March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Actions; action for reformation of instrument; requisites. For an action for reformation of instrument to prosper, the following requisites must concur: (1) there must have been a meeting of the minds of the parties to the contract; (2) the instrument does not express the true intention of the parties; and (3) the failure of the instrument to express the true intention of the parties is due to mistake, fraud, inequitable conduct or accident.  Petitioner having admitted the existence and execution of the instrument, what remains to be resolved is whether the contract expressed the true intention of the parties; if not, whether it was due to mistake, fraud, inequitable conduct or accident.  The onus probandi is upon the party who insists that the contract should be reformed.  Notarized documents, like the deed in question [i.e., “Sale and Transfer of Rights over a Portion of a Parcel of Land”], enjoy the presumption of regularity which can be overturned only by clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence.  This petitioner failed to discharge.  Flordeliza Emilio vs. Bilma Rapal, G.R. No. 181855, March 30, 2010.

Actions; annulment of judgment. The Court finds that petitioner properly availed of the remedy of a petition for annulment of judgment in challenging the Manila RTC Decision.  In his petition with the appellate court, he did not limit his ground to extrinsic fraud, as he invoked as well the Manila RTC’s lack of jurisdiction to annul the proceedings in the Pagadian RTC which is a court of co-equal and coordinate jurisdiction.  Since petitioner’s petition raised lack of jurisdiction, he did not have to allege that the ordinary remedies of new trial, reconsideration or appeal were no longer available through no fault of his.  This is so because a judgment rendered or final order issued by the RTC without jurisdiction is null and void and may be assailed any time either collaterally or in a direct action, or by resisting such judgment or final order in any action or proceeding whenever it is invoked.  Jose Cabaral Tiu v. First Plywood Corporation/Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. Timber Exports, Inc. Angel Domingo, Country Bankers Ins. Corp., Perfecto Mondarte, Jr. and Cesar Dacal, G.R. No. 176123/G.R. No.  185265, March 10, 2010

Actions; attack on title. The petitioners contend that this action for quieting of title should be disallowed because it constituted a collateral attack on OCT No. RO-9969-(O-20449), citing Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1529, viz:

Section 48. Certificate not subject to collateral attack.– A certificate of title shall not be subject to collateral attack. It cannot be altered, modified, or cancelled except in a direct proceeding in accordance with law.

The petitioners’ contention is not well taken.  An action or proceeding is deemed an attack on a title when its objective is to nullify the title, thereby challenging the judgment pursuant to which the title was decreed.  The attack is direct when the objective is to annul or set aside such judgment, or enjoin its enforcement. On the other hand, the attack is indirect or collateral when, in an action to obtain a different relief, an attack on the judgment is nevertheless made as an incident thereof.  Teofisto Oño, et al. vs. Vicente N. Lim, G.R. No. 154270, March 9,  2010

Actions; exhaustion of administrative remedies. With respect to the procedural aspect of the case, respondent should have first exhausted the administrative remedies still available to him by appealing the challenged order of the [National Electrification Administration] the Office of the President, which exercises the power of supervision over it.  Section 13, Chapter II of Presidential Decree No. 269 (PD 269), otherwise known as the National Electrification Administration Decree, provides that:

Sec. 13 – Supervision over NEA; Power Development Council – The NEA shall be under the supervision of the Office of the President of the Philippines. All orders, rules and regulations promulgated by the NEA shall be subject to the approval of the Office of the President of the Philippines.

Considering that the President has the power to review on appeal the orders or acts of petitioner NEA, the failure of respondent to undertake such an appeal bars him from resorting to a judicial suit.  It is settled that under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, recourse through court action cannot prosper until after all such administrative remedies have first been exhausted.  If remedy is available within the administrative machinery, this should be resorted to before recourse can be made to courts. The party with an administrative remedy must not only initiate the prescribed administrative procedure to obtain relief but also pursue it to its appropriate conclusion before seeking judicial intervention in order to give the administrative agency an opportunity to decide the matter itself correctly and prevent unnecessary and premature resort to the court.  The non-observance of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies results in lack of cause of action, which is one of the grounds in the Rules of Court justifying the dismissal of the complaint.  In the present case, respondent failed to exhaust his administrative remedies when he filed a case with the RTC without appealing the decision of the NEA to the Office of the President.  As such, his petition filed with the RTC must necessarily fail. National Electrification Administration vs. Val L. Villanueva, G.R. No. 168203, March 9, 2010

Actions; quieting of title. Quieting of title is a common law remedy for the removal of any cloud, doubt, or uncertainty affecting title to real property.  Whenever there is a cloud on title to real property or any interest in real property by reason of any instrument, record, claim, encumbrance, or proceeding that is apparently valid or effective, but is, in truth and in fact, invalid, ineffective, voidable, or unenforceable, and may be prejudicial to said title, an action may be brought to remove such cloud or to quiet the title.  In such action, the competent court is tasked to determine the respective rights of the complainant and the other claimants, not only to place things in their proper places, and to make the claimant, who has no rights to said immovable, respect and not disturb the one so entitled, but also for the benefit of both, so that whoever has the right will see every cloud of doubt over the property dissipated, and he can thereafter fearlessly introduce the improvements he may desire, as well as use, and even abuse the property as he deems fit.  Lim’s complaint pertinently alleged:

18. If indeed, the genuine original of the Owner’s Duplicate of the Reconstituted Original Certificate of Title No. RO-9699 (O-20449) for Lot 943, Balamban Cadastre xxx is in Defendant’s (Oño’s) possession, then VNL submits the following PROPOSITIONS:

xxx

18.2. Therefore, the Original of Owner’s Duplicate Certificate (which Respondents [Defendants Oños] claim in their Opposition is in their possession) must be surrendered to VNL upon order of this Court, after the Court shall have determined VNL’s mother’s acquisition of the attributes of ownership over said Lot 943, in this action, in accordance with Section 107, P.D. 1529, Property Registration Decree xxx

xxx

[t]hat OCT 20449 be cancelled and new title for Lot 943 be issued directly in favor of LUISA NARVIOS, to complete her title to said Lot;

The averments readily show that the action was neither a direct nor a collateral attack on OCT No. RO-9969-(O-20449), for Lim was asserting only that the existing title registered in the name of the petitioners’ predecessors had become inoperative due to the conveyance in favor of Lim’s mother, and resultantly should be cancelled.  Lim did not thereby assail the validity of OCT No. RO-9969-(O-20449), or challenge the judgment by which the title of the lot involved had been decreed. In other words, the action sought the removal of a cloud from Lim’s title, and the confirmation of Lim’s ownership over the disputed property as the successor-in-interest of Luisa.  Teofisto Oño, et al. vs. Vicente N. Lim, G.R. No. 154270, March 9, 2010

Appeal; dismissal on technical grounds not favored. The Court of Appeals’ dismissal of petitioners’ petition on purely technical grounds was unwarranted.  We agree with petitioners that the late filing and service of a copy of the petition to the RTC was not a substantial infirmity that should cause the outright dismissal of the petition.  Likewise, the verification of a pleading is only a formal, not jurisdictional, requirement. The purpose of requiring a verification is to secure an assurance that the allegations in the petition are true and correct, not merely speculative. This requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of pleadings, and non-compliance therewith does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective.  The dismissal of appeals on purely technical grounds is frowned upon for it is far more better for the courts to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on the merits to attain the ends of justice.  Spouses Melchor, et al. vs. Ronald B. Bernal, et al., G.R. No. 169336, March 18, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of administrative agency not binding when made in excess of jurisdiction. While it bears emphasizing that findings of administrative agencies − such as the DARAB − which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are accorded not only respect but even finality by the courts.  Care should be taken so that administrative actions are not done without due regard to the jurisdictional boundaries set by the enabling law for each agency.  In the case at bar, the DARAB has overstepped its legal boundaries in taking cognizance of the controversy between petitioners and respondents in deciding who should be declared the farmer-beneficiaries over the land in dispute. The CA thus erred in affirming the decision of the DARAB, which was rendered in excess of jurisdiction.  Romanita Concha, et al. vs. Paulino Rubio, et al., G.R. No. 162446, March 29, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of administrative body and Court of Appeals. Petitioner harps on Paler’s alleged bad faith and misrepresentation in filing his previous applications for leave.  However, as correctly found by the CSC and CA, the basis for Paler’s dismissal was his continuous absence without leave, not bad faith and misrepresentation. The CSC even noted that Paler never misrepresented or misled petitioner as to where he was spending his vacation leave. He clearly stated in his application for leave dated April 17, 2003 that he was  spending it not only in the Philippines but also in the U.S.  According to the CA, “to utilize Paler’s alleged misrepresentation in his previously approved applications for leave as basis for his separation from work, even in the absence of opportunity for him to controvert the matter, would constitute a violation of the fundamental requirements of fairness and equity and the constitutional guarantee of due process.” The Court finds no reason to deviate from the findings of both the CSC and CA, given that they concur with each other and should be accorded great weight and respect.  Commission on Appointments, represented herein by its Secretary Hon. Arturo L. Tiu vs. Celso M. Paler, G.R. No.  172623. March 3, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts. Verily, the evaluation and calibration of the evidence necessarily involves consideration of factual issues — an exercise that is not appropriate for a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. This rule provides that the parties may raise only questions of law, because the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. Generally, we are not duty-bound to analyze again and weigh the evidence introduced in and considered by the tribunals below.  When supported by substantial evidence, the findings of fact of the CA are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court, unless the case falls under any of the following recognized exceptions:

(1)              When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and conjectures;

(2)              When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

(3)              Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;

(4)              When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(5)              When the findings of fact are conflicting;

(6)              When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(7)              When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;

(8)              When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

(9)              When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners’ main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and

(10)              When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.

We note, however, that the findings of fact of the RTC are contrary to those of the CA.  Thus, our review of such findings is warranted.  Heirs of Jose Lim, represented by Elenito Lim vs. Juliet Villa Lim, G.R. No. 172690, March 3, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts. A petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court shall raise only questions of law. As a rule, findings of fact of a trial judge, when affirmed by the CA, are binding upon the Supreme Court. This rule admits of only a few exceptions, such as when the findings are grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; when an inference made by the appellate court from its factual findings is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; when there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts; when the findings of the appellate court go beyond the issues of the case, run contrary to the admissions of the parties to the case, or fail to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify a different conclusion; when there is a misappreciation of facts; when the findings of fact are conclusions without mention of the specific evidence on which they are based, are premised on the absence of evidence, or are contradicted by the evidence on record.  However, not one of the exceptions is present in this case.  Hutama-RSEA/Supermax Phils., J.V. vs. KCD Builders Corporation, represented by its President Celso C. Diokno, G.R. No.  173181, March 3, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts. The petitioners submit that Lim’s evidence did not preponderantly show that the ownership of the lot had been transferred to Luisa; and that both the trial and the appellate courts disregarded their showing that  Antonio’s signature on the confirmation of sale was a forgery.  Clearly, the petitioners hereby seek a review of the evaluation and appreciation of the evidence presented by the parties.  The Court cannot anymore review the evaluation and appreciation of the evidence, because the Court is not a trier of facts.  Although this rule admits of certain exceptions, viz: (1) when the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjecture; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) where there is a grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case, and the findings are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the findings of fact are conclusions without specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well in the petitioners’ main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and, (10) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record, it does not appear now that any of the exceptions is present herein. We thus apply the rule without hesitation, and reject the appeal for that reason.  It is emphasized, too, that the CA upheld the conclusion arrived at by the RTC that the signature of Antonio had not been simulated or forged.  The CA ruled that the testimony of the notary public who had notarized the confirmation of sale to the effect that Antonio and Luisa had appeared before him prevailed over that of the petitioners’ expert witness. The concurrence of their conclusion on the genuineness of Antonio’s signature now binds the Court.  Teofisto Oño, et al. vs. Vicente N. Lim, G.R. No. 154270, March 9,  2010

Appeal; findings of fact of trial court. In any event, we reiterate the well-entrenched rule that the factual findings of trial courts, when adopted and confirmed by the CA, are binding and conclusive and will generally not be reviewed on appeal.  We are mandated to accord great weight to the findings of the RTC, particularly as regards its assessment of the credibility of witnesses since it is the trial court judge who is in a position to observe and examine the witnesses first hand.  Even after a careful and independent scrutiny of the records, we find no cogent reason to depart from the rulings of the courts below. Titan Construction Corporation vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of trial court binding on Supreme Court, especially those affirmed by Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding that the Final Deed of Conveyance No. V-4477 and TCT No. (T-115094) RT-004 are void while validating the sale between petitioner and Spouses Arayata, from which TCT No. (T-8718) RT-7973 emanated from.  The ultimate issue to be resolved is which between the titles of petitioner and respondent is genuine.  Clearly, this issue calls for a re-evaluation of the probative value of the evidence presented.  We agree with respondents’ contention that the issues raised are purely questions of fact that this Court cannot review in a certiorari petition.  As a general rule, factual findings of the trial court, especially those affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court when supported by the evidence on record.  There are recognized exceptions to this rule, among which are: (1) the conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based; (7) the finding of absence of facts is contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to the findings of the trial court; (9) the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts that, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (10) the findings of the Court of Appeals are beyond the issues of the case; and (11) such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties. However, in the instant case, petitioner failed to demonstrate that their petition falls under any one of the above exceptions.  We find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the RTC, which the Court of Appeals had affirmed.  Based on the foregoing, it now becomes unnecessary to dwell on the issues raised by petitioner, which are a mere rehash of their arguments before the appellate court.  Such arguments had in fact already been passed upon by the Court of Appeals.  Segundo G. Dimaranan vs. Heirs of Spouses Hermogenes Arayata, et al., G.R. No. 184193, March 29, 2010

Appeal; improper direct appeal to Supreme Court from Regional Trial Court. Finally, petitioner came directly to this Court on a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, in relation to Rule 41, of the Rules of Civil Procedure on alleged pure questions of law. In Murillo v. Consul, we laid down a doctrine that was later adopted by the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.  In that case, this Court had the occasion to clarify the three (3) modes of appeal from decisions of the RTC, namely: (1) ordinary appeal or appeal by writ of error, where judgment was rendered in a civil or criminal action by the RTC in the exercise of its original jurisdiction; (2) petition for review, where judgment was rendered by the RTC in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction; and (3) petition for review to the Supreme Court.

The first mode of appeal, governed by Rule 41, is brought to the Court of Appeals (CA) on questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. The second mode of appeal, covered by Rule 42, is brought to the CA on questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law. The third mode of appeal, provided in Rule 45, is filed with the Supreme Court only on questions of law.

A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.  Our ruling in Velayo-Fong vs. Velayo is instructive:  “A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact. Thus, the test of whether a question is one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise it is a question of fact.”

In her Reply to respondent’s Comment, petitioner prayed that this Court decide the case on the merits.  To do so, however, would require the examination by this Court of the probative value of the evidence presented, taking into account the fact that the RTC failed to adjudicate this controversy on the merits. This, unfortunately, we cannot do.  It thus becomes exceedingly clear that the filing of the case directly with this Court ran afoul of the doctrine of hierarchy of courts. Pursuant to this doctrine, direct resort from the lower courts to the Supreme Court will not be entertained unless the appropriate remedy sought cannot be obtained in the lower tribunals. This Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the Constitution and by immemorial tradition.  Generosa Almeda Latorre vs. Luis Esteban Latorre, G.R. No. 183926, March 29, 2010

Appeal; issue raised for first time on appeal. Titan argues that the CA erred in not ruling that, even assuming the sale was void, on grounds of equity, Martha should reimburse petitioner its payment with legal interest. We note that this equity argument was raised for the first time before the CA, which disposed of it in this manner:  “Anent defendant-appellant’s claim that the court a quo and this Court never considered the substantial amount of money paid by it to Martha David as consideration for the sale of the subject property, suffice it to say that said matter is being raised for the first time in the instant motion for reconsideration. If well-recognized jurisprudence precludes raising an issue only for the first time on appeal proper, with more reason should such issue be disallowed or disregarded when initially raised only in a motion for reconsideration of the decision of the appellate court.  Nonetheless, record shows that only defendant-appellant was initially sued by plaintiff-appellee in his complaint for annulment of contract and reconveyance upon the allegation that the sale executed by his wife, Martha David, of their conjugal property in favor of defendant-appellant was without his knowledge and consent and, therefore, null and void. In its answer, defendant-appellant claimed that it bought the property in good faith and for value from Martha David and prayed for the dismissal of the complaint and the payment of his counterclaim for attorney’s fees, moral and exemplary damages. Subsequently, plaintiff-appellee filed a motion for leave to file amended complaint by impleading Martha David as a defendant, attaching the amended complaint thereto, copies of which were furnished defendant-appellant, through counsel. The amended complaint was admitted by the court a quo in an Order dated October 23, 1996. Martha David was declared in default for failure to file an answer. The record does not show [that] a cross-claim was filed by defendant-appellant against Martha David for the return of the amount of PhP1,500,000.00 it paid to the latter as consideration for the sale of the subject property. x x x Thus, to hold Martha David liable to defendant-appellant for the return of the consideration for the sale of the subject property, without any claim therefore being filed against her by the latter, would violate her right to due process. The essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and submit any evidence one may have in support of his defense. It is elementary that before a person can be deprived of his property, he should be first informed of the claim against him and the theory on which such claim is premised.”  (Emphasis supplied)

While it is true that litigation is not a game of technicalities, it is equally true that elementary considerations of due process require that a party be duly apprised of a claim against him before judgment may be rendered.  Thus, we cannot, in these proceedings, order the return of the amounts paid by Titan to Martha.  However, Titan is not precluded by this Decision from instituting the appropriate action against Martha before the proper court.  Titan Construction Corporation vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010

Appeal; late filing excused. Petitioners allege that the petition filed before the Court of Appeals should have been dismissed for late filing.  Petitioners allege that respondent only had 15 days from 19 October 2004, the date of receipt of the 18 October 2004 DOJ Resolution, within which to file a petition for review before the Court of Appeals.  However, respondent filed his petition only on 4 November 2004, or one day beyond the reglementary period for filing the petition for review.  Petitioners allege that when the petition was filed, the 18 October 2004 DOJ Resolution had already lapsed into finality.  We do not agree.  A one-day delay does not justify the appeal’s dismissal where no element of intent to delay the administration of justice could be attributed to the petitioner.  The Court has ruled: “The general rule is that the perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period prescribed by law is, not only mandatory, but jurisdictional, and failure to conform to the rules will render the judgment sought to be reviewed final and unappealable. By way of exception, unintended lapses are disregarded so as to give due course to appeals filed beyond the reglementary period on the basis of strong and compelling reasons, such as serving the ends of justice and preventing a grave miscarriage thereof.  The purpose behind the limitation of the period of appeal is to avoid an unreasonable delay in the administration of justice and to put an end to controversies.”

Respondent had a valid excuse for the late filing of the petition before the Court of Appeals.  It is not disputed that there was a pending petition for prohibition before the trial court.  Before filing the petition for review before the Court of Appeals, respondent had to withdraw the petition for prohibition before the trial court.  The trial court granted the withdrawal of the petition only on 4 November 2004, the date of filing of the petition for review before the Court of Appeals.  Under the circumstances, we find the one-day delay in filing the petition for review excusable.  We reiterate:  “Rules of procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice.  If the application of the Rules would tend to frustrate rather than to promote justice, it is always within our power to suspend the rules or except a particular case from their operation.  Law and jurisprudence grant to courts the prerogative to relax compliance with the procedural rules, even the most mandatory in character, mindful of the duty to reconcile the need to put an end to litigation speedily and the parties’ right to an opportunity to be heard.”

Hence, we sustain the Court of Appeals in accepting the petition for review although it was filed one-day late.  Department of Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez, et al. vs. Michael Alfio PennisiG.R. No. 169958, March 5, 2010

Appeal; question of fact distinguished from question of law. This Court had repeatedly clarified the distinction between a question of law and a question of fact. A question of law exists when the doubt or controversy concerns the correct application of law or jurisprudence to a certain set of facts; or when the issue does not call for an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of facts being admitted.  A question of fact, on the other hand, exists when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of facts or when the query invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of the witnesses, the existence and relevance of specific surrounding circumstances, as well as their relation to each other and to the whole, and the probability of the situation.  Segundo G. Dimaranan vs. Heirs of Spouses Hermogenes Arayata, et al., G.R. No. 184193, March 29, 2010.

