February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Actions; prescription/laches. Petitioners contend that it is error on the part of the CA to rule that their cause of action has been barred by prescription and laches. According to them, since the OCT from which ALI derived its title is void for want of a duly approved survey plan, their cause of action did not prescribe. However, as discussed above, the conclusion of the trial court that OCT No. 242 is void was not sufficiently borne out by the evidence on record. Verily, the premise upon which petitioners build their theory of imprescriptibility of their action did not exist.

In sum, we find no reason to disturb the CA’s finding that:  “As previously emphasized, OCT No. 242 of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest was issued on May 7, 1950, or forty-five (45) years before plaintiffs-appellees filed their complaint on March 10, 1995.  As such, it is the Court’s firmly held view that plaintiffs-appellees’ claim is barred not only by prescription, but also by laches.

Aside from the fact that OCT No. 242 had become incontrovertible after the lapse of one (1) year from the time a decree of registration was issued, any action for reconveyance that plaintiffs-appellees could have availed of is also barred.  Although plaintiffs-appellees’ complaint was for quieting of title, it is in essence an action for reconveyance based on an implied or constructive trust, considering that plaintiffs-appellees were alleging in said complaint that there was a serious mistake, if not fraud, in the issuance of OCT No. 242 in favor of ALI’s predecessor-in-interest.  It is now well-settled that an action for reconveyance, which is a legal remedy granted to a landowner whose property has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another’s name, must be filed within ten years from the issuance of the title, since such issuance operates as a constructive notice.  Since ALI’s title is traced to an OCT issued in 1950, the ten-year prescriptive period expired in 1960.

By laches is meant the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it.  It does not involve mere lapse or passage of time, but is principally an impediment to the assertion or enforcement of a right, which has become under the circumstances inequitable or unfair to permit.  In the instant case, plaintiffs-appellees, as well as their predecessor-in-interest, have not shown that they have taken judicial steps to nullify OCT No. 242, from which ALI’s title was derived, for forty-five (45) years.  To allow them to do so now, and if successful, would be clearly unjust and inequitable to those who relied on the validity of said OCT, the innocent purchasers for value, who are protected by the precise provisions of P.D. 1529″. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

Annulment of judgment; fraud. On the last point, petitioner posits that the unfavorable Decision of the Labor Arbiter and the Decision of the NLRC were issued and obtained by means of fraud, which is a valid ground for their annulment.  In our jurisdiction, however, fraud is never presumed and should be proved as mere allegations are not enough.  The burden of proof rests on petitioner, which, in this case, he failed to discharge.  immy Areno, Jr. vs. Skycable PCC-Baguio, G.R. No. 180302. February 5, 2010.

Annulment of judgment; ground of lack of jurisdiction. It should be stressed that in a petition for annulment of judgment based on lack of jurisdiction, petitioner must show not merely an abuse of jurisdictional discretion, but an absolute lack of jurisdiction.  In the present case, the CA has put to rest the issue of whether the RTC had jurisdiction over respondent’s cause of action.  The CA was correct when it concluded that: “In the present case, the action a quo is one for mandamus and, under Section 21 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129, as amended, the Regional Trial Court exercises original jurisdiction in the issuance of the writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus, and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their regions.  The court a quo after evaluating the allegations in the initiatory pleading concluded that the action is one for specific performance and proceeded to hear it as such.  In doing so, the said court retained jurisdiction.  The same law grants the Regional Trial Courts exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation and all cases in which the demand exceeds P100,000.00, to which the action a quo belongs.”  Republic of the Philippines (DENR) vs. Technological Advocates for Agro-Forest Programs Association, Inc. (TAFPA, Inc.), G.R. No. 165333, February 9, 2010.

Annulment of judgment; nature and grounds. An action to annul a final judgment is an extraordinary remedy, which is not to be granted indiscriminately by the court.  It is a recourse equitable in character and allowed only in exceptional cases.  The reason for the restriction is to prevent this extraordinary action from being used by a losing party to make a complete farce of a duly promulgated decision that has long become final and executory.  Under Section 2, Rule 47 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the only grounds for annulment of judgment are extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.  Lack of jurisdiction as a ground for annulment of judgment refers to either lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defending party or over the subject matter of the claim.  It is absence of, or no, jurisdiction; that is, the court should not have taken cognizance of the petition because the law does not vest it with jurisdiction over the subject matter.  It should be stressed that in a petition for annulment of judgment based on lack of jurisdiction, petitioner must show not merely an abuse of jurisdictional discretion, but an absolute lack of jurisdiction.  Republic of the Philippines (DENR) vs. Technological Advocates for Agro-Forest Programs Association, Inc. (TAFPA, Inc.), G.R. No. 165333, February 9, 2010.

Annulment of judgment; scope of remedy. As regards petitioner’s remaining arguments, suffice it to say that this is not an appeal from the decision and orders of the RTC, which to reiterate has become final and executory; the correctness of the judgment is therefore not in issue. Accordingly, there is no need to address the errors allegedly committed by the trial court in issuing the assailed orders. Republic of the Philippines (DENR) vs. Technological Advocates for Agro-Forest Programs Association, Inc. (TAFPA, Inc.), G.R. No. 165333, February 9, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of administrative agencies. The CA refused to give credence to petitioner’s assertion of having no knowledge of the suspension because he refused to receive the suspension order preferring that it be sent by registered mail.  The appellate court affirmed the factual finding of the NLRC that petitioner was definitely aware of his suspension but only feigned ignorance of the same.  As a rule, we refrain from reviewing factual assessments of agencies exercising adjudicative functions. Factual findings of administrative agencies that are affirmed by the CA are conclusive on the parties and not reviewable by this Court so long as these findings are supported by substantial evidence.  Anyhow, evidence on record repudiates petitioner’s pretension.  His insistence that he had no notice of his suspension is belied by evidence as it shows that the suspension order was served on petitioner on February 7, 2002 by his immediate superior, Al Luzano, but petitioner declined to sign it.  No acceptable reason was advanced for doing so except petitioner’s shallow excuse that it should be sent to him by registered mail.  Jimmy Areno, Jr. vs. Skycable PCC-Baguio, G.R. No. 180302. February 5, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of administrative agencies. Indeed findings of fact and conclusions of an adjudicative body like the HLURB, which can be considered as a trier of facts on specific matters within its field of expertise, should be considered as binding and conclusive upon the appellate courts.  This is in addition to the fact that it was in a better position to assess and evaluate the credibility of the contending parties and the validity of their respective evidence.  However, these doctrines hold true only when such findings and conclusions are supported by substantial evidence.  In the present case, we find it difficult to find sufficient evidential support for the HLURB’s conclusion that it did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of Viola.  We are thus persuaded that there is ample justification to disturb the findings of the HLURB. Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. Ordinarily, this Court will not review, much less reverse, the factual findings of the CA, especially where such findings coincide with those of the trial court.  The findings of facts of the CA are, as a general rule, conclusive and binding upon this Court, since this Court is not a trier of facts and does not routinely undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case.  The above rule, however, is subject to a number of exceptions, such as  (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises, or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the CA is based on misapprehension 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 parties; (7) when the findings of the CA 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 CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and (10) when the findings of fact of the CA are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record. Republic of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Julio Ramos, represented by Reynaldo Ramos Medina, et al., G.R. No. 169481, February 22, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. As has repeatedly been underscored, in petitions for review on certiorari, the general rule is that only questions of law may be raised by the parties and passed upon by the Court.  Factual findings of the appellate court are generally binding on the Court, especially when in complete accord with the findings of the trial court, as in the present case, save for some recognized exceptions.  The issues raised by petitioner are predicated on the appreciation of factual issues.  In weighing the evidence of the parties, the trial court found respondents’ more credible. Northwest Airlines, Inc. vs. Spouses Edward J. Heshan and Neilia L. Heshan, et al., G.R. No. 179117, February 3, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. The issue presented before Us is whether the CA correctly found that petitioner was liable to pay respondent’s claim.  This is a factual issue.  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.  As a general rule, petitions for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure filed before this Court may only raise questions of law.  However, jurisprudence has recognized several exceptions to this rule.     In this case, the factual findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the RTC; thus, we find it proper to review the evidence. Lolita Reyes doing business under the name and style, Solid Brothers West Marketing vs. Century Canning Corporation, G.R. No. 165377, February 16, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. Petitioner seeks a review of the factual findings of the trial court, which were sustained by the Court of Appeals, that petitioner’s driver was negligent in driving the bus, which caused physical injuries to respondent and the death of respondent’s husband.  The rule is settled that the findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court when supported by the evidence on record.  The Court has carefully reviewed the records of this case, and found no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the trial court . . . . Philippine Hawk Corporation vs. Vivian Tan Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts. Ordinarily, in a Petition for Review on Certiorari, this Court only considers questions of law, as it is not a trier of facts.  However, there are exceptions to this general rule, such as, when the findings of fact of the appellate court are contrary to those of the trial court.  Such circumstance exists in this case, hence, the Court is compelled to take a closer look at the records.  Nelson Lagazo vs. Gerald B. Soriano and Galileo B. Soriano, G.R. No. 170864, February 16, 2010.

Appeal; issue raised for first time on appeal. Petitioner also challenges the validity of the suspension order for being unsigned.  The same has no merit.  Upon careful examination, it appears that the contention was raised for the first time in petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the Decision of the CA.  In Arceno v. Government Service Insurance System, the hornbook principle that new issues cannot be raised for the first time on appeal was reiterated.  We emphasized therein that the rule is based on principles of fairness and due process and is applicable to appealed decisions originating from regular courts, administrative agencies or quasi-judicial bodies, whether rendered in a civil case, a special proceeding or a criminal case, citing the case of Tan v. Commission on Elections. Even assuming that it was raised, the same would be without merit because the suspension order bears the signature of respondent’s engineering manager and petitioner’s immediate superior, Al Luzano, who, in fact, is a member of the panel committee that conducted an investigation on the complaint of Soriano against petitioner.  Jimmy Areno, Jr. vs. Skycable PCC-Baguio, G.R. No. 180302. February 5, 2010.

Appeal; scope of review; appellate court may review matters, even if not assigned as errors in the appeal, if their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case. As regards the issue on the damages awarded, petitioner contends that it was the only one that appealed the decision of the trial court with respect to the award of actual and moral damages; hence, the Court of Appeals erred in awarding other kinds of damages in favor of respondent, who did not appeal from the trial court’s decision.  Petitioner’s contention is unmeritorious.  Section 8, Rule 51 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides . . .

Philippine National Bank v. Rabat cited the book of Justice Florenz D. Regalado to explain the section above, thus:

In his book, Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado commented on this section, thus:

1.  Sec. 8, which is an amendment of the former Sec. 7 of this Rule, now includes some substantial changes in the rules on assignment of errors.  The basic procedural rule is that only errors claimed and assigned by a party will be considered by the court, except errors affecting its jurisdiction over the subject matter.  To this exception has now been added errors affecting the validity of the judgment appealed from or the proceedings therein.

Also, even if the error complained of by a party is not expressly stated in his assignment of errors but the same is closely related to or dependent on an assigned error and properly argued in his brief, such error may now be considered by the court.  These changes are of jurisprudential origin.

2.  The procedure in the Supreme Court being generally the same as that in the Court of Appeals, unless otherwise indicated (see Secs. 2 and 4, Rule 56), it has been held that the latter is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case.  Also, an unassigned error closely related to an error properly assigned (PCIB vs. CA, et al., L-34931, Mar. 18, 1988), or upon which the determination of the question raised by error properly assigned is dependent, will be considered by the appellate court notwithstanding the failure to assign it as error (Ortigas, Jr. vs. Lufthansa German Airlines, L-28773, June 30, 1975; Soco vs. Militante, et al., G.R. No. 58961, June 28, 1983).

It may also be observed that under Sec. 8 of this Rule, the appellate court is authorized to consider a plain error, although it was not specifically assigned by the appellant (Dilag vs. Heirs of Resurreccion, 76 Phil. 649), otherwise it would be sacrificing substance for technicalities.

In this case for damages based on quasi-delict, the trial court awarded respondent the sum of P745,575.00, representing loss of earning capacity (P590,000.00) and actual damages (P155,575.00 for funeral expenses), plus P50,000.00 as moral damages.  On appeal to the Court of Appeals, petitioner assigned as error the award of damages by the trial court on the ground that it was based merely on suppositions and surmises, not the admissions made by respondent during the trial.  In its Decision, the Court of Appeals sustained the award by the trial court for loss of earning capacity of the deceased Silvino Tan, moral damages for his death, and actual damages, although the amount of the latter award was modified.

In fine, the Court of Appeals correctly awarded civil indemnity for the death of respondent’s husband, temperate damages, and moral damages for the physical injuries sustained by respondent in addition to the damages granted by the trial court to respondent. The trial court overlooked awarding the additional damages, which were prayed for by respondent in her Amended Complaint.  The appellate court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors in the appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case. Philippine Hawk Corporation vs. Vivian Tan Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010.

Certiorari; extension of period to file. On the People’s argument that a motion for extension of time to file a petition for certiorari is no longer allowed, the same rests on shaky grounds.

That no mention is made in the above-quoted amended Section 4 of Rule 65 of a motion for extension, unlike in the previous formulation, does not make the filing of such pleading absolutely prohibited.  If such were the intention, the deleted portion could just have simply been reworded to state that “no extension of time to file the petition shall be granted.”  Absent such a prohibition, motions for extension are allowed, subject to the Court’s sound discretion.  The present petition may thus be allowed, having been filed within the extension sought and, at all events, given its merits.  Jaime S. Domdom v. Hon. Third and Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan, Commission on Audit and The People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 182382-83, February 24, 2010.

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. Even assuming that certiorari may lie, the Court still cannot grant the instant petition because the petitioners failed to show that public respondent, in issuing the assailed Orders, acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or gravely abused her discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  As mentioned earlier, the RTC issued the assailed Order in accordance with Section 3, Rule 17, in relation to Section 1, Rule 18 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.  There is no showing that the RTC judge issued the Order in a despotic or arbitrary manner, or that she was motivated by passion or personal hostility against petitioners. Grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility, and it must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.  Such is wanting in this case.  Benedicta Samson and Marcial Samson vs. Hon. Judge Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig, et al., G.R. No. 166356, February 2, 2010.

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available. The appellate court correctly ruled that the petition for certiorari was not the proper remedy. A writ of certiorari lies only for an error of jurisdiction.  It can be availed of only if the lower tribunal has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  Where the error is not one of jurisdiction but an error of law or fact which is a mistake of judgment, certiorari is not available.  In such case, the remedy is appeal.  The assailed RTC Order dated 20 June 2003 was issued when petitioners failed to move for a pre-trial of the case for annulment of the extra-judicial foreclosure in accordance with Section 1, Rule 18 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure which provides: XXX  XXX  XXX  In said Order, the RTC dismissed the case with prejudice for failure to prosecute for an unreasonable length of time, pursuant to Section 3, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court which states, thus:  XXX  XXX  XXX  The RTC Order dated 20 June 2003 was a final judgment which disposed of the case on the merits.  This was even clarified in the subsequent RTC Order of 22 December 2003 (which denied petitioners’ motion for reconsideration) wherein the lower court stated that: “Therefore, the dismissal was ‘with prejudice’ or a dismissal that had the effect of adjudication upon the merits in accordance with Section 3, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court.”  The remedy to obtain reversal or modification of the judgment on the merits is appeal.  This is true even if the error, or one of the errors, ascribed to the court rendering the judgment is its lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or the exercise of power in excess thereof, or grave abuse of discretion in the findings of fact or of law set out in the decision.  The availability of the right to appeal precludes recourse to the special civil action for certiorari.  The RTC Order subject of the petition was a final judgment which disposed of the case on the merits; hence, it was a subject for an ordinary appeal, not a petition for certiorari.   Benedicta Samson and Marcial Samson vs. Hon. Judge Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig, et al., G.R. No. 166356, February 2, 2010.

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available. At the outset, the petition should have been dismissed outright because petitioner resorted to the wrong mode of appeal by filing the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65.  Section 1 of the said Rule explicitly provides that a petition for certiorari is available only when there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  In this case, the remedy of appeal by way of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 is not only available but also the proper mode of appeal.  For all intents and purposes, we find that petitioner filed the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 as a substitute for a lost appeal.  We note that petitioner received a copy of the January 19, 2005 Resolution of the CA denying his motion for reconsideration on January 28, 2005.  Under Section 2 of Rule 45, petitioner has 15 days from notice of the said Resolution within which to file his petition for review on certiorari. As such, he should have filed his appeal on or before February 12, 2005. However, records show that the petition was posted on March 1, 2005, or long after the period to file the appeal has lapsed. Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available. Petitioner should have filed a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court instead of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, since she is assailing the CA decision and resolution which are final judgments.  Rule 45 clearly provides that decisions, final orders or resolutions of the CA in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to us by filing a petition for review, which is just a continuation of the appellate process over the original case.  And the petition for review must be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of petitioner’s motion for a new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of  the judgment.   In this case, petitioner received a copy of the CA Resolution denying her motion for reconsideration on November 24, 2004; and, thus, under Rule 45, she has 15 days from receipt of such resolution, or until December 9, 2004, to file a petition for review.  However, petitioner did not file a petition for review; instead, she filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 on January 24, 2005. Hence, the CA decision and resolution have already attained finality, and petitioner has lost her right to appeal.

A petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is proper if a tribunal, a board or an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  In this case, petitioner had the remedy of appeal, and it was the speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.  Thus, a special civil action for certiorari cannot be used as a substitute for an appeal that the petitioner has already lost.   Certiorari cannot be allowed when a party to a case fails to appeal a judgment to the proper forum despite the availability of that remedy, certiorari not being a substitute for a lost appeal.  Certiorari will not be a cure for failure to timely file a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45.   Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available; exceptions. While there are instances where the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be resorted to despite the availability of an appeal, the long line of decisions denying the special civil action for certiorari, either before appeal was availed of or in instances where the appeal period had lapsed, far outnumber the instances where certiorari was given due course.  The few significant exceptions are: (1) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictate; (2) when the broader interests of justice so require; (3) when the writs issued are null; (4) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority, which we find to be not present in this case.  Notably, petitioner did not even fail to advance an explanation why appeal was not availed of, nor was there any showing that the issue raised in the petition for certiorari could not be raised on appeal.  Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to adequately explain his failure to abide by the rules. Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010. 

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available; exceptions. Concededly, the NPC may have pursued the wrong remedy when it filed a petition for certiorari instead of an appeal since the ruling on attorney’s fees is already a ruling on the merits.  However, we find that the trial court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it ordered NPC solidarily liable with the plaintiffs for the payment of the attorney’s fees.  The rule that a petition for certiorari is dismissible when the mode of appeal is available admits of exceptions, to wit: (a) when the writs issued are null; and, (b) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.  Clearly, respondent has shown its entitlement to the exceptions. Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

Certiorari; motion for reconsideration; exceptions. Concededly, the settled rule is that a motion for reconsideration is a condition sine qua non for the filing of a petition for certiorari, its purpose being to grant an opportunity for the court a quo to correct any actual or perceived error attributed to it by a re-examination of the legal and factual circumstances of the case.  The rule is, however, circumscribed by well-defined exceptions, such as where the order is a patent nullity because the court a quo had no jurisdiction; where the questions raised in the certiorari proceeding have been duly raised and passed upon by the lower court, or are the same as those raised and passed upon in the lower court; where there is an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question, and any further delay would prejudice the interests of the Government or of the petitioner, or the subject matter of the action is perishable; where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration would be useless; where the petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief; where, in a criminal case, relief from an order of arrest is urgent and the grant of such relief by the trial court is improbable; where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process; where the proceedings were ex parte or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; and where the issue raised is one purely of law or where public interest is involved.  The Court finds that the issue raised by petitioner had been duly raised and passed upon by the Sandiganbayan Third Division, it having denied consolidation in two resolutions;  that the issue calls for resolution and any further delay would prejudice the interests of petitioner;  and that the issue raised is one purely of law, the facts not being contested.  There is thus ample justification for relaxing the rule requiring the prior filing of a motion for reconsideration.   Jaime S. Domdom v. Hon. Third and Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan, Commission on Audit and The People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 182382-83, February 24, 2010.

Certiorari; scope of remedy. In fact, the argument raised by petitioner, i.e., that the Court of Appeals had no legal authority to vary the findings of the trial court and substitute its own conclusion, which were patently contrary to the trial court’s findings, and conclusion, relates to the wisdom and soundness of the assailed CA decision and resolution.  Where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision – not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision – the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari.  Erroneous findings and conclusions do not render the appellate court vulnerable to the corrective writ of certiorari, for where the court has jurisdiction over the case, even if its findings are not correct, these would, at the most, constitute errors of law and not abuse of discretion correctible by certiorari.  For if every error committed by the trial court or quasi-judicial agency were to be the proper subject of review by certiorari, then trial would never end, and the dockets of appellate courts would be clogged beyond measure.  Even if we consider this petition for certiorari under Rule 65, it must be shown that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion equivalent to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and not mere errors of judgment, for the petition to be granted.  As we said, certiorari is not a remedy for errors of judgment, which are correctible by appeal. By grave abuse of discretion is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, and mere abuse of discretion is not enough — it must be grave. Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Certiorari; strict observance of procedural rules. In petitions for certiorari, procedural rules must be strictly observed.

The acceptance of a petition for certiorari as well as the grant of due course thereto is, in general, addressed to the sound discretion of the court.  Although the court has absolute discretion to reject and dismiss a petition for certiorari, it does so only x x x when there are procedural errors, like violations of the Rules of Court.  Marcelino Domingo vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 169122, February 2, 2010.

Contempt; defiance of court’s orders and abuse of rules of procedure. Petitioner has doggedly pursued her case in this Court by filing three successive motions for reconsideration, including the letter-motion subject of this resolution. This, despite our repeated warnings that “no further pleadings shall be entertained in this case.” Her unreasonable persistence constitutes utter defiance of this Court’s orders and an abuse of the rules of procedure. This, alongside her thinly veiled threats to leak her case to the media to gain public sympathy – although the tone of petitioner’s compliance with our show-cause resolution was decidedly subdued compared to her earlier letters – constitutes contempt of court.  In Republic v. Unimex, we held: “A statement of this Court that no further pleadings would be entertained is a declaration that the Court has already considered all issues presented by the parties and that it has adjudicated the case with finality. It is a directive to the parties to desist from filing any further pleadings or motions. Like all orders of this Court, it must be strictly observed by the parties. It should not be circumvented by filing motions ill-disguised as requests for clarification.” Florencia G. Diaz vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181502, February 2, 2010.

Docket fees; additional fees payable constitute lien on judgment. The foregoing disposition notwithstanding, respondent is liable for the balance between the actual fees paid and the correct payable filing fees to include an assessment on the award of unrealized income, following Section 2 of Rule 141 . . . and jurisprudence, viz: “The exception contemplated as to claims not specified or to claims although specified are left for determination of the court is limited only to any damages that may arise after the filing of the complaint or similar pleading for then it will not be possible for the claimant to specify nor speculate as to the amount thereof.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. and Solidbank Corporation vs. Bernardita H. Perez, represented by her Attorney in fact Patria H. Perez, G.R. No. 181842, February 5, 2010.

Docket fees; Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) not exempt from payment. Faced with the differing opinions of the GSIS, the OSG and the OCAT, we now proceed to probe into the heart of this matter: may Congress exempt the GSIS from the payment of legal fees? No.

The GSIS urges the Court to show deference to Congress by recognizing the exemption of the GSIS under Section 39 of RA 8291 from legal fees imposed under Rule 141. Effectively, the GSIS wants this Court to recognize a power of Congress to repeal, amend or modify a rule of procedure promulgated by the Court. However, the Constitution and jurisprudence do not sanction such view.  Rule 141 (on Legal Fees) of the Rules of Court was promulgated by this Court in the exercise of its rule-making powers under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the Constitution.

The power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts is a traditional power of this Court.  It necessarily includes the power to address all questions arising from or connected to the implementation of the said rules.  The Rules of Court was promulgated in the exercise of the Court’s rule-making power. It is essentially procedural in nature as it does not create, diminish, increase or modify substantive rights.  Corollarily, Rule 141 is basically procedural. It does not create or take away a right but simply operates as a means to implement an existing right. In particular, it functions to regulate the procedure of exercising a right of action and enforcing a cause of action.  In particular, it pertains to the procedural requirement of paying the prescribed legal fees in the filing of a pleading or any application that initiates an action or proceeding.

The GSIS cannot successfully invoke the right to social security of government employees in support of its petition.  It is a corporate entity whose personality is separate and distinct from that of its individual members.  The rights of its members are not its rights; its rights, powers and functions pertain to it solely and are not shared by its members.  Its capacity to sue and bring actions under Section 41(g) of RA 8291, the specific power which involves the exemption that it claims in this case, pertains to it and not to its members. Indeed, even the GSIS acknowledges that, in claiming exemption from the payment of legal fees, it is not asking that rules be made to enforce the right to social security of its members but that the Court recognize the alleged right of the GSIS “to seek relief from the courts of justice sans payment of legal fees.”  However, the alleged right of the GSIS does not exist. The payment of legal fees does not take away the capacity of the GSIS to sue. It simply operates as a means by which that capacity may be implemented.

Since the payment of legal fees is a vital component of the rules promulgated by this Court concerning pleading, practice and procedure, it cannot be validly annulled, changed or modified by Congress. As one of the safeguards of this Court’s institutional independence, the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure is now the Court’s exclusive domain. That power is no longer shared by this Court with Congress, much less with the Executive.

The separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of our government has erected an impregnable wall that keeps the power to promulgate rules of pleading, practice and procedure within the sole province of this Court. The other branches trespass upon this prerogative if they enact laws or issue orders that effectively repeal, alter or modify any of the procedural rules promulgated by this Court. Viewed from this perspective, the claim of a legislative grant of exemption from the payment of legal fees under Section 39 of RA 8291 necessarily fails. Re: Petition for recognition of the exemption of the Government Service Insurance System from payment of legal fees, A.M. No. 08-2-01-0, February 11, 2010.

Docket fees; Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) not exempt from payment. Congress could not have carved out an exemption for the GSIS from the payment of legal fees without transgressing another equally important institutional safeguard of the Court’s independence — fiscal autonomy.  Fiscal autonomy recognizes the power and authority of the Court to levy, assess and collect fees, including legal fees.  Moreover, legal fees under Rule 141 have two basic components, the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and the Special Allowance for the Judiciary Fund (SAJF).  The laws which established the JDF and the SAJF expressly declare the identical purpose of these funds to “guarantee the independence of the Judiciary as mandated by the Constitution and public policy.”  Legal fees therefore do not only constitute a vital source of the Court’s financial resources but also comprise an essential element of the Court’s fiscal independence. Any exemption from the payment of legal fees granted by Congress to government-owned or controlled corporations and local government units will necessarily reduce the JDF and the SAJF. Undoubtedly, such situation is constitutionally infirm for it impairs the Court’s guaranteed fiscal autonomy and erodes its independence.  Re: Petition for recognition of the exemption of the Government Service Insurance System from payment of legal fees, A.M. No. 08-2-01-0, February 11, 2010.

Ejectment; element of force in forcible entry. We also note that petitioners did not deny in their Answer respondents’ allegation that they constructed a concrete fence on the subject property. Failure to specifically deny the allegation amounts to a judicial admission. Unlawfully entering the subject property, erecting a structure thereon and excluding therefrom the prior possessor would necessarily imply the use of force. In order to constitute force, the trespasser does not have to institute a state of war.  No other proof is necessary. Spouses Eulogio N. Antazo and Nelia C. Antazo vs. Leonides Doblada, et al., G.R. No. 178908, February 4, 2010.

Ejectment; issue of prior actual physical possession. Petitioners contend that respondents’ claim is not supported by competent evidence. They aver that when they bought the property from Anciano, the latter transferred to them possession and ownership of the subject property. They point out that, after they purchased the property from Anciano, they declared it in their names for taxation purposes and paid real property tax thereon.  The petition is without merit.  Petitioners’ argument is misplaced, considering that this is a forcible entry case. They are apparently referring to “possession” flowing from ownership of the property, as opposed to actual possession. In ejectment cases, possession means nothing more than actual physical possession, not legal possession in the sense contemplated in civil law.  Prior physical possession is the primary consideration in a forcible entry case. A party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself. Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain on the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him.  The party in peaceable quiet possession shall not be thrown out by a strong hand, violence or terror.  We are convinced that respondents were in prior possession of the property and that petitioners deprived them of such possession by means of force.

While the Letter intimates that petitioners were in possession of the property prior to respondents and that the latter were the ones who forcibly evicted them therefrom, such statement is clearly self-serving and unsupported by other evidence. Verily, this information, assuming that it is true, is not relevant to the resolution of this case.  This case involves respondents’ cause of action against petitioners for evicting them from the subject property which was in their possession. It is immaterial how respondents came into such possession or by what right they did so. Even usurpers of land owned by another are entitled to remain on it until they are lawfully ejected therefrom. Spouses Eulogio N. Antazo and Nelia C. Antazo vs. Leonides Doblada, et al., G.R. No. 178908, February 4, 2010.

Ejectment; nature of remedy and issue involved. Prior physical possession is an indispensable element in forcible entry cases.  Thus, the ultimate question here is who had prior physical possession of the disputed land.  Nelson Lagazo vs. Gerald B. Soriano and Galileo B. Soriano, G.R. No. 170864, February 16, 2010.

Ejectment; rationale of remedy. Granting that petitioners had earlier possession and respondents were the ones who first forcibly dispossessed them of the property, this circumstance would not have given petitioners license to recover possession in the same way.  Such course of action is precisely what is sought to be avoided by the rule on ejectment.  The underlying philosophy behind ejectment suits is to prevent breach of the peace and criminal disorder and to compel the party out of possession to respect and resort to the law alone to obtain what he claims is his.  The party deprived of possession must not take the law into his own hands.  Petitioners would have had a right of action against respondents to file an ejectment suit, but they evidently let the chance pass and chose the easier and faster way. Unfortunately for them, this time, their opponents chose to resort to appropriate judicial measures. Spouses Eulogio N. Antazo and Nelia C. Antazo vs. Leonides Doblada, et al., G.R. No. 178908, February 4, 2010.

Execution; effect of levy on execution as against prior adverse claim. Petitioner contends that the adverse claim of respondent Garcia inscribed on the title of the subject property is but a notice that the latter has an interest adverse to respondent Brua’s title, to the extent of P150,000.00 secured by a real estate mortgage, and such adverse  claim cannot be considered superior to that of a final sale conducted by the sheriff by virtue of  a court judgment that has attained finality.  Sec. 12, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides:  “SEC. 12. Effect of levy on execution as to third persons. – The levy on execution shall create a lien in favor of the judgment obligee over the right, title and interest of the judgment obligor in such property at the time of the levy, subject to liens and encumbrances then existing.”

Clearly, the levy does not make the judgment creditor the owner of the property levied upon.  He merely obtains a lien.  Such levy on execution is subject and subordinate to all valid claims and liens existing against the property at the time the execution lien attached, such as real estate mortgages.          Respondent Garcia’s adverse claim, which refers to the deed of mortgage executed by respondent Brua in his favor, was annotated on respondent Brua’s title registered with the Registry of Deeds of Rizal on June 23, 1980 as Entry No. 49853.  The adverse claim was already existing when the Notice of Levy on Execution, as well as the Certificate of Sale in favor of petitioner, was inscribed on July 11, 1988 and September 2, 1988, respectively; and, hence, the adverse claim is sufficient to constitute constructive notice to petitioner regarding the subject property.  When petitioner registered her Notice of Levy on Execution on the title of the subject property, she was charged with the knowledge that the subject property sought to be levied upon on execution was encumbered by an interest the same as or better than that of the registered owner thereof.  Thus, no grave abuse of discretion was committed by the CA when it held that the notice of levy and subsequent sale of the subject property could not prevail over respondent Garcia’s existing adverse claim inscribed on respondent Brua’s certificate of title. Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Expropriation; damages for taking of property without payment of just compensation. We stress, however, that the City of Iloilo should be held liable for damages for taking private respondent’s property without payment of just compensation. In Manila International Airport Authority v. Rodriguez, the Court held that a government agency’s prolonged occupation of private property without the benefit of expropriation proceedings undoubtedly entitled the landowner to damages.  City of Iloilo, represented by Hon. Jerry P. Treñas, City Mayor vs. Hon. Loilita-Bersana, et al., G.R. No. 168967, February 12, 2010.

Expropriation; determination of just compensation. We now turn to the reckoning date for the determination of just compensation. Petitioner claims that the computation should be made as of September 18, 1981, the date when the expropriation complaint was filed. We agree.  In a long line of cases, we have constantly affirmed that:  “x x x just compensation is to be ascertained as of the time of the taking, which usually coincides with the commencement of the expropriation proceedings. Where the institution of the action precedes entry into the property, the just compensation is to be ascertained as of the time of the filing of the complaint.”

When the taking of the property sought to be expropriated coincides with the commencement of the expropriation proceedings, or takes place subsequent to the filing of the complaint for eminent domain, the just compensation should be determined as of the date of the filing of the complaint. Even under Sec. 4, Rule 67 of the 1964 Rules of Procedure, under which the complaint for expropriation was filed, just compensation is to be determined “as of the date of the filing of the complaint.”  Here, there is no reason to depart from the general rule that the point of reference for assessing the value of the Subject Property is the time of the filing of the complaint for expropriation. City of Iloilo, represented by Hon. Jerry P. Treñas, City Mayor vs. Hon. Loilita-Bersana, et al., G.R. No. 168967, February 12, 2010.

