December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Appeal;  certiorari. 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 similar to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. As provided in Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, 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 this Court by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. On the other hand, a special civil action under Rule 65 is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and, as a general rule, cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal, including that under Rule 45.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Appeal; decision of RTC acting in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. In the case at bar, it is clear that when the case was appealed to the RTC, the latter took cognizance of the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, not its original jurisdiction. Hence, any further appeal from the RTC Decision must conform to the provisions of the Rules of Court dealing with said matter. It is apparent that petitioner has availed itself of the wrong remedy. Since the RTC tried the case in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, petitioner should have filed a petition for review under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court, instead of an ordinary appeal under Rule 41. The law is clear in this respect. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal;  failure to pay docket fees. The Order denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was silent as to the issue of the non-payment of docket fees; however, this Court deems that the RTC must have accepted the explanation given by respondent, otherwise, said court would have dismissed the appeal and reconsidered its decision. The failure to pay docket fees does not automatically result in the dismissal of an appeal, it being discretionary on the part of the appellate court to give it due course or not. This Court will then not interfere with matters addressed to the sound discretion of the RTC in the absence of proof that the exercise of such discretion was tainted with bias or prejudice, or made without due circumspection of the attendant circumstances of the case. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Appeal; findings of fact. As a rule, the findings of fact of the trial court when affirmed by the CA are final and conclusive on, and cannot be reviewed on appeal by, this Court as long as they are borne out by the records or are based on substantial evidence. The Court is not a trier of facts, its jurisdiction being limited to reviewing only errors of law that may have been committed by the lower courts. Republic of the Philippines vs. Ignacio Leonor and Catalino RazonG.R. No. 161424, December 23, 2009.

Appeal;  findings of fact. Well-settled is the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts. When supported by substantial evidence, the findings of fact of the CA are conclusive and binding, 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 misappreciation of facts; (5) When the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) When the CA 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 CA are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record. None of these exceptions is present in this case. We find that the Decision of the CA is supported by the required quantum of evidence. Jesus Campos and Rosemarie Campos-Bautista vs. Nenita Buevinida Pastrana, et al.G.R. No. 175994, December 8, 2009.

Appeal;  findings of fact. Even assuming that Fuji admitted that the feeds delivered were defective, the question of whether Fuji had replaced the feeds is a factual matter not usually reviewable in a petition filed under Rule 45. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court covers only questions of law. Questions of fact are not reviewable by this Court because they are final and conclusive especially if borne out by the record or based on substantial evidence. . . . Whether Fuji delivered defective feeds, or whether the statement is tantamount to an admission that the feeds delivered were defective, or whether Fuji failed to replace defective feeds, are questions of fact which necessitate an examination of the probative value of the evidence adduced before the trial court. Shrimp Specialist, Inc. vs.  Fuji-Triumph Agri-Industrial Corporation/Fuji-Trimph Agri-Industrial Corporation vs. Shrimp Specialist, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 168756/G.R. No. 171476. December 7, 2009.

Appeal;  findings of fact. The factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed by the appellate court, are generally binding on the Supreme Court. After a careful review of the records, the Court finds no reason to disturb the factual findings of the trial court and the appellate court. Shrimp Specialist, Inc. vs.  Fuji-Triumph Agri-Industrial Corporation/Fuji-Trimph Agri-Industrial Corporation vs. Shrimp Specialist, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 168756/G.R. No. 171476. December 7, 2009.

Appeal;  findings of fact. Even assuming that Fuji admitted that the feeds delivered were defective, the question of whether Fuji had replaced the feeds is a factual matter not usually reviewable in a petition filed under Rule 45. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court covers only questions of law. Questions of fact are not reviewable by this Court because they are final and conclusive especially if borne out by the record or based on substantial evidence. . . . Whether Fuji delivered defective feeds, or whether the statement is tantamount to an admission that the feeds delivered were defective, or whether Fuji failed to replace defective feeds, are questions of fact which necessitate an examination of the probative value of the evidence adduced before the trial court. Shrimp Specialist, Inc. vs.  Fuji-Triumph Agri-Industrial Corporation/Fuji-Trimph Agri-Industrial Corporation vs. Shrimp Specialist, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 168756/G.R. No. 171476. December 7, 2009.

Appeal;  findings of fact.  The petition before us raises factual issues which are not proper in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. However, we find that one of the exceptional circumstances qualifying a factual review by the Court exists, that is, the factual findings of the CA are at variance with those of the trial court. We shall then give due course to the instant petition and review the factual findings of the CA. Heirs of Domingo Hernandez Sr., et al. vs. Plaridel Mingoa, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 146548, December 18, 2009.

Appeal; findings of fact. While it is a well-settled rule, also applicable in labor cases, that issues not raised below cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, there are exceptions thereto among which are for reasons of public policy or interest. The NLRC did not err in considering the issue of the veracity of the confirmatory tests even if the same was raised only in respondents’ Motion for Reconsideration of its Decision, it being crucial in determining the validity of respondents’ dismissal from their employment. Technical rules of procedure are not strictly adhered to in labor cases. In the interest of substantial justice, new or additional evidence may be introduced on appeal before the NLRC. Such move is proper, provided due process is observed, as was the case here, by giving the opposing party sufficient opportunity to meet and rebut the new or additional evidence introduced. The Constitution no less directs the State to afford full protection to labor. To achieve this goal, technical rules of procedure shall be liberally construed in favor of the working class in accordance with the demands of substantial justice. Plantation Bay Resort & Spa and Efren Belarmino vs.  Romel S. Dubrico, et al.G.R. No. 182216, December 4, 2009.

Appeal;  issues raised for first time on appeal. Anent the argument that the donation inter vivos impaired the legitimes of petitioners, the Court deems it unnecessary to discuss the same. Said argument was indeed only raised for the first time on appeal to the Court of Appeals and in the Supplement to the Motion for Reconsideration of the appellate court’s Amended Decision at that. Points of law, theories, issues, and arguments not brought to the attention of the lower court need not be, and ordinarily will not be, considered by a reviewing court, as these cannot be raised for the first time at such late stage. Basic considerations of due process underlie this rule. Herminio M. Gutierrez, et al. vs. Flora Mendoza-Plazaet al., G.R. No. 185477, December 4, 2009.

Appeal; requirements of appeal. In HLURB Case No. REM-071597-9831, petitioners failed to perfect the appeal from the 25 January 2002 Decision of Arbiter Balasolla in the manner prescribed by the HLURB 1996 Rules of Procedure (HLURB Rules). Petitioners admittedly failed to comply with Section 3(b), Rule XII of the HLURB Rules, which specifically requires the attachment to the petition for review of a verified certification against forum shopping jointly executed by the petitioner and his counsel. The absence of such joint verified certification shall result in the dismissal of the petition for review, pursuant to Section 1, Rule XIV of the HLURB Rules. Considering that the petition for review filed by petitioners lacks the required verified certification against forum shopping, the petition for review was correctly dismissed for failure to comply with the requirements of the HLURB Rules. Hence, the 25 January 2002 Decision of Arbiter Balasolla became final for non-perfection of the appeal. Mayon Estate Corporation and Earthland Developer Corporation vs. Lualhati Beltran, G.R. No. 165387, December 18, 2009.

Certiorari; absence of appeal or any plain, speedy or adequate remedy. In addition, Section 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, provides that the remedy of certiorari may only be availed of if “there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.” . . . . It was absolutely necessary for petitioner to allege in the petition, and adduce evidence to prove, that any other existing remedy is not speedy or adequate. Thus, since petitioner could have appealed the Decision of the Director to the Commission Proper under the 1997 Revised Rules of Procedure of the COA, he is definitely not entitled to a writ of certiorari, because there was some other speedy and adequate remedy available to him. Petitioner having failed to pursue an appeal with the Commission Proper, the Decision issued by the COA-LAO-Local has become final and executory. Governor Orlando A. Fua, Jr., et al. vs. The Commission on Audit, et al.G.R. No. 175803, December 4, 2009.

Certiorari; absence of appeal oe any plain, speedy or adequate remedy. Admittedly, Metrobank’s petition for certiorari before the CA assails the dismissal order of the RTC and, under normal circumstances, Metrobank should have filed an appeal.

However, where the exigencies of the case are such that the ordinary methods of appeal may not prove adequate — either in point of promptness or completeness, so that a partial if not a total failure of justice could result – a writ of certiorari may still be issued.

Grave abuse of discretion may arise when a lower court or tribunal violates or contravenes the Constitution, the law or existing jurisprudence. As will be discussed in greater detail below, the RTC decision dismissing Metrobank’s petition was patently erroneous and clearly contravened existing jurisprudence. For this reason, we cannot fault Metrobank for resorting to the filing of a petition for certiorari with the CA to remedy a patent legal error in the hope of obtaining a speedy and adequate remedy. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company vs. Hon. Salvador Abad Santos, Presiding Judge, RTC, BR. 65, Makati City and Manfred De KoningG.R. No. 157867, December 15, 2009.

Certiorari; exhaustion of administrative remedies. By immediately filing the present petition for certiorari, petitioner failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him. The hornbook doctrine, reiterated in Joseph Peter Sison, et al. vs. Rogelio Tablangetc., is as follows: “The general rule is that before a party may seek the intervention of the court, he should first avail himself of all the means afforded him by administrative processes. The issues which administrative agencies are authorized to decide should not be summarily taken from them and submitted to the court without first giving such administrative agency the opportunity to dispose of the same after due deliberation.” The non-observance of the doctrine results in the petition having no cause of action, thus, justifying its dismissal. In this case, the necessary consequence of the failure to exhaust administrative remedies is obvious: the disallowance as ruled by the LAO-C has now become final and executory. Governor Orlando A. Fua, Jr., et al. vs. The Commission on Audit, et al.G.R. No. 175803, December 4, 2009.