Appeal; question raised for first time on appeal. Finally, petitioner De Guia’s claim that he was an innocent purchaser for value, who bought the subject property without notice of the mortgage on the subject property, was not raised in the trial court.  As a rule, no question will be entertained on appeal unless it has been raised in the court below. Points of law, theories, issues and arguments not brought to the attention of the lower court need not be, and ordinarily will not be, considered by a reviewing court, as they cannot be raised for the first time at that late stage. Basic considerations of due process impel this rule.  Manuel T. De Guia for himself and as Attorney-in-fact of Fe Davis-Maramba, et al. vs. Sps. Teofilo Morte and Angelina Villarico Morte, G.R. No. 161074. March 22, 2010

Appeal; scope of review in Supreme Court. Furthermore, settled is the rule that only errors of law and not of fact are reviewable by this Court in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.  This applies with even greater force here, since the factual findings by the CA are in full agreement with those of the trial court.  Titan Construction Corporation vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010

Appeal; scope of review in Supreme Court. The issue for resolution of whether the CA committed a reversible error when it upheld the RTC judgment declaring the Kasulatan ng Sanglaan (Exhibit “A”) and the Kasulatan ng Pagpapabuwis ng Palaisdaan (Exhibit “C”), both dated November 10, 1979, as valid, is a factual issue.  In petitions for review on certiorari as a mode of appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the petitioner can raise only questions of law – the Supreme Court is not the proper venue to consider a factual issue as it is not a trier of facts.  A departure from the general rule may be warranted where the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are contrary to the findings and conclusions of the trial court, or when the same is unsupported by the evidence on record, which we found not obtaining in this case.  Manuel T. De Guia for himself and as Attorney-in-fact of Fe Davis-Maramba, et al. vs. Sps. Teofilo Morte and Angelina Villarico Morte, G.R. No. 161074. March 22, 2010

Certiorari; burden to show exception to requirement of motion for reconsideration. In the case at bar, the petitioners stated in their Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition before the CA as follows:

18. Respondent sheriff and his deputies are now set to implement the said writ of possession and are now poised to evict the students and teachers from their classrooms, grounds and school facilities;

19. Petitioners did not anymore file a motion for reconsideration of said order x x x and is proceeding directly to this Honorable Court because the filing of a motion for reconsideration would serve no useful purpose x x x Besides the relief sought is extremely urgent as the respondent sheriff is set to implement the questioned orders x x x and the circumstances herein clearly indicate the urgency of judicial intervention x x x hence, this petition.

Plainly, the petitioners have the burden to substantiate that their immediate resort to the appellate court is based on any of the exceptions to the general rule.   They have to show the urgent and compelling reasons for such recourse.  The afore-cited allegations of the petitioners in their petition before the CA did not dispense with the burden of establishing that their case falls under any of the exceptions to the general rule.  Unlike the case of Ronquillo vs. Court of Appeals cited by the petitioners, where not only was a writ of execution issued but petitioner’s properties were already scheduled to be sold at public auction on April 2, 1980 at 10:00 a.m., the herein petitioners failed to show the specificity and imminence of the urgency confronting their immediate recourse to the appellate court.  We therefore hold that the CA correctly found the necessity for a prior resort to a motion for reconsideration prior to the institution of the Petition for Certiorari.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Certiorari; determination of sufficiency of petition. The discretion on initially determining the sufficiency of a petition for certiorari lies with the court before which the petition was filed.  In this matter, the CA determined the petition filed before it to be sufficient.   We sustain the CA’s determination for the reasons specified below.  First, the failure to comply with the rule on a statement of material dates in the petition may be excused since the dates are evident from the records.  In the case at bar, the petition for certiorari filed before the CA contained a statement of material dates.  Although the date of filing of the motion for reconsideration was not stated, it is nevertheless evident from the records that the said motion for reconsideration was filed on time on December 10, 2001.  Second, “the Rules do not specify the precise documents, pleadings or parts of the records that should be appended to the petition other than the judgment, final order, or resolution being assailed.  The Rules only state that such documents, pleadings or records should be relevant or pertinent to the assailed resolution, judgment or orders; as such, the initial determination of which pleading, document or parts of the records are relevant to the assailed order, resolution or judgment, falls upon the petitioner.  The CA will ultimately determine if the supporting documents are sufficient to even make out a prima facie case”.  The CA, having given due course to the petition, must have found the documents sufficient.  We find no sufficient reason to reverse the Decision of the CA.  Third, the caption of the petition filed with the CA may not have specified the individual names of the heirs of Dr. Deleste but the verification contained all the names and signatures of the four heirs.  The petition sufficiently contains the full names of the petitioners therein, thus substantially complying with the requirement of the Rules of Court.  Technicalities that impede the cause of justice must be avoided.  In Heirs of Generoso A. Juaban v. Bancale, which also finds application to the present case, the Court elaborated:   “The court has the discretion to dismiss or not to dismiss an appellant’s appeal. It is a power conferred on the court, not a duty. The discretion must be a sound one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case. Technicalities, however, must be avoided.  The law abhors technicalities that impede the cause of justice. The court’s primary duty is to render or dispense justice.  Litigations must be decided on their merits and not on technicality. Every party litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the unacceptable plea of technicalities. Thus, dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice. It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.”  Atty. Voltaire I. Rovira vs. Heirs of Jose C. Delestre, et al., G.R. No. 160825, March 26, 2010

Certiorari; exhaustion of administrative remedies. We have held in a litany of cases that the extraordinary remedies of certiorari and mandamus are available only when there is no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, such as a motion for reconsideration. The writ of certiorari does not lie where another adequate remedy is available for the correction of the error.  Likewise, mandamus is granted only in cases where no other remedy is available which is sufficient to afford redress because generally, a writ of mandamus will not lie from one branch of the government to a coordinate branch, for the obvious reason that neither is inferior to the other.  However, there are several exceptions where a petition for certiorari will lie without the prior filing of a motion for reconsideration, to wit:

a. where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo has no jurisdiction;

b. where the questions raised in the certiorari 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;

c. where there is an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question and any further delay would prejudice the interests of the government or the petitioner or the subject matter of the action is perishable;

d. where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration would be useless;

e. where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief;

f. where, in a criminal case, relief from an order of arrest is urgent and the granting of such relief by the trial court is improbable;

g. where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process;

h. where the proceedings was ex parte or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; and

i. where the issue raised is one purely of law or where public interest is involved.  (Emphasis supplied)

The thrust of the rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies is that courts must allow administrative agencies to carry out their functions and discharge their responsibilities within the specialized areas of their respective competence. To this end, administrative agencies are afforded a chance to correct any previous error committed in its forum. Furthermore, reasons of law, comity, and convenience prevent the courts from entertaining cases proper for determination by administrative agencies.  In this case, a motion for reconsideration is a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Petitioners should have first filed a motion for reconsideration of the 30 September 2004 order of the Office of the President. They cannot prematurely resort to a petition for certiorari on the wrong assumption that a plain reading of the 30 September 2004 order hinted that it was already final and executory. The parties are presumed to know the hornbook rule that judgments become final and executory only upon the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal or to file a motion for reconsideration without any appeal or motion for reconsideration having been made.  Petitioners submit they no longer filed a motion for reconsideration of the 30 September 2004 order because it would have been useless. Petitioners point out that the 30 September 2004 order warned that no further pleadings would be entertained. We are not convinced that this constitutes an exception to the rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies. Petitioners may not arrogate to themselves the determination of whether a motion for reconsideration is necessary or not.  The language of the order notwithstanding, petitioners are bound by procedural rules and may not disregard the same on a wrong assumption that a motion for reconsideration might no longer be entertained. Even so, they should have awaited the denial of their motion for reconsideration before filing the extraordinary remedy of petition for certiorari.  Pio Delos Reyes, represented by heirs Fidel Delos Reyes, et al. vs. Hon. Waldo Q. Flores in his capacity as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary, Office of the President, et al., G.R. No. 168726, March 5, 2010

Certiorari; findings of fact of administrative agency. As to the merits of the case, the question of whether petitioners owned landholdings used for residential, commercial, industrial, or other urban purposes from which they derived adequate income is a question of fact. In a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only questions of law, not of fact, may be raised before this Court. Well-settled is the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts. It is not this Court’s function to re-examine the respective sets of evidence submitted by the parties.  As this case involves the application of P.D. No. 27 and LOI No. 474, the DAR Secretary, owing to his agrarian expertise, is in a better position to make a final determination whether petitioners’ landholdings may be subject of exclusion from operation land transfer or retention. This Court need not weigh anew the evidence submitted by the parties and supplant the findings of fact by the DAR Secretary, especially when such findings are fully supported by evidence consisting of certifications issued by the Office of the Provincial Assessor of Bataan and the various certificates of title on record.  Pio Delos Reyes, represented by heirs Fidel Delos Reyes, et al. vs. Hon. Waldo Q. Flores in his capacity as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary, Office of the President, et al., G.R. No. 168726,  March 5, 2010)

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. In Garcia, Jr. vs. Court of Appeals, the Court defined grave abuse of discretion: “Grave abuse of discretion is defined as such capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.  The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.”

PCGG failed to show that the Sandiganbayan acted with grave abuse of discretion.  The Resolutions ordering the release to Silangan and Polygon of their Oceanic cash dividends, with interest, were grounded on sound legal and factual bases: (1) PCGG agreed to the release to Silangan of 49% of its cash dividends, with interest; (2) Benedicto ceded to the government his 51% equity in Silangan, not Oceanic; (3) Silangan, being a stockholder of Oceanic, was entitled to the cash dividends declared by the company;        (4) Silangan engaged the services of M.M. Lazaro & Associates and agreed to pay 15% of the total amount it may recover as contingent fee; (5) in its 25 April 1994 Decision, the Sandiganbayan declared void PCGG’s sequestration of the Oceanic shares of stock in the names of Polygon, Aerocom, Silangan, Belgor, Jose and Victor — Silanan and Polygon were not sequestered; (6) In Presidential Commission, the Court affirmed the Sandiganbayan’s 25 April 1994 Decision; (7) Presidential Commission became final and executory and was entered in the Book of Entries of Judgments; (8) the Sandiganbayan issued a writ of execution, dated 30 September 2003, to implement the 25 April 1994 Decision; and (9) the 30 September 2003 writ of execution was implemented. Silangan and Polygon are entitled to their Oceanic cash dividends, with interest, because they are not sequestered or impleaded in Civil Case No. 0009.  In PCGG vs. Sandiganbayan, the Court affirmed the Resolutions of the Sandiganbayan ordering the release to Aerocom of its cash dividends because Aerocom was not sequestered or impleaded in Civil Case No. 0009.  Presidential Commission on Good Government vs. Silangan Investors and Managers, Inc. et al./Presidential Commission on Good Government vs. Polygon Investors and Managers, Incorporated, et al., G.R. Nos. 167055-56/G.R. No. 170673, March 25, 2010

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. Given petitioner’s flawed arguments, we hold that the respondent court did not commit any grave abuse of discretion. Grave abuse of discretion is present when there is an arbitrary exercise of power owing from passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; or a whimsical, arbitrary, or capricious exercise of power that amounts to a shirking from or refusal to perform a positive duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law.  The abuse of discretion must be patent and gross for the act to be held as one made with grave abuse of discretion.  We find respondent court’s issuance of the assailed orders justified and with no abuse of discretion. Its reliance on the provisions of PD 1083 in asserting its jurisdiction was sound and unassailable.  Sultan Yahya “Jerry” M. Tomawis vs. Hon Rasad G. Balindong, et al., G.R. No. 182434, March 5, 2010

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion. There is grave abuse discretion where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility which must be so patent and gross as to amount to an invasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.  Petitioner contends that public respondent COMELEC en banc committed grave abuse of discretion when it proceeded to decide and thereby grant private respondent’s Petition for Injunction and Prayer for the Issuance of a Status Quo Ante Order, without considering the fact of dismissal of private respondent’s Notice of Appeal. Petitioner further avers that the allowance by the COMELEC Second Division of private respondent’s Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Writ of Execution, notwithstanding the dismissal of private respondent’s Notice of Appeal, amounted to the reversal of the decision of the RTC via a mere motion and not via an appeal as inscribed in our Constitution. What the law forbids to be done directly was made possible by private respondent indirectly.

A careful review of the antecedent facts bears out the fact that, indeed, the COMELEC Second Division granted private respondent Tolean’s petition for injunction without considering that it had already dismissed private respondent’s Notice of Appeal. It is undisputed that on April 20, 2009, private respondent filed the subject petition for injunction before the COMELEC Second Division, to enjoin the execution of the Decision of the RTC, citing mainly as ground the fact that the victory of petitioner had not been clearly and sufficiently established due to the pendency of his Notice of Appeal. However, on June 1, 2009, while the petition for injunction was still pending, the COMELEC Second Division dismissed private respondent’s Notice of Appeal due to his failure to pay the required appeal fees in violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 8486, which states, thus:

XXX                                                                      XXX                                                                      XXX

With the dismissal by the COMELEC Second Division of private respondent’s Notice of Appeal without any showing that he had appealed the dismissal to the COMELEC en banc, the decision of the RTC proclaiming petitioner as the duly elected Vice-Mayor of Sabangan, Mountain Province becomes final and executory. Thus, the dismissal of private respondent’s Notice of Appeal settles absolutely the victory of petitioner and the defeat of private respondent in the vice-mayoralty race.  Considering the foregoing, the COMELEC Second Division gravely abused its discretion when it granted private respondent’s petition for injunction on September 22, 2009 after the victory of petitioner Bernardez had already become final.  To reiterate, the petition for injunction was filed by private respondent to enjoin the RTC from executing its decision proclaiming petitioner as Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Sabangan due to the pendency of the Notice of Appeal. Since it has been ruled that the Notice of Appeal was rightfully dismissed and the ruling has become final and executory, it follows then that the right sought to be protected and the irreparable injury sought to be prevented by the private respondent through injunction or prohibition has already been rendered fait accompli. Joseph Bernardez vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190382, March 9, 2010

Certiorari; motion for reconsideration. As a general rule, a motion for reconsideration should precede recourse to certiorari in order to give the trial court an opportunity to correct the error that it may have committed.  The said rule is not absolute and may be dispensed with in instances where the filing of a motion for reconsideration would serve no useful purpose, such as when the motion for reconsideration would raise the same point stated in the motion or where the error is patent for the order is void or where the relief is extremely urgent, as in cases where execution had already been ordered where the issue raised is one purely of law.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Certiorari; nature of remedy. The Court is not impressed.  In petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioner must show that respondent tribunal acted with grave abuse of discretion.  In Angara vs. Fedman Development Corporation, the Court held that: “Certiorari under Rule 65 is a remedy narrow in scope and inflexible in character.  It is not a general utility tool in the legal workshop.  It offers only a limited form of review.  Its principal function is to keep an inferior tribunal within its jurisdiction.  It can be invoked only for an error of jurisdiction, that is, one where the act complained of was issued by the court, officer or a quasi-judicial body without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion which is tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”  Presidential Commission on Good Government vs. Silangan Investors and Managers, Inc. et al./Presidential Commission on Good Government vs. Polygon Investors and Managers, Incorporated, et al., G.R. Nos. 167055-56/G.R. No. 170673, March 25, 2010

Certiorari; not available to review final order; exception. Private respondent’s claim that the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is a wrong remedy thus the petition should be dismissed, is not persuasive.  A petition for certiorari is proper when any tribunal, board or 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 at law.  There is “grave abuse of discretion” when public respondent acts in a capricious or whimsical manner in the exercise of its judgment as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.  Section 1, Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure states that an appeal may be taken only from a final order that completely disposes of the case; that no appeal may be taken from (a) an order denying a motion for new trial or reconsideration; (b) an order denying a petition for relief or any similar motion seeking relief from judgment; (c) an interlocutory order; (d) an order disallowing or dismissing an appeal; (e) an order denying a motion to set aside a judgment by consent, confession or compromise on the ground of fraud, mistake or duress, or any other ground vitiating consent; (f) an order of execution; (g) a judgment or final order for or against one or more of several parties or in separate claims, counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party complaints, while the main case is pending, unless the court allows an appeal therefrom; or (h) an order dismissing an action without prejudice.  In all the above instances where the judgment or final order is not appealable, the aggrieved party may file an appropriate special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65.  In this case, the RTC Order granting the motion to dismiss filed by private respondent is a final order because it terminates the proceedings against her, but it falls within exception (g) of the Rule since the case involves several defendants, and the complaint for damages against these defendants is still pending.  Since there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in law, the remedy of a special civil action for certiorari is proper as there is a need to promptly relieve the aggrieved party from the injurious effects of the acts of an inferior court or tribunal.  Leah Palma vs. Hon. Danilo P. Galvez, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, et al., G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010

Certiorari and mandamus; motion for reconsideration. Petitioners contend the Court of Appeals erred when it dismissed the petition for certiorari and mandamus despite sufficient allegation in the petition why the motion for reconsideration would be useless, one of the exceptions to the rule on exhaustion of administrative remedies. Petitioners claim they no longer filed a motion for  reconsideration of the 30 September 2004 order because it was already final and executory on its face as the order itself stated that no further pleadings would be entertained. Petitioners submit that a disposition of controversies through resolution on the merits is preferred over a peremptory dismissal by reason of a technicality.  Respondents maintain that the filing of a motion for reconsideration is a condition sine qua non to the filing of a petition for certiorari, being the plain and adequate remedy referred to in Section 1 of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Respondents argue that a petition for certiorari will not prosper unless the administrative agency has been given, through a motion for reconsideration, a chance to correct the errors imputed to it. Respondents insist the law intends to afford the administrative agency an opportunity to rectify the errors it may have lapsed into before resort to the courts of justice can be had.  At the outset, we must point out that petitioners’ arguments are a mere rehash of their arguments in the petition for certiorari and mandamus filed in the Court of Appeals. We agree with the Court of Appeals that petitioners ignored the procedural requirement of filing a motion for reconsideration and simply went ahead with the filing of a petition for certiorari and mandamus. The appellate court correctly dismissed the same for prematurity.  Pio Delos Reyes, represented by heirs Fidel Delos Reyes, et al. vs. Hon. Waldo Q. Flores in his capacity as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary, Office of the President, et al., G.R. No. 168726,  March 5, 2010

Dismissals; dismissal on motion for preliminary hearing on special and affirmative defenses. But the CA seems to have missed the point in the RTC decision.  It will be recalled that petitioner Doña Rosana Realty filed a motion with the RTC to hear and resolve its affirmative defenses.  The RTC did so and resolved to deny the motion.  On a petition filed with the CA, however, the latter court directed the RTC to hear and resolve Doña Rosana Realty’s affirmative defense of good faith in buying Medina’s property.  The RTC complied and, after hearing the evidence of the parties, dismissed the case, holding that Doña Rosana Realty and its president were buyers of the property in good faith and Molave Development did not have a cause of action against them.  Clearly, the RTC did not dismiss the case on the ground that the complaint did not state a cause of action, which is an entirely different matter. Section 1, Rule 16 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the trial court may dismiss a complaint on the ground that the claim or demand set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint has been paid, waived, abandoned, or otherwise extinguished.  This ground essentially admits the obligation set out in the complaint but points out that such obligation has been extinguished, in this case apparently by abandonment after respondent Molave Development received partial reimbursement from Medina as a consequence of the cancellation of contract to sell between them.  On March 13, 1997, 10 days after it filed its complaint with the RTC, Molave Development acknowledged having received P1.3 million as a consideration for the cancellation of its contract to sell with Medina.  The acknowledgment receipt its president signed reads:

ACKNOWLEDGMENT RECEIPT

This is to acknowledge the receipt of one (1) Allied Bank Check No. 25111954 dated March 4, 1997 in the amount of ONE MILLION THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND (P1,300,000.00) from Ms. Carmelita Austria Medina as partial reimbursement pursuant to the cancelled Contract to Sell (Doc. No. 447; page 190; Book 114; Series of 1994 Notarial Register of Atty. Delfin R. Supapo, Jr.) entered into between Ms. Medina and Molave Dev. Corporation over that parcel of land located at Bamban, Tarlac covered by TCT No. T-31590.

Makati City.  March 13, 1997.