Expropriation; no recovery of possession. We commiserate with the private respondent. The school was constructed and has been in operation since 1985.  Petitioner and the residents of Iloilo City have long reaped the benefits of the property.  However, non-payment of just compensation does not entitle the private landowners to recover possession of their expropriated lot.  Concededly, Javellana also slept on his rights for over 18 years and did not bother to check with the PNB if a deposit was actually made by the petitioner. Evidently, from his inaction in failing to withdraw or even verify the amounts purportedly deposited, private respondent not only accepted the valuation made by the petitioner, but also was not interested enough to pursue the expropriation case until the end.  As such, private respondent may not recover possession of the Subject Property, but is entitled to just compensation.  It is high time that private respondent be paid what was due him after almost 30 years. City of Iloilo, represented by Hon. Jerry P. Treñas, City Mayor vs. Hon. Loilita-Bersana, et al., G.R. No. 168967, February 12, 2010.

Expropriation; stages. Expropriation proceedings have two stages.  The first phase ends with an order of dismissal, or a determination that the property is to be acquired for a public purpose.  Either order will be a final order that may be appealed by the aggrieved party.  The second phase consists of the determination of just compensation.  It ends with an order fixing the amount to be paid to the landowner.  Both orders, being final, are appealable.

An order of condemnation or dismissal is final, resolving the question of whether or not the plaintiff has properly and legally exercised its power of eminent domain. Once the first order becomes final and no appeal thereto is taken, the authority to expropriate and its public use can no longer be questioned.

Javellana did not bother to file an appeal from the May 17, 1983 Order which granted petitioner’s Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession and which authorized petitioner to take immediate possession of the Subject Property.  Thus, it has become final, and the petitioner’s right to expropriate the property for a public use is no longer subject to review.  On the first question, therefore, we rule that the trial court gravely erred in nullifying the May 17, 1983 Order.  City of Iloilo, represented by Hon. Jerry P. Treñas, City Mayor vs. Hon. Loilita-Bersana, et al., G.R. No. 168967, February 12, 2010.

Injunction; injunction against National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The petition was accompanied by a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction or TRO to prevent the CA from enforcing its decision. The Court, however, did not issue any TRO or injunctive writ in this case. This was because R.A. 8371 prohibits the issuance of a restraining order or preliminary injunction against the NCIP in any case, dispute or controversy arising from or necessary to its interpretation or the interpretation of other laws relating to indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) and ancestral domains.  The City Mayor of Baguio and the Head of the Demolition Team-Engr. Nazita Bañez Vs. Atty. Brain Masweng, Regional Hearing Officer, NCIP-CAR, the heirs of Judith Cariño, Jacqueline Cariño and the Heirs of Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega, G.R. No. 165003, February 2, 2010.

Injunction; showing of irreparable injury. What is more, the provisional remedy of preliminary injunction may only be resorted to when there is a pressing necessity to avoid injurious consequences which cannot be remedied under any standard of compensation.  Here, since there is a valid cause to foreclose on the mortgages, petitioners G.G. Sportswear and Gidwani cannot claim that the irreparable damage they wanted to prevent by their application for preliminary injunction is the loss of their properties to auction sale.  Their real injury, if it turns out that the right to foreclose belongs to PIO rather than to BDO, is payment of the proceeds of the auction sale to the wrong party rather than to their creditor.  But this kind of injury is purely monetary and is compensable by an appropriate judgment against BDO.  It is not in any sense an irreparable injury. G.G. Sportsware Manufacturing Corp., et al. vs. Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 184434, February 8, 2010

Injunction; showing of right to main relief. Petitioners G.G. Sportswear and Gidwani point out that BDO’s March 15, 2005 letter and its April 21, 2005 certification show that the bank already transferred to PIO all its rights to the loan receivables of G.G. Sportswear.  Thus, BDO lost its right to foreclose the mortgages on the properties that secured the unpaid loans, thus, entitling petitioners to an order enjoining the foreclosures.  Further, petitioners claim that BDO bloated G.G. Sportswear’s outstanding obligation such that it was being made to pay more through the foreclosure than was actually due.  The test for issuing a TRO or an injunction is whether the facts show a need for equity to intervene in order to protect perceived rights in equity.  In general, a higher court will not set aside the trial court’s grant or denial of an application for preliminary injunction unless it gravely abused its discretion as when it lacks jurisdiction over the action, ignores relevant considerations that stick out of the parties’ pleadings, sees the facts with a blurred lens, ignores what is relevant, draws illogical conclusions, or simply acts in random fashion.  Injunction may be issued only when the plaintiff appears to be entitled to the main relief he asks in his complaint.  This means that the plaintiff’s allegations should show clearly that he has a cause of action.  This means that he enjoys some right and that the defendant has violated it.  And, where the defendant is heard on the application for injunction, the trial court must consider, too, the weight of his opposition.  If one were to go by respondent BDO’s March 15, 2005 letter to petitioner G.G. Sportswear and its April 21, 2005 certification, the bank appears to have already assigned all the loan receivables of G.G. Sportswear to respondent PIO.  Logically, BDO no longer had the right to foreclose on the mortgages that secured the loans.  But, judging by its answer to the complaint, BDO wanted that corrected.  For it claimed that it actually assigned just a measly portion of its loan receivables to respondent PIO.  Did the allegations of the parties and the documents they attached to their pleadings give ample justification for the issuance of a TRO or preliminary injunction order to stop the foreclosure sale of the Bel-Air property?  Two considerations militate against it:

First.  The mortgaged properties were due for foreclosure.  Admittedly, petitioner G.G. Sportswear had defaulted on the loans secured by the subject mortgages.  Petitioners had, therefore, no right to complain about losing their properties to foreclosure.

Second.  The issue of which party owns the loan receivables and, consequently, had the right to foreclose the mortgages is essentially an issue between BDO and PIO.  This issue is the concern of petitioners G.G. Sportswear and Gidwani but only to the extent that they are entitled to ensure that the proceeds of the foreclosure sale were paid to the right party.

As it happens, however, this is not even a genuine issue.  Respondent PIO, which had been impleaded in the case, did not contest BDO’s ownership of the loan receivables and its right to foreclose the mortgages.  It would, therefore, make no sense to insist that PIO be the one to foreclose when it denounces such right.  Besides, the real estate mortgages presented for foreclosure remained in BDO’s name.  No document has been presented superseding it.  For the above reasons, it cannot be said that petitioners G.G. Sportswear and Gidwani have established a right to the main relief they want, namely, the arrest of the foreclosure sale of their mortgaged properties after they had admitted not paying their loans.  As for their claim that BDO had bloated G.G. Sportswear’s outstanding obligation, the remedy if this turns out to be true is to direct BDO to return the excess proceeds with damages as the circumstances may warrant.  G.G. Sportsware Manufacturing Corp., et al. vs. Banco De Oro Unibank, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 184434, February 8, 2010

Intervention; period and requisites. Section 1, Rule 19 of the Rules of Court provides:  “A person who has legal interest in the matter in litigation or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in the custody of the court or of an officer thereof may, with leave of court, be allowed to intervene in the action.  The court shall consider whether or not the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties, and whether or not the intervenor’s rights may be fully protected in a separate proceeding.”

Pursuant to the foregoing rule, this Court has held that a motion for intervention shall be entertained when the following requisites are satisfied: (1) the would-be intervenor shows that he has a substantial right or interest in the case; and (2) such right or interest cannot be adequately pursued and protected in another proceeding.  Upon the other hand, Section 2, Rule 19 of the Rules of Court provides the time within which a motion for intervention may be filed, viz.:  “SECTION 2.  Time to intervene.– The motion for intervention may be filed at any time before rendition of judgment by the trial court.  A copy of the pleading-in-intervention shall be attached to the motion and served on the original parties.”

This rule, however, is not inflexible.  Interventions have been allowed even beyond the period prescribed in the Rule, when demanded by the higher interest of justice.  Interventions have also been granted to afford indispensable parties, who have not been impleaded, the right to be heard even after a decision has been rendered by the trial court, when the petition for review of the judgment has already been submitted for decision before the Supreme Court, and even where the assailed order has already become final and executory.  In Lim v. Pacquing, the motion for intervention filed by the Republic of the Philippines was allowed by this Court to avoid grave injustice and injury and to settle once and for all the substantive issues raised by the parties.  In fine, the allowance or disallowance of a motion for intervention rests on the sound discretion of the court after consideration of the appropriate circumstances.  We stress again that Rule 19 of the Rules of Court is a rule of procedure whose object is to make the powers of the court fully and completely available for justice.  Its purpose is not to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Intervention; requirement of specific and substantial right or interest in case. We rule that, with the exception of the IBP – Cebu City Chapter, all the movants-intervenors may properly intervene in the case at bar.  First, the movants-intervenors have each sufficiently established a substantial right or interest in the case.  As a Senator of the Republic, Senator Manuel A. Roxas has a right to challenge the December 1, 2009 Decision, which nullifies a long established law; as a voter, he has a right to intervene in a matter that involves the electoral process; and as a public officer, he has a personal interest in maintaining the trust and confidence of the public in its system of government.  On the other hand, former Senator Franklin M. Drilon and Tom V. Apacible are candidates in the May 2010 elections running against appointive officials who, in view of the December 1, 2009 Decision, have not yet resigned from their posts and are not likely to resign from their posts. They stand to be directly injured by the assailed Decision, unless it is reversed.  Moreover, the rights or interests of said movants-intervenors cannot be adequately pursued and protected in another proceeding.  Clearly, their rights will be foreclosed if this Court’s Decision attains finality and forms part of the laws of the land.  With regard to the IBP – Cebu City Chapter, it anchors its standing on the assertion that “this case involves the constitutionality of elections laws for this coming 2010 National Elections,” and that “there is a need for it to be allowed to intervene xxx so that the voice of its members in the legal profession would also be heard before this Highest Tribunal as it resolves issues of transcendental importance.”  Prescinding from our rule and ruling case law, we find that the IBP-Cebu City Chapter has failed to present a specific and substantial interest sufficient to clothe it with standing to intervene in the case at bar.  Its invoked interest is, in character, too indistinguishable to justify its intervention. Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Judgment; finality. Respondent should not suffer for petitioner’s failure to avail itself of the appropriate remedies provided for by law and the Rules.  After a decision is declared final and executory, vested rights are acquired by the winning party. Just as a losing party has the right to appeal within the prescribed period, the winning party has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the decision on the case.  Whether through inadvertence or negligence of its deputized counsel or the OSG itself, the decision has already become final and executory.  To conclude otherwise would run counter to the basic principle of fair play.  Besides, there would be no end to litigations if the parties who have unsuccessfully availed themselves of any of the appropriate remedies or lost them through their fault or inadvertence could have unfavorable decisions annulled by simply bringing an action for annulment of judgment.  Republic of the Philippines (DENR) vs. Technological Advocates for Agro-Forest Programs Association, Inc. (TAFPA, Inc.), G.R. No. 165333, February 9, 2010.

Judgment; obiter dictum. Our Fariñas ruling on the equal protection implications of the deemed-resigned provisions cannot be minimalized as mere obiter dictum. It is trite to state that an adjudication on any point within the issues presented by the case cannot be considered as obiter dictum.  This rule applies to all pertinent questions that are presented and resolved in the regular course of the consideration of the case and lead up to the final conclusion, and to any statement as to the matter on which the decision is predicated.  For that reason, a point expressly decided does not lose its value as a precedent because the disposition of the case is, or might have been, made on some other ground; or even though, by reason of other points in the case, the result reached might have been the same if the court had held, on the particular point, otherwise than it did.  Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Judgment; res judicata. As to the issue of res judicata, the Court of Appeals ruled that the decision in the case of Guico v. San Pedro was binding on the Carpos as it proceeded to discuss, thus:

In Guico vs. San Pedro, the Supreme Court resolved the conflicting claims over a tract of land situated in barrio Tindig na Manga, Parañaque, Rizal, which was subdivided into eleven (11) lots.  The subject land was sought to be registered by a certain Eduardo C. Guico on the basis of an accompanying plan Psu-80886, which interestingly is also the basis of ALI’s TCT No. T-5333, now TCT No. 41262.  Guico’s application was opposed by, among others, Florentino Baltazar, on the basis of plan Psu 56007, under which plaintiffs-appellees’ title was derived.

It appears that Lots 2 and 3 were adjudicated to Guico on the basis of Psu-80886 (Lot 3 is the subject matter of the instant case), Lot 10 in favor of Baltazar on the basis of Psu 56007, under which plaintiffs-appellees’ title was based, and the rest to the heirs of Narciso Mayuga.  While Baltazar claimed Lot 3 on the basis of his Psu-56007, his claim was rejected and the Lot was adjudicated to Guico on the basis of his Psu-80886.

It is clear, therefore, that whatever claim plaintiffs-appellees have on the subject property on the basis of Lot 3 Psu-56007, through their predecessor-in-interest, Florentino Baltazar, the same had been clearly and finally denied by the Supreme Court in Guico vs. San Pedro.

For res judicata to apply, four requisites must be met: (1) the former judgment or order must be final; (2) it must be a judgment or an order on the merits; (3) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and (4) there must be, between the first and the second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter and of cause of action.  Plaintiffs-appellees only have objections with respect to the fourth requisite, offering the lame excuse that it is not bound by such decision, there being no identity of parties in Guico vs. San Pedro and the instant case.

We agree with petitioners that it is not apparent from an examination of Guico and the evidence on record that indeed the predecessors-in-interest of ALI and the Carpos with respect to the subject property are Eduardo Guico and Florentino Baltazar, especially since the parties’ respective OCTs were not issued in these persons’ names but rather a certain Alberto Yaptinchay and Apolonio Sabater.  It cannot be categorically said that there was identity of parties between the Guico case and the instant case. Clearly, one of the elements of res judicatai.e., that there must be, between the first and the second actions, identity of parties, is lacking.  In any event, the CA’s questioned Decision had sufficient basis in fact and law even without relying on the Guico case.  Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

Judgment; requirement to state legal basis. Petitioner next alleges that the CA denied reconsideration without indicating its legal basis in violation of the mandate of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution, which provides that no petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied without stating the legal basis therefor.  This requirement, however, was complied with in the instant case, when the CA, in its resolution denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, stated that it found no cogent reason to modify, much less reverse itself.  Jimmy Areno, Jr. vs. Skycable PCC-Baguio, G.R. No. 180302. February 5, 2010.

Judgment; stare decisis. In truth, this Court has already ruled squarely on whether these deemed-resigned provisions challenged in the case at bar violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution in Fariñas, et al. v. Executive Secretary, et al. In Fariñas, the constitutionality of Section 14 of the Fair Election Act, in relation to Sections 66 and 67 of the Omnibus Election Code, was assailed on the ground, among others, that it unduly discriminates against appointive officials. As Section 14 repealed Section 67 (i.e., the deemed-resigned provision in respect of elected officials) of the Omnibus Election Code, elected officials are no longer considered ipso facto resigned from their respective offices upon their filing of certificates of candidacy. In contrast, since Section 66 was not repealed, the limitation on appointive officials continues to be operative – they are deemed resigned when they file their certificates of candidacy.  The petitioners in Fariñas thus brought an equal protection challenge against Section 14, with the end in view of having the deemed-resigned provisions “apply equally” to both elected and appointive officials. We held, however, that the legal dichotomy created by the Legislature is a reasonable classification, as there are material and significant distinctions between the two classes of officials. Consequently, the contention that Section 14 of the Fair Election Act, in relation to Sections 66 and 67 of the Omnibus Election Code, infringed on the equal protection clause of the Constitution, failed muster.

The case at bar is a crass attempt to resurrect a dead issue. The miracle is that our assailed Decision gave it new life.  We ought to be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere. This doctrine, which is really “adherence to precedents,” mandates that once a case has been decided one way, then another case involving exactly the same point at issue should be decided in the same manner.  This doctrine is one of policy grounded on the necessity for securing certainty and stability of judicial decisions.  XXX  XXX  XXX  Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Judgment; sufficiency of minute resolution of Supreme Court. As to petitioner’s complaint regarding this Court’s denial of her petition through a mere minute resolution (which allegedly deprived her of due process as the Court did not issue a full-blown decision stating the facts and applicable jurisprudence), suffice it to say that the Court is not duty-bound to issue decisions or resolutions signed by the justices all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate ponencias, extended resolutions or even minute resolutions issued by or upon its authority, depending on its evaluation of a case, as long as a legal basis exists. When a minute resolution (signed by the Clerk of Court upon orders of the Court) denies or dismisses a petition or motion for reconsideration for lack of merit, it is understood that the assailed decision or order, together with all its findings of fact and legal conclusions, are deemed sustained. Florencia G. Diaz vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181502, February 2, 2010.

Judgment on the pleadings; defendant’s admission of material averments of complaint. In this case, the trial court rendered a judgment on the pleadings.  Section 1, Rule 34 of the Rules of Court reads: “SECTION 1. Judgment on the pleadings. – Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party’s pleading, the court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading. However, in actions for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage or for legal separation, the material facts alleged in the complaint shall always be proved.”

The trial court has the discretion to grant a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by a party if there is no controverted matter in the case after the answer is filed.  A judgment on the pleadings is a judgment on the facts as pleaded, and is based exclusively upon the allegations appearing in the pleadings of the parties and the accompanying annexes.  This case is unusual because it was petitioner, and not the claimant respondent, who moved for a judgment on the pleadings during the pre-trial.  This is clear from the trial court’s Order dated 7 October 1997 which reads:  “When this case was called for pre-trial, parties appeared together with counsel. Defendant [Doris U. Sunbanun] moved that considering that there is no dispute as far as the contract is concerned and the only disagreement between the parties is on the interpretation of the contract so that the issue boils down on to which of the parties are correct on their interpretation. With the conformity of the plaintiff [Aurora B. Go], this case is therefore considered closed and submitted for judgment on the pleading.”

