May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

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

Civil Procedure

Appeal; direct appeal to Supreme Court from trial court decision improper.  Records show that on December 13, 2004, the trial court rendered a Decision finding that petitioner can execute judgment on the additional attorney’s fees but only up to the extent of P1,000,000.00, not the entire amount of P20,000,000.00 as prayed for in his petition.  Petitioner received a copy of the assailed decision on December 22, 2004.  Petitioner moved for reconsideration on December 29, 2004, but the same was denied in the trial court’s Order dated March 1, 2005.  Petitioner received a copy of the challenged order on March 7, 2005.  On March 17, 2005, instead of appealing the assailed decision and order of the trial court to the Court of Appeals via a notice of appeal under Section 2(a) of Rule 41 of the Rules, petitioner filed a petition for review on certiorari directly with this Court, stating that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to an excess of jurisdiction, and that there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy available in the ordinary course of law.  This is a procedural misstep.  Although denominated as petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, petitioner, in questioning the decision and order of the trial court which were rendered in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, should have taken the appeal to the Court of Appeals within fifteen (15) days from notice of the trial court’s March 1, 2005 Order, i.e., within 15 days counted from March 7, 2005 (date of receipt of the appealed order), or until March 22, 2005, by filing a notice of appeal with the trial court which rendered the decision and order appealed from and serving copies thereof upon the adverse party pursuant to Sections 2(a) and 3 of Rule 41.  Clearly, when petitioner sought to assail the decision and order of the trial court, an appeal to the Court of Appeals was the adequate remedy which he should have availed of, instead of filing a petition directly with this Court.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010

Appeal; failure to properly indicate appealing party; ground for dismissal.  With respect to the first case against Marcelina, we resolve to dismiss the appeal of Felisa.  Section 5 of Rule 45 provides that the failure of the petitioner to comply, among others, with the contents of the petition for review on certiorari shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.  Section 4 of the same rule mandates, among others, that the petition should state the full name of the appealing party as the petitioner.  In this case, Felisa indicated in the caption as well as in the parties portion of the petition that she is the landowner.  Even in the verification and certification of non-forum shopping, Felisa attested that she is the petitioner in the instant case.  However, it appears in the PARAD records that the owners of the subject 14,000-square meter agricultural land are Rosa R. Pajarito (Pajarito), Elvira A. Madolora (Madolora) and Anastacia F. Lagado (Lagado).  Felisa is only the representative of the said landowners with respect to the first case against Marcelina.  Thus, for failure of Felisa to indicate the appealing party with respect to the said case, the appeal must perforce be dismissed.  However, such failure does not affect the appeal on the other three cases as Felisa is the owner/co-owner of the landholdings subject of said three cases.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of Court of Appeals conclusive upon Supreme Court.  Indeed, as the appellate court held, in order to write finis to the case, the fair market value of the property must be determined on the basis of the existing records, instead of still remanding the case to the trial court.  “Fair market value” has acquired a settled meaning in law and jurisprudence.  It is the price at which a property may be sold by a seller who is not compelled to sell and bought by a buyer who is not compelled to buy, taking into consideration all uses to which the property is adapted and might in reason be applied. The criterion established by the statute contemplates a hypothetical sale.  Given this yardstick, the Court found no cogent reason to disturb the factual finding of the appellate court that the proper valuation of the property is P13,000 per square meter as of January 26, 1999.  As it correctly explained, the value was arrived at through the market data approach, which is based on sales and listings of comparable property registered within the vicinity; and that the property was classified as raw land because there were yet no houses and facilities like electricity, water and others at the time of the exercise of the option.  The rule is well-established that if there is no showing of error in the appreciation of facts by the appellate court as in the present case, the Court treats it as conclusive.  Public Estates Authority now Philippine Proclamation Authority vs. Estate of Jesus S. Yujuico, et al., G.R. No. 181847, May 5, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts conclusive upon Supreme Court.  The existence of malice, ill will or bad faith is a factual matter. As a rule, findings of fact of the trial court, when affirmed by the appellate court, are conclusive on this Court.  We see no compelling reason to reverse the findings of the RTC and the CA that respondents acted in bad faith and in utter disregard of the rights of Cordero under the exclusive distributorship agreement.  Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner” vs. Mortimer F. Cordero/Mortimer F. Cordero vs. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner”, et al., G.R. No. 164703/G.R. No. 164747, May 4, 2010

