Remedial Law Civil Procedure Annulment of judgment; direct recourse to this remedy not allowed if other appropriate remedies are available. Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court impose the conditions for the availment of the remedy of annulment of judgment, viz.: Section 1. Coverage.- This Rule shall govern the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and resolutions in civil actions of Regional Trial Courts for which the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner. Section 2. Groundsfor annulment. – The annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction. Extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief. Section 1, Rule 47 provides that it does not allow a direct recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment if other appropriate remedies are available, such as a petition for new trial, appeal or a petition for relief. If petitioner fails to avail of these remedies without sufficient justification, she cannot resort to the action for annulment of judgment under Rule 47, for otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence. We found no reversible error committed by the CA in dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment. The Spouses Arcenas were declared non-suited for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. 072-07-2002 on November 11, 2003, and respondent bank was allowed to present evidence on its counterclaim on January 8, 2004. Such Order was received by the secretary of petitioner’s counsel on November 17, 2003. Petitioner did not move to set aside the RTC’s order of non-suit. While petitioner’s counsel claimed that he only learned of such Order of non-suit on December 4, 2003, yet no motion to lift the order of non-suit was filed. Notably, from December 4, 2003 to the scheduled hearing on January 8, 2004, petitioner did not take any remedial action to lift the order of non- suit when she had the opportunity to do so. In fact, petitioner and her counsel did not also appear on the scheduled January 8, 2004 hearing wherein respondent bank presented evidence on its counterclaim and submitted the case for decision. It was only on January 14, 2004 when petitioner and her husband filed a pleading captioned as Manifestation and Motion, wherein they prayed for the reconsideration of the Orders dated November 11, 2003 and January 8, 2004 and for further pre-trial conference. The RTC denied such Manifestation and Motion in its Order dated March 9, 2004, as the same was filed beyond the reglementary period, and such Order was received by petitioner on March 12, 2004. Petitioner then filed with the CA a Petition for annulment of order of non-suit under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court on the ground of extrinsic fraud. The CA denied the petition as petitioner failed to avail of the appropriate remedies provided by the Rules to which we agree. XXX XXX XXX Petitioner tries to justify her failure to avail of the appropriate remedies on a promise of settlement. However, such promise was not an excuse for petitioner’s counsel not to lift the order of non-suit and to file a petition for relief. Petitioner’s claim that she was present when respondent bank’s counsel moved for the issuance of the order of non-suit against her was not proven by any evidence. There was indeed a failure to show, to our satisfaction, that petitioner could not have availed of the ordinary and appropriate remedies under the Rules. Thus, she cannot resort to the remedy under Rule 47 of the Rules; otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence. Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010. Annulment of judgment; extrinsic fraud. Petitioner argues that when respondent 1
Annulment of judgment; direct recourse to this remedy not allowed if other appropriate remedies are available. Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court impose the conditions for the availment of the remedy of annulment of judgment, viz.:
Section 1. Coverage.- This Rule shall govern the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and resolutions in civil actions of Regional Trial Courts for which the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner.
Section 2. Groundsfor annulment. – The annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.
Extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.
Section 1, Rule 47 provides that it does not allow a direct recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment if other appropriate remedies are available, such as a petition for new trial, appeal or a petition for relief. If petitioner fails to avail of these remedies without sufficient justification, she cannot resort to the action for annulment of judgment under Rule 47, for otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence.
We found no reversible error committed by the CA in dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment. The Spouses Arcenas were declared non-suited for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. 072-07-2002 on November 11, 2003, and respondent bank was allowed to present evidence on its counterclaim on January 8, 2004. Such Order was received by the secretary of petitioner’s counsel on November 17, 2003. Petitioner did not move to set aside the RTC’s order of non-suit. While petitioner’s counsel claimed that he only learned of such Order of non-suit on December 4, 2003, yet no motion to lift the order of non-suit was filed. Notably, from December 4, 2003 to the scheduled hearing on January 8, 2004, petitioner did not take any remedial action to lift the order of non-suit when she had the opportunity to do so. In fact, petitioner and her counsel did not also appear on the scheduled January 8, 2004 hearing wherein respondent bank presented evidence on its counterclaim and submitted the case for decision. It was only on January 14, 2004 when petitioner and her husband filed a pleading captioned as Manifestation and Motion, wherein they prayed for the reconsideration of the Orders dated November 11, 2003 and January 8, 2004 and for further pre-trial conference. The RTC denied such Manifestation and Motion in its Order dated March 9, 2004, as the same was filed beyond the reglementary period, and
such Order was received by petitioner on March 12, 2004. Petitioner then filed with the CA a Petition for annulment of order of non-suit under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court on the ground of extrinsic fraud. The CA denied the petition as petitioner failed to avail of the appropriate remedies provided by the Rules to which we agree.
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Petitioner tries to justify her failure to avail of the appropriate remedies on a promise of settlement. However, such promise was not an excuse for petitioner’s counsel not to lift the order of non-suit and to file a petition for relief. Petitioner’s claim that she was present when respondent bank’s counsel moved for the issuance of the order of non-suit against her was not proven by any evidence. There was indeed a failure to show, to our satisfaction, that petitioner could not have availed of the ordinary and appropriate remedies under the Rules. Thus, she cannot resort to the remedy under Rule 47 of the Rules; otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence. Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010.
Annulment of judgment; extrinsic fraud. Petitioner argues that when respondent bank’s counsel moved for the issuance of the Order of non-suit against her and her husband during the November 11, 2003 hearing, extrinsic fraud was committed on them since respondent bank’s counsel concealed from the RTC that there was a gentleman’s agreement for the settlement of the subject civil cases. We are not persuaded. It bears stressing that when petitioner’s counsel filed the Manifestation and Motion asking for reconsideration of the Order declaring the Spouses Arcenas non-suited, the reason stated was honest mistake or excusable negligence. To show such mistake, he explained that since there was a pending negotiation for settlement in Civil Case Nos. V-006-01-2002 and V-072-07-2002, which were both pending in the same court, and the parties had to come up with a settlement for the hearing of Civil Case No. V-006-01-2002 scheduled on December 4, 2004, petitioner’s counsel then asked for the postponement of the scheduled November 11, 2003 hearing set for the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002 one day before the said date, because of conflict of schedule and since he had in mind the December 4, 2003 deadline to submit the settlement. Notably, petitioner’s counsel admitted that the date set for the submission of settlement in Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002 was indeed November 11, 2003; and that his failure to attend the hearings and to file a motion for reconsideration of the declaration of petitioner as non-suited was because of his mistaken belief that respondent bank was earnestly seeking a settlement. There was nothing in the Manifestation and Motion which alluded the commission of extrinsic fraud to respondent bank’s
counsel. Moreover, since petitioner claimed that there was extrinsic fraud committed by respondent bank’s counsel, she could have filed a petition for relief under Rule 38 within the period provided for by the Rules of Court, but she did not. Section 2, Rule 47 clearly states that extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground for annulment of order if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief. Thus, extrinsic fraud is effectively barred if it could have been raised as a ground in an available remedial measure. Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010
Annulment of order of non-suit; no forum shopping where petitioner also files notice of appeal pertaining to decision on the merits.Finally, we find no merit in respondent bank’s claim that petitioner committed forum shopping. The issue brought before us is whether the CA correctly dismissed petitioner’s petition for annulment of the Order dated November 11, 2003 declaring her non-suited for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002. On the other hand, petitioner’s Notice of Appeal in Civil Case Nos. V-006-01-2002 and V-072-07-2002 pertained to the decision of the RTC rendered on the merits. Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010
Appeals; effect of failure to appeal. In its Memorandum, SPI prays that petitioners be ordered to pay 3% interest monthly as stipulated in the Contract for Lease, plus attorney’s fees. However, as SPI did not appeal the RTC Decision before the appellate court, we cannot act on the same. It is well-settled that a party who has not appealed from a Decision cannot seek any relief other than what is provided in the judgment appealed from. SPI did not appeal, thus it cannot obtain from the appellate court any affirmative relief other than those granted in the Decision of the court below. It can only advance any argument that it may deem necessary to defeat petitioners’ claim or to uphold the Decision that is being disputed, and it can assign errors in its brief if such is required to strengthen the views expressed by the court a quo. These assigned errors, in turn, may be considered by the appellate court solely to maintain the appealed decision on other grounds, but not for the purpose of reversing or modifying the judgment in SPI’s favor and giving it other reliefs.
We find on record that SPI’s counsel, with the concurrence of its Vice President, withdrew his appearance on November 24, 2000. The RTC granted said withdrawal in its Order dated January 5, 2001. Subsequently, the case was decided by the RTC and appealed by the petitioners to the CA. In due time, the CA rendered judgment on the same
and petitioners filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari. SPI did not interpose an appeal from the RTC Decision nor from the CA Decision. After more than six years, on September 13, 2007, a new law firm entered its appearance as counsel of SPI. SPI now claims that it was not able to appeal the Decision of the RTC and subsequently of the CA which failed to impose 3% monthly interest as provided in the Contract of Lease because it never received said Decisions, considering that its counsel has migrated to another country and that petitioners misled the courts about SPI’s address. We are not persuaded. SPI failed to exercise due diligence in keeping itself updated on the developments of the case. That its erstwhile counsel has not communicated for a long period of time and has migrated abroad, should have cautioned it that something was amiss with the case. By that time, SPI should have initiated moves to locate its counsel or to inquire from the court on the progress of the case. It should have ensured that its address on record with the court is updated and current. Thus, it has been equally stressed that litigants represented by counsel should not expect that all they need to do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of the case. Instead, they should give the necessary assistance to their counsel and exercise due diligence to monitor the status of the case for what is at stake is ultimately their interest. Selwyn F. Lao, et al. vs. Special Plans, Inc., G.R. No. 164791, June 29, 2010
Appeals; factual findings of trial court. Jurisprudence dictates that factual findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are accorded the highest degree of respect and are considered conclusive between the parties. A review of such findings by this Court is not warranted except for highly meritorious circumstances when: (1) the findings of a trial court are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) a lower court’s inference from its factual findings is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts; (4) the findings of the appellate court go beyond the issues of the case, or fail to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify a different conclusion; (5) there is a misappreciation of facts; (6) the findings of fact are conclusions without mention of the specific evidence on which they are based, are premised on the absence of evidence, or are contradicted by evidence on record. None of the foregoing exceptions which would warrant a reversal of the assailed decision obtains in this instance. St. Joseph’s College, Sr., Josephini Ambatali, SFIC, and Rosalinda Tabugo vs. Jayson Miranda, represented by his father, Rodolfo S. Miranda, G.R. No. 182353, June 29, 2010
Appeals; “Fresh period rule” in “Neypes v. Court of Appeals” not applicable to administrative appeal from DENR regional office to DENR Secretary. TheissuebeforetheCourtofAppeals was whether the
“fresh period rule” laid down in Neypes applies to petitioner’s case, i.e., that he had a fresh period of 15 days to appeal RD Sampulna’s October 16, 2007 Order to the DENR Secretary, counted from her notice on September 12, 2007 of the RD’s Order of September 6, 2007 denying her motion for reconsideration of the decision. The “fresh period rule” in Neypes declares:
To standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rulesand to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their cases, the Court deems it practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appealin the Regional Trial Court, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration.
Henceforth, this “fresh period rule” shallalsoapplytoRule40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts; Rule42 on petitions for review from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals; Rule43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals; and Rule45 governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court. The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.
x x x. This pronouncement is not inconsistent with Rule41, Section3oftheRules which states that the appeal shall be taken within 15 days from notice of judgment or final order appealed from. The use of the disjunctive word “or” signifies disassociation and independence of one thing from another. It should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies. Hence, the use of “or” in the above provision supposes that the notice of appeal may be filed within 15 days from notice of judgment or within 15 days from notice of the “final order,” which we already determined to refer to the x x x order denying the motion for a new trial or reconsideration.
Neither does this new rule run counter to the spirit of Section39ofBP129 which shortened the appeal period from 30 days to 15 days to hasten the disposition of cases. The original period of appeal x x x remains and the requirement for strict compliance still applies.The fresh period of 15 days becomes significant only when a party opts to file a motion for reconsideration. In this manner, the trial court which rendered the assailed decision is given another opportunity to review the case and, in the process, minimize and/or rectify any error of judgment. While we aim to resolve cases with dispatch and to have judgments of courts become final at some definite time, we likewise aspire to deliver justice fairly.
In this case, the new period of 15 days eradicates the confusion as to when the 15-day appeal period should be counted–from receipt of notice of
judgment x x x or from receipt of notice of “final order” appealed from x x x.
To recapitulate, a party litigant may either file his notice of appeal within 15 days from receipt of the Regional Trial Court’s decision or file it within 15 days from receipt of the order (the “final order”) denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Obviously, the new 15-day period may be availed of only if either motion is filed; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of the original appeal period provided in Rule 41, Section 3. (emphasis and underscoring supplied; italics in the original)
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As reflected in the above-quoted portion of the decision in Neypes, the “fresh period rule” shall apply to Rule40 (appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts); Rule41 (appeals from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court); Rule42 (appeals from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals); Rule43 (appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals); and Rule45 (appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court). Obviously, these Rules cover judicial proceedings under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Petitioner’s present case is administrative in nature involving an appeal from the decision or order of the DENR regional office to the DENR Secretary. Such appeal is indeed governed by Section 1 of Administrative Order No. 87, Series of 1990. As earlier quoted, Section 1 clearly provides that if the motion for reconsideration is denied, the movant shall perfect his appeal “during the remainder of the period of appeal, reckoned from receipt of the resolution of denial;” whereas if the decision is reversed, the adverse party has a fresh 15-day period to perfect his appeal. Rule 41, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, as clarified in Neypes, being inconsistent with Section 1 of Administrative Order No. 87, Series of 1990, it may not apply to the case of petitioner whose motion for reconsideration was denied. Julieta Panolino vs. Josephine L. Tajala, G.R. No. 183616, June 29, 2010
Appeals; late filing excused in interest of substantial justice. It is settled that an appeal must be perfected within the reglementary period provided by law; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory. Before the Supreme Court, a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, must be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of the petitioner’s motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment. Even then, review is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and may be granted only when there are special and important
reasons therefor. In the case at bar, the Docket Division of the OSG received a copy of the CA decision on November 7, 2007. It was not until February 1, 2008 or almost three (3) months however, that the OSG, for petitioner, filed a petition for review on certiorari with this Court. The OSG pleads for understanding considering the scarcity of its lawyers and the inadvertence of the temporarily-designated OIC of Division XV in overlooking that the CA decision was adverse to PEZA.
While the Court realizes the OSG’s difficulty in having only three (3) lawyers working full time on its cases, the OSG could have easily asked for an extension of time within which to file the petition. More importantly, as the government agency tasked to represent the government in litigations, the OSG should perform its duty with promptness and utmost diligence. However, upon careful consideration of the merits of this case, the Court is inclined to overlook this procedural lapse in the interest of substantial justice. Although a party is bound by the acts of its counsel, including the latter’s mistakes and negligence, a departure from this rule is warranted where such mistake or neglect would result in serious injustice to the client. Indeed, procedural rules may be relaxed for persuasive reasons to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure. More so, when to allow the assailed decision to go unchecked would set a precedent that will sanction a violation of substantive law. Such is the situation in this case. Philippine Economic Zone Authority, represented herein by Dir. Gen. Lilia B. De Lima vs. Joseph Jude Carantes and all the other heirs of Maximino Carantes, G.R. No. 181274. June 23, 2010
Appeals; Rule 45 petition may raise only questions of law. At the outset, we note that this recourse is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Under Section 1 of the Rule, such a petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly alleged in the appropriate pleading. In a case involving a question of law, the resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides for a given set of facts drawn from the evidence presented. Stated differently, there should be nothing in dispute as to the state of facts; the issue to be resolved is merely the correctness of the conclusion drawn from the said facts. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the probative value of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact. If the query requires a reevaluation of the credibility of witnesses, or the existence or relevance of surrounding circumstances and their relation to each other, then the issue is necessarily factual. A perusal of the assignment of errors and the discussion set forth by MSCI would readily show that the petition seeks a review of all the evidence presented before the RTC and reviewed by the CA; therefore, the issue is factual. Accordingly, the petition should be dismissed outright, especially
considering that the very same factual circumstances in this petition have already been ruled upon by the CA. Makati Sports Club, Inc. vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010
Appeals; withdrawal of appeal. Section 3, Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, provides:
Sec. 3. Withdrawal of appeal. – An appeal may be withdrawn as of right at any time before the filing of appellee’s brief. Thereafter, the withdrawal may be allowed in the discretion of the court. (underscoring supplied)
At the time petitioner moved to withdraw her appeal, respondents had not yet filed their brief, hence, the grant thereof by the appellate court was in order. Nelly Bautista vs. Seraph Management Group, Inc., G.R. No. 174039, June 29, 2010
Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. A special civil action for certiorari, under Rule 65, is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and will lie only if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. A petition for certiorari will prosper only if grave abuse of discretion is alleged and proved to exist. “Grave abuse of discretion,” under Rule 65, has a specific meaning. It is the arbitrary or despotic exercise of power due to passion, prejudice or personal hostility; or the whimsical, arbitrary, or capricious exercise of power that amounts to an evasion or refusal to perform a positive duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law. For an act to be struck down as having been done with grave abuse of discretion, the abuse of discretion must be patent and gross. Such is not the case here. Rudolfo I. Beluso vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 180711. June 22, 2010
Certiorari; hierarchy of courts. Primarily, although this Court, the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence does not give the petitioner unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. In Heirs of BertuldoHinog v. Melicor, citing People v. Cuaresma, this Court made the following pronouncements:
This Court’s original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is not exclusive. It is shared by this Court with Regional Trial Courts and with the Court of Appeals. This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the
extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level (“inferior”) courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is [an] established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket. (Emphasis supplied.)
The rationale for this rule is two-fold: (a) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this Court; and (b) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues because this Court is not a trier of facts. This Court thus reaffirms the judicial policy that it will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances, such as cases of national interest and of serious implications, justify the availment of the extraordinary remedy of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction. Exceptional and compelling circumstances were held present in the following cases: (a) Chavez v. Romulo, on citizens’ right to bear arms; (b) Government of [the] United States of America v. Hon. Purganan, on bail in extradition proceedings; (c) Commission on Elections v. Judge Quijano-Padilla, on government contract involving modernization and computerization of voters’ registration list; (d) Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v. Hon. Sec. Zamora, on status and existence of a public office; and (e) Hon. Fortich v. Hon. Corona, on the so-called “Win-Win Resolution” of the Office of the President which modified the approval of the conversion to agro-industrial area.
In the case at bench, petitioner failed to specifically and sufficiently set forth special and important reasons to justify direct recourse to this Court and why this Court should give due course to this petitionin the first instance, hereby failing to fulfill the conditions set forth in Heirs of BertuldoHinog v. Melicor. The present petition should have been initially filed in the Court of Appealsin strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts. Failure to do so is sufficient cause for the dismissal of this petition. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010
Certiorari; nature and requisites. The special civil
action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The essential requisites for a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 are: (1) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board, or an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board, or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
Excess of jurisdiction as distinguished from absence of jurisdiction means that an act, though within the general power of a tribunal, board or officer, is not authorized and invalid with respect to the particular proceeding, because the conditions which alone authorize the exercise of the general power in respect of it are wanting. Without jurisdiction means lack or want of legal power, right or authority to hear and determine a cause or causes, considered either in general or with reference to a particular matter. It means lack of power to exercise authority. Grave abuse of discretionimplies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility, and it must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010
Certiorari; not a substitute for lost appeal. Prefatorily, the Court notes that petitioners filed a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. As a rule, the remedy from a judgment or final order of the CA is appeal via petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. In Mercado v. Court of Appeals, this Court had again stressed the difference of the remedies provided for under Rule 45 and Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
x x x [T]he proper remedy of the party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review under Rule 45, which is not identical with a petition for review under Rule 65. Under Rule 45, decisions, final orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to us by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. On the other hand, a special civil action under Rule 65 is an independent action
based on the specific ground therein provided and, as a general rule, cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal, including that to be taken under Rule 45. x x x
One of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no available appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy. Where an appeal is available, certiorari will not prosper, even if the ground therefore is grave abuse of discretion. Accordingly, when a party adopts an improper remedy, his petition may be dismissed outright. Pertinent, therefore, to a resolution of the case at bar is a determination of whether or not an appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy was still available to petitioners, the absence of which would warrant petitioners’ decision to seek refuge under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. A perusal of the records will show that petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration to the January 4, 2005 CA Decision, which was, however, denied by the CA via a Resolution dated March 18, 2005. As manifested by petitioners, they received a copy of the March 18, 2005 CA Resolution on March 28, 2005. Thus, from March 28, 2005, petitioners had 15 days, or until April 12, 2005, to appeal the CA Resolution under Rule 45. Clearly, petitioners had an available appeal under Rule 45 which, under the circumstances, was the plain, speedy and adequate remedy. However, petitioners instead chose to file a special civil action for certiorari, under Rule 65, on April 18, 2005, which was 6 days after the reglementary period under Rule 45 had expired. The fact that the petitioners used the Rule 65 modality as a substitute for a lost appeal is made plainly manifest by: a) its filing the said petition 6 days after the expiration of the 15-day reglementary period for filing a Rule 45 appeal; and b) its petition which makes specious allegations of “grave abuse of discretion.” But it asserts that the CA erred (1) when it declared that the petitioners failed in their undertakings to provide drainage in accordance with the requirements of the MOA; (2) when it declared that petitioners are solely culpable for the lack of an environmental compliance certificate, when it awarded temperate damages; and (3) when it ordered the automatic forfeiture of the performance bond. These are mere errors of judgment which would have been the proper subjects of a petition for review under rule 45. Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010
Certiorari; not available to correct errors of judgment. While petitioners would insist that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion, this Court is of the opinion, however, that the assailed Decision and Resolution of the CA, granting the forfeiture of the performance bond among others, amount to nothing more than errors of judgment, correctible by appeal. When a court, tribunal, or officer has jurisdiction over the person and the subject matter of the
dispute, the decision on all other questions arising in the case is an exercise of that jurisdiction. Consequently, all errors committed in the exercise of said jurisdiction are merely errors of judgment. Under prevailing procedural rules and jurisprudence, errors of judgment are not proper subjects of a special civil action for certiorari. If every error committed by the trial court or quasi-judicial agency were to be the proper subject of a special civil action for certiorari, then trial would never end and the dockets of appellate courts would be clogged beyond measure. For this reason, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision, not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision, the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. Since petitioners filed the instant special civil action for certiorari, instead of appeal via a petition for review, the petition should be dismissed. Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010
Certiorari; not available to correct errors of judgment. Nothing in the records of this case supports petitioner’s bare assertion that the COMELEC rendered its assailed Resolutions with grave abuse of discretion. Beluso alleged grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in perpetually disqualifying him to serve in any canvassing board, yet failed to prove where the abuse existed. Notably, the apparent thrust of Beluso’s petition is the alleged error on the part of the COMELEC in drawing its conclusions based on its findings and investigation. Thus, in reality, what Beluso was questioning is the COMELEC’s appreciation of evidence. At this point, however, it is not this Court’s function to re-evaluate the findings of fact of the COMELEC, given its limited scope of its review power, which is properly confined only to issues of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. Moreover, the arguments in the petition and the issues alleged are only possible errors of judgment, questioning the correctness of the COMELEC’s rulings. Where the real issue involves the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision – not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision – the same is beyond the province of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. It is well settled that a writ of certiorari may be issued only for the correction of errors of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The writ cannot be used for any other purpose, as its function is limited to keeping the inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction. The supervisory jurisdiction of this Court to issue a certiorari writ cannot be exercised in order to review the judgment of the lower court as to its intrinsic correctness, either upon the law or the facts of the case. Rudolfo I. Beluso vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 180711. June 22, 2010
Certiorari; period for filing counted from denial of first motion for reconsideration. In San Juan, the Court was also confronted with the question of when the reglementary period for filing a petition for certiorari shall be reckoned. Petitioner therein filed second and third motions for reconsideration from the interlocutory order and when he filed the petition for certiorari with the CA, he counted the 60-day reglementary period from the notice of denial of his third motion for reconsideration. He argued that, since there is no rule prohibiting the filing of a second or third motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order, the 60-day period should be counted from the notice of denial of the last motion for reconsideration. Having declared that the filing of a second motion for reconsideration that merely reiterates the arguments in the first motion is subject to denial, the Court held that the 60-day period for filing a petition for certiorari shall be reckoned from the trial court’s denial of the first motion for reconsideration, otherwise, indefinite delays will ensue. Applying the ruling in San Juan, the petition for certiorari was evidently filed out of time, as its filing was reckoned from the denial of the last motion. The subject Motion to Dismiss was filed in an attempt to resurrect the remedy of a petition for certiorari, which had been lost long before its filing. Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010
Certiorari; requirement that tribunal, board or officer be acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity. In the case before this Court, the petitioner fails to meet the above-mentioned requisites for the proper invocation of a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform in issuing the assailed DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, as well as Memorandum No. 88 did so in accordance with his mandate to implement the land use conversion provisions of Republic Act No. 6657. In the process, he neither acted in any judicial or quasi-judicial capacity nor assumed unto himself any performance of judicial or quasi-judicial prerogative. A Petition for Certiorari is a special civil action that may be invoked only against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial functions. Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure is explicit on this matter, viz.:
SECTION 1. Petition for certiorari. – When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment must be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings
of such tribunal, board or officer.
A tribunal, board, or officer is said to be exercising judicial function where it has the power to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are, and then undertakes to determine these questions and adjudicate upon the rights of the parties. Quasi-judicial function, on the other hand, is “a term which applies to the actions, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies x x x required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature.” Before a tribunal, board, or officer may exercise judicial or quasi-judicial acts, it is necessary that there be a law that gives rise to some specific rights of persons or property under which adverse claims to such rights are made, and the controversy ensuing therefrom is brought before a tribunal, board, or officer clothed with power and authority to determine the law and adjudicate the respective rights of the contending parties. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform does not fall within the ambit of a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions. The issuance and enforcement by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform of the questioned DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88 were done in the exercise of his quasi-legislative and administrative functions and not of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. In issuing the aforesaid administrative issuances, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform never made any adjudication of rights of the parties. As such, it can never be said that the Secretary of Agrarian Reform had acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing and enforcing DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88 for he never exercised any judicial or quasi-judicial functions but merely his quasi-legislative and administrative functions. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010
Dismissals; effect of adjudication on the merits unless court declares otherwise. In any case, we agree with the CA’s conclusion that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss. However, we do not agree that the judgment of dismissal in the first case was not on the merits. A ruling on a motion to dismiss, issued without trial on the merits or formal presentation of evidence, can still be a judgment on the merits. Section 3 of Rule 17 of the Rules of Court is explicit that a dismissal for failure to comply with an order of the court shall have the effect of an adjudication upon the merits. In other words, unless the court states that the dismissal is without prejudice, the dismissal should be understood as an adjudication on the merits and is with prejudice. Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto,
Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010
Execution of judgment; execution upon motion and effect of failure to redeem. Petitioner, in essence, argues that the October 11, 1977 Decision was not timely executed because of respondent’s failure to secure the final certificate of sale within 10 years from the entry of said judgment. This is erroneous. It is not disputed that shortly after the trial court rendered the aforesaid judgment, respondent moved for execution which was granted by the trial court. On June 6, 1978, the subject property was sold on execution sale. Respondent emerged as the highest bidder, thus, a certificate of sale was executed by the sheriff in her favor on the same day. As correctly held by the trial court, the October 11, 1977 Decision was already enforced when the subject property was levied and sold on June 6, 1978 which is within the five-year period for the execution of a judgment by motion under Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. It is, likewise, not disputed that petitioner failed to redeem the subject property within one year from the annotation of the certificate of sale on TCT No. 480537. The expiration of the one-year redemption period foreclosed petitioner’s right to redeem the subject property and the sale thereby became absolute. The issuance thereafter of a final certificate of sale is a mere formality and confirmation of the title that is already vested in respondent. Thus, the trial court properly granted the motion for issuance of the final certificate of sale. Jose dela Reyes vs. Josephine Anne B. Ramnani, G.R. No. 169135. June 18, 2010
Forum shopping; no forum shopping where petitions have different causes of action and seek different reliefs. Forum shopping consists of the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. Thus, forum shopping may arise: (a) whenever as a result of an adverse decision in one forum, a party seeks a favorable decision (other than by appeal or certiorari) in another; or (b) if, after having filed a petition in the Supreme Court, a party files another petition in the Court of Appeals, because he thereby deliberately splits appeals “in the hope that even as one case in which a particular remedy is sought is dismissed, another case (offering a similar remedy) would still be open”; or (c) where a party attempts to obtain a writ of preliminary injunction from a court after failing to obtain the writ from another court. What is truly important to consider in determining whether forum shopping exists or not is the vexation caused to the courts and the litigants by a party who accesses different courts and administrative agencies to rule on the same or related causes or to grant the same or substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different fora upon the same issue. The filing of identical petitions in
different courts is prohibited, because such act constitutes forum shopping, a malpractice that is proscribed and condemned as trifling with the courts and as abusing their processes. Forum shopping is an improper conduct that degrades the administration of justice. Nonetheless, the mere filing of several cases based on the same incident does not necessarily constitute forum shopping. The test is whether the several actions filed involve the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances. The actions must also raise identical causes of action, subject matter, and issues. Elsewise stated, forum shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present, or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other.
Lokin has filed the petition for mandamus to compel the COMELEC to proclaim him as the second nominee of CIBAC upon the issuance of NBC Resolution No. 07-72 (announcing CIBAC’s entitlement to an additional seat in the House of Representatives), and to strike down the provision in NBC Resolution No. 07-60 and NBC Resolution No. 07-72 holding in abeyance “all proclamation of the nominees of concerned parties, organizations and coalitions with pending disputes shall likewise be held in abeyance until final resolution of their respective cases.” He has insisted that the COMELEC had the ministerial duty to proclaim him due to his being CIBAC’s second nominee; and that the COMELEC had no authority to exercise discretion and to suspend or defer the proclamation of winning party-list organizations with pending disputes. On the other hand, Lokin has resorted to the petition for certiorari to assail the September 14, 2007 resolution of the COMELEC (approving the withdrawal of the nomination of Lokin, Tugna and Galang and the substitution by Cruz-Gonzales as the second nominee and Borje as the third nominee); and to challenge the validity of Section 13 of Resolution No. 7804, the COMELEC’s basis for allowing CIBAC’s withdrawal of Lokin’s nomination.
Applying the test for forum shopping, the consecutive filing of the action for certiorari and the action for mandamus did not violate the rule against forum shopping even if the actions involved the same parties, because they were based on different causes of action and the reliefs they sought were different. Luis K. Lokin, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis K. Lokin vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 179431-32/G.R. No. 180443. June 22, 2010
Injunction; no prohibition against injunction to restrain collection of local taxes. A principle deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is that taxes being the lifeblood of the government should be collected promptly, without unnecessary hindrance or delay. In line with this principle, the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (NIRC) expressly provides that no court shall have the authority to grant an injunction to restrain the collection of any national
internal revenue tax, fee or charge imposed by the code. An exception to this rule obtains only when in the opinion of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) the collection thereof may jeopardize the interest of the government and/or the taxpayer.
The situation, however, is different in the case of the collection of local taxes as there is no express provision in the LGC prohibiting courts from issuing an injunction to restrain local governments from collecting taxes. Thus, in the case of Valley Trading Co., Inc. v. Court of First Instance of Isabela, Branch II, cited by the petitioner, we ruled that:
Unlike the National Internal Revenue Code, the Local Tax Code does not contain any specific provision prohibiting courts from enjoining the collection of local taxes. Such statutory lapse or intent, however it may be viewed, may have allowed preliminary injunction where local taxes are involved but cannot negate the procedural rules and requirements under Rule 58.
In light of the foregoing, petitioner’s reliance on the above-cited case to support its view that the collection of taxes cannot be enjoined is misplaced. The lower court’s denial of the motion for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the collection of the local tax was upheld in that case, not because courts are prohibited from granting such injunction, but because the circumstances required for the issuance of writ of injunction were not present. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that although there is no express prohibition in the LGC, injunctions enjoining the collection of local taxes are frowned upon. Courts therefore should exercise extreme caution in issuing such injunctions. Angeles City vs. Angeles Electric Corporation, G.R. No. 166134, June 29, 2010
Injunction; requisites. Injunction is a judicial writ, process or proceeding whereby a party is directed either to do a particular act, in which case it is called a mandatory injunction or to refrain from doing a particular act, in which case it is called a prohibitory injunction. As a main action, injunction seeks to permanently enjoin the defendant through a final injunction issued by the court and contained in the judgment. Section 9, Rule 58 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, provides,
SEC. 9. When final injunction granted. – If after the trial of the action it appears that the applicant is entitled to have the act or acts complained of permanently enjoined, the court shall grant a final injunction perpetually restraining the party or person enjoined from the commission or continuance of the act or acts or confirming the preliminary mandatory injunction.
Two (2) requisites must concur for injunction to issue: (1) there must be a right to be protected and (2) the acts against which the injunction is to be
directed are violative of said right. Particularly, in actions involving realty, preliminary injunction will lie only after the plaintiff has fully established his title or right thereto by a proper action for the purpose. To authorize a temporary injunction, the complainant must make out at least a prima facie showing of a right to the final relief. Preliminary injunction will not issue to protect a right not inesse. These principles are equally relevant to actions seeking permanent injunction. Philippine Economic Zone Authority, represented herein by Dir. Gen. Lilia B. De Lima vs. Joseph Jude Carantes and all the other heirs of Maximino Carantes, G.R. No. 181274. June 23, 2010
Injunction; requisites; discretion of trial court. Section 3, Rule 58, of the Rules of Court lays down the requirements for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, viz:
(a) That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consists in restraining the commission or continuance of the acts complained of, or in the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually;
(b) That the commission, continuance or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the applicant; or
(c) That a party, court, or agency or a person is doing, threatening, or attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done, some act or acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment ineffectual.
Two requisites must exist to warrant the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, namely: (1) the existence of a clear and unmistakable right that must be protected; and (2) an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage.
In issuing the injunction, the RTC ratiocinated that:
It is very evident on record that petitioner resorted and filed an urgent motion for issuance of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the scheduled auction sale only when a warrant of levy was issued and published in the newspaper setting the auction sale of petitioner’s property by the City Treasurer, merely few weeks after the petition for declaratory relief has been filed, because if the respondent will not be restrained, it will render this petition moot and academic. To the mind of the Court, since there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to the petitioner in the ordinary course of law except this application for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction to stop the auction sale and/or to enjoin
and/or restrain respondents from levying, annotating the levy, seizing, confiscating, garnishing, selling and disposing at public auction the properties of petitioner, or otherwise exercising other administrative remedies against the petitioner and its properties, this alone justifies the move of the petitioner in seeking the injunctive reliefs sought for.
Petitioner in its petition is questioning the assessment or the ruling of the City Treasurer on the business tax and fees, and not the local ordinance concerned. This being the case, the Court opines that notice is not required to the Solicitor General since what is involved is just a violation of a private right involving the right of ownership and possession of petitioner’s properties. Petitioner, therefore, need not comply with Section 4, Rule 63 requiring such notice to the Office of the Solicitor General.
The Court is fully aware of the Supreme Court pronouncement that injunction is not proper to restrain the collection of taxes. The issue here as of the moment is the restraining of the respondent from pursuing its auction sale of the petitioner’s properties. The right of ownership and possession of the petitioner over the properties subject of the auction sale is at stake.
Respondents assert that not one of the witnesses presented by the petitioner have proven what kind of right has been violated by the respondent, but merely mentioned of an injury which is only a scenario based on speculation because of petitioner’s claim that electric power may be disrupted.
Engr. Abordo’s testimony reveals and even his Affidavit Exhibit “S” showed that if the auction sale will push thru, petitioner will not only lose control and operation of its facility, but its employees will also be denied access to equipments vital to petitioner’s operations, and since only the petitioner has the capability to operate Petersville sub station, there will be a massive power failure or blackout which will adversely affect business and economy, if not lives and properties in Angeles City and surrounding communities.
Petitioner, thru its witnesses, in the hearing of the temporary restraining order, presented sufficient and convincing evidence proving irreparable damages and injury which were already elaborated in the temporary restraining order although the same may be realized only if the auction sale will proceed. And unless prevented, restrained, and enjoined, grave and irreparable damage will be suffered not only by the petitioner but all its electric consumers in Angeles, Clark, Dau and Bacolor, Pampanga.
The purpose of injunction is to prevent injury and damage from being incurred, otherwise, it will render any judgment in this case ineffectual.
“As an extraordinary remedy, injunction is calculated to preserve or maintain the status quo of things and is generally availed of to prevent actual or threatened acts, until the merits of the case can be heard” (Cagayan de Oro City Landless Res. Assn. Inc. vs. CA, 254 SCRA 220)
It appearing that the two essential requisites of an injunction have been satisfied, as there exists a right on the part of the petitioner to be protected, its right[s] of ownership and possession of the properties subject of the auction sale, and that the acts (conducting an auction sale) against which the injunction is to be directed, are violative of the said rights of the petitioner, the Court has no other recourse but to grant the prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction considering that if the respondent will not be restrained from doing the acts complained of, it will preempt the Court from properly adjudicating on the merits the various issues between the parties, and will render moot and academic the proceedings before this court.
As a rule, the issuance of a preliminary injunction rests entirely within the discretion of the court taking cognizance of the case and will not be interfered with, except where there is grave abuse of discretion committed by the court. For grave abuse of discretion to prosper as a ground for certiorari, it must be demonstrated that the lower court or tribunal has exercised its power in an arbitrary and despotic manner, by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be patent and gross as would amount to an evasion or to a unilateral refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law. In other words, mere abuse of discretion is not enough.
Guided by the foregoing, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC in issuing the writ of injunction. Petitioner, who has the burden to prove grave abuse of discretion, failed to show that the RTC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in granting the injunction. Neither was petitioner able to prove that the injunction was issued without any factual or legal justification. In assailing the injunction, petitioner primarily relied on the prohibition on the issuance of a writ of injunction to restrain the collection of taxes. But as we have already said, there is no such prohibition in the case of local taxes. Records also show that before issuing the injunction, the RTC conducted a hearing where both parties were given the opportunity to present their arguments. During the hearing, AEC was able to show that it had a clear and unmistakable legal right over the properties to be levied and that it would sustain serious damage if these properties, which are vital to its operations, would be sold at public auction. As we see it then, the writ of injunction was properly issued.