Petitioner, in moving for a judgment on the pleadings without offering proof as to the truth of her own allegations and without giving respondent the opportunity to introduce evidence, is deemed to have admitted the material and relevant averments of the complaint, and to rest her motion for judgment based on the pleadings of the parties.  Doris U. Sunbanun vs. Aurora B. Go, G.R. No. 163280, February 2, 2010.

Jurisdiction; action to collect on bond. In the instant case, the original complaint filed with the trial court was in the nature of a collection case, purportedly to collect on the obligation of petitioner by virtue of the bonds executed by it in favor of respondent, essentially a contractual obligation.  As petitioner correctly points out, an action to collect on a bond used to secure the payment of taxes is not a tax collection case, but rather a simple case for enforcement of a contractual liability.  In Mambulao, Mambulao Lumber Company (MLC) was liable for deficiency sales tax to the Republic. The parties agreed to an installment plan, whereby MLC obligated itself to pay such obligation in 12 equal monthly installments. To secure the installment payments, MLC and Mambulao Insurance and Surety Corporation executed a surety bond in favor of the Republic. MLC defaulted in the payment of its obligation. Thus, the Republic proceeded against the surety bond. MLC sought the dismissal of the case against it on the ground of prescription, arguing that under Sec. 331, in relation to Sec. 183(A), of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), internal revenue taxes must be assessed within five (5) years from the filing of the corresponding return.  Thus, we ruled in that case that the NIRC was inapplicable to the case and that the Republic had ten (10) years from default of payment within which to collect the indebtedness of MLC. We explained that an action based upon a surety bond cannot be considered a tax collection case. Rather, such action would properly be a case based on a contract.  Philippine British Assurance Co. Inc. vs. Republic of the Philippines represented by the Bureau of Customs, G.R. No. 185588, February 2, 2010.

Jurisdiction; civil action incapable of pecuniary estimation over which regional trial court has jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is conferred by law. At the time petitioner filed his suit in the trial court, statutory law vests on Regional Trial Courts exclusive original jurisdiction over civil actions incapable of pecuniary estimation.  An action for specific performance, such as petitioner’s suit to enforce the Agreement on joint child custody, belongs to this species of actions.  Thus, jurisdiction-wise, petitioner went to the right court.  Indeed, the trial court’s refusal to entertain petitioner’s suit was grounded not on its lack of power to do so but on its thinking that the Illinois court’s divorce decree stripped it of jurisdiction.  This conclusion is unfounded. What the Illinois court retained was “jurisdiction x x x for the purpose of enforcing all and sundry the various provisions of [its] Judgment for Dissolution.”  Petitioner’s suit seeks the enforcement not of the “various provisions” of the divorce decree but of the post-divorce Agreement on joint child custody.  Thus, the action lies beyond the zone of the Illinois court’s so-called “retained jurisdiction.”  Herald Black Dacasin vs. Sharon Del Mundo Dacasin, G.R. No. 168785, February 5, 2010.

Jurisdiction; computation of jurisdictional amount in complaint for damages. Section 19(8) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended by Republic Act No. 7691, states. . . Relatedly, Supreme Court Circular No. 21-99 was issued declaring that the first adjustment in jurisdictional amount of first level courts outside of Metro Manila from P100,000.00 to P200,000.00 took effect on March 20, 1999.  Meanwhile, the second adjustment from P200,000.00 to P300,000.00 became effective on February 22, 2004 in accordance with OCA Circular No. 65-2004 issued by the Office of the Court Administrator on May 13, 2004.  Based on the foregoing, there is no question that at the time of the filing of the complaint on April 5, 2004, the MTCC’s jurisdictional amount has been adjusted to P300,000.00.

But where damages is the main cause of action, should the amount of moral damages prayed for in the complaint be the sole basis for determining which court has jurisdiction or should the total amount of all the damages claimed regardless of kind and nature, such as exemplary damages, nominal damages, and attorney’s fees, etc., be used?  In this regard, Administrative Circular No. 09-94 is instructive:

2.  The exclusion of the term “damages of whatever kind” in determining the jurisdictional amount under Section 19 (8) and Section 33 (1) of B.P. Blg. 129, as amended by R.A. No. 7691, applies to cases where the damages are merely incidental to or a consequence of the main cause of action.   However, in cases where the claim for damages is the main cause of action, or one of the causes of action, the amount of such claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court. (Emphasis ours.)

In the instant case, the complaint filed in Civil Case No. 5794-R is for   the recovery of damages for the alleged malicious acts of petitioners. The complaint principally sought an award of moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses, for the alleged shame and injury suffered by respondent by reason of petitioners’ utterance while they were at a police station in Pangasinan.  It is settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law based on the facts alleged in the complaint since the latter comprises a concise statement of the ultimate facts constituting the plaintiff’s causes of action.  It is clear, based on the allegations of the complaint, that respondent’s main action is for damages.  Hence, the other forms of damages being claimed by respondent, e.g., exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses, are not merely incidental to or consequences of the main action but constitute the primary relief prayed for in the complaint.

Considering that the total amount of damages claimed was P420,000.00, the Court of Appeals was correct in ruling that the RTC had jurisdiction over the case. Irene Sante and Reynaldo vs. Hon. Edilberto T. Claravall, etc., et al., G.R. No. 173915, February 22, 2010.

Jurisdiction; estoppel. On Metrobank’s raising the issue of lack of jurisdiction over the complaint for respondent’s failure to pay the correct docket fees, apropos is the ruling in National Steel Corporation v. Court of Appeals: “Although the payment of the proper docket fees is a jurisdictional requirement, the trial court may allow the plaintiff in an action to pay the same within a reasonable time before the expiration of the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period. If the plaintiff fails to comply with this requirement, the defendant should timely raise the issue of jurisdiction or else he would be considered in estoppel. In the latter case, the balance between the appropriate docket fees and the amount actually paid by the plaintiff will be considered a lien on any award he may obtain in his favor. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Metrobank raised the issue of jurisdiction only before the appellate court after it and its co-petitioner participated in the proceedings before the trial court.  While lack of jurisdiction may be raised at any time, a party may be held in estoppel if, as in the present case, it has actively taken part in the proceedings being questioned.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. and Solidbank Corporation vs. Bernardita H. Perez, represented by her Attorney in fact Patria H. Perez, G.R. No. 181842, February 5, 2010.

Jurisdiction; payment of docket fees. In Manchester Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, the Court held that a pleading which does not specify in the prayer the amount sought shall not be admitted or shall be expunged, and that a court acquires jurisdiction only upon payment of the prescribed docket fee.  This rule was relaxed in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. v. Asuncion which was echoed in the 2005 case of Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Melico, the pertinent portion of the decision in the latter case reads:  “Plainly, while the payment of prescribed docket fee is a jurisdictional requirement, even its non-payment at the time of filing does not automatically cause the dismissal of the case, as long as the fee is paid within the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period, more so when the party involved demonstrates a willingness to abide by the rules prescribing such payment. Thus, when insufficient filing fees were initially paid by the plaintiffs and there was no intention to defraud the government, the Manchester rule does not apply.”

Metrobank takes exception to the application of Sun Insurance Office to the present case because, by its claim, respondent deliberately concealed the insufficient payment of docket fees.  Metrobank’s position fails.  The ensuing months in which the leased premises would be rendered vacant could not be determined at the time of the filing of the complaint.  It bears recalling that the building constructed on respondent’s leased premises was specifically constructed to house a bank, hence, the idle period before another occupant with like business may opt to lease would be difficult to project.  Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. and Solidbank Corporation vs. Bernardita H. Perez, represented by her Attorney in fact Patria H. Perez, G.R. No. 181842, February 5, 2010.

Jurisdiction; payment of docket fees is jurisdictional requirement. Clearly, therefore, the payment of legal fees under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court is an integral part of the rules promulgated by this Court pursuant to its rule-making power under Section 5(5), Article VIII of the Constitution.  In particular, it is part of the rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in courts. Indeed, payment of legal (or docket) fees is a jurisdictional requirement.  It is not simply the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading but the payment of the prescribed docket fee that vests a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject-matter or nature of the action.  Appellate docket and other lawful fees are required to be paid within the same period for taking an appeal.  Payment of docket fees in full within the prescribed period is mandatory for the perfection of an appeal.  Without such payment, the appellate court does not acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action and the decision sought to be appealed from becomes final and executory. Re: Petition for recognition of the excemption of the Government Service Insurance System from payment of legal fees, A.M. No. 08-2-01-0, February 11, 2010.

Jurisdiction; remand to regional trial court for proceedings to settle child custody issue. Instead of ordering the dismissal of petitioner’s suit, the logical end to its lack of cause of action, we remand the case for the trial court to settle the question of Stephanie’s custody. Stephanie is now nearly 15 years old, thus removing the case outside of the ambit of the mandatory maternal custody regime under Article 213 and bringing it within coverage of the default standard on child custody proceedings – the best interest of the child.  As the question of custody is already before the trial court and the child’s parents, by executing the Agreement, initially showed inclination to share custody, it is in the interest of swift and efficient rendition of justice  to allow the parties to take advantage of the court’s jurisdiction, submit evidence on the custodial arrangement best serving Stephanie’s interest, and let the trial court render judgment.  This disposition is consistent with the settled doctrine that in child custody proceedings, equity may be invoked to serve the child’s best interest. Herald Black Dacasin vs. Sharon Del Mundo Dacasin, G.R. No. 168785, February 5, 2010.

Jurisdiction; voluntary appearance and submission to jurisdiction. It is settled that if there is no valid service of summons, the court can still acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant by virtue of the latter’s voluntary appearance.  Thus Section 20 of Rule 14 of the Rules of Court provides:  “Sec. 20. Voluntary appearance. – The defendant’s voluntary appearance in the action shall be equivalent to service of summons. The inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance.”

And Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Spouses Wilson Dy Hong Pi and Lolita Dy, et al. enlightens:

Preliminarily, jurisdiction over the defendant in a civil case is acquired either by the coercive power of legal processes exerted over his person, or his voluntary appearance in court. As a general proposition, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. It is by reason of this rule that we have had occasion to declare that the filing of motions to admit answer, for additional time to file answer, for reconsideration of a default judgment, and to lift order of default with motion for reconsideration, is considered voluntary submission to the court’s jurisdiction.  This, however, is tempered by the concept of conditional appearance, such that a party who makes a special appearance to challenge, among others, the court’s jurisdiction over his person cannot be considered to have submitted to its authority.

Prescinding from the foregoing, it is thus clear that:

(1) Special appearance operates as an exception to the general rule on voluntary appearance;

(2) Accordingly, objections to the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the defendant must be explicitly made, i.e., set forth in an unequivocal manner; and

(3) Failure to do so constitutes voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court, especially in instances where a pleading or motion seeking affirmative relief is filed and submitted to the court for resolution. (italics and underscoring supplied)

In their first Motion to Lift the Order of Default dated January 30, 2006, respondents alleged:

x x x x

4.    In the case of respondents, there is no reason why they should not receive the Orders of this Honorable Court since the subject of the case is their multi-million real estate property and naturally they would not want to be declared in default or lose the same outright without the benefit of a trial on the merits;

5.    It would be the height of injustice if the respondents is [sic] denied the equal protection of the laws[;]

6.    Respondents must be afforded “Due process of Law” as enshrined in the New Constitution, which is a basic right of every Filipino, since they were not furnished copies of pleadings by the plaintiff and the Order dated May 3, 2005;

x x x x

and accordingly prayed as follows:

WHEREFORE, . . . it is most respectfully prayed . . .  that the Order dated May 5, 2005 declaring [them] in default be LIFTED.

Respondents did not, in said motion, allege that their filing thereof was a special appearance for the purpose only to question the jurisdiction over their persons.  Clearly, they had acquiesced to the jurisdiction of the court.  Rapid Realty and Development Corporation vs. Orlando Villa, et al., G.R. No. 184197, February 11, 2010.

Mandamus; requirement of clear legal right. For mandamus to issue, it is essential that the person petitioning for it has a clear legal right to the claim sought.  It will not issue to enforce a right, or to compel compliance with a duty, which is questionable or over which a substantial doubt exists.  Thus, unless the right to the relief sought is unclouded, it will be denied.  Teresita L. Araos, et al. vs. Hon. Lea Regala, Presiding Judge, RTC, Br. 226, Quezon City and Social Security System (SSS), G.R. No. 174237, February 18, 2010.

Orders; service on deputized attorney binding. Verily, it was Atty. Julie who entered his appearance as counsel for DENR on January 18, 2000 and, as such, was the counsel on record.  It was only later or on June 8, 2000 that the OSG, through Assistant Solicitor General Mariano M. Martinez, informed Atty. Julie that the latter had been deputized to assist the Solicitor General in the case pending before the RTC.  As such, being the counsel on record, Atty. Julie had the authority to represent the petitioner, and it was but logical that notices of court processes sent to him were sufficient to bind petitioner.  Thus, the CA correctly concluded that petitioner’s right to due process was not violated.

Since Atty. Julie had the authority to represent the DENR before the RTC, notices of decision, orders, and other court processes to him as counsel on record and the duly deputized counsel of the OSG were sufficient to bind petitioner, and both the counsel and the OSG’s failure to appeal the decision and to avail themselves of the other remedies provided by the Rules was likewise binding upon petitioner. Republic of the Philippines (DENR) vs. Technological Advocates for Agro-Forest Programs Association, Inc. (TAFPA, Inc.), G.R. No. 165333, February 9, 2010.

Pleadings; amendment of complaint. Lastly, we find no error, much less grave abuse of discretion, on the part of the Court of Appeals in affirming the RTC’s order allowing the amendment of the original complaint from P300,000.00 to P1,000,000.00 despite the pendency of a petition for certiorari filed before the Court of Appeals.  While it is a basic jurisprudential principle that an amendment cannot be allowed when the court has no jurisdiction over the original complaint and the purpose of the amendment is to confer jurisdiction on the court, here, the RTC clearly had jurisdiction over the original complaint and amendment of the complaint was then still a matter of right. Irene Sante and Reynaldo vs. Hon. Edilberto T. Claravall, etc., et al., G.R. No. 173915, February 22, 2010.

Pleadings; authority to execute verification and certification against forum shopping. It is thus clear that the failure to attach the Secretary’s Certificate, attesting to General Manager Antonio Merelos’s authority to sign the Verification and Certification of Non-Forum Shopping, should not be considered fatal to the filing of the petition.  Nonetheless, the requisite board resolution was subsequently submitted to the CA, together with the pertinent documents.  Considering that petitioner substantially complied with the rules, the dismissal of the petition was, therefore, unwarranted.  Time and again, we have emphasized that dismissal of an appeal on a purely technical ground is frowned upon especially if it will result in unfairness.  The rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense for they have been adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice.  For this reason, courts must proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of statutory appeal; rather, they must ensure that all litigants are granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from the constraint of technicalities. Mid-Pasig Land Development Corporation vs. Mario Tablante, doing business under the name and style ECRM Enterprises, rockland Construction Company, Laurie Litam, MC Home Depot, Inc., G.R. No. 162924, February 4, 2010.

Pleadings; Certification of non-forum shopping; presumption of authority of signatory. The same liberal application should also apply to the question of the alleged lack of authority of Atty. Doromal to execute the certification of non-forum shopping for lack of a board resolution from the NPC.  True, only individuals vested with authority by a valid board resolution may sign the certificate of non-forum shopping in behalf of the corporation, and proof of such authority must be attached to the petition, the failure of which will be sufficient cause for dismissal.  Nevertheless, it cannot be said that Atty. Doromal does not enjoy the presumption that he is authorized to represent respondent in filing the Petition for Certiorari before the CA.  As Special Attorney, he is one of the counsels of NPC in the proceedings before the trial court, and the NPC never questioned his authority to sign the petition for its behalf.  Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

Pleadings; period to file motion for reconsideration in Supreme Court. Pursuant to Section 2, Rule 56-A of the 1997 Rules of Court, in relation to Section 1, Rule 52 of the same rules, COMELEC had a period of fifteen days from receipt of notice of the assailed Decision within which to move for its reconsideration.  COMELEC received notice of the assailed Decision on December 2, 2009, hence, had until December 17, 2009 to file a Motion for Reconsideration.  The Motion for Reconsideration of COMELEC was timely filed. It was filed on December 14, 2009.  The corresponding Affidavit of Service (in substitution of the one originally submitted on December 14, 2009) was subsequently filed on December 17, 2009 – still within the reglementary period. Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Pleadings; personal service and filing generally mandatory. The petition is unmeritorious.  Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court states: “

SEC. 11. Priorities in modes of service and filing. — Whenever practicable, the service and filing of pleadings and other papers shall be done personally.  Except with respect to papers emanating from the court, a resort to other modes must be accompanied by a written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally.  A violation of this Rule may be cause to consider the paper as not filed.”