Certiorari;  grave abuse of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion means a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.  Mere abuse of discretion is not enough; it must be so grave as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law. Quasha Ancheta Peña & Nolasco Law Office and  Legend International Resorts, Limited vs. The Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals, et al.G.R. No. 182013, December 4, 2009.

Certiorari;  grave abuse of discretion. In the case at bar, this Court holds that there was no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction committed by the Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals in not giving due deference to the decision of its co-division. As correctly pointed out by the Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals, the decision of its co-division is not binding on its other division. Further, it must be stressed that judicial decisions that form part of our legal system are only the decisions of the Supreme Court. Moreover, at the time petitioners made the aforesaid Manifestation, the Decision dated 14 December 2007 in CA-G.R. SP No. 96717 of the Special Tenth Division was still on appeal before this Court. Therefore, the Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for not giving due deference to the said Decision of its co-division, and its actuation cannot be considered grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of its jurisdiction.  Quasha Ancheta Peña & Nolasco Law Office and  Legend International Resorts, Limited vs. The Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals, et al.G.R. No. 182013, December 4, 2009.

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. In fine, the issuance by the RTC of a writ of execution and the notice of garnishment to satisfy the judgment in favor of respondents could not be considered grave abuse of discretion. The term grave abuse of discretion, in its juridical sense, connotes capricious, despotic, oppressive, or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse must be of such degree as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and capricious manner by reason of passion and hostility. The word capricious, usually used in tandem with the term arbitrary, conveys the notion of willful and unreasoning action. Thus, when seeking the corrective hand of certiorari, a clear showing of caprice and arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion is imperative. In this case, NPC utterly failed to demonstrate caprice or arbitrariness on the part of the RTC in granting respondents’ motion for execution. Accordingly, the CA committed no reversible error in dismissing NPC’s petition for certiorari. National Power Corporation vs. Omar G. Maruhom, et al.G.R. No. 183297, December 23, 2009.

Certiorari; interlocutory order. We agree with the Court of Appeals that interlocutory orders, because they do not dispose of the case on the merits, are not appealable. Likewise, the extraordinary writ of certiorari is generally not available to challenge an interlocutory order of the trial court. In such a case, the proper remedy of the aggrieved party is an ordinary appeal from an adverse judgment, incorporating in the appeal the grounds for assailing the interlocutory order. However, where the assailed interlocutory order is patently erroneous and the remedy of appeal would not afford adequate and expeditious relief, the Court may allow certiorari as a mode of redress. Equitable PCI Bank, Inc. vs. Maria Leticia Fernandez, et al., G.R. No. 163117, December 18, 2009.

Certiorari; void judgment. Petitioner also raises the issue of the impropriety of the remedy resorted to by the respondent which is the filing of a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, claiming that the said remedy is inappropriate because there are still other plain, speedy and adequate remedies available, such as an ordinary appeal, the Decision of the RTC having attained its finality. The question, however, is whether the said Decision has indeed attained finality. . . . The said doctrine [of finality of judgment], however, is applicable only when the judgment or decision is valid. In the present case, as earlier pronounced, and as ruled by the CA, the judgment in question is void, the RTC not having acquired jurisdiction over the person of the respondent. It is a well-entrenched principle that a void judgment can never become final. . . . Thus, from the above discussion, the Decision of the RTC, not having attained its finality due to its being void, the Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65, filed by the respondent with the CA, was proper. Constantino A. Pascual vs. Lourdes S.  Pascual, G.R. No. 171916, December 4, 2009.

Execution; dispositive portion. It is a fundamental legal axiom that a writ of execution must conform strictly to the dispositive portion of the decision sought to be executed. A writ of execution may not vary from, or go beyond, the terms of the judgment it seeks to enforce. When a writ of execution does not conform strictly to a decision’s dispositive portion, it is null and void. Admittedly, the tenor of the dispositive portion of the August 7, 1996 RTC decision, as modified by the CA and affirmed by this Court, did not order the transfer of ownership upon payment of the adjudged compensation. Neither did such condition appear in the text of the RTC decision, and of this Court’s Decision in G.R. No. 168732. As aptly pointed out by the CA in its assailed Decision: XXX XXX XXX Clearly, the writ of execution issued by the RTC and affirmed by the CA does not vary, but is, in fact, consistent with the final decision in this case. The assailed writ is, therefore, valid. National Power Corporation vs. Omar G. Maruhom, et al.G.R. No. 183297, December 23, 2009.

Execution;  EPIRA. The instant petition for injunction was filed directly to this Court as mandated by Section 78 of the EPIRA Law. In as much as this Court does not have a sheriff of its own to execute our decision, we deem it appropriate, pursuant to Section 6, Rule 135 of the Rules of Court and considering that the principal office of NPC is located in Quezon City, to authorize the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff of Quezon City to execute our judgment which became final and executory on 10 October 2008 and for which an entry of judgment was made on 27 October 2008. After receipt of the list containing the names of the affected NPC employees and benefits due each of them, the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff of Quezon City is directed to forthwith execute our judgment. NPC Drivers and Mechanics Association [NPC DAMA], et al. vs. National Power Corp., et al.,G.R. No. 156208, December 2, 2009

Execution; exemption of GSIS’s funds and properties from execution and garnishment. Regarding the alleged exemption of the funds and properties of GSIS, we quote with approval pertinent portions of the Decision of the CA dated August 3, 2006 in CA-G.R. SP No. 84079: “The petition and pending incidents hinge on the principal issue of whether the exemption from execution and garnishment of the funds and properties of GSIS under Sec. 39 of Rep. Act No. 8291 may be invoked to quash the writ of execution issued pursuant to the final and executory judgment against it. We rule in the negative.” XXX XXX XXX ‘In Rubia vs. GSIS (432 SCRA 529), the Supreme Court ruled that the exemption from execution enjoyed by GSIS under Sec. 39 of Rep. Act No. 8291 is not absolute. XXX XXX XXX In so far as Section 39 of the GSIS charter exempts the GSIS from execution, suffice it to say that such exemption is not absolute and does not encompass all the GSIS funds. XXX XXX XXX The processual exemption of the GSIS funds and properties under Section 39 of the GSIS Charter, in our view, should be read consistently with its avowed principal purpose: to maintain actuarial solvency of the GSIS in the protection of assets which are to be used to finance the retirement, disability and life insurance benefits of its members. Clearly, the exemption should be limited to the purposes and objects covered. Any interpretation that would give it an expansive construction to exempt all GSIS assets from legal processes absolutely would be unwarranted.’ In the instant case, the final and executory judgment arose from loans extended by GSIS to private respondent’s predecessors-in-interest in the course of its business and secured by a mortgage. As in Rubia, GSIS’ relationship with private respondent’s predecessors-in-interest is purely private and contractual in nature. As such, GSIS cannot claim immunity from the enforcement of the final and executory judgment against it.Petitioner is asking this Court to reverse our findings in Rubiasupra, and as a result, rule that the immunity granted to it by Rep. Act No. 8291 is absolute. We see no reason to depart from the conclusions reached in said case. In fact, all the more should GSIS not be allowed to hide behind such immunity in this case, where its obligation arises not just from a simple business transaction, but from its utter failure to return properties that it had wrongfully foreclosed.  Government Service Insurance System vs. The Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, et al./Government Service Insurance  System vs. Hon. Celso Laviña, et al., G.R. No. 175393/G.R. No. 177731, December 18, 2009.

Execution; pending appeal. Evident from the usage of the word “may,” the language of the subject provision denotes that it is merely directory, and not mandatory, for the trial court to issue the special order before the expiration of the period to appeal. The trial court may still thereafter resolve a motion for execution pending appeal, provided: (i) the motion is filed within the five-day reglementary period; and (ii) the special order is issued prior to the transmittal of the records to the Comelec. Both parties concede that the motion for execution pending appeal must be filed within the five-day period to appeal. In the present case, the Urgent Motion was filed well within the reglementary period. Indeed, in one case, the Court construed a similarly phrased provision to mean that the ruling on the motion for execution may issue after the period of appeal, as long as the motion for execution pending appeal was filed before the expiration of the time to appeal. Keeping in mind that “hurried justice is not always authentic justice,” the permissive nature of the rule allows the trial court to apply the same insofar as it is practicable, albeit the rigid compliance therewith is not altogether impossible, such that a motion for execution pending appeal may be filed at the latest on the second day after notice of the decision, and heard and resolved at the latest on the fifth day after notice of the decision, in compliance with the mandatory three-day notice rule, barring any intervening resetting or non-working days. Michael L. San Miguel vs. Commission on Elections and Christopher vs. AguilarG.R. No. 188240, December 23, 2009.

Extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage; posting requirement. The petitioners argue that the posting of the Notice of Sheriff’s Sale on Meralco posts did not comply with Act No. 3135 requiring the posting of the same in at least three public places. A public place is a place exposed to the public and where the public gathers together or passes to and fro. As can be gleaned from Sheriff Ipac’s Affidavit of Posting, the Notices were posted on the Meralco posts within the vicinities of Baliuag Roman Catholic Church, Baliuag Public Market and near the chapel of Sabang, Baliuag, Bulacan. The aforementioned vicinities where the Meralco posts were erected are public places, to which the general public has a right to resort. The Meralco posts where the Notices were posted are but component structures of the public place itself. The law does not intend that notices to the public be posted on specific bulletin boards or information areas of a public place. What the law directs is for the notices to be placed in an area where the same is perceptible to the public.  Sps. Rogelio Marcelo & Milagros Marcelo vs. Philippine Commercial International Bank [PCIB]G.R. No. 182735, December 4, 2009.

Extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage; publication requirement – The trial court’s opinion, that The Times Newsweekly’s minimal readership made it insufficient to meet the publication requirement is, to our minds, too narrow and limiting as to strip the newspaper of its privilege as one of the authorized publications for the notices of auction sale in Bulacan. As this Court held in many cases, to be a newspaper of general circulation, it is enough that it is published for the dissemination of local news and general information; that it has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers; and that it is published at regular intervals. The newspaper need not have the largest circulation, so long as it is of general circulation. As evidenced by the Affidavit of Publication executed by The Times Newsweekly’s publisher, Teddy F. Borres, the said newspaper is of general circulation in the Provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and other cities. The same is published every Saturday by The Daily Record, Inc. Sps. Rogelio Marcelo & Milagros Marcelo vs. Philippine Commercial International Bank [PCIB]G.R. No. 182735, December 4, 2009.

Forum shopping; nature and requisites – Forum shopping is the institution of two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition. It is an act of malpractice and is prohibited and condemned as trifling with courts and abusing their processes. In determining whether or not there is forum shopping, what is important is the vexation caused the courts and parties-litigants by a party who asks different courts and/or administrative bodies to rule on the same or related causes and/or grant the same or substantially the same reliefs and in the process creates the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different bodies upon the same issues. Forum shopping is present when, in two or more cases pending, there is identity of (1) parties, (2) rights or causes of action and reliefs prayed for, and (3) 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. Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Forum shopping; nature and requisites. The test in determining the presence of forum shopping is whether in two or more cases pending, there is identity of (1) parties, (2) rights or causes of action, and (3) reliefs sought. The case filed by Silvestra, which was pending when respondents filed the complaint for unlawful detainer, was for annulment of the deed of sale that she executed in favor of petitioner Divina Barias’ mother. Thus, the causes of action of that case and respondents’ complaint for unlawful detainer subject of the present petition are different: the cause of action of the first is the alleged fraud in inducing Silvestra to execute the deed of sale, while the cause of action of the second is the alleged unlawful possession of petitioners of that portion of the property which was allegedly sold by Silvestra. The reliefs sought in both cases are likewise different. In an unlawful detainer case, the sole issue for resolution is physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership by any of the parties. Where the issue of ownership is raised by any of the parties, the courts may pass upon the same in order to determine who has the right to possess the property. The adjudication is, however, merely provisional and would not bar or prejudice an action between the same parties involving title to the property. Spouses Dennis Barias and Divina Barias vs. Heirs of Bartolome Boneo, namely, Juanita Leopoldo, et al.G.R. No. 166941, December 14, 2009.

Forum shopping; nature and requisites. Respondents Miguel, et al., cannot insist on identity of interests between petitioner Santiago Sr. in G.R. No. 182008 and petitioners Santiago Jr., et al., in G.R. No. 181455-56, when the Complaint itself of respondents Miguel, et al., before the RTC, docketed as Civil Case No. 07-610, impleads the petitioners Santiago Sr. and Santiago Jr., et al., as defendants a quo in their individual capacities as PRCI directors, and not collectively as the PRCI Board of Directors. Each individual PRCI director, therefore, is not precluded from hiring his own counsel, presenting his own arguments and defenses, and resorting to his own procedural remedies, apart and independent from the other PRCI directors. In addition, the consolidation of G.R. No. 181455-56 and G.R. No. 182008 has already eliminated the danger of conflicting decisions being issued in said cases.   Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Forum shopping; rationale. It has not escaped our notice that petitioner deliberately filed two cases, herein consolidated, involving the same parties and issues, in its desperate attempt to stay the execution of the judgment against it. Petitioner should be reminded that our rules on forum shopping are meant to prevent the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by different fora upon the same issues. Petitioner is admonished from bending the rules of procedure to suit its purposes. Obedience to the rules promulgated by this Court to ensure the efficient administration of justice must be the norm, and not the exception.  Government Service Insurance System vs. The Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, et al./Government Service Insurance  System vs. Hon. Celso Laviña, et al., G.R. No. 175393/G.R. No. 177731, December 18, 2009.

Forum shopping; submission of certificate against forum-shopping. Assuming arguendo that Solomon did have the legal obligation to inform the Court in G.R. No. 182008 of the pendency of G.R. No. 181455-56, his failure to do so does not necessarily result in the dismissal of the former. Although the submission of a certificate against forum shopping is deemed obligatory, it is not jurisdictional. Hence, in this case in which such a certification was in fact submitted – only, it was defective — the Court may still refuse to dismiss and may, instead, give due course to the Petition in light of attendant exceptional circumstances.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Forum shopping;  submission of certificate against forum-shopping. Even if only petitioner Domingo Hernandez, Jr. executed the Verification/Certification against forum-shopping, this will not deter us from proceeding with the judicial determination of the issues in this petition. XXX XXX XXX Here, all the petitioners are immediate relatives who share a common interest in the land sought to be reconveyed and a common cause of action raising the same arguments in support thereof. There was sufficient basis, therefore, for Domingo Hernandez, Jr. to speak for and in behalf of his co-petitioners when he certified that they had not filed any action or claim in another court or tribunal involving the same issues. Thus, the Verification/Certification that Hernandez, Jr. executed constitutes substantial compliance under the Rules.  Heirs of Domingo Hernandez Sr., et al. vs. Plaridel Mingoa, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 146548, December 18, 2009.

Forum shopping;  submission of certificate against forum shopping. Based on [Section 7 of Act No. 3135, as amended by Act No. 4118], a writ of possession may issue 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. In order to obtain a writ of possession, the purchaser in a foreclosure sale must file a petition, in the form of an ex parte motion, in the registration or cadastral proceedings of the registered property. The reason why this pleading, although denominated as a petition, is actually considered a motion is best explained in Sps. Arquiza vs. CA, where we said: XXX XXX XXX. Since a petition for a writ of possession under Section 7 of Act No. 3135, as amended, is neither a complaint nor an initiatory pleading, a certificate against non-forum shopping is not required. The certificate that Metrobank attached to its petition is thus a superfluity that the lower court should have disregarded. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company vs. Hon. Salvador Abad Santos, Presiding Judge, RTC, BR. 65, Makati City and Manfred De KoningG.R. No. 157867, December 15, 2009.

Judgment; annulment. Section 1, Rule 47 of the Rules of Court provides that a petition for annulment of judgment is available only when a party is precluded from filing a motion for new trial, an appeal or a petition for relief without fault on his part. Moreover, such petition will only be allowed in the presence of either extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction. In view of these provisions, recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment is improper if petitioner lost the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal or petition for relief due to a cause or causes attributable to petitioner himself. Nor can it be resorted to if petitioner has previously availed of any of the aforementioned remedies. In this case, petitioners filed an appeal and a motion for new trial. They also failed to establish any of the grounds for a petition for annulment of judgment. Obviously, petitioners simply intended to unduly delay the enforcement of the December 5, 1993 RTC decision and defeat its execution. Thus, petitioners should be held solidarily liable with their counsel (who abetted petitioners’ frivolous appeal, motion for new trial and this petition for annulment of judgment) for treble the costs of suit. Heirs of Rodrigo Yacapin, namely, Sol Belnas, et al. vs. Felimon Belida [Deceased], represented by Merlyn B. Palos, et al.,  G.R. No. 171669, December 14, 2009.

Judgment; conclusiveness of judgment – The doctrine of res judicata actually embraces two different concepts: (1) bar by former judgment and (b) conclusiveness of judgment. The second concept – conclusiveness of judgment – states that a fact or question, which was in issue in a former suit and was there judicially passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by the judgment therein as far as the parties to that action and persons in privity with them are concerned and cannot be again litigated in any future action between such parties or their privies in the same court or any other court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the same or a different cause of action, while the judgment remains unreversed by proper authority. It has been held that in order that a judgment in one action can be conclusive as to a particular matter in another action between the same parties or their privies, it is essential that the issue be identical. If a particular point or question is in issue in the second action, and the judgment will depend on the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment between the same parties or their privies will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first suit. Identity of cause of action is not required, but merely identity of issues.   Legend International Resorts, Limited vs. The Special Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 182013, December 4, 2009.

Judgment;  enforcement of judgment after transfer of interest. On PSALM’s contention that since it was not a party to the case and that the petitioners are not its employees, the properties that it acquired from NPC cannot be levied, is untenable. The issue here is about PSALM’s assets that were acquired from NPC. As explained above, PSALM took ownership over most of NPC’s assets. There was indeed a over these assets – from NPC to PSALM – by operation of law. These properties may be used to satisfy our judgment. This being the case, petitioners may go after such properties. The fact that PSALM is a non-party to the case will not prevent the levying of the said properties, including their fruits and proceeds. However, PSALM should not be denied due process. The levying of said properties and their fruits/proceeds, if still needed in case NPC’s properties are insufficient to satisfy our judgment, is without prejudice to PSALM’s participation in said proceedings. Its participation therein is necessary to prevent the levying of properties other than that it had acquired from NPC. Such a proceeding is to be conducted in the proper forum where petitioners may take the appropriate action.

Under Section 19, Rule 3 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may, upon motion, direct the person to whom the interest is transferred to be substituted in the action or joined with the original party. In petitioners’ Manifestation with Urgent Omnibus Motions dated 9 February 2009, they prayed that the properties acquired by PSALM from NPC be also levied/garnished. We consider this prayer to be tantamount to a motion to join PSALM as a party-respondent in this case in so far as to the properties, and any income arising therefrom, that PSALM acquired from NPC. It is in this light that we order the Clerk of Court of this division to implead or join PSALM as a party-respondent in this case. As above-explained, PSALM shall not be denied due process for it can participate in the proper forum by preventing the levying of properties other than that it had acquired from NPC. NPC Drivers and Mechanics Association [NPC DAMA], et al. vs. National Power Corp., et al., G.R. No. 156208, December 2, 2009.

