July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Action;  certification of non-forum shopping.  Under Section 3, par. 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of Court, a petition for certiorari must be verified and accompanied by a sworn certification of non-forum shopping. 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. On the other hand, a certification of non-forum shopping is a certification under oath by the plaintiff or principal party in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith, (1) that he has not commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and no such other action or claim is pending therein; (2) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (3) if he should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.

The reason the certification of non-forum shopping is required to be accomplished by the plaintiff or principal party himself is because he has actual knowledge of whether he has initiated similar actions or proceedings in different courts or agencies. In case the plaintiff or principal party is a juridical entity, such as petitioner, the certification may be signed by an authorized person who has personal knowledge of the facts required to be established by the documents.

Although petitioner submitted a verification/certification of non-forum shopping, affiant Edgar L. Chavez had no authority to sign the verification/certification of non-forum shopping attached to the petition filed in the Court of Appeals. The records disclose that the authority of Chavez was to represent petitioner only before the NLRC. Moreover, the board resolution showing such authority was neither certified nor authenticated by the Corporate Secretary. The Corporate Secretary should have attested to the fact that, indeed, petitioner’s Board of Directors had approved a Resolution on August 11, 2005, authorizing Chavez, to file the petition and to sign the verification/certification of non-forum shopping.  Davao Contractors Development Cooperative (DACODECO), represented by Chairman of the Board Engr. L. Chavez vs. Marilyn A. Pasawa, G.R. No. 172174, July 9, 2009.

Action;  certification of non-forum shopping.  At the outset, the Court notes that the petition supposedly filed by petitioners Jocson and Tuising was not signed by Jocson’s counsel. It was Tuising’s counsel who signed in behalf of Jocson’s counsel. Tuising’s counsel had no authority to sign the petition in behalf of Jocson. The records are bereft of any proof that Jocson ever authorized Tuising’s counsel to be her counsel or to act in her behalf. Under Section 3, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, every pleading must be signed by the party or counsel representing him, otherwise the pleading produces no legal effect.

Furthermore, only Tuising signed the Verification and Certification for Non-Forum Shopping. Jocson did not sign the Verification and Certification. Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure requires the petition for review on certiorari to be verified. A pleading required to be verified which lacks proper verification shall be treated as an unsigned pleading. Although Tuising belatedly filed on 24 September 2004 a “Special Power of Attorney” allegedly signed by Jocson and authorizing Tuising to file the petition for review and to verify and to certify the petition, no explanation was given by Tuising why the Special Power of Attorney was belatedly filed four months after the petition for review was filed on 12 May 2004. The lack of a certification against forum shopping or a defective certification is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction, unless there is a need to relax the rule under special circumstances or for compelling reasons. Cerefina Argallon-Jocson and Rodolfo Tuising vs. Maria Cristina Fertilizer Corporation and/or Marcelo Steel Corporation,G.R. No. 162836,  July 30, 2009; see also Eagle Star Security Services, Inc. vs. Bonifacio L. MirandoG.R. No. 179512,  July 30, 2009.

Action;  certification of non-forum shopping. The submission of a false certification of non-forum shopping or non-compliance with any of the undertakings therein shall constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to the corresponding administrative and criminal actions. If the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall be a ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt, as well as a cause for administrative sanctions.

The test for determining the existence of forum shopping is whether the elements of litis pendentia are present, or whether a final judgment in one case amounts to res judicata in another. Thus, there is forum shopping when the following elements are present: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties as represent the same interests in both actions; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars, such that any judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the action under consideration. Said requisites are also constitutive of the requisites for auter action pendant or lis pendens. Gloria S. Dy vs. Mandy Commodities Co., Inc., G.R. No. 171842, July 22, 2009.

Action; prescription. The order or decision granting an application for a free patent can be reviewed only within one year from its issuance on the ground of actual fraud via a petition for review in the Regional Trial Court, provided that no innocent purchaser for value has acquired the property or any interest thereon. However, an aggrieved party may still file an action for reconveyance based on implied or constructive trust, but the right of action prescribes in 10 years counted from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title over the property, provided that it has not been acquired by an innocent purchaser for value. This 10-year prescriptive period applies only when the person enforcing the trust is not in possession of the property. If the person claiming to be its owner is in actual possession thereof, the right to seek reconveyance, which in effect is an action to quiet title thereto, does not prescribe.

In the instant case, petitioner’s action to recover the property and to annul the patent and title issued to the respondents was filed beyond the prescriptive period. Thus, it ought to be dismissed.  Modesta Luna vs. Juliana P. Luna, et al., G.R. No. 177624.  July 13, 2009.

Action;  prescription.  An action for reconveyance of property respects the decree of registration as incontrovertible and merely seeks the transfer of the property wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name to its rightful owner or to one who claims to have a better right.

An action for reconveyance of property based on an implied or constructive trust is the proper remedy of an aggrieved party whose property had been erroneously registered in another’s name.  The prescriptive period for the reconveyance of registered property is ten years, reckoned from the date of the issuance of the certificate of title. However, the ten-year prescriptive period for an action for reconveyance is not applicable where the complainant is in possession of the land to be reconveyed and the registered owner was never in possession of the disputed property. In such a case, the action for reconveyance filed by the complainant who is in possession of the disputed property would be in the nature of an action to quiet title which is imprescriptible. Heirs of Toribio Waga, represented by Merba A. Waga vs. Isabelo SacabinG.R. No. 159131, July 27, 2009.

Appeal;  conviction.  Upon Balaba’s conviction by the trial court, his remedy should have been an appeal to the Sandiganbayan. There is nothing which can conceivably justify the filing of Balaba’s appeal before the Court of Appeals instead of the Sandiganbayan. Clearly, the Court of Appeals is bereft of any jurisdiction to review the judgment Balaba seeks to appeal. In this case, Balaba sought the correction of the error in filing the appeal only after the expiration of the period to appeal. The trial court promulgated its Decision on 9 December 2002. Balaba filed his notice of appeal on 14 January 2003. The Court of Appeals issued the Decision declaring its lack of jurisdiction on 15 December 2004. Balaba tried to correct the error only on 27 January 2005, clearly beyond the 15-day period to appeal from the decision of the trial court. Therefore, the Court of Appeals did not commit any error when it dismissed Balaba’s appeal because of lack of jurisdiction. Irenorio B. Balaba vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 169519, July 17, 2009.

Appeal;  improper remedy.  The settled rule is that appeals from judgments or final orders or resolutions of the CA should be by a verified petition for review on certiorari, as provided for under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. Tthe CA, therefore, acted properly when it dismissed the petition for certiorari outright, on the ground that petitioners should have resorted to the remedy of appeal instead of certiorari. Verily, the present Petition for Certiorari should not have been given due course at all.

Moreover, since the period for petitioners to file a petition for review on certiorari had lapsed by the time the instant petition was filed, the assailed CA Resolutions have attained finality. Ana De Guia San Pedro, et al. vs. Hon. Fatima G. Asdala (etc.), et al., G.R. No. 164560,.  July 22, 2009.

Appeal;  interlocutory order.  An order denying a motion to dismiss is interlocutory. Under Section 1(c), Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, an interlocutory order is not appealable. As a remedy for the denial, a party has to file an answer and interpose as a defense the objections raised in the motion, and then to proceed to trial; or, a party may immediately avail of the remedy available to the aggrieved party by filing an appropriate special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court. Let it be stressed though that a petition for certiorari is appropriate only when an order has been issued without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

Based on the foregoing, the Order of the RTC denying petitioner’s Omnibus Motion to Dismiss is not appealable even on pure questions of law. It is worth mentioning that the proper procedure in this case is to cite such interlocutory order as an error in the appeal of the case — in the event that the RTC rules in favor of respondent — and not to appeal such interlocutory order. On the other hand, if the petition is to be treated as a petition for review under Rule 45, it would likewise fail because the proper subject would only be judgments or final orders that completely dispose of the case.  Atty. Rogelio E. Sarsaba vs. Fe vda De Te, represented by her Attorney-in-Fact Faustino Castañeda, G.R. No. 175910,  July 30, 2009.