Section 11 is mandatory.  Marcelino Domingo vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 169122, February 2, 2010.

Pre-trial; plaintiff’s duty to move that case be set for pre-trial. We agree with private respondent BPI that the failure of the Ex-Officio Sheriff to file her Answer should not have prevented petitioners from performing their duty under Section 1 of Rule 18. Petitioners could have availed of other remedies, such as the filing of a motion to declare Ex-Officio Sheriff in default, to avoid unnecessary delay in court proceedings.  Benedicta Samson and Marcial Samson vs. Hon. Judge Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig, et al., G.R. No. 166356, February 2, 2010.

Procedural rules; instance where liberal application not allowed. While there are instances where the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be resorted to despite the availability of an appeal, the long line of decisions denying the special civil action for certiorari, either before appeal was availed of or in instances where the appeal period had lapsed, far outnumber the instances where certiorari was given due course.  The few significant exceptions are:  (1) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictate; (2) when the broader interests of justice so require; (3) when the writs issued are null; (4) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority, which we find to be not present in this case.  Notably, petitioner did not even fail to advance an explanation why appeal was not availed of, nor was there any showing that the issue raised in the petition for certiorari could not be raised on appeal.  Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to adequately explain his failure to abide by the rules.  Flor Martinez, represented by Macario Martinez, authorized representative and Attorney-in-fact vs. Ernesto G. Garcia and Edilberto M. Brua, G.R. No. 166536, February 4, 2010.

Procedural rules; liberal application. In any case, the substantive issues we have already discussed are justifiable reasons to relax the rules of procedure.  We cannot allow a patently wrong judgment to be implemented because of technical lapses.  This ratiocination is in keeping with the policy to secure a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action or proceeding.  Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

Procedural rules; liberal application. Petitioner argues that the CA erred in admitting respondent’s Comment to petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration which was filed 19 days late.  A close scrutiny of Section 6, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, which grants discretionary authority to the CA in ordering parties to file responsive and other pleadings in petitions for certiorari filed before it, will reveal that such rule is merely directory in nature.  This is so because the word “may” employed by the rule shows that it is not mandatory but discretionary on the part of the CA to require the filing of pleadings which it deems necessary to assist it in resolving the controversies.  In the same way, the admission of any responsive pleading filed by party-litigants is a matter that rests largely on the sound discretion of the court.  At any rate, rules of procedure may be relaxed in the interest of substantial justice and in order to afford litigants maximum opportunity for the proper and just determination of their causes.  Strict adherence to technical adjective rules should never be unexceptionally required because a contrary precept would result in a failure to decide cases on their merits.  The CA could not have erred in admitting the comment, albeit filed late, when it viewed that the interest of justice would be better served by the policy of liberality. Jimmy Areno, Jr. vs. Skycable PCC-Baguio, G.R. No. 180302. February 5, 2010.

Procedural rules; requisites for liberal application. Liberal application of procedural rules is allowed only when two requisites are present: (1) there is a plausible explanation for the non-compliance, and (2) the outright dismissal would defeat the administration of justice.  In Tible & Tible Company, Inc. v. Royal Savings and Loan Association, the Court held that “the two pre-requisites for the relaxation of the rules are: (1) justifiable cause or plausible reason for non-compliance; and (2) compelling reason to convince the court that outright dismissal of the petition would seriously impair the orderly administration of justice.” Both requisites are lacking in the present case. Marcelino Domingo vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 169122, February 2, 2010.

Procedural rules; substantial compliance; liberal application. From the foregoing, it is thus clear that the failure to attach the Secretary’s Certificate, attesting to General Manager Antonio Merelos’s authority to sign the Verification and Certification of Non-Forum Shopping, should not be considered fatal to the filing of the petition.  Nonetheless, the requisite board resolution was subsequently submitted to the CA, together with the pertinent documents.  Considering that petitioner substantially complied with the rules, the dismissal of the petition was, therefore, unwarranted.  Time and again, we have emphasized that dismissal of an appeal on a purely technical ground is frowned upon especially if it will result in unfairness.  The rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense for they have been adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice.  For this reason, courts must proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of statutory appeal; rather, they must ensure that all litigants are granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from the constraint of technicalities. Mid-Pasig Land Development Corporation vs. Mario Tablante, doing business under the name and style ECRM Enterprises, rockland Construction Company, Laurie Litam, MC Home Depot, Inc., G.R. No. 162924, February 4, 2010.

Res judicata; requisites. Whether the principle of res judicata applies and whether petitioner has the legal capacity to maintain the action despite the revocation of her appointment as co-administratrix of Fr. Balbino’s estate are the core issues in the present case.

The doctrine of res judicata lays down two main rules which may be stated as follows: (1) The judgment or decree of a court of competent jurisdiction on the merits concludes the litigation between the parties and their privies and constitutes a bar to a new action or suit involving the same cause of action either before the same or any other tribunal; and (2) any right, fact, or matter in issue directly adjudicated or necessarily involved in the determination of an action before a competent court in which a judgment or decree is rendered on the merits is conclusively settled by the judgment therein and cannot again be litigated between the parties and their privies whether or not the claims or demands, purposes, or subject matters of the two suits are the same.  These two main rules mark the distinction between the principles governing the two typical cases in which a judgment may operate as evidence. In speaking of these cases, the first general rule above stated, and which corresponds to the afore-quoted paragraph (b) of Section 47, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, is referred to as “bar by former judgment“; while the second general rule, which is embodied in paragraph (c) of the same section and rule, is known as “conclusiveness of judgment.” (emphasis supplied)

In CA-G.R. SP No. 33118 (the petition for certiorari assailing the probate court’s order for respondent Nazario to turn over possession of the property to petitioner), the therein petitioner was herein respondent Nazario, and the therein private respondent was herein petitioner.  The issue presented in that petition for certiorari was whether the probate court validly ordered the issuance of a writ of possession over the property in favor of herein petitioner, whose legal capacity and cause of action stemmed from her being the co-special administratrix of the estate of Fr. Balbino.  From the earlier-stated allegations gathered from petitioner’s complaint subject of the present petition, she is suing respondents for the annulment of the title to the property issued to them and for the reconveyance of the property to Fr. Balbino’s estate.  There is thus identity of parties and subject matter in the two cases.

As to identity of causes of action, it is hornbook rule that identity of causes of action does not mean absolute identity, otherwise, a party could easily escape the operation of res judicata by changing the form of the action or the relief sought.  CA-G.R. SP No. 33118 which emanated from SP. Proc. No. B-894 involved estate proceedings, while Civil Case No. 67043 subject of the present petition is for Annulment of Title, Reconveyance, Recovery of Possession and Ownership and Damages.  These two cases differ in the form of action, but they raise the same issue – ownership and possession of the same property, and they invoke the same relief – for Fr. Balbino’s estate to be declared the owner of the property and for it reconveyed to his estate, and for the TCT in the name of herein respondents to be annulled.  And the evidence required to substantiate the respective claims of the parties is substantially the same.

Be that as it may, however, an important requisite for the principle of res judicata is wanting.  The appellate court’s ruling in CA-G.R. SP No. 33118 was not a final and executory decision on the merits to put the present case within the ambit of res judicata.  Thus the dispositive portion of the decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 33118 reads:  “IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the orders of respondent court dated June 30, 1993 and January 6, 1994, are hereby set aside insofar as they direct petitioner[-herein respondent Nazario C. Lopez] to turn-over to private respondent[-herein petitioner Teresita de Mesa Reforzado] the property located at 140 Lagmay St., San Juan, Metro Manila, through a writ of execution, the authority of respondent court in determining the ownership of said property merely being provisional.  Private respondent, as co-special administratrix, should file a separate action for the recovery thereof, if she has strong reasons to believe that the same belongs to the estate of Fr. Balbino Caparas.

The ruling in CA-G.R. No. 33118, relied upon by the appellate court in holding that res judicata bars petitioner’s present complaint for annulment of title and reconveyance, is not a decision on the merits on the ownership of the property, the appellate court in said case having merely resolved the propriety of the probate court’s issuance of a writ of possession in favor of herein petitioner.  The appellate court in fact declared in CA-G.R. SP No. 33118 that herein petitioner had the remedy of filing a separate action for recovery of the property – a recourse she availed of when she filed the complaint for annulment of title and reconveyance subject of the present petition.  Contrary then to the ruling of the appellate court, the present action is not barred by res judicata.  Teresita De Mesa Reforzado v. Spouses Nazario C. Lopez and Precila Lopez, G.R. No.  148306, February 24, 2010.

Summary judgment; requirement of absence of genuine issue of fact. A summary judgment is allowed only if, after hearing, the court finds that except as to the amount of damages, the pleadings, affidavits, depositions and admissions show no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.  The purpose of a summary judgment is to avoid drawn out litigations and useless delays because the facts appear undisputed to the mind of the court.  Such judgment is generally based on the facts proven summarily by affidavits, depositions, pleadings, or admissions of the parties.  For a full-blown trial to be dispensed with, the party who moves for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating clearly the absence of genuine issues of fact, or that the issue posed is patently insubstantial as to constitute a genuine issue.  “Genuine issue” means an issue of fact which calls for the presentation of evidence as distinguished from an issue which is fictitious or contrived.  Petitioner pleaded for a summary judgment on his fees on the claim that the parties intentionally did not inform him of the settlement.  He alleged that he never received a copy of NPC’s Motion to Withdraw Appeal before the CA and that instead, it was another lawyer who was furnished and who acknowledged receipt of the motion.  When he confronted his clients, he was allegedly told that the NPC deceived them into believing that what they received was only a partial payment exclusive of the attorney’s fees.  NPC contested these averments.  It claimed good faith in the execution of the compromise agreement.  It stressed that the attorney’s fees were already deemed included in the monetary consideration given to the plaintiffs for the compromise.  The above averments clearly pose factual issues which make the rendition of summary judgment not proper.  Bad faith imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong.  It is synonymous with fraud, in that it involves a design to mislead or deceive another.  The trial court should have exercised prudence by requiring the presentation of evidence in a formal trial to determine the veracity of the parties’ respective assertions.  Whether NPC and the plaintiffs connived and acted in bad faith is a question of fact and is evidentiary.  Bad faith has to be established by the claimant with clear and convincing evidence, and this necessitates an examination of the evidence of all the parties.  As certain facts pleaded were being contested by the opposing parties, such would not warrant a rendition of summary judgment.

Moreover, the validity or the correct interpretation of the alleged compromise agreements is still in issue in view of the diverse interpretations of the parties thereto.  In fact, in the Decision of the CA dated January 24, 1996, the appellate court ordered the case to be remanded to the trial court for new trial, thereby ignoring completely NPC’s motion to dismiss appeal based on the alleged compromise agreements it executed with the plaintiffs.  Even in its assailed Decision of September 9, 2002, the CA did not rule on the validity of the alleged compromise agreements.  This is only to be expected in view of its earlier ruling dated January 24, 1996 which directed the remand of the case to the court of origin for new trial.  Considering the above disquisition, there is still a factual issue on whether the NPC and the plaintiffs had already validly entered into a compromise agreement.  Clearly, the NPC and the plaintiffs have diverse interpretations as regards the stipulations of the compromise agreement which must be resolved.  According to the NPC, the amounts it paid to the plaintiffs were in full satisfaction of their claims.  Plaintiffs claim otherwise.  They insist that the amounts they received were exclusive of attorney’s claim.  They also assert that NPC undertook to pay the said attorney’s fees to herein petitioner.  Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

Other proceedings

Execution; satisfaction of judgment; amount (HLURB). After a judgment has gained finality, it becomes the ministerial duty of the court or quasi-judicial tribunal to order its execution.  In the present case, the final and executory HLURB decision was partially executed by the sale of the 315 sacks of rice belonging to Viola.  In determining the amount to be credited to the account of Viola, we look at the Sheriff’s Partial Report and the Sheriff’s Certificate of Sale.  Both documents state that in the auction sale of the 315 sacks of rice, Mrs. Rebecca Genato submitted the highest bid in the amount of P189,000.00.  Drawing from Section 19, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which states that “all sales of property under execution must be made at public auction, to the highest bidder,” it naturally follows that the highest bid submitted is the amount that should be credited to the account of the judgment debtor.  Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Execution pending appeal of RTC decision in election cases; requirements. There are clear cut requirements on when RTC decisions may be executed pending appeal.

A valid exercise of discretion to allow execution pending appeal requires that it must be manifest in the decision sought to be executed that the defeat of the protestee and the victory of the protestant have been clearly established.  The Rules of Procedure in Election Contests now embody this doctrine, which the Comelec has in the past given value to and used in resolving cases before it, and which has formed part of our jurisprudence.

We have taken to heart the need to decide election contests with dispatch; hence, we promulgated A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC to address the matter.  Noteworthy is the fact that particular attention has been given to the decision itself in election contests.  For comparison, in the Rules of Court, Section 1 of Rule 36 merely states:  “A judgment or final order determining the merits of the case shall be in writing personally and directly prepared by the judge, stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, signed by him, and filed with the clerk of court.”

Notably, the word “must” is used in the above-quoted rule, thus, clearly indicating the mandatory — not merely directory — nature of the requirement of what the decision should contain.  The specific rules on the contents of decisions in election contests were formulated so that the decision could, by itself, be taken as a valuable aid in expeditiously deciding on appeal incidents peripheral to the main case.  In the present case, the contents of the decision become particularly relevant and useful in light of the need to decide the case before us with utmost dispatch, based only on the documents submitted before us, considering that the records and election materials are with another tribunal, as a matter of course. Leonor Dangan-Corral vs. Commission on Elections and Ernesto Enero Fernandez, G.R. No. 190156, February 12, 2010.

Execution pending appeal of RTC decision in election cases; requirement of clear showing of protestant’s victory and protestee’s defeat in RTC decision. For the limited purpose of determining whether the essential requisite of a clear showing in the decision of the protestant’s victory and the protestee’s defeat is present, we have examined the RTC Decision subject of the present case.  It is glaring and unmistakable that the said Decision does not conform to the requirements set forth in Section 2 of the Rules.  It does not give the specifics of its findings.  The general statement invalidating 67% of the total votes cast on the ground that the ballots were written by one person or written by two persons is grossly infirm.  The Decision does not specify why the court considered particular groups of ballots to have been written by one person, and other invalidated ballots to have been written by two persons.  Worse, the Decision does not state which and how many ballots were written by one person; and which and how many ballots were written by two persons.  The entire Decision, even the lengthy part enumerating the exhibits offered by each party, fails to yield the exact number of and which ballots were written by one person, and the exact number of and which ballots were written by two persons.   There is also no mention in the decision of whether or not the RTC took into consideration the entries of the Minutes of Voting and Counting relative to illiterate or disabled voters, if any, who cast their votes through assistors. The Decision merely states that “[a] careful and cursory examination of these ballots indubitably shows that these ballots are written either by one (1) or two (2) persons, given the palpable similarity in the handwritings indicated in these ballots earlier declared by Protestant’s revisors as written by one (1) and two (2) persons.”  It utterly violates the mandatory requirement that “the court must clearly and distinctly specify why the pair or group of ballots has been written by only one person.  The specific figures or letters indicating that the ballots have been written by one person must be specified.”  In the present case, the victory of the protestant and the defeat of the protestee were not clearly established in the Decision because of the RTC’s failure to conform to the prescribed form of the Decision.  Because of said infirmity, there is no certainty, it not being mentioned in the Decision, on whether the ballots of those who voted through assistors were also invalidated or not, in conjunction with the lack of a specific number of ballots invalidated for being written by one person.  The ballots of those who voted through assistors, if any, could validly be written by one person.  It being unclear from the Decision whether these ballots, if any, were invalidated, it follows that the victory of the protestant and defeat of the protestee are unclear and not manifest therein.  Consequently, to allow the execution of such a grossly infirm RTC Decision in disregard of established jurisprudence and clear and straightforward rules is arbitrary and whimsical and constitutes grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Leonor Dangan-Corral vs. Commission on Elections and Ernesto Enero Fernandez, G.R. No. 190156, February 12, 2010.

Injunction; NCIP’s jurisdiction to issue TROs or preliminary injunctions. Petitioners contend that injunction, as an original and principal action, falls within the jurisdiction of the regular courts.  The NCIP may issue TROs and writs of preliminary injunction only as an auxiliary remedy to a pending case before it. Petitioners also assert that there was no factual and legal basis for the NCIP’s issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.  We have already ruled on the power of the NCIP to issue a writ of preliminary injunction in City Government of Baguio City v. Atty. Masweng. The facts of that case are practically identical to those of this case save for the fact that the land being claimed there is a portion of the Busol Forest Reserve. The petitioners in that case sought the intervention of this Court after the CA upheld the jurisdiction of the NCIP and affirmed the TROs issued by the latter.  The City Mayor of Baguio and the Head of the Demolition Team-Engr. Nazita Bañez v. Atty. Brain Masweng, Regional Hearing Officer, NCIP-CAR, the heirs of Judith Cariño, Jacqueline Cariño and the Heirs of Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega, G.R. No. 165003, February 2, 2010.