A final note. While we are mindful that the damage to a taxpayer’s property rights generally takes a back seat to the paramount need of the State for
funds to sustain governmental functions, this rule finds no application in the instant case where the disputed tax assessment is not yet due and demandable. Considering that AEC was able to appeal the denial of its protest within the period prescribed under Section 195 of the LGC, the collection of business taxes through levy at this time is, to our mind, hasty, if not premature. The issues of tax exemption, double taxation, prescription and the alleged retroactive application of the RRCAC, raised in the protest of AEC now pending with the RTC, must first be resolved before the properties of AEC can be levied. In the meantime, AEC’s rights of ownership and possession must be respected. Angeles City vs. Angeles Electric Corporation, G.R. No. 166134, June 29, 2010
Jurisdiction; hierarchy of courts. Moreover, it is settled that the normal rule is to strictly follow the hierarchy of courts, thus:
The Supreme Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the fundamental charter and immemorial tradition. A direct invocation of this Court’s original jurisdiction to issue said writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy—a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket. PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010
Jurisdiction; Regional trial court has jurisdiction over complaint for injunction against PAGCOR. On the threshold issue of jurisdiction, PAGCOR insists lack of jurisdiction of the trial court over the complaint of FDC and, hence, all the processes and writs issued by said court are null and void. It posits that the proper legal remedy of FDC is not through an injunction complaint before the trial court, but a petition for review on purely questions of law before this Court or an appeal to the Office of the President. It heavily relies on Sec. 9 of PD 1869, which states that PAGCOR “shall exercise all the powers, authority and responsibilities vested in the Securities and Exchange Commission,” and Sec. 6 of PD 902-A which provides for a petition for review to this Court from SEC’s decisions. We are not convinced.
Jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of the action is a matter of law and is conferred only by the Constitution or by statute. It is settled that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations of the complaint or the petition irrespective of whether plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims or reliefs asserted. A perusal of FDC’s complaint in Civil Case No. 08-120338 easily reveals that it is an
action for injunction based on an alleged violation of contract—the MOA between the parties—which granted FDC the right to operate a casino inside the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ). As such, the Manila RTC has jurisdiction over FDC’s complaint anchored on Sec. 19, Chapter II of BP 129, which grants the RTCs original exclusive jurisdiction over “all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation.” Evidently, a complaint for injunction or breach of contract is incapable of pecuniary estimation. Moreover, the RTCs shall exercise original jurisdiction “in the issuance of writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their respective regions” under Sec. 21 of BP 129.
PAGCOR’s claim of jurisdiction of this Court over the complaint in question heavily leans on Sec. 9 of PD 1869, PAGCOR’s Charter, which provides:
Section 9. Regulatory Power.—The Corporation shall maintain a Registry of the affiliated entities and shall exercise all the powers, authority and responsibilities vested in the Securities and Exchange Commission over such affiliated entities x x x.
In view of the vestment to PAGCOR by PD 1869 of the powers, authority, and responsibilities of the SEC, PAGCOR concludes that any decision or ruling it renders has to be brought to this Court via a petition for review based on Sec. 6 of SEC’s Charter, PD 902-A, which reads:
The aggrieved party may appeal the order, decision or ruling of the Commission sitting en banc to the Supreme Court by petition for review in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court.
This reasoning is flawed. A scrutiny of PD 1869 demonstrates that it has no procedure for the appeal or review of PAGCOR’s decisions or orders. Neither does it make any express reference to an exclusive remedy that can be brought before this Court. Even a review of PD 1869’s predecessor laws—PD 1067-A, 1067-B, 1067-C, 1399, and 1632, as well as its amendatory law, RA 9487––do not confer original jurisdiction to this Court to review PAGCOR’s actions and decisions. PAGCOR, however, insists that this Court has jurisdiction over an action contesting its exercise of licensing and regulatory powers, i.e., the revocation of FDC’s license to operate a casino in CSEZ and that FDC’s complaint is a case of first impression. PAGCOR’s argument is bereft of merit.
A similar factual setting was presented by PAGCOR in PAGCOR v. Viola, which involves the controversy between PAGCOR and the Mimosa Regency Casino that operated inside the CSEZ. Mimosa filed a case for injunction and prayed for the issuance of a TRO before the Pampanga RTC when PAGCOR decided to
close down the casino. In this case, PAGCOR likewise assailed the jurisdiction of the trial court by claiming that an original action before the CA is the proper remedy. In PAGCOR v. Viola, we ruled that PAGCOR, in the exercise of its licensing and regulatory powers, has no quasi-judicial functions, as Secs. 8 and 9 of PD 1869 do not grant quasi-judicial powers to PAGCOR. As such, direct resort to this Court is not allowed. While we allowed said recourse in Del Mar v. PAGCOR and Jaworski v. PAGCOR, that is an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts on the grounds of expediency and the importance of the issues involved. More importantly, we categorically ruled in PAGCOR v. Viola that cases involving revocation of a license falls within the original jurisdiction of the RTC, thus:
Having settled that PAGCOR’s revocation of MONDRAGON’s authority to operate a casino was not an exercise of quasi-judicial powers then it follows that the case was properly filed before the Regional Trial Court. Hence, as the Regional Trial Court had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case, petitioner’s contention that the temporary restraining order and the preliminary injunction by the trial court are void must fail. PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010
Jurisdiction; Supreme Court has no original jurisdiction over petition for declaratory relief. Moreover,although the instant petition is styled as a Petition for Certiorari, in essence, it seeks the declaration by this Court of the unconstitutionality or illegality of the questioned DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88. It, thus, partakes of the nature of a Petition for Declaratory Relief over which this Court has only appellate, not original, jurisdiction. Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides:
Sec. 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:
(1) Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.
(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:
(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question. (Emphasis supplied.)
With that, this Petition must necessarily fail because this Court does not have original jurisdiction over a Petition for Declaratory Relief even if only questions
of law are involved. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010
Jurisdiction; Supreme Court may resolve complaint on the merits rather than remand to trial court, where justice and equity require it. While it is the trial court that has original jurisdiction over FDC’s complaint, PAGCOR nevertheless prays that this Court “suspend the Rules and directly decide the entire controversy in this proceeding instead of remanding the same to the trial court.”
In the exercise of its broad discretionary power, we will resolve FDC’s complaint on the merits, instead of remanding it to the trial court for further proceedings. Moreover, the dispute between the parties involves a purely question of law—whether the license or MOA was issued pursuant to PD 1869 or Sec. 5, EO 80, in relation to RA 7227, which does not necessitate a full blown trial. Demands of substantial justice and equity require the relaxation of procedural rules. In Lianga Bay v. Court of Appeals, the Court held:
Remand of case to the lower court for further reception of evidence is not necessary where the court is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before it. On many occasions, the Court, in the public interest and the expeditious administration of justice, has resolved actions on the merits instead of remanding them to the trial court for further proceedings, such as where the ends of justice would not be subserved by the remand of the case or when public interest demands an early disposition of the case or where the trial court had already received all the evidence of the parties. PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010
Motions; notice of hearing not required for non-litigious motions. As to petitioner’s claim that the subject motion is defective for lack of a notice of hearing, the CA correctly ruled that the subject motion is a non-litigious motion. While, as a general rule, all written motions should be set for hearing under Section 4, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, excepted from this rule are non-litigious motions or motions which may be acted upon by the court without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party. As already discussed, respondent is entitled to the issuance of the final certificate of sale as a matter of right and petitioner is powerless to oppose the same. Hence, the subject motion falls under the class of non-litigious motions. At any rate, the trial court gave petitioner an opportunity to oppose the subject motion as in fact he filed a Comment/ Opposition on March 1, 2004 before the trial court. Petitioner cannot, therefore, validly claim that he was denied his day in court. Jose delaReyes vs. Josephine Anne B. Ramnani, G.R. No. 169135. June 18, 2010
Motions; Three-day notice rule. Furthermore, the RTC likewise erred in dismissing petitioner’s Omnibus Motion for allegedly failing to comply with the three-day notice requirement. The RTC found that the notice of hearing of petitioner’s Omnibus Motion which was set to be heard on 12 November 2004 was received by respondent on 9 November 2004. The RTC held that the service of the notice of hearing was one day short of the prescribed minimum three days notice. We disagree. Section 4 of Rule 15 provides that “[e]very written motion required to be heard and the notice of the hearing thereof shall be served in such a manner as to ensure its receipt by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of the hearing, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on shorter notice.” Thus, the date of the hearing should be at least three days after receipt of the notice of hearing by the other parties. In this case, the petitioner’s Omnibus Motion was set for hearing on 12 November 2004. Thus, to comply with the notice requirement, respondent should have received the notice of the hearing at least three days before 12 November 2004, which is 9 November 2004. Clearly, respondent’s receipt on 9 November 2004 (Tuesday) of the notice of hearing of the Omnibus Motion which was set to be heard on 12 November 2004 (Friday), was within the required minimum three-days’ notice. As explained by Retired Justice Jose Y. Feria in his book, Civil Procedure Annotated, when the notice of hearing should be given:
The ordinary motion day is Friday. Hence, the notice should be served by Tuesday at the latest, in order that the requirement of the three days may be complied with.
If notice be given by ordinary mail, it should be actually received by Tuesday, or if not claimed from the post office, the date of the first notice of the postmaster should be at least five (5) days before Tuesday. (Emphasis supplied) Fausto R. Preysler vs. Manila South Coast Development Corporation, G.R. No. 171872, June 28, 2010
Motions; Three-day notice rule; substantial compliance. In upholding the RTC Order denying petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration, the Court of Appeals relied mainly on petitioner’s alleged violation of the notice requirements under Sections 4, 5, and 6, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court which read:
SECTION 4. Hearing of motion. – Except for motions which the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party, every written motion shall be set for hearing by the applicant.
Every written motion required to be heard and the notice of the hearing thereof shall be served in such a manner as to ensure its receipt by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of hearing, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on
SECTION 5. Notice of hearing. – The notice of hearing shall be addressed to all parties concerned, and shall specify the time and date of the hearing which must not be later than ten (10) days after the filing of the motion.
SECTION 6. Proof of service necessary. – No written motion set for hearing shall be acted upon by the court without proof of service thereof.
The three-day notice rule is not absolute. A liberal construction of the procedural rules is proper where the lapse in the literal observance of a rule of procedure has not prejudiced the adverse party and has not deprived the court of its authority. Indeed, Section 6, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the Rules should be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. Rules of procedure are tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, and courts must avoid their strict and rigid application which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice. In Somera Vda. De Navarro v. Navarro, the Court held that there was substantial compliance of the rule on notice of motions even if the first notice was irregular because no prejudice was caused the adverse party since the motion was not considered and resolved until after several postponements of which the parties were duly notified. Likewise, in Jehan Shipping Corporation v. National Food Authority, the Court held that despite the lack of notice of hearing in a Motion for Reconsideration, there was substantial compliance with the requirements of due process where the adverse party actually had the opportunity to be heard and had filed pleadings in opposition to the motion. The Court held:
This Court has indeed held time and again, that under Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, mandatory is the requirement in a motion, which is rendered defective by failure to comply with the requirement. As a rule, a motion without a notice of hearing is considered pro forma and does not affect the reglementary period for the appeal or the filing of the requisite pleading.
As an integral component of the procedural due process, the three-day notice required by the Rules is not intended for the benefit of the movant. Rather, the requirement is for the purpose of avoiding surprises that may be sprung upon the adverse party, who must be given time to study and meet the arguments in the motion before a resolution of the court. Principles of natural justice demand that the right of a party should not be affected without giving it an opportunity to be heard.
The test is the presence of opportunity to be heard, as well as to have time to study the motion
and meaningfully oppose or controvert the grounds upon which it is based. x x x
A close perusal of the records reveal that the trial court gave petitioner ten days within which to comment on respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration. Petitioner filed its Opposition to the Motion on November 26, 2001. In its 14-page Opposition, it not only pointed out that the Motion was defective for not containing a notice of hearing and should then be dismissed outright by the court; it also ventilated its substantial arguments against the merits of the Motion and of the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration. Notably, its arguments were recited at length in the trial court’s January 8, 2002 Joint Resolution. Nevertheless, the court proceeded to deny the Motions on the sole ground that they did not contain any notice of hearing.
The requirement of notice of time and hearing in the pleading filed by a party is necessary only to apprise the other of the actions of the former. Under the circumstances of the present case, the purpose of a notice of hearing was served. (Emphasis supplied)
In this case, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner failed to comply with the three-day notice rule. However, the Court of Appeals overlooked the fact that although respondent received petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration six days after the scheduled hearing on 26 February 2004, the said hearing was reset three (3) times with due notice to the parties. Thus, it was only on 6 August 2004, or more than five months after respondent received a copy of petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration, that the motion was heard by the RTC. Clearly, respondent had more than sufficient time to oppose petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration. In fact, respondent did oppose the motion when it filed its Motion to Dismiss dated 9 August 2004. In view of the circumstances of this case, we find that there was substantial compliance with procedural due process. Instead of dismissing petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration based merely on the alleged procedural lapses, the RTC should have resolved the motion based on the merits. Fausto R. Preysler vs. Manila South Coast Development Corporation, G.R. No. 171872, June 28, 2010
Parties; indispensable party. Moreover, an indispensable party is one whose interest in the controversy is such that a final decree would necessarily affect his/her right, so that the court cannot proceed without their presence. In contrast, a necessary party is one whose presence in the proceedings is necessary to adjudicate the whole controversy but whose interest is separable such that a final decree can be made in their absence without affecting them. In the instant case, the action for prohibition seeks to enjoin the city government of Parañaque from proceeding with its implementation of the road construction project. The State is neither a necessary nor an indispensable
party to an action where no positive act shall be required from it or where no obligation shall be imposed upon it, such as in the case at bar. Neither would it be an indispensable party if none of its properties shall be divested nor any of its rights infringed. Office of the City Mayor of Parañaque City, et al. vs. Mario D. Ebio and His Children/Heirs namely, Arturo V. Ebio, Eduardo, et al., G.R. No. 178411, June 23, 2010
Pleadings; repetitive filing of identical motions. The Court finds insufferable petitioner’s repeated filing of Motions to Dismiss raising the same ground. In the three previous Motions to Dismiss and in an omnibus motion for reconsideration, petitioner argued that the present case was barred by prior judgment and that there was forum-shopping. Correspondingly, the issues had been repetitively passed upon and resolved by the court a quo. The motions were apparently filed for no other reason than to gain time and gamble on a possible change of opinion of the court or the judge sitting on the case. The Motions to Dismiss were filed in a span of five years, the first one having been filed on June 1, 2000 and the last ¾ the subject motion ¾ on February 15, 2005, three years after petitioner filed its answer. In fact, since the first Motion to Dismiss, three judges had already sat on the case and resolved the motions. By filing these motions, petitioner had disrupted the court’s deliberation on the merits of the case. This strategy cannot be tolerated as it will entail inevitable delay in the disposition of the case.
Although the ground stated in the second Motion to Dismiss was forum-shopping and the subsequent motions included other grounds, nonetheless, all of these motions raised a similar argument—that since the dismissal in the first case is already final and executory and there is no reservation made by the court in its judgment that the dismissal is without prejudice, the filing of the second case is barred. Therefore, the subsequent motions, being reiterations of the first motion, technically partook of the nature of a motion for reconsideration of the interlocutory order denying the first Motion to Dismiss. This is not the first time that the Court disallowed the repetitive filing of identical motions against an interlocutory order. In a parallel case, San Juan, Jr. v. Cruz, the Court acknowledged that there is actually no rule prohibiting the filing of a pro forma motion against an interlocutory order as the prohibition applies only to a final resolution or order of the court. The Court held, nonetheless, that a second motion can be denied on the ground that it is merely a rehash or a mere reiteration of the grounds and arguments already passed upon and resolved by the court. Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010
Preliminary injunction; right in esse. We also find 14
that the character of possession and ownership by the respondents over the contested land entitles them to the avails of the action. A right in esse means a clear and unmistakable right. A party seeking to avail of an injunctive relief must prove that he or she possesses a right in esse or one that is actual or existing. It should not be contingent, abstract, or future rights, or one which may never arise.
In the case at bar, respondents assert that their predecessor-in-interest, Pedro Vitalez, had occupied and possessed the subject lot as early as 1930. In 1964, respondent Mario Ebio secured a permit from the local government of Parañaque for the construction of their family dwelling on the said lot. In 1966, Pedro executed an affidavit of possession and occupancy allowing him to declare the property in his name for taxation purposes. Curiously, it was also in 1966 when Guaranteed Homes, Inc., the registered owner of Road Lot No. 8 (“RL 8″) which adjoins the land occupied by the respondents, donated RL 8 to the local government of Parañaque. From these findings of fact by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, only one conclusion can be made: that for more than thirty (30) years, neither Guaranteed Homes, Inc. nor the local government of Parañaque in its corporate or private capacity sought to register the accreted portion. Undoubtedly, respondents are deemed to have acquired ownership over the subject property through prescription. Respondents can assert such right despite the fact that they have yet to register their title over the said lot. It must be remembered that the purpose of land registration is not the acquisition of lands, but only the registration of title which the applicant already possessed over the land. Registration was never intended as a means of acquiring ownership. A decree of registration merely confirms, but does not confer, ownership. Office of the City Mayor of Parañaque City, et al. vs. Mario D. Ebio and His Children/Heirs namely, Arturo V. Ebio, Eduardo, et al., G.R. No. 178411, June 23, 2010
Procedural rules; liberal application not available in absence of explanation for non-observance of rules. Petitioners ask for leniency from this Court, asking for a liberal application of the rules. However, it is quite apparent that petitioners offer no explanation as to why they did not appeal under Rule 45. Petitioners’ Petition, Reply and Memorandum are all silent on this point, probably hoping that the same would go unnoticed by respondents and by this Court. The attempt to skirt away from the fact that the 15-day period to file an appeal under Rule 45 had already lapsed is made even more apparent when even after the same was raised in issue by respondents in their Comment and memorandum, petitioners did not squarely address the same, nor offer any explanation for such omission. In Jan-Dec Construction Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, this Court explained why a liberal application of the rules cannot be made to a petition which offers no
explanation for the non-observance of the rules, to wit:
While there are instances where the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be resorted to despite the availability of an appeal, the long line of decisions denying the special civil action for certiorari, either before appeal was availed of or in instances where the appeal period had lapsed, far outnumbers the instances where certiorari was given due course. The few significant exceptions are: (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictate; (b) when the broader interests of justice so require; (c) when the writs issued are null; and (d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.
In the present case, petitioner has not provided any cogent explanation that would absolve it of the consequences of its failure to abide by the Rules. Apropos on this point are the Court’s observations in Duremdes v. Duremdes:
Although it has been said time and again that litigation is not a game of technicalities, that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure so that issues may be properly presented and justly resolved, this does not mean that procedural rules may altogether be disregarded. Rules of procedure must be faithfully followed except only when, for persuasive reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure. Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to adequately explain his failure to abide by the rules. (Emphasis supplied.)
Similarly, in Republic v. Court of Appeals, this Court did not apply a liberal construction of the rules for failure of petitioner to offer an explanation as to why the petition was filed beyond the reglementary period provided for under Rule 45, to wit:
Admittedly, this Court, in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of justice, has the discretion to treat a petition for certiorari as having been filed under Rule 45, especially if filed within the reglementary period for filing a petition for review.5 In this case, however, we find no reason to justify a liberal application of the rules. The petition was filed well beyond the reglementary period for filing a petition for review without any reason therefor.
While this Court has in the past allowed the relaxing of the rules on the reglementary periods of appeal, it must be stressed that there must be a showing of an extraordinary or exceptional circumstance to warrant such liberality. Bank of America, NT & SA v. Gerochi, Jr. so instructs:
True, in few highly exceptional instances, we have 15
allowed the relaxing of the rules on the application of the reglementary periods of appeal. We cite a few typical examples: In Ramos vs. Bagasao, 96 SCRA 395, we excused the delay of four days in the filing of a notice of appeal because the questioned decision of the trial court was served upon appellant Ramos at a time when her counsel of record was already dead. Her new counsel could only file the appeal four days after the prescribed reglementary period was over. In Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 83 SCRA 453, we allowed the perfection of an appeal by the Republic despite the delay of six days to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice since the Republic stood to lose hundreds of hectares of land alreadytitled in its name and had since then been devoted for educational purposes. In Olacao v. National Labor Relations Commission, 177 SCRA 38, 41, we accepted a tardy appeal considering that the subject matter in issue had theretofore been judicially settled, with finality, in another case. The dismissal of the appeal would have had the effect of the appellant being ordered twice to make the same reparation to the appellee.
The case at bench, given its own settings, cannot come close to those extraordinary circumstances that have indeed justified a deviation from an otherwise stringent rule. Let it not be overlooked that the timeliness of an appeal is a jurisdictional caveat that not even this Court can trifle with.
Withal, this Court must stress that the bare invocation of “the interest of substantial justice” is not a magic wand that will automatically compel this Court to suspend procedural rules. Indeed, in no uncertain terms, this Court has held that the said Rules may be relaxed only in ”exceptionally meritorious cases.” Petitioners have failed to show that this case is one of the exceptions. Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010
Quo warranto; timeliness of petition. On the first issue, the Court finds that public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in considering petitioner’s Petition for Quo Warranto filed out of time. Its counting of the 10-day reglementary period provided in its Rules [i.e., Rule 17 of the 2004 Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal] from the issuance of NBC Resolution No. 07-60 on July 9, 2007 is erroneous.
To be sure, while NBC Resolution No. 07-60 partially proclaimed CIBAC as a winner in the May, 2007 elections, along with other party-list organizations, it was by no measure a proclamation of private respondent himself as required by Section 13 of RA No. 7941.
Section 13.How Party-List Representatives are Chosen. Party-list representatives shall be
proclaimed by the COMELEC based on the list of names submitted by the respective parties, organizations, or coalitions to the COMELEC according to their ranking in said list.
AT ALL EVENTS, this Court set aside NBC Resolution No. 07-60 in Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency v.COMELEC after revisiting the formula for allocation of additional seats to party-list organizations. Considering, however, that the records do not disclose the exact date of private respondent’s proclamation, the Court overlooks the technicality of timeliness and rules on the merits. Alternatively, since petitioner’s challenge goes into private respondent’s qualifications, it may be filed at anytime during his term.
Qualifications for public office are continuing requirements and must be possessed not only at the time of appointment or election or assumption of office but during the officer’s entire tenure. Once any of the required qualifications is lost, his title may be seasonably challenged. Milagros E. Amores vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, G.R. No. 189600, June 29, 2010
Res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. The rule is that when material facts or questions, which were in issue in a former action and were admitted or judicially determined, are conclusively settled by a judgment rendered therein, such facts or questions become res judicata and may not again be litigated in a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies regardless of the form of the latter. Jurisprudence provides that the concept of res judicata embraces two aspects. The first, known as “bar by prior judgment,” or “estoppel by verdict,” is the effect of a judgment as a bar to the prosecution of a second action upon the same claim, demand or cause of action. The second, known as “conclusiveness of judgment,” otherwise known as the rule of auter action pendent, ordains that issues actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot again be raised in any future case between the same parties involving a different cause of action. The bar by prior judgment requires the following elements to be present for it to operate:
(1) A former final judgment that was rendered on the merits;
(2) The court in the former judgment had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and,
(3) Identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action between the first and second actions.
In contrast, the elements of conclusiveness of judgment are:
1. Identity of parties; and16
2. Subject matter in the first and second cases.
Conclusiveness of judgment does not require identity of the causes of action for it to work. If a particular point or question is in issue in the second action, and the judgment will depend on the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment between the same parties will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first suit; but the adjudication of an issue in the first case is not conclusive of an entirely different and distinct issue arising in the second. Hence, facts and issues actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot again be raised in any future case between the same parties, even if the latter suit may involve a different claim or cause of action.
Conclusiveness of judgment proscribes the relitigation in a second case of a fact or question already settled in a previous case. The second case, however, may still proceed provided that it will no longer touch on the same fact or question adjudged in the first case. Conclusiveness of judgment requires only the identity of issues and parties, but not of causes of action. The instant petition is denied on the ground of res judicata under the concept of conclusiveness of judgment. Ley Construction & Development Corporation, et al. vs. Philippine Commercial & International Bank, et al., G.R. No. 160841, June 23, 2010
Res judicata; res judicata disregarded if rigid application would involve sacrifice of justice to technicality. Nonetheless, bearing in mind the circumstances obtaining in this case, we hold that res judicata should not be applied as it would not serve the interest of substantial justice. Proceedings on the case had already been delayed by petitioner, and it is only fair that the case be allowed to proceed and be resolved on the merits. Indeed, we have held that res judicata is to be disregarded if its rigid application would involve the sacrifice of justice to technicality, particularly in this case where there was actually no determination of the substantive issues in the first case and what is at stake is respondents’ home. Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010
Habeas corpus; nature, objective, and requirements of remedy. Essentially, a writ of habeascorpus applies to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty. Rule 102 of the 1997 Rules of Court sets forth the procedure to be followed in the issuance of the writ. The Rule provides:
SECTION 1. To what habeas corpus extends. – Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, orby which therightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.
SEC 2. Who may grant the writ. – The writ of habeas corpus may be granted by the Supreme Court, or any member thereof, on any day and at any time, or by the Court of Appeals or any member thereof in the instances authorized by law, and if so granted it shall be enforceable anywhere in the Philippines, and may be made returnable before the court or any member thereof, or before a Court of First Instance, or any judge thereof for hearing and decision on the merits. It may also be granted by a Court of First Instance, or a judge thereof, on any day and at any time, and returnable before himself, enforceable only within his judicial district.
x x x x
SEC. 4. When writ not allowed or discharge authorized. – If it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment, or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or defect in the process, judgment, or order. Nor shall anything in this rule be held to authorize the discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines, or of a person suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.
The objective of the writ is to determine whether the confinement or detention is valid or lawful. If it is, the writ cannot be issued. What is to be inquired into is the legality of a person’s detention as of, at the earliest, the filing of the application for the writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of some supervening events, such as the instances mentioned in Section 4 of Rule 102, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application.
Plainly stated, the writ obtains immediate relief for those who have been illegally confined or imprisoned without sufficient cause. The writ, however, should not be issued when the custody over the person is by virtue of a judicial process or a valid judgment.
The most basic criterion for the issuance of the writ, 17
therefore, is that the individual seeking such relief is illegally deprived of his freedom of movement or placed under some form of illegal restraint. If an individual’s liberty is restrained via some legal process, the writ of habeas corpus is unavailing. Fundamentally, in order to justify the grant of the writ ofhabeas corpus, the restraint of liberty must be in the nature of an illegal and involuntary deprivation of freedom of action. In general, the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to determine whether or not a particular person is legally held. A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus, in fact, is an actual and effective, and not merely nominal or moral, illegal restraint of liberty. The writ of habeas corpus was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom. A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus is restraint of liberty. The essential object and purpose of the writ of habeas corpusis to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal. Any restraint which will preclude freedom of action is sufficient. In passing upon a petition for habeas corpus, a court or judge must first inquire into whether the petitioner is being restrained of his liberty. If he is not, the writ will be refused. Inquiry into the cause of detention will proceed only where such restraint exists. If the alleged cause is thereafter found to be unlawful, then the writ should be granted and the petitioner discharged. Needless to state, if otherwise, again the writ will be refused. While habeas corpus is a writ of right, it will not issue as a matter of course or as a mere perfunctory operation on the filing of the petition. Judicial discretion is called for in its issuance and it must be clear to the judge to whom the petition is presented that, prima facie, the petitioner is entitled to the writ. It is only if the court is satisfied that a person is being unlawfully restrained of his liberty will the petition for habeas corpus be granted. If the respondents are not detaining or restraining the applicant or the person in whose behalf the petition is filed, the petition should be dismissed. Nurhida Juhuri Ampatuan vs. Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig, RTC, Manila Br., et al., G.R. No. 182497, June 29, 2010
Habeas corpus; restrictive custody of policeman by PNP is not the detention or restraint contemplated by habeas corpus. Petitioner contends that when PO1 Ampatuan was placed under the custody of respondents on 20 April 2008, there was yet no administrative case filed against him. When the release order of Chief Inquest Prosecutor Nelson Salva was served upon respondents on 21 April 2008, there was still no administrative case filed against PO1 Ampatuan. She also argues that the arrest on 14 April 2008 of PO1 Ampatuan in Shariff Kabunsuan was illegal because there was no warrant of arrest issued by any judicial authority against him. On the other hand, respondents, in their Comment filed by the Office of the Solicitor General,
argue that the trial court correctly denied the subject petition. Respondents maintain that while the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila had recommended that PO1 Ampatuan be released from custody, said recommendation was made only insofar as the criminal action for murder that was filed with the prosecution office is concerned and is without prejudice to other legal grounds for which he may be held under custody. In the instant case, PO1 Ampatuan is also facing administrative charges for Grave Misconduct. They cited the case of Manalo v. Calderon, where this Court held that a petition for habeascorpus will be given due course only if it shows that petitioner is being detained or restrained of his liberty unlawfully, but a restrictive custody and monitoring of movements or whereabouts of police officers under investigation by their superiors is not a form of illegal detention or restraint of liberty. The Solicitor General is correct.
In this case, PO1 Ampatuan has been placed under Restrictive Custody. Republic Act No. 6975 (also known as the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990), as amended by Republic Act No. 8551 (also known as the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998), clearly provides that members of the police force are subject to the administrative disciplinary machinery of the PNP. Section 41(b) of the said law enumerates the disciplinary actions, including restrictive custody that may be imposed by duly designated supervisors and equivalent officers of the PNP as a matter of internal discipline. The pertinent provision of Republic Act No. 8551 reads:
Sec. 52 – x x x.
x x x x
4. The Chief of the PNP shall have the power to impose the disciplinary punishment of dismissal from the service; suspension or forfeiture of salary; or any combination thereof for a period not exceeding one hundred eighty (180) days. Provided, further, That the Chief of the PNP shall have the authority to place police personnel under restrictive custody during the pendency of a grave administrative case filed against him or even after the filing of a criminal complaint, grave in nature, against such police personnel. [Emphasis ours].
Given that PO1 Ampatuan has been placed under restrictive custody, such constitutes a valid argument for his continued detention. This Court has held that a restrictive custody and monitoring of movements or whereabouts of police officers under investigation by their superiors is not a form of illegal detention or restraint of liberty. Restrictive custody is, at best, nominal restraint which is beyond the ambit of habeascorpus. It is neither actual nor effective restraint that would call for the grant of the remedy prayed for. It is a permissible precautionary measure to assure the PNP authorities that the police officers concerned are always
accounted for. Since the basis of PO1 Ampatuan’s restrictive custody is the administrative case filed against him, his remedy is within such administrative process. Nurhida Juhuri Ampatuan vs. Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig, RTC, Manila Br., et al., G.R. No. 182497, June 29, 2010
Settlement of estates; appointment of administrator; order of preference in the Rules is not absolute. Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court lists the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator of an estate:
SEC. 6.When and to whom letters of administration granted. – If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:
(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;
(b) If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve;
(c) If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.
However, the order of preference is not absolute for it depends on the attendant facts and circumstances of each case. Jurisprudence has long held that the selection of an administrator lies in the sound discretion of the trial court. In the main, the attendant facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both respondent and Emilio III of their grandmother’s, Cristina’s, estate. In the case of Uy v. Court of Appeals, we upheld the appointment by the trial court of a co-administration between the decedent’s son and the decedent’s brother, who was likewise a creditor of the decedent’s estate. In the same vein, we declared in Delgado Vda. de De la Rosa v. Heirs of Marciana Rustia Vda. de Damian that:
[i]n the appointment of an administrator, the principal consideration is the interest in the estate of the one to be appointed. The order of preference does not rule out the appointment of co-administrators, specially in cases where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estates, a
situation which obtains here.
Similarly, the subject estate in this case calls to the succession other putative heirs, including another illegitimate grandchild of Cristina and Federico, Nenita Tañedo, but who was likewise adopted by Federico, and the two (2) siblings of respondent Isabel, Margarita and Emilio II. In all, considering the conflicting claims of the putative heirs, and the unliquidated conjugal partnership of Cristina and Federico which forms part of their respective estates, we are impelled to move in only one direction, i.e., joint administration of the subject estate. In the matter of the Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntayl Emilio A.M. Suntay III vs. Isabel Cojuanco-Suntay, G.R. No. 183053, June 16, 2010
Settlement of estates; distribution of shares in estate; where premature. Indeed, the factual antecedents of this case accurately reflect the basis of intestate succession, i.e., love first descends, for the decedent, Cristina, did not distinguish between her legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren. Neither did her husband, Federico, who, in fact, legally raised the status of Emilio III from an illegitimate grandchild to that of a legitimate child. The peculiar circumstances of this case, painstakingly pointed out by counsel for petitioner, overthrow the legal presumption in Article 992 of the Civil Code that there exist animosity and antagonism between legitimate and illegitimate descendants of a deceased.
Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that judicial restraint impels us to refrain from making a final declaration of heirship and distributing the presumptive shares of the parties in the estates of Cristina and Federico, considering that the question on who will administer the properties of the long deceased couple has yet to be settled. Our holding in Capistrano v. Nadurata on the same issue remains good law:
[T]he declaration of heirs made by the lower court is premature, although the evidence sufficiently shows who are entitled to succeed the deceased. The estate had hardly been judicially opened, and the proceeding has not as yet reached the stage of distribution of the estate which must come after the inheritance is liquidated.
Section 1, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court does not depart from the foregoing admonition:
Sec. 1.When order for distribution of residue is made. – x x x. If there is a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in ordinary cases.
No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the obligations above mentioned has been made
or provided for, unless the distributees, or any of them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the payment of said obligations within such time as the court directs. In the matter of the Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntayl Emilio A.M. Suntay III vs. Isabel Cojuanco-Suntay, G.R. No. 183053, June 16, 2010
Appeals; period to appeal order in election case is mandatory and jurisdictional. Section 8 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC provides that:
Section 8. Appeal. – An aggrieved party may appeal the decision to the Commission on Elections within five days after promulgation by filing a notice of appeal with the court that rendered the decision with copy served on the adverse counsel or party if not represented by counsel
Although Castillo had received the November 21, 2008 order of the RTC on December 15, 2008, she filed her notice of appeal only on December 23, 2008, or eight days after her receipt of the decision. Her appeal was properly dismissed for being too late under the aforequoted rule of the COMELEC. Castillo now insists that her appeal should not be dismissed, because she claims that the five-day reglementary period was a mere technicality, implying that such period was but a trivial guideline to be ignored or brushed aside at will.
Castillo’s insistence is unacceptable. The period of appeal and the perfection of appeal are not mere technicalities to be so lightly regarded, for they are essential to the finality of judgments, a notion underlying the stability of our judicial system. A greater reason to adhere to this notion exists herein, for the short period of five days as the period to appeal recognizes the essentiality of time in election protests, in order that the will of the electorate is ascertained as soon as possible so that the winning candidate is not deprived of the right to assume office, and so that any doubt that can cloud the incumbency of the truly deserving winning candidate is quickly removed. Contrary to Castillo’s posture, we cannot also presume the timeliness of her appeal from the fact that the RTC gave due course to her appeal by its elevating the protest to the COMELEC. The presumption of timeliness would not arise if her appeal was actually tardy. It is not trite to observe, finally, that Castillo’s tardy appeal resulted in the finality of the RTC’s dismissal even before January 30, 2002. This result provides an additional reason to warrant the assailed actions of the COMELEC in dismissing her appeal. Accordingly, the Court finds that the COMELEC’s assailed actions were appropriate and lawful, not tainted by either arbitrariness or whimsicality. Minerva Gomez-Castillo vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 187231, June 22, 2010
Certiorari and mandamus; available in Supreme Court for review of COMELEC resolutions in party-list case. The COMELEC posits that once the proclamation of the winning party-list organization has been done and its nominee has assumed office, any question relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the candidates to the House of Representatives falls under the jurisdiction of the HRET pursuant to Section 17, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution. Thus, Lokin should raise the question he poses herein either in an election protest or in a special civil action for quo warranto in the HRET,not in a special civil action for certiorari in this Court. We do not agree. An election protest proposes to oust the winning candidate from office. It is strictly a contest between the defeated and the winning candidates, based on the grounds of electoral frauds and irregularities, to determine who between them has actually obtained the majority of the legal votes cast and is entitled to hold the office. It can only be filed by a candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and has been voted for in the preceding elections. A special civil action for quo warranto refers to questions of disloyalty to the State, or of ineligibility of the winning candidate. The objective of the action is to unseat the ineligible person from the office, but not to install the petitioner in his place. Any voter may initiate the action, which is, strictly speaking, not a contest where the parties strive for supremacy because the petitioner will not be seated even if the respondent may be unseated.
The controversy involving Lokin is neither an election protest nor an action for quo warranto, for it concerns a very peculiar situation in which Lokin is seeking to be seated as the second nominee of CIBAC. Although an election protest may properly be available to one party-list organization seeking to unseat another party-list organization to determine which between the defeated and the winning party-list organizations actually obtained the majority of the legal votes, Lokin’s case is not one in which a nominee of a particular party-list organization thereby wants to unseat another nominee of the same party-list organization. Neither does an action for quo warranto lie, considering that the case does not involve the ineligibility and disloyalty of Cruz-Gonzales to the Republic of the Philippines, or some other cause of disqualification for her. Lokin has correctly brought this special civil action for certiorari against the COMELEC to seek the review of the September 14, 2007 resolution of the COMELEC in accordance with Section 7 of Article IX-A of the 1987 Constitution, notwithstanding the oath and assumption of office by Cruz-Gonzales. The constitutional mandate is now implemented by Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for the review of the judgments, final orders or resolutions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit. As Rule 64 states, the mode of review is by a petition for certiorari in accordance with Rule 65 to be filed in the Supreme Court within a limited period of 30 days. Undoubtedly, the Court
has original and exclusive jurisdiction over Lokin’s petitions for certiorari and for mandamus against the COMELEC. Luis K. Lokin, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis K. Lokin vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 179431-32/G.R. No. 180443. June 22, 2010.
Jurisdiction; Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) has no certiorari jurisdiction over orders of Provincial Adjudicator. Jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by the Constitution or the law, and rules of procedure yield to substantive law. Otherwise stated, jurisdiction must exist as a matter of law. Only a statute can confer jurisdiction on courts and administrative agencies; rules of procedure cannot.
The DARAB assumed jurisdiction over the petition for certiorari by virtue of Section 3, Rule VIII of the DARAB New Rules of Procedure, which allows the filing of such petition to assail an interlocutory order of the Provincial Adjudicator. However, a month after the DARAB rendered its decision, the Court, in DARAB v. Lubrica, declared that such apparent grant of authority to issue a writ of certiorariis not founded on any law. It declared that neither the DARAB’s quasi-judicial authority nor its rule-making power justifies the self-conferment of authority. Thus, the Court concluded that the DARAB has no certiorari jurisdiction:
In general, the quantum of judicial or quasi-judicial powers which an administrative agency may exercise is defined in the enabling act of such agency. In other words, the extent to which an administrative entity may exercise such powers depends largely, if not wholly, on the provisions of the statute creating or empowering such agency. The grant of original jurisdiction on a quasi-judicial agency is not implied. There is no question that the legislative grant of adjudicatory powers upon the DAR, as in all other quasi-judicial agencies, bodies and tribunals, is in the nature of a limited and special jurisdiction, that is, the authority to hear and determine a class of cases within the DAR’s competence and field of expertise. In conferring adjudicatory powers and functions on the DAR, the legislature could not have intended to create a regular court of justice out of the DARAB, equipped with all the vast powers inherent in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The DARAB is only a quasi-judicial body, whose limited jurisdiction does not include authority over petitions for certiorari, in the absence of an express grant in R.A. No. 6657, E.O. No. 229 and E.O. No. 129-A.
