirmation that she was still worthy of the bank’s trust, insofar as she was allowed to continue to handle sums of money in theLaoagCitybranch.
With respect to the taking of the journal transaction slip by respondent Custodio, no correlation was ever established between this incident and the cash shortage subject of the instant case. The same journal transaction slip, which respondent allegedly attempted to take away, has to do with transactions occurring on23 June 1995. It does not pertain to the transactions on13 June 1995, the day of the cash shortage. No reasonable explanation has been offered regarding how this incident is relevant to the instant case or how it tends to prove that respondent Custodio was the one responsible for a cash shortage that occurred ten days earlier. This incident was distinct and separate from the cash shortage, as shown by the fact that she was subsequently penalized with a seven-day preventive suspension for the incident on23 June 1995, a penalty that is not the subject of the instant proceedings.
In any event, respondent Custodio sufficiently explains that the incident arose from confusion on her part. It is understandable that at the time she was caught with the journal transaction slip, she was just confronted with petitioner Metrobank’s serious accusations that she had taken the missing funds. When the complaint was presented to her and she was barred from entering the teller’s cage, respondent must have been so confused that she mistakenly placed the transaction journals in her pocket. That no cash shortage occurred at that time emphasizes that there was no direct and causal link between the transaction journal slip and the cash shortage.
It is not denied that petitioner Metrobank discovered the lost money after all the tellers had turned over their cash for the day, and the cash custodian had signed the Cash Transfer Slip. Without the cash custodian counting the money before signing the Cash Transfer Slip, many probabilities arise. The shortage may have occurred even prior to the turnover of the cash by respondent Custodio. The missing cash may have also resulted from the transfers done by the other tellers, and not necessarily by respondent Custodio. It may have been taken away during the counting of the money by the cash custodian and the other tellers themselves.
Petitioner Metrobank even argued that respondent Custodio may have taken the money after the cash custodian had returned the amounts turned over to the tellers and other employees for sorting and counting. To begin with, this position is directly contrary to petitioner Metrobank’s theory that respondent Custodio carried away the money in the morning of 13 June 1995. In addition, the cash custodian had asked for assistance from the other bank employees to speed up the counting and sorting, which necessarily opens the possibility that any of those involved could have been a suspect as well. Respondent Custodio even argued that the money she had counted and sorted were funds turned over by other tellers, and not the same funds she herself had given to the cash custodian. More disconcerting is the failure of the cash custodian to even remember who were the employees who had helped her in counting the cash at that time, since everybody was in a hurry to go home. The procedural shortcuts resorted to by petitioner bank’s employees threw open the doors to a multitude of probable scenarios, leading to ambiguity in determining civil liability.
The secondary and incidental facts offered by petitioner Metrobank do not prove the primary factual issue that it wishes to establish in demanding the instant relief from the courts – that respondent Custodio took the money.
Regrettably, the evidence offered by petitioner Metrobank is insufficient to convince to the Court that the probability of respondent Custodio’s having taken the money is greater than its having been taken by another employee. Verily, weighing the evidence on record, the Court finds that petitioner Metrobank failed in its burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that respondent Custodio took PhP600,000 from petitioner Metrobank and is liable to return the amount to the latter.
In view of the foregoing, the Court DENIES the instant Petition for Review filed by Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company. The Court of Appeals’ 14 July 2006 Decision, which dismissed the complaint against respondent Marina Custodio, is hereby AFFIRMED.