Appeal;  issues raised first time.    Well-settled is the rule that issues or grounds not raised below cannot be resolved on review by the Supreme Court, for to allow the parties to raise new issues is antithetical to the sporting idea of fair play, justice and due process. Issues not raised during the trial cannot be raised for the first time on appeal and more especially on motion for reconsideration. Litigation must end at some point; once the case is finally adjudged, the parties must learn to accept victory or defeat.  Jesus Cuenco vs. Talisay Tourist Sprots Complex, Incorporated and Matias B. Aznar III, G.R. No. 174154,  July 30, 2009. see also Development Bank of the Philippines vs. Family Foods Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Spouses Juliano and Catalina Centeno, G.R. No. 180458,  July 30, 2009.

Appeal; nonpayment of fees. In the instant case, petitioner failed to perfect his appeal with the Office of the President, despite having been given reasonable opportunity to do so. Records would show that petitioner was granted an extension of fifteen (15) days from October 18, 2003 or until November 2, 2003 to file his appeal memorandum and to pay the appeal fee. Instead of complying, petitioner, on November 10, 2003, when the extension granted had already expired, requested for another extension of five (5) days. It is specifically provided under Section 4 of Administrative Order No. 18 that extension of time for the payment of appeal fee and the filing of pleadings shall not be allowed, except for good and sufficient cause and only if the motion for extension is filed before the expiration of the time sought to be extended.

In exceptional cases, we had allowed a liberal application of the rule. The recent case of Villena v. Rupisan, extensively discussed and enumerated the various instances recognized as exceptions to the stringent application of the rule in the matter of paying the docket fees, such as: (1) most persuasive and weighty reasons; (2) to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure; (3) good faith of the defaulting party by immediately paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default; (4) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (5) the merits of the case; (6) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (7) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; (8) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby; (9) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence without appellant’s fault; (10) peculiar legal and equitable circumstances attendant to each case; (11) in the name of substantial justice and fair play; (12) importance of the issues involved; and (13) exercise of sound discretion by the judge guided by all the attendant circumstances.[25]

Considering that petitioner has not proffered an acceptable explanation for the delay in the payment of the appeal fee, his reason not being one of the recognized exceptions, we agree with the Court of Appeals that there is no compelling reason to reverse the orders of the Office of the President dismissing the appeal filed by petitioner.  Noli Lim vs. Angelito Delos Santos, etc., Denia R. Adoyo, et al., (Intervenors) Gloria Murillo, et al., (Protestants), G.R. No. 172574,  July 31, 2009.

Appeal;  period to appeal. The failure of the petitioner to perfect an appeal within the period fixed by law renders final the decision sought to be appealed. As a result, no court could exercise appellate jurisdiction to review the decision. It is settled that a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable and may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it will be made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land. Otherwise, there will be no end to litigation and this will set to naught 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.

Once a judgment becomes final and executory, all the issues between the parties are deemed resolved and laid to rest. All that remains is the execution of the decision which is a matter of right. The prevailing party is entitled to a writ of execution, the issuance of which is the trial court’s ministerial duty. Noli Lim vs. Angelito Delos Santos, etc., Denia R. Adoyo, et al., (Intervenors) Gloria Murillo, et al., (Protestants), G.R. No. 172574,  July 31, 2009.

Appeal; period to appeal. Even if the Rules of Court may not apply in the proceedings before the DARAB, the CA was correct in pointing out that the Revised Rules of the DARAB itself impose a fifteen-day reglementary period to appeal. Since the perfection of an appeal within the statutory or reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional, the failure of petitioners to so perfect their appeal rendered the questioned decision final and executory. This rule is founded upon the principle that the right to appeal is not part of due process of law, but is a mere statutory privilege to be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of the law.

This, of course, does not mean to say that this Court has not in the past allowed a liberal application of the rules of appeal. However, the same applies only in exceptionally meritorious cases.

In the case at bar, there is no showing of a factual setting which warrants a liberal application of the rules on the period of appeal. To stress, petitioners filed their Notice of Appeal only after one year and five months from the time the Provincial Adjudicator rendered its Decision. Such a delay is unacceptable. Moreover, what makes matters worse is that petitioners offered no explanation or excuse for this Court to consider as to why it took them so long to file their appeal.  Heirs of Emiliano San Pedro, etc. vs. Pablito Garcia and Jose Calderon, G.R. No. 166988, July 3, 2009.

Appeal;  period to appeal. In addition to the non-perfection of the appeal on time, records show that the notice of appeal failed to indicate the date when the petitioner received the Order denying its motion for reconsideration. The rules require that the notice of appeal shall state the material dates showing the timeliness of the appeal. The indication of date is important in order for the trial court to determine the timeliness of the petitioner’s appeal.

Likewise, petitioner did not pay the appellate court’s docket and other lawful fees on time. Respondents pointed out that the payment of the fees, as reflected by the official receipts, was made only after five months from the filing of the notice of appeal. National Power Corporation vs. Sps. Lorenzo L. Laohoo, et al., G.R. No. 151973,  July 23, 2009.

Appeal; timeliness of appeal. Timeliness of an appeal is a factual issue that requires a review of the evidence presented on when the appeal was actually filed.

In a petition for review on certiorari, this Court is limited to the review of errors of law; we do not pass upon findings of facts under this mode of review unless the lower tribunal’s decision is shown to be attended by grave abuse of discretion, as when they are shown to have been made arbitrarily or in disregard of the evidence on record. This rule applies with great force in labor cases where the ruling tribunal – the NLRC – exercises specialized jurisdiction and has acknowledged expertise on labor matters; we generally accord the NLRC’s findings not only respect but even finality, unless the exceptions mentioned above exist, or when a review of the findings of facts is rendered necessary and appropriate because the factual findings and conclusions of the labor arbiter, the NLRC and the CA (as the court essentially tasked with factual review) are in conflict with one another. Eureka Personnel and Management Corp., and Nari K. Gidwani vs. The Hon. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. G.R. No. 159358, July 15, 2009.

Certiorari;  extension of time.  While the proper courts previously had discretion to extend the period for filing a petition for certiorari beyond the 60-day period, the amendments to Rule 65 under A.M. No. 07-7-12-SC disallowed extensions of time to file a petition for certiorari with the deletion of the paragraph that previously permitted such extension.  Laguna Metts Corporation Vs. Court of Appeals, Aries C. Caalam and Geraldine Esguerra, G.R. No. 185220,  July 27, 2009.

Certiorari;  hierarchy of courts.  True, we had, on certain occasions, entertained direct recourse to this Court as an exception to the rule on hierarchy of courts. In those exceptional cases, however, we recognized an exception because it was dictated by public welfare and the advancement of public policy, or demanded by the broader interest of justice, or the orders complained of were found to be patent nullities, or the appeal was considered as clearly an inappropriate remedy.

In the instant case, however, the questions raised are issues evidently within the normal precincts of an appeal which cannot be peremptorily addressed by an extraordinary writ. In fact, the Court of Appeals (CA) has jurisdiction to review the resolution issued by the Secretary of the DOJ through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court albeit solely on the ground that the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of his discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. Petitioners could have easily availed themselves of such recourse instead of directly assailing the same before this Court.  Cong. Glenn A. Chong, Mr. Charles Chong, and Mr. Romeo Arribe vs. Hon. Philip L. Dela Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 184948,  July 21, 2009.