Judgment;  finality of judgment. The doctrine of finality of judgments accepts of exceptions only under certain circumstances, as we have held in Spouses Gomez vs. Correa, et al.: “It is settled that when a final judgment is executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. The 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. The doctrine is founded on considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments must become final at some definite point in time. The only recognized exceptions are the correction of clerical errors or the making of so-called nunc pro tunc entries in which case there is no prejudice to any party, and where the judgment is void.  Government Service Insurance System vs. The Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, et al./Government Service Insurance  System vs. Hon. Celso Laviña, et al.,G.R. No. 175393/G.R. No. 177731, December 18, 2009.

Judgment; finality of judgment. None of the exceptional circumstances to this doctrine exist in this case. The modification that would result should the petition be granted would not involve merely clerical errors, but would entail presentation of alleged newly-discovered evidence that should have been raised as affirmative defenses during trial. Moreover, the judgment involved herein has been upheld, and not declared void, by this Court. What petitioner seeks to do is for this Court to now hold that there had already been reconveyance, conducted through various transactions, of the subject properties even before the commencement of the case with the RTC, and, in effect, for us to nullify a final and executory judgment that had been passed upon by the RTC, the CA, and this Court in the first SC case. This we cannot do; not with the submissions presented to us by petitioner; not during the execution stage of the proceedings; not even under the veiled threat that in failing to grant the petition, we will be deciding against the fate of the GSIS funds that exist for the service of government employees who deserve to be favored in law under the principles of social justice and equity.

Even if petitioner claims that it recognizes the finality of the RTC decision, as affirmed by both the CA and this Court, and that it only wants that the execution be conducted properly, to grant the petition would be to negate the factual findings of the RTC and to render useless the conclusions reached in the three levels of the judiciary on the reconveyance of the subject properties.  Government Service Insurance System vs. The Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, et al./Government Service Insurance  System vs. Hon. Celso Laviña, et al., G.R. No. 175393/G.R. No. 177731, December 18, 2009.

Judgment;  finality of judgment. Revisiting the records of this case would reveal that the case attained its finality as of 26 September 2007, and the same has already been recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgment. This Court, in a long line of cases, has maintained that once the judgment has become final and executory, it can no longer be disturbed, altered or modified. Except for clerical errors or mistakes, all the issues between the parties are deemed resolved and laid to rest. In Dapar vs. Biascan, this Court reiterates that nothing is more settled in law than that once a judgment attains finality, it thereby becomes immutable and unalterable. It 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. Just as the losing party has the right to file an appeal within the prescribed period, the winning party has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of his case. The instant Petition offers no cogent reason that would sway this Court to make a radical departure from its hesitancy to reopen a case that has attained finality. Sps. Rogelio Marcelo & Milagros Marcelo vs. Philippine Commercial International Bank [PCIB]G.R. No. 182735, December 4, 2009.

Judgment; finality of judgment.  The main role of the courts of justice is to assist in the enforcement of the law and in the maintenance of peace and order by putting an end to judiciable controversies with finality. Nothing better serves this role than the long established doctrine of immutability of judgments.

It is never a small matter to maintain that litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, even at the risk of occasional errors. A judgment 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. The reason for the rule is that if, on the application of one party, the court could change its judgment to the prejudice of the other, it could thereafter, on application of the latter, again change the judgment and continue this practice indefinitely. The equity of a particular case must yield to the overmastering need of certainty and unalterability of judicial pronouncements.

The doctrine of immutability and inalterability of a final judgment has a two-fold purpose: (1) to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus, procedurally, to make orderly the discharge of judicial business and (2) to put an end to judicial controversies, at the risk of occasional errors, which is precisely why courts exist. Controversies cannot drag on indefinitely. The rights and obligations of every litigant must not hang in suspense for an indefinite period of time. The doctrine is not a mere technicality to be easily brushed aside, but a matter of public policy as well as a time-honored principle of procedural law.

The foregoing considerations show that granting the second motion for reconsideration (with respect to the denial of the award of legal interest and attorney’s fees) absolutely risks the trivialization of the doctrine of immutability of a final and executory judgment, and, therefore, the motion should be rejected. Apo Fruits Corporation and Hijo Plantation,  Inc. vs. The Hon. Court of Appeals, and Land Bank of the  PhilippinesG.R. No. 164195, December 4, 2009.

Judgment;  judgment on the pleadings. It is not correct to say that petitioners were deprived of their day in court when the RTC dismissed the complaint even before conducting trial on the merits. As held in Luzon Development Bank vs. Conquilla, the court, motu proprio, may render judgment on the pleadings based on the parties’ admissions in their pleadings and even without introduction of evidence, if and when these amply establish that there is insufficiency of factual basis for the action. In this case, petitioners admit that they are mere possessors of the parcels of land in question and have been ordered by the MeTC to vacate the same. The gist of their claim in the action for quieting of title with preliminary injunction is that the MeTC Decision in the ejectment case against them should not be implemented, because respondents’ TCTs are spurious, having emanated from OCT No. 614, which has been declared null and void in a Partial Decision rendered in Civil Case No. Q-35672. Petitioners’ main prayer is for the nullification of respondents’ TCTs. From such allegations, it is already clear that petitioners’ action cannot succeed. Firstly, Section 48 of the Property Registration Decree provides that a certificate of title cannot be subject to collateral attack and can only be altered, modified or cancelled in a direct proceeding in accordance with law. In Foster-Gallego vs. Galang, the Court held that the issue of whether a title was procured by falsification or fraud should be raised in an action expressly instituted for the purpose, not in an action for quieting of title.

Hence, herein petitioners’ action for quieting of title is a mere collateral attack against respondents’ TCT Nos. 59721, 59725, 59726 and 59727, and is proscribed by the law. Secondly, as early as 2001 in Pinlac vs. Court of Appeals, the Court categorically struck down the Partial Decision issued in Civil Case No. Q-35672, upon which herein petitioners base their claim that respondents’ TCTs are spurious. The Court ruled that said Partial Decision was null and void. Sotero Roy Leonero, et al. vs. Spouses Marcelino B. Barba, et al.G.R. No. 159788, December 23, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition of jurisdiction through service of summons. In a case where the action is in personam and the defendant is in the Philippines, the service of summons may be done by personal or substituted service as laid out in Sections 6 and 7 of Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Court. . . . A plain and simple reading of the above provisions indicates that personal service of summons should and always be the first option, and it is only when the said summons cannot be served within a reasonable time can the process server resort to substituted service. Constantino A. Pascual vs. Lourdes S.  Pascual, G.R. No. 171916, December 4, 2009.

Jurisdiction; acquisition of jurisdiction through service of summons. Petitioner contends that there was a valid substituted service of summons as shown in not one, but three Officer’s Return. He points out that the absence in the officer’s return of a statement about the impossibility of personal service does not conclusively prove that the service was invalid. He adds that proof of prior attempts to serve personally can be deduced from the other returns when there are several in a series of officer’s returns all tending to establish the impossibility of personal service upon the respondent. However, the said argument of the petitioner is merely a plain deduction that veers away from the well-established requisite that the officer must show that the defendant cannot be served promptly, or that there was an impossibility of prompt service. A cursory reading of the three Officer’s Returns does not show any compliance with the said requisite. Constantino A. Pascual vs. Lourdes S.  Pascual, G.R. No. 171916, December 4, 2009.

Jurisdiction; acqusition of jurisdiction through service of summons. Petitioner further states that the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions must be applied to the present case. He expounds on the fact that as between the process server’s return of substituted service, which carries with it the presumption of regularity and the respondent’s self-serving assertion that she only came to know of the case against her when she received a copy of the petitioner’s motion to declare her in default, the process server’s return is undoubtedly more deserving of credit. The said argument, however, is only meritorious, provided that there was a strict compliance with the procedure for serving a summons. In the absence of even the barest compliance with the procedure for a substituted service of summons outlined in the Rules of Court, the presumption of regularity in the performance of public functions does not apply.  Constantino A. Pascual vs. Lourdes S.  Pascual, G.R. No. 171916, December 4, 2009.

Jurisdiction; void judgment. Applying the above disquisitions, the jurisdiction over the person of the respondent was never vested with the RTC, because the manner of substituted service by the process server was apparently invalid and ineffective. As such, there was a violation of due process. 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.” Constantino A. Pascual vs. Lourdes S.  Pascual, G.R. No. 171916, December 4, 2009.

Motion; motion for reconsideration. This Court provides in Section 1, Rule 37 of the Rules of Court that a motion for reconsideration of a judgment or a final order should be filed within the period for appeal, which is within 15 days after notice to the appellant of the judgment or final order appealed from. The 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals also states that unless an appeal or a motion for reconsideration or new trial is filed within the 15-day reglementary period, the Court of Appeals’ decision becomes final. Hence, the general rule is that no motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration is allowed. Sps. Rogelio Marcelo & Milagros Marcelo vs. Philippine Commercial International Bank [PCIB]G.R. No. 182735, December 4, 2009.