As intimated in Lubrica, petitioner should have filed the petition for certiorari with the regular courts, and not with the DARAB. In the absence of a specific statutory grant of jurisdiction, the DARAB, as a quasi-judicial body with limited jurisdiction, cannot exercise jurisdiction over the petition for certiorari. Julian Fernandez vs. Rufino D. Fulgueras, G.R. No. 178575, June 29, 2010
Jurisdiction; Regional Trial Court, acting as Special Agrarian Court, has original and exclusive jurisdiction over petitions for determination of just compensation. Fortune Savings, on the other hand, claims in its Comment that, even if Land Bank filed the case on time, the fact remains that the RTC dismissed the same for Land Bank’s failure to serve summons. Fortune Savings’ filing of another case—Agrarian Case 2000-0155—cannot operate as a continuance of Agrarian Case 99-0214 because it was an entirely different case altogether. Agrarian Case 2000-0155 did not operate to revive Agrarian Case 99-0214 nor did it give to Land Bank the benefit of having filed on time the action that the DARAB Rules contemplated.
Although the DAR is vested with primary jurisdiction under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 or CARL to determine in a preliminary manner the reasonable compensation for lands taken under the CARP, such determination is subject to challenge in the courts. The CARL vests in the RTCs, sitting as Special Agrarian Courts, original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation. This means that the RTCs do not exercise mere appellate jurisdiction over just compensation disputes. The RTC’s jurisdiction is not any less “original and exclusive” because the question is first passed upon by the DAR. The proceedings before the RTC are not a continuation of the administrative determination. Indeed, although the law may provide that the decision of the DAR is final and unappealable, still a resort to the courts cannot be foreclosed on the theory that courts are the guarantors of the legality of administrative action. The taking of property under the CARL is a government exercise of the power of eminent domain. Since the determination of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings is a judicial function, such determination cannot be made to depend on the existence of administrative proceedings of a similar nature. Thus, even while the DARAB summary administrative hearing for determination of just compensation is pending, the interested party may file a petition for judicial determination of the same. In another case, the Court allowed the filing with the trial court of a petition to fix just compensation despite failure of the landowner to seek reconsideration of the DAR’s valuation.
Consequently, Land Bank’s filing of Agrarian Case 2000-0155 after the dismissal without prejudice of Agrarian Case 99-0214 cannot be regarded as barred by the filing of the latter case beyond the 15-day period prescribed under Rule XIII, Section 11 of the DARAB Rules. The procedural soundness of Agrarian Case 2000-0155 could not be made dependent on the DARAB case, for these two proceedings are separate and independent. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Fortune Savings and Loan Association, Inc., represented by Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, G.R.
No. 177511, June 29, 2010 .
Summary Procedure; Prohibition against filing of petition for certiorari. Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, on forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases, provides:
Sec. 13. Prohibited pleadings and motions.-The following petitions, motions, or pleadings shall not be allowed: 1. Motion to dismiss the complaint except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or failure to comply with section 12; 2. Motion for a bill of particulars; 3. Motion for a new trial, or for reconsideration of a judgment, or for reopening of trial; 4. Petition for relief from judgment; 5. Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits or any other paper; 6. Memoranda; 7. Petition for certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition against any interlocutory order issued by the court; 8. Motion to declare the defendant in default; 9. Dilatory motions for postponement; 10. Reply; 11. Third-party complaints; 12. Interventions. (Emphasis supplied)
Although it is alleged that there may be a technical error in connection with the service of summons, there is no showing of any substantiveinjustice that would be caused to IPI so as to call for the disregard of the clear and categorical prohibition of filing petitions for certiorari. It must be pointed out that the Rule on Summary Procedure, by way of exception, permits only a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter but it does not mention the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person. It is a settled rule of statutory construction that the express mention of one thing implies the exclusion of all others. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. From this it can be gleaned that allegations on the matter of lack of jurisdiction over the person by reason of improper service of summons, by itself, without a convincing showing of any resulting substantive injustice, cannot be used to hinder or stop the proceedings before the MCTC in the ejectment suit. With more reason, such ground should not be used to justify the violation of an express prohibition in the rules prohibiting the petition for certiorari. IPI’s arguments attempting to show how the Rule on Summary Procedure or lack of rules on certain matters would lead to injustice are hypothetical and need not be addressed in the present case. Of primary importance here is that IPI, the real defendant in the ejectment case, filed its Answer and participated in the proceedings before the MCTC.
The purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure is to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases without regard to technical
rules. In the present case, weighing the consequences of continuing with the proceedings in the MCTC as against the consequences of allowing a petition for certiorari, it is more in accord with justice, the purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure, the policy of speedy and inexpensive determination of cases, and the proper administration of justice, to obey the provisions in the Rule on Summary Procedure prohibiting petitions for certiorari.
The present situation, where IPI had filed the prohibited petition for certiorari; the CA’s taking cognizance thereof; and the subsequent issuance of the writ of injunction enjoining the ejectment suit from taking its normal course in an expeditious and summary manner, and the ensuing delay is the antithesis of and is precisely the very circumstance which the Rule on Summary Procedure seeks to prevent. The petition for certiorari questioning the MCTC’s interlocutory order is not needed here. The rules provide respondent IPI with adequate relief. At the proper time, IPI has the right to appeal to the RTC, and in the meantime no injustice will be caused to it by waiting for the MCTC to completely finish resolving the ejectment suit. The proceedings before the MCTC being summary in nature, the time and expense involved therein are minimal. IPI has already raised the matter of improper service of summons in its Answer. The MCTC’s error/s, if any, on any of the matters raised by respondent IPI can be threshed out during appeal after the MCTC has finally resolved the ejectment case under summary procedure.
As accurately pointed out by petitioner, Go v. Court of Appeals does not support the case of respondent IPI. The factual milieu and circumstances of the said case do not fit with the present case. They are in fact the exact opposite of those in the present case before the court hearing the original ejectment case. Not only was there an absence of any “indefinite suspension” of the ejectment suit before the MCTC but likewise there was no “procedural void” that would otherwise cause delay in the summary and expeditious resolution thereof that transpired to warrant applicability of Go v. Court of Appeals. It is worth pointing out that in Go v. Court of Appeals the Supreme Court categorically upheld that “the purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure is to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases without regard to technical rules. Pursuant to this objective, the Rule prohibits petitions for certiorari, like a number of other pleadings, in order to prevent unnecessary delays and to expedite the disposition of cases.” Considering that the petition for certiorari filed before the CA is categorically prohibited, the CA should not have entertained the same but should have dismissed it outright. Victorias Milling Company, Inc. vs. CA and International Pharmaceuticals, Inc., G.R. No. 168062, June 29, 2010
Venue; filing of election protest in improper venue not jurisdictional. It is well-settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law. As such, jurisdiction cannot be fixed by the will of the parties; nor be acquired through waiver nor enlarged by the omission of the parties; nor conferred by any acquiescence of the court. The allocation of jurisdiction is vested in Congress, and cannot be delegated to another office or agency of the Government.
The Rules of Court does not define jurisdictional boundaries of the courts. In promulgating the Rules of Court, the Supreme Court is circumscribed by the zone properly denominated as the promulgation of rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts; consequently, the Rules of Court can only determine the means, ways or manner in which said jurisdiction, as fixed by the Constitution and acts of Congress, shall be exercised. The Rules of Court yields to the substantive law in determining jurisdiction. The jurisdiction over election contests involving elective municipal officials has been vested in the RTC by Section 251, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code). On the other hand, A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, by specifying the proper venue where such cases may be filed and heard, only spelled out the manner by which an RTC with jurisdiction exercises such jurisdiction. Like other rules on venue, A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC was designed to ensure a just and orderly administration of justice, and is permissive, because it was enacted to ensure the exclusive and speedy disposition of election protests and petitions for quo warranto involving elective municipal officials.
Castillo’s filing her protest in the RTC in Bacoor, Cavite amounted only to a wrong choice of venue. Hence, the dismissal of the protest by Branch 19 constituted plain error, considering that her wrong choice did not affect the jurisdiction of the RTC. What Branch 19 should have done under the circumstances was to transfer the protest to Branch 22 of the RTC in Imus, Cavite, which was the proper venue. Such transfer was proper, whether she as the protestant sought it or not, given that the determination of the will of the electorate of Bacoor, Cavite according to the process set forth by law was of the highest concern of our institutions, particularly of the courts. Minerva Gomez-Castillo vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 187231, June 22, 2010
Writ of Amparo; requirement of extraordinary diligence. Considering the findings of the CA and our review of the records of the present case, we conclude that the PNP and the AFP have so far failed to conduct an exhaustive and meaningful investigation into the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, and to exercise the extraordinary diligence (in the performance of their duties) that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires. Because of these investigative shortcomings, we cannot rule on the case until a more meaningful investigation, using extraordinary diligence, is undertaken.
From the records, we note that there are very significant lapses in the handling of the investigation – among them the PNP-CIDG’s failure to identify the cartographic sketches of two (one male and one female) of the five abductors of Jonas based on their interview of eyewitnesses to the abduction. This lapse is based on the information provided to the petitioner by no less than State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco of the DOJ who identified the persons who were possibly involved in the abduction, namely: T/Sgt. Jason Roxas (Philippine Army), Cpl. Maria Joana Francisco (Philippine Air Force), M/Sgt. Aron Arroyo (Philippine Air Force), and an alias T.L., all reportedly assigned with Military Intelligence Group 15 of Intelligence Service of the AFP. No search and certification were ever made on whether these persons were AFP personnel or in other branches of the service, such as the Philippine Air Force. As testified to by the petitioner, no significant follow through was also made by the PNP-CIDG in ascertaining the identities of the cartographic sketches of two of the abductors despite the evidentiary leads provided by State Prosecutor Velasco of the DOJ. Notably, the PNP-CIDG, as the lead investigating agency in the present case, did not appear to have lifted a finger to pursue these aspects of the case. We note, too, that no independent investigation appeared to have been made by the PNP-CIDG to inquire into the veracity of Lipio’s and Manuel’s claims that Jonas was abducted by a certain @KA DANTE and a certain @KA ENSO of the CPP/NPA guerilla unit RYG. The records do not indicate whether the PNP-CIDG conducted a follow-up investigation to determine the identities and whereabouts of @KA Dante and @KA ENSO. These omissions were aggravated by the CA finding that the PNP has yet to refer any case for preliminary investigation to the DOJ despite its representation before the CA that it had forwarded all pertinent and relevant documents to the DOJ for the filing of appropriate charges against @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO.
Based on these considerations, we conclude that further investigation and monitoring should be undertaken.While significant leads have been provided to investigators, the investigations by the PNP-CIDG, the AFP Provost Marshal, and even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have been less than complete. The PNP-CIDG’s investigation particularly leaves much to be desired in terms of the extraordinary diligence that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires. For this reason, we resolve to refer the present case to the CHR as the Court’s directly commissioned agency tasked with the continuation of the investigation of the Burgos abduction and the gathering of evidence, with the obligation to report its factual findings and recommendations to this Court. We take into consideration in this regard that the CHR is a specialized and independent agency created and empowered by the Constitution to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and
political rights and to provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines.
Under this mandate, the CHR is tasked to conduct appropriate investigative proceedings, including field investigations – acting as the Court’s directly commissioned agency for purposes of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo – with the tasks of: (a) ascertaining the identities of the persons appearing in the cartographic sketches of the two alleged abductors as well as their whereabouts; (b) determining based on records, past and present, the identities and locations of the persons identified by State Prosecutor Velasco alleged to be involved in the abduction of Jonas, namely: T/Sgt. Jason Roxas (Philippine Army); Cpl. Maria Joana Francisco (Philippine Air Force), M/Sgt. Aron Arroyo (Philippine Air Force), and an alias T.L., all reportedly assigned with Military Intelligence Group 15 of Intelligence Service of the AFP; further proceedings and investigations, as may be necessary, should be made to pursue the lead allegedly provided by State Prosecutor Velasco on the identities of the possible abductors; (c) inquiring into the veracity of Lipio’s and Manuel’s claims that Jonas was abducted by a certain @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO of the CPP/NPA guerilla unit RYG; (d) determining based on records, past and present, as well as further investigation, the identities and whereabouts of @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO; and (e) undertaking all measures, in the investigation of the Burgos abduction that may be necessary to live up to the extraordinary measures we require in addressing an enforced disappearance under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo. Edita T. Burgos vs. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al./Edita T. Burgos vs. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al./Edita T. burgos vs. Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., et al., G.R. Nos. 183711/183812/183713, June 22, 2010
Burden of proof; party alleging fraud has burden of proof.Fraud is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts, omissions, and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence justly reposed, resulting in the damage to another or by which an undue and unconscionable advantage is taken of another.It is a question of fact that must be alleged and proved. It cannot be presumed and must be established by clear and convincing evidence, not by mere preponderance of evidence. The party alleging the existence of fraud has the burden of proof. On the basis of the above disquisitions, this Court finds that petitioner has failed to discharge this burden. No matter how strong the suspicion is on the part of petitioner, such suspicion does not translate into tangible evidence sufficient to nullify the assailed transactions involving the subject MSCI Class “A” share of stock. Makati Sports Club, Inc.
vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010
Existence of fraud is question of fact. Fraud is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts, omissions, and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence justly reposed, resulting in the damage to another or by which an undue and unconscionable advantage is taken of another.It is a question of fact that must be alleged and proved. It cannot be presumed and must be established by clear and convincing evidence, not by mere preponderance of evidence. The party alleging the existence of fraud has the burden of proof. On the basis of the above disquisitions, this Court finds that petitioner has failed to discharge this burden. No matter how strong the suspicion is on the part of petitioner, such suspicion does not translate into tangible evidence sufficient to nullify the assailed transactions involving the subject MSCI Class “A” share of stock. Makati Sports Club, Inc. vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010
Actions; action for injunction. As a rule, actions for injunction and damages lie within the jurisdiction of the RTC pursuant to Section 19 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (BP 129), otherwise known as the “Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980,” as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 7691. An action for injunction is a suit which has for its purpose the enjoinment of the defendant, perpetually or for a particular time, from the commission or continuance of a specific act, or his compulsion to continue performance of a particular act. It has an independent existence, and is distinct from the ancillary remedy of preliminary injunction which cannot exist except only as a part or an incident of an independent action or proceeding. In an action for injunction, the auxiliary remedy of preliminary injunction, prohibitory or mandatory, may issue. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 160270, April 23, 2010.
Appeal; argument raised for first time on appeal. Petitioner had, of course, endeavored to establish that respondent’s predecessors-in-interest had served him a demand to vacate the subject parcel as early as 31 July 1996. Correctly brushed aside by the Court of Appeals on the ground, among others, that respondent had no participation in its preparation, we find said demand letter of little or no use to petitioner’s cause in view of its non-presentation before the MeTC. However, much as it may now be expedient for petitioner to anchor his cause thereon, said demand letter was first introduced in the record only as an attachment to his reply to respondent’s comment to the motion for reconsideration of the 14 July 2005 order issued by the RTC. The rule is settled, however, that points of law, theories, issues and arguments not brought to
the attention of the trial court will not be and ought not to be considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. Basic consideration of due process impels this rule. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Appeal; computation of period where last day is Sunday or legal holiday. Petitioner’s petition for review (under Rule 42) and motion for reconsideration before the appellate court were filed well within the reglementary period for the filing thereof. It must be noted that petitioner received her copy of the RTC decision on April 13, 2007. Following the Rules of Court, she had 15 days or until April 28, 2007 to file her petition for review before the CA. Section 1 of Rule 42 provides:
Sec. 1. How appeal taken; time for filing.—A party desiring to appeal from a decision of the Regional Trial Court rendered in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction may file a verified petition for review with the Court of Appeals, paying at the same time to the clerk of said court the corresponding docket and other lawful fees, depositing the amount of P500.00 for costs, and furnishing the Regional Trial Court and the adverse party with a copy of the petition. The petition shall be filed and served within fifteen (15) days from notice of the decision sought to be reviewed or of the denial of petitioner’s motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after judgment. Upon proper motion and the payment of the full amount of the docket and other lawful fees and the deposit for costs before the expiration of the reglementary period, the Court of Appeals may grant an additional period of fifteen (15) days only within which to file the petition for review. No further extension shall be granted except for the most compelling reason and in no case to exceed fifteen (15) days.
On April 20, 2007, petitioner filed before the CA, via registered mail, her motion for extension of time to file the petition for review. She pleaded in her motion that she be granted an additional 15 days, counted from the expiry of the reglementary period. Petitioner likewise attached to her motion postal money orders representing the docket fees.
Fifteen days from April 28, 2007 would be May 13, 2007. This was, however, a Sunday. May 14, 2007, the following day, was a legal holiday—the holding of the national and local elections. Section 1 of Rule 22 states:
Sec. 1. How to compute time.—In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by these Rules, or by order of the court, or by any applicable statute, the day of the act or event from which the designated period of time begins to run is to be excluded and the date of performance included. If the last day of the period, as thus computed, falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits, the time shall not run until the
next working day.
Therefore, when petitioner filed her petition for review with the appellate court on May 15, 2007, the same was well within the extended period for the filing thereof. Alma B. Russel vs. Teofista Ebasan, et al., G.R. No. 184542, April 23, 2010.
Appeal; dismissal of appeal for technical defects in service and form of brief. We agree that the CA had the discretion to dismiss petitioners’ appeal. The discretion, however, must be a sound one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case. Here, we find that the failure to serve a copy of the appellant’s brief to two of the adverse parties was a mere oversight, constituting excusable neglect. A litigant’s failure to furnish his opponent with a copy of his appeal brief does not suffice to warrant dismissal of that appeal. In such an instance, all that is needed is for the court to order the litigant to furnish his opponent with a copy of his brief. Anent the failure to append a copy of the assailed judgment, instead of dismissing the appeal on that basis, it is more in keeping with equity to simply require the appellants to immediately submit a copy of the Decision of the lower court rather than punish litigants for the reckless inattention of their lawyers. The purpose of a subject index in an appellant’s/appellee’s brief obviates the court to thumb through a possibly lengthy brief page after page to locate whatever else needs to be found and considered, such as arguments and citations. In the case at bar, notably, the appeal brief submitted to the CA consists only of 17 pages which the appellate court may easily peruse to apprise it of what the case is all about and of the relief sought. Thus, the belated submission of the subject index may be considered excusable. Our discussion in Philippine Coconut Authority v. Corona International, Inc. is apropos:
x x x the purpose of the brief is to present the court in coherent and concise form the point and questions in controversy, and by fair argument on the facts and law of the case, to assist the court in arriving at a just and proper conclusion. A haphazard and pellmell presentation will not do for the brief should be so prepared as to minimize the labor of the court in examination of the record upon which the appeal is heard and determined. It is certainly, ‘the vehicle of counsel to convey to the court the essential facts of his client’s case, a statement of the questions of law involved, the law he should have applied, and the application he desires of it by the court’. There should be an honest compliance with the requirements regarding contents of appellant’s brief, and among which is that it should contain “a subject index of the matter in the brief with a digest of the argument and page references.”
We do not disagree with the appellate court’s above exposition. The requirements laid down in Section 13, Rule 43 are intended to aid the appellate
court in arriving at a just and proper conclusion of the case. However, we are of the opinion that despite its deficiencies petitioner’s appellant’s brief is sufficient in form and substance as to apprise the appellate court of the essential facts and nature of the case as well as the issues raised and the laws necessary for the disposition of the same.
This case involves voluminous records meriting a review on the merits by the CA. Otherwise, the efforts of the petitioners to protect their collateral in their judicial battle will lead to naught once they lose their remedy of an appeal just because of procedural niceties. Adherence to legal technicalities allows individual error to be suffered in order that justice in the maximum may be preserved. Nonetheless, “we should indeed welcome,” as Judge Learned Hand once wrote, “any efforts that help disentangle us from the archaisms that still impede our pursuit of truth”. Our ruling in Aguam v. Court of Appeals also bears recalling:
Every party litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the unacceptable plea of technicalities. Thus, dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice. It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.
Trinidad Go, et al. vs. Vicente Velez Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 182341, April 23, 2010.
Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts. However, a question involving the regularity of notarization as well as the due execution of the subject sworn statement of Basilisa would require an inquiry into the appreciation of evidence by the trial court. It is not the function of this Court to review, examine and evaluate or weigh the probative value of the evidence presented. A question of fact would arise in such event. Settled is the rule that questions of fact cannot be raised in an appeal via certiorari before the Supreme Court and are not proper for its consideration. The rationale behind this doctrine is that a review of the findings of fact of the trial courts and the appellate tribunal is not a function this Court normally undertakes. The Court will not weigh the evidence all over again unless there is a showing that the findings of the lower courts are totally devoid of support or are clearly erroneous so as to constitute serious abuse of discretion. Although there are recognized exceptions to this rule, none
exists in the present case to justify a departure therefrom. Alejandra S. Lazaro, et al. vs. Modesta Agustin, et al., G.R. No. 152364, April 15, 2010.
Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts generally binding on Supreme Court; exceptions. It is a well-recognized principle that factual findings of the trial court are entitled to great weight and respect by this Court, more so when they are affirmed by the appellate court. However, the rule is not without exceptions, such as: (1) when the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, and conjectures; (2) the inferences made are manifestly mistaken; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; and (4) the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts or premised on the absence of evidence on record. Especially in criminal cases where the accused stands to lose his liberty by virtue of his conviction, the Court must be satisfied that the factual findings and conclusions of the lower courts leading to his conviction must satisfy the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Anthony L. Ng vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 173905, April 23, 2010.
Appeal; findings of fact of trial court. The issue of whether or not the accused acted in self-defense is undoubtedly a question of fact, and it is well entrenched in jurisprudence that findings of fact of the trial court command great weight and respect unless patent inconsistencies are ignored or where the conclusions reached are clearly unsupported by evidence. In the present case, we find no cogent reason to disturb the decision of the trial court, as modified by the CA. In debunking his claim, we quote with approval the ruling of the CA.
In the instant case, accused-appellant claims that there was unlawful aggression on the part Robelyn Rojas when the latter allegedly hit him with a spray gun. However, except this self-serving statement, no other evidence was presented to prove that indeed he was hit by Robelyn. Accused-appellant failed to show where he was hit and what injuries he sustained, if any. Moreover, his own defense witness Roden Macasantos did not see him being hit by a spray gun. On the contrary, the prosecution has clearly shown that before Robelyn was stabbed, the two even discussed with each other and accused-appellant even shook hands with him. Moreover, if indeed it was true that Robelyn was carrying a spray gun and tried to hit him, accused-appellant, while he was in a supine position, could have easily just flaunted his knife to scare his alleged attackers away. On the other hand, even if we assume to be true that he was in a supine position when he thrust the knife at his attacker, it is however impossible that the back of Robelyn would be hit, unless the latter could also fell (sic) on his back, which is again far from reality. In a myriad of cases, it has been ruled that the location, number or seriousness of the stab or hack wounds inflicted on the victim are important indicia which may disprove accused’s plea
of self defense. In the instant case, it is clear that the victim was stabbed at the back negating any indication that accused-appellant acted in self defense.
The People of the Philippines vs. Benancio Mortera y Belarmino, G.R. No. 188104, April 23, 2010.
Appeal; hierarchy of courts. The first refers to the petitioners’ breach of the hierarchy of courts by coming directly to the Court to appeal the assailed issuances of the RTC via petition for review on certiorari. They should not have done so, bypassing a review by the Court of Appeals (CA), because the hierarchy of courts is essential to the efficient functioning of the courts and to the orderly administration of justice. Their non-observance of the hierarchy of courts has forthwith enlarged the docket of the Court by one more case, which, though it may not seem burdensome to the layman, is one case too much to the Court, which has to devote time and effort in poring over the papers submitted herein, only to discover in the end that a review should have first been made by the CA. The time and effort could have been dedicated to other cases of importance and impact on the lives and rights of others. The hierarchy of courts is not to be lightly regarded by litigants. The CA stands between the RTC and the Court, and its establishment has been precisely to take over much of the work that used to be done by the Court. Historically, the CA has been of the greatest help to the Court in synthesizing the facts, issues, and rulings in an orderly and intelligible manner and in identifying errors that ordinarily might escape detection. The Court has thus been freed to better discharge its constitutional duties and perform its most important work, which, in the words of Dean Vicente G. Sinco, “is less concerned with the decision of cases that begin and end with the transient rights and obligations of particular individuals but is more intertwined with the direction of national policies, momentous economic and social problems, the delimitation of governmental authority and its impact upon fundamental rights.” The need to elevate the matter first to the CA is also underscored by the reality that determining whether the petitioners were real parties in interest entitled to bring this appeal against the denial by the RTC of the OSG’s motion for the issuance of a writ of execution was a mixed question of fact and law. As such, the CA was in the better position to review and to determine. In that regard, the petitioners violate Section 1, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which demands that an appeal by petition for review on certiorari be limited to questions of law. Francisco Alonso, et al. vs. Cebu Country Club, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 188471, April 20, 2010.
Appeal; issue raised for first time on appeal. In its petition for review with the CA, petitioners never put as an issue the alleged existence of a consummated sale between the DAR and the petitioners under RA
6657. What petitioners questioned was SAC’s jurisdiction over determination of just compensation cases involving lands covered by RA 6657. Furthermore, petitioners insist that LBP has no legal personality to institute a case for determination of just compensation against landowners with the SAC. It is only in the present petition for review that petitioners raised the alleged existence of a consummated sale between the DAR and petitioners.
The argument that a consummated sale between the DAR and petitioners existed upon petitioners’ acceptance of the valuation made in the RARAD’s decision of 29 March 2000 is an issue being raised for the first time. Section 15, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Court provides that the appellant “may include in his assignment of errors any question of law or fact that has been raised in the court below and which is within the issues framed by the parties.” A perusal of the questions raised in the SAC and the CA shows that the issue on the existence of a consummated sale between the DAR and petitioners was not among the issues therein. Hence, this issue is being raised for the first time on appeal. It is a fundamental rule that this Court will not resolve issues that were not properly brought and ventilated in the lower courts. Questions raised on appeal must be within the issues framed by the parties and, consequently, issues not raised in the trial court cannot be raised for the first time on appeal. An issue, which was neither averred in the complaint nor raised during the trial in the lower courts, cannot be raised for the first time on appeal because it would be offensive to the basic rule of fair play and justice, and would be violative of the constitutional right to due process of the other party. Heirs of Lorenzo Vidad and Carmen Vidad, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 166461, April 30, 2010.
Appeal; issue raised for first time on appeal; question of fact outside scope of Rule 45 appeal. We note at the outset that the objection on the delineation of the scope and extent of the excess areas of TCT No. 722 came too late in the day; it is an issue that the Hacienda admits to have raised for the first time when it sought reconsideration of the CA decision. We significantly note, too, that this issue involves a question of fact whose determination is improper in a Rule 45 proceeding before this Court. Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. vs. Epifanio V. Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 174160, April 20, 2010.
Appeal; notice of appeal; computation of period to file. As regards the ruling of the Court of Appeals that the appeal of PCI Leasing was filed out of time, the same was in concurrence with the findings of the RTC that the Notice of Appeal was filed one day late. On this matter, we hold that the conclusion of the RTC that PCI Leasing belatedly filed its appeal was correct, but the premise therefor was evidently mistaken. In accordance with Section 3, Rule 41 of
the Rules of Court, an ordinary appeal of a judgment by the RTC shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from. Said period shall be interrupted by a timely motion for new trial or reconsideration. In Neypes v. Court of Appeals, the Court had the occasion to clarify the rule regarding the period within which an appeal may be taken should a motion for new trial or reconsideration be filed. Thus:
To standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rules and to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their cases, the Court deems it practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal in the Regional Trial Court, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration.
Henceforth, this “fresh period rule” shall also apply to Rule 40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts; Rule 42 on petitions for review from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals; Rule 43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals and Rule 45 governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court. The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.
x x x x
To recapitulate, a party litigant may either file his notice of appeal within 15 days from receipt of the Regional Trial Court’s decision or file it within 15 days from receipt of the order (the “final order”) denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Obviously, the new 15-day period may be availed of only if either motion is filed; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of the original appeal period provided in Rule 41, Section 3. (Emphases ours.)
In the case at bar, PCI Leasing filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the RTC Order dated October 13, 2000, which dismissed Civil Case No. Q-00-40010. On January 4, 2001, the RTC rendered a Resolution, denying the Motion for Reconsideration. Said Resolution was received by PCI Leasing on January 17, 2001. Therefore, PCI Leasing should have filed its Notice of Appeal within 15 days from January 17, 2001 or until February 1, 2001. PCI Leasing actually filed its Notice of Appeal on May 11, 2001 or 114 days after receipt of the Resolution denying its Motion for Reconsideration.
Contrary to the findings of the RTC, the period within which to file the Notice of Appeal should not be reckoned from May 3, 2001, the date of receipt of the RTC Resolution dated April 6, 2001, which denied the Ex Parte Motion for Reconsideration of PCI Leasing. The aforesaid Ex Parte Motion for
Reconsideration was already the second attempt on the part of PCI Leasing to seek a reconsideration of the RTC Order dated October 13, 2000, dismissing Civil Case No. Q-00-40010. It is, thus, in the nature of a second motion for reconsideration. Under Section 5, Rule 37 of the Rules of Court, such motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading, which does not toll the period within which an appeal may be taken, to wit:
SEC. 5. Second motion for new trial. – A motion for new trial shall include all grounds then available and those not so included shall be deemed waived. A second motion for new trial, based on a ground not existing nor available when the first motion was made, may be filed within the time herein provided excluding the time during which the first motion had been pending.
No party shall be allowed a second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order. (Emphasis ours.)
As PCI Leasing was not able to file the Notice of Appeal within the reglementary period allowed therefor, the RTC Order dated October 13, 2000, dismissing Civil Case No. Q-00-40010, should be deemed final and executory. PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. vs. Antonio C. Milan, et al., G.R. No. 151215, April 5, 2010.
Appeal; notice of appeal; requirements. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Notice of Appeal involved pure questions of law on the basis of the statement therein that the Order dated October 13, 2000, the Resolution dated January 4, 2001 and the Resolution dated April 6, 2001 of the RTC would be appealed to the Court of Appeals on the ground that the same were “contrary to the applicable laws and jurisprudence on the matter.” The Court of Appeals was of the opinion that it would not have jurisdiction over the intended appeal since the same should be raised to the Supreme Court via a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
We hold that the Court of Appeals was unreasonably hasty in inferring its lack of jurisdiction over the intended appeal of PCI Leasing. The above-stated conclusion of the Court of Appeals was simply uncalled for, notwithstanding the said statement in the Notice of Appeal. Under Rule 41, Section 5 of the Rules of Court, a notice of appeal is only required to indicate (a) the parties to the appeal, (b) the final judgment or order or part thereof appealed from, (c) the court to which the appeal is being taken, and (d) the material dates showing the timeliness of the appeal. In usual court practice, a notice of appeal would consist of one or two pages. Only after the specific issues and arguments of PCI Leasing are laid out in detail before the Court of Appeals in the appropriate substantive pleading can it make a conclusion as to whether or not the issues raised therein involved pure questions of law. PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. vs. Antonio C. Milan,
et al., G.R. No. 151215, April 5, 2010.
Appeal; requirement to attach pleadings filed below; substantial compliance. We dwell first with the procedural issues before the main controversy. Respondents contend that the instant petition is dismissible on the ground that NHA failed to attach pleadings filed in the RTC and the Court of Appeals as required under Section 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court which partly provides:
SEC. 4. Contents of petition. — The petition shall be filed in eighteen (18) copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall x x x (d) be accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original, or a certified true copy of the judgment or final order or resolution certified by the clerk of court of the court a quo and the requisite number of plain copies thereof, and such material portions of the record as would support the petition; x x x.
In its petition, NHA attached the February 24, 2000 Decision, the November 27, 2000 Amended Decision, and the July 19, 2001 Resolution all of the Court of Appeals; copies of the transfer certificates of title of the disputed properties; and the June 13, 1994 Order of the Quezon City RTC ordering the reconstitution of the said titles. This Court finds that NHA substantially complied with the requirements under Section 4 of Rule 45. The same conclusion was arrived at by this Court in Development Bank of the Philippines v. Family Foods Manufacturing Co., Ltd. when it was faced with the same procedural objection, thus:
As held by this Court in Air Philippines Corporation v. Zamora:
[E]ven if a document is relevant and pertinent to the petition, it need not be appended if it is shown that the contents thereof can also [be] found in another document already attached to the petition. Thus, if the material allegations in a position paper are summarized in a questioned judgment, it will suffice that only a certified true copy of the judgment is attached.
Third, a petition lacking an essential pleading or part of the case record may still be given due course or reinstated (if earlier dismissed) upon showing that petitioner later submitted the documents required, or that it will serve the higher interest of justice that the case be decided on the merits.
Nevertheless, even if the pleadings and other supporting documents were not attached to the petition, the dismissal is unwarranted because the CA records containing the promissory notes and the real estate and chattel mortgages were elevated to this Court. Without a doubt, we have sufficient basis to actually and completely dispose of the case.
We must stress that cases should be determined
on the merits, after all parties have been given full opportunity to ventilate their causes and defenses, rather than on technicalities or procedural imperfections. In that way, the ends of justice would be served better. Rules of procedure are mere tools designed to expedite the decision or resolution of cases and other matters pending in court. A strict and rigid application of rules, resulting in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must be avoided. In fact, Section 6 of Rule 1 states that the Rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of ensuring the just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.
National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Certiorari; available where denial of motion to dismiss is with grave abuse of discretion. Anent respondents’ claim that the RTC Order denying a motion to dismiss is a mere interlocutory order, thus, not appealable and may not be a subject of a petition for certiorari filed by the petitioner before the CA, the same is also not meritorious. While indeed, the general rule is that the denial of a motion to dismiss cannot be questioned in a special civil action for certiorari, which is not intended to correct every controversial interlocutory ruling, and that the appropriate recourse is to file an answer and to interpose as defenses the objections raised in the motion, to proceed to trial, and, in case of an adverse decision, to elevate the entire case by appeal in due course, this rule is not absolute. Even when appeal is available and is the proper remedy, the Supreme Court has allowed a writ of certiorari (1) where the appeal does not constitute a speedy and adequate remedy; (2) where the orders were also issued either in excess of or without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion; (3) for certain special considerations, as public welfare or public policy; (4) where in criminal actions, the court rejects rebuttal evidence for the prosecution as, in case of acquittal, there could be no remedy; (5) where the order is a patent nullity; and (6) where the decision in the certiorari case will avoid future litigations. In this case, we find that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it failed to consider the lack of proof of authority of respondent Neri to file the action on behalf of the corporation as we have discussed above. Republic of the Philippines vs. Coalbrine International Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 161838, April 7, 2010.
Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. Finally, we note that the instant petition was filed under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, which requires the existence of grave abuse of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion exists where an act of a court or tribunal is performed with a capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment
equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. No such grave abuse of discretion exists in this case to warrant issuance of the extraordinary writ of certiorari. Mediserv, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (Special Former 13th Division), et al., G.R. No. 161368, April 5, 2010.
Certiorari; nature of remedy; available to correct only errors of jurisdiction. The petitioners have twice erroneously availed of the remedy of a certiorari petition, first, before the CA against the RTC order dismissing its complaint for annulment of title, and second, before the Court against the CA’s decision thereon. Time and again, we have discussed the nature of a certiorari petition – it is intended to correct only errors of jurisdiction where the court or tribunal has acted with grave abuse of discretion. A writ of certiorari cannot be used for any other purpose; it cannot be used to resolve questions or issues beyond its competence such as errors of judgment. Certiorari will not be issued to cure errors by the trial court in its appreciation of the evidence of the parties, its conclusions anchored on the said findings, and its conclusions of law.
The supervisory jurisdiction of a court over the issuance of a writ of certiorari cannot be exercised for the purpose of reviewing the intrinsic correctness of a judgment of the lower court on the basis either of the law or the facts of the case, or of the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision. Even if the findings of the court are incorrect, as long as it has jurisdiction over the case, such correction is normally beyond the province of certiorari. Where the error is not one of jurisdiction, but of an error of law or fact – a mistake of judgment – appeal is the remedy. [Emphasis supplied.]
In the two certiorari petitions the petitioners filed before the CA and before the Court, they assailed rulings of the lower courts by claiming that the findings and conclusions of these courts were merely speculative and based on misapprehension of facts. These assigned errors, however, constitute an attack on the correctness or soundness of the decision assailed and does not at all affect the jurisdiction of the court to issue such decision. In other words, they amount to no more than errors of judgment correctible by an appeal, not by a writ of certiorari that will issue only when there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
XXX XXX XXX XXX
As the petitioners now raise before this Court the same errors of judgment already raised before and
resolved by the CA, the dismissal of the present certiorari petition is in order for being the wrong remedy. Errors of judgment committed by the CA are reviewable by this Court via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Erroneous findings and conclusion do not render the appellate court vulnerable to the corrective writ of certiorari. Nemesio Goco, et al. vs. Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 157449, April 6, 2010.
Certiorari; not available against dismissal order from which appeal can be taken. Since an order of dismissal by the trial court is a final order from which an ordinary appeal under Rule 41 can be taken, the petitioners should have taken this avenue against the RTC order of September 7, 1999 instead of resorting to a petition for certiorari before the CA. Supreme Court Circular No. 2-90 is unequivocal in directing the dismissal of an inappropriate mode of appeal:
4. Erroneous Appeals – An appeal taken to either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals by the wrong or inappropriate mode shall be dismissed.
But rather than dismissing outright the petition, the CA, “in the interest of justice,” decided to treat it as an appeal filed under Rule 41 and consider the errors raised by the petitioners. As it turned out, however, the CA still ruled for the petition’s dismissal because it found that petitioners’ did not have any cause of action against respondent Catlys and were not the real parties in interest. Nemesio Goco, et al. vs. Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 157449, April 6, 2010.
Certiorari; unavailing where appeal period has lapsed; exceptions. Petitioners are questioning a final decision of the CA by resorting to Rule 65, when their remedy should be based on Rule 45. This case would normally have been dismissed outright for failure of the petitioners to adopt the proper remedy. While ordinarily, certiorari is unavailing where the appeal period has lapsed, there are exceptions. Among them are (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates; (b) when the broader interest of justice so requires; (c) when the writs issued are null and void; or (d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. In the present case, the CA’s act of dismissing petitioners’ petition for certiorari and in finding the RTC’s Decision already final and executory in its entirety, despite the filing by the petitioners of a Notice of Appeal within 15 days from their receipt of the February 7, 2001 RTC Order amending the said RTC Decision is an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. Hence, in the interest of substantial justice, we deem it wise to overlook the procedural technicalities. Associated Anglo-American Tobacco Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 167237, April 23, 2010.