Certiorari;  material dates.  On the matter of material dates, the petition for certiorari failed to indicate the material dates that would show the timeliness of the filing thereof with the Court of Appeals. It is settled that the following material dates must be stated in a petition for certiorari brought under Rule 65: first, the date when notice of the judgment or final order or resolution was received; second, the date when a motion for new trial or for reconsideration was filed; and third, the date when notice of the denial thereof was received. In the case before us, petitioner failed to indicate the first and second dates, particularly the date of receipt of the NLRC resolution and the date of filing of the motion for reconsideration. As explicitly stated in Rule 65, failure to comply with any of the requirements shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition.  Davao Contractors Development Cooperative (DACODECO), represented by Chairman of the Board Engr. L. Chavez vs. Marilyn A. Pasawa, G.R. No. 172174, July 9, 2009.

Complaint;  affidavit of desistance.  The desistance of the complainant does not necessarily result in the dismissal of the administrative complaint because the Court attaches no persuasive value to a desistance, especially when executed as an afterthought. It should be remembered that the issue in an administrative case is not whether the complaint states a cause of action against the respondent, but whether the public officials have breached the norms and standards of the public service. Considering that petitioner admitted in his pleadings that he summarily removed the concrete posts erected by respondent, allegedly within the parameters of his authority as Municipal Engineer of Naic, Cavite, it is only proper that this case be decided on its merits rather than on the basis of the desistance of respondent.  Guillermo M. Telmo vs. Luciano M. Bustamante, G.R. No. 182567, July 13, 2009.

Decision; moot and academic.  When respondent was then allowed to avail herself of optional retirement under the law after having served the government for more than 40 years, within the 15-day period to appeal under Rule 43, petitioner’s July 30, 2003 Resolution had become moot and academic.

Courts have generally refrained from even expressing an opinion on cases where the issues have become moot and academic, there being no more justiciable controversy to speak of, so that a determination thereof would be of no practical use or value. In the present case, when her appointment was disapproved by petitioner, respondent would still have been able to retire under the applicable law, R.A. 8291, as said law only requires that the employee concerned must have rendered at least 15 years of service and must not have been receiving disability benefits at the time of retirement. Petitioner, having retired on August 31, 2003, the position of IPRS I is presumed to have been already filled up and to be now occupied by one bearing the requisite qualifications. Hence, passing on the disapproval of respondent’s appointment no longer has any practical value.  Civil Service Commission vs. Nelia O. Tahanlangit, G.R. No. 180528, July 27, 2009.

Decision;  unpromulgated. An unpromulgated decision is no decision at all. At the very least, they are part of the confidential internal deliberations of the Court which must not be released to the public. A decision becomes binding only after it is validly promulgated. Until such operative act occurs, there is really no decision to speak of, even if some or all of the Justices have already affixed their signatures thereto. During the intervening period from the time of signing until the promulgation of the decision, any one who took part in the deliberation and had signed the decision may, for a reason, validly withdraw one’s vote, thereby preserving one’s freedom of action.  Limkaichong vs. Comelec/Biraogo  vs. Nograles, et al./Paras vs. Nograles, et al./Villando vs. Comelec, et al., G.R. Nos. 178831-32/G.R. No. 179120/G.R. Nos. 179132-33/G.R. Nos. 179240-41, July 30, 2009.

Evidence; alibi. It is well settled that positive identification, where categorical and consistent and not attended by any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial which, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving weight in law. For this reason, the defense of alibi and denial cannot prosper in the light of the positive identification by complainant Guiritan that it was petitioner who stabbed him.  Arthur Zarate vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, G.R. No. 152263, July 3, 2009.

Evidence; alibi.  Alibi is generally viewed with suspicion because of its inherent weakness and unreliability. For this defense to prosper, jurisprudence demands the physical impossibility of the presence of the accused at the locus criminis or its immediate vicinity at the time of the incident. Where the least chance exists for the accused to be present at the crime scene, the defense of alibi fails.   People of the Philippines vs. Jojo Musa y Santos, et al., G.R. No. 170472, July 3, 2009.

Evidence; burden of proof. In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. When a plaintiff’s case depends upon the establishment of a negative fact, and the means of proving the fact are equally within the control of each party, then the burden of proof is upon the party averring the negative fact.

In the instant case, respondents assert the negative fact, i.e., that no copy of the October 16, 1989 Order was sent to petitioners. In short, they have the burden of proof to show that petitioners were not furnished with a copy of the October 16, 1989 Order. Sps. Henry O and Pacita Cheng vs. Sps. Jose Javier and Claudia Dailisan, G.R. No. 182485, July 3, 2009.

Evidence;  burden of proof. In civil cases, he who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it. Having made such allegation that the proceeds of the sale were grossly inadequate, the burden of proof was upon them. Mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. While this Court is not unaware of petitioner Ernesto Tagle’s reputation as a known artist and painter, mere claim of his renown in artistic circles is not proof of the purported high value of his artwork and pieces that were auctioned or of the inadequacy of the price when such works were sold during the questioned auction sales. We note that the Tagles presented several receipts to show the prices at which some of petitioner Ernesto Tagle’s artworks had allegedly been sold. However, there was no evidence that the artworks auctioned on execution were of the same kind or worth as those sold to the buyers indicated in the said receipts. Ergo, there were no bases for comparison for the value of the works mentioned in the said receipts and the value of those sold at the execution sales questioned herein. What was incumbent upon petitioners was to produce independent, competent and credible valuations or appraisals of the artwork sold during the assailed public auctions in order to substantiate their claim that the prices at which said paintings and artwork were sold were indeed grossly inadequate.  Sps. Elizabeth S. Tagle Ernesto R. Tagle vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, RTC, Quezon City, Branch 97, Sps. Federico and Rosamyrna Carandang and Sheriff Carol Bulacan, G.R. No. 162738, July 8, 2009.

Evidence;  burden of proof.  It bears stressing that in administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence, the allegations in the complaint. Substantial evidence does not necessarily import preponderance of evidence as is required in an ordinary civil case; rather, it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Office of the Ombudsman, Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, in her capacity as the Ombudsman vs. Rufino V. Maijares, Roberto G. Ferrera, Alfredo M. Ruba and Romeo Querubin. G.R. Nos. 170615-16.  July 9, 2009

Evidence; burden of proof. Burden of proof, under Section 1, Rule 131 of the Rules on Evidence, refers to the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue in order to establish his or her claim or defense. In a criminal case, the burden of proof to establish the guilt of the accused falls upon the prosecution which has the duty to prove all the essential ingredients of the crime. The prosecution completes its case as soon as it has presented the evidence it believes is sufficient to prove the required elements. At this point, the burden of evidence shifts to the defense to disprove what the prosecution has shown by evidence, or to prove by evidence the circumstances showing that the accused did not commit the crime charged or cannot otherwise be held liable therefor. In the present case, the prosecution completed its evidence and had done everything that the law requires it to do. The burden of evidence has now shifted to the defense which now claims, by an affirmative defense, that the accused, even if guilty, should be exempt from criminal liability because of his age when he committed the crime. The defense, therefore, not the prosecution, has the burden of showing by evidence that the petitioner was 15 years old or less when he committed the rape charged.

This conclusion can also be reached by considering that minority and age are not elements of the crime of rape; the prosecution therefore has no duty to prove these circumstances. To impose the burden of proof on the prosecution would make minority and age integral elements of the crime when clearly they are not. If the prosecution has a burden related to age, this burden relates to proof of the age of the victim as a circumstance that qualifies the crime of rape.  Roberto Sierra y Caneda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 182941, July 3, 2009.