Injunction; requisite of present and unmistakable right (NCIP). Private respondents base their claim to the disputed area on an alleged time-immemorial possession and a survey plan awarded to their forebears by the Director of Lands in 1920. In 1940, Proclamation No. 603 withdrew the contested area from sale or settlement and reserved the same for animal breeding station purposes, subject to private rights. The claim of respondents on the subject land is still pending before the NCIP. Thus, their rights are mere expectations, not the present and unmistakable right required for the grant of the provisional remedy of injunction.  Moreover, the structures subject of the demolition order were either built or being constructed without the requisite permit at the time the demolition order was issued in 2003.  Hence, private respondents were not entitled to the preliminary injunction issued by the NCIP. (The City Mayor of Baguio and the Head of the Demolition Team-Engr. Nazita Bañez v. Atty. Brain Masweng, Regional Hearing Officer, NCIP-CAR, the heirs of Judith Cariño, Jacqueline Cariño and the Heirs of Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega, G.R. No. 165003, February 2, 2010.

Jurisdiction; Commission on Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP). Under these terms, the COSLAP has two different rules in acting on a land dispute or problem lodged before it, e.g., COSLAP can assume jurisdiction only if the matter is one of those enumerated in paragraph 2(a) to (e) of the law.  Otherwise, it should refer the case to the agency having appropriate jurisdiction for settlement or resolution.  In resolving whether to assume jurisdiction over a case or to refer it to the particular agency concerned, the COSLAP considers:  (a) the nature or classification of the land involved; (b) the parties to the case; (c) the nature of the questions raised; and (d) the need for immediate and urgent action thereon to prevent injury to persons and damage or destruction to property.  The terms of the law clearly do not vest on the COSLAP the general power to assume jurisdiction over any land dispute or problem.  Thus, under EO 561, the instances when the COSLAP may resolve land disputes are limited only to those involving public lands or those covered by a specific license from the government, such as pasture lease agreements, timber concessions, or reservation grants.  Undisputably, the properties involved in the present dispute are private lands owned by private parties, none of whom is a squatter, a patent lease agreement holder, a government reservation grantee, a public land claimant or a member of any cultural minority.  Moreover, the dispute between the parties can hardly be classified as critical or explosive in nature that would generate social tension or unrest, or a critical situation that would require immediate and urgent action. The issues raised in the present case primarily involve the application of the Civil Code provisions on Property and the Easement of Right of Way. As held in Longino v. General, “disputes requiring no special skill or technical expertise of an administrative body that could be resolved by applying pertinent provisions of the Civil Code are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the regular courts.”       The Machados cannot invoke Section 3, paragraph 2(e) of EO 561, which provides that the COSLAP may assume jurisdiction over complaints involving “other similar land problems of grave urgency,” to justify the COSLAP’s intervention in this case.  The statutory construction principle of ejusdem generic prescribes that where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same kind as those specifically mentioned.  A dispute between two parties concerning the right of way over private lands cannot be characterized as similar to those enumerated under Section 3, paragraph 2(a) to (d) of EO 561.  In Davao New Town Development Corporation v. Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems – where we ruled that the COSLAP does not have blanket authority to assume every matter referred to it – we made it clear that its jurisdiction is confined only to disputes over lands in which the government has a proprietary or regulatory interest. Felicitas M. Machado and Marcelino P. Machado vs. Ricardo L. Gatdula, et al., G.R. No. 156287, February 16, 2010.

Judgment; finality (HLURB). The April 27, 1999 HLURB Resolution, reinstating the December 18, 1996 Decision, has long been final and executory.  Nothing is more settled in the law than that a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable and may no longer be modified in any respect even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law and whether it was made by the court that rendered it or by the highest court of the land.  The only recognized exceptions to the general rule are the correction of clerical errors, the so-called nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, void judgments, and whenever circumstances transpire after the finality of the decision rendering its execution unjust and inequitable.  None of the exceptions is present in this case.  The HLURB decision cannot be considered a void judgment, as it was rendered by a tribunal with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint and, as discussed above, with jurisdiction over the parties.  Hence, the same can no longer be modified. Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Judgment; finality of judgment in petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. The issue raised in this petition has been settled in the case of Tuason v. Court of Appeals.  In Tuason, private respondent therein filed a petition for the annulment of her marriage on the ground of her husband’s psychological incapacity. There, the trial court rendered judgment declaring the nullity of the marriage and awarding custody of the children to private respondent therein.  No timely appeal was taken from the trial court’s judgment. We held that the decision annulling the marriage had already become final and executory when the husband failed to appeal during the reglementary period.  The husband claimed that the decision of the trial court was null and void for violation of his right to due process. He argued he was denied due process when, after failing to appear on two scheduled hearings, the trial court deemed him to have waived his right to present evidence and rendered judgment based solely on the evidence presented by private respondent.  We upheld the judgment of nullity of the marriage even if it was based solely on evidence presented by therein private respondent.  We also ruled in Tuason that notice sent to the counsel of record is binding upon the client and the neglect or failure of the counsel to inform the client of an adverse judgment resulting in the loss of the latter’s right to appeal is not a ground for setting aside a judgment valid and regular on its face.  In the present case, the 30 March 2004 decision and the 17 May 2004 resolution of the trial court had become final and executory upon the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal.  Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the 17 May 2004 resolution, which the trial court received on 28 June 2004, was clearly filed out of time.  Applying the doctrine laid down in Tuason, the alleged negligence of counsel resulting in petitioner’s loss of the right to appeal is not a ground for vacating the trial court’s judgments.

However, when petitioner filed the motion to dismiss on 4 November 2004, the 30 March 2004 decision and the 17 May 2004 resolution of the trial court had long become final and executory upon the lapse of the 15-day reglementary period without any timely appeal having been filed by either party. The 30 March 2004 decision and the 17 May 2004 resolution may no longer be disturbed on account of the belated motion to dismiss filed by petitioner. The trial court was correct in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss.  Nothing is more settled in law than that when a judgment becomes final and executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. The same 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.  The reason is grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional error, the judgments or orders of courts must be final at some definite date fixed by law. Once a judgment has become final and executory, the issues there should be laid to rest. Susie Chan-Tan vs. Jesse C. Tan, G.R. No. 167139. February 25, 2010

Jurisdiction; judgment issued by quasi-judicial agency without jurisdiction is void (COSLAP). In this case, the COSLAP did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint filed by Gatdula, yet it proceeded to assume jurisdiction over the case and even issued writs of execution and demolition against the Machados. The lack of jurisdiction cannot be cured by the parties’ participation in the proceedings before the COSLAP.  Under the circumstances, the Machados can rightfully question its jurisdiction at anytime, even during appeal or after final judgment. A judgment issued by a quasi-judicial body without jurisdiction is void.  It cannot be the source of any right or create any obligation.  All acts pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect. The void judgment can never become final and any writ of execution based on it is likewise void. Felicitas M. Machado and Marcelino P. Machado vs. Ricardo L. Gatdula, et al., G.R. No. 156287, February 16, 2010.

Jurisdiction; jurisdiction over person is waivable (HLURB). At this point, it may be beneficial to elaborate on the matter of jurisdiction.  Jurisdiction is defined as the power and authority of a court to hear, try and decide a case.  In order for the court or an adjudicative body to have authority to dispose of the case on the merits, it must acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties.  Elementary is the distinction between jurisdiction over the subject matter and jurisdiction over the person.  Jurisdiction over the subject matter is conferred by the Constitution or by law.  In contrast, jurisdiction over the person is acquired by the court by virtue of the party’s voluntary submission to the authority of the court or through the exercise of its coercive processes.  Jurisdiction over the person is waivable unlike jurisdiction over the subject matter which is neither subject to agreement nor conferred by consent of the parties.  In civil case, courts acquire jurisdiction over the plaintiffs upon the filing of the complaint, while jurisdiction over the defendants is acquired either through the service of summons upon them in the manner required by law or through their voluntary appearance in court and their submission to its authority.

The act of filing the complaint with the HLURB is unequivocally a voluntary submission by the complainants, including Viola, to the authority of the HLURB.  Clearly, the HLURB acquired jurisdiction over Viola, who was one of the complainants, upon the filing of their complaint.  Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Jurisdiction; no estoppel; jurisdiction conferred by law and not by parties’ conduct (COSLAP). By reason of the Machados’ active participation in the mediation conferences and the COSLAP verification surveys, the CA declared the Machados estopped from questioning the body’s jurisdiction and bound by its decisions, orders and resolutions. We disagree with this ruling. Jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by law and not by the parties’ action or conduct.  Estoppel generally does not confer jurisdiction over a cause of action to a tribunal where none, by law, exists.  Felicitas M. Machado and Marcelino P. Machado vs. Ricardo L. Gatdula, et al., G.R. No. 156287, February 16, 2010.

Legal fees; exemption of cooperative from payment of legal fees does not apply to petition for extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage under Act No. 3135. The question is whether petitioner’s application for extrajudicial foreclosure is exempt from legal fees under Article 62(6) of RA 6938.

The scope of the legal fees exemption Article 62(6) of RA 6938 grants to cooperatives is limited to two types of actions, namely: (1) actions brought under RA 6938; and (2) actions brought by the Cooperative Development Authority to enforce the payment of obligations contracted in favor of cooperatives. By simple deduction, it is immediately apparent that Article 62(6) of RA 6938 is no authority for petitioner to claim exemption from the payment of legal fees in this proceeding because first, the fees imposable on petitioner do not pertain to an action brought under RA 6938 but to a petition for extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage under Act 3135. Second, petitioner is not the Cooperative Development Authority which can claim exemption only in actions to enforce payments of obligations on behalf of cooperatives. Baguio Market Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BAMARVEMPCO), etc. vs. Hon. Iluminada Cabato-Cortes, Executive Judge, RTC, Baguio City, G.R. No. 165922. February 26, 2010

Motion to Dismiss in petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. As for the applicability to petitioner’s motion to dismiss of Section 7 of the Rule on the Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, petitioner is correct. Section 7 of the Rule on the Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages provides:  “SEC. 7. Motion to dismiss. – No motion to dismiss the petition shall be allowed except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or over the parties; provided, however, that any other ground that might warrant a dismissal of the case may be raised as an affirmative defense in an answer.”

The clear intent of the provision is to allow the respondent to ventilate all possible defenses in an answer, instead of a mere motion to dismiss, so that judgment may be made on the merits.  In construing a statute, the purpose or object of the law is an important factor to be considered.  Further, the letter of the law admits of no other interpretation but that the provision applies only to a respondent, not a petitioner.  Only a respondent in a petition for the declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage or the annulment of voidable marriage files an answer where any ground that may warrant a dismissal may be raised as an affirmative defense pursuant to the provision. The only logical conclusion is that Section 7 of the Rule does not apply to a motion to dismiss filed by the party who initiated the petition for the declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage or the annulment of voidable marriage.  Since petitioner is not the respondent in the petition for the annulment of the marriage, Section 7 of the Rule does not apply to the motion to dismiss filed by her. Section 7 of the Rule not being applicable, petitioner’s claim that it is unconstitutional for allegedly setting an obstacle to the preservation of the family is without basis.

Section 1 of the Rule states that the Rules of Court applies suppletorily to a petition for the declaration of absolute nullity of void marriage or the annulment of voidable marriage. In this connection, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court allows dismissal of the action upon notice or upon motion of the plaintiff.

However, when petitioner filed the motion to dismiss on 4 November 2004, the 30 March 2004 decision and the 17 May 2004 resolution of the trial court had long become final and executory upon the lapse of the 15-day reglementary period without any timely appeal having been filed by either party. The 30 March 2004 decision and the 17 May 2004 resolution may no longer be disturbed on account of the belated motion to dismiss filed by petitioner. The trial court was correct in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss.  Nothing is more settled in law than that when a judgment becomes final and executory, it becomes immutable and unalterable. The same 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.  The reason is grounded on the fundamental considerations of public policy and sound practice that, at the risk of occasional error, the judgments or orders of courts must be final at some definite date fixed by law. Once a judgment has become final and executory, the issues there should be laid to rest. Susie Chan-Tan vs. Jesse C. Tan, G.R. No. 167139. February 25, 2010

Parties; estoppel (HLURB). Moreover, it was only when the final and executory judgment of the HLURB was already being executed against Viola that she, for the first time, reversed her position; and claimed that she was not a party to the case and that the HLURB did not acquire jurisdiction over her.  Viola is estopped from taking such inconsistent positions.  Where a party, by his or her deed or conduct, has induced another to act in a particular manner, estoppel effectively bars the former from adopting an inconsistent position, attitude or course of conduct that causes loss or injury to the latter.  The doctrine of estoppel is based upon the grounds of public policy, fair dealing, good faith and justice, and its purpose is to forbid one to speak against his own act, representations, or commitments to the injury of one to whom they were directed and who reasonably relied thereon.  After petitioners had reasonably relied on the representations of Viola that she was a complainant and entered into the proceedings before the HLURB, she cannot now be permitted to impugn her representations to the injury of the petitioners. Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Parties; indispensable party (Comelec case). Respondents Roxas, et al. assert that the Court should dismiss the petition for failure of petitioners Atienza, et al. to implead the LP as an indispensable party.  Roxas, et al. point out that, since the petition seeks the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction against the NECO, the controversy could not be adjudicated with finality without making the LP a party to the case.    But petitioners Atienza, et al.’s causes of action in this case consist in respondents Roxas, et al.’s disenfranchisement of Atienza, et al. from the election of party leaders and in the illegal election of Roxas as party president.  Atienza, et al. were supposedly excluded from the elections by a series of “despotic acts” of Roxas, et al., who controlled the proceedings.  Among these acts are Atienza, et al.’s expulsion from the party, their exclusion from the NECO, and respondent Drilon’s “railroading” of election proceedings.  Atienza, et al. attributed all these illegal and prejudicial acts to Roxas, et al.  Since no wrong had been imputed to the LP nor had some affirmative relief been sought from it, the LP is not an indispensable party.  Petitioners Atienza, et al.’s prayer for the undoing of respondents Roxas, et al.’s acts and the reconvening of the NECO are directed against Roxas, et al.  Jose L. Atienza, Jr., et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 188920, February 16, 2010.

Parties; standing; real parties-in-interest (Comelec case). Respondents Roxas, et al. also claim that petitioners Atienza, et al. have no legal standing to question the election of Roxas as LP president because they are no longer LP members, having been validly expelled from the party or having joined other political parties.  As non-members, they have no stake in the outcome of the action.  But, as the Court held in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, legal standing in suits is governed by the “real parties-in-interest” rule under Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court.  This states that “every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party-in-interest.”  And “real party-in-interest” is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or the party entitled to the avails of the suit.  In other words, the plaintiff’s standing is based on his own right to the relief sought.  In raising petitioners Atienza, et al.’s lack of standing as a threshold issue, respondents Roxas, et al. would have the Court hypothetically assume the truth of the allegations in the petition.  Here, it is precisely petitioners Atienza, et al.’s allegations that respondents Roxas, et al. deprived them of their rights as LP members by summarily excluding them from the LP roster and not allowing them to take part in the election of its officers and that not all who sat in the NECO were in the correct list of NECO members.  If Atienza, et al.’s allegations were correct, they would have been irregularly expelled from the party and the election of officers, void.  Further, they would be entitled to recognition as members of good standing and to the holding of a new election of officers using the correct list of NECO members.  To this extent, therefore, Atienza, et al. who want to take part in another election would stand to be benefited or prejudiced by the Court’s decision in this case.  Consequently, they have legal standing to pursue this petition. Jose L. Atienza, Jr., et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 188920, February 16, 2010.

Pleadings; allegations rather than caption of pleadings control (HLURB). It is not the caption of the pleading but the allegations therein that are controlling.  The inclusion of the names of all the parties in the title of a complaint is a formal requirement under Section 3, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court.  However, the rules of pleadings require courts to pierce the form and go into the substance.  The non-inclusion of one or some of the names of all the complainants in the title of a complaint, is not fatal to the case, provided there is a statement in the body of the complaint indicating that such complainant/s was/were made party to such action.  This is specially true before the HLURB where the proceedings are summary in nature without regard to legal technicalities obtaining in the courts of law and where the pertinent concern is to promote public interest and to assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action, application or other proceedings.  Respondent Viola, although her name did not appear in the title as a party, was one of the persons who caused the preparation of the complaint and who verified the same.  The allegations in the body of the complaint indicate that she is one of the complainants.   She categorically considered, and held out, herself as one of the complainants from the time of the filing of the complaint and up to the time the decision in the HLURB case became final and executory.   To repeat, the averments in the body of the complaint, not the title, are controlling.  Hence, having been set forth in the body of the complaint as a complainant, Viola was a party to the case.  Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Pleadings; formal amendments (HLURB). For clarity, the complaint should have been amended to reflect in the title the individual complainants.  There being a “defect in the designation of the parties”, its correction could be summarily made at any stage of the action provided no prejudice is caused thereby to the adverse party.  In the present case, the specification of the individual complainants in the title of the case would not constitute a change in the identity of the parties.  Only their names were omitted in the title but they were already parties to the case, most importantly, they were heard through their counsel whom they themselves chose to prepare the complaint and represent them in the case before the HLURB.  No unfairness or surprise to the complainants, including Viola, or to the Sps. Genato would result by allowing the amendment, the purpose of which is merely to conform to procedural rules or to correct a technical error.         It is now too late to dismiss this petition, and, in effect, nullify all proceedings had before the HLURB on the ground that Viola does not appear to have been impleaded as a party.  The error or defect is merely formal and not substantial and an amendment to cure such defect is expressly authorized by Sec. 4, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court. Spouses William Genato and Rebecca Genato vs. Rita Viola, G.R. No. 169706, February 5, 2010.