Contempt. Respondents filed a case for indirect contempt against Augusto L. Canlas, Atty. Francisco A. Abella, Jr., and Atty. Rizal V. Katalbas, Jr. for allegedly defying the TRO issued by the RTC in connection with the complaint for injunction and damages previously filed by respondents. Contempt constitutes disobedience to the court by setting up an opposition to its authority, justice and dignity. It signifies not only a willful disregard or disobedience of the court’s orders but such conduct as tends to bring the authority of the court and the administration of law into disrepute or in some manner to impede the due administration of justice. There are two kinds of contempt punishable by law: direct contempt and indirect contempt. Direct contempt is committed when a person is guilty of misbehavior in the presence of or so near a court as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings before the same, including disrespect toward the court, offensive personalities toward others, or refusal to be sworn or to answer as a witness, or to subscribe an affidavit or deposition when lawfully required to do so. Indirect contempt or constructive contempt is that which is committed out of the presence of the court. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 160270, April 23, 2010
Contempt; indirect contempt. Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure includes, among the grounds for filing a case for indirect contempt, the following:
Section 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and hearing. –
After charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the accused to be heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for contempt:
x x x
(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, judgment or command of a court, or injunction granted by a court or judge, x x x
(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the process or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under Section 1 of this rule;
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct or degrade the administration of justice;
x x x
When the TRO issued by the RTC was served upon the SBMA officers on 13 June 2002, there was already an existing warrant of seizure and detention (dated 22 May 2002) issued by the BOC against the subject rice shipment. Thus, as far as the SBMA officers were concerned, exclusive jurisdiction over
the subject shipment remained with the BOC, and the RTC had no jurisdiction over cases involving said shipment. Consequently, the SBMA officers refused to comply with the TRO issued by the RTC. Considering the foregoing circumstances, we believe that the SBMA officers may be considered to have acted in good faith when they refused to follow the TRO issued by the RTC. The SBMA officers’ refusal to follow the court order was not contumacious but due to the honest belief that jurisdiction over the subject shipment remained with the BOC because of the existing warrant of seizure and detention against said shipment. Accordingly, these SBMA officers should not be held accountable for their acts which were done in good faith and not without legal basis. Thus, we hold that the RTC Order dated 21 November 2002 which found the SBMA officers guilty of indirect contempt for not complying with the RTC’s TRO should be invalidated. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 160270, April 23, 2010.
Dismissals; dismissal due to plaintiff’s fault. Section 3, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court is the applicable rule in the instant case, which provision reads:
Sec. 3. Dismissal due to fault of plaintiff. — If, for no justifiable cause, the plaintiff fails to appear on the date of the presentation of his evidence in chief on the complaint, or to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time, or to comply with these Rules or any order of the court, the complaint may be dismissed upon motion of the defendant or upon the court’s own motion, without prejudice to the right of the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim in the same or in a separate action. This dismissal shall have the effect of an adjudication upon the merits, unless otherwise declared by the court.
Gomez v. Alcantara explains that “[t]he aforequoted provision enumerates the instances when a complaint may be dismissed due to the plaintiff’s fault: (1) if he fails to appear on the date for the presentation of his evidence in chief on the complaint; (2) if he fails to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time; or (3) if he fails to comply with the Rules or any order of the court. The dismissal of a case for failure to prosecute has the effect of adjudication on the merits, and is necessarily understood to be with prejudice to the filing of another action, unless otherwise provided in the order of dismissal. Stated differently, the general rule is that dismissal of a case for failure to prosecute is to be regarded as an adjudication on the merits and with prejudice to the filing of another action, and the only exception is when the order of dismissal expressly contains a qualification that the dismissal is without prejudice.” Furthermore, in Marahay v. Melicor, we pronounced that “[w]hile a court can dismiss a case on the ground of non prosequitur, the real test for the exercise of such power is whether, under the circumstances, plaintiff is chargeable with want of due diligence in failing to
proceed with reasonable promptitude. In the absence of a pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of the case or a wanton failure to observe the mandatory requirement of the rules on the part of the plaintiff, as in the case at bar, courts should decide to dispense with rather than wield their authority to dismiss.” Guided by the foregoing principles, we find that the RTC grievously erred in dismissing Civil Case No. Q-00-40010.
According to the RTC Order dated October 13, 2000, the trial court dismissed the case filed by PCI Leasing in view of the absence of the latter’s counsel at the hearing scheduled for that day. PCI Leasing had also been directed, on July 13, 2000, to “take the necessary steps to actively prosecute [its] case, otherwise, the same shall be dismissed.” To our mind, the above circumstances do not constitute sufficient bases to warrant the conclusion that PCI Leasing had lost interest in prosecuting Civil Case No. Q-00-40010.
In its Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated October 13, 2000, PCI Leasing explained that its counsel merely came late during the hearing scheduled for the said date, arriving at the time when Judge Domingo-Regala was already dictating the order of dismissal. Said hearing was not even for the presentation of the evidence in chief of PCI Leasing, where the latter’s presence would be indispensable, but merely for the issuance of Alias Summons. Incidentally, the Motion for Issuance of Alias Summons filed by PCI Leasing is non-litigious in nature, which does not require a hearing under the Rules, as the same could have been acted upon by the RTC without prejudicing the rights of the respondents. All facts necessary for the determination of the motion are already specified therein or a matter of record and there was yet no adverse party to dispute the same as the court had not even acquired jurisdiction over the person of the respondents. It was serious error on the part of the trial court to have denied the first motion for issuance of alias summons for want of notice of hearing. It was also not mandatory for the trial court to set the second motion for hearing. Despite this, the RTC still dismissed the case and eventually denied the Motion for Reconsideration thereof. While trial courts have the discretion to impose sanctions on counsels or litigants for tardiness or absence at hearings, such sanctions should be proportionate to the offense and should still conform to the dictates of justice and fair play.
Likewise, only a period of one month has passed since PCI Leasing was ordered by the RTC to actively pursue its case, up to the time when Civil Case No. Q-00-40010 was actually dismissed. It does not escape this Court’s notice that PCI Leasing failed to successfully prosecute the case for several months due to the difficulties it encountered in locating respondents, who appeared to have a propensity for changing addresses and refusing to accept court processes. Under these circumstances, the delay in
the trial court proceedings was not entirely the fault of PCI Leasing. Verily, it can hardly be said that PCI Leasing engaged in a pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of Civil Case No. Q-00-40010 or committed a wanton failure to observe the mandatory requirement of the rules. On this score, Calalang v. Court of Appeals underscores that “[u]nless a party’s conduct is so negligent, irresponsible, contumacious, or dilatory as to provide substantial grounds for dismissal for non-appearance, the courts should consider lesser sanctions which would still amount into achieving the desired end.” PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. vs. Antonio C. Milan, et al., G.R. No. 151215, April 5, 2010.
Ejectment; nature of action; summary action to protect right to possession without involvement of title. Petitioner is, finally, out on a limb in faulting the Court of Appeals with failure to apply the first paragraph of Article 1676 of the Civil Code of the Philippines in relation to the lease he claims to have concluded with one Maria Ysabel Potenciano Padilla Sylianteng. In the absence of proof of his lessor’s title or respondent’s prior knowledge of said contract of lease, petitioner’s harping over the same provision simply amounts to an implied admission that the premises occupied by him lie within the metes and bounds of the subject parcel. Even then, the resolution of said issue is clearly inappropriate since ejectment cases are summary actions intended to provide an expeditious manner for protecting possession or right to possession without involvement of title. Moreover, if a defendant’s mere assertion of ownership in an ejectment case will not oust the MeTC of its summary jurisdiction, we fail to see why it should be any different in this case where petitioner merely alleged his lessor’s supposed title over the subject parcel. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Execution; execution of judgment for specific acts; removal of improvements. In addition, Rule 39, Section 10, paragraphs (c) and (d), of the Rules of Court provides the procedure for execution of judgments for specific acts, as follows:
SECTION 10. Execution of judgments for specific act.-
x x x x
(c) Delivery or restitution of real property. – The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within the three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee; otherwise, the officer shall oust all such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and
place the judgment obligee in possession of such property. Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money.
(d) Removal of improvements on property subject of execution. - When the property subject of execution contains improvements constructed or planted by the judgment obligor or his agent, the officer shall not destroy, demolish or remove said improvements, except upon special order of the court, issued upon motion of the judgment obligee after due hearing and after the former has failed to remove the same within a reasonable time fixed by the court. (Emphasis supplied)
In Buñag v. Court of Appeals, we explained that a judgment for the delivery or restitution of property is essentially an order to place the prevailing party in possession of the property. If the defendant refuses to surrender possession of the property to the prevailing party, the sheriff or other proper officer should oust him. No express order to this effect needs to be stated in the decision; nor is a categorical statement needed in the decision that in such event the sheriff or other proper officer shall have the authority to remove the improvements on the property if the defendant fails to do so within a reasonable period of time. The removal of the improvements on the land under these circumstances is deemed read into the decision, subject only to the issuance of a special order by the court for the removal of the improvements. Narciso Tumibay, et al. vs. Sps. Yolanda T. Sora, et al., G.R. No. 152016, April 13, 2010.
Execution; execution pending appeal. Petitioners received their copy of the February 7, 2001 Order on February 20, 2001. They timely filed a notice of appeal on March 6, 2001, or after 14 days. The appeal was duly perfected. When an appeal had been duly perfected, execution of the judgment, whether wholly or partially, was not a matter of right, but of discretion provided good reasons therefor existed. The compelling grounds for the issuance of the writ must be stated in a special order after due hearing. Aside from the existence of good reasons, the rules also require that the motion for partial execution should have been filed while the trial court still had jurisdiction over the case. In the present case, the RTC’s May 9, 2002 Order granting the issuance of the writ of execution failed to state good reasons for the issuance of the writ. The RTC mistakenly deemed that the execution should issue as a matter of right because it had held that part of its September 14, 2001 Decision had become final and executory. As previously discussed, the said proposition is erroneous because the Decision in the present case is not properly severable.
Furthermore, the motion for partial execution was filed only on August 22, 2001, more than four months after the appeal was perfected. “In appeals
by notice of appeal, the court loses jurisdiction over the case upon the perfection of the appeals filed in due time and the expiration of the time to appeal of the other parties.” Each party only has at most 15 days from their receipt of the final order to appeal it. Thus, when respondents filed their motion for partial execution the RTC no longer had jurisdiction over the case and it no longer had jurisdiction to act on the said motion for partial execution. Aside from the fact that the appeal was filed on time and should thus not have been dismissed in the assailed May 9, 2002 Order, the said Order, which also resolved the motion for partial execution, fell short of the requirements of Section 2, Rule 39, as previously discussed. Where the order of execution is not in conformity with the rules, the same is null and void. Therefore, the CA erred in not nullifying the May 9, 2002 Order. Associated Anglo-American Tobacco Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 167237, April 23, 2010.
Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; burden of party alleging defect in publication and notice. As regards respondents’ allegation on the defect in the publication and notice requirements of the extrajudicial foreclosure sale, the same is unavailing. The rule is that it is the mortgagor who alleges absence of a requisite who has the burden of establishing such fact. This is so because foreclosure proceedings have in their favor the presumption of regularity and the burden of evidence to rebut the same is on the party who questions it. Here, except for their bare allegations, respondents failed to present any evidence to support them. In addition, NHA stated in its Comment to Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene that it had complied with the publication of the Notice of Sheriff’s Sale in the Manila Times in the latter’s issues dated July 14, 21 and 28, 1990. It also claimed that an Affidavit of Publication of said newspaper was attached as Annex “B” in the said comment. NHA also said that respondents had been furnished with a copy of the Notice of Sheriff’s Sale as shown at the bottom portion of said notice. From all these, it would tend to show that respondents’ aspersion of non-compliance with the requirements of foreclosure sale is a futile attempt to salvage its statutory right to redeem their foreclosed properties, which right had long been lost by inaction. National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; publication requirement; burden of proof. It is settled that for the purpose of extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage, the party alleging non-compliance with the requisite publication has the burden of proving the same. In this case, respondents presented the testimony of a newsstand owner to prove that Ang Pinoy is not a newspaper of general circulation. However, this particular evidence is unreliable, as the same witness testified that he sells newspapers in Quezon
City, not in Caloocan City, and that he is unaware of Ang Pinoy newspaper simply because he is not selling the same and he had not heard of it. His testimony states:
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Notwithstanding, petitioner could have easily produced the affidavit of publication and other competent evidence (such as the published notices) to refute respondents’ claim of lack of publication of the notice of sale. In Spouses Pulido v. Court of Appeals, the Court held:
While it may be true that the party alleging non-compliance with the requisite publication has the burden of proof, still negative allegations need not be proved even if essential to one’s cause of action or defense if they constitute a denial of the existence of a document the custody of which belongs to the other party.
In relation to the evidentiary weight of the affidavit of publication, the Court ruled in China Banking Corporation v. Spouses Martir that the affidavit of publication executed by the account executive of the newspaper is prima facie proof that the newspaper is generally circulated in the place where the properties are located. In the present case, the Affidavit of Publication or Exhibit “8,” although formally offered by petitioner, was excluded by the trial court for being hearsay. Petitioner never challenged the exclusion of the affidavit of publication. Instead, petitioner relies solely on the testimony of Deputy Sheriff Alberto Castillo to prove compliance with the publication requirement under Section 3 of Act No. 3135. However, there is nothing in such testimony to clearly and convincingly prove that petitioner complied with the mandatory requirement of publication. When Sheriff Castillo was asked how he knew that the notice of sale was published, he simply replied that “during the auction sale the mortgagee bank presented the affidavit of publication.” Evidently, such an answer does not suffice to establish petitioner’s claim of compliance with the statutory requirement of publication. On the contrary, Sheriff Castillo’s testimony reveals that he had no personal knowledge of the actual publication of the notice of sale, much less the extent of the circulation of Ang Pinoy. Moreover, the Court notes that Ang Pinoy is a newspaper of general circulation printed and published in Manila, not in Caloocan City where the mortgaged property is located, as indicated in the excluded Affidavit of Publication. This is contrary to the requirement under Section 3 of Act No. 3135 pertaining to the publication of the notice of sale in a newspaper of general circulation in the city where the property is situated. Hence, even if the Affidavit of Publication was admitted as part of petitioner’s evidence, it would not support petitioner’s case as it does not clearly prove petitioner’s compliance with the publication requirement. Philippine Savings Bank vs.
Spouses Dionisio Geronimo, et al., G.R. No. 170241, April 19, 2010.
Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; publication requirement; strict compliance. Once again, the Court stresses the importance of the notice requirement, as enunciated in Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, Inc. v. Peñafiel, thus:
The object of a notice of sale is to inform the public of the nature and condition of the property to be sold, and of the time, place and terms of the sale. Notices are given for the purpose of securing bidders and to prevent a sacrifice [sale] of the property. The goal of the notice requirement is to achieve a “reasonably wide publicity” of the auction sale. This is why publication in a newspaper of general circulation is required. The Court has previously taken judicial notice of the “far-reaching effects” of publishing the notice of sale in a newspaper of general circulation.
In addition, the Court reminds mortgagees of their duty to comply faithfully with the statutory requirements of foreclosure. In Metropolitan Bank v. Wong, the Court declared:
While the law recognizes the right of a bank to foreclose a mortgage upon the mortgagor’s failure to pay his obligation, it is imperative that such right be exercised according to its clear mandate. Each and every requirement of the law must be complied with, lest, the valid exercise of the right would end. It must be remembered that the exercise of a right ends when the right disappears, and it disappears when it is abused especially to the prejudice of others.
In sum, petitioner failed to establish its compliance with the publication requirement under Section 3 of Act No. 3135. Consequently, the questioned extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgage and sale are void. Philippine Savings Bank vs. Spouses Dionisio Geronimo, et al., G.R. No. 170241, April 19, 2010.
Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; registration of sheriff’s certificate of sale; substantial compliance. Indeed, the prevailing rule is that there is effective registration once the registrant has fulfilled all that is needed of him for purposes of entry and annotation, so that what is left to be accomplished lies solely on the register of deeds. The Court thus once held:
Current doctrine thus seems to be that entry alone produces the effect of registration, whether the transaction entered is a voluntary or an involuntary one, so long as the registrant has complied with all that is required of him for purposes of entry and annotation, and nothing more remains to be done but a duty incumbent solely on the register of deeds.
In the case under consideration, NHA presented the sheriff’s certificate of sale to the Register of Deeds and the same was entered as Entry No. 2873 and said entry was further annotated in the owner’s transfer certificate of title. A year later and after the mortgagors did not redeem the said properties, respondents filed with the Register of Deeds an Affidavit of Consolidation of Ownership after which the same instrument was presumably entered into in the day book as the same was annotated in the owner’s duplicate copy. Just like in DBP, Levin, Potenciano and Autocorp, NHA followed the procedure in order to have its sheriff’s certificate of sale annotated in the transfer certificates of title. There would be, therefore, no reason not to apply the ruling in said cases to this one. It was not NHA’s fault that the certificate of sale was not annotated on the transfer certificates of title which were supposed to be in the custody of the Registrar, since the same were burned. Neither could NHA be blamed for the fact that there were no reconstituted titles available during the time of inscription as it had taken the necessary steps in having the same reconstituted as early as July 15, 1988. NHA did everything within its power to assert its right.
While it may be true that, in DBP, the Court ruled that “in the particular situation here obtaining, annotation of the disputed entry on the reconstituted originals of the certificates of title to which it refers is entirely proper and justified,” this does not mean, as respondents insist, that the ruling therein applies exclusively to the factual milieu and the issue obtaining in said case, and not to similar cases. There is nothing in the subject declaration that categorically states its pro hac vice character. For in truth, what the said statement really conveys is that the current doctrine that entry in the primary book produces the effect of registration can be applied in the situation obtaining in that case since the registrant therein complied with all that was required of it, hence, it was fairly reasonable that its acts be given the effect of registration, just as the Court did in the past cases. In fact the Court there continued with this pronouncement:
To hold said entry ineffective, as does the appealed resolution, amounts to declaring that it did not, and does not, protect the registrant (DBP) from claims arising, or transactions made, thereafter which are adverse to or in derogation of the rights created or conveyed by the transaction thus entered. That, surely, is a result that is neither just nor can, by any reasonable interpretation of Section 56 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 be asserted as warranted by its terms.
National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; writ of possession. Considering that the foreclosure sale and its subsequent registration with the Register of
Deeds were done validly, there is no reason for the non-issuance of the writ of possession. A writ of possession is an order directing the sheriff to place a person in possession of a real or personal property, such as when a property is extrajudicially foreclosed. Section 7 of Act No. 3135 provides for the rule in the issuance of the writ of possession involving extrajudicial foreclosure sales of real estate mortgage, to wit:
Sec. 7. In any sale made under the provisions of this Act, the purchaser may petition the [Regional Trial Court] of the province or place where the property or any part thereof is situated, to give him possession thereof during the redemption period, furnishing bond in an amount equivalent to the use of the property for a period of twelve months, to indemnify the debtor in case it be shown that the sale was made without violating the mortgage or without complying with the requirements of this Act. Such petition shall be made under oath and filed in the form of an ex parte motion in the registration or cadastral proceedings if the property is registered, or in special proceedings in the case of property registered under the Mortgage Law or under section one hundred and ninety-four of the Administrative Code, or of any other real property encumbered with a mortgage duly registered in the office of any register of deeds in accordance with any existing law, and in each case the clerk of the court shall, upon the filing of such petition, collect the fees specified in paragraph eleven of section one hundred and fourteen of Act Numbered Four Hundred and ninety-six, as amended by Act Numbered Twenty-eight hundred and sixty-six, and the court shall, upon approval of the bond, order that a writ of possession issue, addressed to the sheriff of the province in which the property is situated, who shall execute said order immediately.
This provision of law authorizes the purchaser in a foreclosure sale to apply for a writ of possession during the redemption period by filing an ex parte motion under oath for that purpose in the corresponding registration or cadastral proceeding in the case of property with Torrens title. Upon the filing of such motion and the approval of the corresponding bond, the law also in express terms directs the court to issue the order for a writ of possession. The time-honored precept is that after the consolidation of titles in the buyer’s name, for failure of the mortgagor to redeem, the writ of possession becomes a matter of right. Its issuance to a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure is merely a ministerial function. The writ of possession issues as a matter of course upon the filing of the proper motion and the approval of the corresponding bond. The judge issuing the writ following these express provisions of law neither exercises his official discretion nor judgment. As such, the court granting the writ cannot be charged with having acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. To accentuate the writ’s ministerial character, the Court disallowed injunction
to prohibit its issuance despite a pending action for annulment of mortgage or the foreclosure itself. National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Forcible entry; element of prior possession. Then as now, petitioner argues that, aside from the admission in the complaint that the subject parcel was left idle and unguarded, respondent’s claim of prior possession is clearly negated by the fact that he had been in occupancy thereof since 1999. While prior physical possession is, admittedly, an indispensable requirement in forcible entry cases, the dearth of merit in petitioner’s position is, however, evident from the principle that possession can be acquired not only by material occupation, but also by the fact that a thing is subject to the action of one’s will or by the proper acts and legal formalities established for acquiring such right. Because possession can also be acquired by juridical acts to which the law gives the force of acts of possession, e.g., donations, succession, execution and registration of public instruments, inscription of possessory information titles and the like, it has been held that one need not have actual or physical occupation of every square inch of the property at all times to be considered in possession. In this case, the subject parcel was acquired by respondent by virtue of the 4 June 1999 Deed of Assignment executed in its favor by the Spouses Ong Tiko and Emerenciana Sylianteng. Although it did not immediately put the same to active use, respondent appears to have additionally caused the property to be registered in its name as of 27 February 2002 and to have paid the real property taxes due thereon alongside the sundry expenses incidental thereto. Viewed in the light of the foregoing juridical acts, it consequently did not matter that, by the time respondent conducted its ocular inspection in October 2003, petitioner had already been occupying the land since 1999. Ordinarily reckoned from the date of actual entry on the land, the one year period is counted from the time the plaintiff acquired knowledge of the dispossession when, as here, the same had been effected by means of stealth. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Forcible entry; elements of cause of action. The rule is no different in actions for forcible entry where the following requisites are essential for the MeTC’s acquisition of jurisdiction over the case, viz.: (a) the plaintiffs must allege their prior physical possession of the property; (b) they must assert that they were deprived of possession either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth; and, (c) the action must be filed within one (1) year from the time the owners or legal possessors learned of their deprivation of the physical possession of the property. As it is not essential that the complaint should expressly employ the language of the law, it is considered a sufficient compliance of the requirement where the
facts are set up showing that dispossession took place under said conditions. The one-year period within which to bring an action for forcible entry is generally counted from the date of actual entry on the land, except that when the entry is through stealth, the one-year period is counted from the time the plaintiff learned thereof. Even prescinding from the fact that the parties had admitted the MeTC’s jurisdiction, our perusal of the record shows that respondent’s 9 January 2004 amended complaint was able to make out a cause of action for forcible entry against petitioner. As the registered owner of the subject parcel, respondent distinctly alleged that, by its representatives and thru its predecessors-in-interest, it had been in possession of the subject parcel and had exercised over the same all attributes of ownership, including the payment of realty taxes and other expenses; that an ocular inspection conducted in October 2003 revealed that petitioner and his co-defendants have succeeded in occupying the property by means of stealth and strategy; and, that its subsequent demands to vacate had been unheeded by said interlopers. Considering that the test for determining the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint is whether, admitting the facts alleged, the court can render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer of the plaintiff, we find that the Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the MeTC had jurisdiction over the case. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Forcible Entry; question of ownership may be resolved by court to determine issue of prior possession. Thus, to our mind, the only real questions appropriate for resolution at this stage of the case are: (1) Do the TCTs of Hacienda Bigaa have probative value in determining the issues of ownership and possession of the disputed lots? (2) Is Chavez – as successor-in-interest of government lessee or fishpond permittee Zoila de Chavez – entitled to possession of these lots? In these lights, the resolution of this case hinges on the question of better title – who, between the petitioner and the respondent, has the better right of possession of the disputed lots. Are these issues misplaced in a forcible entry case? To answer this, we hark back to the origins of the present case – a complaint for forcible entry that the MTC of Calatagan, Batangas dismissed. Both the RTC and the CA subsequently affirmed this dismissal. As a forcible entry suit, the threshold question presented is: was the prior possession of the then plaintiff (now petitioner) Hacienda Bigaa over the disputed lots sufficiently established to give it cause for the ejectment of then defendant (now respondent) Epifanio Chavez? We recall in this regard that the MTC issued a pre-trial order identifying the issues of (1) who has the better right of possession; and (2) res judicata. On the issue of possession, the MTC found the need to determine the question of title or ownership in passing upon the question of possession after Chavez raised the issue of ownership at that level.
As a general rule in forcible entry cases, ownership or title is inconsequential; the primordial issue is possession de facto and not possession de jure. The court, however, may tackle the issue of ownership or title, if raised, if this issue is indispensable in resolving the issue of possession. Since Chavez raised the question of ownership or title in his answer, the issue of ownership became a material consideration in the lower court’s inquiry into the character, nature and extent of the parties’ claimed possession. The MTC tackled the issue of prior possession by taking judicial notice of our factual determination in De los Angeles that Zobel of Hacienda Calatagan – Hacienda Bigaa’s predecessor-in-interest – had ousted Zoila de Chavez – Chavez’s predecessor-in-interest – from the lots she occupied as a holder of government-issued fishpond permits. The MTC in this regard held –
[T]he court holds that the land now in litigation forms part of the public dominion which properly belongs to the State. Suffice it to say that when [respondent Chavez] entered and occupied the [premises] on April 29, 1996, it was in representation of the State being the successor-in-interest of Zoila de Chavez, a government fishpond permittee and/or lessee. It should be recounted that Zoila de Chavez was in actual physical possession of the land until she was ousted by Enrique Zobel by bulldozing and flattening the area. (Emphasis supplied.)
Zoila de Chavez’s ouster from the premises became the basis of the MTC’s conclusion that she had prior possession as she could not have been ousted from the premises had she not been in prior possession. This point was reiterated in the present petition by Chavez who died pending the resolution of this case and has been substituted by his brother, Santiago V. Chavez. The respondent’s comment before us states:
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This argument on the direct issue of prior possession is separate from the issue of ownership that Chavez raised as an issue determinative of possession. The issue of ownership shifts our determination to who, between the parties, has title and the concomitant right of possession to the disputed lots. Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. vs. Epifanio V. Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 174160, April 20, 2010.
Judgments; “Amended judgment” distinguished from “Supplemental judgment.” Both parties agree that the February 7, 2001 Order increased the monetary awards in the Decision, specifically, the amount of overage from P23,820.16 to P843,383.11 and the award of moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees from P50,000.00 to P2,000,000.00. They however, differ on whether these changes constituted an amendment of the Decision or merely provided a supplement to the Decision. Petitioners
argue that the change constituted a substantial amendment, which therefore makes the entire case reviewable on appeal, while respondents argue that the Order merely supplements the Decision which therefore makes only the changes reviewable on appeal. They both cite Esquivel v. Alegre which states:
There is a difference between an amended judgment and a supplemental judgment. In an amended and clarified judgment, the lower court makes a thorough study of the original judgment and renders the amended and clarified judgment only after considering all the factual and legal issues. The amended and clarified decision is an entirely new decision which supersedes the original decision. Following the court’s differentiation of a supplemental pleading from an amending pleading, it can be said that a supplemental decision does not take the place or extinguish the existence of the original. As its very name denotes, it only serves to bolster or adds something to the primary decision. A supplement exists side by side with the original. It does not replace that which it supplements.
In the present case, the dispositive portion of the February 7, 2001 Order was crafted in such a way that it initially evades a categorical classification into either of the situations as described in the above-cited case. Hence, we further take into consideration that what plaintiffs filed was merely a Partial Motion for Reconsideration. It is clear they were seeking a partial change in the original Decision. It follows that there were some parts of the Decision that they sought to remain unchanged. The RTC, thus made a study of only a portion of its original Decision and then amended the pertinent portion. The RTC Decision was indeed, only partially amended. The February 7, 2001 Order cannot be considered as a supplemental Decision because it cannot exist side by side with the original pertinent portion on overage, damages and attorney’s fees. The former replaced and superceded the latter. Associated Anglo-American Tobacco Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 167237, April 23, 2010.
Judgments; finality of judgments; relaxation of rule. Social Security System v. Isip reiterates the well-established doctrine regarding finality of judgments, thus:
A judgment becomes “final and executory” by operation of law. Finality becomes a fact when the reglementary period to appeal lapses and no appeal is perfected within such period. As a consequence, no court (not even this Court) can exercise appellate jurisdiction to review a case or modify a decision that has became final.
When a final judgment is executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. It may no longer be modified in any respect either by the court which rendered it or even by this Court. The doctrine is
founded on considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments must become final at some definite point in time.
The doctrine of immutability and inalterability of a final judgment has a two-fold purpose: (1) to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus, procedurally, to make orderly the discharge of judicial business and (2) to put an end to judicial controversies, at the risk of occasional errors, which is precisely why courts exist. Controversies cannot drag on indefinitely. The rights and obligations of every litigant must not hang in suspense for an indefinite period of time.
Notwithstanding the doctrine on immutability of final judgments, the Court finds, after a through review of the records, that compelling circumstances are extant in this case, which clearly warrant the exercise of our equity jurisdiction. Relevantly, Barnes v. Padilla states an exception to the rule on the finality of judgments in this wise:
However, this Court has relaxed this rule in order to serve substantial justice considering (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property, (b) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (c) the merits of the case, (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (f) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.
Invariably, rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. Even the Rules of Court reflects this principle. The power to suspend or even disregard rules can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself had already declared to be final.
In the instant case, the crux of the controversy involves the property of PCI Leasing, i.e., the sum of money supposedly owed to it by the respondents. To our mind, it will not serve the ends of substantial justice if the RTC’s dismissal of the case with prejudice on pure technicalities would be perfunctorily upheld by appellate courts likewise on solely procedural grounds, unless the procedural lapses committed were so gross, negligent, tainted with bad faith or tantamount to abuse or misuse of court processes. In this instance, PCI Leasing would be left without any judicial recourse to collect the amount of P2,327,833.33 it loaned to the respondents. Corollarily, if PCI Leasing would be forever barred from collecting the aforesaid amount, respondent Antonio stands to be unjustly enriched at the expense of PCI Leasing. Thus, in order to obviate the occurrence of the above-mentioned
scenario, the Court finds it necessary to subject to judicial review the RTC Order dated October 13, 2000, dismissing Civil Case No. Q-00-40010. PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. vs. Antonio C. Milan, et al., G.R. No. 151215, April 5, 2010.
Judgments; ground not cited in challenged judgment. Respondent also argues that Ang Ladlad made untruthful statements in its petition when it alleged that it had nationwide existence through its members and affiliate organizations. The COMELEC claims that upon verification by its field personnel, it was shown that “save for a few isolated places in the country, petitioner does not exist in almost all provinces in the country.” This argument that “petitioner made untruthful statements in its petition when it alleged its national existence” is a new one; previously, the COMELEC claimed that petitioner was “not being truthful when it said that it or any of its nominees/party-list representatives have not violated or failed to comply with laws, rules, or regulations relating to the elections.” Nowhere was this ground for denial of petitioner’s accreditation mentioned or even alluded to in the Assailed Resolutions. This, in itself, is quite curious, considering that the reports of petitioner’s alleged non-existence were already available to the COMELEC prior to the issuance of the First Assailed Resolution. At best, this is irregular procedure; at worst, a belated afterthought, a change in respondent’s theory, and a serious violation of petitioner’s right to procedural due process. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.
Judgments; not confined to what appears on face of the decision. We are not persuaded by the petitioners’ argument that, since the RTC decision to reconvey to respondents the subject property did not expressly order the removal of improvements thereon, the RTC cannot, by order, reach these improvements and accordingly act to enforce its decision. As a general rule, the writ of execution should conform to the dispositive portion of the decision to be executed; an execution is void if it is in excess of and beyond the original judgment or award. The settled general principle is that a writ of execution must conform strictly to every essential particular of the judgment promulgated, and may not vary the terms of the judgment it seeks to enforce, nor may it go beyond the terms of the judgment sought to be executed. Nonetheless, we have held that a judgment is not confined to what appears on the face of the decision, but extends as well to those necessarily included therein or necessary thereto. Thus, in Perez v. Evite, where the ownership of a parcel of land was decreed in the judgment, the delivery of possession of the land was considered included in the decision where the defeated party’s claim to possession was based solely on his claim of ownership. In Baluyut v. Guiao, we stressed that this rule fully conforms with Rule 39, Section 47, paragraph (c) of the Rules of Court that provides:
SECTION 47. Effect of judgments or final orders. — The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of the Philippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:
x x x x
(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto. (Emphasis supplied.)
Narciso Tumibay, et al. vs. Sps. Yolanda T. Sora, et al., G.R. No. 152016, April 13, 2010.
Judgment; partial amended judgment; effect on appeal. Now what is the effect of this partial amendment? Is the subject RTC Decision divisible, such that a portion may be considered already final and unappealable while another portion may be considered as not yet final and unappealable? To answer this question we draw some light from some provisions of the Rules of Court that permit divisions, to wit:
Rule 37, Sec. 7. Partial new trial or reconsideration.- If the grounds for a motion under this Rule appear to the court to affect the issues as to only a part, or less than all of the matter in controversy, or only one, or less than all, of the parties to it, the court may order a new trial or grant reconsideration as to such issues if severable without interfering with the judgment or final order upon the rest. (Italics and emphasis supplied)
Rule 36, Sec. 5. Separate judgments.-When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action, the court, at any stage, upon a determination of the issues material to a particular claim and all counterclaims arising out of the transaction or occurrence which is the subject matter of the claim, may render a separate judgment disposing of such claim. The judgment shall terminate the action with respect to the claim so disposed of and the action shall proceed as to the remaining claims.
It can be seen that when matters, issues or claims can properly and conveniently be separately resolved, then division is permitted, otherwise it is not. We see no hindrance in applying this thesis to the current situation. In the present case, the matter of the release of the mortgaged property is material and intertwined with the issue of the amount of overage as well as the issue on the amount of damages. It is difficult to separate these matters because a determination of the correct amount of overage would require the examination and computation of the entire account of deliveries and payments. Necessarily, upon re-examination of
the subject account during an appeal, the possibility of finding a shortage instead of an overage is present. And dependent on the result of the re-examination of the entire account is the determination of the correctness of either the foreclosure or release of the mortgaged property. It follows that the ruling on the amount of damages and attorney’s fees, if any, may also be affected by a re-examination of the entire account.
As the disposition of some inter-related issues in the original RTC Decision were materially amended by the February 7, 2001 RTC Order, these two issuances must be taken in conjunction with each other. Together, these two issuances form one integrated amended decision. Hence, an appeal from the February 7, 2001 RTC Order must be deemed to be an appeal from the whole integrated amended Decision. Associated Anglo-American Tobacco Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al.,G.R. No. 167237, April 23, 2010.
Judgments; res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. As framed above, the case before us inevitably brings to memory the antecedent decided cases touching on the ownership of the vast tract of land in Calatagan, Batangas, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 722 in the name/s of Ayala y Cia, Alfonso Zobel, Jacobo Zobel and Enrique Zobel and/or Hacienda Calatagan – the predecessors-in-interest of petitioner Hacienda Bigaa. We ruled in the antecedent cases of Dizon, Ayala y Cia, and De los Angeles, that: (1) all expanded subdivision titles issued in the name of Ayala y Cia, the Zobels and/or Hacienda Calatagan covering areas beyond the true extent of TCT No. 722 are null and void because they cover areas belonging to the public domain; (2) Ayala y Cia and the Zobels of Hacienda Calatagan are mere usurpers of these public domain areas; and that (3) these areas must revert to the Republic. Significantly, we declared in De los Angeles that the Republic, as the rightful owner of the expanded areas – portions of the public domain – has the right to place its lessees and permittees (among them Zoila de Chavez) in possession of the fishpond lots whose ownership and possession were in issue in the case.
These antecedent cases lay to rest the issues of ownership and of possession as an attribute thereof, which we both ruled to be in favor of the Republic and its lessees or permittees. The present case is a stark repetition of scenarios in these cases. The protagonists remain virtually the same – with petitioner Hacienda Bigaa taking the place of its predecessors-in-interest Ayala y Cia and/or the Zobels of Hacienda Calatagan, and respondent Epifanio V. Chavez taking the place of his predecessor-in-interest Zoila de Chavez whose possession was under bona fide authority from the Republic. Considering that in this case the disputed lots are among those litigated in the antecedent cases and the issues of ownership and possession are again in issue, the principle of res judicata
inevitably must be considered and applied, if warranted.
The doctrine of res judicata is set forth in Section 47 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, which in its relevant part reads:
Sec. 47. Effect of judgments or final orders. — The effect of a judgment or final order rendered by a court of the Philippines, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment or final order, may be as follows:
x x x x
(b) In other cases, the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity; and
(c) In any other litigation between the same parties or their successors in interest, that only is deemed to have been adjudged in a former judgment or final order which appears upon its face to have been so adjudged, or which was actually and necessarily included therein or necessary thereto.
This provision comprehends two distinct concepts of res judicata: (1) bar by former judgment and (2) conclusiveness of judgment. Under the first concept, res judicata absolutely bars any subsequent action when the following requisites concur: (a) the former judgment or order was final; (b) it adjudged the pertinent issue or issues on their merits; (c) it was rendered by a court that had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and (d) between the first and the second actions, there was identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action. Where no identity of causes of action but only identity of issues exists, res judicata comes under the second concept – i.e., under conclusiveness of judgment. Under this concept, the rule bars the re-litigation of particular facts or issues involving the same parties even if raised under different claims or causes of action. Conclusiveness of judgment finds application when a fact or question has been squarely put in issue, judicially passed upon, and adjudged in a former suit by a court of competent jurisdiction. The fact or question settled by final judgment or order binds the parties to that action (and persons in privity with them or their successors-in-interest), and continues to bind them while the judgment or order remains standing and unreversed by proper authority on a timely motion or petition; the conclusively settled fact or question furthermore cannot again be litigated in any future or other action between the same parties or their privies and successors-in-interest, in the same or in any other court of concurrent jurisdiction, either for
the same or for a different cause of action. Thus, only the identities of parties and issues are required for the operation of the principle of conclusiveness of judgment.
While conclusiveness of judgment does not have the same barring effect as that of a bar by former judgment that proscribes subsequent actions, the former nonetheless estops the parties from raising in a later case the issues or points that were raised and controverted, and were determinative of the ruling in the earlier case. In other words, the dictum laid down in the earlier final judgment or order becomes conclusive and continues to be binding between the same parties, their privies and successors-in-interest, as long as the facts on which that judgment was predicated continue to be the facts of the case or incident before the court in a later case; the binding effect and enforceability of that earlier dictum can no longer be re-litigated in a later case since the issue has already been resolved and finally laid to rest in the earlier case. Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. vs. Epifanio V. Chavez, et al.,G.R. No. 174160, April 20, 2010.