Evidence;  conspiracy. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during, and after the commission of the crime which indubitably point to, and are indicative of, a joint purpose, concert of action, and community of interest. Conspiracy does not require proof of an appreciable period of time for the perpetrators to come to an agreement, or for proof of an agreement prior to the criminal deed; conspiracy exists if evidence indicates that at the time of the commission of the offense, the malefactors had the same purpose and were united in its execution.  People of the Philippines vs. Jojo Musa y Santos, et al., G.R. No. 170472, July 3, 2009.

Evidence;  identification. The fact that Permejo was not able to identify accused-appellants as the perpetrators of the crime impinges heavily on the credibility of prosecution’s evidence. For if, indeed, the accused-appellants were the malefactors of the crime who did not hide their faces during the robbery, the eyewitness, who had such close, traumatic encounter with them, should automatically have recalled their faces upon seeing them. It behooves this Court to declare that she was not able to do so positively.

Having ignored the abovementioned important circumstance, the trial court misconstrued and misapplied facts and circumstances of the case, warranting the modification or reversal of the outcome of the case. The trial court grievously erred when it ruled that the lone prosecution eyewitness categorically and positively identified accused-appellants as the perpetrators of the crime. People of the Philippines vs. Charmen Olivo y Along, Nelson Danda y Sambuto and Joey Zafra y Reyes, G.R. No. 177768,  July 27, 2009.

Evidence;  out of court identification.  Out-of-court identification is conducted by the police in various ways. It is done thru show-ups where the suspect alone is brought face to face with the witness for identification. It is done thru mug shots where photographs are shown to the witness to identify the suspect. It is also done thru line-ups where a witness identifies the suspect from a group of persons lined up for the purpose x x x In resolving the admissibility of and relying on out-of-court identification of suspects, courts have adopted the totality of circumstances test where they consider the following factors, viz: (1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness’ degree of attention at that time; (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.  People of the Philippines vs. Jojo Musa y Santos, et al., G.R. No. 170472, July 3, 2009.

Evidence; mentally retardedPeople v. Tabio upheld the credibility of the mentally retarded complaining witness after noting that the witness spoke unequivocally on the details of the crime. The Court in that case observed that the witness would not have spoken so tenaciously about her experience had it not really happened to her. In People v. Macapal, Jr., the court stressed that testimonial discrepancies caused by a witness’ natural fickleness of memory does not destroy the substance of the testimony of said witness. Likewise, People v. Martin appreciated the natural and straightforward narration of the mentally deficient victim and dismissed her inaccurate and unresponsive answers. The Court in Martin reasoned that even children of normal intelligence can not be expected to give a precise account of events considering their naiveté and still undeveloped vocabulary and command of language. People of the Philippines vs. Warlito Martinez, G.R. No. 182687,  July 23, 2009.

Evidence;  rape. To ascertain the guilt or innocence of the accused in cases of rape, the courts have been traditionally guided by three settled principles, namely: (a) an accusation for rape is easy to make, difficult to prove and even more difficult to disprove; (b) in view of the intrinsic nature of the crime, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with utmost caution; and (c) the evidence of the prosecution must stand on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense.

Since the crime of rape is essentially one committed in relative isolation or even secrecy, it is usually only the victim who can testify with regard to the fact of the forced coitus. In its prosecution, therefore, the credibility of the victim is almost always the single and most important issue to deal with. If her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused can justifiably be convicted on the basis thereof; otherwise, he should be acquitted of the crime.  People of the Philippines vs. Benjie Resurrection, G.R. No. 185389, July 7, 2009.

Evidence;  rape.  The evaluation of the credibility of witnesses in rape cases is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge whose conclusion deserves much weight and respect because he/she has the direct opportunity to observe them on the stand and ascertain if they are telling the truth or not.  People of the Philippines vs. Willy Mardo Ganoy y Mamayabay,  G.R. No. 174370, July 23, 2009.

Evidence;  rape.  It cannot be over-emphasized that the credibility of a rape victim is not diminished, let alone impaired, by minor inconsistencies in her testimony. Such inconsistencies are inconsequential when they refer to minor details that have nothing to do with the essential fact of the commission of the crime––carnal knowledge through force and intimidation. The alleged inconsistencies refer to minor details and are evidently beyond the essential fact of the commission of rape because they do not pertain to the actual sexual assault itself––that very moment when Wasit was forcing himself on AAA. A weeping AAA had pointed to Wasit as the very person who defiled her. People of the Philippines Vs. Felix Wasit, G.R .No. 182454,  July 23, 2009.

Evidence; res gestae. A declaration made spontaneously after a startling occurrence is deemed as part of the res gestae when (1) the principal act, the res gestae is a startling occurrence; (2) the statements were made before the declarant had time to contrive or devise; and (3) the statements concern the occurrence in question and its immediately attending circumstances.

In this case, Guiritan lost consciousness when he was brought to the hospital and regained consciousness the following morning after the operation. The hospital records showed that the operation started at 5:00 a.m. and ended at 7:30 a.m. of April 2, 1994. SPO1 Alecha testified that it was also in the morning of April 2, 1994 that he took the statement of Guiritan, who stated that it was petitioner who stabbed him.

SPO1 Alecha testified that he had to put his ear near Guiritan’s mouth so that he could hear Guiritan’s answers as he was catching his breath. The foregoing circumstances reveal that the statement was taken a few hours after the operation when he regained consciousness. His statements were still the reflex product of immediate sensual impressions so that it was the shocking event speaking through him, and he did not have the opportunity to concoct or contrive the story. Thus, his statement is admissible as part of the res gestae. Contrary to petitioner’s contention, the statement was signed by Guiritan and its date was established by SPO1 Alecha.  Arthur Zarate vs. Regional Trial Court, Br. Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, G.R. No. 152263, July 3, 2009.

Foreclosure;  notice. Verily, following Section 6, Rule 13, the written notice of sale to the judgment obligor need not be personally served on the judgment obligor himself. It may be served on his counsel, or by leaving the notice in his office with his clerk or a person having charge thereof. If there is no one found at the judgment obligor’s or his counsel’s office or if such office is not known/inexistent, it may be served at the residence of the judgment obligor or his counsel and may be received by any person of sufficient age and discretion residing therein. Thus, petitioners’ theory (that only written notice of sale served on petitioners’ themselves would be valid) is utterly bereft of merit. Sps. Elizabeth S. Tagle Ernesto R. Tagle vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, RTC, Quezon City, Branch 97, Sps. Federico and Rosamyrna Carandang and Sheriff Carol Bulacan, G.R. No. 162738, July 8, 2009.

Information;  conspiracy. It is settled that conspiracy must be alleged, not merely inferred, in the information. A look at the information readily shows that the words “conspiracy,” “conspired” or “in conspiracy with” does not appear in the information. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the absence of these words would signify that conspiracy was not alleged in the information. After carefully reading the information, we find that conspiracy was properly alleged in the information. The accusatory portion reads in part: “all the above-named accused, with evident intent to defraud the government of legitimate taxes accruing to it from imported articles, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and knowingly participate in and facilitate the transportation, concealment, and possession of dutiable electronic equipment and accessories with a domestic market value of P20,000,000.00 contained in container van no. TTNU9201241, but which were declared in Formal Entry and Revenue Declaration No. 118302 as assorted men’s and ladies’ accessories x x x.” We find the phrase “participate in and facilitate” to be a clear and definite allegation of conspiracy sufficient for those being accused to competently enter a plea and to make a proper defense. Rene M. Francisco vs. People of the Philippines/Oscar A. Ojeda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 177430/G.R. No. 178935, July 14, 2009.