Reconstitution; Appeal; scope of review; Supreme Court may review jurisdictional infirmities even if not raised by appellant. Because of these fatal omissions, the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over respondents’ petition.  Consequently, the proceedings it conducted, as well as those of the CA, are null and void.  It is unfortunate that despite the mandatory nature of the above requirements and our constant reminder to courts to scrutinize and verify carefully all supporting documents in petitions for reconstitution, the same still escaped the attention of the trial court and the CA.  And while petitioner also overlooked those jurisdictional infirmities and failed to incorporate them as additional issues in its petition, this Court has sufficient authority to pass upon and resolve the same since they affect jurisdiction.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Julio Ramos, represented by Reynaldo Ramos Medina, et al., G.R. No. 169481, February 22, 2010.

Reconstitution; Jurisdiction; effect of failure to establish jurisdictional requirements in judicial reconstitution of title case. Because of these fatal omissions, the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over respondents’ petition.  Consequently, the proceedings it conducted, as well as those of the CA, are null and void.  It is unfortunate that despite the mandatory nature of the above requirements and our constant reminder to courts to scrutinize and verify carefully all supporting documents in petitions for reconstitution, the same still escaped the attention of the trial court and the CA.  And while petitioner also overlooked those jurisdictional infirmities and failed to incorporate them as additional issues in its petition, this Court has sufficient authority to pass upon and resolve the same since they affect jurisdiction.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Julio Ramos, represented by Reynaldo Ramos Medina, et al., G.R. No. 169481, February 22, 2010.

Reconstitution; Jurisdiction; jurisdictional requirements for petition for reconstitution of title. RA 26 lays down the specific procedure for the reconstitution of lost or destroyed Torrens certificates of title.  It confers jurisdiction upon trial courts to hear and decide petitions for judicial reconstitution.  However, before said courts can assume jurisdiction over the petition and grant the reconstitution prayed for, the petitioner must observe certain special requirements and mode of procedure prescribed by law.  Some of these requirements are enumerated in Sections 12 and 13 of RA 26.

Perusal of respondents’ Petition for Reconstitution, for the purpose of verifying whether the strict and mandatory requirements of RA 26, particularly Section 12 (b) and (e) thereof, have been faithfully complied with, would reveal that it did not contain an allegation that no co-owner’s, mortgagee’s or lessees duplicate had been issued or, if any had been issued, the same had been lost or destroyed.  The petition also failed to state the names and addresses of the present occupants of Lot 54.  Correspondingly, the Notice of Hearing issued by the court a quo did not also indicate the names of the occupants or persons in possession of Lot 54, in gross violation of Section 13 of RA 26.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Julio Ramos, represented by Reynaldo Ramos Medina, et al., G.R. No. 169481, February 22, 2010.

Res judicata; applicability in land registration case. The Court agrees with the Republic’s position that Reyes is applicable to this case.  To constitute res judicata, the following elements must concur:

(1)            the former judgment or order must be final;

(2)            the judgment or order must be on the merits;

(3)            it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and parties; and

(4)            there must be between the first and second actions, identity of parties, of subject matter, and of causes of action.

The first three requisites have undoubtedly been complied with. However, petitioner takes exception to the fourth requisite, particularly on the issue of identity of parties. In her petition for review filed in this Court, she contends that since the applicants in the two cases are different, the merits of the two cases should, accordingly, be determined independently of each other.  This contention is erroneous.

The facts obtaining in this case closely resemble those in Aquino v. Director of Lands.  In that case, Quintin Tañedo endeavored to secure title to a considerable tract of land by virtue of his possession thereof under CA 141. When the case eventually reached this Court, we affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the proceedings as the property in question was part of the public domain. Quintin’s successor-in-interest, Florencia Tañedo, who despite knowledge of the proceedings did not participate therein, thereafter sold the same property to Benigno S. Aquino. The latter sought to have it registered in his name. The question in that case, as well as in this one, was whether our decision in the case in which another person was the applicant constituted res judicata as against his successors-in-interest.

We ruled there, and we so rule now, that in registration cases filed under the provisions of the Public Land Act for the judicial confirmation of an incomplete and imperfect title, an order dismissing an application for registration and declaring the land as part of the public domain constitutes res judicata, not only against the adverse claimant, but also against all persons. Florencia G. Diaz vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 181502, February 2, 2010.

Trial; consolidation (Sandiganbayan). The rule allowing consolidation is designed to avoid multiplicity of suits, to guard against oppression or abuse, to prevent delays, to clear congested dockets, and to simplify the work of the trial court – in short, the attainment of justice with the least expense and vexation to the parties-litigants.  Thus, in Philippine Savings Bank v. Mañalac, Jr., the Court disregarded the technical difference between an action and a proceeding, and upheld the consolidation of a petition for the issuance of a writ of possession with an ordinary civil action in order to achieve a more expeditious resolution of the cases.  In the present case, it would be more in keeping with law and equity if all the cases filed against petitioner were consolidated with that having the lowest docket number pending with the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan.  The only notable differences in these cases lie in the date of the transaction, the entity transacted with and amount involved.  The charge and core element are the same – estafa through falsification of documents based on alleged overstatements of claims for miscellaneous and extraordinary expenses.   Notably, the main witness is also the same – Hilconeda P. Abril.  It need not be underscored that consolidation of cases, when proper, results in the simplification of proceedings which saves time, the resources of the parties and the courts, and a possible major abbreviation of trial.  It contributes to the swift dispensation of justice, and is in accord with the aim of affording the parties a just, speedy and inexpensive determination of their cases before the courts.  Above all, consolidation avoids the possibility of rendering conflicting decisions in two or more cases which would otherwise require a single judgment.  Jaime S. Domdom v. Hon. Third and Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan, Commission on Audit and The People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 182382-83, February 24, 2010.

Writ of amparo; Appeal; effect of appellee’s failure to appeal. The entrenched procedural rule in this jurisdiction is that a party who did not appeal cannot assign such errors as are designed to have the judgment modified.  All that said appellee can do is to make a counter-assignment of errors or to argue on issues raised at the trial only for the purpose of sustaining the judgment in his favor, even on grounds not included in the decision of the court a quo or raised in the appellant’s assignment of errors or arguments.  This tenet is enshrined as one of the basic principles in our rules of procedure, specifically to avoid ambiguity in the presentation of issues, facilitate the setting forth of arguments by the parties, and aid the court in making its determinations.  A party who fails to acquire complete relief from a decision of the court has various remedies to correct an omission by the court.  He may move for a correction or clarification of judgment, or even seek its modification through ordinary appeal.  There is thus no basis for the Court to skip the rule and excuse herein respondents for failure to properly avail themselves of the remedies in the face of the parties’ contentions that have remained disputed.

To the appellate court, the evidence adduced in the present case failed to measure up to that standard– substantial evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.  Since respondents did not avail of any remedy against the adverse judgment, the appellate court’s decision is, insofar as it concerns them, now beyond the ambit of review.

Respondents posit that there appears to be some shared confusion as to whether the reliefs granted by the appellate court are final or interlocutory.  They thus implore this Court to modify the appellate court’s judgment by considering the reliefs as temporary or interlocutory and by adding thereto an order for the production of logbooks and reports.  At this late stage, respondents can no longer avail themselves of their stale remedies in the guise of praying for affirmative reliefs in their Comment.  No modification of judgment could be granted to a party who did not appeal.  If respondents believed that the September 17, 2008 Decision of the appellate court was merely interlocutory, they had every opportunity to question the conclusion of said court, but they did not.   They could have opposed petitioners’ motion for reconsideration filed with the appellate court, it being a prohibited pleading under the Amparo Rule, but they did not.  Gen. Alexander B. Yano, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, et al. vs. Cleofas Sanchez and Marciana Medina, G.R. No. 186640, February 11, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; archiving and revival. At this juncture, it bears to state that petitioners have not provided the CA with the correct addresses of respondents Cuaresma, Alfaro, Santana, Jonathan, and Sy/Reyes.  The mailed envelopes containing the petition for a writ of amparo individually addressed to each of them have all been returned unopened. And petitioners’ motion interposed before the appellate court for notice or service via publication has not been accompanied by supporting affidavits as required by the Rules of Court.  Accordingly, the appealed CA partial judgment––disposing of the underlying petition for a writ of amparo without (1) pronouncement as to the accountability, or lack of it, of the four non-answering respondents or (2) outright dismissal of the same petition as to them––hews to the prescription of Sec. 20 of the Amparo Rule on archiving and reviving cases.  Parenthetically, petitioners have also not furnished this Court with sufficient data as to where the afore-named respondents may be served a copy of their petition for review. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; command responsibility has little bearing in amparo proceedings. As explained by the CA, Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon were included in the case on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners.  To the appellate court, “the privilege of the writ of amparo must be denied as against Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon for the simple reason that petitioners have not presented evidence showing that those who allegedly abducted and illegally detained Lourdes and later threatened her and her family were, in fact, members of the military or the police force.” The two generals, the CA’s holding broadly hinted, would have been accountable for the abduction and threats if the actual malefactors were members of the AFP or PNP.  As regards the three other answering respondents, they were impleaded because they allegedly had not exerted the required extraordinary diligence in investigating and satisfactorily resolving Lourdes’ disappearance or bringing to justice the actual perpetrators of what amounted to a criminal act, albeit there were allegations against P/Insp. Gomez of acts constituting threats against Mary Joy.  While in a qualified sense tenable, the dismissal by the CA of the case as against Gen. Esperon and P/Dir. Gen. Razon is incorrect if viewed against the backdrop of the stated rationale underpinning the assailed decision vis-à-vis the two generals, i.e., command responsibility. The Court assumes the latter stance owing to the fact that command responsibility, as a concept defined, developed, and applied under international law, has little, if at all, bearing in amparo proceedings.

It may plausibly be contended that command responsibility, as legal basis to hold military/police commanders liable for extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, or threats, may be made applicable to this jurisdiction on the theory that the command responsibility doctrine now constitutes a principle of international law or customary international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution.  Still, it would be inappropriate to apply to these proceedings the doctrine of command responsibility, as the CA seemed to have done, as a form of criminal complicity through omission, for individual respondents’ criminal liability, if there be any, is beyond the reach of amparo.  In other words, the Court does not rule in such proceedings on any issue of criminal culpability, even if incidentally a crime or an infraction of an administrative rule may have been committed.  As the Court stressed in Secretary of National Defense v. Manalo (Manalo), the writ of amparo was conceived to provide expeditious and effective procedural relief against violations or threats of violation of the basic rights to life, liberty, and security of persons; the corresponding amparo suit, however, “is not an action to determine criminal guilt requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt x x x or administrative liability requiring substantial evidence that will require full and exhaustive proceedings.” Of the same tenor, and by way of expounding on the nature and role of amparo, is what the Court said in Razon v. Tagitis:

It does not determine guilt nor pinpoint criminal culpability for the disappearance [threats thereof or extra-judicial killings]; it determines responsibility, or at least accountability, for the enforced disappearance [threats thereof or extra-judicial killings] for purposes of imposing the appropriate remedies to address the disappearance [or extra-judicial killings].

As the law now stands, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in this jurisdiction are not crimes penalized separately from the component criminal acts undertaken to carry out these killings and enforced disappearances and are now penalized under the Revised Penal Code and special laws. The simple reason is that the Legislature has not spoken on the matter; the determination of what acts are criminal x x x are matters of substantive law that only the Legislature has the power to enact. x x x

If command responsibility were to be invoked and applied to these proceedings, it should, at most, be only to determine the author who, at the first instance, is accountable for, and has the duty to address, the disappearance and harassments complained of, so as to enable the Court to devise remedial measures that may be appropriate under the premises to   protect rights covered by the writ of amparo.  As intimated earlier, however, the determination should not be pursued to fix criminal liability on respondents preparatory to criminal prosecution, or as a prelude to administrative disciplinary proceedings under existing administrative issuances, if there be any. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; effect of filing of related criminal action. Sec. 22 of the Amparo Rule proscribes the filing of an amparo petition should a criminal action have, in the meanwhile, been commenced.  The succeeding Sec. 23, on the other hand, provides that when the criminal suit is filed subsequent to a petition for amparo, the petition shall be consolidated with the criminal action where the Amparo Rule shall nonetheless govern the disposition of the relief under the Rule.  Under the terms of said Sec. 22, the present petition ought to have been dismissed at the outset.  But as things stand, the outright dismissal of the petition by force of that section is no longer technically feasible in light of the interplay of the following factual mix: (1) the Court has, pursuant to Sec. 6 of the Rule, already issued ex parte the writ of amparo; (2) the CA, after a summary hearing, has dismissed the petition, but not on the basis of Sec. 22; and (3) the complaint in OMB-P-C-O7-0602-E named as respondents only those believed to be the actual abductors of Lourdes, while the instant petition impleaded, in addition, those tasked to investigate the kidnapping and detention incidents and their superiors at the top.  Yet, the acts and/or omissions subject of the criminal complaint and the amparo petition are so linked as to call for the consolidation of both proceedings to obviate the mischief inherent in a multiplicity-of-suits situation.

Given the above perspective and to fully apply the beneficial nature of the writ of amparo as an inexpensive and effective tool to protect certain rights violated or threatened to be violated, the Court hereby adjusts to a degree the literal application of Secs. 22 and 23 of the Amparo Rule to fittingly address the situation obtaining under the premises.  Towards this end, two things are at once indicated: (1) the consolidation of the probe and fact-finding aspects of the instant petition with the investigation of the criminal complaint before the OMB; and (2) the incorporation in the same criminal complaint of the allegations in this petition bearing on the threats to the right to security. Withal, the OMB should be furnished copies of the investigation reports to aid that body in its own investigation and eventual resolution of OMB-P-C-O7-0602-E.  Then, too, the OMB shall be given easy access to all pertinent documents and evidence, if any, adduced before the CA. Necessarily, Lourdes, as complainant in OMB-P-C-O7-0602-E, should be allowed, if so minded, to amend her basic criminal complaint if the consolidation of cases is to be fully effective. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; interim reliefs. In line with this, Section 14 of the Amparo Rule provides for interim or provisional reliefs that the courts may grant in order to, inter alia, protect the witnesses and the rights of the parties, and preserve all relevant evidence.

These provisional reliefs are intended to assist the court before it arrives at a judicious determination of the amparo petition.  For the appellate court to, in the present case, still order the inspection of the military camps and order the army units to conduct an investigation into the disappearance of Nicolas and Heherson after it absolved petitioners is thus not in order.  The reliefs granted by the appellate court to respondents are not in sync with a finding that petitioners could not be held accountable for the disappearance of the victims.  Respondents posit that there appears to be some shared confusion as to whether the reliefs granted by the appellate court are final or interlocutory.  They thus implore this Court to modify the appellate court’s judgment by considering the reliefs as temporary or interlocutory and by adding thereto an order for the production of logbooks and reports.  At this late stage, respondents can no longer avail themselves of their stale remedies in the guise of praying for affirmative reliefs in their Comment.  No modification of judgment could be granted to a party who did not appeal.  If respondents believed that the September 17, 2008 Decision of the appellate court was merely interlocutory, they had every opportunity to question the conclusion of said court, but they did not.   They could have opposed petitioners’ motion for reconsideration filed with the appellate court, it being a prohibited pleading under the Amparo Rule, but they did not. Gen. Alexander B. Yano, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, et al. vs. Cleofas Sanchez and Marciana Medina, G.R. No. 186640, February 11, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; nature of remedy. In other words, the Court does not rule in such proceedings on any issue of criminal culpability, even if incidentally a crime or an infraction of an administrative rule may have been committed.  As the Court stressed in Secretary of National Defense v. Manalo (Manalo), the writ of amparo was conceived to provide expeditious and effective procedural relief against violations or threats of violation of the basic rights to life, liberty, and security of persons; the corresponding amparo suit, however, “is not an action to determine criminal guilt requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt x x x or administrative liability requiring substantial evidence that will require full and exhaustive proceedings.” Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; nature of remedy. The privilege of the writ of amparo, to reiterate, is a remedy available to victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances or threats of similar nature, regardless of whether the perpetrator of the unlawful act or omission is a public official or employee or a private individual. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; nature of remedy. The privilege of the writ of amparo is envisioned basically to protect and guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and security of persons, free from fears and threats that vitiate the quality of this life.  It is an extraordinary writ conceptualized and adopted in light of and in response to the prevalence of extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances.  Accordingly, the remedy ought to be resorted to and granted judiciously, lest the ideal sought by the Amparo Rule be diluted and undermined by the indiscriminate filing of amparo petitions for purposes less than the desire to secure amparo reliefs and protection and/or on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; requirement that petitioner establish claim by substantial evidence. What is thus left for the Court to resolve is the issue of whether the grant of the RELIEFS by the appellate court after finding want of substantial evidence are valid and proper.