MOLAVE DEV. CORPORATION

by:

TEOFISTA P. TINITIGAN

President

Tinitigan of respondent Molave Development of course later asserted that she signed the above receipt because Medina’s lawyer would not have released the check to her.  But this is not a valid ground for claiming vitiation of consent.  If she did not want to agree to the cancellation, she had no business signing the receipt and accepting the check.  She could very well have stood her ground and pressed for complete performance of the contract to sell.  Having received the P1.3 million, Molave Development’s remaining remedy was to pursue a claim for the balance of P1 million that it paid Medina upon the execution of the contract to sell.  Doña Rosana Realty and Development Corp., et al. vs. Molave Development Corp., G.R No. 180523, March 26, 2010

Execution; execution of judgment for conveyance of land. The petitioner contends that the RTC did not see to it that the writ of execution be first served on her, and a demand for her compliance be first made; hence, the deed of absolute sale executed by the Branch Clerk of Court to implement the judgment was void.   We do not agree.  The CA found that it was the petitioner who did not comply with the notice of the sheriff of the implementation of the judgment through the writ of execution; and that her non-compliance then justified the RTC’s order to the Branch Clerk of Court to execute the deed of absolute sale to implement the final judgment rendered in G. R. No. 103577.  The fact that the petitioner and her counsel maneuvered to thwart, or, at least, to delay the inevitable execution of the judgment warranted the RTC’s directing the Branch Clerk of Court execute the deed of absolute sale to implement the judgment. The RTC’s effort to implement the judgment could not be stymied by the petitioner’s deliberate refusal to comply with the judgment. Such deliberate refusal called for the RTC to order the Branch Clerk of Court to execute the deed of absolute sale in favor of Ramona, which move of the trial court was precisely authorized by Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, to wit:  “Section 10. Execution of judgments for specific act. — (a) Conveyance, delivery of deeds, or other specific acts; vesting title. — If a judgment directs a party to execute a conveyance of land or personal property, or to deliver deeds or other documents, or to perform any other specific act in connection therewith, and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the court and the act when so done shall have like effect as if done by the party. If real or personal property is situated within the Philippines, the court in lieu of directing a conveyance thereof may be an order divest the title of any party and vest it in others, which shall have the force and effect of a conveyance executed in due form of law.”  Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag vs. The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, et al., G.R. No. 153142. March 29, 2010

Filing fees; National Power Corporation not exempt from payment. Hence, the subject letter of [National Power Corporation] for clarification as to its exemption from the payment of filing fees and court fees.  Section 22 of Rule 141 reads: “Sec. 22. Government exempt. – The Republic of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities are exempt from paying the legal fees provided in this rule.  Local government units and government-owned or controlled corporations with or without independent charters are not exempt from paying such fees. “(emphasis supplied)

Section 70 of Republic Act No. 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001), on privatization of NPC assets, expressly states that the NPC “shall remain as a national government-owned and controlled corporation.”

Thus, NPC is not exempt from payment of filing fees.  The non-exemption of NPC is further fortified by the promulgation on February 11, 2010 of A.M. No. 08-2-01-0, In re: Petition for Recognition of the Exemption of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from Payment of Legal Fees. In said case, the Court, citing Echegaray vs. Secretary of Justice, stressed that the 1987 Constitution took away the power of Congress to repeal, alter or supplement rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure; and that the power to promulgate these rules is no longer shared by the Court with Congress and the Executive, thus:

XXX                                                                      XXX                                                        XXX

With the foregoing categorical pronouncement of the Court, it is clear that NPC can no longer invoke Republic Act No. 6395 (NPC Charter), as amended by Presidential Decree No. 938, as its basis for exemption from the payment of legal fees.    Re: Exemption of the National Power Corporation from payment of filing/docket fees, A.M. No. 05-10-20-SC, March  10,  2010

Foreclosure of mortgage; remedy not barred by B.P. Blg. 22 prosecution. The foregoing findings notwithstanding, the Spouses Torres contend that the election of Medina from sue them for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 bars Medina from the remedy of foreclosure of mortgage.  The Spouses Torres, citing Bank of America NT & SA vs. American Realty Corporation (Bank of America), thus argue:  “x x x the remedies available to the mortgage creditor are deemed alternative and not cumulative. Notably, an election of one remedy operates as a waiver of the other. For this purpose, a remedy is deemed chosen upon the fling of the suit for collection or upon the filing of the complaint in an action for foreclosure of mortgage, pursuant to the provision of Rule 68 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. As to extrajudicial foreclosure, such remedy is deemed elected by the mortgage creditor upon filing of the petition not with any court of justice but with the Office of the Sheriff of the province where the sale is to be made, in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 3135, as amended by Act No. 4118.”

The argument of the Spouses Torres is misplaced.  The doctrine found in Bank of America, and in related cases, finds no application to the case at bar, as the filing of  a B.P. Blg. 22 case is not the “collection suit” contemplated by law and jurisprudence, which bars a mortgagee from later on electing to foreclose the mortgaged property.

XXX                                                        XXX                                                        XXX

It bears stressing that in Que vs. People, this Court stated that the clear intention of the framers of B.P. Blg. 22 is to make the mere act of issuing a worthless check malum prohibitum. In prosecutions for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 therefore, prejudice or damage is not a pre-requisite for conviction.  In the later case of People vs. Nitafan, this Court ruled that the agreement surrounding the issuance of the checks need not be first looked into since the law has clearly provided that the mere issuance of any kind of check, regardless of the intent of the parties, i.e., whether the check is intended merely to serve as a guarantee or deposit, but which check is subsequently dishonored, makes the person who issued the check liable. The intent of the law is to curb the proliferation of worthless checks as a means of payment of obligations.    Spouses Fernando Torres and Irma Torres vs. Amparo Medina, et al., G.R. No. 166730, March 10, 2010

Injunction; nature of remedy. In Caneland Sugar Corporation vs. Alon, it was settled that injunctive reliefs are preservative remedies for the protection of substantive rights and interests.  Injunction is not a cause of action in itself, but merely a provisional remedy, an adjunct to a main suit. When the act sought to be enjoined has become fait accompli, the prayer for provisional remedy should be denied.  In Go vs. Looyuko, the Court ruled that when the events sought to be prevented by injunction or prohibition have already happened, nothing more could be enjoined or prohibited. Indeed, it is a universal principle of law that an injunction will not issue to restrain the performance of an act already done. This is so for the simple reason that nothing more can be done in reference thereto. A writ of injunction becomes moot and academic after the act sought to be enjoined has already been consummated.  Joseph Bernardez vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190382, March 9, 2010

Judgment; binding effect of Supreme Court’s findings. It is important to emphasize at this point that in the recent case resolved by this Court En Banc in 2007, entitled Manotok Realty, Inc. vs. CLT Realty Development Corporation (the 2007 Manotok case), as well as the succeeding resolution in the same case dated March 31, 2009 (the 2009 Manotok case), the controversy surrounding the Maysilo Estate and the question of the existence of another OCT No. 994 have been finally laid to rest.  All other cases involving said estate and OCT No. 994, such as the case at bar, are bound by the findings and conclusions set forth in said resolutions.  As stated earlier, petitioner anchors her claim on previous cases decided by this Court which have held that there are two existing OCT No. 994, dated differently, and the one from which she and her co-plaintiffs (in Civil Case No. C-424) derived their rights was dated earlier, hence, was the superior title.  Regrettably, petitioner’s claim no longer has a leg to stand on.  As we held in the 2007 Manotok case: “The determinative test to resolve whether the prior decision of this Court should be affirmed or set aside is whether or not the titles invoked by the respondents are valid. If these titles are sourced from the so-called OCT No. 994 dated 17 April 1917, then such titles are void or otherwise should not be recognized by this Court. Since the true basic factual predicate concerning OCT No. 994 which is that there is only one such OCT differs from that expressed in the MWSS and Gonzaga decisions, said rulings have become virtually functus officio except on the basis of the “law of the case” doctrine, and can no longer be relied upon as precedents.”

Specifically, petitioner cannot anymore insist that OCT No. 994 allegedly issued on April 19, 1917 validly and actually exists, given the following conclusions made by this Court in the 2007 Manotok case:

First, there is only one OCT No. 994. As it appears on the record, that mother title was received for transcription by the Register of Deeds on 3 May 1917, and that should be the date which should be reckoned as the date of registration of the title. It may also be acknowledged, as appears on the title, that OCT No. 994 resulted from the issuance of the decree of registration on [19] April 1917, although such date cannot be considered as the date of the title or the date when the title took effect.

Second. Any title that traces its source to OCT No. 994 dated [19] April 1917 is void, for such mother title is inexistent. The fact that the Dimson and CLT titles made specific reference to an OCT No. 994 dated [19] April 1917 casts doubt on the validity of such titles since they refer to an inexistent OCT. x x x.

Third. The decisions of this Court in MWSS vs. Court of Appeals and Gonzaga vs. Court of Appeals cannot apply to the cases at bar, especially in regard to their recognition of an OCT No. 994 dated 19 April 1917, a title which we now acknowledge as inexistent. Neither could the conclusions in MWSS or Gonzaga with respect to an OCT No. 994 dated 19 April 1917 bind any other case operating under the factual setting the same as or similar to that at bar. (Emphases supplied.)

Thus, in the 2009 Manotok case, this Court evaluated the evidence engaged in by said Special Division, and adopted the latter’s conclusions as to the status of the original title and its subsequent conveyances.  This case affirmed the earlier finding that “there is only one OCT No. 994, the registration date of which had already been decisively settled as 3 May 1917 and not 19 April 1917” and categorically concluded that “OCT No. 994 which reflects the date of 19 April 1917 as its registration date is null and void.”  In the case at bar, petitioner is the last surviving co-plaintiff in Civil Case No. C-424 originally filed on May 3, 1965.  The records bear several attempts of different individuals to represent her as counsel, a matter that could be attributed to her advanced age and potential access to a vast sum of money, should she get a favorable decision from this case.  It appears, however, that the partition and accounting of a portion of the Maysilo Estate that she and her co-plaintiffs prayed for can no longer prosper because of the conclusive findings quoted above that the very basis of their claim, a second, albeit earlier registered, OCT No. 994, does not existFidela R. Angeles vs. The Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R.  No.  142549, March 9, 2010

Judgment; finality of judgment. Once a judgment attains finality, it becomes immutable and unalterable. A final and executory judgment may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land.  Litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential to an effective administration of justice that once a judgment has become final, the issue or cause involved therein should be laid to rest.  Utmost respect and adherence to this principle must always be maintained by those who wield the power of adjudication.  Any act which violates it must be struck down.   Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. First Plywood Corporation/Jose Cabaral Tiu v. Timber Exports, Inc. Angel Domingo, Country Bankers Ins. Corp., Perfecto Mondarte, Jr. and Cesar Dacal, G.R. No. 176123/G.R. No.  185265, March 10, 2010

Judgment; obiter dictum. Petitioner contends that in Santos III vs. Northwest Orient Airlines, the cause of action was based on a breach of contract while her cause of action arose from the tortious conduct of the airline personnel and violation of the Civil Code provisions on Human Relations.  In addition, she claims that our pronouncement in Santos III vs. Northwest Orient Airlines that “the allegation of willful misconduct resulting in a tort is insufficient to exclude the case from the comprehension of the Warsaw Convention,” is more of an obiter dictum rather than the ratio decidendi. She maintains that the fact that said acts occurred aboard a plane is merely incidental, if not irrelevant.  We disagree with the position taken by the petitioner.  Black defines obiter dictum as “an opinion entirely unnecessary for the decision of the case” and thus “are not binding as precedent.” In Santos III vs. Northwest Orient Airlines, Augusto Santos III categorically put in issue the applicability of Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention if the action is based on tort.  In the said case, we held that the allegation of willful misconduct resulting in a tort is insufficient to exclude the case from the realm of the Warsaw Convention.  In fact, our ruling that a cause of action based on tort did not bring the case outside the sphere of the Warsaw Convention was our ratio decidendi in disposing of the specific issue presented by Augusto Santos III.  Clearly, the contention of the herein petitioner that the said ruling is an obiter dictum is without basis.  Edna Diago Lhuillier vs. British Airways, G.R. No. 171092, March 15, 2010

Judgment; obiter dictum. We explained the concept of an obiter dictum in Villanueva vs. Court of Appeals by saying:

It has been held that an adjudication on any point within the issues presented by the case cannot be considered as obiter dictum, and this rule applies to all pertinent questions, although only incidentally involved, which are presented and decided in the regular course of the consideration of the case, and led up to the final conclusion, and to any statement as to matter on which the decision is predicated. Accordingly, 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. A decision which the case could have turned on is not regarded as obiter dictum merely because, owing to the disposal of the contention, it was necessary to consider another question, nor can an additional reason in a decision, brought forward after the case has been disposed of on one ground, be regarded as dicta. So, also, where a case presents two (2) or more points, any one of which is sufficient to determine the ultimate issue, but the court actually decides all such points, the case as an authoritative precedent as to every point decided, and none of such points can be regarded as having the status of a dictum, and one point should not be denied authority merely because another point was more dwelt on and more fully argued and considered, nor does a decision on one proposition make statements of the court regarding other propositions dicta. [emphasis supplied.]

The Board’s pronouncement in its January 31, 2006 decision – that the Agreement could no longer be rescinded because the CR/LS had already been issued at the time the complaint was filed – cannot be considered a mere obiter dictum because it touched upon a matter squarely raised by World Class in its petition for review, specifically, the issue of whether GG Sportswear was entitled to a refund on the ground that it did not have a CR/LS at the time the parties entered into the Agreement.   G.G. Sportswear Mfg. Corp vs. World Class Properties, Inc., G.R. No. 182720, March 2, 2010

Judgment; finality of judgment or ruling. With this ruling, the Board reversed the Arbiter’s ruling on this particular issue, expressly stating that “the absence of the certificate of registration and license to sell no longer existed at the time of the filing of the complaint and could no longer be used as basis to demand rescission.” This ruling became final when GG Sportswear chose not to file an appeal with the OP. Thus, even if the Board ultimately awarded a refund to GG Sportswear based entirely on another ground, the Board’s ruling on the non-rescissible character of the Agreement is binding on the parties.  Consequently, the OP had no jurisdiction to revert to the Arbiter’s earlier declaration that the Agreement was void due to World Class’s lack of a CR/LS, a finding that clearly contradicted the Board’s final and executory ruling.  G.G. Sportswear Mfg. Corp vs. World Class Properties, Inc., G.R. No. 182720, March 2, 2010

Judgment; requirement to state legal and factual basis. Finally, Hutama questions the resolution of the CA on its motion for reconsideration on the ground that it denied the same without stating clearly and distinctly the factual and legal basis thereof.  In denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration, the CA ruled that it found no plausible reason to depart from its earlier decision wherein all the issues had been exhaustively passed upon. That ruling contained a sufficient legal reason or basis to deny the motion.  There was no need for the CA to restate the rationale for its decision that the petitioner wanted reconsidered.  Hutama-RSEA/Supermax Phils., J.V. vs. KCD Builders Corporation, represented by its President Celso C. Diokno, G.R. No.  173181, March 3, 2010

Judgment; res judicata. The petitioner cannot now insist that the RTC did not settle the question of the respondents’ qualifications to own land due to non-citizenship. It is fundamental that the judgment or final order is, with respect to the matter directly adjudged or as to any other matter that could have been raised in relation thereto, conclusive between the parties and their successors in interest by title subsequent to the commencement of the action or special proceeding, litigating for the same thing and under the same title and in the same capacity.  Thus, in Gabuya v. Layug, this Court had the occasion to hold that a judgment involving the same parties, the same facts, and the same issues binds the parties not only as to every matter offered and received to sustain or defeat their claims or demands, but also as to any other admissible matter that might have been offered for that purpose and all other matters that could have been adjudged in that case.  Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag vs. The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, et al., G.R. No. 153142. March 29, 2010

Judgment; res judicata. The present recourse has not been the only one taken by the petitioner and her counsel to assail the qualification of Ramona to acquire and own the subject property. In fact, the Court catalogued such recourses taken for the petitioner herein in A.C. No. 5469, entitled Foronda vs. Guerrero, an administrative case for disbarment commenced on June 29, 2001 by Ricardo A. Foronda (an attorney-in-fact of the respondents) against Atty. Arnold V. Guerrero, the attorney of the petitioner, as follows:

XXX                                                        XXX                                                        XXX

All the aforestated recourses have had the uniform result of sustaining the right of Ramona to acquire the property, which warranted a finding against Atty. Guerrero of resorting to forum shopping, and leading to his suspension from the practice of law for two years.  Such result fully affirms that the petitioner’s objection is now barred by res judicata.  For res judicata to bar the institution of a subsequent action, the following requisites must concur: (a) the former judgment must be final; (b) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties; (c) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (d) there must be between the first and second actions identity of parties, identity of the subject matter, and identity of cause of action.

XXX                                                        XXX                                                        XXX

The doctrine is also known as estoppel per rem judicatam and involves both cause of action estoppel and issue estoppel.  The purpose of the doctrine is two-fold – to prevent unnecessary proceedings involving expenses to the parties and wastage of the court’s time which could be used by others, and to avoid stale litigations as well as to enable the defendant to know the extent of the claims being made arising out of the same single incident.  Under the doctrine of res judicata, therefore, a final judgment or decree on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies in all later suits and on all points and matters determined in the previous suit.  The foundation principle upon which the doctrine rests is that the parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issue more than once; that when a right or fact has been judicially tried and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, so long as it remains unreversed, should be conclusive upon the parties and those in privity with them in law or estate.  Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag vs. The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, et al., G.R. No. 153142. March 29, 2010

Judgment; res judicata; absence of inconsistency test. This Court has previously employed various tests in determining whether or not there is identity of causes of action as to warrant the application of the principle of res judicata. One test of identity is the “absence of inconsistency test” where it is determined whether the judgment sought will be inconsistent with the prior judgment. If no inconsistency is shown, the prior judgment shall not constitute a bar to subsequent actions.  Spouses Fernando Torres and Irma Torres vs. Amparo Medina, et al., G.R. No. 166730, March 10,  2010

Judgment; res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment. It bears stressing that the doctrine of res judicata actually embraces two different concepts: (1) bar by former judgment and (b) conclusiveness of judgment.  The second concept – conclusiveness of judgment – states that a fact or question which was in issue in a former suit and was there judicially passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusively settled by the judgment therein as far as the parties to that action and persons in privity with them are concerned and cannot be again litigated in any future action between such parties or their privies, in the same court or any other court of concurrent jurisdiction on either the same or  different cause of action, while the judgment remains unreversed by proper authority. It has been held that in order that a judgment in one action can be conclusive as to a particular matter in another action between the same parties or their privies, it is essential that the issue be identical. If a particular point or question is in issue in the second action, and the judgment will depend on the determination of that particular point or question, a former judgment between the same parties or their privies will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first suit. Identity of cause of action is not required, but merely identity of issues.  Based on the foregoing, the validity of the real estate mortgage can no longer be attacked, more so because the decision in Civil Case No. Q-94-18962 has become final and Entry of Judgment has already been entered in our books.  It therefore goes without saying that the foreclosure of the mortgage is a right given to Medina as the same is embodied in the Deed of Real Estate Mortgage, to wit:

That it is further understood that if the MORTGAGOR shall well and truly perform the obligation above contracted then this Mortgage shall be null and void; otherwise, it shall remain in full force and effect and may be foreclosed extrajudicially under Act 3135 as amended.

Thus, this Court finds no error in the decisions of the lower court and the appellate court declaring that there exists, in fact, res judicata.  As succinctly put in FELS Energy, Inc. vs. Province of Batangas, res judicata, as a ground for dismissal, is based on two grounds, namely:

(1) public policy and necessity, which makes it to the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation — republicae ut sit litium; and (2) the hardship on the individual of being vexed twice for the same cause — nemo debet bis vexari et eadem causa. A conflicting doctrine would subject the public peace and quiet to the will and dereliction of individuals and prefer the regalement of the litigious disposition on the part of suitors to the preservation of the public tranquility and happiness.