Information;  probable cause.  The general rule is that the courts do not interfere with the discretion of the public prosecutor in determining the specificity and adequacy of the averments in a criminal complaint. The determination of probable cause for the purpose of filing an information in court is an executive function which pertains at the first instance to the public prosecutor and then to the Secretary of Justice. The duty of the Court in appropriate cases is merely to determine whether the executive determination was done without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. Resolutions of the Secretary of Justice are not subject to review unless made with grave abuse. Melba Rose R. Sasot vs. Amado Yuson, et al., G.R. No. 141888, July 13, 2009.

Information;  probable cause.  The general rule has been that the courts will not interfere with the discretion of the prosecutor or the Ombudsman, in the exercise of his investigative power, to determine the specificity and adequacy of the averments of the offense charged. The Ombudsman has the full discretion to determine whether or not a criminal case should be filed. Nonetheless, this Court is not precluded from reviewing the Ombudsman’s action when there is a charge of grave abuse of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment tantamount to lack of jurisdiction. The Ombudsman’s exercise of power must have been done in an arbitrary or despotic manner which must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. An examination of the records would show that the Office of the Ombudsman did not act with grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or in excess of jurisdiction, in dismissing the complaint against Balasbas.  Hilario P. Soriano vs. Ombudsman Simeon V. Marcelo, et al., G.R. No. 160772, July 13, 2009.

Information;  probable cause.  It is hornbook principle that the term “grave abuse of discretion” means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack ofjurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility and must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of law.

The DOJ, in reversing the City Prosecutor’s finding of probable cause and ordering the discharge of Esperanza, noted that although the evidence on record fully supported the finding of probable cause against Sagum based on his admission that he forged herein respondent’s signature on the Deed of Real Estate Mortgage without the participation of Esperanza, there was no basis to hold that Esperanza conspired with him to effect the forgery. The DOJ, citing Dans, Jr. v. People, ruled that conspiracy, like the crime itself, must be proven by competent proof, independently and beyond reasonable doubt.

A reading of the Resolution of the Office of the City Prosecutor does not at all indicate why conspiracy was present between Esperanza and her uncle. There was thus no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the DOJ in issuing its Resolutions.  Sps. Artemio and Esperanza Aduan vs. Levi Chong, G.R. No. 172796, July 13, 2009.

Judgment; annulment. The remedy of petition for annulment of judgment, final order or resolution under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court is an extraordinary one inasmuch as it is available only where the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other remedies can no longer be availed of through no fault of the petitioner. The relief it affords is equitable in character as it strikes at the core of finality of such judgments and orders.

The grounds for a petition for annulment are in themselves specific in the same way that the relief itself is. The Rules restrict the grounds only to lack of jurisdiction and extrinsic fraud to prevent the remedy from being used by a losing party in making a complete farce of a duly promulgated decision or a duly issued order or resolution that has long attained finality. This certainly is based on sound public policy for litigations and, despite occasional risks of error, must be brought to a definite end and the issues that go with them must one way or other be laid to rest. In turn, lack of jurisdiction — the ground relied upon by petitioner — is confined only to either lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defending party or over the subject matter of the claim. A valid invocation of this ground rests exclusively on absolute lack of jurisdiction as opposed to a mere abuse of jurisdictional discretion or mere errors in judgment committed in the exercise of jurisdiction inasmuch as jurisdiction is distinct from the exercise thereof. Hence, where the facts demonstrate that the court has validly acquired jurisdiction over the respondent and over the subject matter of the case, its decision or order cannot be validly voided via a petition for annulment on the ground of absence or lack of jurisdiction.  Mandy Commodities Co., Inc. vs. The International Commercial Bank of China,  G.R. No. 166734, July 3, 2009.

Judgment;  execution. The CA correctly held that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ordering the issuance of a writ of execution with the correct address of the subject property. Such act was well within a court’s inherent power “to amend and control its process and orders so as to make them conformable to law and justice.”

At the time the motion for execution pending appeal was filed, the RTC had already assumed jurisdiction over the case. Hence, the MeTC was no longer in a position to correct the error contained in the dispositive portion. The duty devolved upon the RTC, before which the appeal was pending, to rectify the error contained in the dispositive portion of the judgment sought to be executed. Clerical error or ambiguity in the dispositive portion of a judgment may be rectified or clarified by reference primarily to the body of the decision itself and, suppletorily, to the pleadings previously filed. Lydia Montebon a.k.a. Jingle Montebon Vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 180568, July 13, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. The trial court’s Order of July 15, 2004 was not a final judgment; consequently, its entry in the Book of Entries of Judgment on August 10, 2004 was premature and, therefore, void. In the case at bar, the July 15, 2004 Order did not dispose of all the issues in the case, as the issues of LVV’s unearned earnings and attorney’s fees remained unresolved.  It was only on November 23, 2004 when the trial court noted LVV’s voluntary desistance from presenting evidence on these issues that they were disposed of.  Republic of the Philippines represented by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendioal, etc., G.R. No. 175551, July 14, 2009.

Judgment;  finality.  As matters now stand, the CA judgment affirming the accused-appellant’s conviction for two counts of rape is already final and executory. In light of this development, we can no longer disturb the assailed CA decision and resolution presently before us following the principle of immutability of judgments: once a judgment becomes final and executory, it becomes unalterable and can no longer be modified nor reversed even to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law. We are compelled therefore to dismiss the present appeal. This conclusion is doubly strengthened by our finding that no compelling reason exists to disturb the assailed rulings.  People of the Philippines vs. Jesus Obero, G.R. No. 169878, July 7, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. To emphasize, what is being questioned by respondent was not really the January 4, 2000 Decision of the RTC declaring their marriage void ab initio on the ground of mutual psychological incapacity, but the Orders of the trial court dividing their common properties in accordance with the proposed project of partition without the benefit of a hearing. The issue on the validity of their marriage has long been settled in the main decision and may no longer be the subject of review. Marywin Albano-Sales vs. Mayor Reynolan T. Sales and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 174803,  July 13, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition.   The Labor Arbiter acquired jurisdiction over her person regardless of the fact that there was allegedly no valid service of summons. It bears noting that, in quasi-judicial proceedings, procedural rules governing service of summons are not strictly construed. Substantial compliance therewith is sufficient. In the cases at bar, petitioner, her husband and three other relatives, were all individually impleaded in the complaint. The Labor Arbiter furnished her with notices of the scheduled hearings and other processes. It is undisputed that HELIOS, of which she and her therein co-respondents in the subject cases were the stockholders and managers, was in fact heard, proof of which is the attendance of her husband, President-General Manager of HELIOS, together with counsel in one such scheduled hearing and the Labor Arbiter’s consideration of their position paper in arriving at the Decision, albeit the same position paper was belatedly filed.