The requisite standard of proof – substantial evidence – speaks of the clear intent of the Rule to have the equivalent of an administrative proceeding, albeit judicially conducted, in resolving amparo petitions.  To the appellate court, the evidence adduced in the present case failed to measure up to that standard– substantial evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.  Since respondents did not avail of any remedy against the adverse judgment, the appellate court’s decision is, insofar as it concerns them, now beyond the ambit of review.  Meanwhile, the requirement for a government official or employee to observe extraordinary diligence in the performance of duty stresses the extraordinary measures expected to be taken in safeguarding every citizen’s constitutional rights as well as in the investigation of cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.  The failure to establish that the public official observed extraordinary diligence in the performance of duty does not result in the automatic grant of the privilege of the amparo writ.  It does not relieve the petitioner from establishing his or her claim by substantial evidence.  The omission or inaction on the part of the public official provides, however, some basis for the petitioner to move and for the court to grant certain interim reliefs. Gen. Alexander B. Yano, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, et al. vs. Cleofas Sanchez and Marciana Medina, G.R. No. 186640, February 11, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; requirement of substantial evidence. Petitioners, to be sure, have not successfully controverted answering respondents’ documentary evidence, adduced to debunk the former’s allegations directly linking Lourdes’ abductors and tormentors to the military or the police establishment. We note, in fact, that Lourdes, when queried on cross-examination, expressed the belief that Sy/Reyes was an NBI agent.  The Court is, of course, aware of what was referred to in Razon as the “evidentiary difficulties” presented by the nature of, and encountered by petitioners in, enforced disappearance cases.  But it is precisely for this reason that the Court should take care too that no wrong message is sent, lest one conclude that any kind or degree of evidence, even the outlandish, would suffice to secure amparo remedies and protection.  Sec. 17, as complemented by Sec. 18 of the Amparo Rule, expressly prescribes the minimum evidentiary substantiation requirement and norm to support a cause of action under the Rule.

Substantial evidence is more than a mere imputation of wrongdoing or violation that would warrant a finding of liability against the person charged; it is more than a scintilla of evidence.  It means such amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, even if other equally reasonable minds might opine otherwise.  Per the CA’s evaluation of their evidence, consisting of the testimonies and affidavits of the three Rubrico women and five other individuals, petitioners have not satisfactorily hurdled the evidentiary bar required of and assigned to them under the Amparo Rule. In a very real sense, the burden of evidence never even shifted to answering respondents. The Court finds no compelling reason to disturb the appellate court’s determination of the answering respondents’ role in the alleged enforced disappearance of petitioner Lourdes and the threats to her family’s security. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Writ of Amparo; requirement of substantial evidence. In their petition for a writ of amparo, petitioners asked, as their main prayer, that the Court order the impleaded respondents “to immediately desist from doing any acts that would threaten or seem to threaten the security of the Petitioners and to desist from approaching Petitioners, x x x their residences and offices where they are working under pain of contempt of [this] Court.” Petitioners, however, failed to adduce the threshold substantive evidence to establish the predicate facts to support their cause of action, i.e., the adverted harassments and threats to their life, liberty, or security, against responding respondents, as responsible for the disappearance and harassments complained of.  This is not to say, however, that petitioners’ allegation on the fact of the abduction incident or harassment is necessarily contrived. The reality on the ground, however, is that the military or police connection has not been adequately proved either by identifying the malefactors as components of the AFP or PNP; or in case identification is not possible, by showing that they acted with the direct or indirect acquiescence of the government. For this reason, the Court is unable to ascribe the authorship of and responsibility for the alleged enforced disappearance of Lourdes and the harassment and threats on her daughters to individual respondents. To this extent, the dismissal of the case against them is correct and must, accordingly, be sustained.  Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

Evidence

Award of temperate damages in absence of competent proof of actual damages. In addition, the Court of Appeals correctly awarded temperate damages in the amount of P10,000.00 for the damage caused on respondent’s motorcycle.  Under Art. 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate damages “may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.”   The cost of the repair of the motorcycle was prayed for by respondent in her Complaint.  However, the evidence presented was merely a job estimate of the cost of the motorcycle’s repair amounting to P17, 829.00.  The Court of Appeals aptly held that there was no doubt that the damage caused on the motorcycle was due to the negligence of petitioner’s driver.  In the absence of competent proof of the actual damage caused on the motorcycle or the actual cost of its repair, the award of temperate damages by the appellate court in the amount of P10,000.00 was reasonable under the circumstances. Philippine Hawk Corporation vs. Vivian Tan Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010.

Burden of proof in absence of trial. We cannot accept petitioners’ proposition that they did not have the burden of proof of showing the irregularity of ALI’s title since the burden of proof purportedly did not shift to them since no full-blown trial was conducted by the RTC.  This specious argument deserves scant credit. Rule 131, Section 1 of the Rules of Court provides:  “Section 1. Burden of proof. — Burden of proof is the duty of a party to present evidence on the facts in issue necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law.”

With the filing of the complaint, petitioners should already have alleged all the bases of their cause of action, particularly their allegation that ALI’s title is null and void and that such title should be cancelled. However, a scrutiny of the complaint would show that petitioners never alleged the purported lack of an approved survey plan as a defect of ALI’s title. All that the complaint alleged is that ALI’s titles should be declared void for not being derivatives of the Carpos’ title.  Implicit in that allegation is that petitioners were relying solely on the supposed priority of their own title over ALI’s.  It stands to reason then that ALI did not have to allege in its Answer that its mother title, OCT No. 242, was supported by a duly approved survey plan when petitioners did not raise the same as an issue in their complaint or in any other pleading filed with the trial court. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

Disputable presumption arising from willful suppression of evidence. An examination of the evidence presented by petitioner shows that it consisted only of depositions of its witnesses.  It had in its possession and disposition pertinent documents such as the flight manifest and the plane’s actual seating capacity and layout which could have clearly refuted respondents’ claims that there were not enough passenger seats available for them.  It inexplicably failed to offer even a single piece of documentary evidence.  The Court thus believes that if at least the cited documentary evidence had been produced, it would have been adverse to petitioner’s case. Northwest Airlines, Inc. vs. Spouses Edward J. Heshan and Neilia L. Heshan, et al., G.R. No. 179117, February 3, 2010.

Evidence of actual damages. The Court of Appeals also awarded actual damages for the expenses incurred in connection with the death, wake, and interment of respondent’s husband in the amount of P154,575.30, and the medical expenses of respondent in the amount of P168,019.55.  Actual damages must be substantiated by documentary evidence, such as receipts, in order to prove expenses incurred as a result of the death of the victim or the physical injuries sustained by the victim.  A review of the valid receipts submitted in evidence showed that the funeral and related expenses amounted only to P114,948.60,  while the medical expenses of respondent  amounted only to P12,244.25,  yielding a total of P127,192.85 in actual damages. Philippine Hawk Corporation vs. Vivian Tan Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010.

Evidence of loss of earning capacity. As a rule, documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity.  By way of exception, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when: (1) the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the deceased’s line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.  In this case, the records show that respondent’s  husband was  leasing and operating  a  Caltex gasoline station in Gumaca, Quezon.   Respondent testified that her husband earned an annual income of one million pesos. Respondent presented in evidence a Certificate of Creditable Income Tax Withheld at Source for the Year 1990, which showed that respondent’s husband earned a gross income of P950,988.43 in 1990. It is reasonable to use the Certificate and respondent’s testimony as bases for fixing the gross annual income of the deceased at one million pesos before respondent’s husband died on March 17, 1999.   However, no documentary evidence was presented regarding the income derived from their copra business; hence, the testimony of respondent as regards such income cannot be considered.

In the computation of loss of earning capacity, only net earnings, not gross earnings, are to be considered; that is, the total of the earnings less expenses necessary for the creation of such earnings or income, less living and other incidental expenses.  In the absence of documentary evidence, it is reasonable to peg necessary expenses for the lease and operation of the gasoline station at 80 percent of the gross income, and peg living expenses at 50 percent of the net income (gross income less necessary expenses). Philippine Hawk Corporation vs. Vivian Tan Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010.

Evidence required in judicial reconstitution of title cases. Section 2 of RA 26 enumerates in the following order the sources from which reconstitution of lost or destroyed original certificates of title may be based.

Respondents predicate their Petition for Reconstitution on Section 2(f) of RA 26. And to avail of its benefits, respondents presented survey plan, technical description, Certification issued by the Land Registration Authority, Lot Data Computation, and tax declarations.  Unfortunately, these pieces of documentary evidence are not similar to those mentioned in subparagraphs (a) to (e) of Section 2 of RA 26, which all pertain to documents issued or are on file with the Registry of Deeds.  Hence, respondents’ documentary evidence cannot be considered to fall under subparagraph (f).  Under the principle of ejusdem generis, where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same kind or class as those specifically mentioned.  Thus, in Republic of the Philippines v. Santua, we held that when Section 2(f) of RA 26 speaks of “any other document,” the same must refer to similar documents previously enumerated therein, that is, those mentioned in Sections 2(a), (b), (c), (d), and (e).

Also, the survey plan and technical description are not competent and sufficient sources of reconstitution when the petition is based on Section 2(f) of RA 26.  They are mere additional documentary requirements.  This is the clear import of the last sentence of Section 12, RA 26 earlier quoted.  Thus, in Lee v. Republic of the Philippines, where the trial court ordered reconstitution on the basis of the survey plan and technical description, we declared the order of reconstitution void for want of factual support.

Moreover, the Certification issued by the LRA stating that Decree No. 190622 was issued for Lot 54 means nothing.  The Land Registration Act expressly recognizes two classes of decrees in land registration proceedings, namely, (i) decrees dismissing the application and (ii) decrees of confirmation and registration.  In the case at bench, we cannot ascertain from said Certification whether the decree alluded to by the respondents granted or denied Julio Ramos’ claim.  Moreover, the LRA’s Certification did not state to whom Lot 54 was decreed.  Thus, assuming that Decree No. 190622 is a decree of confirmation, it would be too presumptuous to further assume that the same was issued in the name and in favor of Julio Ramos.  Furthermore, said Certification did not indicate the number of the original certificate of title and the date said title was issued.  In Tahanan Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, we held that the absence of any document, private or official, mentioning the number of the certificate of title and date when the certificate of title was issued, does not warrant the granting of such petition.

With regard to the other Certification issued by the Registry of Deeds of Balanga City, it cannot be deduced therefrom that OCT No. 3613 was actually issued and kept on file with said office.  The Certification of said Registry of Deeds that said title “is not among those salvaged records of this Registry as a consequence of the last World War,” did not necessarily mean that OCT No. 3613 once formed part of its records.

Anent the tax declaration submitted, the same covered only taxable year 1998.  Obviously, it had no bearing with what occurred before or during the last world war.  Besides, a tax declaration is not a reliable source of reconstitution of a certificate of title.  As we held in Republic of the Philippines v. Santua, a tax declaration can only be prima facie evidence of claim of ownership, which, however, is not the issue in a reconstitution proceeding.  A reconstitution of title does not pass upon the ownership of land covered by the lost or destroyed title but merely determines whether a re-issuance of such title is proper.

We also share the observation of petitioner that the non-submission of an affidavit of loss by the person who was allegedly in actual possession of OCT No. 3613 at the time of its loss, casts doubt on respondents’ claim that OCT No. 3613 once existed and subsequently got lost.  Under Section 109 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, the owner must file with the proper Registry of Deeds a notice of loss executed under oath.  Here, despite the lapse of a considerable length of time, the alleged owners of Lot 54 or the persons who were in possession of the same, i.e., respondents’ grandparents, never executed an affidavit relative to the loss of OCT No. 3613.

The presentation of such affidavit becomes even more important considering the doubtful testimony of Reynaldo.  When he testified on November 29, 2001, he was only 62 years old and, therefore, he was barely six years old during the Japanese occupation until the Liberation.  Also, his testimony consisted only of his declaration that his unnamed grandmother used to keep said copy of OCT No. 3613; that it was buried in a foxhole during the Japanese occupation; and, subsequently, got lost.  He did not testify on how he obtained knowledge of the alleged facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of the owner’s copy of OCT No. 3613.  In fact, he neither named the person responsible for the burying or hiding of the title in a foxhole nor mentioned the place where that foxhole was located.  Reynaldo’s testimony was also lacking in details as to how he participated in searching for the title’s whereabouts.  Indeed, Reynaldo’s testimony is highly suspect and cannot be given the expected probative weight. Republic of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Julio Ramos, represented by Reynaldo Ramos Medina, et al., G.R. No. 169481, February 22, 2010.

Evidentiary value; unsubstantiated denial as negative and self-serving evidence. We agree with the CA when it said that if indeed petitioner did not transact with respondent, she should not have entertained respondent’s collecting officers and should not have offered settlement or returned some of the canned goods.  The testimonies of respondent’s witnesses were further bolstered by the absence of any motive on their part to falsely testify against petitioner; thus, their testimonies are hereby accorded full faith and credit.  Petitioner’s defense consists of denial. We have held that denial, if unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, is a negative and self-serving evidence that has no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value over the testimony of credible witnesses who testified on affirmative matters.  Lolita Reyes doing business under the name and style, Solid Brothers West Marketing vs. Century Canning Corporation, G.R. No. 165377, February 16, 2010.

Offer of evidence; effect of failure to object to purpose of offered exhibit. While petitioner denies having any transaction with respondent regarding the sale and delivery to her of respondent’s canned goods, a review of the evidence shows otherwise.  Records show that respondent submitted a certificate of registration of business name under petitioner’s name and with her photo, which was marked as respondent’s Exhibit “L.”  Notably, respondent’s formal offer of evidence stated that the purpose of Exhibit “L” was to show that petitioner had submitted such certificate as one of her supporting documents in applying as a distributor of  respondent’s products, and also for the purpose of contradicting petitioner’s allegation that she had no transaction with respondent.  In petitioner’s Objections/Comment to respondent’s offer of evidence, she offered no objection to this exhibit.  In fact, in the same Comment, petitioner prayed that the other exhibits be denied admission for the purpose for which they were offered, except Exhibit “L.”  In effect, petitioner admitted the purpose for which Exhibit “L” was offered, i.e., one of the documents she submitted to respondent to be a distributor of the latter’s products. Thus, such admission belies her allegation in her Answer with compulsory counterclaim that she had no transaction with respondent for the purchase of the canned goods, as well as her testimony on direct examination that she did not know respondent.  Lolita Reyes doing business under the name and style, Solid Brothers West Marketing vs. Century Canning Corporation, G.R. No. 165377, February 16, 2010.

Preponderance of evidence in civil cases. It is a basic rule in evidence that each party to a case must prove his own affirmative allegations by the degree of evidence required by law.  In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by preponderance of evidence, or that evidence that is of greater weight or is more convincing than that which is in opposition to it.  It does not mean absolute truth; rather, it means that the testimony of one side is more believable than that of the other side, and that the probability of truth is on one side than on the other. Lolita Reyes doing business under the name and style, Solid Brothers West Marketing vs. Century Canning Corporation, G.R. No. 165377, February 16, 2010.

Presumption of regularity; no need to allege or prove validity of title which enjoys presumption of regularity. It cannot be gainsaid that the issuance of OCT No. 242 was a result of the registration decree of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, pursuant to land registration proceedings in Case No. 976.  In the absence of proof to the contrary, OCT No. 242 and its derivatives, including ALI’s TCT No. T-41262, enjoy the presumption of regularity and ALI need not allege or prove that its title was regularly issued.  That is precisely the nature of such a presumption, it dispenses with proof.

The presumption of regularity enjoyed by the registration decree issued in Case No. 976 and OCT No. 242 includes the presumption that all the requisites for the issuance of a valid title had been complied with.  ALI need not allege or prove that a duly approved survey plan accompanied the issuance of OCT No. 242 in 1950 because it is presumed. It is the party who seeks to overcome the presumption who would have the burden to present adequate and convincing evidence to the contrary. This, petitioners did not even attempt to do. Spouses Morris Carpo and Socorro Carpo vs. Ayala Land, Incorporated, G.R. No. 166577, February 3, 2010.

Question of fact; Existence of bad faith is question of fact and evidentiary. The above averments clearly pose factual issues which make the rendition of summary judgment not proper.  Bad faith imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong.  It is synonymous with fraud, in that it involves a design to mislead or deceive another.  The trial court should have exercised prudence by requiring the presentation of evidence in a formal trial to determine the veracity of the parties’ respective assertions.  Whether NPC and the plaintiffs connived and acted in bad faith is a question of fact and is evidentiary.  Bad faith has to be established by the claimant with clear and convincing evidence, and this necessitates an examination of the evidence of all the parties.  As certain facts pleaded were being contested by the opposing parties, such would not warrant a rendition of summary judgment.  Atty. Mangontawar M. Gubat vs. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415. February 26, 2010.

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