Anent the fourth cause of action in Civil Case No. Q-99-38781, this Court finds that the Spouses Torres had already raised, in Civil Case No. 94-18962, the fact that eleven (11) counts of Batas Pambansa Bilang (B.P. Blg.) 22 violations are pending with Branch 36, Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Quezon City.  Thus, the RTC is correct in its observation that res judicata lies, as the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) checks referred to in the complaint in Civil Case No. Q-99-38781 are the very same documents subject of Civil Case No. Q-94-18962.  Spouses Fernando Torres and Irma Torres vs. Amparo Medina, et al., G.R. No. 166730, March 10, 2010

Judgment; res judicata; elements.  Res judicata literally means “a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by judgment.”  Res judicata lays the rule that an existing final judgment or decree rendered on the merits, and without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon any matter within its jurisdiction, is conclusive of the rights of the parties or their privies, in all other actions or suits in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction on the points and matters in issue in the first suit.  The elements of res judicata are:

(1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final;

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

(3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment on the merits; and

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

Spouses Fernando Torres and Irma Torres vs. Amparo Medina, et al., G.R. No. 166730, March 10, 2010

Jurisdiction; accion publiciana. Significantly, the Technical Report on Verification Survey by Engineer Robert C. Pangyarihan, which was attached to and formed part of the records, contained a tax declaration indicating that the subject property has an assessed value of P110,220.00.  It is basic that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value of the property enjoys the presumption of regularity as it has been issued by the proper government agency.  Under Republic Act No. 7691, the RTC in fact has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action.  Taking into consideration the decision of the MTC proclaiming that the case is one for accion publiciana and the assessed value of the property as evidenced by the case records, jurisdiction pertains, rightfully so, with the RTC.  Perforce, the petition should be denied.  Honorio Bernardo vs. Heirs of Eusebio Villegas, G.R. No. 183357, March 15, 2010

Jurisdiction; action for damages under Warsaw Convention. Under Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention, the plaintiff may bring the action for damages before –

1.              the court where the carrier is domiciled;

2.              the court where the carrier has its principal place of business;

3.              the court where the carrier has an establishment by which the contract has been made; or

4.               the court of the place of destination.

In this case, it is not disputed that respondent is a British corporation domiciled in London, United Kingdom with London as its principal place of business.  Hence, under the first and second jurisdictional rules, the petitioner may bring her case before the courts of London in the United Kingdom.  In the passenger ticket and baggage check presented by both the petitioner and respondent, it appears that the ticket was issued in Rome, Italy.  Consequently, under the third jurisdictional rule, the petitioner has the option to bring her case before the courts of Rome in Italy.  Finally, both the petitioner and respondent aver that the place of destination is Rome, Italy, which is properly designated given the routing presented in the said passenger ticket and baggage check.  Accordingly, petitioner may bring her action before the courts of Rome, Italy.  We thus find that the RTC of Makati correctly ruled that it does not have jurisdiction over the case filed by the petitioner.  Edna Diago Lhuillier vs. British Airways, G.R. No. 171092, March 15, 2010

Jurisdiction; estoppel. As already shown, nowhere in the complaint was the assessed value of the subject property ever mentioned. There is no showing on the face of the complaint that the RTC has jurisdiction exclusive of the MTC.  Indeed, absent any allegation in the complaint of the assessed value of the property, it cannot readily be determined which of the two trial courts had original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case.  The general rule is that the jurisdiction of a court may be questioned at any stage of the proceedings.  Lack of jurisdiction is one of those excepted grounds where the court may dismiss a claim or a case at any time when it appears from the pleadings or the evidence on record that any of those grounds exists, even if they were not raised in the answer or in a motion to dismiss.  The reason is that jurisdiction is conferred by law, and lack of it affects the very authority of the court to take cognizance of and to render judgment on the action.  However, estoppel sets in when a party participates in all stages of a case before challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court. One cannot belatedly reject or repudiate its decision after voluntarily submitting to its jurisdiction, just to secure affirmative relief against one’s opponent or after failing to obtain such relief. The Court has, time and again, frowned upon the undesirable practice of a party submitting a case for decision and then accepting the judgment, only if favorable, and attacking it for lack of jurisdiction when adverse.  Honorio Bernardo vs. Heirs of Eusebio Villegas, G.R. No. 183357, March 15, 2010

Jurisdiction; estoppel. Estoppel bars the bank from raising the issue of lack of jurisdiction of the Balayan RTC.  In Lozon vs. NLRC, the Court came up with a clear rule on when jurisdiction by estoppel applies and when it does not:

The operation of estoppel on the question of jurisdiction seemingly depends on whether the lower court actually had jurisdiction or not. If it had no jurisdiction, but the case was tried and decided upon the theory that it had jurisdiction, the parties are not barred, on appeal, from assailing such jurisdiction, for the same “must exist as a matter of law, and may not be conferred by the consent of the parties or by estoppel.” However, if the lower court had jurisdiction, and the case was heard and decided upon a given theory, such, for instance, as that the court had no jurisdiction, the party who induced it to adopt such theory will not be permitted, on appeal, to assume an inconsistent position – that the lower court had jurisdiction…  (underscoring supplied)

The ruling was echoed in Metromedia Times Corporation vs. Pastorin. In the present case, the Balayan RTC, sitting as a court of general jurisdiction, had jurisdiction over the complaint for quieting of title filed by petitioners on August 9, 1999.  The Nasugbu RTC, as a liquidation court, assumed jurisdiction over the claims against the bank only on May 25, 2000, when PDIC’s petition for assistance in the liquidation was raffled thereat and given due course.  While it is well-settled that lack of jurisdiction on the subject matter can be raised at any time and is not lost by estoppel by laches, the present case is an exception.  To compel petitioners to re-file and relitigate their claims before the Nasugbu RTC when the parties had already been given the opportunity to present their respective evidence in a full-blown trial before the Balayan RTC which had, in fact, decided petitioners’ complaint (about two years before the appellate court rendered the assailed decision) would be an exercise in futility and would unjustly burden petitioners.  The Court, in Valenzuela vs. Court of Appeals, held that as a general rule, if there is a judicial liquidation of an insolvent bank, all claims against the bank should be filed in the liquidation proceeding.  The Court in Valenzuela, however, after considering the circumstances attendant to the case, held that the general rule should not be applied if to order the aggrieved party to refile or relitigate its case before the litigation court would be “an exercise in futility.”  Among the circumstances the Court considered in that case is the fact that the claimants were poor and the disputed parcel of land was their only property, and the parties’ claims and defenses were properly ventilated in and considered by the judicial court.  In the present case, the Court finds that analogous considerations exist to warrant the application of Valenzuela.  Petitioner Restituto was 78 years old at the time the petition was filed in this Court, and his co-petitioner-wife Erlinda died during the pendency of the case.  And, except for co-petitioner Corazon, Restituto is a resident of Ozamis City.  To compel him to appear and relitigate the case in the liquidation court-Nasugbu RTC when the issues to be raised before it are the same as those already exhaustively passed upon and decided by the Balayan RTC would be superfluous.  Atty. Restituto G. Cudiamat, et al. vs. Batangas Savings and Loan Bank, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 182403,  March 9, 2010

Jurisdiction; estoppel. In Tijam, the Court held that it is iniquitous and unfair to void the trial court’s decision for lack of jurisdiction considering that it was raised only after fifteen (15) years of tedious litigation, thus:

The facts of this case show that from the time the Surety became a quasi-party on July 31, 1948, it could have raised the question of the lack of jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of Cebu to take cognizance of the present action by reason of the sum of money involved which, according to the law then in force, was within the original exclusive jurisdiction of inferior courts. It failed to do so. Instead, at several stages of the proceedings in the court a quo as well as in the Court of Appeals, it invoked the jurisdiction of said courts to obtain affirmative relief and submitted its case for a final adjudication on the merits. It was only after an adverse decision was rendered by the Court of Appeals that it finally woke up to raise the question of jurisdiction. Were we to sanction such conduct on its part, We would in effect be declaring as useless all the proceedings had in the present case since it was commenced on July 19, 1948 and compel the judgment creditors to go up their Calvary once more. The inequity and unfairness of this is not only patent but revolting.

The principle of justice and equity as espoused in Tijam should be applied in this case. The MTC dismissed the ejectment case upon its ruling that the case is for accion publiciana. It did not assert jurisdiction over the case even if it could have done so based on the assessed value of the property subject of the accion publiciana.  And there was no showing, indeed, not even an allegation, that the MTC was not aware of its jurisdictional authority over an accion publiciana involving property in the amount stated in the law.  Moreover, petitioner did not bring up the issue of jurisdictional amount that would have led the MTC to proceed with the trial of the case.   Petitioner obviously considered the dismissal to be in his favor.  When, as a result of such dismissal, respondents brought the case as accion publiciana before the RTC, petitioner never brought up the issue of jurisdictional amount.  What petitioner mentioned in his Answer before the RTC was the generally phrased allegation that “the Honorable Court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter and the nature of the action in the above-entitled case.”  This general assertion, which lacks any basis, is not sufficient. Clearly, petitioner failed to point out the omission of the assessed value in the complaint.  Petitioner actively participated during the trial by adducing evidence and filing numerous pleadings, none of which mentioned any defect in the jurisdiction of the RTC.  It was only on appeal before the Court of Appeals, after he obtained an adverse judgment in the trial court, that petitioner, for the first time, came up with the argument that the decision is void because there was no allegation in the complaint about the value of the property. Clearly, petitioner is estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the RTC.

We note that the decisions of the RTC and of the Court of Appeals discussed extensively the merits of the case, which has been pending for nearly ten (10) years.  It was handled by two (2) judges and its records had to be reconstituted after the fire that gutted the courthouse.  If we were to accede to petitioner’s prayer, all the effort, time and expenses of parties who participated in the litigation would be wasted.  Quite obviously, petitioner wants a repetition of the process hoping for the possibility of a reversal of the decision.  The Court will not countenance such practice.  Honorio Bernardo vs. Heirs of Eusebio Villegas, G.R. No. 183357, March 15, 2010

Jurisdiction; jurisdiction over issue determined by pleadings or stipulation or implied consent. It need not be underlined that jurisdiction over an issue in a case is determined and conferred by the pleadings filed by the parties, or by their agreement in a pre-trial order or stipulation or, at times by their implied consent as by the failure of a party to object to evidence on an issue not covered by the pleadings, as provided in Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court.  Eugene L. Lim vs. BPI Agriculture Development Bank, G.R. No. 179230, March 9,   2010

Jurisdiction; prohibition against interference with court of concurrent jurisdiction.  Verily, the Manila RTC lacked jurisdiction over the nature of the action filed by FPC.  The Pagadian RTC which rendered the decision and ordered the execution sale should settle the whole controversy.  Pursuant to the principle of judicial stability, the judgment or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, Pagadian RTC in this case, may not be interfered with by any court of concurrent jurisdiction (i.e., another RTC), for the simple reason that the power to open, modify or vacate the said judgment or order is not only possessed by but is restricted to the court in which the judgment or order is rendered or issued.  Resultantly, the Manila RTC Decision of July 16, 2001 is void for lack of jurisdiction.  As such, it, as well as all subsequent orders proceeding therefrom, should have been annulled by the appellate court.  A judgment rendered by a court without jurisdiction is null and void and may be attacked anytime.  It creates no rights and produces no effect.  It remains a basic fact in law that the choice of the proper forum is crucial, as the decision of a court or tribunal without jurisdiction is a total nullity.  A void judgment for want of jurisdiction is no judgment at all.  All acts performed pursuant to it and all claims emanating from it have no legal effect.  Respecting G.R. No. 185265, the Court finds that the action lodged with the Antipolo RTC was essentially the same as that filed with the Manila RTC.  The relief sought was also the annulment of the Pagadian case execution sale.  Hence, the Antipolo RTC was similarly bereft of jurisdiction over the nature of the action.  This should have been its basis for dismissing the complaint.  The various branches of the RTC, having as they do have the same or equal authority and exercising as they do concurrent and coordinate jurisdiction, should not, cannot and are not permitted to intervene with their respective cases, much less with their orders or judgments.  A contrary rule would lead to confusion and seriously hamper the administration of justice. Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. First Plywood Corporation/Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. Timber Exports, Inc. Angel Domingo, Country Bankers Ins. Corp.,  Perfecto Mondarte, Jr. and Cesar Dacal, G.R. No. 176123/G.R. No.  185265, March 10, 2010

Jurisdiction over person; no voluntary appearance or submission to jurisdiction. Petitioner argues that respondent has effectively submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the trial court when the latter stated in its Comment/Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration that “Defendant [is at a loss] x x x how the plaintiff arrived at her erroneous impression that it is/was Euro-Philippines Airlines Services, Inc. that has been making a special appearance since x x x British Airways x x x has been clearly specifying in all the pleadings that it has filed with this Honorable Court that it is the one making a special appearance.”  In refuting the contention of petitioner, respondent cited La Naval Drug Corporation vs. Court of Appeals where we held that even if a party “challenges the jurisdiction of the court over his person, as by reason of absence or defective service of summons, and he also invokes other grounds for the dismissal of the action under Rule 16, he is not deemed to be in estoppel or to have waived his objection to the jurisdiction over his person.” This issue has been squarely passed upon in the recent case of Garcia vs. Sandiganbayan, where we reiterated our ruling in La Naval Drug Corporation vs. Court of Appeals and elucidated thus:

Special Appearance to Question a Court’s Jurisdiction Is Not Voluntary Appearance

The second sentence of Sec. 20, Rule 14 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure clearly 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 of the defendant shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance.

Thus, a defendant who files a motion to dismiss, assailing the jurisdiction of the court over his person, together with other grounds raised therein, is not deemed to have appeared voluntarily before the court. What the rule on voluntary appearance – the first sentence of the above-quoted rule – means is that the voluntary appearance of the defendant in court is without qualification, in which case he is deemed to have waived his defense of lack of jurisdiction over his person due to improper service of summons.

The pleadings filed by petitioner in the subject forfeiture cases, however, do not show that she voluntarily appeared without qualification. Petitioner filed the following pleadings in Forfeiture I: (a) motion to dismiss; (b) motion for reconsideration and/or to admit answer; (c) second motion for reconsideration; (d) motion to consolidate forfeiture case with plunder case; and (e) motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture I. And in Forfeiture II: (a) motion to dismiss and/or to quash Forfeiture II; and (b) motion for partial reconsideration.

The foregoing pleadings, particularly the motions to dismiss, were filed by petitioner solely for special appearance with the purpose of challenging the jurisdiction of the SB over her person and that of her three children. Petitioner asserts therein that SB did not acquire jurisdiction over her person and of her three children for lack of valid service of summons through improvident substituted service of summons in both Forfeiture I and Forfeiture II. This stance the petitioner never abandoned when she filed her motions for reconsideration, even with a prayer to admit their attached Answer Ex Abundante Ad Cautelam dated January 22, 2005 setting forth affirmative defenses with a claim for damages. And the other subsequent pleadings, likewise, did not abandon her stance and defense of lack of jurisdiction due to improper substituted services of summons in the forfeiture cases. Evidently, from the foregoing Sec. 20, Rule 14 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure, petitioner and her sons did not voluntarily appear before the SB constitutive of or equivalent to service of summons.

Moreover, the leading La Naval Drug Corp. vs. Court of Appeals applies to the instant case. Said case elucidates the current view in our jurisdiction that a special appearance before the court––challenging its jurisdiction over the person through a motion to dismiss even if the movant invokes other grounds––is not tantamount to estoppel or a waiver by the movant of his objection to jurisdiction over his person; and such is not constitutive of a voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court.

Thus, it cannot be said that petitioner and her three children voluntarily appeared before the SB to cure the defective substituted services of summons. They are, therefore, not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the SB over their persons nor are they deemed to have waived such defense of lack of jurisdiction. Consequently, there being no valid substituted services of summons made, the SB did not acquire jurisdiction over the persons of petitioner and her children. And perforce, the proceedings in the subject forfeiture cases, insofar as petitioner and her three children are concerned, are null and void for lack of jurisdiction.  (Emphasis supplied)

In this case, the special appearance of the counsel of respondent in filing the Motion to Dismiss and other pleadings before the trial court cannot be deemed to be voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the said trial court.  We hence disagree with the contention of the petitioner and rule that there was no voluntary appearance before the trial court that could constitute estoppel or a waiver of respondent’s objection to jurisdiction over its person.  Edna Diago Lhuillier vs. British Airways, G.R. No. 171092, March 15, 2010

Jurisdiction over person; voluntary submission. In addition, we agree with petitioner that the RTC had  indeed acquired jurisdiction over the person of private respondent when the latter’s counsel entered his appearance on private respondent’s behalf, without qualification and without questioning the propriety of the service of summons, and even filed two Motions for Extension of Time to File Answer. In effect, private respondent, through counsel, had already invoked the RTC’s jurisdiction over her person by praying that the motions for extension of time to file answer be granted. We have held that the filing of motions seeking affirmative relief, such as, 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, are considered voluntary submission to the jurisdiction of the court. When private respondent earlier invoked the jurisdiction of the RTC to secure affirmative relief in her motions for additional time to file answer, she voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the RTC and is thereby estopped from asserting otherwise.  Leah Palma vs. Hon. Danilo P. Galvez, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, et al., G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010

Mandamus; not available in absence of clear and complete right. Therefore, we must look into the alleged right of petitioner and see if compliance with the RTC Order is compellable by mandamus; or, in the alternative, find out if substantial doubt exists to justify public respondents’ refusal to comply with said Order.  Did public respondents have sufficient legal basis to refuse to grant petitioner’s request?  In this regard, we find our discussion in Laburada vs. Land Registration Authority instructive, to wit:

That the LRA hesitates in issuing a decree of registration is understandable. Rather than a sign of negligence or nonfeasance in the performance of its duty, the LRA’s reaction is reasonable, even imperative. Considering the probable duplication of titles over the same parcel of land, such issuance may contravene the policy and the purpose, and thereby destroy the integrity, of the Torrens system of registration.

x x x x

x x x Likewise, the writ of mandamus can be awarded only when the petitioners’ legal right to the performance of the particular act which is sought to be compelled is clear and complete. Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, a clear legal right is a right which is indubitably granted by law or is inferable as a matter of law. If the right is clear and the case is meritorious, objections raising merely technical questions will be disregarded. But where the right sought to be enforced is in substantial doubt or dispute, as in this case, mandamus cannot issue. (Emphasis ours.)

As can be gleaned from the above discussion, the issuance by the LRA officials of a decree of registration is not a purely ministerial duty in cases where they find that such would result to the double titling of the same parcel of land.   In the same vein, we find that in this case, which involves the issuance of transfer certificates of title, the Register of Deeds cannot be compelled by mandamus to comply with the RTC Order since there were existing transfer certificates of title covering the subject parcels of land and there was reason to question the rights of those requesting for the issuance of the TCTs.  Neither could respondent LRA Administrator be mandated by the Court to require the Register of Deeds to comply with said Order, for we find merit in the explanations of respondent LRA Administrator in his letter-reply that cites the 1st Indorsement issued by respondent Guingona, LRA Circular No. 97-11, and Senate Committee Report No. 1031, as reasons for his refusal to grant petitioner’s request.  There was, therefore, sufficient basis for public respondents to refuse to comply with the RTC Order, given the finding, contained in the cited documents, that OCT No. 994 dated April 19, 1917, on which petitioner and her co-plaintiffs in the civil case clearly anchored their rights, did not exist.  Fidela R. Angeles vs. The Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R.  No.  142549, March 9, 2010

Mandamus; when available. It is settled that mandamus is employed to compel the performance, when refused, of a ministerial duty, but not to compel the performance of a discretionary duty.  Mandamus will not issue to enforce a right which is in substantial dispute or to which a substantial doubt exists.  It is nonetheless likewise available to compel action, when refused, in matters involving judgment and discretion, but not to direct the exercise of judgment or discretion in a particular way or the retraction or reversal of an action already taken in the exercise of either.  Fidela R. Angeles vs. The Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R.  No.  142549, March 9, 2010

Motion to Dismiss; hypothetical admission of material allegations of complaint. No other principle in remedial law is more settled than that when a motion to dismiss is filed, the material allegations of the complaint are deemed to be hypothetically admitted.  This hypothetical admission, according to Viewmaster Construction Corporation vs. Roxas and Navoa vs. Court of Appeals, extends not only to the relevant and material facts well pleaded in the complaint, but also to inferences that may be fairly deduced from them.  Thus, where it appears that the allegations in the complaint furnish sufficient basis on which the complaint can be maintained, the same should not be dismissed regardless of the defenses that may be raised by the defendants.  Stated differently, where the motion to dismiss is predicated on grounds that are not indubitable, the better policy is to deny the motion without prejudice to taking such measures as may be proper to assure that the ends of justice may be served.  It is interesting to note at this point that in their bid to have the case dismissed, petitioners theorize that there could not have been a contract by which the municipality agreed to be bound, because it was not shown that there had been compliance with the required bidding or that the municipal council had approved the contract. The argument is flawed.  By invoking unenforceability under the Statute of Frauds, petitioners are in effect acknowledging the existence of a contract between them and private respondent — only, the said contract cannot be enforced by action for being non-compliant with the legal requisite that it be reduced into writing.  Suffice it to say that while this assertion might be a viable defense against respondent’s claim, it is principally a matter of evidence that may be properly ventilated at the trial of the case on the merits.  The Municipality of Hagonoy, Bulacan, represented by the Hon. Felix V. Ople, Municipal Mayor, and Felix V. Ople, in his capacity vs. Hon. Simeon P. Dumdum, Jr. in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City, et al., G.R. No. 168289, March 22, 2010

Motion to Dismiss; unenforceability under statute of frauds. In other words, the Statute of Frauds only lays down the method by which the enumerated contracts may be proved.  But it does not declare them invalid because they are not reduced to writing inasmuch as, by law, contracts are obligatory in whatever form they may have been entered into, provided all the essential requisites for their validity are present.  The object is to prevent fraud and perjury in the enforcement of obligations depending, for evidence thereof, on the unassisted memory of witnesses by requiring certain enumerated contracts and transactions to be evidenced by a writing signed by the party to be charged.  The effect of noncompliance with this requirement is simply that no action can be enforced under the given contracts. If an action is nevertheless filed in court, it shall warrant a dismissal under Section 1(i), Rule 16 of the Rules of Court, unless there has been, among others, total or partial performance of the obligation on the part of either party.