Judgments; res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. This case and the antecedent cases all involve the issue of ownership or better right of possession. In Ayala y Cia, we affirmed an RTC decision that decreed:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
(a) Declaring as null and void Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-9550 (or Exhibit “24”) of the Register of Deeds of the Province of Batangas and other subdivision titles issued in favor of Ayala y Cia and;or Hacienda de Calatagan over the areas outside its private land covered by TCT No. 722, which, including the lots in T-9550 (lots 360, 362, 363 and 182) are hereby reverted to public dominion. (Emphasis supplied, italics in the original.)
Consequently, lots and their titles derived from the Ayala’s and the Zobels’ TCT No. 722 not shown to be within the original coverage of this title are conclusively public domain areas and their titles will be struck down as nullities. Thus, De los Angeles effectively annulled the subdivision titles disputed in the case for being among the “other subdivision titles” declared void for covering public domain areas, and ordered their reversion to the Republic. De los Angeles recognized, too, the right of the Republic’s lessees and public fishpond permittees (among them Zoila de Chavez, mother and predecessor-in-interest of Chavez) to possess the fishpond lots in question because they derive their right of possession from the Republic – the rightful owner of these lots.
We reject, based on these discussions, Hacienda Bigaa’s position that there could be no res judicata
in this case because the present suit is for forcible entry while the antecedent cases adverted were based on different causes of action – i.e., quieting of title, annulment of titles and accion reinvindicatoria. For, res judicata, under the concept of conclusiveness of judgment, operates even if no absolute identity of causes of action exists. Res judicata, in its conclusiveness of judgment concept, merely requires identity of issues. We thus agree with the uniform view of the lower courts – the MTC, RTC and the CA – on the application of res judicata to the present case. Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. vs. Epifanio V. Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 174160, April 20, 2010.
Judgments; stare decisis. What is more, in Autocorp Group v. Court of Appeals, the pertinent DBP ruling was applied, thereby demonstrating that the said ruling in DBP may be applied to other cases with similar factual and legal issues, viz:
Petitioners contend that the aforecited case of DBP is not apropos to the case at bar. Allegedly, in DBP, the bank not only paid the registration fees but also presented the owner’s duplicate certificate of title. We find no merit in petitioner’s posture x x x.
x x x x
Like in DBP v. Acting Register of Deeds of Nueva Ecija, the instrument involved in the case at bar, is a sheriff’s certificate of sale, We hold now, as we held therein, that the registrant is under no necessity to present the owner’s duplicates of the certificates of title affected, for purposes of primary entry, as the transaction sought to be recorded is an involuntary transaction.
x x x x
x x x Such entry is equivalent to registration. Injunction would not lie anymore, as the act sought to be enjoined had already become a fait accompli or an accomplished act.
Moreover, respondents’ stand on the non-applicability of the DBP case to other cases, absent any statement thereof to such effect, contravenes the principle of stare decisis which urges that courts are to apply principles declared in prior decisions that are substantially similar to a pending case. National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Judgments; summary judgment; improper when there is genuine issue as to material facts. Rule 35 of the Rules of Court provides for summary judgment, the pertinent provisions of which are the following:
Section 1. Summary Judgment for claimant. A party seeking to recover upon a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim or to obtain a declaratory relief may,
at any time after the pleading in answer thereto has been served, move with supporting affidavits, depositions or admissions for a summary judgment in his favor upon all or any part thereof.
Section 2. Summary Judgment for the defending party. A party against whom a claim, counterclaim or cross-claim is asserted or a declaratory relief is sought may, at any time, move with supporting affidavits, depositions or admissions for a summary judgment in his favor as to all or any part thereof.
Section 3. Motion and proceedings thereon. The motion shall be served at least ten (10) days before the time specified for the hearing. The adverse party may serve opposing affidavits, depositions, or admissions at least three (3) days before the hearing. After the hearing, the judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, supporting affidavits, depositions and admissions on file, show that, except as to the amount of damages, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
As can be deduced from the above provisions, summary judgment is a procedural devise resorted to in order to avoid long drawn out litigations and useless delays. When the pleadings on file show that there are no genuine issues of facts to be tried, the Rules of Court allows a party to obtain immediate relief by way of summary judgment. That is, when the facts are not in dispute, the court is allowed to decide the case summarily by applying the law to the material facts. Conversely, where the pleadings tender a genuine issue, summary judgment is not proper. A genuine issue is such fact which requires the presentation of evidence as distinguished from a sham, fictitious, contrived or false claim.
Here, we find the existence of genuine issues which removes the case from the coverage of summary judgment. The variance in the allegations of the parties in their pleadings is evident. Petitioner anchors his complaint for sum of money and/or judicial foreclosure on the alleged real estate mortgage over the subject property allegedly entered into by Comandante in behalf of her parents to secure payment of a loan amounting to P1,118,228.00. To support this claim, petitioner attached to his complaint (1) the SPA alleged to have been executed by the Diazes; (2) the Real Estate Mortgage Contract pertaining to the amount of P1,118,228.00; and, (3) a Promissory Note. Comandante, in her Answer to petitioner’s Amended Complaint, assailed the validity and due execution of the abovementioned documents. She asserted that the same were not duly, knowingly and validly executed by her and that it was petitioner who prepared all of them. Also, although she admitted owing petitioner, same was not an absolute admission as she limited herself to an obligation amounting only to P600,000.00 inclusive of charges
and interests. She likewise claimed that such obligation is her personal obligation and not of her parents. The Diazes, for their part, also denied that they executed the SPA authorizing their daughter to mortgage their property to petitioner as well as having any obligation to the latter.
Clearly, there are genuine issues in this case which require the presentation of evidence. For one, it is necessary to ascertain in a full blown trial the validity and due execution of the SPA, the Real Estate Mortgage and the Promissory Notes because the determination of the following equally significant questions depends on them, to wit: (1) Are the Diazes obligated to petitioner or is the obligation a purely personal obligation of Comandante? and, (2) Is the sum of P1,118,228.00 as shown in the Real Estate Mortgage and the Promissory Note, the amount which is really due the petitioner?
To stress, trial courts have limited authority to render summary judgments and may do so only when there is clearly no genuine issue as to any material fact. When the facts as pleaded by the parties are disputed or contested, proceedings for summary judgment cannot take the place of trial. From the foregoing, it is apparent that the trial court should have refrained from issuing the summary judgment but instead proceeded to conduct a full blown trial of the case. In view of this, the present case should be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings and proper disposition according to the rudiments of a regular trial on the merits and not through an abbreviated termination of the case by summary judgment. Atty. Pedro M. Ferrer vs. Spouses Alfredo Diaz, et al., G.R. No. 165300, April 23, 2010.
Judgments; summary judgment; when proper. Section 1, Rule 35 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
Section 1. Summary Judgment for claimant. - A party seeking to recover upon a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim or to obtain a declaratory relief may, at any time after the pleading in answer thereto has been served, move with supporting affidavits, depositions or admissions for a summary judgment in his favor upon all or any part thereof.
Summary judgment has been explained as follows:
Summary judgment is a procedural device resorted to in order to avoid long drawn out litigations and useless delays. When the pleadings on file show that there are no genuine issues of fact to be tried, the Rules allow a party to obtain immediate relief by way of summary judgment, that is, when the facts are not in dispute, the court is allowed to decide the case summarily by applying the law to the material facts. Conversely, where the pleadings tender a genuine issue, summary judgment is not proper. A “genuine issue” is such issue of fact which requires the presentation of
evidence as distinguished from a sham, fictitious, contrived or false claim. Section 3 of the said rule provides two (2) requisites for summary judgment to be proper: (1) there must be no genuine issue as to any material fact, except for the amount of damages; and (2) the party presenting the motion for summary judgment must be entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment is permitted only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and a moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment is proper if, while the pleadings on their face appear to raise issues, the affidavits, depositions, and admissions presented by the moving party show that such issues are not genuine.
Since we have limited the issues to the damages claimed by the parties, summary judgment has been properly rendered in this case. Manuel Bungcayao, Sr., et al. vs. Fort Ilocandia Property Holdings and Development Corporation, G.R. No. 170483, April 19, 2010.
Judgments; true intent and meaning obtained by reading decision in its entirety. We find that the petitioners misread the ruling in Nazareno v. Court of Appeals when they understood the ruling to mean that in all cases, a declaration of ownership does not include a declaration of the right to possession. What Nazareno actually holds is that adjudication of ownership would include the delivery of possession if the defeated party has not shown any right to possess the land independently of his rejected claim of ownership. This ruling, as understood in its correct sense, fully applies to the present case, as there is no allegation, much less any proof, that the petitioners have any right to possess the improvements on the land independently of their claim of ownership of the subject property. Thus, the respondents have full right to possession of the subject property. We remind the petitioners that we do not allow the piecemeal interpretation of our Decision as a means to advance one’s case. To get the true intent and meaning of a decision, no specific portion thereof should be isolated and read in this context; the decision must be considered in its entirety. Read in this manner, the respondents’ right to possession of the subject property fully follows. Narciso Tumibay, et al. vs. Sps. Yolanda T. Sora, et al., G.R. No. 152016, April 13, 2010.
Jurisdiction; court acquires no jurisdiction over permissive counterclaim for non-payment of docket fees. The rule in permissive counterclaim is that for the trial court to acquire jurisdiction, the counterclaimant is bound to pay the prescribed docket fees. Any decision rendered without jurisdiction is a total nullity and may be struck down at any time, even on appeal before this Court. In this case, respondent did not dispute the non-payment of docket fees. Respondent only insisted that its claims were all compulsory counterclaims. As such, the judgment by the trial court in relation to
the second counterclaim is considered null and void without prejudice to a separate action which respondent may file against petitioner. Manuel Bungcayao, Sr., et al. vs. Fort Ilocandia Property Holdings and Development Corporation, G.R. No. 170483, April 19, 2010.
Jurisdiction; Court of Appeals has certiorari and appellate jurisdiction over adjudications of National Water Resources Board. Since the appellate court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over quasi-judicial agencies under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, petitions for writs of certiorari, prohibition or mandamus against the acts and omissions of quasi-judicial agencies, like petitioner, should be filed with it. This is what Rule 65 of the Rules imposes for procedural uniformity. The only exception to this instruction is when the law or the Rules itself directs otherwise, as cited in Section 4, Rule 65. The appellate court’s construction that Article 89 of PD 1067, which reads:
ART. 89. The decisions of the [NWRB] on water rights controversies may be appealed to the [RTC] of the province where the subject matter of the controversy is situated within fifteen (15) days from the date the party appealing receives a copy of the decision, on any of the following grounds: (1) grave abuse of discretion; (2) question of law; and (3) questions of fact and law (emphasis and underscoring supplied),
is such an exception, is erroneous. Article 89 of PD 1067 had long been rendered inoperative by the passage of BP 129. Aside from delineating the jurisdictions of the Court of Appeals and the RTCs, Section 47 of BP 129 repealed or modified:
x x x. [t]he provisions of Republic Act No. 296, otherwise known as the Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended, of Republic Act No. 5179, as amended, of the Rules of Court, and of all other statutes, letters of instructions and general orders or parts thereof, inconsistent with the provisions of this Act x x x. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The general repealing clause under Section 47 “predicates the intended repeal under the condition that a substantial conflict must be found in existing and prior acts.”
In enacting BP 129, the Batasang Pambansa was presumed to have knowledge of the provision of Article 89 of P.D. No. 1067 and to have intended to change it. The legislative intent to repeal Article 89 is clear and manifest given the scope and purpose of BP 129, one of which is to provide a homogeneous procedure for the review of adjudications of quasi-judicial entities to the Court of Appeals. More importantly, what Article 89 of PD 1067 conferred to the RTC was the power of review on appeal the decisions of petitioner. It appears that the appellate court gave significant consideration to the ground of “grave abuse of discretion” to thus hold that the RTC
has certiorari jurisdiction over petitioner’s decisions. A reading of said Article 89 shows, however, that it only made “grave abuse of discretion” as another ground to invoke in an ordinary appeal to the RTC. Indeed, the provision was unique to the Water Code at the time of its application in 1976. The issuance of BP 129, specifically Section 9 (Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, then known as Intermediate Appellate Court), and the subsequent formulation of the Rules, clarified and delineated the appellate and certiorari jurisdictions of the Court of Appeals over adjudications of quasi-judicial bodies. Grave abuse of discretion may be invoked before the appellate court as a ground for an error of jurisdiction.
XXX XXX XXX XXX
While Section 9 (3) of BP 129 and Section 1 of Rule 43 of the Rules of Court does not list petitioner as “among” the quasi-judicial agencies whose final judgments, orders, resolutions or awards are appealable to the appellate court, it is non sequitur to hold that the Court of Appeals has no appellate jurisdiction over petitioner’s judgments, orders, resolutions or awards. It is settled that the list of quasi-judicial agencies specifically mentioned in Rule 43 is not meant to be exclusive. The employment of the word “among” clearly instructs so.
BF Northwest Homeowners Association v. Intermediate Appellate Court, a 1987 case cited by the appellate court to support its ruling that RTCs have jurisdiction over judgments, orders, resolutions or awards of petitioner, is no longer controlling in light of the definitive instruction of Rule 43 of the Revised Rules of Court.
XXX XXX XXX XXX
In fine, certiorari and appellate jurisdiction over adjudications of petitioner properly belongs to the Court of Appeals. National Water Resources Board (NWRB) vs. A.L. Ang Network, Inc., G.R. No. 186450, April 14, 2010.
Jurisdiction; determined by allegations of the complaint. Designed to provide an expeditious means of protecting actual possession or the right to possession of the property involved, there can be no gainsaying the fact that ejectment cases fall within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of first level courts by express provision of Section 33 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, in relation to Sec. 1, Rule 70 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. In addition to being conferred by law, however, a court’s jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought, irrespective of whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to recover all or some of the claims asserted therein. In much the same way that it cannot be made to depend on the exclusive characterization of the case by one of the parties,
jurisdiction cannot be made to depend upon the defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss or in a motion for reconsideration. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Jurisdiction; enumeration of quasi-judicial agencies in Rule 43 is not exclusive. While Section 9 (3) of BP 129 and Section 1 of Rule 43 of the Rules of Court does not list petitioner as “among” the quasi-judicial agencies whose final judgments, orders, resolutions or awards are appealable to the appellate court, it is non sequitur to hold that the Court of Appeals has no appellate jurisdiction over petitioner’s judgments, orders, resolutions or awards. It is settled that the list of quasi-judicial agencies specifically mentioned in Rule 43 is not meant to be exclusive. The employment of the word “among” clearly instructs so. National Water Resources Board (NWRB) vs. A.L. Ang Network, Inc., G.R. No. 186450, April 14, 2010.
Jurisdiction; lack of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of proceedings; void judgment. The general rule is that dismissal of a case for lack of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings since jurisdiction is conferred by law. The lack of jurisdiction affects the very authority of the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action; otherwise, the inevitable consequence would make the court’s decision a “lawless” thing. Since the RTC has no jurisdiction over the complaint filed, all the proceedings as well as the Decision of 17 June 2002 are void. The complaint should perforce be dismissed. Sps. Joselina Alcantara and Antonio Alcantara, et al. vs. Brigida L. Nido, as attorney-in-fact of Revelen Srivastava, G.R. No. 165133, April 19, 2010.
Jurisdiction; MTC jurisdiction over ejectment case. Section 33 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691 provides:
Section 33. Jurisdiction of Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Civil Cases. – Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts shall exercise:
x x x
(3) Exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions which involve title to, possession of, real property, or any interest therein where the assessed value of the property or interest therein does not exceed Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) or, in civil actions in Metro Manila, where such assessed value does not exceed Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) exclusive of interest, damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs: x x x
In Geonzon Vda. de Barrera v. Heirs of Vicente Legaspi, the Court explained:
Before the amendments introduced by Republic Act No. 7691, the plenary action of accion publiciana was to be brought before the regional trial court. With the modifications introduced by R.A. No. 7691 in 1994, the jurisdiction of the first level courts has been expanded to include jurisdiction over other real actions where the assessed value does not exceed P20,000, P50,000 where the action is filed in Metro Manila. The first level courts thus have exclusive original jurisdiction over accion publiciana and accion reivindicatoria where the assessed value of the real property does not exceed the aforestated amounts. Accordingly, the jurisdictional element is the assessed value of the property.
Assessed value is understood to be “the worth or value of property established by taxing authorities on the basis of which the tax rate is applied. Commonly, however, it does not represent the true or market value of the property.”
The appellate court correctly ruled that even if the complaint filed with the RTC involves a question of ownership, the MTC still has jurisdiction because the assessed value of the whole lot as stated in Tax Declaration No. 09-0742 is P4,890. The MTC cannot be deprived of jurisdiction over an ejectment case based merely on the assertion of ownership over the litigated property, and the underlying reason for this rule is to prevent any party from trifling with the summary nature of an ejectment suit. Sps. Joselina Alcantara and Antonio Alcantara, et al. vs. Brigida L. Nido, as attorney-in-fact of Revelen Srivastava, G.R. No. 165133, April 19, 2010.
Motions; motion for issuance of alias summons is non-litigious in nature. Incidentally, the Motion for Issuance of Alias Summons filed by PCI Leasing is non-litigious in nature, which does not require a hearing under the Rules, as the same could have been acted upon by the RTC without prejudicing the rights of the respondents. All facts necessary for the determination of the motion are already specified therein or a matter of record and there was yet no adverse party to dispute the same as the court had not even acquired jurisdiction over the person of the respondents. It was serious error on the part of the trial court to have denied the first motion for issuance of alias summons for want of notice of hearing. It was also not mandatory for the trial court to set the second motion for hearing. PCI Leasing and Finance, Inc. vs. Antonio C. Milan, et al., G.R. No. 151215, April 5, 2010.
Parties; action for reversion of public land can be instituted only by State. In her Comment, private respondent asserts that petitioners have no personality to question the validity of the sales patent and the original certificate of title issued in her name. She maintains that only the government, through the [Office of the Solicitor General], may file an action for reversion on the ground of fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. As to the second issue,
private respondent claims that petitioners’ annulment suit has prescribed pursuant to Section of Presidential Decree No. 1529. At the outset, we must point out that petitioners’ complaint questioning the validity of the sales patent and the original certificate of title over Lot No. 47 is, in reality, a reversion suit. The objective of an action for reversion of public land is the cancellation of the certificate of title and the resulting reversion of the land covered by the title to the State. This is why an action for reversion is oftentimes designated as an annulment suit or a cancellation suit.
Coming now to the first issue, Section 101 of the Public Land Act clearly states:
SEC. 101. All actions for the reversion to the Government of lands of the public domain or improvements thereon shall be instituted by the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his stead, in the proper courts, in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.
Even assuming that private respondent indeed acquired title to Lot No. 47 in bad faith, only the State can institute reversion proceedings, pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land Act and our ruling in Alvarico v. Sola. Private persons may not bring an action for reversion or any action which would have the effect of canceling a land patent and the corresponding certificate of title issued on the basis of the patent, such that the land covered thereby will again form part of the public domain. Only the OSG or the officer acting in his stead may do so. Since the title originated from a grant by the government, its cancellation is a matter between the grantor and the grantee. Similarly, in Urquiaga v. CA, this Court held that there is no need to pass upon any allegation of actual fraud in the acquisition of a title based on a sales patent. Private persons have no right or interest over land considered public at the time the sales application was filed. They have no personality to question the validity of the title. We further stated that granting, for the sake of argument, that fraud was committed in obtaining the title, it is the State, in a reversion case, which is the proper party to file the necessary action.
In this case, it is clear that Lot No. 47 was public land when Andrada filed the sales patent application. Any subsequent action questioning the validity of the award of sales patent on the ground of fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation should thus be initiated by the State. The State has not done so and thus, we have to uphold the validity and regularity of the sales patent as well as the corresponding original certificate of title issued based on the patent. Vicente Cawis, etc., et al. vs. Hon. Antonio Cerilles, et al., G.R. No. 170207, April 19, 2010.
Parties; class suit; adequacy of representation. Indeed, in MVRS Publications, Inc. v. Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, Inc., we observed that an
element of a class suit or representative suit is the adequacy of representation. In determining the question of fair and adequate representation of members of a class, the court must consider (a) whether the interest of the named party is coextensive with the interest of the other members of the class; (b) the proportion of those made a party, as it so bears, to the total membership of the class; and (c) any other factor bearing on the ability of the named party to speak for the rest of the class. Previously, we held in Ibañes v. Roman Catholic Church that where the interests of the plaintiffs and the other members of the class they seek to represent are diametrically opposed, the class suit will not prosper. It is worth mentioning that a Manifestation of Desistance, to which the previously mentioned Affidavit of Desistance was attached, was filed by the President of the National Printing Office Workers Association (NAPOWA). The said manifestation expressed NAPOWA’s opposition to the filing of the instant petition in any court. Even if we take into account the contention of petitioners’ counsel that the NAPOWA President had no legal standing to file such manifestation, the said pleading is a clear indication that there is a divergence of opinions and views among the members of the class sought to be represented, and not all are in favor of filing the present suit. There is here an apparent conflict between petitioners’ interests and those of the persons whom they claim to represent. Since it cannot be said that petitioners sufficiently represent the interests of the entire class, the instant case cannot be properly treated as a class suit. Atty. Sylvia Banda, et al. vs.. Eduardo R. Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 166620, April 20, 2010.
Parties; class suit; requisites. Before proceeding to resolve the substantive issues, the Court must first delve into a procedural matter. Since petitioners instituted this case as a class suit, the Court, thus, must first determine if the petition indeed qualifies as one. In Board of Optometry v. Colet, we held that “[c]ourts must exercise utmost caution before allowing a class suit, which is the exception to the requirement of joinder of all indispensable parties. For while no difficulty may arise if the decision secured is favorable to the plaintiffs, a quandary would result if the decision were otherwise as those who were deemed impleaded by their self-appointed representatives would certainly claim denial of due process.” Section 12, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court defines a class suit, as follows:
Sec. 12. Class suit. – When the subject matter of the controversy is one of common or general interest to many persons so numerous that it is impracticable to join all as parties, a number of them which the court finds to be sufficiently numerous and representative as to fully protect the interests of all concerned may sue or defend for the benefit of all. Any party in interest shall have the right to intervene to protect his individual interest.
From the foregoing definition, the requisites of a class suit are: 1) the subject matter of controversy is one of common or general interest to many persons; 2) the parties affected are so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all to court; and 3) the parties bringing the class suit are sufficiently numerous or representative of the class and can fully protect the interests of all concerned. In Mathay v. The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, the Court held that:
An action does not become a class suit merely because it is designated as such in the pleadings. Whether the suit is or is not a class suit depends upon the attending facts, and the complaint, or other pleading initiating the class action should allege the existence of the necessary facts, to wit, the existence of a subject matter of common interest, and the existence of a class and the number of persons in the alleged class, in order that the court might be enabled to determine whether the members of the class are so numerous as to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court, to contrast the number appearing on the record with the number in the class and to determine whether claimants on record adequately represent the class and the subject matter of general or common interest. (Emphases ours.)
Here, the petition failed to state the number of [National Printing Office] employees who would be affected by the assailed Executive Order and who were allegedly represented by petitioners. It was the Solicitor General, as counsel for respondents, who pointed out that there were about 549 employees in the NPO. The 67 petitioners undeniably comprised a small fraction of the NPO employees whom they claimed to represent. Subsequently, 32 of the original petitioners executed an Affidavit of Desistance, while one signed a letter denying ever signing the petition, ostensibly reducing the number of petitioners to 34. We note that counsel for the petitioners challenged the validity of the desistance or withdrawal of some of the petitioners and insinuated that such desistance was due to pressure from people “close to the seat of power.” Still, even if we were to disregard the affidavit of desistance filed by some of the petitioners, it is highly doubtful that a sufficient, representative number of NPO employees have instituted this purported class suit. A perusal of the petition itself would show that of the 67 petitioners who signed the Verification/Certification of Non-Forum Shopping, only 20 petitioners were in fact mentioned in the jurat as having duly subscribed the petition before the notary public. In other words, only 20 petitioners effectively instituted the present case. Atty. Sylvia Banda, et al. vs.. Eduardo R. Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 166620, April 20, 2010.
Parties; personality to file petition. As to respondents’ claim that petitioner Republic of the Philippines was not a party to the civil case subject of this petition since Administrator Quindoza was the
sole defendant therein and, thus, has no personality to file this petition, their claim is not persuasive. Notably, Administrator Quindoza was sued for damages for certain acts that he allegedly committed while he was the Zone Administrator of the Bataan Export Processing Zone. Therefore, the complaint is in the nature of suit against the State, and the Republic has the personality to file the petition. Republic of the Philippines vs. Coalbrine International Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 161838, April 7, 2010.
Parties; real parties in interest. Notably, respondent Neri signed the verification/certification as one of the plaintiffs. However, we find that respondent Neri is not a real party-in- interest. Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
SEC. 2. Parties-in interest. – A real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless otherwise authorized by law or these Rules, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest.
And “interest,” within the meaning of the rule, means material interest, an interest in issue and to be affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. Cases construing the real party-in-interest provision can be more easily understood if it is borne in mind that the true meaning of real party-in-interest may be summarized as follows: An action shall be prosecuted in the name of the party who, by the substantive law, has the right sought to be enforced. The RTC based its conclusion that respondent Neri had a cause of action against petitioner on the allegations in the complaint. The CA, however, did not rule on the matter despite the fact that it was raised in petitioner’s petition for certiorari filed before it and merely said that there was no necessity to discuss such issue after deciding the other grounds raised in the petition. We find the RTC in error. A reading of the allegations in the complaint shows that the acts complained of and said to have been committed by petitioner against respondents have solely affected the hotel’s operations where respondent Neri was the hotel’s Managing Director and whose interest in the suit was incidental. Thus, we find that respondent Neri has no cause of action against petitioner. Consequently, the plaintiff in this case would only be respondent Coalbrine. Republic of the Philippines vs. Coalbrine International Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 161838, April 7, 2010.
Parties; real parties in interest. In G.R. No. 130876, the Court found that the petitioners did not validly acquire ownership of Lot No. 727-D-2, and declared that Lot No. 727 D-2 legally belonged to the Government, thus:
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The pronouncement in G.R. No. 130876 renders beyond dispute that the non-execution of the judgment would not adversely affect the petitioners, who now hold no right whatsoever in Lot No. 727-D-2. Otherwise put, they are not the proper parties to assail the questioned orders of the RTC, because they stand to derive nothing from the execution of the judgment against Cebu Country Club. Every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest, unless otherwise authorized by law or the rules. A real party in interest is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. “Interest” within the meaning of the rule means material interest, an interest in issue and to be affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. The rule refers to a real or present substantial interest, as distinguished from a mere expectancy; or from a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest. One having no right or interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as a party-plaintiff in an action. Thus, an appeal, like this one, is an action to be prosecuted by a party in interest before a higher court. In order for the appeal to prosper, the litigant must of necessity continue to hold a real or present substantial interest that entitles him to the avails of the suit on appeal. If he does not, the appeal, as to him, is an exercise in futility. So it is with the petitioners!
In contrast, the Government, being the legal owner of Lot No. 727-D-2, is the only party adversely affected by the denial, and is the proper party entitled to assail the denial. However, its manifest desistance from the execution of the decision effectively barred any challenge against the denial, for its non-appeal rendered the denial final and immutable. Francisco Alonso, et al. vs. Cebu Country Club, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 188471, April 20, 2010.
Parties; real party in interest in action for annulment of certificates of title. Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court states:
Sec. 2. Parties in interest. – A real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless otherwise authorized by law or these Rules, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest.
This provision has two requirements: 1) to institute an action, the plaintiff must be the real party in interest; and 2) the action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest. Interest within the meaning of the Rules of Court means material interest or an interest in issue to be affected by the decree or judgment of the case, as distinguished
from mere curiosity about the question involved. One having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff in an action. When the plaintiff is not the real party in interest, the case is dismissible on the ground of lack of cause of action. An action for annulment of certificates of title to property into the issue of ownership of the land covered by a Torrens title and the relief generally prayed for by the plaintiff is to be declared as the land’s true owner. The real party in interest in such action therefore is the person claiming title or ownership adverse to that of the registered owner. The case of Tankiko v. Cezar has illustrated for us the application of this principle in the following manner:
It is evident that respondents are not the real parties in interest. Because they admit that they are not the owners of the land but mere applicants for sales patents thereon, it is daylight clear that the land is public in character and that it should revert to the State. This being the case, Section 101 of the Public Land Act categorically declares that only the government may institute an action to recover ownership of a public land.
x x x x
Under Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. It further defines a “real party in interest” as one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit. x x x The interest of the party must be personal and not one based on a desire to vindicate the constitutional right of some third and unrelated party.
Clearly, a suit filed by a person who is not a party in interest must be dismissed. Thus, in Lucas v. Durian, the Court affirmed the dismissal of a Complaint filed by a party who alleged that the patent was obtained by fraudulent means and, consequently, prayed for the annulment of said patent and the cancellation of a certificate of title. The Court declared that the proper party to bring the action was the government, to which the property would revert. Likewise affirming the dismissal of a Complaint for failure to state a cause of action, the Court in Nebrada v. Heirs of Alivio noted that the plaintiff, being a mere homestead applicant, was not the real party in interest to institute an action for reconveyance.
x x x x
Verily, the Court stressed that “if the suit is not brought in the name of or against the real party in interest, a motion to dismiss may be filed on the ground that the complaint states no cause of action.” [Emphasis supplied.]
The petitioners demand the annulment of respondent Catlys’ titles because they allege that these included portions belonging to the
Municipality of Calapan. This allegation is a clear recognition of the Municipality’s superior interest over the lot. In instituting the action for annulment of respondent Catlys’ titles, what the petitioners are asserting is a right that is not personal to them, but to that of the local government. That they are lessees who were granted by the Municipality of Calapan the option to purchase the portion they occupy does not suffice to constitute as parties with material interest to commence the action. Nemesio Goco, et al. vs. Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 157449, April 6, 2010.
Parties; standing, relaxation of rule. The respondents likewise allege that the petitioners had failed to show that they had sustained, or is in danger of sustaining any substantial injury as a result of the implementation of Republic Act No. 9716. The respondents, therefore, conclude that the petitioners lack the required legal standing to question the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716. This Court has paved the way away from procedural debates when confronted with issues that, by reason of constitutional importance, need a direct focus of the arguments on their content and substance. The Supreme Court has, on more than one occasion, tempered the application of procedural rules, as well as relaxed the requirement of locus standi whenever confronted with an important issue of overreaching significance to society.
Hence, in Del Mar v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Jaworski v. PAGCOR, this Court sanctioned momentary deviation from the principle of the hierarchy of courts, and took original cognizance of cases raising issues of paramount public importance. The Jaworski case ratiocinates:
Granting arguendo that the present action cannot be properly treated as a petition for prohibition, the transcendental importance of the issues involved in this case warrants that we set aside the technical defects and take primary jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One cannot deny that the issues raised herein have potentially pervasive influence on the social and moral well being of this nation, specially the youth; hence, their proper and just determination is an imperative need. This is in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that rules of procedure are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. (Emphasis supplied)
Anent the locus standi requirement, this Court has already uniformly ruled in Kilosbayan v. Guingona, Tatad v. Executive Secretary, Chavez v. Public Estates Authority and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora, just to name a few, that absence of
direct injury on the part of the party seeking judicial review may be excused when the latter is able to craft an issue of transcendental importance. In Lim v. Executive Secretary, this Court held that in cases of transcendental importance, the cases must be settled promptly and definitely, and so, the standing requirements may be relaxed. This liberal stance has been echoed in the more recent decision on Chavez v. Gonzales.
Given the weight of the issue raised in the instant petition, the foregoing principles must apply. The beaten path must be taken. We go directly to the determination of whether or not a population of 250,000 is an indispensable constitutional requirement for the creation of a new legislative district in a province. Senator Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and Mayor Jesse Robredo, G.R. No. 189793, April 7, 2010.
Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping. The Court has consistently held that the requirement regarding verification of a pleading is formal, not jurisdictional. Such requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of the pleading, non-compliance with which does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. Verification is simply intended to secure an assurance that the allegations in the pleading are true and correct, and not the product of the imagination or a matter of speculation, and that the pleading is filed in good faith. The court may order the correction of the pleading if verification is lacking or act on the pleading although it is not verified, if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the rules may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may thereby be served. On the other hand, the lack of certification against non-forum shopping is generally not curable by mere amendment of the complaint, but shall be a cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice. The same rule applies to certifications against non-forum shopping signed by a person on behalf of a corporation which are unaccompanied by proof that said signatory is authorized to file the complaint on behalf of the corporation. In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP), we ruled that only individuals vested with authority by a valid board resolution may sign the certificate of non-forum shopping on behalf of a corporation. We also required that proof of such authority must be attached. Failure to provide a certificate of non-forum shopping is sufficient ground to dismiss the petition. Likewise, the petition is subject to dismissal if a certification was submitted unaccompanied by proof of signatory’s authority. While there were instances where we have allowed the filing of a certificate against non-forum shopping by someone on behalf of a corporation without the accompanying proof of authority at the time of its filing, we did so on the basis of a special circumstance or compelling reason. Moreover, there was a subsequent compliance by the submission of the proof of
authority attesting to the fact that the person who signed the certification was duly authorized.
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In the present case, the RTC, in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the complaint when the latter raised respondent Neri’s lack of authority to sign the certification, found that respondent Neri testified that she was the Managing Director of the Bataan Hilltop Hotel which was being leased by respondent Coalbrine, and that she was authorized by the Corporate Secretary to file the case. Notably, while the matter of lack of authority was raised by petitioner in its petition for certiorari filed with the CA, it chose not to tackle the issue after disposing of the other issues raised therein.
We cannot agree with the RTC’s reasoning and find the certification signed by respondent Neri to be defective. The authority of respondent Neri to file the complaint in the RTC had not been proven. First, the certification against non-forum shopping did not even contain a statement that she was authorized by the corporate secretary to file the case on behalf of Coalbrine as she claimed. More importantly, while she testified that she was authorized by the corporate secretary, there was no showing that there was a valid board resolution authorizing the corporate secretary to file the action, and to authorize respondent Neri to file the action. In fact, such proof of authority had not been submitted even belatedly to show subsequent compliance. Thus, there was no reason for the relaxation of the rule. Republic of the Philippines vs. Coalbrine International Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 161838, April 7, 2010.
Pleadings; certification on non-forum shopping. The second violation concerns the omission of a sworn certification against forum shopping from the petition for review on certiorari. Section 4, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the petition for review should contain, among others, the sworn certification on the undertakings provided in the last paragraph of Section 2, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, viz:
Section 2. xxx
The petitioner shall also submit together with the petition a certification under oath that he has not theretofore commenced any other action involving the same issues in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency; if there is such other action or proceeding, he must state the status of the same; and if he should thereafter learn that a similar action or proceeding has been filed or is pending before the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency, he undertakes to promptly inform the aforesaid courts and other tribunal or agency
thereof within five (5) days therefrom. (n)
Only petitioner Tomas V. Alonso has executed and signed the sworn certification against forum shopping attached to the petition. Although neither of his co-petitioners – Mercedes V. Alonso and Asuncion V. Alonso – has joined the certification, Tomas did not present any written express authorization in his favor authorizing him to sign the certification in their behalf. The signing of the certification by only one of the petitioners could not be presumed to reflect the personal knowledge by his co-petitioners of the filing or non-filing of any similar action or claim. Hence, the failure of Mercedes and Asuncion to sign and execute the certification along with Tomas warranted the dismissal of their petition. Francisco Alonso, et al. vs. Cebu Country Club, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 188471, April 20, 2010.
Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping; substantial compliance through subsequent submission. Unquestionably, there is sufficient jurisprudential basis to hold that Landheights has substantially complied with the verification and certification requirements. We have held in a catena of cases with similar factual circumstances that there is substantial compliance with the Rules of Court when there is a belated submission or filing of the secretary’s certificate through a motion for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals’ decision dismissing the petition for certiorari. In Ateneo de Naga University v. Manalo, this Court acknowledged that it has relaxed, under justifiable circumstances, the rule requiring the submission of these certifications and has applied the rule of substantial compliance under justifiable circumstances with respect to the contents of the certification. It also conceded that if this Court has allowed the belated filing of the certification against forum shopping for compelling reasons in previous rulings, with more reason should it sanction the timely submission of such certification though the proof of the signatory’s authority was submitted thereafter. The Court is aware of the necessity for a certification of non-forum shopping in filing petitions for certiorari as this is required under Section 1, Rule 65, in relation to Section 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended. When the petitioner is a corporation, the certification should obviously be executed by a natural person to whom the power to execute such certification has been validly conferred by the corporate board of directors and/or duly authorized officers and agents. Generally, the petition is subject to dismissal if a certification was submitted unaccompanied by proof of the signatory’s authority. However, we must make a distinction between non-compliance with the requirements for certificate of non-forum shopping and verification and substantial compliance with the requirements as provided in the Rules of Court. The Court has allowed the belated filing of the certification on the justification that such act constitutes substantial compliance. In Roadway Express, Inc. v. CA, the Court allowed the filing of
the certification fourteen (14) days before the dismissal of the petition. In Uy v. Land Bank of the Philippines, the Court reinstated a petition on the ground of substantial compliance even though the verification and certification were submitted only after the petition had already been originally dismissed. In Havtor Management Phils. Inc. v. NLRC, we acknowledged substantial compliance when the lacking secretary’s certificate was submitted by the petitioners as an attachment to the motion for reconsideration seeking reversal of the original decision dismissing the petition for its earlier failure to submit such requirement. In the present case, Landheights rectified its failure to submit proof of Mr. Dickson Tan’s authority to sign the verification/certification on non-forum shopping on its behalf when the required document was subsequently submitted to the Court of Appeals. The admission of these documents, and consequently, the reinstatement of the petition itself, is in line with the cases we have cited. In such circumstances, we deem it more in accord with substantive justice that the case be decided on the merits. Mediserv, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (Special Former 13th Division), et al., G.R. No. 161368, April 5, 2010.
Pleadings; compulsory counterclaim distinguished from permissive counterclaim. A compulsory counterclaim is any claim for money or any relief, which a defending party may have against an opposing party, which at the time of suit arises out of, or is necessarily connected with, the same transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the plaintiff’s complaint. It is compulsory in the sense that it is within the jurisdiction of the court, does not require for its adjudication the presence of third parties over whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction, and will be barred in the future if not set up in the answer to the complaint in the same case. Any other counterclaim is permissive. The Court has ruled that the compelling test of compulsoriness characterizes a counterclaim as compulsory if there should exist a logical relationship between the main claim and the counterclaim. The Court further ruled that there exists such a relationship when conducting separate trials of the respective claims of the parties would entail substantial duplication of time and effort by the parties and the court; when the multiple claims involve the same factual and legal issues; or when the claims are offshoots of the same basic controversy between the parties. The criteria to determine whether the counterclaim is compulsory or permissive are as follows:
(a) Are issues of fact and law raised by the claim and by the counterclaim largely the same?
(b) Would res judicata bar a subsequent suit on defendant’s claim, absent the compulsory rule?