Motion;  motion for reconsideration. The rule as to the non-extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration is, however, not absolute. As early as 1986 in Habaluyas Enterprises, Inc. vs. Maximo M. Japson, this Court has pronounced: xxx xxx xxx Accordingly, motions for extension of time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration may be filed only in connection with cases pending before this Court, which may in its sound discretion either grant or deny the extension requested. No such motion may be filed before any lower courts. In opting for the liberal application of the rules in the interest of equity and justice, we cannot look with favor on a course of action which would place the administration of justice in a straight jacket for then the result would be a poor kind of justice if there would be justice at all. Sps. Rogelio Marcelo & Milagros Marcelo vs. Philippine Commercial International Bank [PCIB]G.R. No. 182735, December 4, 2009

Parties; Court of Appeals as party. Anent the contention that the petition erroneously impleaded the CA as respondent in contravention of Section 4(a) of Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, we shall apply our ruling in Simon vs. Canlas, wherein we held that: “x x x [The] Court agrees that the correct procedure, as mandated by Section 4, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, is not to implead the lower court which rendered the assailed decision. However, impleading the lower court as respondent in the petition for review on certiorari does not automatically mean the dismissal of the appeal but merely authorizes the dismissal of the petition. Besides, formal defects in petitions are not uncommon. The Court has encountered previous petitions for review on certiorari that erroneously impleaded the CA. In those cases, the Court merely called the petitioners’ attention to the defects and proceeded to resolve the case on their merits. The Court finds no reason why it should not afford the same liberal treatment in this case.  While unquestionably, the Court has the discretion to dismiss the appeal for being defective, sound policy dictates that it is far better to dispose of cases on the merits, rather than on technicality as the latter approach may result in injustice. This is in accordance with Section 6, Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which encourages a reading of the procedural requirements in a manner that will help secure and not defeat justice.”  Heirs of Domingo Hernandez Sr., et al. vs. Plaridel Mingoa, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 146548, December 18, 2009.

Parties;  indispensable parties in derivative suits. Under Rule 3, Section 7 of the Rules of Court, an indispensable party is a party-in-interest, without whom there can be no final determination of an action. The interests of such indispensable party in the subject matter of the suit and the relief are so bound with those of the other parties that his legal presence as a party to the proceeding is an absolute necessity. As a rule, an indispensable party’s interest in the subject matter is such that a complete and efficient determination of the equities and rights of the parties is not possible if he is not joined.

The majority of the stockholders of PRCI are indispensable parties to Civil Case No. 07-610, for they have approved and ratified, during the Special Stockholders’ Meeting on 7 November 2006, the Resolution dated 26 September 2006 of the PRCI Board of Directors. Obviously, no final determination of the validity of the acquisition by PRCI of JTH or of the constitution of the JTH Board of Directors can be had without consideration of the effect of the approval and ratification thereof by the majority stockholders. Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Parties;  indispensable parties in action for forcible entry. The CA upheld respondent District Engineer’s view that the MCTC should have considered the inhabitants of Barangay Poblacion indispensable parties to the ejectment case since the land belonged to them and since it was for their benefit that the gym was to be built. But, ownership of the land is not the issue in forcible entry actions. The issue in such actions is who among the parties has prior possession de facto. While the trial court may have to determine the issue of ownership, such determination is only provisional, to ascertain who among the parties has a better right of possession.  The Episcopal Diocese of the Northern Philippines vs. The  District Engineer, MPED-DPWHG.R. No. 178606, December 15, 2009.

Procedural rules; construction. Notwithstanding petitioner’s wrong mode of appeal, the CA should not have so easily dismissed the petition, considering that the parties involved are local government units and that what is involved is the determination of their respective territorial jurisdictions. In the same vein, the CA’s strict reliance on the requirements under Section 13 of Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Procedure relating to subject index and page references in an appellant’s brief is, to stress, putting a premium on technicalities. While the purpose of Section 13, Rule 44, is to present to the appellate court in the most helpful light, the factual and legal antecedents of a case on appeal, said rule should not be strictly applied considering that petitioner’s brief before the CA contained only 9 pages, the records of the case consisted only of a few documents and pleadings, and there was no testimonial evidence.  Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Procedural rules; construction. The belated filing of the Amended Petition is inexcusable. “Time and again, we held that rules of procedure exist for a noble purpose, and to disregard such rules, in the guise of liberal construction, would be to defeat such purpose. Procedural rules are not to be disdained as mere technicalities. They may not be ignored to suit the convenience of a party. Adjective law ensures the effective enforcement of substantive rights through the orderly and speedy administration of justice. Rules are not intended to hamper litigants or complicate litigation; they help provide a vital system of justice where suitors may be heard following judicial procedure and in the correct forum. Public order and our system of justice are well served by a conscientious observance by the parties of the procedural rules.”  Susan G. Po and Lilia G. Mutia vs. Omerio DampalG.R. No. 173329, December 21, 2009.

Procedural rules; liberal application.  When a party adopts an improper remedy, as in this case, his Petition may be dismissed outright. However, in the interest of substantial justice, the strict application of procedural technicalities should not hinder the speedy disposition of this case on the merits. Thus, while the instant Petition is one for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, the assigned errors are more properly addressed in a petition for review under Rule 45. The merits of the Petitions in both G.R. No. 181455-56 and No. 182008 compel this Court to give more weight to substantive justice, instead of technical rules. Indeed, where, as here, there is a strong showing that a grave miscarriage of justice would result from the strict application of the Rules, the Court will not hesitate to relax the same in the interest of substantial justice. It bears stressing that the rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They were conceived and promulgated to effectively aid the court in the dispensation of justice. Courts are not slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. In rendering justice, courts have always been, as they ought to be, conscientiously guided by the norm that, on the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights, and not the other way around. Thus, if the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than promote justice, it is always within the power of the Court to suspend the Rules, or except a particular case from its operation.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Procedural rules;  liberal application. At first glance, the petition suffers from an incipient procedural defect. What petitioners assail in their petition is a resolution issued by the COMELEC in the exercise of its quasi-legislative power. Certiorari under Rule 65, in relation to Rule 64, cannot be availed of, because it is a remedy to question decisions, resolutions and issuances made in the exercise of a judicial or quasi-judicial function. Prohibition is also an inappropriate remedy, because what petitioners actually seek from the Court is a determination of the proper construction of a statute and a declaration of their rights thereunder. Obviously, their petition is one for declaratory relief, over which this Court does not exercise original jurisdiction. However, petitioners raise a challenge on the constitutionality of the questioned provisions of both the COMELEC resolution and the law. Given this scenario, the Court may step in and resolve the instant petition. The transcendental nature and paramount importance of the issues raised and the compelling state interest involved in their early resolution—the period for the filing of CoCs for the 2010 elections has already started and hundreds of civil servants intending to run for elective offices are to lose their employment, thereby causing imminent and irreparable damage to their means of livelihood and, at the same time, crippling the government’s manpower—further dictate that the Court must, for propriety, if only from a sense of obligation, entertain the petition so as to expedite the adjudication of all, especially the constitutional, issues. In any event, the Court has ample authority to set aside errors of practice or technicalities of procedure and resolve the merits of a case. Repeatedly stressed in our prior decisions is the principle that the Rules were promulgated to provide guidelines for the orderly administration of justice, not to shackle the hand that dispenses it. Otherwise, the courts would be consigned to being mere slaves to technical rules, deprived of their judicial discretion. Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on ElectionsG.R. No. 189698, December 1, 2009.

Writ of possession; issuance. A writ of possession is defined as “a writ of execution employed to enforce a judgment to recover the possession of land. It commands the sheriff to enter the land and give its possession to the person entitled under the judgment.” There are three instances when a writ of possession may be issued: (a) in land registration proceedings under Section 17 of Act No. 496; (b) in 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 (c) in extrajudicial foreclosure of a real estate mortgage under Section 7 of Act No. 3135, as amended by Act No. 4118. The present case falls under the third instance.  Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company vs. Hon. Salvador Abad Santos, Presiding Judge, RTC, BR. 65, Makati City and Manfred De KoningG.R. No. 157867, December 15, 2009.

Writ of possession; intervention. We also find merit in Metrobank’s contention that the lower court should not have allowed De Koning to intervene in the proceedings. A judicial proceeding, order, injunction, etc., is ex parte when it is taken or granted at the instance and for the benefit of one party only, and without notice to, or contestation by, any person adversely interested. Given that the proceeding for a writ of possession, by the terms of Section 7 of Act No. 3135, is undoubtedly ex parte in nature, the lower court clearly erred not only when it notified De Koning of Metrobank’s ex parte petition for the writ of possession, but also when it allowed De Koning to participate in the proceedings and when it took cognizance and upheld De Koning’s motion to dismiss. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company vs. Hon. Salvador Abad Santos, Presiding Judge, RTC, BR. 65, Makati City and Manfred De KoningG.R. No. 157867, December 15, 2009.

Writ of preliminary injunction; requisites. For the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to be proper, it must be shown that the invasion of the right sought to be protected is material and substantial, that the right of complainant is clear and unmistakable and that there is an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. In the absence of a clear legal right, the issuance of the injunctive writ constitutes grave abuse of discretion. In this case, respondents failed to show that they have a right to be protected and that the acts against which the writ is to be directed are violative of the said right. The records of the case, the Orders of the trial court and the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals make no mention of respondents’ said right. In fact, respondents do not deny their indebtedness to EPCIB. Foreclosure is valid where the debtor is in default in the payment of an obligation. XXX XXX XXX In a real estate mortgage when the principal obligation is not paid when due, the mortgagee has the right to foreclose the mortgage and to have the property seized and sold with the view of applying the proceeds to the payment of the obligation. On the face of respondents’ clear admission that they were unable to settle their obligations which were secured by the mortgages, EPCIB has a clear right to foreclose the mortgages. We fail to see any reason why the foreclosure of the mortgages should be enjoined, and the issuance of the preliminary injunction constitutes grave abuse of discretion. Equitable PCI Bank, Inc. vs. Maria Leticia Fernandez, et al., G.R. No. 163117, December 18, 2009.