It has been private respondent’s consistent stand, since the inception of the instant case that she has entered into a contract with petitioners.  As far as she is concerned, she has already performed her part of the obligation under the agreement by undertaking the delivery of the 21 motor vehicles contracted for by Ople in the name of petitioner municipality.  This claim is well substantiated — at least for the initial purpose of setting out a valid cause of action against petitioners — by copies of the bills of lading attached to the complaint, naming petitioner municipality as consignee of the shipment.  Petitioners have not at any time expressly denied this allegation and, hence, the same is binding on the trial court for the purpose of ruling on the motion to dismiss.  In other words, since there exists an indication by way of allegation that there has been performance of the obligation on the part of respondent, the case is excluded from the coverage of the rule on dismissals based on unenforceability under the statute of frauds, and either party may then enforce its claims against the other.  The Municipality of Hagonoy, Bulacan, represented by the Hon. Felix V. Ople, Municipal Mayor, and Felix V. Ople, in his capacity vs. Hon. Simeon P. Dumdum, Jr. in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City, et al., G.R. No. 168289, March 22, 2010 .

Order of default; when warranted.  Second, Hutama avers that the CA committed a reversible error when it upheld the decision of the RTC, which was based on the ex-parte evidence presented by KCD. Allegedly, its constitutional right to due process was violated when the RTC issued an order of default which resulted in its failure to present evidence.  However, we find that the RTC acted within the confines of its discretion when it issued the order of default upon the motion of KCD when Hutama failed to file an answer within the extended period. The RTC did not hastily issue the order of default. It gave Hutama the opportunity to explain its side. On August 22, 2002, the motion to set aside the order of default was set for hearing, but neither Hutama’s counsel, nor any other representative of petitioner corporation, appeared. According to the counsel of Hutama, in his Memorandum, he failed to file an answer on time because he went to the province for the Lenten season. He assigned the case to his associate, but the latter also went to the province. This flimsy excuse deserves scant consideration.  Hutama-RSEA/Supermax Phils., J.V. vs. KCD Builders  Corporation, represented by its President Celso C. Diokno, G.R. No.  173181, March 3, 2010

Parties; private litigant is not proper party to challenge adverse litigant’s qualification to acquire land.  It should also be pointed out that the petitioner was not the proper party to challenge Ramona’s qualifications to acquire land.  Under Section 7, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185, the Solicitor General or his representative shall institute escheat proceedings against its violators. Although the law does not categorically state that only the Government, through the Solicitor General, may attack the title of an alien transferee of land, it is nonetheless correct to hold that only the Government, through the Solicitor General, has the personality to file a case challenging the capacity of a person to acquire or to own land based on non-citizenship. This limitation is based on the fact that the violation is committed against the State, not against any individual; and that in the event that the transferee is adjudged to be not a Filipino citizen, the affected property reverts to the State, not to the previous owner or any other individual.  Herein, even assuming that Ramona was legally disqualified from owning the subject property, the decision that voids or annuls their right of ownership over the subject land will not inure to the benefit of the petitioner. Instead, the subject property will be escheated in favor of the State in accordance with Batas Pambansa Blg.  185.  Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag vs. The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, et al.,  G.R. No. 153142. March 29, 2010

Petition; mootness. The Court notes that Sta. Clara repeatedly argued in its pleadings that the January 26, 2004 MARINA decision was superseded by the June 6, 2005 LMRO decision, and that the old CPC of MV King Frederick was replaced by a new CPC issued in accordance with RA 9295 and its implementing rules.  San Pablo herself agreed that the January 26, 2004 MARINA decision was deemed abandoned when Sta. Clara applied for and obtained a new CPC.  There is no dispute then that the January 26, 2004 MARINA decision and the old CPC are now defunct.  The January 26, 2004 MARINA decision and the old CPC were the subject matter of the petition of San Pablo before the CA. The reversal of the decision and the revocation of the CPC were the reliefs sought in that petition. However, the passage of RA 9295 and the filing by Sta. Clara of an application for a new CPC under the new law supervened and rendered the January 26, 2004 MARINA decision and old CPC of no consequence.  There was no more justiciable controversy for the CA to decide, no remedy to grant or deny. The petition before the CA had become purely hypothetical, there being nothing left to act upon.  Although Sta. Clara filed with the CA a motion for reconsideration of its May 31, 2005 decision without disclosing the foregoing developments, by the time the CA resolved the motion for reconsideration, it was already aware of the changes in the situation of the parties:  specifically, that  Sta. Clara had filed a new application under RA 9295 and that the LMRO had issued Sta. Clara a new CPC.  More significantly, the new CPC issued to Sta. Clara was now subject to the rules implementing RA 9295.  Under Rule XV, Sec. 1 thereof, a peculiar process of administrative remedy provides that the MARINA Administrator, and not the CA, is vested with primary jurisdiction over matters relating to the issuance of a CPC.  Under the altered state of facts, the CA should have refrained from resolving the pending motions before it and should have declared the case mooted by supervening events.  Besides, questions on the validity of the new CPC are cognizable by the MARINA Administrator and, consonant with the doctrine of primary administrative jurisdiction, the CA should have referred San Pablo to MARINA for the resolution of her challenge to the validity of the new CPC of Sta. Clara. The CA ought to have given due deference to the exercise by MARINA of its sound administrative discretion in applying its special knowledge, experience and expertise to determine the technical and intricate factual matters relating to the new CPC of Sta. Clara.  Sta. Clara Shipping Corporation vs. Eugenia T. San Pablo, G.R. No. 169493, March 15, 2010

Petition; not moot. Petitioners allege that the petition had been rendered moot because respondent already left the country.   Petitioners cited Lewin vs. The Deportation Board where the Court ruled:

x x x. Even if the deportation case is to proceed and even if this Court will decide this appeal on the merits, there would be no practical value or effect of such action upon Lewin, because he has already left the country.  Consequently, the issues involved herein have become moot and academic.

However, we agree with respondent that the factual circumstances in Lewin are different from the case before us.  In Lewin, petitioner was an alien who entered the country as a temporary visitor, to stay for only 50 days.  He prolonged his stay by securing several extensions.  Before his last extension expired, he voluntarily left the country, upon filing a bond, without any assurance from the Deportation Board that he would be admitted to the country upon his return.  The Court found that he did not return to the country, and at the time he was living in another country.  The Court ruled that Lewin’s voluntary departure from the country, his long absence, and his status when he entered the country as a temporary visitor rendered academic the question of his deportation as an undesirable alien.  In this case, respondent, prior to his deportation, was recognized as a Filipino citizen.  He manifested his intent to return to the country because his Filipino wife and children are residing in the Philippines.  The filing of the petitions before the Court of Appeals and before this Court showed his intention to prove his Filipino lineage and citizenship, as well as the error committed by petitioners in causing his deportation from the country.  He was precisely questioning the DOJ’s  revocation of his certificate of recognition and his summary deportation by the BI.  Therefore, we rule that respondent’s deportation did not render the present case moot.  Department of Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez, et al. vs. Michael Alfio Pennisi, G.R. No. 169958, March 5, 2010

Petition for review; findings of fact of Court of Appeals binding on Supreme Court; exception when Court of Appeals’ findings are contrary to those of quasi-judicial agency. It is well-settled that this Court is not a trier of facts. The factual findings of the CA are regarded as final, binding and conclusive upon this Court, especially when supported by substantial evidence. However, there are recognized exceptions to this rule, such as when the factual findings of the CA are contrary to those of the quasi-judicial agency. In this case, the factual findings of the CA and the DARAB are conflicting; thus, we are compelled to look at the factual milieu of this case and review the records.  The CA had also overlooked certain relevant facts undisputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.  Napoleon Magno vs. Gonzalo Francisco and Regina vda, De Lazaro, G.R. No. 168959, March 25, 2010

Pleadings; adoption of pleading by counsel. There is one final concern raised by petitioners relative to the denial of their motion for reconsideration. They complain that it was an error for the Court of Appeals to have denied the motion on the ground that the same was filed by an unauthorized counsel and, hence, must be treated as a mere scrap of paper.  It can be derived from the records that petitioner Ople, in his personal capacity, filed his Rule 65 petition with the Court of Appeals through the representation of the law firm Chan Robles & Associates.  Later on, municipal legal officer Joselito Reyes, counsel for petitioner Ople, in his official capacity and for petitioner municipality, filed with the Court of Appeals a Manifestation with Entry of Appearance to the effect that he, as counsel, was “adopting all the pleadings filed for and in behalf of [Ople’s personal representation] relative to this case.”  It appears, however, that after the issuance of the Court of Appeals’ decision, only Ople’s personal representation signed the motion for reconsideration.  There is no showing that the municipal legal officer made the same manifestation, as he previously did upon the filing of the petition.  From this, the Court of Appeals concluded that it was as if petitioner municipality and petitioner Ople, in his official capacity, had never moved for reconsideration of the assailed decision, and adverts to the ruling in Ramos vs. Court of Appeals and Municipality of Pililla, Rizal vs. Court of Appeals that only under well-defined exceptions may a private counsel be engaged in lawsuits involving a municipality, none of which exceptions obtains in this case.  The Court of Appeals is mistaken.  As can be seen from the manner in which the Manifestation with Entry of Appearance is worded, it is clear that petitioner municipality’s legal officer was intent on adopting, for both the municipality and Mayor Ople, not only the certiorari petition filed with the Court of Appeals, but also all other pleadings that may be filed thereafter by Ople’s personal representation, including the motion for reconsideration subject of this case.               XXX                             XXX                            XXX   The Municipality of Hagonoy, Bulacan, represented by the Hon. Felix V. Ople, Municipal Mayor, and Felix V. Ople, in his capacity vs. Hon. Simeon P. Dumdum, Jr. in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City, et al., G.R. No. 168289, March 22, 2010

Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping; execution by president. On the other hand, a certification of non-forum shopping is a certification under oath by the plaintiff or principal party in the complaint or other initiatory pleading, asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith, that (a) he has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.  It is true that the power of a corporation to sue and be sued is lodged in the board of directors that exercises its corporate powers.  However, it is settled – and we have so declared in numerous decisions – that the president of a corporation may sign the verification and the certification of non-forum shopping.  In Ateneo de Naga University vs. Manalo, we held that the lone signature of the University President was sufficient to fulfill the verification requirement, because such officer had sufficient knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the petition.   In People’s Aircargo and Warehousing Co., Inc. vs. CA, we held that in the absence of a charter or bylaw provision to the contrary, the president of a corporation is presumed to have the authority to act within the domain of the general objectives of its business and within the scope of his or her usual duties. Moreover, even if a certain contract or undertaking is outside the usual powers of the president, the corporation’s ratification of the contract or undertaking and the acceptance of benefits therefrom make the corporate president’s actions binding on the corporation.  Hutama-RSEA/Supermax Phils., J.V. vs. KCD Builders Corporation, represented by its President Celso C. Diokno, G.R. No.  173181, March 3, 2010

Pleadings; defenses and objections not pleaded deemed waived. Yet, now, when the final decision of the RTC is already being implemented, the petitioner would thwart the execution by assailing the directive of the RTC for the Branch Clerk of Court to execute the deed of absolute sale and by blocking the registration of the deed of absolute sale in the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City, on the ground that Ramona was disqualified from owning land in the Philippines.  The petitioner’s move was outrightly unwarranted.  First: The petitioner did not raise any issue against Ramona’s qualifications to own land in the Philippines during the trial or, at the latest, before the finality of the RTC judgment. The petitioner was thereby deemed to have waived the objection, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 9 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

Section 1. Defenses and objections not pleaded. — Defenses and objections not pleaded either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived. However, when it appears from the pleadings or the evidence on record that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, that there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause, or that the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of limitations, the court shall dismiss the claim. (2a)

In every action, indeed, the parties and their counsel are enjoined to present all available defenses and objections in order that the matter in issue can finally be laid to rest in an appropriate contest before the court. The rule is a wise and tested one, borne by necessity. Without the rule, there will be no end to a litigation, because the dissatisfied litigant may simply raise “new” or additional issues in order to prevent, defeat, or delay the implementation of an already final and executory judgment. The endlessness of litigation can give rise to added costs for the parties, and can surely contribute to the unwarranted clogging of court dockets. The prospect of a protracted litigation between the parties annuls the very rationale of every litigation to attain justice. Verily, there must be an end to litigation. Catalina Balais-Mabanag, assisted by her husband, Eleuterio Mabanag vs. The Register of Deeds of Quezon City, et al., G.R. No. 153142. March 29, 2010

Pleadings; effect of failure to deny under oath the genuineness and due execution; exception. Titan claimed that because Manuel failed to specifically deny the genuineness and due execution of the SPA in his Reply, he is deemed to have admitted the veracity of said document, in accordance with Rule 8, Sections 7 and 8, of the Rules of Court.  On this point, we fully concur with the findings of the CA that:

It is true that the reply filed by Manuel alleging that the special power of attorney is a forgery was not made under oath. However, the complaint, which was verified by Manuel under oath, alleged that the sale of the subject property executed by his wife, Martha, in favor of Titan was without his knowledge, consent, and approval, express or implied; and that there is nothing on the face of the deed of sale that would show that he gave his consent thereto. In Toribio v. Bidin, it was held that where the verified complaint alleged that the plaintiff never sold, transferred or disposed their share in the inheritance left by their mother to others, the defendants were placed on adequate notice that they would be called upon during trial to prove the genuineness or due execution of the disputed deed of sale. While Section 8, Rule 8 is mandatory, it is a discovery procedure and must be reasonably construed to attain its purpose, and in a way as not to effect a denial of substantial justice. The interpretation should be one which assists the parties in obtaining a speedy, inexpensive, and most important, a just determination of the disputed issues.

Moreover, during the pre-trial, Titan requested for stipulation that the special power of attorney was signed by Manuel authorizing his wife to sell the subject property, but Manuel refused to admit the genuineness of said special power of attorney and stated that he is presenting an expert witness to prove that his signature in the special power of attorney is a forgery. However, Titan did not register any objection x x x.  Furthermore, Titan did not object to the presentation of Atty. Desiderio Pagui, who testified as an expert witness, on his Report finding that the signature on the special power of attorney was not affixed by Manuel based on his analysis of the questioned and standard signatures of the latter, and even cross-examined said witness. Neither did Titan object to the admission of said Report when it was offered in evidence by Manuel on the ground that he is barred from denying his signature on the special power of attorney. In fact, Titan admitted the existence of said Report and objected only to the purpose for which it was offered. In Central Surety & Insurance Company vs. C.N. Hodges, it was held that where a party acted in complete disregard of or wholly overlooked Section 8, Rule 8 and did not object to the introduction and admission of evidence questioning the genuineness and due execution of a document, he must be deemed to have waived the benefits of said Rule. Consequently, Titan is deemed to have waived the mantle of protection given [it] by Section 8, Rule 8.

Titan Construction Corporation vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010

Pleadings; verification. Third, Hutama questions the verification and certification on non-forum shopping of KCD, issued by its board of directors, because the same was signed by the latter’s president without proof of authority to sign the same. A pleading is verified by an affidavit that an affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct as to his personal knowledge or based on authentic records. The party does not need to sign the verification. A party’s representative, lawyer, or any person who personally knows the truth of the facts alleged in the pleading may sign the verification.  Hutama-RSEA/Supermax Phils., J.V. vs. KCD Builders Corporation, represented by its President Celso C. Diokno, G.R. No.  173181, March 3, 2010

Pleadings; verification. Anent private respondent’s allegation that the petition was not properly verified, we find the same to be devoid of merit. The purpose of requiring a verification is to secure an assurance that the allegations of the petition have been made in good faith, or are true and correct, not merely speculative.  In this instance, petitioner attached a verification to her petition although dated earlier than the filing of her petition. Petitioner explains that since a draft of the petition and the verification were earlier sent to her in New York for her signature, the verification was earlier dated than the petition for certiorari filed with us. We accept such explanation.  While Section 1, Rule 65 requires that the petition for certiorari be verified, this is not an absolute necessity where the material facts alleged are a matter of record and the questions raised are mainly of law.  In this case, the issue raised is purely of law.  Leah Palma vs. Hon. Danilo P. Galvez, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, et al., G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010

Pleadings; verification is formal, not jurisdictional, requirement. Likewise, the verification of a pleading is only a formal, not jurisdictional, requirement. The purpose of requiring a verification is to secure an assurance that the allegations in the petition are true and correct, not merely speculative. This requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of pleadings, and non-compliance therewith does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective.  Spouses Melchor, et al. vs. Ronald B. Bernal, et al., G.R. No. 169336, March 18, 2010

Preliminary injunction; requirement of clear and unmistakable right. One of the requisites for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction is that the applicant must have a right in esse.  A right in esse is a clear and unmistakable right to be protected, one clearly founded on or granted by law or is enforceable as a matter of law.  The existence of a right to be protected, and the acts against which the writ is to be directed are violative of said right must be established.  The complaint filed by petitioner for injunction with damages seeks to enjoin the foreclosure of the mortgages.  Petitioner admitted having executed Promissory Note No. 1000045-08.  During the hearing of his application for a writ of preliminary injunction, the cross-default provision of the note was read to him and he admitted having gone over it before he signed the note.  And petitioner admitted that he failed to honor the note on maturity.  Petitioner alleged in his complaint, however, that respondent’s acceleration of the maturity of his entire obligation is “in gross bad faith” and in “gross abuse of [his] right” as it “subjected the maturity of the loans to its own whims and caprices . . . not to mention that it [was] done in the midst of this present economic crisis . . . .”  Respondent’s declaration that petitioner’s availments under the revolving credit line and medium term loans were immediately due and payable was by virtue of the cross-default provision of Promissory Note No.  1000045-08. Respondent’s move to foreclose the mortgages after petitioner defaulted in his obligation under the promissory note was thus in accordance with said provision which petitioner did not challenge.    The trial court thus erred in ordering the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction on the basis of its finding that “there are legal matters to be looked into with respect to the application of the acceleration clause or default provisions in the promissory note.”