(c) Will substantially the same evidence support or refute plaintiff’s claim as well as defendant’s counterclaim?
(d) Is there any logical relations between the claim and the counterclaim?
A positive answer to all four questions would indicate that the counterclaim is compulsory.
In this case, the only issue in the complaint is whether Manuel, Jr. is authorized to sign the Deed of Assignment, Release, Waiver and Quitclaim in favor of respondent without petitioner’s express approval and authority. In an Order dated 6 November 2003, the trial court confirmed the agreement of the parties to cancel the Deed of Assignment, Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and the return of P400,000 to respondent. The only claim that remained was the claim for damages against respondent. The trial court resolved this issue by holding that any damage suffered by Manuel, Jr. was personal to him. The trial court ruled that petitioner could not have suffered any damage even if Manuel, Jr. entered into an agreement with respondent since the agreement was null and void.
Respondent filed three counterclaims. The first was for recovery of the P400,000 given to Manuel, Jr.; the second was for recovery of possession of the subject property; and the third was for damages. The first counterclaim was rendered moot with the issuance of the 6 November 2003 Order confirming the agreement of the parties to cancel the Deed of Assignment, Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and to return the P400,000 to respondent. Respondent waived and renounced the third counterclaim for damages. The only counterclaim that remained was for the recovery of possession of the subject property. While this counterclaim was an offshoot of the same basic controversy between the parties, it is very clear that it will not be barred if not set up in the answer to the complaint in the same case. Respondent’s second counterclaim, contrary to the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, is only a permissive counterclaim. It is not a compulsory counterclaim. It is capable of proceeding independently of the main case. Manuel Bungcayao, Sr., et al. vs. Fort Ilocandia Property Holdings and Development Corporation, G.R. No. 170483, April 19, 2010.
Pleadings; explanation for service by registered mail; when omission excused. As to the CA’s dismissal of the petition for review on the ground that petitioner failed to attach a written explanation for non-personal filing, the Court finds the same improper. Iligan City, where petitioner resides and where her counsel holds office, and Cagayan de Oro City, where the concerned division of the CA is stationed, are separated by a considerable distance. The CA, in the exercise of its discretion, should have realized that it was indeed impracticable for petitioner to personally file the petition for review in Cagayan De Oro City. Given the obvious time, effort and expense that would have been spent in the personal filing of the pleadings in this case, the
written explanation why service had not been done personally, as required by Section 11 of Rule 13, may be considered as superfluous. Alma B. Russel vs. Teofista Ebasan, et al.,G.R. No. 184542, April 23, 2010.
Pleadings; filing by registered mail; date of mailing considered date of filing. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was likewise filed on time. She received a copy of the June 18, 2007 CA Resolution on July 18, 2007. Under Section 1 of Rule 52, she had 15 days from notice, or until August 2, 2007, to file a motion for reconsideration. Petitioner filed by registered mail her motion for reconsideration on July 27, 2007. The fact of mailing on the said date is proven by the registry return receipt, the affidavit of service, and the certification of the Office of the Postmaster of Iligan City. Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court provides that if a pleading is filed by registered mail, then the date of mailing shall be considered as the date of filing. It does not matter when the court actually receives the mailed pleading. Thus, in this case, as the pleading was filed by registered mail on July 27, 2007, within the reglementary period, it is inconsequential that the CA actually received the motion in October of that year. Alma B. Russel vs. Teofista Ebasan, et al., G.R. No. 184542, April 23, 2010.
Pleadings; verification; defective verification excused. Relative to the defective verification, the Court excuses the same. The purpose of the verification is to secure an assurance that the allegations in the petition have been made in good faith, or are true and correct and not merely speculative. The requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of pleadings and non-compliance therewith is neither jurisdictional nor does it render the pleading fatally defective. Here, the perceived defect is excusable and does not justify a dismissal of the petition. In any case, petitioner, in her subsequent pleading, submitted a corrected verification. The same degree of liberality should apply to petitioner’s failure to attach a copy of the complaint and answer filed before the MTCC in her petition for review. After all, petitioner substantially complied with the requirement when she filed her amended petition. Alma B. Russel vs. Teofista Ebasan, et al., G.R. No. 184542, April 23, 2010.
Pleadings; verification; substantial compliance. Contrary to respondents’ assertion, NHA’s verification conforms to the rule. Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 4. Verification. – Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings need not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.
A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records.
A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on “information and belief,” or upon “knowledge, information and belief,” or lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.
The reason for requiring verification in the petition is to secure an assurance that the allegations of a pleading are true and correct; are not speculative or merely imagined; and have been made in good faith. To achieve this purpose, the verification of a pleading is made through an affidavit or sworn statement confirming that the affiant has read the pleading whose allegations are true and correct of the affiant’s personal knowledge or based on authentic records.
The General Manager of NHA verified the petition as follows:
3. I have read the allegations contained therein and that the same are true and correct to the best of my own personal knowledge.
A reading of the above verification reveals nothing objectionable about it. The affiant confirmed that he had read the allegations in the petition which were true and correct based on his personal knowledge. The addition of the words “to the best” before the phrase “of my personal knowledge” did not violate the requirement under Section 4 of Rule 7, it being sufficient that the affiant declared that the allegations in the petition are true and correct based on his personal knowledge. National Housing Authority vs. Augusto Basa, Jr., Luz Basa and Eduardo S. Basa, G.R. No. 149121, April 20, 2010.
Pleadings; verification and certification of non-forum shopping; substantial compliance by subsequent submission. Under Rule 46, Section 3, paragraph 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, petitions for certiorari must be verified and accompanied by a sworn certification of non-forum shopping. The primary question that has to be resolved in this case is whether the verification and certification of non-forum shopping, erroneously signed by counsel, may be cured by subsequent compliance. Generally, subsequent compliance with the requirement of a certification of non-forum shopping does not excuse a party from failure to comply in the first instance. A certification of the plaintiff’s counsel will not suffice for the reason that it is the petitioner, and not the counsel, who is in the best position to know whether he actually filed or caused the filing of a petition. A certification against forum shopping signed by counsel is a defective certification that is equivalent to non-compliance with the requirement and constitutes a valid cause for the dismissal of the petition. However, there are instances when we treated compliance with the rule with relative liberality, especially when there are circumstances or compelling reasons making the
strict application of the rule clearly unjustified. In the case of Far Eastern Shipping Company v. Court of Appeals, while we said that, strictly, a certification against forum shopping by counsel is a defective certification, the verification, signed by petitioner’s counsel in said case, is substantial compliance inasmuch as it served the purpose of the Rules of informing the Court of the pendency of another action or proceeding involving the same issues. We then explained that procedural rules are instruments in the speedy and efficient administration of justice which should be used to achieve such end and not to derail it. In Sy Chin v. Court of Appeals, we categorically stated that while the petition was flawed as the certification of non-forum shopping was signed only by counsel and not by the party, such procedural lapse may be overlooked in the interest of substantial justice. Finally, the Court has also on occasion held that the party need not sign the verification; a party’s representative, lawyer or any person who personally knows the truth of the facts alleged in the pleading may sign the verification.
Here, the verification and certification of non-forum shopping was signed by petitioner’s counsel. Upon receipt of the resolution of the Court of Appeals dismissing her petition for non-compliance with the rules, petitioner submitted, together with her motion for reconsideration, a verification and certification signed by her in compliance with the said rule. We deem this to be sufficient compliance especially in view of the merits of the case, which may be considered as a special circumstance or a compelling reason that would justify tempering the hard consequence of the procedural requirement on non-forum shopping. Krizia Katrina Ty-De Zuzuarregui vs. The Hon. Joselito C. Villanueva, et al., G.R. No. 183788, April 5, 2010.
Procedural rules; abuse of judicial process. We lament that the petitioners, by instituting the present petition, has effectively delayed the full execution of the final and executory RTC judgment. In doing so, they deprived the winning respondents of the fruits of the judgment, and made a mockery of the RTC judgment that has stood scrutiny all the way to our level. We have always frowned upon any scheme to prolong litigations and we view the present dispute as an unwarranted effort to avoid the implementation of a judgment painstakingly arrived at. We cannot countenance, and in fact, condemn this kind of abuse of judicial process. Thus, we deem it fit to impose treble costs against the petitioners. Narciso Tumibay, et al. vs. Sps. Yolanda T. Sora, et al., G.R. No. 152016, April 13, 2010.
Procedural rules; liberal application. Facing up to all these objections and admitting the mistakes committed, the Gos beseech liberality in the application of the rules. Even if clearly their counsel committed a number of palpable mistakes which, as
a general rule should bind the client, we shall grant the petition in the interest of justice. Our rules of procedure are designed to facilitate the orderly disposition of cases and permit the prompt disposition of unmeritorious cases which clog the court dockets and do little more than waste the courts’ time. These technical and procedural rules, however, are intended to ensure, rather than suppress, substantial justice. A deviation from their rigid enforcement may thus be allowed, as petitioners should be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of their case, rather than lose their property on mere technicalities. We held in Ong Lim Sing, Jr. v. FEB Leasing and Finance Corporation that:
Courts have the prerogative to relax procedural rules of even the most mandatory character, mindful of the duty to reconcile both the need to speedily put an end to litigation and the parties’ right to due process. In numerous cases, this Court has allowed liberal construction of the rules when to do so would serve the demands of substantial justice and equity.
Trinidad Go, et al. vs. Vicente Velez Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 182341, April 23, 2010.
Procedural rules; liberal construction. It is settled that liberal construction of the rules may be invoked in situations where there may be some excusable formal deficiency or error in a pleading, provided that the same does not subvert the essence of the proceeding and connotes at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with the rules. After all, rules of procedure are not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; they are used only to help secure substantial justice. Mediserv, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals (Special Former 13th Division), et al. G.R. No. 161368, April 5, 2010.
Procedural rules; liberal application. In sum, the Court finds that the CA erred in dismissing petitioner’s appeal. The appellate court should have been more prudent in computing the reglementary period for the filing of petitions. The CA could have been more liberal in the application of the Rules considering that, in this case, the MTCC and the RTC arrived at conflicting rulings, necessitating a thorough review of the merits of the case. This is in keeping with the principle that rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice and that strict and rigid application of rules which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must always be avoided. It is a far better and wiser course of action for the Court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a conscientious review of the case in order to attain the ends of justice, rather than dispose of it on a technicality and cause grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases which actually results in more delay, if not in an outright miscarriage of justice. Alma B. Russel vs. Teofista Ebasan, et al.,G.R. No. 184542, April
Temporary restraining order. Until the propriety of granting an injunction, temporary or perpetual, is determined, the court (i.e., the RTC in this case) may issue a temporary restraining order. A TRO is an interlocutory order or writ issued by the court as a restraint on the defendant until the propriety of granting an injunction can be determined, thus going no further in its operation than to preserve the status quo until that determination. A TRO is not intended to operate as an injunction pendente lite, and should not in effect determine the issues involved before the parties can have their day in court. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 160270, April 23, 2010.
Trial; requirement of impartial judge. Citing the foregoing as basis, the accused argues that Judge Jesus Carbon, Jr. displayed his hostility towards him and condemned him even before the defense could rest its presentation of evidence. By saying that he was “just making a story,” the judge already concluded his guilt during trial. The Court is not unaware of the case of Tabuena v. Sandiganbayan, where it was written:
The Court has acknowledged the right of a trial judge to question witnesses with a view to satisfying his mind upon any material point which presents itself during the trial of a case over which he presides. But not only should his examination be limited to asking clarificatory questions, the right should be sparingly and judiciously used; for the rule is that the court should stay out of it as much as possible, neither interfering nor intervening in the conduct of trial… hardly in fact can one avoid the impression that the Sandiganbayan had allied itself with, or to be more precise, had taken the cudgels for the prosecution in proving the case against Tabuena and Peralta…. The “cold neutrality of an impartial judge” requirement of due process was certainly denied Tabuena and Peralta when the court, with its overzealousness, assumed the dual role of magistrate and advocate… A substantial portion of the TSN was incorporated in the majority opinion not to focus on “numbers” alone, but more importantly to show that the court questions were in the interest of the prosecution and which thus depart from the common standard of fairness and impartiality. (emphasis added)
The situation in the case at bench is, however, different. As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, although the trial judge might have made improper remarks and comments, it did not amount to a denial of his right to due process or his right to an impartial trial. Upon perusal of the transcript as a whole, it cannot be said that the remarks were reflective of his partiality. They were not out of context. Not only did the accused mislead the court by initially invoking a negative defense only to claim otherwise during trial, he was also not candid to his
own lawyer, who was kept in the dark as to his intended defense. The accused having admitted the killing, a reverse order of trial could have proceeded. As it turned out, the prosecution undertook to discharge the burden of proving his guilt, when the burden of proof to establish that the killing was justified should have been his. Most probably, the trial judge was peeved at the strategy he adopted. The trial judge cannot be faulted for having made those remarks, notwithstanding the sarcastic tone impressed upon it. The sarcasm alone cannot lead us to conclude that the trial judge “had taken the cudgels for the prosecution. The invocation of Opida fails to persuade us either. The facts therein are not at all fours with the case at bench. In Opida, we did not fail to notice the “malicious,” “sadistic” and “adversarial” manner of questioning by the trial judge of the accused therein, including their defense witness. In Opida, the accused never admitted the commission of the crime, and so the burden of proof remained with the prosecution. The People of the Philippines vs. Benancio Mortera y Belarmino, G.R. No. 188104, April 23, 2010.
Actions; forum shopping in agrarian case. Petitioners also submit that LBP is guilty of forum shopping because after LBP invoked the jurisdiction of the SAC of Santiago City, Isabela, and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), LBP filed a petition for certiorari with the DARAB (DSCA No. 0213) to prevent the execution of the Order of the RARAD. The DARAB eventually issued a TRO, and later, a writ of preliminary injunction, directed against the implementation of the RARAD’s decision. Petitioners’ argument is mislaid.
In Canuto, Jr. v. National Labor Relations Commission, we held that forum shopping is manifest whenever a party “repetitively avail[s] of several judicial remedies in different courts, simultaneously or successively, all substantially founded on the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances, and all raising substantially the same issues either pending in, or already resolved adversely by, some other court.” It has also been defined as “an act of a party against whom an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum of seeking and possibly getting a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by appeal or the special civil action of certiorari, or the institution of two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition.” Considered a pernicious evil, it adversely affects the efficient administration of justice since it clogs the court dockets, unduly burdens the financial and human resources of the judiciary, and trifles with and mocks judicial processes. In Veluz v. Court of Appeals, we held:
There is forum shopping when, in the two or more cases pending, there is identity of parties, rights or
causes of action and relief sought. Forum shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or when a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the other. For litis pendentia to exist, the following requisites must be present:
1. Identity of parties, or at least such parties as those representing the same interests in both actions;
2. Identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts;
3. Identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases, such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case.
Reviewing the facts of this case, the SAC, after hearing the parties regarding the propriety of issuing the injunctive writ against the execution of the RARAD’s decision, found that it had no jurisdiction to resolve the matter. Hence, LBP filed a petition for certiorari with the DARAB (DSCA No. 0213) seeking the issuance of a TRO and preliminary injunction. It is thus seen that there is no forum shopping because the SAC had no jurisdiction on the issuance of an injunctive writ against the RARAD’s decision. As the SAC had no jurisdiction over such matter, any ruling it renders is void and of no legal effect. Thus, LBP’s act of filing the petition for certiorari with the DARAB, which has the correct jurisdiction for the remedy sought, does not amount to forum shopping. Heirs of Lorenzo Vidad and Carmen Vidad, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 166461, April 30, 2010.
Appeal; notice of appeal; substantial compliance in agrarian case. Guided by the foregoing principles, we find that the Notices of Appeal substantially complied with all that is required under the 1994 DARAB Rules. The following provisions are instructive in making this conclusion:
Section 1. Appeal to the Board. a) An appeal may be taken from an order, resolution or decision of the Adjudicator to the Board by either of the parties or both, orally or in writing, within a period of fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the order, resolution or decision appealed from, and serving a copy thereof on the adverse party, if the appeal is in writing.
b) An oral appeal shall be reduced into writing by the Adjudicator to be signed by the appellant, and a copy thereof shall be served upon the adverse party within ten (10) days from the taking of the oral appeal.
Section 2. Grounds. The aggrieved party may appeal to the Board from a final order, resolution or decision of the Adjudicator on any of the following grounds:
a) That errors in the findings of fact or conclusions of laws were committed which, if not corrected, would cause grave and irreparable damage and injury to the appellant;
b) That there is a grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Adjudicator; or
c) That the order, resolution or decision is obtained through fraud or coercion.
x x x x
Section 5. Requisites and Perfection of the Appeal. a) The Notice of Appeal shall be filed within the reglementary period as provided for in Section 1 of this Rule. It shall state the date when the appellant received the order or judgment appealed from and the proof of service of the notice to the adverse party; and
b) An appeal fee of Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00) shall be paid by the appellant within the reglementary period to the DAR Cashier where the Office of the Adjudicators is situated. x x x
Non-compliance with the above-mentioned requisites shall be a ground for dismissal of the appeal.
Both Notices of Appeal stated that the petitioners were appealing the decision “on the grounds of questions of fact and of law,” which we find sufficient statement of the ground for appeal under Section 2(a), Rule XIII of the DARAB Rules. While the notices omitted to state that “the decision would cause grave and irreparable damage and injury to the appellant,” we find such punctilious fidelity to the language of the DARAB Rules unnecessary. Surely by appealing the Decision of the Regional Adjudicator, the petitioners were already manifesting that they will be damaged by the assailed decision. Requiring a literal application of the rules when its purpose has already been served is oppressive superfluity. It must be stressed that the purpose of the notice of appeal is not to detail one’s objections regarding the appealed decision; that is the purpose of the appellants’ memorandum. In the context of a DARAB case, the notice of appeal serves only to inform the tribunal or officer that rendered the appealed decision (i.e., the Regional Adjudicator) of the timeliness of the appeal and of the general reason for the appeal, and to prepare the records thereof for transmission to the appellate body (i.e., the DARAB). Petitioners’ Notices of Appeal contain everything that is necessary to serve these purposes. Another important consideration is the fact that petitioners were obviously not assisted
by counsel in the filing of the Notices of Appeal. Only the parties were signatories thereto; Atty. Mena’s signature was missing, which gives credence to petitioners’ assertion that they had already terminated the services of their counsel at that time. Their new counsel, Atty. Dauphine B. Go, DAR-Legal Counsel, entered her appearance only on March 13, 2003, or several days after the Notices of Appeal were filed. The Regional Adjudicator is also correct when she ruled that she has no power to determine if the appeal is frivolous and intended merely for delay. Such matters are for the appellate body to determine after it has studied the appellant’s brief or the appeal memorandum. The body which rendered the appealed decision should not pass upon the question of whether the appeal was taken manifestly for delay because such determination belongs to the appellate body. For the lower body to do so would constitute a review of its own judgment and a mockery of the appellate process. This principle is applicable to agrarian disputes by virtue of Section 8, Rule XIII of the DARAB Rules which states that the Board (not the Regional Adjudicator) has the power to impose reasonable penalties, including fine or censure, on parties who file frivolous or dilatory appeals. The implication is that since the Board is the one which has the power to punish, it is also the one which has the power to decide if there has been a violation. The Regional Adjudicator has no such power. She must allow the appeal if it is timely and compliant with the reglementary requirements. It has been held that when an appeal is filed on time, the approval of a notice of appeal is a ministerial duty of the court or tribunal which rendered the decision. Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 165155, April 13, 2010.
Certiorari; exhaustion of administrative remedies in agrarian case. At this juncture, we must point out that while respondents bewail petitioners’ lack of strict adherence to procedural rules, they also failed to observe some rules. It is evident from the records that respondents filed two motions for reconsideration after the August 5, 2003 Order of the Regional Adjudicator. This is prohibited under Section 12, Rule VIII of DARAB Rules, which provides that only one motion for reconsideration shall be allowed. Moreover, respondents failed to exhaust administrative remedies when they filed their petition for certiorari before the CA, instead of the Board. The DARAB Rules state that:
Section 1. Certiorari to the Court of Appeals. Any decision, order, resolution, award or ruling of the Board on any agrarian dispute or on any matter pertaining to the application, implementation, enforcement, interpretation of agrarian reform laws or rules and regulations promulgated thereunder,
may be brought within fifteen (15) days from receipt of a copy thereof, to the Court of Appeals by certiorari.
An aggrieved party can only resort to judicial review after it has invoked the authority of the Board. Judicial review is not provided for orders, rulings, and decisions of adjudicators. It is stated in Section 1, Rule II that the Board has primary and exclusive, original and appellate jurisdiction over agrarian disputes involving agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations. If respondents were strict adherents to procedural rules, they should have followed Section 2(b) of Rule XIII which provides for an appeal to the Board on the ground of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the adjudicator. Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 165155, April 13, 2010.
Election case; forum shopping. Forum shopping is the institution of two (2) or more suits in different courts, either simultaneously or successively, in order to ask the courts to rule on the same or related causes and/or to grant the same or substantially the same reliefs. There is forum shopping when as a result of an adverse decision in one (1) forum, or in anticipation thereof, a party seeks favorable opinion in another forum through means other than appeal or certiorari. Under paragraph 2, Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, if the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt, as well as a cause for administrative sanctions.
In determining whether a party violated the rule against forum shopping, the most important factor to ask is whether the elements of litis pendencia are present, or whether a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in another. For the principle of res judicata to apply, the following elements must be present: (1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final; (2) the decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be as between the first and second actions, identity of parties, subject matter, and cause of action. In the present case, the second element is wanting.
Under Section 5(c), Rule 3 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, any motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order or ruling of a division shall be resolved by the Commission en banc except motions on interlocutory orders of the division which shall be resolved by the division which issued the order. When the COMELEC, Second Division issued the September 4, 2009 Order, the appeal of respondent’s election protest was still pending resolution by the COMELEC en banc. Clearly, the
September 4, 2009 Order of the COMELEC, Second Division granting execution pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration is in the nature of an interlocutory order – one which does not dispose of the case completely but leaves something to be decided upon. Therefore, in accordance with the Comelec Rules of Procedure, any motion to reconsider such interlocutory order of the division shall be resolved by the division which issued it. Otherwise stated, the Extremely Urgent Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioner to question the September 4, 2009 Order issued by the COMELEC, Second Division had to be resolved also by the Second Division, not by the COMELEC en banc. Since the COMELEC en banc had no jurisdiction over petitioner’s Extremely Urgent Motion for Reconsideration, its January 20, 2010 Resolution does not amount to res judicata in relation to the present petition.
Notably, in the certificate of forum shopping of Saludaga’s Petition before us, he disclosed that an Extremely Urgent Motion for Reconsideration of the September 4, 2009 Order is also pending before the COMELEC en banc. Even then, the mere filing of a separate case, as in the original action for certiorari and prohibition filed by petitioner in G.R. No. 189431, after filing a responsive pleading in the other case, does not necessarily constitute forum shopping. To reiterate, there is forum shopping when as a result of an adverse decision in one (1) forum, or in anticipation thereof, a party seeks favorable opinion in another forum through means other than appeal or certiorari. Clearly, there is no forum shopping in this case to warrant an outright dismissal of the petition in G.R. No. 189431. Mayor Quintin B. Saludaga vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 189431 & 191120, April 7, 2010.
Election case; motion for execution pending resolution of motion for reconsideration. On May 3, 2007, the Supreme Court promulgated A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC or the Rules of Procedure in Election Contests Before the Courts Involving Elective Municipal and Barangay Officials. Section 11(a), Rule 14 of said rules sets the criteria for execution pending appeal as follows:
SEC. 11. Execution pending appeal. – On motion of the prevailing party with notice to the adverse party, the court, while still in possession of the original records, may, at its discretion, order the execution of the decision in an election contest before the expiration of the period to appeal, subject to the following rules:
(a) There must be a motion by the prevailing party with three-day notice to the adverse party. Execution pending appeal shall not issue without prior notice and hearing. There must be good reasons for the execution pending appeal. The court, in a special order, must state the good or special reasons justifying the execution pending appeal.
Such reasons must:
(1) constitute superior circumstances demanding urgency that will outweigh the injury or damage should the losing party secure a reversal of the judgment on appeal; and
(2) be manifest, in the decision sought to be executed, that the defeat of the protestee or the victory of the protestant has been clearly established.
By analogy, this standard is also applicable in the grant of execution pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration of a decision, resolution, order or ruling of a division of the COMELEC.
Petitioner assails the September 4, 2009 Order for three (3) reasons. First, the Second Division of the COMELEC failed to certify and elevate the records of the case upon the lapse of ten (10) days in accordance with Item 6(b) of Comelec Resolution No. 8654. Second, the September 4, 2009 Order was signed by the Presiding Commissioner alone. Lastly, respondent’s Motion for Execution Pending Motion for Reconsideration does not satisfy the criteria in A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC. We shall tackle each objection separately.
On August 4, 2009, the COMELEC promulgated COMELEC Resolution No. 8654 for the purpose of adopting rules on the payment of COMELEC appeal fees and on the disposition of motions for reconsideration of decisions, resolutions and orders on election protest cases, appeal cases and special relief cases of a division to conform to our ruling in Aguilar v. COMELEC and Insoy.
Item 6 of Comelec Resolution No. 8654 provides:
6. If a motion for the execution of the decision or resolution of the Division is filed prior to the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration, or within two days after the filing of the Motion for Reconsideration and the case was not yet certified to or elevated to the Commission en banc, the Division may, at its own discretion:
a. Certify and elevate the case, together with the Motion for Execution as part of the records of the case, to the Commission En Banc within the two day period as prescribed in Section 5, Rule 19 of the Rules of Court.
b. Stay for a period of not more than ten (10) days from the filing of the Motion for Execution, the elevation of the case to the Commission En Banc, in order to resolve said Motion for Execution. Upon the expiration of the ten-day period, the Division shall immediately certify and elevate the case, together with all the records, to the Commission En Banc for appropriate action. (Emphasis supplied).
Prior to the filing of a motion for reconsideration of a 56
decision or resolution issued by a division of the COMELEC or during the pendency of such motion for reconsideration but before the case is certified or elevated to the COMELEC en banc, the motion for execution may be acted upon by the division that issued the decision or resolution. Under Item 6(a), a division of the COMELEC may choose to elevate both the main action and the motion for execution to the COMELEC en banc. Item 6(b), on the other hand, contemplates a situation where the division decides to rule on the motion for the execution of its decision or resolution. In the latter, the division may defer the elevation of the case to the Commission en banc in order to resolve the motion. After the lapse of ten (10) days from the filing of the motion for execution, however, the division shall immediately certify and elevate the case, together with all the records – including the motion for execution – to the Commission en banc for appropriate action. This describes the second scenario when the COMELEC en banc may rule on a motion for execution pending the resolution of the motion for reconsideration of a decision or resolution of a division. In the case at hand, respondent filed a motion for execution of the Resolution dated August 12, 2009 on August 13, 2009. Thus, the Second Division of COMELEC had only until August 23, 2009 to resolve the same. In the Order dated September 4, 2009, Presiding Commissioner Ferrer, acting for the Second Division, justifies the delay in the resolution of the motion for execution by saying that it was in the interest of fair play that he required petitioner to file a comment. The Presiding Commissioner posits that the 10-day period is reckoned from the day the Second Division received petitioner’s comment on September 1, 2009.
We cannot agree. In accordance with the express provision of the law, the ten (10) days within which a division of the COMELEC may suspend elevating the case to the Commission en banc is to be counted from the filing of the motion for execution. The language of the law is clear, plain and too simple to invite a different interpretation. Moreover, nowhere in COMELEC Resolution No. 8654 does it say that a comment is required, much less, indispensable before the division may rule on a motion for execution. ter the lapse of the 10-day period, the only power (and duty) that a division has is to certify and elevate the case, together with all the records, to the Commission en banc, for appropriate action. Hence, upon the lapse of the 10-day period or after August 23, 2009, the Second Division no longer had jurisdiction to rule on respondent’s motion for execution. Having done so, the September 4, 2009 Order is void for having been issued by the COMELEC, Second Division without jurisdiction.
Indeed, even if said Order was promulgated within 10 days from the filing of the motion for execution, it would still be void because Presiding Commissioner Ferrer alone signed it. justify the Presiding Commissioner’s action, public respondent COMELEC invokes Section 6 (d), Rule 2 of the Comelec Rules of
Procedure which provides,
SEC. 6. Powers and Duties of the Presiding Commissioner.-The powers and duties of the Presiding Commissioner of a Division when discharging its functions in cases pending before the Division shall be as follows:
x x x x
(d) To sign interlocutory resolutions, orders or rulings and temporary restraining orders in cases already assigned to the Division;
x x x x.
However, this provision has been qualified by the amendment introduced by the Commission en banc as reflected in the Excerpts of its regular en banc meeting held on December 5, 1996. The relevant portion of the Excerpts reads:
3) The ponente in the preceding two paragraphs shall prepare interlocutory orders for signature of the Chairman or Division Chairman. Orders of substance, however, shall be referred to the Division/En Banc for clearance. (Emphasis supplied.)
An order resolving a motion for execution is one (1) such order of substance that requires more than the lone imprimatur of the Division Chairman. This is so because execution pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration may issue only upon good or special reasons contained in a special order. To reiterate, such reasons must: (1) constitute superior circumstances demanding urgency that will outweigh the injury or damage should the losing party secure a reversal of the judgment on appeal; and (2) be manifest, in the decision sought to be executed, that the defeat of the protestee or the victory of the protestant had been clearly established. These stringent requirements demand more than a cursory evaluation of a motion for execution pending reconsideration. Hence, the need to refer such order for clearance by the Division or the COMELEC en banc, as the case may be.
This amendment is reflected in Item 6, COMELEC Resolution No. 8654 which identifies the division as the one (1) in possession of the discretion to either: (1) certify and elevate the case, together with the motion for execution, to the Commission en banc within the two-day period prescribed in Section 5, Rule 19 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, or (2) stay, for a period of not more than ten (10) days from the filing of a motion for execution, the elevation of the case to the Commission en banc, in order to resolve said motion. Alternatively, upon the expiration of the 10-day period, the decision may immediately certify and elevate the case, together with all the records, to the Commission en banc for appropriate action. e discretion to allow execution pending reconsideration belongs to the division that rendered the assailed decision, order or resolution,
or the COMELEC en banc, as the case may be – not to the Presiding Commissioner. To be sure, a writ of execution pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration of a decision of the division is not granted as a matter of right such that its issuance becomes a ministerial duty that may be dispensed even just by the Presiding Commissioner. Mayor Quintin B. Saludaga vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 189431 & 191120, April 7, 2010.
Election case; questions of fact addressed to COMELEC. Finally, in his Verified Motion for Reconsideration, petitioner raised factual issues, specifically, on the appreciation of votes and the discrepancy in the number of votes credited to each candidate in four (4) precincts. However, the appreciation of contested ballots and election documents involves a question of fact best left to the determination of the COMELEC, a specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the country. After all, it is the constitutional commission vested with the exclusive original jurisdiction over election contests involving regional, provincial and city officials, as well as appellate jurisdiction over election protests involving elective municipal and barangay officials. Hence, we deem it proper to remand this case to the COMELEC en banc, in order that it may resolve petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated August 12, 2009 on the merits. Mayor Quintin B. Saludaga vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 189431 & 191120, April 7, 2010.
Jurisdiction; exemption from CARL is matter within primary jurisdiction of DAR Secretary. Petitioners also raise for the first time in the entire proceedings of this case that respondents had presented to the Regional Adjudicator an entirely spurious and fabricated DAR Order exempting respondents’ landholdings from the coverage of CARP. It will be recalled that the Regional Adjudicator’s decision below is based on the assumption that respondents’ landholdings are exempt from CARP coverage, hence the obligation on the part of petitioners to pay lease rentals. Petitioners maintain that they only discovered the spurious nature of the exemption order during the pendency of their appeal to this Court. They presented several certificates from various DAR offices stating that the latter have no record of the said exemption order in favor of respondents. If such exemption order is indeed fabricated, their possession of CLTs and EPs should be respected, thus they should be held under no obligation to pay rentals to respondents. Thus, they seek the nullification of the exemption order on the ground that it is counterfeit. On the other hand, respondents assert that the validity of the exemption order had already been settled in the annulment case filed by petitioners against respondents in 1994, docketed as DARAB Case No. 602-B-94. They likewise maintain that the issue involves factual matters which are not within the province of the Supreme Court.
DARAB Case No. 602-B ’94 is a complaint for annulment of the regional director’s order, which granted respondents’ petition for the exemption of their landholdings from the coverage of the CARP. In that case, petitioners assailed the validity of the order on the ground that they were not given an opportunity to present controverting evidence and that the title of petitioners to the land was not registered within the period prescribed by law. Their complaint was dismissed on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. The provincial adjudicator, as later affirmed by the DARAB and the CA, ruled that only the Agrarian Reform Secretary has appellate jurisdiction over the exemption orders issued by a regional director. Petitioners filed a petition for review before this Court but it was not timely filed. Hence, a resolution was issued where the case was deemed closed and terminated. Entry of judgment was made on September 6, 2002.
Contrary to respondents’ arguments, there was never any ruling regarding the validity or authenticity of the exemption order. What was ruled upon, and became final, was that the exemption order cannot be reviewed by the provincial adjudicator or DARAB since exclusive appellate jurisdiction rests in the Office of the DAR Secretary. Thus, it appears that petitioners’ right to question the authenticity of the exemption order in the proper forum has not yet been foreclosed. The instant case, however, is not the proper place to bring the issue of authenticity. Exemption from the comprehensive agrarian reform law is an administrative matter the primary jurisdiction over which has been lodged with the DAR Secretary. Moreover, the issue of authenticity is entirely factual. Since this was never raised below, we have no basis on record to rule on the authenticity of the exemption order. Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 165155, April 13, 2010.
Jurisdiction; remand to Court of Appeals to receive evidence and determine just compensation. In Land Bank of the Philippines v. Spouses Banal, we remanded the case to the SAC for further reception of evidence because the trial court based its valuation upon a different formula and did not conduct any hearing for the reception of evidence. The mandatory application of the aforementioned guidelines in determining just compensation has been reiterated recently in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Lim and Land Bank of the Philippines v. Heirs of Eleuterio Cruz, where we also ordered the remand of the cases to the SAC for the determination of just compensation strictly in accordance with the applicable DAR regulations. Thus, the remand of the case is necessary for the parties to present their evidence, as we are not a trier of facts.
Considering, however, that the land was acquired in 1989 and the only surviving petitioner is now an
octogenarian and is in need of urgent medical attention, we find these special circumstances justifying in the acceleration of the final disposition of this case. This Court deems it best pro hac vice to commission the CA as its agent to receive and evaluate the evidence of the parties. The CA’s mandate is to ascertain the just compensation due in accordance with this Decision, applying Section 17 of RA 6557 and applicable DAR regulations. As explained in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Gallego, Jr., the remand of cases before this Court to the CA for the reception of further evidence is not a novel procedure. It is sanctioned by Section 6, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court. In fact, the Court availed of this procedure in quite a few cases. Heirs of Lorenzo Vidad and Carmen Vidad, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 166461, April 30, 2010.
Jurisdiction; seizure and forfeiture proceedings within exclusive original jurisdiction of Bureau of Customs. Petitioner alleges that the RTC of Olongapo City has no jurisdiction over the action for injunction and damages filed by respondents on 11 June 2002 as said action is within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the BOC pursuant to Section 602 of Republic Act No. 1937, otherwise known as the “Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines,” as amended. Section 602 provides, thus:
Sec. 602. Functions of the Bureau.- The general duties, powers and jurisdiction of the bureau shall include:
x x x
g. Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over seizure and forfeiture cases under the tariff and customs laws.
Petitioner contends that the imported 2,000 bags of rice were in the actual physical control and possession of the BOC as early as 25 October 2001, by virtue of the BOC Subic Port Hold Order of even date, and of the BOC Warrant of Seizure and Detention dated 22 May 2002. As such, the BOC had acquired exclusive original jurisdiction over the subject shipment, to the exclusion of the RTC. We agree with petitioner.
It is well settled that the Collector of Customs has exclusive jurisdiction over seizure and forfeiture proceedings, and regular courts cannot interfere with his exercise thereof or stifle or put it at naught. The Collector of Customs sitting in seizure and forfeiture proceedings has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all questions touching on the seizure and forfeiture of dutiable goods. Regional trial courts are devoid of any competence to pass upon the validity or regularity of seizure and forfeiture proceedings conducted by the BOC and to enjoin or otherwise interfere with these proceedings. Regional trial courts are precluded from assuming cognizance over such matters even through
petitions for certiorari, prohibition or mandamus.. Verily, the rule is that from the moment imported goods are actually in the possession or control of the Customs authorities, even if no warrant for seizure or detention had previously been issued by the Collector of Customs in connection with the seizure and forfeiture proceedings, the BOC acquires exclusive jurisdiction over such imported goods for the purpose of enforcing the customs laws, subject to appeal to the Court of Tax Appeals whose decisions are appealable to this Court. As we have clarified in Commissioner of Customs v. Makasiar, the rule that RTCs have no review powers over such proceedings is anchored upon the policy of placing no unnecessary hindrance on the government’s drive, not only to prevent smuggling and other frauds upon Customs, but more importantly, to render effective and efficient the collection of import and export duties due the State, which enables the government to carry out the functions it has been instituted to perform. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Merlino E. Rodriguez, et al., G.R. No. 160270, April 23, 2010.
Jurisdiction; Special Agrarian Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over just compensation cases under CARL. Petitioners insist that the RARAD, in exercising quasi-judicial powers, has concurrent jurisdiction with the [Special Agrarian Court] in just compensation cases. Hence, the RARAD’s decision, being a final determination of the appraisal of just compensation by the DARAB, should be appealed to this Court and not the SAC. For its part, LBP insists that the RARAD/DARAB decision is merely a preliminary valuation, since the courts have the ultimate power to decide the question on just compensation.
The procedure for the determination of just compensation under RA 6657, as summarized by this Court in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Spouses Banal, commences with LBP determining the value of the lands under the land reform program. Using LBP’s valuation, the DAR makes an offer to the landowner through a notice sent to the landowner, pursuant to Section 16(a) of RA 6657. In case the landowner rejects the offer, the DAR adjudicator conducts a summary administrative proceeding to determine the compensation for the land by requiring the landowner, the LBP and other interested parties to submit evidence as to the just compensation for the land. A party who disagrees with the decision of the DAR adjudicator may bring the matter to the RTC designated as a Special Agrarian Court for final determination of just compensation.