Writ of preliminary injunction; requisites. Indubitably, in the case at bar, the writ of preliminary injunction was granted by the lower court upon respondent’s showing that he and his poultry business would be injured by the closure of the subject road. After trial, however, the lower court found that respondent was not entitled to the easement of right of way prayed for, having failed to prove the essential requisites for such entitlement, hence, the writ was lifted. The present case having been heard and found dismissible as it was in fact dismissed, the writ of preliminary injunction is deemed lifted, its purpose as a provisional remedy having been served, the appeal therefrom notwithstanding. Unionbank vs. Court of Appeals enlightens: “x x x a dismissal, discontinuance or non-suit of an action in which a restraining order or temporary injunction has been granted operates as a dissolution of the restraining order or temporary injunction,” regardless of whether the period for filing a motion for reconsideration of the order dismissing the case or appeal therefrom has expired. The rationale therefor is that even in cases where an appeal is taken from a judgment dismissing an action on the merits, the appeal does not suspend the judgment, hence the general rule applies that a temporary injunction terminates automatically on the dismissal of the action.” Purisimo S. Buyco vs. Nelson BaraquiaG.R. No.  177486, December 21, 2009.

Special Proceedings

Appeal; settlement of estate. In special proceedings, such as the instant proceeding for settlement of estate, the period of appeal from any decision or final order rendered therein is 30 days, a notice of appeal and a record on appeal being required. . . . The appeal period may only be interrupted by the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration. Once the appeal period expires without an appeal being perfected, the decision or order becomes final, thus: xxx xxx xxx In the case under consideration, it was on 13 August 1999 that the RTC issued an Amended Decision. On 12 October 1999, Jaime Robles erroneously filed a notice of appeal instead of filing a record on appeal. The RTC, in an order dated 22 November 1999, denied this for his failure to file a record on appeal as required by the Rules of Court. Petitioner failed to comply with the requirements of the rule; hence, the 13 August 1999 Amended Decision of the RTC lapsed into finality. It was therefore an error for the Court of Appeals to entertain the case knowing that Jaime Robles’ appeal was not perfected and had lapsed into finality. In the matter of the Heirship [Intestate Estates] of the late Hermogenes Rodriguez, et al., Rene B. Pascual vs. Jaime M. Robles,G.R. No. 182645, December 4, 2009.

Appeal;  perfection of appeal. This Court has invariably ruled that perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period laid down by law is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional.  The failure to perfect an appeal as required by the rules has the effect of defeating the right to appeal of a party and precluding the appellate court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case.  The right to appeal is not a natural right nor a part of due process; it is merely a statutory privilege, and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of the law.  The party who seeks to avail of the same must comply with the requirement of the rules.  Failing to do so, the right to appeal is lost. The reason for rules of this nature is because the dispatch of business by courts would be impossible, and intolerable delays would result, without rules governing practice. Public policy and sound practice demand that judgments of courts should become final and irrevocable at some definite date fixed by law. Such rules are a necessary incident to the proper, efficient and orderly discharge of judicial functions.  Thus, we have held that the failure to perfect an appeal within the prescribed reglementary period is not a mere technicality, but jurisdictional. 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. Failure to meet the requirements of an appeal deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to entertain any appeal. There are exceptions to this rule, unfortunately respondents did not present any circumstances that would justify the relaxation of said rule. In the matter of the Heirship [Intestate Estates] of the late Hermogenes Rodriguez, et al., Rene B. Pascual vs. Jaime M. Robles, G.R. No. 182645, December 4, 2009.

Correction of entry under Rule 108;  marriage. In a special proceeding for correction of entry under Rule 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Original Registry), the trial court has no jurisdiction to nullify marriages and rule on legitimacy and filiation.

Rule 108 of the Rules of Court vis a vis Article 412 of the Civil Code charts the procedure by which an entry in the civil registry may be cancelled or corrected. The proceeding contemplated therein may generally be used only to correct clerical, spelling, typographical and other innocuous errors in the civil registry. A clerical error is one which is visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding; an error made by a clerk or a transcriber; a mistake in copying or writing, or a harmless change such as a correction of name that is clearly misspelled or of a misstatement of the occupation of the parent. Substantial or contentious alterations may be allowed only in adversarial proceedings, in which all interested parties are impleaded and due process is properly observed.

The allegations of the petition filed before the trial court clearly show that petitioners seek to nullify the marriage between Pablo and Lucille on the ground that it is bigamous and impugn Patrick’s filiation in connection with which they ask the court to order Patrick to be subjected to a DNA test. Ma. Cristina Torres Braza, et al. vs. The City Civil Registrar of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental, et al., G.R. No. 181174, December 4, 2009.

Correction of entry;  marriage. Petitioners insist that the main cause of action is for the correction of Patrick’s birth records and that the rest of the prayers are merely incidental thereto.

Petitioners’ position does not lie. Their cause of action is actually to seek the declaration of Pablo and Lucille’s marriage as void for being bigamous and impugn Patrick’s legitimacy, which causes of action are governed not by Rule 108 but by A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC which took effect on March 15, 2003, and Art. 171 of the Family Code, respectively, hence, the petition should be filed in a Family Court as expressly provided in said Code.

It is well to emphasize that, doctrinally, validity of marriages as well as legitimacy and filiation can be questioned only in a direct action seasonably filed by the proper party, and not through collateral attack such as the petition filed before the court a quoMa. Cristina Torres Braza, et al. vs. The City Civil Registrar of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental, et al.G.R. No. 181174, December 4, 2009.

Other Proceedings

Derivative suit; appraisal right. It bears to point out that every derivative suit is necessarily grounded on an alleged violation by the board of directors of its fiduciary duties, committed by mismanagement, misrepresentation, or fraud, with the latter two situations already implying bad faith. If the Court upholds the position of respondents Miguel, et al. – that the existence of mismanagement, misrepresentation, fraud, and/or bad faith renders the right of appraisal unavailable – it would give rise to an absurd situation. Inevitably, appraisal rights would be unavailable in any derivative suit. This renders the requirement in Rule 8, Section 1(3) of the [Interim Rules of Procedure for Intra-Corporate Controversies] superfluous and effectively inoperative; and in contravention of an elementary rule of legal hermeneutics that effect must be given to every word, clause, and sentence of the statute, and that a statute should be so interpreted that no part thereof becomes inoperative or superfluous.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Derivative suit; separate derivative suit. With the corporation as the real party-in-interest and the indispensable party, any ruling in one of the derivative suits should already bind the corporation as res judicata in the other. Allowing two different minority stockholders to institute separate derivative suits arising from the same factual background, alleging the same causes of action, and praying for the same reliefs, is tantamount to allowing the corporation, the real party-in-interest, to file the same suit twice, resulting in the violation of the rules against a multiplicity of suits and even forum-shopping. It is also in disregard of the separate-corporate-entity principle, because it is to look beyond the corporation and to give recognition to the different identities of the stockholders instituting the derivative suits. It is for these reasons that the derivative suit, Civil Case No. 08-458, although filed by a different set of minority stockholders from those in Civil Case No. 07-610, should still not be allowed to proceed.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Derivative suit;  class suits. A shareholder’s derivative suit seeks to recover for the benefit of the corporation and its whole body of shareholders when injury is caused to the corporation that may not otherwise be redressed because of failure of the corporation to act. Thus, ‘the action is derivative, i.e., in the corporate right, if the gravamen of the complaint is injury to the corporation, or to the whole body of its stock and property without any severance or distribution among individual holders, or it seeks to recover assets for the corporation or to prevent the dissipation of its assets.’ [Citations.]” (Jones, supra, 1 Cal.3d 93, 106, 81 Cal.Rptr. 592, 460 P.2d 464.) In contrast, “a direct action [is one] filed by the shareholder individually (or on behalf of a class of shareholders to which he or she belongs) for injury to his or her interest as a shareholder. … [¶] … [T]he two actions are mutually exclusive: i.e., the right of action and recovery belongs to either the shareholders (direct action) *651 or the corporation (derivative action).”

Based on allegations in the Complaint of Miguel, et al., in Civil Case No. 07-610, the Court determines that there is only a derivative suit, based on the devices and schemes employed by the PRCI Board of Directors that amounts to mismanagement, misrepresentation, fraud, and bad faith. Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Derivative suits;  mootness. That a court will not sit for the purpose of trying moot cases and spend its time in deciding questions, the resolution of which cannot in any way affect the rights of the person or persons presenting them, is well settled.  Where the issues have become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, thereby rendering the resolution of the same of no practical use or value.

The Resolution dated 26 September 2006 of the PRCI Board of Directors was approved and ratified by the stockholders, holding 74% of the outstanding capital stock in PRCI, during the Special Stockholders’ Meeting held on 7 November 2006.

Respondents Miguel, et al., instituted Civil Case No. 07-610 only on 10 July 2007, against herein petitioners Santiago Sr., Santiago Jr., Solomon, and Robles, together with Renato de Villa, Lim Teong Leong, Lawrence Lim Swee Lin, Tham Ka Hon, and Dato Surin Upatkoon, in their capacity as directors of PRCI and/or JTH. Clearly, the acquisition by PRCI of JTH and the constitution of the JTH Board of Directors are no longer just the acts of the majority of the PRCI Board of Directors, but also of the majority of the PRCI stockholders. By ratification, even an unauthorized act of an agent becomes the authorized act of the principal. To declare the Resolution dated 26 September 2006 of the PRCI Board of Directors null and void will serve no practical use or value, or affect any of the rights of the parties, because the Resolution dated 7 November 2006 of the PRCI stockholders — approving and ratifying said acquisition and the manner in which PRCI shall constitute the JTH Board of Directors — will still remain valid and binding.  Santiago Cua, Jr., et al. vs. Miguel Ocampo Tan, et al./Santiago Cua,  Sr., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et  al.G.R. No. 181455-56/G.R. No. 182008, December 4, 2009.

Rehabilitation proceedings; labor claims. Labor claims are included among the actions suspended upon the placing under rehabilitation of employer-corporations.

