September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

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.[11] 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 Rule 65.

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 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.[29]

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.[19]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.

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