Contrary to petitioners’ argument, the PARAD/RARAD/DARAB do not exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the SAC in just compensation cases. The determination of just compensation is judicial in nature. The original and exclusive jurisdiction of the SAC in just compensation cases is not a novel issue. This has been extensively discussed in Land Bank of
the Philippines v. Belista, to wit:
XXX XXX XXX XXX
We do not agree with petitioners’ submission that the SAC erred in assuming jurisdiction over the petition for determination of just compensation filed by LBP after the RARAD rendered its 29 March 2000 decision. In Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, we had the occasion to rule that the SAC acquired jurisdiction over the action for the determination of just compensation even during the pendency of the DARAB proceedings, for the following reason:
It is clear from Sec. 57 that the RTC, sitting as a Special Agrarian Court, has “original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners.” This “original and excusive” jurisdiction of the RTC would be undermined if the DAR would vest in administrative officials original jurisdiction in compensation cases and make the RTC an appellate court for the review of administrative decisions. Thus, although the new rules speak of directly appealing the decision of adjudicators to the RTCs sitting as Special Agrarian Courts, it is clear from Sec. 57 that the original and exclusive jurisdiction to determine such cases is in the RTCs. Any effort to transfer such jurisdiction to the adjudicators and to convert the original jurisdiction of the RTCs into an appellate jurisdiction would be contrary to Sec. 57 and therefore would be void. Thus, direct resort to the SAC by private respondent is valid.
In fact, RA 6657 does not make DAR’s valuation absolutely binding as the amount payable by LBP. A reading of Section 18 of RA 6657 shows that the courts, and not the DAR, make the final determination of just compensation. It is well-settled that the DAR’s land valuation is only preliminary and is not, by any means, final and conclusive upon the landowner or any other interested party. The courts will still have the right to review with finality the determination in the exercise of what is admittedly a judicial function.
It must be emphasized that the taking of property under RA 6657 is an exercise of the State’s power of eminent domain. The valuation of property or determination of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings is essentially a judicial function which is vested with the courts and not with administrative agencies. When the parties cannot agree on the amount of just compensation, only the exercise of judicial power can settle the dispute with binding effect on the winning and losing parties. On the other hand, the determination of just compensation in the RARAD/DARAB requires the voluntary agreement of the parties. Unless the parties agree, there is no settlement of the dispute before the RARAD/DARAB, except if the aggrieved party fails to file a petition for just compensation on
time before the RTC. LBP thus correctly filed a petition for determination of just compensation with the SAC, which has the original and exclusive jurisdiction in just compensation cases under RA 6657. DAR’s valuation, being preliminary in nature, could not have attained finality, as it is only the courts that can resolve the issue on just compensation. Consequently, the SAC properly took cognizance of LBP’s petition for determination of just compensation. Heirs of Lorenzo Vidad and Carmen Vidad, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 166461, April 30, 2010.
Parties; Land Bank of the Philippines has personality to file agrarian case before Special Agrarian Court. Petitioners submit that LBP has no legal personality and has no cause of action to institute the agrarian case before the SAC. Petitioners argue that LBP cannot on its own, separate and independent of DAR, file an original action for determination of just compensation against the RARAD and petitioners, because it is a usurpation of the exclusive authority of DAR to initiate and prosecute expropriation proceedings. Petitioners thus insist that in land acquisition cases, the only real parties-in-interest are the landowners and the government, the latter acting through the DAR. We do not agree.
Section 18 of RA 6657 states:
Sec. 18. Valuation and Mode of Compensation. — The LBP shall compensate the landowner in such amount as may be agreed upon by the landowner and the DAR and the LBP x x x, or as may be finally determined by the court as the just compensation for the land.
This provision clearly states that there should be a consensus among the landowner, the DAR, and the LBP on the amount of just compensation. Therefore, LBP is not merely a nominal party in the determination of just compensation. RA 6657 directs LBP to pay the DAR’s land valuation only if the landowner, the DAR and LBP agree on the amount of just compensation. The DAR proceedings are but preliminary, and becomes final only when the parties have all agreed to the amount of just compensation fixed by the DAR. However, should a party disagree with the amount fixed by DAR, then the jurisdiction of the SAC may be invoked for the purpose.
There is likewise no merit in petitioners’ allegation that LBP lacks locus standi to file a case with the SAC, separate and independent from the DAR. In Heirs of Roque F. Tabuena v. Land Bank of the Philippines, we ruled that the LBP is an indispensable party in expropriation proceedings under RA 6657, and thus, has the legal personality to question the determination of just compensation, independent of the DAR:
LBP is an agency created primarily to provide financial support in all phases of agrarian reform
pursuant to Section 74 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3844 and Section 64 of RA No. 6657. It is vested with the primary responsibility and authority in the valuation and compensation of covered landholdings to carry out the full implementation of the Agrarian Reform Program. It may agree with the DAR and the land owner as to the amount of just compensation to be paid to the latter and may also disagree with them and bring the matter to court for judicial determination.
Once an expropriation proceeding for the acquisition of private agricultural lands is commenced by the DAR, the indispensable role of LBP begins, which clearly shows that there would never be a judicial determination of just compensation absent respondent LBP’s participation. Logically, it follows that respondent is an indispensable party in an action for the determination of just compensation in cases arising from agrarian reform program; as such, it can file an appeal independently of DAR.
Hence, in Land Bank of the Philippines v. AMS Farming Corporation, we ruled that LBP is a real party-in-interest which could file its own appeal in agrarian reform cases, to wit:
XXX XXX XXX XXX
It is thus beyond question that LBP has the legal personality to file the petition for determination of just compensation with the SAC. Heirs of Lorenzo Vidad and Carmen Vidad, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines,G.R. No. 166461, April 30, 2010.
Parties; real party in interest in agrarian case. Respondents claim, and the CA has ruled, that the March 5, 2003 Notice of Appeal (filed by the second group) was a “forgery” and thus void, because it bore signatures above the names of the deceased Avelino and Pedro, which were obviously not written by the decedents themselves. First of all, we have to point out that the confusion in this case was brought about by respondents themselves when they included in their complaint two defendants who were already dead. Instead of impleading the decedent’s heirs and current occupants of the landholding, respondents filed their complaint against the decedents, contrary to the following provision of the 1994 DARAB Rules of Procedure:
PARTIES, CAPTION AND SERVICE OF PLEADINGS
SECTION 1. Parties in Interest. Every agrarian case must be initiated and defended in the name of the real party in interest. x x x
A real party in interest is defined as “the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in
the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of a suit.” The real parties in interest, at the time the complaint was filed, were no longer the decedents Avelino and Pedro, but rather their respective heirs who are entitled to succeed to their rights (whether as agricultural lessees or as farmers-beneficiaries) under our agrarian laws. They are the ones who, as heirs of the decedents and actual tillers, stand to be removed from the landholding and made to pay back rentals to respondents if the complaint is sustained. Since respondents failed to correct their error (they did not amend the erroneous caption of their complaint to include the real parties-in-interest), they cannot be insulated from the confusion which it engendered in the proceedings below. But at any rate, notwithstanding the erroneous caption and the absence of a formal substitution of parties, jurisdiction was acquired over the heirs of Avelino and Pedro who voluntarily participated in the proceedings below. This Court has ruled that formal substitution of parties is not necessary when the heirs themselves voluntarily appeared, participated, and presented evidence during the proceedings. Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 165155, April 13, 2010.
Procedural rules; liberal construction in agrarian cases. There is nothing sacred about the forms of pleadings or processes, their sole purpose being to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties. Hence, pleadings as well as procedural rules should be construed liberally. Dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon because rules of procedure should not be applied to override substantial justice. Courts must proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of statutory appeal; they must ensure that all litigants are granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from technical constraints. If the foregoing tenets are followed in a civil case, their application is made more imperative in an agrarian case where the rules themselves provide for liberal construction, thus:
Section 2. Construction. These Rules shall be liberally construed to carry out the objectives of the agrarian reform program and to promote just, expeditious, and inexpensive adjudication and settlement of agrarian cases, disputes or controversies.
Section 3. Technical Rules Not Applicable. The Board and its Regional and Provincial Adjudicators shall not be bound by technical rules of procedure and evidence as prescribed in the Rules of Court, but shall proceed to hear and decide all agrarian cases,
disputes or controversies in a most expeditious manner, employing all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of every case in accordance with justice and equity.
Proceedings before the Adjudicators and the Board
Section 1. Nature of Proceedings. The proceedings before the Board or its Adjudicators shall be non-litigious in nature. Subject to the essential requirements of due process, the technicalities of law and procedure and the rules governing the admissibility and sufficiency of evidence obtained in the courts of law shall not apply.
Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 165155, April 13, 2010.
Best Evidence Rule; when not applicable. Petitioner Nissan insists that no judgment can properly be rendered against it, as respondent United failed, during the trial of the case, to offer in evidence the service contract upon which it based its claim for sum of money and damages. As a result, the decisions of the lower courts were mere postulations. Nissan asserts that the resolution of this case calls for the application of the best evidence rule.
Nissan’s reliance on the best evidence rule is misplaced. The best evidence rule is the rule which requires the highest grade of evidence to prove a disputed fact. However, the same applies only when the contents of a document are the subject of the inquiry. In this case, the contents of the service contract between Nissan and United have not been put in issue. Neither United nor Nissan disputes the contents of the service contract; as in fact, both parties quoted and relied on the same provision of the contract (paragraph 17) to support their respective claims and defenses. Thus, the best evidence rule finds no application here. The real issue in this case is whether or not Nissan committed a breach of contract, thereby entitling United to damages in the amount equivalent to 30 days’ service. We rule in the affirmative.
At the heart of the controversy is paragraph 17 of the service contract, which reads:
However, violations committed by either party on the provisions of this Contract shall be sufficient ground for the termination of this contract, without the necessity of prior notice, otherwise a thirty (30) days prior written notice shall be observed.
Nissan argues that the failure of United’s security
guards to report for duty on two occasions, without justifiable cause, constitutes a violation of the provisions of the service contract, sufficient to entitle Nissan to terminate the same without the necessity of a 30-day prior notice. We hold otherwise.
As the Metropolitan Trial Court of Las Piñas City stated in its decision, Nissan did not adduce any evidence to substantiate its claim that the terms of the contract were violated by United. What Nissan failed to do is to point out or indicate the specific provisions of the service contract which were violated by United as a result of the latter’s lapses in security. In so failing, Nissan’s act of unilaterally terminating the contract constitutes a breach thereof, entitling United to collect actual damages. Nissan North Edsa Operating Under the name Motor Carriage, Inc. vs. United Philippine Scout, G.R. No. 179470, April 20, 2010.
“Admission against interest” distinguished from “Declaration against interest.” At the outset, it bears to point out that it is wrong for petitioners to argue that Basilisa’s alleged sworn statement is a declaration against interest. It is not a declaration against interest. Instead, it is an admission against interest. Indeed, there is a vital distinction between admissions against interest and declarations against interest. Admissions against interest are those made by a party to a litigation or by one in privity with or identified in legal interest with such party, and are admissible whether or not the declarant is available as a witness. Declarations against interest are those made by a person who is neither a party nor in privity with a party to the suit, are secondary evidence, and constitute an exception to the hearsay rule. They are admissible only when the declarant is unavailable as a witness. In the present case, since Basilisa is respondents’ predecessor-in-interest and is, thus, in privity with the latter’s legal interest, the former’s sworn statement, if proven genuine and duly executed, should be considered as an admission against interest. Alejandra S. Lazaro, et al. vs. Modesta Agustin, et al., G.R. No. 152364, April 15, 2010.
Burden of proof. Hacienda Bigaa contends that the rulings in the antecedent cases on the nullity of its subdivision titles should not apply to the present case because the titles – TCT Nos. 44695 and 56120 – have not been specifically declared void by court order and must be given probative value. It likewise posits that Chavez failed to introduce evidence before the MTC that the land subject matter of the suit is the same land covered by the decision of the Supreme Court in the antecedent cases. We reject this contention in light of our holding in the Ayala y Cia and De los Angeles cases that apart from those expressly litigated and annulled, all “other subdivision titles” over the excess areas of Hacienda Calatagan must be nullified for covering unregisterable lands of the public domain that must revert to the Republic. To reiterate, lots and their
titles derived from the Ayala’s and the Zobels’ TCT No. 722 not shown to be within the original coverage of this title are conclusively public domain areas and their titles will be struck down as nullities. What could have saved Hacienda Bigaa, as successor-in-interest of the Ayalas and the Zobels, is competent evidence that the subdivision titles in its possession do not fall within the excess areas of TCT No. 722 that are null and void because they are lands of the public domain.
Hacienda Bigaa however failed to discharge this burden. Therefore, the Court of Appeals, citing Ayala y Cia and De los Angeles, correctly held that –
x x x [S]uffice it to state that as heretofore shown, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the fact that Zoila de Chavez’s fishpond permit is within the land covered by the cited decision. Moreover, the Supreme Court has shifted the burden of proof in this regard to Zobel or Ayala y Cia when it declared that, “Clearly, the burden of proof lies on respondent Zobel and other transferees to show that his subdivision titles are not among the unlawful expanded subdivision titles declared null and void by the said 1965 judgment.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. vs. Epifanio V. Chavez, et al., G.R. No. 174160, April 20, 2010.
Burden of proof; party must prove allegations. A similar dearth of merit may be said of the exceptions petitioner continues to take against the MeTC’s reliance on the survey plan prepared by Geodetic Engineer Joseph Padilla to the effect that that the premises occupied by petitioner lies within the metes and bounds of respondent’s property. As mere allegation is not evidence, the rule is settled that plaintiff has the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint which are denied by the defendant, and the defendant has the burden of proving the material allegations in his case where he sets up a new matter. Given the parties’ failure to make good on their agreement to cause a survey of the property thru an impartial surveyor from the Office of the City Assessor or City Engineer, respondent’s submission of said report was evidently for the purpose discharging the onus of proving petitioner’s encroachment on the subject parcel, as alleged in the complaint. As the party asserting the contrary proposition, petitioner cannot expediently disparage the admissibility and probative value of said survey plan to compensate for his failure to prove his own assertions. Hubert Nuñez vs. SLTEAS Phoenix Solutions, Inc., G.R. No. 180542, April 12, 2010.
Burden of proof on party making allegation. This brings us to the second ground raised in the petition – that Executive Order No. 378, in allowing government agencies to secure their printing requirements from the private sector and in limiting the budget of the NPO to its income, will purportedly lead to the gradual abolition of the NPO and the loss
of security of tenure of its present employees. In other words, petitioners avow that the reorganization of the NPO under Executive Order No. 378 is tainted with bad faith. The basic evidentiary rule is that he who asserts a fact or the affirmative of an issue has the burden of proving it. A careful review of the records will show that petitioners utterly failed to substantiate their claim. They failed to allege, much less prove, sufficient facts to show that the limitation of the NPO’s budget to its own income would indeed lead to the abolition of the position, or removal from office, of any employee. Neither did petitioners present any shred of proof of their assertion that the changes in the functions of the NPO were for political considerations that had nothing to do with improving the efficiency of, or encouraging operational economy in, the said agency. Atty. Sylvia Banda, et al. vs.. Eduardo R. Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 166620, April 20, 2010.
Entries in the course of business. The CA of course places no value on the Consolidated Billing Statement that Land Bank would have adduced in evidence had the RTC granted its motion for reconsideration and reopened the hearing. Apparently, both courts believe that Land Bank needed to present in evidence all original documents evidencing every transaction between Land Bank and Monet to prove the current status of the latter’s loan accounts. But a bank statement, properly authenticated by a competent bank officer, can serve as evidence of the status of those accounts and what Monet and the Tagles still owe the bank. Under Section 43, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, entries prepared in the regular course of business are prima facie evidence of the truth of what they state. The billing statement reconciles the transaction entries entered in the bank records in the regular course of business and shows the net result of such transactions. Entries in the course of business are accorded unusual reliability because their regularity and continuity are calculated to discipline record keepers in the habit of precision. If the entries are financial, the records are routinely balanced and audited. In actual experience, the whole of the business world function in reliance of such kind of records. Parenthetically, consider a borrower who takes out a loan of P10,000.00 from a bank and executes a promissory note providing for interests, charges, and penalties and an undertaking to pay the loan in 10 monthly installments of P1,000.00. If he pays the first five months installments but defaults in the rest, how will the bank prove in court that the debtor still owes it P5,000.00 plus interest? The bank will of course present the promissory note to establish the scope of the debtor’s primary obligations and a computation of interests, charges, and penalties based on its terms. It must then show by the entries in its record how much it had actually been paid. This will in turn establish how much the borrower still owes it. The bank does not have to present all the receipts of payment it issued to all its clients
during the entire year, thousands of them, merely to establish the fact that only five of them, rather than ten, pertains to the borrower. The original documents need not be presented in evidence when it is numerous, cannot be examined in court without great loss of time, and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result. Monet and the Tagles can of course dispute the bank’s billing statements by proof that the bank had exaggerated what was owed it and that Monet had made more payments than were reflected in those statements. They can do this by presenting evidence of those greater payments. Notably, Monet and the Tagles have consistently avoided stating in their letters to the bank how much they still owed it. But, ultimately, it is as much their obligation to prove this disputed point if they deny the bank’s statements of their loan accounts. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Monet’s Export and Manufacturing Corp., et al., G.R. No. 184971, April 19, 2010.
Notarized document; effect and purpose of notarization. The Court further agrees with the ruling of the RTC that:
The testimony of [the notary public] Atty. Angel Respicio did not suffice to rebut the evidence of the appellees considering his admission that the affidavit was already thumbmarked when presented to him by one who claimed to be Basilisa Santos and whom, the witness said he did not know personally. Further, what makes the documents suspect is the fact that it was subscribed on the same date as the financial statement of Alejandra Santos.
It may not be amiss to point out, at this juncture, that the principal function of a notary public is to authenticate documents. When a notary public certifies to the due execution and delivery of a document under his hand and seal, he gives the document the force of evidence. Indeed, one of the purposes of requiring documents to be acknowledged before a notary public, in addition to the solemnity which should surround the execution and delivery of documents, is to authorize such documents to be given without further proof of their execution and delivery. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment executed before a notary public and appended to a private instrument. Hence, a notary public must discharge his powers and duties, which are impressed with public interest, with accuracy and fidelity. A notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. In the instant case, the notary public should have exercised utmost diligence in ascertaining the true identity of the person executing the said sworn statement. However, the notary public did not
comply with this requirement. He simply relied on the affirmative answers of the person appearing before him attesting that she was Basilisa Santos; that the contents of the sworn statement are true; and that the thumbmark appearing on the said document was hers. However, this would not suffice. He could have further asked the person who appeared before him to produce any identification to prove that she was indeed Basilisa Santos, considering that the said person was not personally known to him, and that the thumbmark appearing on the document sought to be notarized was not affixed in his presence. But he did not. Thus, the lower courts did not commit any error in not giving evidentiary weight to the subject sworn statement. Alejandra S. Lazaro, et al. vs. Modesta Agustin, et al., G.R. No. 152364, April 15, 2010.
Notarized document; presumption of regularity may be rebutted. Settled is the rule that generally, a notarized document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due execution, and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the presumption of regularity. However, this presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Moreover, not all notarized documents are exempted from the rule on authentication. Thus, an affidavit does not automatically become a public document just because it contains a notarial jurat. The presumptions that attach to notarized documents can be affirmed only so long as it is beyond dispute that the notarization was regular.
Petitioners rely heavily on the presumption of regularity accorded by law to notarized documents. While indeed, a notarized document enjoys this presumption, the fact that a deed is notarized is not a guarantee of the validity of its contents. As earlier discussed, the presumption is not absolute and may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. The presumption cannot be made to apply to the present case because the regularity in the execution of the sworn statement was challenged in the proceedings below where its prima facie validity was overthrown by the highly questionable circumstances under which it was supposedly executed, as well as the testimonies of witnesses who testified on the improbability of execution of the sworn statement, as well as on the physical condition of the signatory, at the time the questioned document was supposedly executed. The trial and appellate courts were unanimous in giving credence to the testimonies of these witnesses. The Court has repeatedly held that it will not interfere with the trial court’s determination of the credibility of witnesses, unless there appears on record some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been misinterpreted. The reason for this is that the trial court was in a better position to do so, because it heard the witnesses testify before it and had every
opportunity to observe their demeanor and deportment on the witness stand. Considering the foregoing, the Court finds no reason to reverse the rulings of the MTCC, the RTC and the CA. Although the questioned sworn statement is a public document having in its favor the presumption of regularity, such presumption was adequately refuted by competent witnesses. Alejandra S. Lazaro, et al. vs. Modesta Agustin, et al., G.R. No. 152364, April 15, 2010.
Presumptions; regularity in the performance of official duty. Petitioner’s invocation of the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty on the part of Sheriff Castillo is misplaced. While posting the notice of sale is part of a sheriff’s official functions, the actual publication of the notice of sale cannot be considered as such, since this concerns the publisher’s business. Simply put, the sheriff is incompetent to prove that the notice of sale was actually published in a newspaper of general circulation. The Court further notes that the Notice of Extra-Judicial Sale, prepared and posted by Sheriff Castillo, does not indicate the newspaper where such notice would be published. The space provided where the name of the newspaper should be was left blank, with only the dates of publication clearly written. This omission raises serious doubts as to whether there was indeed publication of the notice of sale. Philippine Savings Bank vs. Spouses Dionisio Geronimo, et al., G.R. No. 170241, April 19, 2010.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt. While petitioner admits to his civil liability to Asiatrust, he nevertheless does not have criminal liability. It is a well-established principle that person is presumed innocent until proved guilty. To overcome the presumption, his guilt must be shown by proof beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, we held in People v. Mariano that while the principle does not connote absolute certainty, it means the degree of proof which produces moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind of the culpability of the accused. Such proof should convince and satisfy the reason and conscience of those who are to act upon it that the accused is in fact guilty. The prosecution, in this instant case, failed to rebut the constitutional innocence of petitioner and thus the latter should be acquitted. Anthony L. Ng vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 173905, April 23, 2010.
Proof of public or official record kept in foreign country; general power of attorney. On 25 March 1994, Revelen executed a General Power of Attorney constituting respondent as her attorney-in-fact and authorizing her to enter into any and all contracts and agreements on Revelen’s behalf. The General Power of Attorney was notarized by Larry A. Reid, Notary Public in California, U.S.A. Unfortunately, the General Power of Attorney presented as “Exhibit C” in the RTC cannot also be the basis of respondent’s written authority to sell the lot. Section 25, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides:
Sec. 25. Proof of public or official record. — An official record or an entry therein, when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof or by a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record, or by his deputy, and accompanied, if the record is not kept in the Philippines, with a certificate that such officer has the custody. If the office in which the record is kept is in a foreign country, the certificate may be made by a secretary of embassy or legation consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office.
In Teoco v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, quoting Lopez v. Court of Appeals, we explained:
From the foregoing provision, when the special power of attorney is executed and acknowledged before a notary public or other competent official in a foreign country, it cannot be admitted in evidence unless it is certified as such in accordance with the foregoing provision of the rules by a secretary of embassy or legation, consul general, consul, vice consul, or consular agent or by any officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept of said public document and authenticated by the seal of his office. A city judge-notary who notarized the document, as in this case, cannot issue such certification.
Since the General Power of Attorney was executed and acknowledged in the United States of America, it cannot be admitted in evidence unless it is certified as such in accordance with the Rules of Court by an officer in the foreign service of the Philippines stationed in the United States of America. Hence, this document has no probative value. Sps. Joselina Alcantara and Antonio Alcantara, et al. vs. Brigida L. Nido, as attorney-in-fact of Revelen Srivastava, G.R. No. 165133, April 19, 2010.
Action; forcible entry. There is forcible entry or desahucio when one is deprived of physical possession of land or building by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth. The basic inquiry centers on who has the prior possession de facto. The plaintiff must prove that he was in prior possession and that he was deprived thereof.
In the instant case, respondents’ house was constructed in 1983 and they had prior physical possession until they were deprived thereof by petitioners. To substantiate their claims, respondents submitted the affidavit, dated September 20, 2002, of Carlos C. Menil and Lolito S. Bito, who witnessed the demolition of respondents’ house during the
latter’s absence. Mr. Menil and Mr. Bito attested that they saw petitioner Rogelio personally supervising the demolition of respondents’ house, and that he erected a concrete fence enclosing the area where the house formerly stood. Petitioners failed to refute the foregoing allegations except with bare denials.
While petitioners hold title to the subject property where the house was located, the sole issue in forcible entry cases is who had prior possession de facto of the disputed property. In Dy, the Court held that these are summary proceedings intended to provide an expeditious means of protecting actual possession or right of possession of property. Title is not involved; that is why it is a special civil action with a special procedure. Spouses Rogelio F. Lopez and Teotima G. Lopez vs. Samuel R. Espinosa and Angelita S. Espinosa, G.R. No. 184225, September 4, 2009
Action; nature. Basic is the legal principle that the nature of an action is determined by the material averments in the complaint and the character of the relief sought. Undeniably, Gregorio’s civil complaint, read in its entirety, is a complaint based on quasi-delict under Article 2176, in relation to Article 26 of the Civil Code, rather than on malicious prosecution. Zenaida R. Gregorio vs. Court of Appeals, et al. G.R. No. 179799, September 11, 2009.
Action; reconveyance. An action for reconveyance or accion reivindicatoria has no effect and can exist at the same time as ejectment cases involving the same property. This is because the only issue to be resolved in an unlawful detainer case is physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the parties involved. Ejectment cases are designed to summarily restore physical possession to one who has been illegally deprived of such possession, without prejudice to the settlement of the parties’ opposing claims of juridical possession in appropriate proceedings. The question of ownership may only be provisionally ruled upon for the sole purpose of determining who is entitled to possession de facto. Iglesia Evangelisca Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF), Inc. vs. Nataniel B. Juane/Nataniel B. Juane Vs. Iglesia Evangelisca Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF), Inc, G.R. No. 172447, September 18, 2009.
Appeal; COMELEC appeal fee. iI is undisputed that Batalla had already perfected his appeal by paying the required appeal fees. He paid the PhP 1,000 appeal fee to the trial court on February 22, 2008 within the five-day period from receipt of the decision and the additional PhP 3,200 appeal fee to the Comelec Cash Division on March 5, 2008 or within 15 days from the filing of his notice of appeal. It is, thus, clear that Batalla had perfected his appeal by complying with the appeal requirements. Ernesto Batalla vs. Commission on Elections and Teodoro Bataller, G.R. No. 184268, September 15, 2009.
Appeal; COSLAP. all appeals from orders, resolutions or decisions of the COSLAP should be taken to the Court of Appeals under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court. If a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is the prescribed remedy due to grave abuse of discretion or lack of jurisdiction, the same should also be brought to the Court of Appeals, as the said court cannot be bypassed without running afoul of the doctrine of judicial hierarchy. In this case, respondents did not timely appeal the COSLAP decision to the Court of Appeals via Rule 43, and instead filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, although with the Regional Trial Court, a body that is co-equal with the COSLAP. Only later did they file a petition for certiorari with the appellate court assailing the trial court’s dismissal of their petition.
We find that the Court of Appeals correctly held that respondents’ remedy from the decision of the COSLAP was to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, as they assailed the lack of jurisdiction of said body over the dispute. However, the petition should have been filed before the Court of Appeals and not the trial court. In other words, while respondents availed of the correct remedy, they sought the same from the wrong court. This mistake would have rendered the assailed COSLAP decision final and executory, were it not for its patent nullity and invalidity. Joaquin Ga, Jr., et al. vs. Spouses Antonio Tabungan, et al., G.R. No. 182185, September 18, 2009.
Appeal; exhaustion of administrative remedies. Prior exhaustion of administrative remedies may be dispensed with and judicial action may be validly resorted to immediately: (a) when there is a violation of due process; (b) when the issue involved is purely a legal question; (c) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; (d) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned; (e) when there is irreparable injury; (f) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bear the implied and assumed approval of the latter; (g) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable; (h) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim; (i) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings; (j) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy; or (k) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention. Sps. Leonardo and Milagros Chua vs. Hon. Jacinto G. Ang, et al., G.R. No. 156164, September 4, 2009.
Appeal; improper. The implication of such improper appeal is that the notice of appeal did not toll the reglementary period for the filing of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, the proper remedy in the instant case. This means that private respondent has now lost her remedy of appeal from the May 31, 2005 Order of the RTC. Recardo S. Silverio, Jr. vs.
Court of Appeals and Nelia S. Silverio-Dee, G.R. No. 178933. September 16, 2009
Appeal; NLRC appeal bond. It behooves the Court to give utmost regard to the legislative and administrative intent to strictly require the employer to post a cash or surety bond securing the full amount of the monetary award within the 10 day reglementary period. Nothing in the Labor Code or the NLRC Rules of Procedure authorizes the posting of a bond that is less than the monetary award in the judgment, or would deem such insufficient posting as sufficient to perfect the appeal.
While the bond may be reduced upon motion by the employer, this is subject to the conditions that (1) the motion to reduce the bond shall be based on meritorious grounds; and (2) a reasonable amount in relation to the monetary award is posted by the appellant, otherwise the filing of the motion to reduce bond shall not stop the running of the period to perfect an appeal. The qualification effectively requires that unless the NLRC grants the reduction of the cash bond within the 10 day reglementary period, the employer is still expected to post the cash or surety bond securing the full amount within the said 10-day period. If the NLRC does eventually grant the motion for reduction after the reglementary period has elapsed, the correct relief would be to reduce the cash or surety bond already posted by the employer within the 10-day period. Andrew Jame Mcburne vs. Eulalio Ganzon, et al., G.R. Nos. 178034 & 178117/G.R. Nos. 186984-85/G.R. No. 179319, September 18, 2009.
Appeal; PARAB. Given the above perspective, the CA acted correctly and certainly within its sound discretion when it denied, in its amended decision, petitioner’s petition for certiorari to nullify the PARAD’s decision. Under the grievance procedure set forth in the DARAB Rules of Procedure, PARAD Alegario’s decision was appealable to the DARAB Proper. The CA’s appellate task comes later––to review the case disposition of the DARAB Proper when properly challenged. Rosita A. Montanez vs. Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD), et al., G.R. No. 183142, September 17, 2009.
Appeal; right. Time and again, it has been held that the right to appeal is not a constitutional right, but a mere statutory privilege. Hence, parties who seek to avail themselves of it must comply with the statutes or rules allowing it. To reiterate, perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period permitted by law is mandatory and jurisdictional. The requirements for perfecting an appeal must, as a rule, be strictly followed. Such requirements are considered indispensable interdictions against needless delays and are necessary for the orderly discharge of the judicial business. Failure to perfect the appeal renders the judgment of the court final and executory. Just as a losing party has the
privilege to file an appeal within the prescribed period, so does the winner also have the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the decision. Thus, the propriety of the monetary awards of the Labor Arbiter is already binding upon this Court, much more with the Court of Appeals. Andrew Jame Mcburne vs. Eulalio Ganzon, et al., G.R. Nos. 178034 & 178117/G.R. Nos. 186984-85/G.R. No. 179319, September 18, 2009.
Arrest; legality. To be sure, the legality of an arrest affects only the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the accused, hence, any defect therein may be deemed cured when, as here, the accused voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the trial court. An illegal arrest is thus not a sufficient cause for setting aside a valid judgment rendered upon a sufficient complaint after a trial free from error. Elmer Diamante y Sioson, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180992, September 4, 2009. Bonifacio Dolera y Tejada vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180693, September 4, 2009.
Arrest; warrantless. We stress at the outset that the petitioner failed to question the legality of his warrantless arrest. The established rule is that an accused may be estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to move for the quashing of the Information against him before his arraignment. Any objection involving the arrest or the procedure in the court’s acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of an accused must be made before he enters his plea; otherwise the objection is deemed waived.
In any event, we carefully examined the records and now hold that the warrantless arrest conducted on the petitioner was valid. Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure lists the situations when a person may be arrested without a warrant. Paragraph (a) of Section 5, Rule 113 is commonly known as an in flagrante delicto arrest. For a warrantless arrest of an accused caught in flagrante delicto to be valid, two requisites must concur: (1) the person to be arrested must execute an overt act indicating that he has just committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit a crime; and (2) such overt act is done in the presence or within the view of the arresting officer.
After carefully evaluating the evidence in its totality, we hold that the prosecution successfully established that the petitioner was arrested in flagrante delicto. Gilbert Zalameda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183656, September 4, 2009.
Declaratory relief. Since petitioners averred in the Complaint that they had already been deprived of the possession of their property, the proper remedy for them is the filing of anaccion publiciana or an accion reivindicatoria, not a case for declaratory relief. An accion publiciana is a suit for the recovery
of possession, filed one year after the occurrence of the cause of action or from the unlawful withholding of possession of the realty. An accion reivindicatoria is a suit that has for its object one’s recovery of possession over the real property as owner. Carmen Danao Malana, et al. vs. Benigno Tappa, et al., G.R. No. 181303. September 17, 2009
Declatory relief. Declaratory relief is defined as an action by any person interested in a deed, will, contract or other written instrument, executive order or resolution, to determine any question of construction or validity arising from the instrument, executive order or regulation, or statute; and for a declaration of his rights and duties thereunder. The only issue that may be raised in such a petition is the question of construction or validity of provisions in an instrument or statute.
The requisites of an action for declaratory relief are: (1) there must be a justiciable controversy between persons whose interests are adverse; (2) the party seeking the relief has a legal interest in the controversy; and (3) the issue is ripe for judicial determination.
The Court rules that the City of Naga properly resorted to the filing of an action for declaratory relief.
In the instant case, the controversy concerns the construction of the provisions of Republic Act No. 305 or the Charter of the City of Naga. Specifically, the City of Naga seeks an interpretation of Section 2, Article I of its Charter, as well as a declaration of the rights of the parties to this case thereunder.
To recall, Section 2, Article I of Republic Act No. 305 defines the territory of the City of Naga, providing that the City shall comprise the present territorial jurisdiction of the Municipality of Naga. By virtue of this provision, the City of Naga prays that it be granted the right to administratively control and supervise Plaza Rizal, which is undisputedly within the territorial jurisdiction of the City. Province of Camarines Sur, represented by Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals and City of Naga, represented by Mayor Jesse M. Robredo, G.R. No. 175064, September 18, 2009.
Demurrer to evidence. Demurrer to evidence authorizes a judgment on the merits of the case without the defendant having to submit evidence on his part, as he would ordinarily have to do, if plaintiff’s evidence shows that he is not entitled to the relief sought. Demurrer, therefore, is an aid or instrument for the expeditious termination of an action, similar to a motion to dismiss, which the court or tribunal may either grant or deny.
The Court has recently established some guidelines on when a demurrer to evidence should be granted, thus:
A demurrer to evidence may be issued when, upon the facts and the law, the plaintiff has shown no right to relief. Where the plaintiff’s evidence together with such inferences and conclusions as may reasonably be drawn therefrom does not warrant recovery against the defendant, a demurrer to evidence should be sustained. A demurrer to evidence is likewise sustainable when, admitting every proven fact favorable to the plaintiff and indulging in his favor all conclusions fairly and reasonably inferable therefrom, the plaintiff has failed to make out one or more of the material elements of his case, or when there is no evidence to support an allegation necessary to his claim. It should be sustained where the plaintiff’s evidence is prima facie insufficient for a recovery. Joanie Surposa Uy vs. Jose Ngo Chua, G.R. No. 183965, September 18, 2009.
Evidence; alibi. Regarding appellants’ defense of alibi, the same cannot prevail over the positive identification of appellants as perpetrators of the crime charged. For alibi to prosper, it is not enough for the appellants to prove that they were somewhere else when the crime was committed. They must further demonstrate that it was physically impossible for them to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. People of the Philippines vs. Antonio Ortiz, et al., G.R. No. 179944, September 4, 2009.
Evidence; alibi. While alibi is considered weak and unavailing, it acquires significance where no proper identification of the assailant has been made. People of the Philippines vs. Aristo Villanueva, G.R. No. 178543, September 4, 2009.
Evidence; credibility of witness. It is well settled that the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court because of its unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their demeanor, conduct, and attitude under grilling examination. These are important in determining the truthfulness of witnesses and in unearthing the truth, especially in the face of conflicting testimonies. For, indeed, the emphasis, gesture, and inflection of the voice are potent aids in ascertaining the witness’ credibility, and the trial court has the opportunity and can take advantage of these aids. These cannot be incorporated in the record so that all that the appellate court can see are the cold words of the witness contained in transcript of testimonies with the risk that some of what the witness actually said may have been lost in the process of transcribing. As correctly stated by an American court, “There is an inherent impossibility of determining with any degree of accuracy what credit is justly due to a witness from merely reading the words spoken by him, even if there were no doubt as to the identity of the words. However artful a corrupt witness may be, there is generally, under the pressure of a skillful cross-examination,
something in his manner or bearing on the stand that betrays him, and thereby destroys the force of his testimony. Many of the real tests of truth by which the artful witness is exposed in the very nature of things cannot be transcribed upon the record, and hence they can never be considered by the appellate court. People of the Philippines vs. Mariano Sapigao, Jr., G.R. No. 178485, September 4, 2009.
Evidence; credibility of witness. Rape is generally unwitnessed and oftentimes, the victim is left to testify for herself. Thus, in resolving rape cases, the victim’s credibility becomes the primordial consideration. If a victim’s testimony is straightforward, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things, unflawed by any material or significant inconsistency, it passes the test of credibility and the accused may be convicted solely on the basis thereof. To ensure that justice is meted out, extreme care and caution is required in weighing the conflicting testimonies of the complainant and the accused. People of the Philippines Vs. Roldan Arcosiba alias “Entoy”, G.R. No. 181081. September 4, 2009
Evidence; denial. Courts generally view the defense of denial with disfavor due to the facility with which an accused can concoct it to suit his or her defense. As evidence that is both negative and self-serving, this defense cannot attain more credibility than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who testify clearly, providing thereby positive evidence on the various aspects of the crime committed. Gilbert Zalameda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183656, September 4, 2009.
Evidence; non-presentation of informant. The settled rule is that the presentation of an informant in an illegal drugs case is not essential for conviction nor is it indispensable for a successful prosecution because his testimony would be merely corroborative and cumulative. Moreover, informants are usually not presented in court because of the need to hide their identities and preserve their invaluable service to the police. Gilbert Zalameda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183656, September 4, 2009.
Evidence; rape. By the peculiar nature of rape cases, conviction thereon most often rests solely on the basis of the offended party’s testimony, if credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. Accordingly, the Court has consistently adhered to the following guiding principles in the review of similar cases, to wit: (1) an accusation for rape can be made with facility; while the accusation is difficult to prove, it is even more difficult for the accused, albeit innocent, to disprove; (2) considering that, in the nature of things, only two persons are usually involved in the crime of rape, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme care;
and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must succeed or fall on its own merits, and cannot be allowed to derive strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.
Corollary to the foregoing principles is the rule that the credibility of the victim is always the single most important issue in prosecution for rape. Withal, in passing upon the credibility of witnesses, the highest degree of respect must be accorded to the findings of the trial court. People of the Philippines vs. Domingo Araojo, G.R. No. 185203, September 17, 2009.
Evidence; rape. In reviewing rape cases, this Court is guided by three principles, to wit: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.
As a result of these guiding principles, the credibility of the complainant becomes the single most important issue. If the testimony of the victim is credible, convincing and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things, the accused may be convicted solely on the basis thereof. Allan Dizon vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 170342, September 18, 2009.
Evidence; rape. In an attempt to discredit the victim’s testimony, appellant points out certain discrepancies in her testimony, such as the exact time they went to the farm of Naty Astor. Such discrepancy is trifling. The gravamen of rape is carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the circumstances provided by law. Thus, the precise time when the rape took place has no substantial bearing on its commission. As such, the date or time need not be stated with absolute accuracy.