This Court notes that PD 902-A itself does not provide for the duration of the automatic stay. Neither does the Order of the SEC. Hence, the suspensive effect has no time limit and remains in force as long as reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose of the Order. Gina M. Tiangco and Salvacion Jenny Manego vs. Uniwide Sales Warehouse Club, Inc. and Jimmy GowG.R. No. 168697, December 14, 2009.

Rehabilitation proceedings; stay order. Petitioners seek to have the suspension of proceedings lifted on the ground that the SEC already approved respondent USWCI’s [second amendment to the rehabilitation plan]. However, there is no legal ground to do so because the suspensive effect of the stay order is not time-bound. As we held in Rubberworld, it continues to be in effect as long as reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose. This is clarified in the Interim Rules.  Gina M. Tiangco and Salvacion Jenny Manego vs. Uniwide Sales Warehouse Club, Inc. and Jimmy GowG.R. No. 168697, December 14, 2009.

Writ of Amparo; coverage. The case hinges on the issue as to whether or not petitioner’s right to liberty has been violated or threatened with violation by the issuance of the subject Hold Departure Order, which would entitle him to the privilege of the writ of amparo.

The Court, in Secretary of National Defense et al. vs. Manalo et al., made a categorical pronouncement that the Amparo Rule in its present form is confined to these two instances of “extralegal killings” and “enforced disappearances,” or to threats thereof

Here, petitioner invokes this extraordinary remedy of the writ of amparo for the protection of his right to travel. He insists that he is entitled to the protection covered by the Rule on the Writ of Amparo because the HDO is a continuing actual restraint on his right to travel. The Court is thus called upon to rule whether or not the right to travel is covered by the Rule on the Writ of Amparo.

The rights that fall within the protective mantle of the Writ of Amparo under Section 1 of the Rules thereon are the following: (1) right to life; (2) right to liberty; and (3) right to security. Revs. Father Robert P. Reyes vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 182161, December 3, 2009.

Writ of Amparo; coverage. The right to travel refers to the right to move from one place to another. As we have stated in Marcos vs. Sandiganbayan, “xxx a person’s right to travel is subject to the usual constraints imposed by the very necessity of safeguarding the system of justice. In such cases, whether the accused should be permitted to leave the jurisdiction for humanitarian reasons is a matter of the court’s sound discretion.” Here, the restriction on petitioner’s right to travel as a consequence of the pendency of the criminal case filed against him was not unlawful. Petitioner has also failed to establish that his right to travel was impaired in the manner and to the extent that it amounted to a serious violation of his right to life, liberty and security, for which there exists no readily available legal recourse or remedy.  Revs. Father Robert P. Reyes vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 182161, December 3, 2009

Writ of Amparo; nature of remedy. This Decision reflects the nature of the Writ of Amparo – a protective remedy against violations or threats of violation against the rights to life, liberty and security. It embodies, as a remedy, the court’s directive to police agencies to undertake specified courses of action to address the disappearance of an individual, in this case, Engr. Morced N. Tagitis. It does not determine guilt nor pinpoint criminal culpability for the disappearance; rather, it determines responsibility, or at least accountability, for the enforced disappearance for purposes of imposing the appropriate remedies to address the disappearance. Responsibility refers to the extent the actors have been established by substantial evidence to have participated in whatever way, by action or omission, in an enforced disappearance, as a measure of the remedies this Court shall craft, among them, the directive to file the appropriate criminal and civil cases against the responsible parties in the proper courts. Accountability, on the other hand, refers to the measure of remedies that should be addressed to those who exhibited involvement in the enforced disappearance without bringing the level of their complicity to the level of responsibility defined above; or who are imputed with knowledge relating to the enforced disappearance and who carry the burden of disclosure; or those who carry, but have failed to discharge, the burden of extraordinary diligence in the investigation of the enforced disappearance. In all these cases, the issuance of the Writ of Amparo is justified by our primary goal of addressing the disappearance, so that the life of the victim is preserved and his liberty and security are restored.

We highlight this nature of a Writ of Amparo case at the outset to stress that the unique situations that call for the issuance of the writ, as well as the considerations and measures necessary to address these situations, may not at all be the same as the standard measures and procedures in ordinary court actions and proceedings. In this sense, the Rule on the Writ of Amparo (Amparo Rule) issued by this Court is unique. The Amparo Rule should be read, too, as a work in progress, as its directions and finer points remain to evolve through time and jurisprudence and through the substantive laws that Congress may promulgate. Gen. Avelino I. Razon, Jr., chief, Philippine National Police [PNP], et al. vs. Mary Jean B. Tagitis, herein represented by Atty. Felipe P. Arcilla, Jr. attorney-in-factG.R. No. 182498. December 3, 2009.

Writ of Amparo; nature of remedy. Even without the benefit of directly applicable substantive laws on extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, however, the Supreme Court is not powerless to act under its own constitutional mandate to promulgate “rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts,” since extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, by their nature and purpose, constitute State or private party violation of the constitutional rights of individuals to life, liberty and security. Although the Court’s power is strictly procedural and as such does not diminish, increase or modify substantive rights, the legal protection that the Court can provide can be very meaningful through the procedures it sets in addressing extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The Court, through its procedural rules, can set the procedural standards and thereby directly compel the public authorities to act on actual or threatened violations of constitutional rights. To state the obvious, judicial intervention can make a difference – even if only procedurally – in a situation when the very same investigating public authorities may have had a hand in the threatened or actual violations of constitutional rights.

Lest this Court intervention be misunderstood, we clarify once again that we do not rule on any issue of criminal culpability for the extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance. This is an issue that requires criminal action before our criminal courts based on our existing penal laws. Our intervention is in determining whether an enforced disappearance has taken place and who is responsible or accountable for this disappearance, and to define and impose the appropriate remedies to address it. The burden for the public authorities to discharge in these situations, under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo, is twofold. The first is to ensure that all efforts at disclosure and investigation are undertaken under pain of indirect contempt from this Court when governmental efforts are less than what the individual situations require. The second is to address the disappearance, so that the life of the victim is preserved and his or her liberty and security restored. In these senses, our orders and directives relative to the writ are continuing efforts that are not truly terminated until the extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance is fully addressed by the complete determination of the fate and the whereabouts of the victim, by the production of the disappeared person and the restoration of his or her liberty and security, and, in the proper case, by the commencement of criminal action against the guilty parties.  Gen. Avelino I. Razon, Jr., chief, Philippine National Police [PNP], et al. vs. Mary Jean B. Tagitis, herein represented by Atty. Felipe P. Arcilla, Jr. attorney-in-factG.R. No. 182498. December 3, 2009.

Evidence

Admission; language. Shrimp Specialists maintains that the provision “to inform in advance in case the same checks cannot be deposited for failure to replace the defective feeds” clearly shows that Fuji admitted that the feeds delivered were defective, otherwise, there would be no reason to include the statement in an agreement that merely acknowledged receipt of the checks. On the other hand, Fuji asserts that the statement is too ambiguous to be considered an admission that Fuji delivered defective feeds to Shrimp Specialists when there is evidence to support the contrary.

As correctly ruled by the CA, the statement “to inform in advance in case the same checks cannot be deposited for failure to replace the defective feeds” is not expressed in definite, certain and unequivocal language that Fuji admitted to delivering defective feeds. The CA also ruled that to be an admission of any breach of warranty, the evidence must be clear and convincing. The CA pointed out that the inspection and discovery of the alleged defective feeds were made as early as March 1989 while the feeds subject of this case were delivered to Shrimp Specialists only from 3 June to 24 July 1989. Shrimp Specialist, Inc. vs.  Fuji-Triumph Agri-Industrial Corporation/Fuji-Trimph Agri-Industrial Corporation vs. Shrimp Specialist, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 168756/G.R. No. 171476. December 7, 2009.

Best evidence;  receipt. In order to discredit the claim of ownership by SMP, petitioner questions the admissibility of the receipt presented by the former, wherein the ownership was reserved for the buyer until after full payment of the purchase price. Petitioner claims that the same was inadmissible in evidence and was in contravention of the best evidence rule. We beg to disagree. The best evidence rule is the rule which requires the highest grade of evidence obtainable to prove a disputed fact. Although there are certain recognized exceptions when the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself. However, in the instant case, contrary to petitioner’s contention, the receipt presented by SMP is deemed as an original, considering that the triplicate copy of the provisional receipt was executed at the same time as the other copies of the same receipt involving the same transaction. Section 4, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides: “Sec. 4. Original of document. — (a) The original of the document is one the contents of which are the subject of inquiry. (b) When a document is in two or more copies executed at or about the same time, with identical contents, all such copies are equally regarded as originals. (c) When an entry is repeated in the regular course of business, one being copied from another at or near the time of the transaction, all the entries are likewise equally regarded as originals.” Bank of the Philippine Islands as successor-in-interest of Far East Bank and Trust Company vs. SMP, Inc.G.R. No. 175466, December 23, 2009.

Burden of proof;  invalidity of foreclosure proceedings. We are in complete accord with the appellate court’s ruling that the dearth of evidence presented by petitioners inevitably failed to establish their claim that DBP did not comply with the statutory requirements on the extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgages. As plaintiffs before the trial court, petitioners rested the burden to prove by a preponderance of evidence the numerous causes of action they brought against herein respondents. Section 1 of Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, in relation to Section 1 of Rule 133, unequivocally provides: XXX XXX XXX Petitioners are adamant, however, that it was incumbent upon respondents to prove their denial of petitioners’ claims; i.e., foreclosure proceedings were validly conducted consistent with Act No. 3135. We disagree. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (he who asserts, not he who denies, must prove). The burden of proof that foreclosure proceedings on the subject properties were not validly conducted lies with mortgagor-party litigant claiming such. We have consistently applied the ancient rule that if a plaintiff, upon whom rests the burden of proving his cause of action, fails to show in a satisfactory manner facts on which he bases his claim, the defendant is under no obligation to prove his exception or defense. Resort Hotels Corporation, Rodolfo M. Cuenca Investment Corporation vs. Development Bank of the Philippines and SM Investment Corp.,G.R. No. 180439, December 23, 2009.