By the above-quoted allegations and prayer in petitioner’s complaint, however, which complaint, it bears emphasis, is for injunction and damages, as well as from the transcript of stenographic notes taken during the hearing on petitioner’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction, petitioner has not laid or established a right in esse to entitle him to the writ.  Eugene L. Lim vs. BPI Agriculture Development Bank, G.R. No. 179230, March 9,   2010

Procedural rules; adherence necessary for orderly and speedy administration of justice. Procedural rules are tools designed to facilitate the adjudication of cases. Courts and litigants alike are enjoined to abide strictly by the rules. While the Court, in some instances, allows a relaxation in the application of the rules, this was never intended to forge a bastion for erring litigants to violate the rules with impunity. It is true that litigation is not a game of technicalities, but it is equally true that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice.  The procedural shortcut taken by petitioners finds no justification either in law or in jurisprudence.  It is fatal to their cause of action. Accordingly, we rule that the Court of Appeals committed no error in dismissing for prematurity the petition for certiorari and mandamus filed by petitioners.  Pio Delos Reyes, represented by heirs Fidel Delos Reyes, et al. vs. Hon. Waldo Q. Flores in his capacity as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary, Office of the President, et al., G.R. No. 168726,  March 5, 2010

Procedural rules; misuse. We close with the observation that what is involved here are not only errors of law, but also the errors of a litigant and his lawyer. As may have been noted, petitioner Tomawis’ counsel veritably filed two (2) motions to dismiss, each predicated on the sole issue of jurisdiction. The first may have been understandable.  But the second motion was something else, interposed as it was after the CA, by resolution, denied Tomawis’ petition for certiorari for want of jurisdiction on the part of the appellate court to review judgments or orders of the SDC. The CA stated the observation, however, that Tomawis and his counsel may repair to this Court while the Shari’a Appellate Court has yet to be organized. Petitioner waited two years after the CA issued its denial before filing what virtually turned out to be his second motion to dismiss, coming finally to this Court after the same motion was denied. The Court must express disapproval of the cunning effort of Tomawis and his counsel to use procedural rules to the hilt to prolong the final disposition of this case. From Alonso v. Villamor, almost a century-old decision, the Court has left no doubt that it frowns on such unsporting practice. The rule is settled that a question of jurisdiction, as here, may be raised at any time, even on appeal, provided its application does not result in a mockery of the basic tenets of fair play.  Petitioner’s action at the later stages of the proceedings below, doubtless taken upon counsel’s advice, is less than fair and constitutes censurable conduct. Lawyers and litigants must be brought to account for their improper conduct, which trenches n the efficient dispensation of justice.  Sultan Yahya “Jerry” M. Tomawis vs. Hon Rasad G. Balindong, et al., G.R. No. 182434, March 5, 2010

Procedural rules; relaxation of rules on service of pleadings. XXX  XXX  XXX Concededly, the respondents did not strictly follow Rule 13, Sec. 11 on priorities on modes of service.  However, since rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, their strict and rigid application which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must be avoided.  The relaxation of the rules on service is all the more proper in the present case, where petitioner had already received his copy of the notice of appeal by registered mail, since the Court has previously ruled that a litigant’s failure to furnish his opponent with a copy of his notice of appeal is not a sufficient cause for dismissing it and that he could simply have been ordered to furnish appellee with a copy of his appeal.  Atty. Voltaire I. Rovira vs. Heirs of Jose C. Delestre, et al., G.R. No. 160825, March 26, 2010 G.R. No. 160825, March 26, 2010

Record on appeal; not required where main action is for recovery of ownership and possession, and multiple appeals cannot be taken. Multiple appeals are allowed in special proceedings, in actions for partition of property with accounting, in the special civil actions of eminent domain and foreclosure of mortgage.  The rationale behind allowing more than one appeal in the same case is to enable the rest of the case to proceed in the event that a separate and distinct issue is resolved by the court and held to be final.  In such a case, the filing of a record on appeal becomes indispensable since only a particular incident of the case is brought to the appellate court for resolution with the rest of the proceedings remaining within the jurisdiction of the trial court.  The main action involved herein, being a suit for recovery of ownership and possession, is not one where multiple appeals can be taken or are necessary.  The choice of asserting a claim for attorney’s fees in the very action in which the services in question have been rendered, as done by the petitioner herein, will not convert a regular case into one falling under the category of “other cases of multiple or separate appeals where the law or these Rules so require.”  The main case handled by petitioner lawyer has already been decided with finality up to the appeal stage and is already in the execution stage.  The trial court has also already resolved the incident of attorney’s fees.  Hence, there is no reason why the original records of the case must remain with the trial court.  There was also no need for respondents to file a record on appeal because the original records could already be sent to the appellate court for the resolution of the appeal on the matter of the attorney’s fees.  To repeat, since the case has not been made out for multiple appeals, a record on appeal is unnecessary to perfect the appeal.  The only requirement to perfect the appeal in the present case is the filing of a notice of appeal in due time.  This the respondents did. . . .  Atty. Voltaire I. Rovira vs. Heirs of Jose C. Delestre, et al., G.R. No. 160825, March 26, 2010

Summons; service on resident temporarily out of country. In civil cases, the trial court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the defendant either by the service of summons or by the latter’s voluntary appearance and submission to the authority of the former.  Private respondent was a Filipino resident who was temporarily out of the Philippines at the time of the service of summons; thus, service of summons on her is governed by Section 16, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court, which provides:

Sec. 16. Residents temporarily out of the Philippines. – When an action is commenced against a defendant who ordinarily resides within the Philippines, but who is temporarily out of it, service may, by leave of court, be also effected out of the Philippines, as under the preceding section.

The preceding section referred to in the above provision is Section 15, which speaks of extraterritorial service, thus:

SEC. 15. Extraterritorial service. When the defendant does not reside and is not found in the Philippines, and the action affects the personal status of the plaintiff or relates to, or the subject of which is, property within the Philippines, in which the defendant has or claims a lien or interest, actual or contingent, or in which the relief demanded consists, wholly or in part, in excluding the defendant from any interest therein, or the property of the defendant has been attached within the Philippines, service may, by leave of court, be effected out of the Philippines by personal service as under section 6; or by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in such places and for such time as the court may order, in which case a copy of the summons and order of the court shall be sent by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant, or in any other manner the court may deem sufficient.  Any order granting such leave shall specify a reasonable time, which shall not be less than sixty (60) days after notice, within which the defendant must answer.

The RTC found that since private respondent was abroad at the time of the service of summons, she was a resident who was temporarily out of the country; thus, service of summons may be made only by publication.  We do not agree.  In Montefalcon vs. Vasquez, we said that because Section 16 of     Rule 14 uses the words “may” and “also,” it is not mandatory. Other methods of service of summons allowed under the Rules may also be availed of by the serving officer on a defendant-resident who is temporarily out of the Philippines.  Thus, if a resident defendant is temporarily out of the country, any of the following modes of service may be resorted to: (1) substituted service set forth in section 7 (formerly Section 8), Rule 14;  (2) personal service outside the country, with leave of court; (3) service by publication, also with leave of court; or (4) in any other manner the court may deem sufficient.  Leah Palma vs. Hon. Danilo P. Galvez, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, et al., G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010

Summons; substituted service in suit in personam against Philippine resident temporarily out of country. In Montalban vs. Maximo, we held that substituted service of summons under the present Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court in a suit in personam against residents of the Philippines temporarily absent therefrom is the normal method of service of summons that will confer jurisdiction on the court over such defendant.  In the same case, we expounded on the rationale in providing for substituted service as the normal mode of service for residents temporarily out of the Philippines.

x x x  A man temporarily absent from this country leaves a definite place of residence, a dwelling where he lives, a local base, so to speak, to which any inquiry about him may be directed and where he is bound to return. Where one temporarily absents himself, he leaves his affairs in the hands of one who may be reasonably expected to act in his place and stead; to do all that is necessary to protect his interests; and to communicate with him from time to time any incident of importance that may affect him or his business or his affairs. It is usual for such a man to leave at his home or with his business associates information as to where he may be contacted in the event a question that affects him crops up. If he does not do what is expected of him, and a case comes up in court against him, he cannot just raise his voice and say that he is not subject to the processes of our courts.  He cannot stop a suit from being filed against him upon a claim that he cannot be summoned at his dwelling house or residence or his office or regular place of business.

Not that he cannot be reached within a reasonable time to enable him to contest a suit against him. There are now advanced facilities of communication. Long distance telephone calls and cablegrams make it easy for one he left behind to communicate with him.

Considering that private respondent was temporarily out of the country, the summons and complaint may be validly served on her through substituted service under Section 7, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court which reads:

SEC. 7. Substituted service. — If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section, service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendant’s office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof.

We have held that a dwelling, house or residence refers to the place where the person named in the summons is living at the time when the service is made, even though he may be temporarily out of the country at the time.  It is, thus, the service of the summons intended for the defendant that must be left with the person of suitable age and discretion residing in the house of the defendant.  Compliance with the rules regarding the service of summons is as important as the issue of due process as that of jurisdiction.  Section 7 also designates the persons with whom copies of the process may be left. The rule presupposes that such a relation of confidence exists between the person with whom the copy is left and the defendant and, therefore, assumes that such person will deliver the process to defendant or in some way give him notice thereof.  In this case, the Sheriff’s Return stated that private respondent was out of the country; thus, the service of summons was made at her residence with her husband, Alfredo P. Agudo, acknowledging receipt thereof. Alfredo was presumably of suitable age and discretion, who was residing in that place and, therefore, was competent to receive the summons on private respondent’s behalf.  Notably, private respondent makes no issue as to the fact that the place where the summons was served was her residence, though she was temporarily out of the country at that time, and that Alfredo is her husband. In fact, in the notice of appearance and motion for extension of time to file answer submitted by private respondent’s counsel, he confirmed the Sheriff’s Return by stating that private respondent was out of the country and that his service was engaged by respondent’s husband.  In his motion for another extension of time to file answer, private respondent’s counsel stated that a draft of the answer had already been prepared, which would be submitted to private respondent, who was in Ireland for her clarification and/or verification before the Philippine Consulate there.  These statements establish the fact that private respondent had knowledge of the case filed against her, and that her husband had told her about the case as Alfredo even engaged the services of her counsel.  Leah Palma vs. Hon. Danilo P. Galvez, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 24, et al., G.R. No. 165273, March 10, 2010

Temporary restraining order; non-extension of 20-day period. As to the issue of whether the temporary restraining order issued by the RTC remained valid even if it was beyond the 20-day period provided under the Rules of Court, it is settled that under Section 5, Rule 58 of the Rules of Court, a judge may issue a temporary restraining order within a limited life of twenty (20) days from date of issue.  If before the expiration of the twenty (20)-day period the application for preliminary injunction is denied, the temporary restraining order would be deemed automatically vacated.  If no action is taken by the judge on the application for preliminary injunction within the said twenty (20) days, the temporary restraining order would automatically expire on the 20th day by the sheer force of law, no judicial declaration to that effect being necessary and the courts having no discretion to extend the same.  The rule against the non-extendibility of the twenty (20)-day limited period of effectivity of a temporary restraining order is absolute if issued by a regional trial court.  Hence, the RTC committed error when it ruled that the temporary restraining order it issued on December 2, 2003 was effective until January 5, 2004, a period that was beyond the twenty (20) days allowed under the Rules of Court. This does not mean, however, that the entire TRO was invalidated. The same remained valid and in effect, but only within the 20-day period, after which it automatically expired.  National Electrification Administration vs. Val L. Villanueva, G.R. No. 168203, March 9,   2010

Venue; no waiver of improper venue. Respondent also did not do very well, procedurally. When the RTC denied his Motion to Dismiss, respondent could have filed a petition for certiorari and/or prohibition inasmuch as the denial of the motion was done without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.  However, despite this lapse, it is clear that respondent did not waive his objections to the fact of improper venue, contrary to petitioner’s assertion. Notably, after his motion to dismiss was denied, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration to contest such denial. Even in his Answer Ad Cautelam, respondent stood his ground that the case ought to be dismissed on the basis of improper venue.  Generosa Almeda Latorre vs. Luis Esteban Latorre, G.R. No. 183926, March 29, 2010

Venue; real action. Petitioner filed her complaint with the RTC of Muntinlupa City instead of the RTC of Makati City, the latter being the proper venue in this case. Sections 1 and 2, Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provide an answer to the issue of venue.  Actions affecting title to or possession of real property or an interest therein (real actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper court that has territorial jurisdiction over the area where the real property is situated. On the other hand, all other actions (personal actions) shall be commenced and tried in the proper courts where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides.  The action in the RTC, other than for Collection, was for the Declaration of Nullity of the Deed of Absolute Sale involving the subject property, which is located at No. 1366 Caballero St., Dasmariñas Village, Makati City. The venue for such action is unquestionably the proper court of Makati City, where the real property or part thereof lies, not the RTC of Muntinlupa City.  In this jurisdiction, we adhere to the principle that the nature of an action is determined by the allegations in the Complaint itself, rather than by its title or heading.  It is also a settled rule that what determines the venue of a case is the primary objective for the filing of the case.  In her Complaint, petitioner sought the nullification of the Deed of Absolute Sale on the strength of two basic claims that (1) she did not execute the deed in favor of respondent; and (2) thus, she still owned one half (½) of the subject property. Indubitably, petitioner’s complaint is a real action involving the recovery of the subject property on the basis of her co-ownership thereof.  Second. The RTC also committed a procedural blunder when it denied respondent’s motion to dismiss on the ground of improper venue.

The RTC insisted that trial on the merits be conducted even when it was awfully glaring that the venue was improperly laid, as pointed out by respondent in his motion to dismiss. After trial, the RTC eventually dismissed the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, even as it invoked, as justification, the rules and jurisprudence on venue. Despite the conduct of trial, the RTC failed to adjudicate this case on the merits.  Generosa Almeda Latorre vs. Luis Esteban Latorre, G.R. No. 183926, March 29, 2010

Writ of preliminary attachment; improper issuance against municipality. With this in mind, the Court holds that the writ of preliminary attachment must be dissolved and, indeed, it must not have been issued in the very first place.  While there is merit in private respondent’s position that she, by affidavit, was able to substantiate the allegation of fraud in the same way that the fraud attributable to petitioners was sufficiently alleged in the complaint and, hence, the issuance of the writ would have been justified. Still, the writ of attachment in this case would only prove to be useless and unnecessary under the premises, since the property of the municipality may not, in the event that respondent’s claim is validated, be subjected to writs of execution and garnishment — unless, of course, there has been a corresponding appropriation provided by law.  The Municipality of Hagonoy, Bulacan, represented by the Hon. Felix V. Ople, Municipal Mayor, and Felix V. Ople, in his capacity vs. Hon. Simeon P. Dumdum, Jr. in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City, et al., G.R. No. 168289, March 22, 2010

Special Proceedings

Notice of lis pendens; deemed canceled upon recording of probate court’s approval of compromise agreement. Moreover, a notice of lis pendens may be cancelled when the annotation is not necessary to protect the title of the party who caused it to be recorded. The compromise agreement did not mention the grant of a right of way to respondent. Any agreement other than the judicially approved compromise agreement between the parties was outside the limited jurisdiction of the probate court. Thus, any other agreement entered into by the petitioner and respondent with regard to a grant of a right of way was not within the jurisdiction of the RTC acting as a probate court. Therefore, there was no reason for the RTC not to cancel the notice of lis pendens on TCT No. 24475 as respondent had no right which needed to be protected. Any alleged right arising from the “side agreement” on the right of way can be fully protected by filing an ordinary action for specific performance in a court of general jurisdiction.  More importantly, the order of the probate court approving the compromise had the effect of directing the delivery of the residue of the estate of Lourdes to the persons entitled thereto under the compromise agreement. As such, it brought to a close the intestate proceedings and the probate court lost jurisdiction over the case, except only as regards to the compliance and the fulfillment by the parties of their respective obligations under the compromise agreement.  Having established that the proceedings for the settlement of the estate of Lourdes came to an end upon the RTC’s promulgation of a decision based on the compromise agreement, Section 4, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 4. Recording the order of partition of estate. – Certified copies of final orders and judgments of the court relating to the real estate or the partition thereof shall be recorded in the registry of deeds of the province where the property is situated.

In line with the recording of the order for the partition of the estate, paragraph 2, Section 77 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1529 provides:

Section 77. Cancellation of Lis Pendens – xxx                            xxx              xxx

xxx              xxx

At any time after final judgment in favor of the defendant, or other disposition of the action such as to terminate finally all rights of the plaintiff in and to the land and/or buildings involved, in any case in which a memorandum or notice of lis pendens has been registered as provided in the preceding section, the notice of lis pendens shall be deemed cancelled upon the registration of a certificate of the clerk of court in which the action or proceeding was pending stating the manner of disposal thereof. (emphasis supplied)

Thus, when the September 13, 2000 decision was recorded in the Registry of Deeds of Rizal pursuant to Section 4, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court, the notice of lis pendens inscribed on TCT No. 24475 was deemed cancelled by virtue of Section 77 of PD No. 1529.  Anita Reyes-Menugas vs. Alejandro Aquino Reyes, G.R. No. 174835, March 22, 2010

Settlement of estate; effect of probate court’s approval of compromise agreement. In this instance, the case filed with the RTC was a special proceeding for the settlement of the estate of Lourdes. The RTC therefore took cognizance of the case as a probate court.  Settled is the rule that a probate court is a tribunal of limited jurisdiction. It acts on matters pertaining to the estate but never on the rights to property arising from the contract.  It approves contracts entered into for and on behalf of the estate or the heirs to it but this is by fiat of the Rules of Court.  It is apparent therefore that when the RTC approved the compromise agreement on September 13, 2000, the settlement of the estate proceeding came to an end.  Anita Reyes-Menugas vs. Alejandro Aquino Reyes, G.R. No. 174835, March 22, 2010

Settlement of estate; judgment based on compromise agreement immediately executory.  A compromise is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Once submitted to the court and stamped with judicial approval, it becomes more than a mere private contract binding upon the parties; having the sanction of the court and entered as its determination of the controversy, it has the force and effect of any judgment.  Consequently, a judgment rendered in accordance with a compromise agreement is immediately executory as there is no appeal from such judgment.  When both parties enter into an agreement to end a pending litigation and request that a decision be rendered approving said agreement, such action constitutes an implied waiver of the right to appeal against the said decision.  Anita Reyes-Menugas vs. Alejandro Aquino Reyes,  G.R. No. 174835, March 22, 2010

Other proceedings

Citizenship proceedings; finality and review. Petitioners allege that the DOJ adduced substantial evidence warranting the revocation of respondent’s certificate of recognition and the filing of the deportation proceedings against him.  Petitioners likewise allege that the certificate of recognition did not attain finality as claimed by respondent.  We agree with petitioners that the issuance of certificate of recognition to respondent has not attained finality.  In Go v. Ramos, the Court ruled that citizenship proceedings are a class of its own and can be threshed out again and again as the occasion may demand.  Res judicata may be applied in cases of citizenship only if the following concur:  (a)  a person’s citizenship must be raised as a material issue in a controversy where said person is a party;  (b)  the Solicitor General or his authorized representative took active part in the resolution thereof; and  (c)  the finding of citizenship is affirmed by this Court.

However, the courts are not precluded from reviewing the findings of the [Bureau of Immigration].  Judicial review is permitted if the courts believe that there is substantial evidence supporting the claim of citizenship, so substantial that there are reasonable grounds for the belief that the claim is correct.  When the evidence submitted by a deportee is conclusive of his citizenship, the right to immediate review should be recognized and the courts should promptly enjoin the deportation proceedings.  Courts may review the actions of the administrative offices authorized to deport aliens and reverse their rulings when there is no evidence to sustain the rulings.  Department of Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez, et al. vs. Michael Alfio Pennisi, G.R. No. 169958, March 5, 2010

Consolidation; not available for petition for issuance of writ of possession and petition for annulment of foreclosure proceedings. Given the foregoing discussion, it is clear that the proceedings for the issuance of a writ of possession should not be consolidated with the case for the declaration of nullity of a foreclosure sale. The glaring difference in the nature of the two militates against their consolidation.  The long-standing rule is that proceedings for the issuance of a writ of possession are ex parte and non-litigious in nature.  The only exemption from this rule is Active Wood Products Co., Inc. vs. Court of Appeals where the consolidation of the proceedings for the issuance of a writ of possession and nullification of foreclosure proceedings was allowed following the provisions on consolidation in the Rules of Court. However, the circumstances in this case are substantially distinct from that in Active Wood. Therefore, the exception granted in that case cannot be applied here.  In Active Wood, the petition for writ of possession was filed before the expiration of the one-year redemption period while, in this case, the petition for writ of possession was filed after the one-year redemption period had lapsed. Moreover, in Active Wood, title to the litigated property had not been consolidated in the name of the mortgagee. Therefore, in that case, the mortgagee did not yet have an absolute right over the property. In De Vera vs. Agloro, we ruled:

The possession of land becomes an absolute right of the purchaser as confirmed owner. The purchaser can demand possession at any time following the consolidation of ownership in his name and the issuance to him of a new transfer certificate of title. After the consolidation of title in the buyer’s name for failure of the mortgagor to redeem the property, the writ of possession becomes a matter of right.

In another case involving these two parties, Fernandez and United Overseas Bank Phils. vs. Espinoza, we held:

Upon the expiration of the redemption period, the right of the purchaser to the possession of the foreclosed property becomes absolute.  The basis of this right to possession is the purchaser’s ownership of the property.