The victim cannot be expected to store methodically in her memory the sordid details of a rape incident and, when called to testify in court, give a completely detailed and accurate account of the harrowing experience she suffered. Thus, minor inconsistencies in the narration are generally given liberal appreciation by the trial court. People of the Philippines vs. Lorenzo Oliva y Rosela, G.R. No. 187043. September 18, 2009
Evidence; totality of circumstances. The Court, in a long line of cases, has reiterated the totality of circumstance test set forth in People v. Teehankee, Jr., which dictates that the following factors be considered in determining the reliability of the out-of-court identification made by a witness, i.e., (1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time
of the crime; (2) the witness’ degree of attention at the time of the crime; (3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and (6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure.
To prevent any undue suggestiveness in the identification process, it was held that the correct way is to: first, present a series of photographs to the witness, not solely the photograph of the suspect; and second, when showing a group of pictures to the witness, the arrangement and display of said photographs should give no suggestion whatsoever which one of the pictures belongs to the suspect. The photographic identification must be free from any impermissible suggestions that would single out a person to the attention of the witness making the identification. However, as held in Teehankee, Jr., the burden to prove that the out-of-court identification was unduly suggestive rests on the accused. Edgar Mercado vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161902, September 11, 2009.
Judgment; finality. Once a judgment attains finality, it becomes immutable and unalterable. A final and executory judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land. This is the doctrine of finality of judgment. It is grounded on fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional errors, the judgments or orders of courts must become final at some definite time fixed by law. Otherwise, there will be no end to litigations, thus negating the main role of courts of justice to assist in the enforcement of the rule of law and the maintenance of peace and order by settling justiciable controversies with finality. Vicente Dacanay, in his capacity as administrator of the Testate Estate of Tereso D. Fernandez vs. Hon. Raphael Prastora Sr., etc., et al., G.R. No. 150664, September 3, 2009.
Judgment; finality. The petition cannot be granted. It seeks a review of a matter that has been settled with finality by the trial court. Settled is the rule that once a decision acquires finality, it becomes immutable and unalterable. Thus, despite containing erroneous conclusions of fact or law, it can no longer be modified. Joaquin P. Obieta vs. Edward Cheok, G.R. No. 170072. September 3, 2009.
Judgment; finality. Petitioner’s mere filing of the Motion for Reduction of Bond did not suffice to perfect his appeal. As correctly found by the appellate court, petitioner filed a Motion for Reduction of Bond dated June 24, 1999 (which was received by the appellate court on June 28, 1999)
alleging financial constraints without showing “substantial compliance with the Rules” or demonstrating a willingness to abide by the [R]ules by posting a partial bond.” That petitioner questioned the computation of the monetary award - basis of the computation of the amount of appeal bond did not excuse it from posting a bond in a reasonable amount or what it believed to be the correct amount.Since no exceptional circumstances obtain in the present case warranting the relaxation of the Rules, the Labor Arbiter’s Decision had become final and executory. The Heritage Hotel of Manila vs. National Labor Relations Commission, Rufino C. Rañon II, and Ismael C. Villa, G.R. No. 180478-79, September 3, 2009.
Judgment; void. A judgment void for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all. It cannot be the source of any right or the creator of any obligation. All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. Hence, it can never become final, and any writ of execution based on it is void. It may be said to be a lawless thing that can be treated as an outlaw and slain on sight, or ignored wherever and whenever it exhibits its head. Joanie Surposa Uy vs. Jose Ngo Chua, G.R. No. 183965, September 18, 2009.
Jurisdiction; acquisition. Courts acquire jurisdiction over the plaintiffs upon the filing of the complaint. On the other hand, jurisdiction over the defendants in a civil case is acquired either through the service of summons upon them or through their voluntary appearance in court and their submission to its authority. The service of summons is a vital and indispensable ingredient of due process. As a rule, if defendants have not been validly summoned, the court acquires no jurisdiction over their person, and a judgment rendered against them is null and void.
As a rule, summons should be personally served on the defendant. In case of a domestic private juridical entity, the service of summons must be made upon an officer who is named in the statute (i.e., the president, managing partner, general manager, corporate secretary, treasurer, or in-house counsel), otherwise, the service is insufficient. The purpose is to render it reasonably certain that the corporation will receive prompt and proper notice in an action against it or to insure that the summons be served on a representative so integrated with the corporation that such person will know what to do with the legal papers served on him. However, if the summons cannot be served on the defendant personally within a reasonable period of time, then substituted service may be resorted to.
Nonetheless, the impossibility of prompt personal service must be shown by stating that efforts have been made to find the defendant personally and that such efforts have failed. This is necessary because substituted service is in derogation of the usual method of service. It is a method extraordinary in character and hence may be used
only as prescribed and in the circumstances authorized by statute. The statutory requirements of substituted service must be followed strictly, faithfully and fully, and any substituted service other than that authorized by statute is considered ineffective.
In Orion Security Corporation v. Kalfam Enterprises, Inc., this Court held that in case of substituted service, there should be a report indicating that the person who received the summons in the defendant’s behalf was one with whom the defendant had a relation of confidence ensuring that the latter would actually receive the summons. B.D. Long Span Builders, Inc. vs. R.S. Ampeloquio Realty Development Inc., G.R. No. 169919, September 11, 2009.
Jurisdiction; acquisition. Summons is a writ by which the defendant is notified of the action brought against him or her. In a civil action, jurisdiction over the defendant is acquired either upon a valid service of summons or the defendant’s voluntary appearance in court. When the defendant does not voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction or when there is no valid service of summons, any judgment of the court, which has no jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, is null and void.
Where the action is in personam, i.e., one that seeks to impose some responsibility or liability directly upon the person of the defendant through the judgment of a court, and the defendant is in the Philippines, the service of summons may be made through personal or substituted service in the manner described in Sections 6 and 7, Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Court.
It is well-established that a summons upon a respondent or a defendant must be served by handing a copy thereof to him in person or, if he refuses to receive it, by tendering it to him. Personal service of summons most effectively ensures that the notice desired under the constitutional requirement of due process is accomplished. The essence of personal service is the handing or tendering of a copy of the summons to the defendant himself.
Under our procedural rules, service of summons in person of defendants is generally preferred over substituted service. Substituted service derogates the regular method of personal service. It is an extraordinary method since it seeks to bind the respondent or the defendant to the consequences of a suit even though notice of such action is served not upon him but upon another to whom the law could only presume would notify him of the pending proceedings.
The Court requires that the Sheriff’s Return clearly and convincingly show the impracticability or hopelessness of personal service. Proof of service of summons must (a) indicate the impossibility of
service of summons within a reasonable time; (b) specify the efforts exerted to locate the defendant; and (c) state that the summons was served upon a person of sufficient age and discretion who is residing in the address, or who is in charge of the office or regular place of business, of the defendant. It is likewise required that the pertinent facts proving these circumstances be stated in the proof of service or in the officer’s return. The failure to comply faithfully, strictly and fully with all the foregoing requirements of substituted service renders the service of summons ineffective. Alexander Tam Wong vs. Catherine Factor-Koyoma, G.R. No. 183802, September 17, 2009.
Jurisdiction; HLURB. The provisions of P.D No. 957 were intended to encompass all questions regarding subdivisions and condominiums. The intention was to provide for an appropriate government agency, the HLURB, to which all parties – buyers and sellers of subdivision and condominium units – may seek remedial recourse. The law recognized, too, that subdivision and condominium development involves public interest and welfare and should be brought to a body, like the HLURB, that has technical expertise. In the exercise of its powers, the HLURB, on the other hand, is empowered to interpret and apply contracts, and determine the rights of private parties under these contracts. This ancillary power, generally judicial, is now no longer with the regular courts to the extent that the pertinent HLURB laws provide.
Viewed from this perspective, the HLURB’s jurisdiction over contractual rights and obligations of parties under subdivision and condominium contracts comes out very clearly. But hand in hand with this definition and grant of authority is the provision on criminal penalties for violations of the Decree, provided under the Decree’s Section 39, heretofore quoted. Significantly, nothing in P.D. No. 957 vests the HLURB with jurisdiction to impose the Section 39 criminal penalties. What the Decree provides is the authority of the HLURB to impose administrative fines under Section 38, as implemented by the Rules Implementing the Subdivision and Condominium Buyer’s Protective Decree.
The Implementing Rules, for their part, clarify that “The implementation and payment of administrative fines shall not preclude criminal prosecution of the offender under Section 39 of the Decree.” Thus, the implementing rules themselves expressly acknowledge that two separate remedies with differing consequences may be sought under the Decree, specifically, the administrative remedy and criminal prosecution.
Unless the contrary appears under other provisions of law (and in this case no such provision applies), the determination of the criminal liability lies within the realm of criminal procedure as embodied in the
Rules of Court. Section 2, Rule 112 of these Rules provide that the prerogative to determine the existence or non-existence of probable cause lies with the persons duly authorized by law; as provided in this Rule, they are (a) Provincial or City Prosecutors and their assistants; (b) Judges of the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts; (c) National and Regional State Prosecutors; and (d) other officers as may be authorized by law. Sps. Leonardo and Milagros Chua vs. Hon. Jacinto G. Ang, et al., G.R. No. 156164, September 4, 2009.
Minute resolutions. When a minute resolution denies or dismisses a petition for failure to comply with formal and substantive requirements, the challenged decision, together with its findings of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed sustained. But what is its effect on other cases?
With respect to the same subject matter and the same issues concerning the same parties, it constitutes res judicata. However, if other parties or another subject matter (even with the same parties and issues) is involved, the minute resolution is not binding precedent. Thus, in CIR v. Baier-Nickel, the Court noted that a previous case, CIR v. Baier-Nickel involving the same parties and the same issues, was previously disposed of by the Court thru a minute resolution dated February 17, 2003 sustaining the ruling of the CA. Nonetheless, the Court ruled that the previous case “ha(d) no bearing” on the latter case because the two cases involved different subject matters as they were concerned with the taxable income of different taxable years.
Besides, there are substantial, not simply formal, distinctions between a minute resolution and a decision. The constitutional requirement under the first paragraph of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution that the facts and the law on which the judgment is based must be expressed clearly and distinctly applies only to decisions, not to minute resolutions. A minute resolution is signed only by the clerk of court by authority of the justices, unlike a decision. It does not require the certification of the Chief Justice. Moreover, unlike decisions, minute resolutions are not published in the Philippine Reports. Finally, the proviso of Section 4(3) of Article VIII speaks of a decision. Indeed, as a rule, this Court lays down doctrines or principles of law which constitute binding precedent in a decision duly signed by the members of the Court and certified by the Chief Justice.
Accordingly, since petitioner was not a party in G.R. No. 148680 and since petitioner’s liability for DST on its health care agreement was not the subject matter of G.R. No. 148680, petitioner cannot successfully invoke the minute resolution in that case (which is not even binding precedent) in its favor. Philippine Health Providers, Inc. vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 167330, September 18, 2009.
Motion; motion for reconsideration. A prior motion for reconsideration is unnecessary: (a) where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo has no jurisdiction; (b) where the questions raised in the certiorari proceedings have been duly raised and passed upon by the lower court, or are the same as those raised and passed upon in the lower court; (c)where there is an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question and any further delay would prejudice the interests of the Government or of the petitioner; (d) where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration would be useless; (e) where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is an extreme urgency for relief; (f) where, in a criminal case, relief from an order of arrest is urgent and the grant of such relief by the trial court is improbable; (g) where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process; (h) where the proceedings were ex parte or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; or (i) where the issue raised is one purely of law or where public interest is involved. Sps. Leonardo and Milagros Chua vs. Hon. Jacinto G. Ang, et al., G.R. No. 156164, September 4, 2009.
Motion; motion to inhibit. While the rule allows judges, in the exercise of sound discretion, to voluntarily inhibit themselves from hearing a case, it provides that the inhibition must be based on just or valid reasons. In prior cases interpreting this rule, the most recent of which is Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Spouses Wilson Dy Hong Pi, etc., et al., the Court noted that the mere imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis. Acts or conduct clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice has to be shown. Extrinsic evidence must further be presented to establish bias, bad faith, malice, or corrupt purpose, in addition to palpable error which may be inferred from the decision or order itself. Stated differently, the bare allegations of the judge’s partiality will not suffice in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will undertake his noble role of dispensing justice in accordance with law and evidence, and without fear or favor. Verily, for bias and prejudice to be considered valid reasons for the involuntary inhibition of judges, mere suspicion is not enough. Jimmy L. Barnes a.k.a. James Barnes vs. Teresita C. Reyes, et al., G.R. No. 179583, September 3, 2009.
Motion; motion to dismiss. In a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, the focus is on the sufficiency, not the veracity, of the material allegations. The test of sufficiency of facts alleged in the complaint constituting a cause of action lies on whether or not the court, admitting the facts alleged, could render a valid verdict in accordance with the prayer of the complaint. And to sustain a motion to dismiss for lack of cause of action, it must be shown that the claim for relief in the complaint
does not exist, rather than that a claim has been defectively stated, or is ambiguous, indefinite, or uncertain. Alice Vitangcol and Norberto Vitangcol vs. New Vista Properties, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 176014, September 17, 2009.
Motion to dismiss; lack of cause of action. The Rules of Court defines “cause of action” as the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another. It contains three elements: (1) a right existing in favor of the plaintiff; (2) a correlative duty on the part of the defendant to respect that right; and (3) a breach of the defendant’s duty. It is, thus, only upon the occurrence of the last element that a cause of action arises, giving the plaintiff a right to file an action in court for recovery of damages or other relief.
Lack of cause of action is, however, not a ground for a dismissal of the complaint through a motion to dismiss under Rule 16 of the Rules of Court, for the determination of a lack of cause of action can only be made during and/or after trial. What is dismissible via that mode is failure of the complaint to state a cause of action. Sec. 1(g) of Rule 16 of the Rules of Court provides that a motion may be made on the ground “that the pleading asserting the claim states no cause of action.”
The rule is that in a motion to dismiss, a defendant hypothetically admits the truth of the material allegations of the ultimate facts contained in the plaintiff’s complaint. When a motion to dismiss is grounded on the failure to state a cause of action, a ruling thereon should, as rule, be based only on the facts alleged in the complaint. However, this principle of hypothetical admission admits of exceptions. Among others, there is no hypothetical admission of conclusions or interpretations of law which are false; legally impossible facts; facts inadmissible in evidence; facts which appear by record or document included in the pleadings to be unfounded; allegations which the court will take judicial notice are not true; and where the motion to dismiss was heard with submission of evidence which discloses facts sufficient to defeat the claim. Alice Vitangcol and Norberto Vitangcol vs. New Vista Properties, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 176014, September 17, 2009.
Motion; motive to intervene. The purpose of intervention is to enable a stranger to an action to become a party to protect his interest, and the court, incidentally, to settle all conflicting claims. The spouses Vaca are not strangers to the action. Their legal interest in the litigation springs from the sale of the subject property by petitioner in their favor during the pendency of this case. As transferee pendente lite, the spouses Vaca are the successors-in-interest of the transferor, the petitioner, who is already a party to the action. Thus, the applicable provision is Section 19, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, governing transfers of interest pendente lite. Associated Bank (now United
Overseas Bank [Phils.]) vs. Spouses Rafael and Monaliza Pronstroller/Spouses Eduardo and Ma. Pilar Vaca (Intervenors), G.R. No. 148444, September 3, 2009.
Motion; second motion for reconsideration. The Letter-Appeal is actually in the nature of a second motion for reconsideration. While a second motion for reconsideration is, as a general rule, a prohibited pleading, it is within the sound discretion of the Court to admit the same, provided it is filed with prior leave whenever substantive justice may be better served thereby.
This is not the first time that this Court is suspending its own rules or excepting a particular case from the operation of the rules. In De Guzman v. Sandiganbayan, despite the denial of De Guzman’s motion for reconsideration, we still entertained his Omnibus Motion, which was actually a second motion for reconsideration. Eventually, we reconsidered our earlier decision and remanded the case to the Sandiganbayan for reception and appreciation of petitioner’s evidence. In that case, we said that if we would not compassionately bend backwards and flex technicalities, petitioner would surely experience the disgrace and misery of incarceration for a crime which he might not have committed after all. Also in Astorga v. People, on a second motion for reconsideration, we set aside our earlier decision, re-examined the records of the case, then finally acquitted Benito Astorga of the crime of Arbitrary Detention on the ground of reasonable doubt. And in Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation v. Amante,[by virtue of the January 13, 2004 En Banc Resolution, the Court authorized the Special First Division to suspend the Rules, so as to allow it to consider and resolve respondent’s second motion for reconsideration after the motion was heard on oral arguments. After a re-examination of the merits of the case, we granted the second motion for reconsideration and set aside our earlier decision. Sr. Inspector Jerry Valeroso vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164815, September 3, 2009
Parties; indispensable parties. The petitioner did not join the People of the Philippines as a party in his action for certiorari in the Court of Appeals. He thereby ignored that the People of the Philippines were indispensable parties due to his objective being to set aside the trial court’s order dated May 23, 2001 that concerned the public aspect of Criminal Case No. 95-145703. The omission was fatal and already enough cause for the summary rejection of his petition for certiorari.
The petitioner did not also obtain the consent of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to his petition for certiorari. At the very least, he should have furnished a copy of the petition for certiorari to the OSG prior to the filing thereof, but even that he did not do. Thereby, he violated Section 35(l), Chapter
12, Title III of Book IV of Executive Order No. 292 (The Administrative Code of 1987), which mandates the OSG to represent “the Government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings; represent the Government and its officers in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party.”
Although the petition for certiorari bore the conformity of the public prosecutor (i.e., Assistant City Prosecutor Danilo Formoso of Manila), that conformity alone did not suffice. The authority of the City Prosecutor or his assistant to appear for and represent the People of the Philippines was confined only to the proceedings in the trial court. Jowett K. Golango vs. Jone B. Fung, G.R. No. 157952, September 8, 2009.
Parties; real party in interest. The AREM was executed by Antonio, with the marital consent of Matilde. Since the mortgaged property is presumed conjugal, she is obliged principally under the AREM. It is thus she, following Art. 1397 of the Civil Code vis a vis Sec. 2 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, who is the real party in interest, hence, the action must be prosecuted in her name as she stands to be benefited or injured in the action.
Assuming that Matilde is indeed incapacitated, it is her legal guardian who should file the action on her behalf. Not only is there no allegation in the complaint, however, that respondents have been legally designated as guardians to file the action on her behalf. The name of Matilde, who is deemed the real party in interest, has not been included in the title of the case, in violation of Sec. 3 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court. Equitable PCI Bank, Inc (now known as Banco De Oro-EPCI, Inc.) vs. Heirs of Antonio C. Tiu, et al., G.R. No. 178529, September 4, 2009.
Parties; substitution. According to Section 16, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court, a counsel, within 30 days from his client’s death, is duty-bound to inform the court of such fact, and to submit the name/s and address/es of the deceased client’s legal representative/s. Thereafter, the court shall order, forthwith, the appearance of and substitution by the deceased party’s legal representative/s within another period of 30 days from notice.
We emphasize that the purpose behind Section 16, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Procedure is the protection of the right to due process of every party to a litigation who may be affected by the intervening death. The deceased litigant is himself or herself protected, as he/she continues to be properly represented in the suit through the duly appointed legal representative of his estate. The spirit behind the general rule requiring a formal substitution of heirs is “not really because
substitution of heirs is a jurisdictional requirement, but because non-compliance therewith results in the undeniable violation of the right to due process of those who, though not duly notified of the proceedings, are substantially affected by the decision rendered therein.” Edwino A. Torres (deceased), represented and substitute by Alfonso P. Torres III, et al., G.R. No. 177836, September 4, 2009.
Provisional relief. The order to deposit the lease rentals with the trial court is in the nature of a provisional relief designed to protect and preserve the rights of the parties while the main action is being litigated. Contrary to the findings of the Court of Appeals, such an order may be issued even prior to the determination of the issue of co-ownership because it is precisely meant to preserve the rights of the parties until such time that the court finally determines who is lawfully entitled thereto. It does not follow, however, that the subject order in this case should be sustained. Like all other interlocutory orders issued by a trial court, the subject order must not suffer from the vice of grave abuse of discretion. As will be discussed hereunder, special and compelling circumstances constrain the Court to hold that the subject order was tainted with grave abuse of discretion. Wilson A. Go vs. Harry A. Go, G.R. No. 183546, September 18, 2009.
Res judicata. The decision of a land registration court in a petition for consolidation of ownership and registration precludes another action for annulment of auction sale. Hence, the September 8, 1986 decision of the RTC Branch 93 in LRC Case No. Q-3458(86) barred the institution of Civil Case No. Q-50553. The RTC Branch 104 should have dismissed the latter on the ground of res judicata. Spouses Hu Chuan Hai and Leonica Lim Hu vs. Spouses Renato Unico and Maria Aurora J. Unico, G.R. No. 146534, September 18, 2009.
Res judicata. Res judicata exists when the following elements are present: (a) the former judgment must be final; (b) the court that rendered it had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter; (c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be — between the first and the second actions — identity of parties, subject matter, and cause of action.
Emphasis must be given to the fact that CA-G.R. No. 92474 was dismissed based on pure technicalities and not on the merits, to wit: (1) therein petitioners’ (now private respondent’s) counsels failed to indicate their respective Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Official Receipt numbers, in violation of Bar Matter No. 1132; (2) the Petition did not contain an affidavit of service, as required by Section 13, Rule 13 and Section 5, Rule 43, of the Rules of Procedure, as proof that copy of the said Petition had been served on the adverse party; (3) the Petition does not contain any explanation of why a personal service upon therein private respondent
(now petitioner) was not resorted to pursuant to Section 11, Rule 13; and therein petitioners failed to furnish the Ombudsman and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) with a copy of their Petition.
Clearly from the foregoing, the dismissal of CA-G.R. SP No. 92474 was based on sheer technicality. Since no judgment on the merits was rendered after consideration of the evidence or stipulation submitted by the parties at the trial of the case, it falls short of one of the essential requisites of res judicata, that the judgment should be one on the merits. Edgardo H. Catindig vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 183141, September 18, 2009.
Res judicata. The doctrine of res judicata is a rule that pervades every well- regulated system of jurisprudence and is founded upon two grounds embodied in various maxims of the common law, namely: (1) public policy and necessity, which makes it in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation, interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium, and (2) the hardship of the individual that he should be vexed twice for the same cause, nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa.
For res judicata, to serve as an absolute bar to a subsequent action, the following requisites must concur: (1) there must be a final judgment or order; (2) the court rendering it must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment or order on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the two cases, identity of parties, subject matter, and causes of action. Joanie Surposa Uy vs. Jose Ngo Chua, G.R. No. 183965, September 18, 2009.
Rule 45. Clearly, a party may directly appeal to this Court from a decision or final order or resolution of the trial court on pure questions of law. A question of law lies, on one hand, when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain set of facts; a question of fact exists, on the other hand, when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of the alleged facts. Here, the facts are not disputed; the controversy merely relates to the correct application of the law or jurisprudence to the undisputed facts. Joanie Surposa Uy vs. Jose Ngo Chua, G.R. No. 183965, September 18, 2009.
Rule 45. The proper remedy of a party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review under Rule 45, which is not identical to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Rule 45 provides that decisions, final orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to us by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. Thus, petitioner should have filed a petition for review under Rule 45 instead of a special civil action for certiorari under
Petitioner’s argument that a petition for certiorari is the proper remedy since the CA had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition for certiorari filed before it as the petition was filed beyond the 60-day period for filing the same deserves scant consideration. There is no reason why such issue could not have been raised on appeal. Emcor, Incorporated vs. Ma. Lourdes D. Sienes, G.R. No. 152101, September 8, 2009.
Rule 45. Well-settled is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. When supported by substantial evidence, the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court, unless the case falls under any of the following recognized exceptions:
(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and conjectures;
(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;
(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;
(4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;
(5) When the findings of fact are conflicting;
(6) When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;
(7) When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;
(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;
(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners’ main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and
(10) When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.
As a rule, only questions of law are entertained by this Court in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45. It is not our function to analyze or weigh all over again the evidence presented. It is a settled doctrine that in a civil case, final and conclusive are the factual findings of the trial court, but only if supported by clear and convincing evidence on record.
In this case, the findings of the Court of Appeals are 75
contrary to the findings of the RTC. Hence, a review thereof is in order. Manila Electric Company vs. Aguida Vda. De Santiago, G.R. No. 170482, September 4, 2009; see also Malayan Insurance Co., Inc. vs. Jardine Davies Transport Services, Inc. and Asian Terminals, Inc., G.R. No. 181300, September 18, 2009.
Rule 45. It is well-settled that the proper recourse of an aggrieved party to assail the decision of the Court of Appeals is to file a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. The Rules precludes recourse to the special civil action of certiorari if appeal, by way of a petition for review is available, as the remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually exclusive and not alternative or successive.
For a writ of certiorari to issue, a petitioner must not only prove that the tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction but must also show that he has no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for a lost appeal. Though there are instances when certiorari was granted despite the availability of appeal, none of these recognized exceptions was shown to be present in the case at bar. Tacloban Far East Marketing Corporation, et al. vs. The Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 182320, September 11, 2009.
Rule 47. Annulment of Judgment under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is a recourse equitable in character and allowed only in exceptional cases where the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of petitioner. Section 2 of the said Rule provides that the annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction, although jurisprudence recognizes denial of due process as an additional ground. City Government of Tagaytay vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc. et al./Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, et al. vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc., et al., G.R. Nos. 140743 & G.R. No. 140745/G.R. No. 141451-52, September 17, 2009.
Rule 47. In this case, the Melencios allege extrinsic fraud on the part of petitioner City of Tagaytay for its failure to implead them in Civil Case No. TG-1196. They allege that they are indispensable parties to the case, considering that have vested rights to protect, being purchasers of the subject parcels of land. Sadly, this contention does not persuade.
Extrinsic fraud refers to any fraudulent act of the prevailing party in the litigation which is committed outside of the trial of the case, whereby the unsuccessful party has been prevented from exhibiting fully his case, by fraud or deception practiced on him by his opponent. The fraud or
deceit cannot be of the losing party’s own doing, nor must such party contribute to it. The extrinsic fraud must be employed against it by the adverse party, who, because of some trick, artifice, or device, naturally prevails in the suit. It affects not the judgment itself but the manner in which the said judgment is obtained.
Extrinsic fraud is also present where the unsuccessful party has been prevented by his opponent from exhibiting fully his case by keeping the former away from court or giving him a false promise of a compromise; or where the defendant never had knowledge of the suit, having been kept in ignorance by the acts of the plaintiff; or where an attorney fraudulently or without authority assumed to represent a party and connived at his defeat; or where the attorney regularly employed corruptly sold out his client’s interest to the other side. The overriding consideration is that the fraudulent scheme of the prevailing litigant prevented a party from having his day in court.
In the instant case, we find that the action or inaction of the City of Tagaytay does not amount to extrinsic fraud. The City of Tagaytay is not the prevailing party in the assailed decision. Moreover, the Melencios were not totally without fault in protecting their interest. They were aware of the pendency of Civil Case No. TG-1196, as shown by their filing of a motion to intervene in the case. When their motion was denied by the trial court, they no longer pursued their cause. City Government of Tagaytay vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc. et al./Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, et al. vs. Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero, etc., et al., G.R. Nos. 140743 & G.R. No. 140745/G.R. No. 141451-52, September 17, 2009.
Rule 47. The remedy of annulment of judgment cannot be availed of in criminal cases. Francisco R. Llamas, et al. vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 149588, September 29, 2009.
Rule 65; grave abuse. Grave abuse of discretion implies capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment amounting to lack of jurisdiction, or arbitrary and despotic exercise of power because of passion or personal hostility. It must be as patent and gross as to amount to an evasion or refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law. It is absent in this case. Kei Marie and Bianca Angelica both surnamed Abrera, minors, represented by their parents Evelyn C. Abrera, et al. vs. Hon. Romeo F. Barza, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court, Branch 61, Makati City and College Assurance Plan Philippines, Inc., G.R. No. 171681. September 11, 2009
Rule 65; motion for reconsideration. For a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to
prosper, TACC must show that (1) the LLDA acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and (2) there is no appeal or a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
The plain and adequate remedy referred to in Section 1 of Rule 65 is a motion for reconsideration of the assailed decision. The purpose of this requirement is to enable the court or agency to rectify its mistakes without the intervention of a higher court. To dispense with this requirement, there must be a concrete, compelling, and valid reason for the failure to comply with the requirement. Petitioner may not arrogate to itself the determination of whether a motion for reconsideration is necessary or not.
In the present case, TACC did not file a motion for reconsideration of the 4 September 2003 Order. TACC also failed to show sufficient compelling and valid reason to dispense with the requirement of filing a motion for reconsideration. Hence, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the petition for certiorari was prematurely filed before it. The Alexandra Condominium Corporation vs. Laguna Lake Development Authority, G.R. No. 169228. September 11, 2009
Rule 65; requisites. For a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to prosper, the following requisites must be present: (1) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board or an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.
There is grave abuse of discretion “when there is a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, such as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross so as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.”
On the other hand, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court pertains to a Petition for Review on Certiorari, whereby “a party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment, final order or resolution of the x x x the Regional Trial Court x x x, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition may include an application for a writ of preliminary injunction or other provisional remedies and shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth.”
A perusal of the petition referred to the Court of
Appeals lays bare the fact that the same was undoubtedly a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Not only does the title of the Petition indicate it as such, but a close reading of the issues and allegations set forth therein also discloses that it involved pure questions of law. A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts. For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. The Court of Appeals, thus, could not fault Camarines Sur for failing to allege, much less prove, grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the RTC when such is not required for a Petition for Review on Certiorari.
Likewise, the doctrine that certiorari cannot be resorted to as a substitute for the lost remedy of appeal applies only when a party actually files a Petition forCertiorari under Rule 65 in lieu of a Petition for Review under Rule 45, since the latter remedy was already lost through the fault of the petitioning party. In the instant case, Camarines Sur actually filed a Petition for Review under Rule 45; the Court of Appeals only mistook the same for a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65. Province of Camarines Sur, represented by Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals and City of Naga, represented by Mayor Jesse M. Robredo, G.R. No. 175064, September 18, 2009.
Rule 65; availability of appeal. Considering that an appeal was still available as a remedy for the assailed Orders of the RTC, and that the case did not fall within the exceptions, the filing of the petition for certiorari was an attempted substitute for an appeal, after respondent failed to avail itself of the latter remedy. Necessarily, it must be noted that the petition for certiorari was filed on August 28, 2007 when the questioned RTC Orders had already attained finality. The Order became final when respondent Financiera received the RTC Order of June 18, 2007 denying the former’s motion for reconsideration on June 29, 2007. Instead of filing a notice of appeal within the reglementary period lasting until July 14, 2007, respondent filed a petition for certiorari, way beyond the reglementary period. Hence, the CA had no jurisdiction to decide the said petition for certiorari. Simeon M. Valdez vs. Financiera Manila Inc., G.R. No. 183387, September 29, 2009.
Rules of procedure; deportation. Deportation proceedings are administrative in character, summary in nature, and need not be conducted strictly in accordance with the rules of ordinary court proceedings. The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to
explain one’s side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. As long as the parties are given the opportunity to be heard before judgment is rendered, the demands of due process are sufficiently met. Carlos T. Go., Sr. vs. Luis T. Ramos/Jimmy T. Go vs. Luis T. Ramos/Hon. Alipio F. Fernandez, etc., et al. vs. Jimmy T. Go a.k.a. Jaime T. Gaisano, G.R. No. 167569/G.R. No. 167570/G.R. No. 171946, September 4, 2009.
Rules of procedure; relaxation. In Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, the Court restated the reasons that may provide justification for a court to suspend a strict adherence to procedural rules, such as: (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property; (b) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (c) the merits of the case; (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; and (f) the fact that the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.
Herein, BPI instituted Civil Case No. 03-281 before the RTC to recover the amount it had lent to Dando, plus interest and penalties thereon, clearly, a matter of property. The substantive right of BPI to recover a due and demandable obligation cannot be denied or diminished by a rule of procedure, more so, since Dando admits that he did avail himself of the credit line extended by FEBTC, the predecessor-in-interest of BPI, and disputes only the amount of his outstanding liability to BPI. To dismiss Civil Case No. 03-281 with prejudice and, thus, bar BPI from recovering the amount it had lent to Dando would be to unjustly enrich Dando at the expense of BPI.
The counsel of BPI invokes “heavy pressures of work” to explain his failure to file the Pre-Trial Brief with the RTC and to serve a copy thereof to Dando at least three days prior to the scheduled Pre-Trial Conference. True, in Olave v. Mistas, we did not find “heavy pressures of work” as sufficient justification for the failure of therein respondents’ counsel to timely move for pre-trial. However, unlike the respondents in Olave, the failure of BPI to file its Pre-Trial Brief with the RTC and provide Dando with a copy thereof within the prescribed period under Section 1, Rule 18 of the Rules of Court, was the first and, so far, only procedural lapse committed by the bank in Civil Case No. 03-281. BPI did not manifest an evident pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of the case or a wanton failure to observe a mandatory requirement of the Rules. In fact, BPI, for the most part, exhibited diligence and reasonable dispatch in prosecuting its claim against Dando by immediately moving to set Civil Case No. 03-281 for Pre-Trial Conference after its receipt of Dando’s Answer to the Complaint; and in instantaneously filing a Motion for Reconsideration of the 10 October 2003 Order of the RTC dismissing Civil Case No. 03-281.
Accordingly, the ends of justice and fairness would be best served if the parties to Civil Case No. 03-281 are given the full opportunity to thresh out the real issues and litigate their claims in a full-blown trial. Besides, Dando would not be prejudiced should the RTC proceed with the hearing of Civil Case No. 03-281, as he is not stripped of any affirmative defenses nor deprived of due process of law. Bank of the Philippine Islands vs. Domingo R. Dando, G.R. No. 177456, September 4, 2009.
Rule of procedure; relaxation. While it is true that the Court may treat a Petition for Certiorari as having been filed under Rule 45 in the interest of substantial justice, the present petition could not be given the same leniency because it was filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period within which to file a petition for review on certiorari. The records of the case show that petitioners received a copy of the January 24, 2008 Resolution of the Court of Appeals denying the motion for reconsideration on February 5, 2008. Instead of filing a petition for review on certiorari within 15 days from receipt thereof, petitioners waited for two months before filing the instant petition. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeals had already become final and executory and beyond the purview of this Court to act upon. The inescapable conclusion is that the present petition was filed belatedly to make up for a lost appeal.
Search; warrantless. When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapon that the latter might use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officer’s safety might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee’s person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction.
Moreover, in lawful arrests, it becomes both the duty and the right of the apprehending officers to conduct a warrantless search not only on the person of the suspect, but also in the permissible area within the latter’s reach. Otherwise stated, a valid arrest allows the seizure of evidence or dangerous weapons either on the person of the one arrested or within the area of his immediate control. The phrase “within the area of his immediate control” means the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. A gun on a table or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the clothing of the person arrested. Sr. Inspector Jerry Valeroso vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164815. September 3, 2009
Search; plain view. The “plain view doctrine” may not be used to launch unbridled searches and indiscriminate seizures or to extend a general exploratory search made solely to find evidence of
defendant’s guilt. The doctrine is usually applied where a police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object. Sr. Inspector Jerry Valeroso vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164815. September 3, 2009
Unlawful detainer. The necessary allegations in a complaint for ejectment are set forth in Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. Petitioners alleged that the former owner (Estanislao, their predecessor) allowed respondents to live on the land. They also stated that they purchased the property on December 15, 1999 and then found respondents occupying the property. Yet they demanded that respondents vacate only on March 2, 2001. It can be gleaned from their allegations that they had in fact permitted or tolerated respondents’ occupancy.
Based on the allegations in petitioners’ complaint, it is apparent that such is a complaint for unlawful detainer based on possession by tolerance of the owner.It is a settled rule that in order to justify such an action, the owner’s permission or tolerance must be present at the beginning of the possession. Such jurisdictional facts are present here. Spouses Lydia Flores-Cruz, et al. vs. Spouses Leonardo and Iluminada Goli-Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 172217, September 18, 2009.
Unlawful detainer. In the instant case, respondent’s allegations in the complaint clearly make a case for an unlawful detainer, essential to confer jurisdiction on the MTC over the subject matter. Respondent alleged that she was the owner of the land as shown by Original Certificate of Title No. 111999 issued by the Register of Deeds of Pampanga; that the land had been declared for taxation purposes and she had been paying the taxes thereon; that petitioners’ entry and construction of their houses were tolerated as they are relatives; and that she sent on January 12, 2004 a letter demanding that petitioners vacate the property but they failed and refused to do so. The complaint for unlawful detainer was filed on June 9, 2004, or within one year from the time the last demand to vacate was made.
It is settled that as long as these allegations demonstrate a cause of action for unlawful detainer, the court acquires jurisdiction over the subject matter. This principle holds, even if the facts proved during the trial do not support the cause of action thus alleged, in which instance the court – after acquiring jurisdiction – may resolve to dismiss the action for insufficiency of evidence. Rodolfo “Rudy” Canlas, et al. vs. Iluminada Tubil, G.R. No. 184285, September 25, 2009.
Writ of habeas corpus. A petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus is a special proceeding governed by Rule 102 of the Revised Rules of Court. The objective of the writ is to determine whether the
confinement or detention is valid or lawful. If it is, the writ cannot be issued. What is to be inquired into is the legality of a person’s detention as of, at the earliest, the filing of the application for the writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of some supervening events, such as the instances mentioned in Section 4 of Rule 102, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application.
Once a person detained is duly charged in court, he may no longer question his detention through a petition for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. His remedy would be to quash the information and/or the warrant of arrest duly issued. The writ of habeas corpus should not be allowed after the party sought to be released had been charged before any court. The term “court” in this context includes quasi-judicial bodies of governmental agencies authorized to order the person’s confinement, like the Deportation Board of the Bureau of Immigration. Likewise, the cancellation of his bail cannot be assailed via a petition for habeas corpus. When an alien is detained by the Bureau of Immigration for deportation pursuant to an order of deportation by the Deportation Board, the Regional Trial Courts have no power to release such alien on bail even in habeas corpus proceedings because there is no law authorizing it.
Given that Jimmy has been duly charged before the Board, and in fact ordered arrested pending his deportation, coupled by this Court’s pronouncement that the Board was not ousted of its jurisdiction to continue with the deportation proceedings, the petition for habeas corpus is rendered moot and academic. This being so, we find it unnecessary to touch on the other arguments advanced by respondents regarding the same subject. Carlos T. Go., Sr. vs. Luis T. Ramos/Jimmy T. Go vs. Luis T. Ramos/Hon. Alipio F. Fernandez, etc., et al. vs. Jimmy T. Go a.k.a. Jaime T. Gaisano, G.R. No. 167569/G.R. No. 167570/G.R. No. 171946, September 4, 2009.