Clearly, petitioner was adequately represented in the proceedings conducted by the Labor Arbiter by the lawyer retained by HELIOS.  Carmen B. Dy-Dumalasa vs. Domingo Sabado S. Fernandez, et al., G.R. No. 178760,  July 23, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition.  The filing of the above-mentioned Motion to Dismiss, without invoking the lack of jurisdiction over the person of the respondents, is deemed a voluntary appearance on the part of the respondents under the aforequoted provision of the Rules. The same conclusion can be drawn from the filing of the Supplemental Motion to Dismiss and Reply to the Comment on the Motion to Dismiss dated November 13, 2000 which alleged, as an additional ground for the dismissal of petitioners’ complaint, the failure of plaintiffs to pay the required filing fee again but failed to raise the alleged lack of jurisdiction of the court over the person of the respondents.  Sps. German Anunciacion, et al. vs. Perpetua M. Bocanegra, et al., G.R. No. 152496,  July 30, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition.  We cannot countenance petitioner’s argument that the complaint against the other defendants should have been dismissed, considering that the RTC never acquired jurisdiction over the person of Sereno. The court’s failure to acquire jurisdiction over one’s person is a defense which is personal to the person claiming it. Obviously, it is now impossible for Sereno to invoke the same in view of his death. Neither can petitioner invoke such ground, on behalf of Sereno, so as to reap the benefit of having the case dismissed against all of the defendants. Failure to serve summons on Sereno’s person will not be a cause for the dismissal of the complaint against the other defendants, considering that they have been served with copies of the summons and complaints and have long submitted their respective responsive pleadings. In fact, the other defendants in the complaint were given the chance to raise all possible defenses and objections personal to them in their respective motions to dismiss and their subsequent answers.   Atty. Rogelio E. Sarsaba vs. Fe vda De Te, represented by her Attorney-in-Fact Faustino Castañeda, G.R. No. 175910, July 30, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition. There was already a valid service of summons in the persons of respondent spouses Mogol. To recapitulate, the process server presented the summons and the copy of the complaint to respondent spouses at the courtroom of the MeTC of Manila, Branch 24. The latter immediately referred the matter to their counsel, who was present with them in the aforesaid courtroom. At the express direction of his clients, the counsel took the summons and the copy of the complaint, read the same, and thereby informed himself of the contents of the said documents. Ineluctably, at that point, the act of the counsel of respondent spouses Mogol of receiving the summons and the copy of the complaint already constituted receipt on the part of his clients, for the same was done with the latter’s behest and consent. Already accomplished was the operative act of “handing” a copy of the summons to respondent spouses in person. Thus, jurisdiction over the persons of the respondent spouses Mogol was already acquired by the MeTC of Manila, Branch 25. That being said, the subsequent act of the counsel of respondent spouses of returning the summons and the copy of the complaint to the process server was no longer material.

Furthermore, the instruction of the counsel for respondent spouses not to obtain a copy of the summons and the copy of the complaint, under the lame excuse that the same must be served only in the address stated therein, was a gross mistake. Section 6, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court does not require that the service of summons on the defendant in person must be effected only at the latter’s residence as stated in the summons. On the contrary, said provision is crystal clear that, whenever practicable, summons shall be served by handing a copy thereof to the defendant; or if he refuses to receive and sign for it, by tendering it to him. Nothing more is required. As correctly held by the RTC of Manila, Branch 50, the service of the copy of the summons and the complaint inside the courtroom of the MeTC of Manila, Branch 24 was the most practicable act under the circumstances, and the process server need not wait for respondent spouses Mogol to reach their given address, i.e., at 1218 Daisy St., Employee Village, Lucena City, before he could serve on the latter the summons and the copy of the complaint. Due to the distance of the said address, service therein would have been more costly and would have entailed a longer delay on the part of the process server in effecting the service of the summons.  Sansio Philippines, Inc. vs. Sps. Alicia Leodegario Mogol, Jr., G.R. No. 177007,  July 14, 2009

Jurisdiction;  panel of arbitrators. It is clear from the ruling of the Court in Olympic Mines and Celestial Nickel Mining that the Panel of Arbitrators only has jurisdiction over adverse claims, conflicts, and oppositions relating to applications for the grant of mineral rights, but not over cancellation of mineral rights already granted and existing.

As the authority to issue an Exploration Permit is vested in the MGB, then the same necessarily includes the corollary power to revoke, withdraw or cancel the same. Indisputably, the authority to deny, revoke, or cancel EP No. 05-001 of private respondent is already lodged with the MGB, and not with the Panel of Arbitrators. Pyro Coppermining Corporation vs. Mines Adjudication Board-Department of Environment and Natural Resources, et al., G.R. No. 179674,  July 28, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  probate proceedings.  The applicable law, therefore, confers jurisdiction on the RTC or the MTCs over probate proceedings depending on the gross value of the estate, which value must be alleged in the complaint or petition to be filed.

Nowhere in the petition is there a statement of the gross value of Moises’s estate. Thus, from a reading of the original petition filed, it cannot be determined which court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the proceedings. The RTC therefore committed gross error when it had perfunctorily assumed jurisdiction despite the fact that the initiatory pleading filed before it did not call for the exercise of its jurisdiction. The RTC should have, at the outset, dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Be it noted that the dismissal on the said ground may be ordered motu proprio by the courts. Further, the CA, on appeal, should have dismissed the case on the same ground. Settled is the doctrine that the issue of jurisdiction may be raised by any of the parties or may be reckoned by the court, at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal, and is not lost by waiver or by estoppel.

Despite the pendency of this case for around 18 years, the exception laid down in Tijam v. Sibonghanoy and clarified recently in Figueroa v. People cannot be applied. First, because, as a general rule, the principle of estoppel by laches cannot lie against the government. No injustice to the parties or to any third person will be wrought by the ruling that the trial court has no jurisdiction over the instituted probate proceedings.

Second and most important, because in Tijam, the delayed invocation of lack of jurisdiction has been made during the execution stage of a final and executory ruling of a court. In Figueroa, the Court has emphasized that estoppel by laches only supervenes in exceptional cases similar to the factual milieu in Tijam.  In the Matter of the Allowance of the Will of Moises F. Banayad Apolonia Banayad Frianela Vs. Servillano Banayad, Jr., G.R. No. 169700, July 30, 2009.

Motions;  motion for clarification. This Court finds merit in the respondents’ motion for partial reconsideration, since the words “inclusive of allowance and x x x other benefits or the monetary equivalent thereof” are merely descriptive of “full backwages,” which this Court had already categorically awarded to respondents after a thorough discussion of the merits of the case. They do not constitute a new or additional award to respondents. The inclusion of these words in the dispositive part of the Decision serves only to clarify the same so that in the implementation thereof, none of the rights legally due to the respondents shall be overlooked.  Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils, Inc. vs. Alan M. Agito, Regolo S. Oca III, et al., G.R. No. 179546, July 23, 2009.

Motions;  motion for new trial.  Petitioner argues that the CA should have granted her motion for reconsideration of the May 15, 2003 resolution. She asserts that under Rule 37, Section 1 (a) of the Rules of Court, the abandonment of her case by her former counsel amounted to extrinsic fraud which was a meritorious ground.

Petitioner is incorrect. Extrinsic fraud is a valid ground in a motion for new trial, not a motion for reconsideration.  Nely T. Co vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 160265, July 13, 2009.

Motions;  motion to lift order of default.  Upon being declared in default, respondent Tansipek filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Default Order. Upon denial thereof, Tansipek filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals, which was dismissed for failure to attach the assailed Orders. Respondent Tansipek’s Motion for Reconsideration with the Court of Appeals was denied for having been filed out of time. Respondent Tansipek did not appeal said denial to this Court.

Respondent Tansipek’s remedy against the Order of Default was erroneous from the very beginning. Respondent Tansipek should have filed a Motion to Lift Order of Default, and not a Motion for Reconsideration, pursuant to Section 3(b), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court.

A Motion to Lift Order of Default is different from an ordinary motion in that the Motion should be verified; and must show fraud, accident, mistake or excusable neglect, and meritorious defenses. The allegations of (1) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable neglect, and (2) of meritorious defenses must concur.  Banco De Oro-EPCI, Inc. vs. John Tansipek, G.R. No. 181235,  July 22, 2009.

Party; death of party. When a party to a pending action dies and the claim is not extinguished, the Rules of Court require a substitution of the deceased. Section 1, Rule 87 of the Rules of Court enumerates the actions that survived and may be filed against the decedent’s representatives as follows: (1) actions to recover real or personal property or an interest thereon, (2) actions to enforce liens thereon, and (3) actions to recover damages for an injury to a person or a property. In such cases, a counsel is obliged to inform the court of the death of his client and give the name and address of the latter’s legal representative.