Burden of proof;  reversion proceedings – At the outset, petitioner argues that the burden to prove that the lands in question are alienable and disposable is upon respondents. The argument is out of line. This case is not a land registration proceeding but involves reversion of lands already registered in the names of respondents. At this stage, it would be reasonable to presume that respondents had established that the properties are alienable and disposable considering that they have already succeeded in obtaining free patents and OCTs over the properties. In this reversion proceeding, premised on the claim that the property is foreshore land or that the patents were obtained through fraud or misrepresentation, the burden is now upon petitioner to prove such allegations.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Ignacio Leonor and Catalino RazonG.R. No. 161424, December 23, 2009.

Electronic copy;  probative value. Since a complaint for reversion can upset the stability of registered titles through the cancellation of the original title and the others that emanate from it, the State bears a heavy burden of proving the ground for its action. Here, the Republic fails to discharge such burden. For one, it failed to present the original or a certified true copy of LC [Land Classification] Map 47 but only its electronic reproduction, which has no probative value. The Court held in SAAD Agro-Industries, Inc. vs. Republic of the Philippines that a mere photocopy of an LC Map is not a competent evidence of the existence of such map. While evidence is admissible when the original of a document is in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office, as in this case, there is a need to present a certified copy of it issued by the public officer having custody of the document to prove its contents. The Republic of course claims that its version of LC Map 47 should be regarded as the original itself because it was the official copy of the region furnished by the National Mapping and Resources Inventory Authority where the original is kept. But, as admitted by Crisanto Galo, the Land Evaluation Coordinator for DENR Region XI, the copy they presented was neither marked nor certified as a reproduction of the original. Hence, it cannot be considered as an official copy, more so an original copy. Republic of the Philippines vs. Development Resources Corp., et al.G.R. No. 180218, December 18, 2009.

Findings of administrative agency;  weight. This Court shares the view of the RTC. It is undisputed that the Land Management Bureau is the principal government agency tasked with the survey of lands, and thus, more weight should be given to the documents relating to its official tasks which are presumed to be done in the ordinary course of business. Between a geodetic engineer and a tax assessor, the conclusion is inevitable that it is the former’s certification as to the location of properties in dispute that is controlling, absent any finding of abuse of discretion. As correctly observed by respondent and the RTC, the duty of provincial and municipal assessors is primarily the assessment of taxes and not the survey of lands. Barangay Sangalang, represented by its Chairman Dante C.  Marcellana vs. Barangay Maguihan, represented by its Chairman Arnulfo VillarezG.R. No. 159792, December 23, 2009.

Fraud;  presumption. We likewise agree with the CA that petitioner was not able to establish that fraud or misrepresentation attended the application for free patents. In the same way that petitioner has the burden of proving that Lot No. 8617 is a foreshore land, petitioner, as the party alleging that fraud and misrepresentation vitiated the application for free patents, also bears the burden of proof. Fraud and misrepresentation are never presumed, but must be proved by clear and convincing evidence; mere preponderance of evidence is not even adequate. To show that there was fraud, petitioner insists that the three lots do not appear in the cadastral map of Barangay Nonong Castro, which allegedly indicates that they were not cadastrally surveyed. This is manifestly untrue as the said cadastral map of Lemery Cadastre, Cad. 511, Case 22, clearly includes and indicates the locations of Lot Nos. 8617, 9398 and 9675. Petitioner also cites discrepancies in the description of Lot No. 9398 in the free patent application and in the technical description in OCT No. P-1127. If true, such discrepancies would not necessarily imply that respondents employed fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining the free patent. After all, there was no proof that the lot referred to in the free patent application was different from the lot described in OCT No. P-1127.   Republic of the Philippines vs. Ignacio Leonor and Catalino RazonG.R. No. 161424, December 23, 2009.

Hearsay;  inadmissibility. We cannot subscribe to the CA’s computation of RHC’s indebtedness to DBP which was pegged at P612,476,182.08, inclusive of interest. The CA set aside the RTC’s holding thereon and based its finding on the Statement of Total Claim prepared by DBP. These documents show that RHC’s deficiency balance as of August 31, 2002, after deducting the total purchase price of the subject properties and the insurance proceeds plus the corresponding interest computed at 21% per annum from 1984 to August 21, 2002, is P612,476,182.08. However, as correctly pointed out by petitioners, these documents are inadmissible and constitute hearsay evidence because the persons who prepared the documents were not presented in court and subjected to cross-examination. Resort Hotels Corporation, Rodolfo M. Cuenca Investment Corporation vs. Development Bank of the Philippines and SM Investment Corp.,G.R. No. 180439, December 23, 2009.

Notarized document;  presumption. Petitioners seem to have overlooked the fact that the deed of donation inter vivos is a notarized document. According to Section 30, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court, “every instrument duly acknowledged or proved and certified as provided by law, may be presented in evidence without further proof, the certificate of acknowledgment being a prima facie evidence of the execution of the instrument or document involved.” A notarial document is evidence of the facts expressed therein. A notarized document enjoys a prima facie presumption of authenticity and due execution. Clear and convincing evidence must be presented to overcome such legal presumption.

In the instant case, petitioners failed to adduce sufficient evidence to overcome the above presumption. The only evidence offered by petitioners to impugn the deed of donation inter vivos was the testimony of petitioner Elisa, wherein she stated that the contents of the deed could not have been true, given that petitioners inherited the subject property from Victoria Mendoza, the daughter of Ignacio with his first wife Juana. Such testimony was utterly lacking. Furthermore, the Court finds nothing wrong and/or unusual in the fact that the deed of donation inter vivos was produced and made known to petitioners only in the early part of the year 2006 or more than sixty (60) years after its execution. Understandably, it was only when petitioners claimed ownership of a portion of the subject property that respondents were compelled to assert their own title to the property, which they traced to the deed of donation inter vivosHerminio M. Gutierrez, et al. vs. Flora Mendoza-Plazaet al., G.R. No. 185477, December 4, 2009.

Writ of Amparo; evidence. These characteristics – namely, of being summary and the use of substantial evidence as the required level of proof (in contrast to the usual preponderance of evidence or proof beyond reasonable doubt in court proceedings) – reveal the clear intent of the framers of the Amparo Rule to have the equivalent of an administrative proceeding, albeit judicially conducted, in addressing Amparo situations. The standard of diligence required – the duty of public officials and employees to observe extraordinary diligence – point, too, to the extraordinary measures expected in the protection of constitutional rights and in the consequent handling and investigation of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance cases.

Thus, in these proceedings, the Amparo petitioner needs only to properly comply with the substance and form requirements of a Writ of Amparo petition, as discussed above, and prove the allegations by substantial evidence. Once a rebuttable case has been proven, the respondents must then respond and prove their defenses based on the standard of diligence required. The rebuttable case, of course, must show that an enforced disappearance took place under circumstances showing a violation of the victim’s constitutional rights to life, liberty or security, and the failure on the part of the investigating authorities to appropriately respond.  Gen. Avelino I. Razon, Jr., chief, Philippine National Police [PNP], et al. vs. Mary Jean B. Tagitis, herein represented by Atty. Felipe P. Arcilla, Jr. attorney-in-factG.R. No. 182498. December 3, 2009.

Writ of Amparo; totality of evidence. The fair and proper rule, to our mind, is to consider all the pieces of evidence adduced in their totality, and to consider any evidence otherwise inadmissible under our usual rules to be admissible if it is consistent with the admissible evidence adduced. In other words, we reduce our rules to the most basic test of reason – i.e., to the relevance of the evidence to the issue at hand and its consistency with all other pieces of adduced evidence. Thus, even hearsay evidence can be admitted if it satisfies this basic minimum test.

Strictly speaking, we are faced here with a classic case of hearsay evidence – i.e., evidence whose probative value is not based on the personal knowledge of the witnesses (the respondent, Mrs. Talbin and Col. Kasim himself) but on the knowledge of some other person not on the witness stand (the informant). To say that this piece of evidence is incompetent and inadmissible evidence of what it substantively states is to acknowledge – as the petitioners effectively suggest – that in the absence of any direct evidence, we should simply dismiss the petition. To our mind, an immediate dismissal for this reason is no different from a statement that the Amparo Rule – despite its terms – is ineffective, as it cannot allow for the special evidentiary difficulties that are unavoidably present in Amparo situations, particularly in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The Amparo Rule was not promulgated with this intent or with the intent to make it a token gesture of concern for constitutional rights. It was promulgated to provide effective and timely remedies, using and profiting from local and international experiences in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, as the situation may require. Consequently, we have no choice but to meet the evidentiary difficulties inherent in enforced disappearances with the flexibility that these difficulties demand. To give full meaning to our Constitution and the rights it protects, we hold that, as in Velasquez, we should at least take a close look at the available evidence to determine the correct import of every piece of evidence – even of those usually considered inadmissible under the general rules of evidence – taking into account the surrounding circumstances and the test of reason that we can use as basic minimum admissibility requirement. In the present case, we should at least determine whether the Kasim evidence before us is relevant and meaningful to the disappearance of Tagistis and reasonably consistent with other evidence in the case.  Gen. Avelino I. Razon, Jr., chief, Philippine National Police [PNP], et al. vs. Mary Jean B. Tagitis, herein represented by Atty. Felipe P. Arcilla, Jr. attorney-in-factG.R. No. 182498. December 3, 2009.

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