In this case, title to the litigated property had already been consolidated in the name of respondent, making the issuance of a writ of possession a matter of right. Consequently, the consolidation of the petition for the issuance of a writ of possession with the proceedings for nullification of foreclosure would be highly improper. Otherwise, not only will the very purpose of consolidation (which is to avoid unnecessary delay) be defeated but the procedural matter of consolidation will also adversely affect the substantive right of possession as an incident of ownership.  Finally, petitions for the issuance of writs of possession, a land registration proceeding, do not fall within the ambit of the Rules of Court.  Thus, the rules on consolidation should not be applied.  Gregorio Espinoza, in his own personal capacity and as surviving spouse, and Jo Anne G. Espinoza, herein represented by their attorney-in-fact, Ban Sangil, G.R. No. 175380, March 22, 2010

Electoral tribunals; review of decisions and orders by Supreme Court. It is hornbook principle that this Court’s jurisdiction to review decisions and orders of electoral tribunals is exercised only upon a showing of grave abuse of discretion committed by the tribunal.  Absent such grave abuse of discretion, this Court shall not interfere with the electoral tribunal’s exercise of its discretion or jurisdiction.  Grave abuse of discretion has been defined in Villarosa vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal as follows:

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 or personal hostility. It must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.

Petitioner mainly assails the Tribunal’s denial of his pleas for an additional period of time within which to make his formal offer of evidence.  However, a review of the proceedings will reveal that the HRET acted in accordance with its rules of procedure and well within its jurisdiction.  Representative Alvin S. Sandoval vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, Josephine Veronique R. Lacson-Noel and Hon. Speaker Prospero Nograles, G.R.  No.  190067, March 9, 2010

Extrajudicial foreclosure; petition for annulment of foreclosure proceeding; nature. On the other hand, by its nature, a petition for nullification or annulment of foreclosure proceedings contests the presumed right of ownership of the buyer in a foreclosure sale and puts in issue such presumed right of ownership. Thus, a party scheming to defeat the right to a writ of possession of a buyer in a foreclosure sale who had already consolidated his ownership over the property subject of the foreclosure sale can simply resort to the subterfuge of filing a petition for nullification of foreclosure proceedings with motion for consolidation of the petition for issuance of a writ of possession. This we cannot allow as it will render nugatory the presumed right of ownership, as well as the right of possession, of a buyer in a foreclosure sale, rights which are supposed to be implemented in an ex parte petition for issuance of a writ of possession.  Besides, the mere fact that the “presumed right of ownership is contested and made the basis of another action” does not by itself mean that the proceedings for issuance of a writ of possession will become groundless. The presumed right of ownership and the right of possession should be respected until and unless another party successfully rebuts that presumption in an action for nullification of the foreclosure proceedings. As such, and in connection with the issuance of a writ of possession, the grant of a complaint for nullification of foreclosure proceedings is a resolutory condition, not a suspensive condition. Gregorio Espinoza, in his own personal capacity and as surviving spouse, and Jo Anne G. Espinoza, herein represented by their attorney-in-fact, Ban Sangil, G.R. No. 175380, March 22, 2010

Jurisdiction; appeal in case involving Shari’a law. Prefatorily, the Court acknowledges the fact that decades after the enactment in 1989 of the law creating the Shari’a Appellate Court and after the Court, per Resolution of June 8, 1999, authorized its creation, the Shari’a Appellate Court has yet to be organized with the appointment of a Presiding Justice and two Associate Justices. Until such time that the Shari’a Appellate Court shall have been organized, however, appeals or petitions from final orders or decisions of the [Shari’a District Court] filed with the CA shall be referred to a Special Division to be organized in any of the CA stations preferably composed of Muslim CA Justices.  For cases where only errors or questions of law are raised or involved, the appeal shall be to this Court by a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court pursuant to Art. VIII, Sec. 5 of the Constitution and Sec. 2 of Rule 41 of the Rules.  To be sure, the Court has, on several occasions, passed upon and resolved petitions and cases emanating from Shari’a courts. Among these was one involving the issue of whether or not grave abuse of discretion attended the denial of a motion to implement a writ of execution. Still another involved the Shari’a courts’ jurisdiction in custody and guardianship proceedings, nullity of marriage and divorce when the parties were both married in civil and Muslim rites, and settlement of estate proceedings where the deceased was alleged to be not a Muslim, or where the estate covered properties situated in different provinces.  The instant petition, involving only a question of law on the jurisdiction of the SDC over a complaint for quieting of title, was properly instituted before the Court.  Sultan Yahya “Jerry” M. Tomawis vs. Hon Rasad G. Balindong, et al., G.R. No. 182434, March 5, 2010

Jurisdiction; concurrent jurisdiction of Sharia’a court and regional trial court in certain cases. As things stood prior to the effectivity date of BP 129, the SDC had, by virtue of PD 1083, original jurisdiction, concurrently with the RTCs and MTCs, over all personal and real actions outside the purview of Art. 143(1)(d) of PD 1083, in which the parties involved were Muslims, except those for ejectment.  Personal action is one that is founded on privity of contracts between the parties; and in which the plaintiff usually seeks the recovery of personal property, the enforcement of a contract, or recovery of damages.  Real action, on the other hand, is one anchored on the privity of real estate, where the plaintiff seeks the recovery of ownership or possession of real property or interest in it.  On the other hand, BP 129, as amended, vests the RTC or the municipal trial court with exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil actions that involve the title to or possession of real property, or any interest in it, and the value of the property subject of the case or the jurisdictional amount, determining whether the case comes within the jurisdictional competence of the RTC or the MTC. Orbeta vs. Orbeta differentiated personal action from real action in the following wise:

A real action, under Sec. 1, Rule 4 of the Rules of Court, is one that affects title to or possession of real property, or an interest therein.  Such actions should be commenced and tried in the proper court which has jurisdiction over the area wherein the real property involved, or a portion thereof, is situated. All other actions are personal and may be commenced and tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs resides, or where the defendant or any of the principal defendants resides, or in the case of a non-resident defendant where he may be found, at the election of the plaintiff.

Civil Case No. 102-97, judging from the averments in the underlying complaint, is basically a suit for recovery of possession and eventual reconveyance of real property which, under BP 129, as amended, falls within the original jurisdiction of either the RTC or MTC.  In an action for reconveyance, all that must be alleged in the complaint are two facts that, admitting them to be true, would entitle the plaintiff to recover title to the disputed land, namely: (1) that the plaintiff is the owner of the land or has possessed the land in the concept of owner; and (2) that the defendant has illegally dispossessed the plaintiff of the land.  A cursory perusal of private respondents’ complaint readily shows that that these requisites have been met: they alleged absolute ownership of the subject parcel of land, and they were illegally dispossessed of their land by petitioner.  The allegations in the complaint, thus, make a case for an action for reconveyance.  Given the above perspective, the question that comes to the fore is whether the jurisdiction of the RTC or MTC is to the exclusion of the SDC.  Petitioner’s version of the law would effectively remove the concurrent original jurisdiction granted by Art. 143, par. 2(b) of PD 1083 to civil courts and Shari’a courts over, among others:

All other personal and real actions not mentioned in paragraph 1 (d) wherein the parties involved are Muslims except those for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, which shall fall under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Court. x x x

Petitioner’s interpretation of the law cannot be given serious thought. One must bear in mind that even if Shari’a courts are considered regular courts, these are courts of limited jurisdiction. As we have observed in Rulona-Al Awadhi vs. Astih, the Code of Muslim Personal Laws creating said courts was promulgated to fulfill “the aspiration of the Filipino Muslims to have their system of laws enforced in their communities.”  It is a special law intended for Filipino Muslims, as clearly stated in the purpose of PD 1083:

ARTICLE 2. Purpose of Code. — Pursuant to Section 11 of Article XV of the Constitution of the Philippines, which provides that “The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs and interests of national cultural communities in the formulation and implementation of state policies,” this Code:

(a)              Recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land and seeks to make Islamic institutions more effective;

(b)    Codifies Muslim personal laws; and

(c)              Provides for an effective administration and enforcement of Muslim personal laws among Muslims.

A reading of the pertinent provisions of BP 129 and PD 1083 shows that the former, a law of general application to civil courts, has no application to, and does not repeal, the provisions found in PD 1083, a special law, which only refers to Shari’a courts.  A look at the scope of BP 129 clearly shows that Shari’a courts were not included in the reorganization of courts that were formerly organized under RA 296. The pertinent provision in BP 129 states:

SECTION 2.    Scope. — The reorganization herein provided shall include the Court of Appeals, the Court of First Instance, the Circuit Criminal Courts, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts, the Courts of Agrarian Relations, the City Courts, the Municipal Courts, and the Municipal Circuit Courts.

As correctly pointed out by private respondents in their Comment, BP 129 was enacted to reorganize only existing civil courts and is a law of general application to the judiciary.  In contrast, PD 1083 is a special law that only applies to Shari’a courts.

In order to give effect to both laws at hand, we must continue to recognize the concurrent jurisdiction enjoyed by SDCs with that of RTCs under PD 1083. . . . . While we recognize the concurrent jurisdiction of the SDCs and the RTCs with respect to cases involving only Muslims, the SDC has exclusive original jurisdiction over all actions arising from contracts customary to Muslims to the exclusion of the RTCs, as the exception under PD 1083, while both courts have concurrent original jurisdiction over all other personal actions. Said jurisdictional conferment, found in Art. 143 of PD 1083, is applicable solely when both parties are Muslims and shall not be construed to operate to the prejudice of a non-Muslim, who may be the opposing party against a Muslim.   Sultan Yahya “Jerry” M. Tomawis vs. Hon Rasad G. Balindong, et al., G.R. No. 182434, March 5, 2010

Jurisdiction; Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) without jurisdiction to resolve issues involving identification and selection of farmer-beneficiaries under CARP. Petitioners argue that the DARAB is not clothed with the power or authority to resolve the issue involving the identification and selection of qualified farmer-beneficiaries since the same is an Agrarian Law Implementation case, thus, an administrative function falling within the jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary.  Petitioners’ argument is well taken.  In Lercana vs. Jalandoni, this Court was categorical in ruling that the identification and selection of CARP beneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter exclusively cognizable by the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and beyond the jurisdiction of the DARAB.  Romanita Concha, et al. vs. Paulino Rubio, et al., G.R. No. 162446, March 29, 2010

Jurisdiction; determined by allegations in complaint. Moreover, the jurisdiction of the court below cannot be made to depend upon defenses set up in the answer, in a motion to dismiss, or in a motion for reconsideration, but only upon the allegations of the complaint.  Jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is determined from the allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought.  In the instant case, private respondents’ petition in Civil Case No. 102-97 sufficiently alleged the concurrent original jurisdiction of the SDC.  Sultan Yahya “Jerry” M. Tomawis vs. Hon Rasad G. Balindong, et al., G.R. No. 182434, March 5, 2010

Jurisdiction; jurisdiction of Special Agrarian Court over just compensation cases under CARL. “Jurisdiction” is the court’s authority to hear and determine a case.  The court’s jurisdiction over the nature and subject matter of an action is conferred by law.  In this case, the law that confers jurisdiction on Special Agrarian Courts designated by the Supreme Court in every province is Republic Act (R.A.) 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.  Sections 56 and 57 are the relevant provisions:

SEC. 56. Special Agrarian Court. – The Supreme Court shall designate at least one (1) branch of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) within each province to act as a Special Agrarian Court.

The Supreme Court may designate more branches to constitute such additional Special Agrarian Courts as may be necessary to cope with the number of agrarian cases in each province. In the designation, the Supreme Court shall give preference to the Regional Trial Courts which have been assigned to handle agrarian cases or whose presiding judges were former judges of the defunct Court of Agrarian Relations.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges assigned to said courts shall exercise said special jurisdiction in addition to the regular jurisdiction of their respective courts.

SEC. 57. Special Jurisdiction. – The Special Agrarian Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses under this Act. The Rules of Court shall apply to all proceedings before the Special Agrarian Courts unless modified by this Act.

The Special Agrarian Courts shall decide all appropriate cases under their special jurisdiction within thirty (30) days from submission of the case for decision.

The law is clear.  A branch of an RTC designated as a Special Agrarian Court for a province has the original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation in that province.  In Republic v. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled that Special Agrarian Courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction over two categories of cases: (1) all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners, and (2) the prosecution of all criminal offenses under R.A. 6657.  By “special” jurisdiction, Special Agrarian Courts exercise power in addition to or over and above the ordinary jurisdiction of the RTC, such as taking cognizance of suits involving agricultural lands located outside their regular territorial jurisdiction, so long as they are within the province where they sit as Special Agrarian Courts.  R.A. 6657 requires the designation by the Supreme Court before an RTC Branch can function as a Special Agrarian Court.  The Supreme Court has not designated the single sala courts of RTC, Branch 64 of Guihulngan City and RTC, Branch 63 of Bayawan City as Special Agrarian Courts.  Consequently, they cannot hear just compensation cases just because the lands subject of such cases happen to be within their territorial jurisdiction.

Since RTC, Branch 32 of Dumaguete City is the designated Special Agrarian Court for the province of Negros Oriental, it has jurisdiction over all cases for determination of just compensation involving agricultural lands within that province, regardless of whether or not those properties are outside its regular territorial jurisdiction.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Corazon M. Villegas/Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Catalino V. Noel, et al., G.R. No. 180384/G.R. No. 180891, March 26, 2010

Jurisdiction; Sandiganbayan has exclusive jurisdiction to determine validity of writs of sequestration issued by PCGG. The task of ascertaining the validity of writs of sequestration issued by the PCGG, when called into question, is the sole province of the Sandiganbayan, the issues involved therein being factual in nature. It is well settled that the Sandiganbayan has full authority to decide any and all incidents pertaining to an ill-gotten [wealth] case, including the propriety of the issuance of the writs of sequestration.  Thus, any question on the correctness of the lifting of the sequestration writ against Heacock upon its motion, either in Civil Case No.  0002 – had Heacock been allowed to intervene – or in Civil Case No. 0101, hardly merits further discussion.  The Sandiganbayan’s questioned resolutions lifting the sequestration writ could be, as it correctly was, decided independently of what petitioner claims to be the existence of “other controverted issues that require trial on the merits before the reliefs prayed for . . .  may be granted.”  Presidential Commission on Good Government vs. H.E. Heacock, Inc. et al., G.R. No. 165878, March 30, 2010

Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping; lack of authority to sign not fatal in Petition for Issuance of Writ of Possession. Petitioners further claim that the lack of authority to sign the certificate on non-forum shopping attached to the Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Possession rendered the same worthless and should be deemed as non-existent.  MBTC asserts otherwise, citing Spouses Arquiza vs. Court of Appeals where we held that an application for a writ of possession is a mere incident in the registration proceeding which is in substance merely a motion, and therefore does not require such a certification.  Petitioners’ contention lacks basis.  In Green Asia Construction and Development Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, where the issue of validity of the Certificate of Non-Forum Shopping was questioned in an application for the issuance of a Writ of Possession, we held that:

x x x it bears stressing that a certification on non-forum shopping is required only in a complaint or a petition which is an initiatory pleading. In this case, the subject petition for the issuance of a writ of possession filed by private respondent is not an initiatory pleading. Although private respondent denominated its pleading as a petition, it is more properly a motion. What distinguishes a motion from a petition or other pleading is not its form or the title given by the party executing it, but its purpose. The purpose of a motion is not to initiate litigation, but to bring up a matter arising in the progress of the case where the motion is filed.  (Emphasis supplied)

It is not necessary to initiate an original action in order for the purchaser at an extrajudicial foreclosure of real property to acquire possession.  Even if the application for the writ of possession was denominated as a “petition”, it was in substance merely a motion.  Indeed, any insignificant lapse in the certification on non-forum shopping filed by the MBTC did not render the writ irregular.  After all, no verification and certification on non-forum shopping need be attached to the motion.  Hence, it is immaterial that the certification on non-forum shopping in the MBTC’s petition was signed by its branch head. Such inconsequential oversight did not render the said petition defective in form.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping; requirement of proof of authority to execute (CSC). With regard, however, to the certification of non-forum shopping, the established rule is that it must be executed by the plaintiff or any of the principal parties and not by counsel.  In this case, Atty. Tiu failed to show that he was specifically authorized by the Chairman to sign the certification of non-forum shopping, much less file the petition in his behalf.  There is nothing on record to prove such authority.  Atty. Tiu did not even bother to controvert Paler’s allegation of his lack of authority. This renders the petition dismissible.  Commission on Appointments, represented herein by its Secretary Hon. Arturo L. Tiu vs. Celso M. Paler, G.R. No.  172623. March 3, 2010

Pleadings; verification (CSC). First, we tackle Atty. Tiu’s authority to file the petition and sign the verification and certification of non-forum shopping.  The petitioner in this case is the Commission on Appointments, a government entity created by the Constitution, and headed by its Chairman.  There was no need for the Chairman himself to sign the verification.  Its representative, lawyer or any person who personally knew the truth of the facts alleged in the petition could sign the verification.  Commission on Appointments, represented herein by its Secretary Hon. Arturo L. Tiu vs. Celso M. Paler, G.R. No.  172623. March 3, 2010

Procedural rules; election cases. In Hofer vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, a case that is closely analogous to the instant petition, the Court emphasized that “[p]rocedural rules in election cases are designed to achieve not only a correct but also an expeditious determination of the popular will of the electorate.” Thus, the time limit set by the rules is not something to be taken lightly, for it was stressed in the same case that “the observance of the HRET Rules in conjunction with our own Rules of Court, must be taken seriously.”  Quoting Baltazar vs. Commission of Elections, The Court reiterated in Hofer that:

By their very nature and given the public interest involved in the determination of the results of an election, the controversies arising from the canvass must be resolved speedily, otherwise the will of the electorate would be frustrated. And the delay brought about by the tactics resorted to by petitioner is precisely the very evil sought to be prevented by election statutes and controlling case law on the matter.

From the foregoing, it is quite clear that the Tribunal acted in the best interest of the electorate, ensuring the determination of the latter’s will within a reasonable time.  In sum, there is absolutely nothing in this case that would justify a finding that the HRET gravely abused its discretion by not granting petitioner an extension of time to present additional evidence and formally offer the same.  Representative Alvin S. Sandoval vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, Josephine Veronique R. Lacson-Noel and Hon. Speaker Prospero Nograles, G.R.  No.  190067, March 9, 2010

Procedural rules; relaxation of period for appeal (CSC). Section 72 of CSC Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999, provides for the period of appeal for non-disciplinary actions, to wit:

Section 72. When and Where to File. – A decision or ruling of a department or agency may be appealed within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof by the party adversely affected to the Civil Service Regional Office and finally, to the Commission Proper within the same period.

Paler’s son received the letter from the Commission Chairman denying Paler’s motion for reconsideration on March 18, 2004.  Thus, Paler’s had until April 2, 2004 within which to file his appeal with the CSC.  It was filed, however, only on April 5, 2004.  Nevertheless, the CSC entertained the appeal in the interest of substantial justice.  We agree with the CSC. We uphold its decision to relax the procedural rules because Paler’s appeal was meritorious.  This is not the first time that the Court has upheld such exercise of discretion.  In Rosales, Jr. v. Mijares involving Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure, the Court ruled:

On the contention of the petitioner that the appeal of the respondent to the CSC was made beyond the period therefor under Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure, the CSC correctly ruled that:

Movant claims that Mijares’ appeal was filed way beyond the reglementary period for filing appeals. He, thus, contends that the Commission should not have given due course to said appeal.

The Commission need not delve much on the dates when Mijares was separated from the service and when he assailed his separation.  Suffice it to state that the Commission found his appeal meritorious. This being the case, procedural rules need not be strictly observed. This principle was explained by in the case of Mauna vs. CSC, 232 SCRA 388, where the Supreme Court ruled, to wit:

“Assuming for the sake of argument that the petitioner’s appeal was filed out of time, it is within the power of this Court to temper rigid rules in favor of substantial justice. While it is desirable that the Rules of Court be faithfully and even meticulously observed, courts should not be so strict about procedural lapses that do not really impair the proper administration of justice. If the rules are intended to ensure the orderly conduct of litigation, it is because of the higher objective they seek which is the protection of substantive rights of the parties. As held by the Court in a number of cases:

x x x

It bears stressing that the case before the CSC involves the security of tenure of a public officer sacrosanctly protected by the Constitution. Public interest requires a resolution of the merits of the appeal instead of dismissing the same based on a strained and inordinate application of Section 49(a) of the CSC Revised Rules of Procedure. (Emphasis supplied)

Constantino-David vs. Pangandaman-Gania likewise sustained the CSC when it modified an otherwise final and executory resolution and awarded backwages to the respondent, in the interest of justice and fair play.  The Court stated –

No doubt, the Civil Service Commission was in the legitimate exercise of its mandate under Sec. 3, Rule I, of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service that “[a]dministrative investigations shall be conducted without necessarily adhering strictly to the technical rules of procedure and evidence applicable to judicial proceedings.” This authority is consistent with its powers and functions to “[p]rescribe, amend and enforce rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of the Civil Service Law and other pertinent laws” being the central personnel agency of the Government.