The rule on substitution of parties is governed by Section 16, Rule 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.

Strictly speaking, the rule on substitution by heirs is not a matter of jurisdiction, but a requirement of due process. The rule on substitution was crafted to protect every party’s right to due process. It was designed to ensure that the deceased party would continue to be properly represented in the suit through his heirs or the duly appointed legal representative of his estate. Moreover, non-compliance with the Rules results in the denial of the right to due process for the heirs who, though not duly notified of the proceedings, would be substantially affected by the decision rendered therein. Thus, it is only when there is a denial of due process, as when the deceased is not represented by any legal representative or heir, that the court nullifies the trial proceedings and the resulting judgment therein.

In the case before Us, it appears that respondent’s counsel did not make any manifestation before the RTC as to her death. In fact, he had actively participated in the proceedings. Neither had he shown any proof that he had been retained by respondent’s legal representative or any one who succeeded her.

However, such failure of counsel would not lead Us to invalidate the proceedings that have long taken place before the RTC. The Court has repeatedly declared that failure of the counsel to comply with his duty to inform the court of the death of his client, such that no substitution is effected, will not invalidate the proceedings and the judgment rendered thereon if the action survives the death of such party. The trial court’s jurisdiction over the case subsists despite the death of the party.

The purpose behind this rule is the protection of the right to due process of every party to the litigation who may be affected by the intervening death. The deceased litigants are themselves protected as they continue to be properly represented in the suit through the duly appointed legal representative of their estate. Atty. Rogelio E. Sarsaba vs. Fe vda De Te, represented by her Attorney-in-Fact Faustino Castañeda, G.R. No. 175910, July 30, 2009.

Parties; indispensable parties. Rule 3, Section 7 of the Rules of Court, defines indispensable parties as parties-in-interest without whom there can be no final determination of an action. As such, they must be joined either as plaintiffs or as defendants. The general rule with reference to the making of parties in a civil action requires, of course, the joinder of all necessary parties where possible, and the joinder of all indispensable parties under any and all conditions, their presence being a sine qua non for the exercise of judicial power. It is precisely “when an indispensable party is not before the court [that] the action should be dismissed.” The absence of an indispensable party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present. Erna Casals, et al. Vs. Tayud Golf and Country Club, et al.G.R. No. 183105,  July 22, 2009.

Parties; real parties in interest. Petitioners are not real parties in interest and therefore have no cause of action in bringing the present case. 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. A cause of action is the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another. In the present case, there is no dispute that Juan Santiago owned half of the subject lot while the other half belonged to his brother Jose. Juan Santiago merely exercised his right when he sold a portion of his undivided half to Mark Vincent L. Ong. Petitioners question Juan’s transaction even though petitioners are neither parties to the contract nor heirs or assigns of Juan Santiago. Juan Santiago left a probated will leaving all his properties to his wife Aurea, to the exclusion of petitioners. As heirs of Jose Santiago, co-owner of the subject property, petitioners may only question the sale if their right of preemption under the Civil Code of the Philippines was disregarded, and they wish to exercise such right. However, petitioners do not seek to exercise the right of preemption. Thus, they are not real parties in interest in the present case.  Heirs of Jose G. Santiago, namely: Julia G. Santiago, et al. vs.. Aurea G. Santiago, et al., G.R. No. 161238, July 13, 2009.

Parties; real party in interest. Under Section 2, Rule 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, “every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest.” To qualify a person to be a real party in interest in whose name an action must be prosecuted, he must appear to be the present real owner of the right sought to be enforced. 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 remedies under the suit.

Interest within the meaning of the Rules refers to material interest or an interest in issue to be affected by the decree or judgment of the case. One having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff (or petitioner) in an action.

Indisputably, being the administrative agency which resolved the conflicting claims of De Guzman and Magat over the subject property, the NHA does not stand to be benefited or injured by the judgment in this case. It does not have any material interest over the subject property to protect or defend. In other words, the NHA does not have a cause of action against Magat precisely because the real parties in interest in the present case are De Guzman and Magat, who are both claiming the subject property.  National Housing Authority vs. Reynaldo Magat, G.R. No. 164244,  July 30, 2009.

Pre-trial;  non-appearance.  Section 5 of Rule 18 provides that the dismissal of an action due to the plaintiff’s failure to appear at the pre-trial shall be with prejudice, unless otherwise ordered by the court. In this case, the trial court deemed the plaintiffs-herein spouses as non-suited and ordered the dismissal of their Complaint. As the dismissal was a final order, the proper remedy was to file an ordinary appeal and not a petition for certiorari. The spouses’ petition for certiorari was thus properly dismissed by the appellate court.

Procedural infirmities aside, this Court took a considered look at the spouses’ excuse to justify their non-appearance at the pre-trial but found nothing exceptional to warrant a reversal of the lower courts’ disposition thereof. Spouses Azucena B. Corpuz and Renato S. Corpuz vs. Citibank, N.A. et al. / Citibank, N.A. vs. Spouses Azucena B. Corpuz and Renato S. Corpuz, G.R. No. 175677G.R. No. 177133,  July 31, 2009.

Preliminary attachment.  Attachment is an ancillary remedy applied for not for its own sake but to enable the attaching party to realize upon relief sought and expected to be granted in the main or principal action; it is a measure auxiliary or incidental to the main action. As such, it is available during the pendency of the action which may be resorted to by a litigant to preserve and protect certain rights and interests therein pending rendition, and for purposes of the ultimate effects, of a final judgment in the case. As a corollary proposition, an order granting an application for a writ of preliminary attachment cannot, owing to the incidental or auxiliary nature of such order, be the subject of an appeal independently of the main action.

For a writ of attachment to issue, the applicant must sufficiently show the factual circumstances of the alleged fraud.

Fraud may be defined as the voluntary execution of a wrongful act, or a willful omission, knowing and intending the effects which naturally and necessarily arise from such act or omission. In its general sense, fraud is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts and omissions and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust, or confidence justly reposed, resulting in damage to another, or by which an undue and unconscientious advantage is taken of another. Fraud is also described as embracing all multifarious means which human ingenuity can device, and which are resorted to by one individual to secure an advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of truth and includes all surprise, trick, cunning, dissembling, and any unfair way by which another is cheated. Fraudulent, on the other hand, connotes intentionally wrongful, dishonest, or unfair.

In the case at bar, the Republic has, to us, sufficiently discharged the burden of demonstrating the commission of fraud committed by respondents Lims as a condition sine qua non for the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment. The main supporting proving document is the Republic’s Exhibit “B” which the Sandiganbayan unqualifiedly admitted in evidence. And the fraud or fraudulent scheme principally came in the form of Lim, Sr. holding and/or operating logging concessions which far exceeded the allowable area prescribed under the 1973 Constitution. Republic of the Philippines vs. Estate of Alfonso Lim, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 164800,  July 22, 2009.

Res judicata.  Res judicata is based on the ground that the party to be affected, or some other with whom he is in privity, has litigated the same matter in the former action in a court of competent jurisdiction, and should not be permitted to litigate it again. This principle frees the parties from undergoing all over again the rigors of unnecessary suits and repetitious trials. At the same time, it prevents the clogging of court dockets. Equally important, res judicata stabilizes rights and promotes the rule of law.

The requisites of res judicata are: (1) there must be a former final judgment rendered on the merits; (2) the court must have had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and (3) there must be identity of parties, subject matters and causes of action between the first and second actions.  Edgardo A. Quilo Vs. Rogelio G. Jundarino, Sheriff III, Metropolitan Trail Court, Branch 19, Manila, A.M. No. P-09-2644,  July 30, 2009.

Rules of procedure; relaxation. It is true that clients are bound by the mistakes, negligence and omission of their counsel. But this rule admits of exceptions – (1) where the counsel’s mistake is so great and serious that the client is prejudiced and denied his day in court, or (2) where the counsel is guilty of gross negligence resulting in the client’s deprivation of liberty or property without due process of law. Tested against these guidelines, we hold that petitioner’s lot falls within the exceptions.

It is an oft-repeated exhortation to counsels to be well-informed of existing laws and rules and to keep abreast with legal developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. Unless they faithfully comply with such duty, they may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members of the Bar. Further, lawyers in the government service are expected to be more conscientious in the performance of their duties as they are subject to public scrutiny. They are not only members of the Bar but are also public servants who owe utmost fidelity to public service. Apparently, the public prosecutor neglected to equip himself with the knowledge of the proper procedure for BP Blg. 22 cases under the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure such that he failed to appeal the civil action impliedly instituted with the BP Blg. 22 cases, the only remaining remedy available to petitioner to be able to recover the money she loaned to respondents, upon the dismissal of the criminal cases on demurrer. By this failure, petitioner was denied her day in court to prosecute the respondents for their obligation to pay their loan.  Anita Cheng vs. Souses William and Tessie Sy,  G.R. No. 174238, July 7, 2009.

Rules of procedure;  relaxation.  While the petition was indeed filed beyond the 5-day reglementary period, the COMELEC however has the discretion to suspend its rules of procedure or any portion thereof. Certainly, such rule of suspension is in accordance with the spirit of Section 6, Article IX-A of the Constitution which bestows upon the COMELEC the power to “promulgate its own rules concerning pleadings and practice before it or before any of its offices” to attain justice and the noble purpose of determining the true will of the electorate.  Jonas Taguiam vs. Commission on Election, et al., G.R. No. 184801,  July 30, 2009.

Rules of procedure;  strict application.  The general rule is that a client is bound by the acts, even mistakes, of his counsel in the realm of procedural technique. The exception to this rule is when the negligence of counsel is so gross, reckless and inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court. The failure of a party’s counsel to notify him on time of the adverse judgment to enable him to appeal therefrom is negligence, which is not excusable. Notice sent to counsel of record is binding upon the client, and the neglect or failure of counsel to inform him of an adverse judgment resulting in the loss of his right to appeal is not a ground for setting aside a judgment valid and regular on its face.

To sustain petitioner’s self-serving argument that it cannot be bound by its counsel’s negligence would set a dangerous precedent, as it would enable every party-litigant to render inoperative any adverse order or decision of the courts, through the simple expedient of alleging gross negligence on the part of its counsel.  National Power Corporation vs. Sps. Lorenzo L. Laohoo, et al., G.R. No. 151973,  July 23, 2009.

Supreme Court;  trier of facts.  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. Isabelita Vda. De Dayao and Heirs of Vicente Dayao vs. Heirs of Gavino Robles, namely: Placida vda. De Robles, et al., G.R. No. 174830,  July 31, 2009.

Writ of injunction. In order that an injunctive relief may be issued, the applicant must show that: “(1) the right of the complainant is clear and unmistakable; (2) the invasion of the right sought to be protected is material and substantial; and (3) there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage.  Compania General de Tabacos De Filipinas and La Flor De La Isabela, Inc. vs. Hon. Virgilio A. Sevandal, et al., G.R. No. 161051,  July 23, 2009.

Writ of possession.  A writ of possession is an order by which the sheriff is commanded to place a person in possession of a real or personal property. It may be issued under any of the following instances: (1) land registration proceedings under Section 17 of Act No. 496; (2) judicial foreclosure, provided the debtor is in possession of the mortgaged realty and no third person, not a party to the foreclosure suit, had intervened; and (3) extrajudicial foreclosure of a real estate mortgage under Section 7 of Act No. 3135 as amended by Act No. 4118. The third instance obtains in the instant case.
The procedure for extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgage is governed by Act No. 3135, as amended by Act No. 4118. The purchaser at the public auction sale of an extrajudicially foreclosed real property may seek possession thereof in accordance with Section 7 of Act No. 3135.

A petition for the issuance of a writ of possession under Section 7 of Act No. 3135, as amended, is not an ordinary civil action by which one party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong. It is in the nature of an ex parte motion, taken or granted at the instance and for the benefit of one party, without need of notice to or consent by any party who might be adversely affected. Moreover, during the period of redemption, it is ministerial upon the court to issue a writ of possession in favor of the purchaser of the mortgaged realty. The law requires only that the proper motion be filed, the bond approved, and no third person is involved. No discretion is left to the court. Any question regarding the regularity and validity of the sale (and consequent cancellation of the writ) is left to be determined in a subsequent proceeding as outlined in Section 8. Indeed, such question should not be raised as a justification for opposing the issuance of the writ of possession, since, under the Act, the proceeding for this is ex parte.

Upon the expiration of the redemption period, the right of the purchaser to the possession of the foreclosed property becomes absolute. The basis of this right to possession is the purchaser’s ownership of the property. In like manner, the mere filing of an ex parte motion for the issuance of the writ of possession would suffice and a bond is no longer necessary. This is because possession has become the absolute right of the purchaser as the confirmed owner. Gloria R. Motos and Martin Motos vs. Real Bank (A Thrift Bank), Inc., G.R. No. 171386,  July 17, 2009.

Writ of possession. Under Sec. 7 of Act No. 3135, a writ of possession may be issued either (1) within the one-year redemption period, upon the filing of a bond; or (2) after the lapse of the redemption period, without need of a bond.

Within the one-year redemption period, a purchaser in a foreclosure sale may apply for a writ of possession by filing a petition in the form of an ex parte motion under oath for that purpose. Upon the filing of such motion with the RTC having jurisdiction over the subject property 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.

On the other hand, after the lapse of the redemption period, a writ of possession may be issued in favor of the purchaser in a foreclosure sale as the mortgagor is now considered to have lost interest over the foreclosed property. Consequently, the purchaser, who has a right to possession after the expiration of the redemption period, becomes the absolute owner of the property when no redemption is made. In this regard, the bond is no longer needed. The purchaser can demand possession at any time following the consolidation of ownership in his name and the issuance to him of a new TCT. After consolidation of title in the purchaser’s name for failure of the mortgagor to redeem the property, the purchaser’s right to possession ripens into the absolute right of a confirmed owner. At that point, the issuance of a writ of possession, upon proper application and proof of title, to a purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale becomes merely a ministerial function.

It is settled that the proceeding in a petition for a writ of possession is ex parte and summary in nature. It is a judicial proceeding brought for the benefit of one party only, and without notice to, or consent by any person adversely interested. It is a proceeding wherein relief is granted without an opportunity for the person against whom the relief is sought to be heard. No notice is needed to be served upon persons interested in the subject property. Hence, there is no necessity of giving notice to the petitioner since he had already lost all his interests in the property when he failed to redeem the same. Accordingly, the RTC may grant the petition in the absence of the mortgagor, in this case, the petitioner.

Neither was there a need for the court to suspend the proceedings merely and solely because of the pendency of the complaint for the nullification of the real estate mortgage and the foreclosure proceedings. Martin T. Sagarbarria vs. Philippine Business Bank, G.R. No. 178330,  July 23, 2009.

Writ of possession.  Under the law, the mortgagor may file a petition to set aside the sale and writ of possession before the RTC. In case the lower court denies the petition, the mortgagor may appeal in accordance with Section 14 of Act No. 496, also known as The Land Registration Act. Even then, the order of possession shall continue in effect during the pendency of the appeal. Here, petitioners moved to quash the writ of possession issued by the RTC.  Gloria R. Motos and Martin Motos vs. Real Bank (A Thrift Bank), Inc., G.R. No. 171386,  July 17, 2009.

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