Furthermore, there are special circumstances in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play that warrant such liberal attitude on the part of the CSC and a compassionate like-minded discernment by this Court. x x x

When substantial justice dictates it, procedural rules may be relaxed in order to arrive at a just disposition of a case.  The purpose behind limiting the period of appeal is to avoid unreasonable delay in the administration of justice and to put an end to controversies. A one-day delay, as in this case, does not justify denial of the appeal where there is absolutely no indication of intent to delay justice on the part of Paler and the pleading is meritorious on its face.  Commission on Appointments, represented herein by its Secretary Hon. Arturo L. Tiu vs. Celso M. Paler, G.R. No.  172623. March 3, 2010

Writ of possession; nature. The order for a writ of possession issues as a matter of course upon the filing of the proper motion and the approval of the corresponding bond if the redemption period has not yet lapsed.  If the redemption period has expired, then the filing of the bond is no longer necessary. Any and all questions regarding the regularity and validity of the sale is left to be determined in a subsequent proceeding and such questions may not be raised as a justification for opposing the issuance of a writ of possession.  In Santiago vs. Merchants Rural Bank of Talavera, Inc., we defined the nature of a petition for a writ of possession:

The proceeding in a petition for a writ of possession is ex parte and summary in nature. It is a judicial proceeding brought for the benefit of one party only and without notice by the court to any person adverse of interest. It is a proceeding wherein relief is granted without giving the person against whom the relief is sought an opportunity to be heard.

By its very nature, an ex parte petition for issuance of a writ of possession is a non-litigious proceeding.  It is a judicial proceeding for the enforcement of one’s right of possession as purchaser in a foreclosure sale. It is not an ordinary suit filed in court, by which one party sues another for the enforcement of a wrong or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong. Gregorio Espinoza, in his own personal capacity and as surviving spouse, and Jo Anne G. Espinoza, herein represented by their attorney-in-fact, Ban Sangil, G.R. No. 175380, March 22, 2010

Writ of possession; nature of proceedings for issuance. The petitioners argue that the court below did not conduct trial for the presentation of evidence to support its conclusion that the intervention would have no bearing on the issuance and implementation of the writ of possession, thereby depriving them of due process.   Petitioners’ contention is without merit.  It is settled that the issuance of a writ of possession is a ministerial duty of the court.  The purchaser of the foreclosed property, upon ex parte application and the posting of the required bond, has the right to acquire possession of the foreclosed property during the 12-month redemption period.  This ex parte petition for the issuance of a writ of possession under Section 7 of Act No. 3135 is not, strictly speaking, a “judicial process” as contemplated in Article 433 of the Civil Code.  As a judicial proceeding for the enforcement of one’s right of possession as purchaser in a foreclosure sale, it is not an ordinary suit by which one party “sues another for the enforcement of a wrong or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong.”  In Idolor vs. Court of Appeals, we described the nature of the ex parte petition for issuance of possessory writ under Act No. 3135 to be a non-litigious proceeding and summary in nature.  As an ex parte proceeding, it is brought for the benefit of one party only, and without notice to, or consent by any person adversely interested.  It is a proceeding where the relief is granted without requiring an opportunity for the person against whom the relief is sought to be heard.  It does not matter even if the herein petitioners were not specifically named in the writ of possession nor notified of such proceedings.  In Sagarbarria vs. Philippine Business Bank, we rejected therein petitioner’s contention that he was denied due process when the trial court issued the writ of possession without notice.   Here in the present case, we similarly reject petitioners’ contention that the trial court should have conducted a trial prior to issuing the Order denying their motion to intervene.  As it is, the law does not require that a petition for a writ of possession may be granted only after documentary and testimonial evidence shall have been offered to and admitted by the court.  As long as a verified petition states the facts sufficient to entitle the petitioner to the relief requested, the court shall issue the writ prayed for.  There is no need for petitioners to offer any documentary or testimonial evidence for the court to grant the petition.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Writ of possession; when exception to issuance does not apply. In this case, we find that petitioners cannot be considered as third parties because they are not claiming a right adverse to the judgment debtor.  Petitioner-teachers and students did not claim ownership of the properties, but merely averred actual “physical possession of the subject school premises”.  Petitioner-teachers’ possession of the said premises was based on the employment contracts they have with the school.  As regards the petitioner-students, Alcuaz vs. Philippine School of Business Administration and Non vs. Dames II characterized the school-student relationship as contractual in nature.  As such, it would be specious to conclude that the teachers and students hold the subject premises independent of or adverse to SMCA.  In fact, their interest over the school premises is necessarily inferior to that of the school.  Besides, their contracts are with the school and do not attach to the school premises.  Moreover, the foreclosure of the current school premises does not prevent the SMCA from continuing its operations elsewhere.  At this point, it is relevant to note that in the Joint Decision dated August 16, 2005, the trial court found that SMCA was not a third party and was therefore bound by the said writ of possession.  Consequently, it affirmed the issuance of the writ of possession.  MBTC thus correctly argued that petitioners did not have superior rights to that of SMCA over the subject property because their supposed possession of the same emanated only from the latter.  Since petitioners’ possession of the subject school premises stemmed from their employment or enrollment contracts with the school, as the case may be, necessarily, their right to possess the subject school premises cannot be adverse to that of the school and of its owners.  As such, the petitioners cannot be deemed “third parties” as contemplated in Act No. 3135, as amended.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Writ of possession; when issued; period of redemption. As a rule, it is ministerial upon the court to issue a writ of possession after the foreclosure sale and during the period of redemption.  Section 7 of Act No. 3135 explicitly authorizes the purchaser in a foreclosure sale to apply for a writ of possession during the redemption period by filing an ex parte motion under oath for that purpose “in the registration or cadastral proceedings if the property is registered, or in special proceedings in the case of property registered under the Mortgage Law” with the Regional Trial Court of the province or place where the real property or any part thereof is situated, in the case of mortgages duly registered with the Registry of Deeds.  Upon filing of such motion and the approval of the corresponding bond, the law also directs in express terms the said court to issue the order for a writ of possession.  However, this rule is not without  exception.   In Barican vs.  Intermediate Appellate Court, we held that the obligation of a court to issue an ex parte writ of possession in favor of the purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale ceases to be ministerial once it appears that there is a third party in possession of the property who is claiming a right adverse to that of the debtor/mortgagor.  This ruling was reiterated in Policarpio vs. Active Bank where we held that:

Ordinarily, a purchaser of property in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale is entitled to possession of the property. Thus, whenever the purchaser prays for a writ of possession, the trial court has to issue it as a matter of course. However, the obligation of the trial court to issue a writ of possession ceases to be ministerial once it appears that there is a third party in possession of the property claiming a right adverse to that of the debtor/mortgagor. Where such third party exists, the trial court should conduct a hearing to determine the nature of his adverse possession.  (Emphasis supplied)

The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Writ of possession; remedy to challenge; appeal. Petitioners assert that Section 8 of Act No. 3135 specifically refers to “the debtor” as the party who is required to file a petition for the cancellation of the writ of possession in the same proceeding in which possession was requested.  As they are not the debtors referred to in the said law, petitioners argue that the filing of a petition for the cancellation of the writ of possession in the same proceeding in which possession was requested, does not apply to them.  Hence, they allege that it was improper for the CA to conclude that the Petition for Certiorari was the wrong remedy in the case where the writ of possession was issued.  Respondent, on the other hand, avers that certiorari is available only when there is 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 the instant case, the respondent argues that the court merely granted the Writ of Possession in accordance with settled jurisprudence and that the remedy of certiorari does not lie because there is an available remedy which is an appeal.  We hold that the CA correctly held that the proper remedy is a separate, distinct and independent suit provided for in Section 8 of Act No. 3135 viz:

SEC. 8. The debtor may, in the proceedings in which possession was requested, but not later than thirty days after the purchaser was given possession, petition that the sale be set aside and the writ of possession canceled, specifying the damages suffered by him, because the mortgage was not violated or the sale was not made in accordance with the provisions hereof, and the court shall take cognizance of this petition in accordance with the summary procedure provided for in section one hundred and twelve of Act Numbered Four hundred and ninety-six; and if it finds the complaint of the debtor justified, it shall dispose in his favor of all or part of the bond furnished by the person who obtained possession. Either of the parties may appeal from the order of the judge in accordance with section fourteen of Act Numbered Four hundred and ninety-six; but the order of possession shall continue in effect during the pendency of the appeal.

In De Gracia vs. San Jose, we held that:

x x x the order for a writ of possession issues as a matter of course upon the filing of the proper motion and the approval of the corresponding bond.  No discretion is left to the court.  And any question regarding the regularity and validity of the sale (and the consequent cancellation of the writ) is left to be determined in a subsequent proceeding as outlined in section 8. Such question is not to be raised as a justification for opposing the issuance of the writ of possession, since, under the Act, the proceeding for this is ex parte. (Emphasis supplied)

Since the writ of possession had already been issued in LRC Case No. 6438 per Order dated November 29, 2005, the proper remedy is an appeal and not a petition for certiorari, in accordance with our ruling in Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company vs. Tan and Government Service Insurance System vs. Court of Appeals. As long as the court acts within its jurisdiction, any alleged errors committed in the exercise of its discretion will amount to nothing more than mere errors of judgment, correctable by an appeal if the aggrieved party raised factual and legal issues; or a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court if only questions of law are involved.  The Parents-Teachers Association [PTA] of St. Matthew Academy, et al. vs. The Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 176518, March 2, 2010

Evidence

Documentary evidence and oral evidence; weight accorded. Furthermore, petitioners failed to adduce any evidence to show that the real and personal properties acquired and registered in the names of Elfledo and respondent formed part of the estate of Jose, having been derived from Jose’s alleged partnership with Jimmy and Norberto. They failed to refute respondent’s claim that Elfledo and respondent engaged in other businesses.  Edison even admitted that Elfledo also sold Interwood lumber as a sideline.  Petitioners could not offer any credible evidence other than their bare assertions.  Thus, we apply the basic rule of evidence that between documentary and oral evidence, the former carries more weight.  Heirs of Jose Lim, represented by Elenito Lim vs. Juliet Villa Lim, G.R. No. 172690, March 3, 2010

Evidence of existence of partnership. At this juncture, our ruling in Heirs of Tan Eng Kee vs. Court of Appeals is enlightening. Therein, we cited Article 1769 of the Civil Code, which provides:

Art. 1769.  In determining whether a partnership exists, these rules shall apply:

(1)              Except as provided by Article 1825, persons who are not partners as to each other are not partners as to third persons;

(2)              Co-ownership or co-possession does not of itself establish a partnership, whether such co-owners or co-possessors do or do not share any profits made by the use of the property;

(3)              The sharing of gross returns does not of itself establish a partnership, whether or not the persons sharing them have a joint or common right or interest in any property from which the returns are derived;

(4)              The receipt by a person of a share of the profits of a business is a prima facie evidence that he is a partner in the business, but no such inference shall be drawn if such profits were received in payment:

(a)              As a debt by installments or otherwise;

(b)              As wages of an employee or rent to a landlord;

(c)              As an annuity to a widow or representative of a deceased partner;

(d)              As interest on a loan, though the amount of payment vary with the profits of the business;

(e)              As the consideration for the sale of a goodwill of a business or other property by installments or otherwise.

Applying the legal provision to the facts of this case, the following circumstances tend to prove that Elfledo was himself the partner of Jimmy and Norberto:  1)  Cresencia testified that Jose gave Elfledo P50,000.00, as share in the partnership, on a date that coincided with the payment of the initial capital in the partnership; (2) Elfledo ran the affairs of the partnership, wielding absolute control,  power and authority, without any intervention or opposition whatsoever from any of petitioners herein; (3) all of the properties, particularly the nine trucks of the partnership, were registered in the name of Elfledo; (4) Jimmy testified that Elfledo did not receive wages or salaries from the partnership, indicating that what he actually received were shares of the profits of the business; and (5) none of the petitioners, as heirs of Jose, the alleged partner, demanded periodic accounting from Elfledo during his lifetime.  As repeatedly stressed in Heirs of Tan Eng Kee, a demand for periodic accounting is evidence of a partnership.  Heirs of Jose Lim, represented by Elenito Lim vs. Juliet Villa Lim, G.R. No. 172690, March 3, 2010

Evidence of ownership of real property. We agree with petitioners that respondents failed to present any evidence to show that they owned parts of the property in dispute.  First, in the stipulation of facts during the pre-trial conference before the MCTC, respondents admitted that the land was owned by Adriano.  While both Juanito and Ronald claimed that Adriano donated to them their respective portions of the property when they got married in 1978 and 1987, respectively, they did not present any deed of donation.  As the MCTC stated in its 19 November 2003 Decision, “the transfers cannot be by donation because the law requires that for donation to be effective, it must be in a public instrument and in this case there is none.”

Second, the tax declaration offered by respondents as evidence only mentioned Adriano as the owner of the whole property.  While tax declarations are not conclusive evidence of ownership, they constitute proof of claim of ownership.  Respondents did not present any credible explanation why the tax declaration was only under the name of Adriano.  Third, contrary to Ronald’s claim, the June 1994 deed of mortgageid not clearly show that he was the owner of the property and that petitioners recognized him as such.  While Ronald’s name appeared in the body of the deed, the designation as owner of the property under his name was crossed-out.  It was Adriano who signed the deed of mortgage and the designation as owner of the property appeared under his name.  Fourth, Ronald was present when the deed of sale was executed on 22 September 1994 and he even signed as one of the witnesses.  We find it hard to believe that Ronald and Adriano did not understand the contents of the deed when it was written in their local dialect.  Moreover, it took respondents more than seven years to question Adriano’s sale of the whole property to petitioners.  Lastly, respondents claim ownership of the property based on OCT No. AO-7236.  However, a certificate of title is not equivalent to title. In Lee Tek Sheng vs. Court of Appeals, we explained:

By title, the law refers to ownership which is represented by that document [the Original Certificate of Title or the Transfer Certificate of Title]. Petitioner apparently confuses certificate with title. Placing a parcel of land under the mantle of the Torrens system does not mean that ownership thereof can no longer be disputed. Ownership is different from a certificate of title. The TCT is only the best proof of ownership of a piece of land. Besides, the certificate cannot always be considered as conclusive evidence of ownership. Mere issuance of the certificate of title in the name of any person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be under co-ownership with persons not named in the certificate or that the registrant may only be a trustee or that other parties may have acquired interest subsequent to the issuance of the certificate of title. To repeat, registration is not the equivalent of title, but is only the best evidence thereof. Title as a concept of ownership should not be confused with the certificate of title as evidence of such ownership although both are interchangeable.  (Emphasis supplied)

Spouses Melchor, et al. vs. Ronald B. Bernal, et al., G.R. No. 169336, March 18, 2010

Preponderance of evidence. In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. Preponderance of evidence is the weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side, and is usually considered to be synonymous with the term greater weight of the evidence or greater weight of the credible evidencePreponderance of evidence is a phrase that means, in the last analysis, probability of the truth.  It is evidence that is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.  Lim successfully discharged his burden of proof as the plaintiff. He established by preponderant evidence that he had a superior right and title to the property.  In contrast, the petitioners did not present any proof of their better title other than their copy of the reconstituted certificate of title. Such proof was not enough, because the registration of a piece of land under the Torrens system did not create or vest title, such registration not being a mode of acquiring ownership. The petitioners need to be reminded that a certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner. Teofisto Oño, et al. vs. Vicente N. Lim, G.R. No. 154270, March 9,  2010

Preponderance of evidence; how determined. Petitioners heavily rely on Jimmy’s testimony. But that testimony is just one piece of evidence against respondent. It must be considered and weighed along with petitioners’ other evidence vis-à-vis respondent’s contrary evidence. In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. “Preponderance of evidence” is the weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered synonymous with the term “greater weight of the evidence” or “greater weight of the credible evidence.” “Preponderance of evidence” is a phrase that, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence that is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.  Rule 133, Section 1 of the Rules of Court provides the guidelines in determining preponderance of evidence, thus:

SECTION I.  Preponderance of evidence, how determined. In civil cases, the party having burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number.

Heirs of Jose Lim, represented by Elenito Lim vs. Juliet Villa Lim, G.R. No. 172690, March 3, 2010

Presumptions; entries in public record. The memorandum of the DOJ special committee also cited only the affidavits of Soliman and Peralta and then concluded that the evidence presented before the Senate Committees had overcome the presumption that the entries in the certificate of live birth of Quintos are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.  We agree with the Court of Appeals that while the affidavits of Soliman and Peralta might have cast doubt on the validity of Quintos’ certificate of live birth, such certificate remains valid unless declared invalid by competent authority.  The rule stands that “(d)ocuments consisting of entries in public records made in the performance of a duty by a public officer are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. x x x.”  We further sustain the Court of Appeals that there could be reasons why the Quintoses and Tomedas were not included in the census, such as they could have been mere transients in the place.  As for their absence in the master’s list of voters, they could have failed to register themselves as voters.  The late registration of Quintos’ certificate of live birth was made 10 years after her birth and not anytime near the filing of respondent’s petition for recognition as Filipino citizen.  As such, it could not be presumed that the certificate’s late filing was meant to use it fraudulently.  Finally, the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs itself attested that as of 14 July 1999, Quintos has not been granted Australian citizenship.  Respondent submitted a certified true copy of Quintos’ Australian certificate of registration of alien, indicating her nationality as Filipino.  These pieces of evidence should prevail over the affidavits submitted by Soliman and Peralta to the Senate Committees.  Department of Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez, et al. vs. Michael Alfio Pennisi, G.R. No. 169958, March 5, 2010

Presumptions; presumption of authenticity and due execution of notarial document overcome by clear and convincing evidnce. It is true that a notarial document is considered evidence of the facts expressed therein.  A notarized document enjoys a prima facie presumption of authenticity and due execution and only clear and convincing evidence will overcome such legal presumption.  However, such clear and convincing evidence is present here.  While it is true that the SPA was notarized, it is no less true that there were defects in the notarization which mitigate against a finding that the SPA was either genuine or duly executed. Curiously, the details of Manuel’s Community Tax Certificate are conspicuously absent, yet Martha’s are complete. The absence of Manuel’s data supports his claim that he did not execute the same and that his signature thereon is a forgery. Moreover, we have Manuel’s positive testimony that he never signed the SPA, in addition to the expert testimony that the signature appearing on the SPA was not Manuel’s true signature.  Titan Construction Corporation vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 2010

Presumptions; regularity in performance of official function. The key to resolving the petitions lies in the validity of the Pagadian case execution sale.  The presumption of regularity in the performance of official function here applies. Conformably, any party alleging irregularities vitiating an auction sale must come forward with clear and convincing proof.  In G.R. No. 176123, FPC has not discharged its burden of proof.  Apart from its bare allegations, it has not come forward with any evidence, let alone a clear and convincing one, of non-compliance with the requirement of a minimum of five days prior notice of sale of property on execution.  Hence, in the absence of contrary evidence, the presumption prevails that the sheriff performed his official duty of posting the notices of sale within the reglementary period.  In finding otherwise, the Manila RTC placed the burden of proof on the sheriff without jurisprudential basis.  Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. First Plywood Corporation/Jose Cabaral Tiu vs. Timber Exports, Inc. Angel Domingo, Country Bankers Ins. Corp., Perfecto Mondarte, Jr. and Cesar Dacal, G.R. No. 176123/G.R. No.  185265, March 10, 2010

Presumptions; regularity of notarized documents. Notarized documents, like the deed in question [i.e., “Sale and Transfer of Rights over a Portion of a Parcel of Land”], enjoy the presumption of regularity which can be overturned only by clear, convincing and more than merely preponderant evidence.  This petitioner failed to discharge.  Flordeliza Emilio vs. Bilma Rapal, G.R. No. 181855, March 30, 2010, G.R. No. 181855, March 30, 2010

Presumption; regularity of tax declaration indicating assessed value of property. Significantly, the Technical Report on Verification Survey by Engineer Robert C. Pangyarihan, which was attached to and formed part of the records, contained a tax declaration indicating that the subject property has an assessed value of P110,220.00.  It is basic that the tax declaration indicating the assessed value of the property enjoys the presumption of regularity as it has been issued by the proper government agency.  Honorio Bernardo vs. Heirs of Eusebio Villegas, G.R. No. 183357, March 15, 2010 G.R. No. 183357, March 15, 2010

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