Appeal; findings of fact of lower courts conclusive upon Supreme Court.  Both the trial and appellate courts dismissed petitioners’ complaint on the ground that they had failed to prove the existence of an oral partition.  Petitioners now insist that the two courts overlooked facts and circumstances that are allegedly of much weight and will alter the decision if properly considered.  Petitioners would have the Court review the evidence presented by the parties, despite the CA’s finding that the trial court committed no error in appreciating the evidence presented during the trial.  This goes against the rule that this Court is not a trier of facts.  “Such questions as whether certain items of evidence should be accorded probative value or weight, or rejected as feeble or spurious, or whether or not the proofs on one side or the other are clear and convincing and adequate to establish a proposition in issue, are without doubt questions of fact.”  Questions like these are not reviewable by this Court which, as a rule, confines its review of cases decided by the CA only to questions of law, which may be resolved without having to re-examine the probative value of the evidence presented.  We find no compelling reason to deviate from the foregoing rule and disturb the trial and appellate courts’ factual finding that the existence of an oral partition was not proven.  Our examination of the records indicates that, contrary to petitioners’ contention, the lower courts’ conclusion was justified.  Heirs of Pacres vs. Heirs of Ygoña, G.R. No. 174719, May 5, 2010

Appeal; proper mode of appeal from decision of Regional Trial Court acting as Special Agrarian Court is petition for review under Rule 42, not ordinary appeal under Rule 41.  Landbank admitted in its Memorandum that the issue had already been settled in Land Bank of the Philippines v. De Leon. In ruling that a petition for review and not an ordinary appeal is the proper mode of appeal from the decision of the RTC-SAC in cases involving the determination of just compensation, the Court said:

The reason why it is permissible to adopt a petition for review when appealing cases decided by the Special Agrarian Courts in eminent domain cases is the need for absolute dispatch in the determination of just compensation.  Just compensation means not only paying the correct amount but also paying for the land within a reasonable time from its acquisition.  Without prompt payment, compensation cannot be considered “just” for the property owner is made to suffer the consequences of being immediately deprived of his land while being made to wait for a decade or more before actually receiving the amount necessary to cope with his loss.  Such objective is more in keeping with the nature of a petition for review.

Unlike an ordinary appeal, a petition for review dispenses with the filing of a notice of appeal or completion of records as requisites before any pleading is submitted. A petition for review hastens the award of fair recompense to deprived landowners for the government-acquired property, an end not foreseeable in an ordinary appeal. xxx

On March 20, 2003, the Court issued an En Banc Resolution to address the status of pending cases which had been appealed through a notice of appeal:

WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration dated October 16, 2002 and the supplement to the motion for reconsideration dated November 11, 2002 are partially granted.  While we clarify that the Decision of this Court dated September 10, 2002 stands, our ruling therein that a petition for review is the correct mode of appeal from decisions of Special Agrarian Courts shall apply only to cases appealed after the finality of this Resolution. [emphasis supplied]

As earlier stated, Landbank filed its notice of appeal on August 18, 1998.  Pursuant to the ruling that De Leon can be applied prospectively from March 20, 2003, the appeal of Landbank, filed prior to that date, could be positively acted upon.  Accordingly, the subject CA resolutions should be set aside and Landbank should be allowed to elevate the matter to it via Rule 42 of the Rules of Court furnishing a copy to the heirs of Luz Rodriguez at their address of record. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Luz L. Rodriguez, G.R. No. 148892, May 6, 2010

Certiorari; improper remedy where appeal is available.  Even if the petition will be treated as a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, the same should be dismissed.  In Madrigal Transport, Inc. v. Lapanday Holdings Corporation, which has been often cited in subsequent cases, the Court declared that where appeal is available to the aggrieved party, the action for certiorari will not be entertained.  Remedies of appeal (including petitions for review) and certiorari are mutually exclusive, not alternative or successive.  Hence, certiorari is not and cannot be a substitute for an appeal, especially if one’s own negligence or error in one’s choice of remedy occasioned such loss or lapse.  One of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no available appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy.  Where an appeal is available, certiorari will not prosper, even if the ground therefor is grave abuse of discretion.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010

Certiorari; nature of remedy.  Thirdly, the petitioner considers this petition as a petition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, and yet petitioner insists (somehow to justify direct resort to this Court) that the petition involves a PURE QUESTION OF LAW, presenting the lone issue of “[w]hether or not respondent Judge’s admission of petitioner’s amended complaint can validly moot its indirect contempt suit against private respondent and its responsible officers.”  Petitioner is confusing this Court. Rule 65 does not deal with pure questions of law.  It involves grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and this grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction should be alleged and proved.  In this regard, petitioner failed again.  People’s Air Cargo, et al. vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendiola, et al., G.R. No. 181068, May 4, 2010

Certiorari; requirement of motion for reconsideration.  The petition should be dismissed outright. Firstly, no motion for reconsideration was filed before petitioner filed this petition under Rule 65.  Certiorari is not a defense against the unfavorable consequences of a failure to file the required motion for reconsideration. Petitioner may not designate to itself the determination of whether a motion for reconsideration is necessary or not. The plain and adequate remedy referred to in Section 1 of Rule 65 is a motion for reconsideration of the assailed decision.  The purpose of this requirement is to enable the court or agency to rectify its mistakes without the intervention of a higher court.  To dispense with the requirement of filing a motion for reconsideration, petitioner must show a concrete, compelling, and valid reason for doing so.  In this case, the petitioner failed.  Thus, petitioner should have first interposed a motion for reconsideration.  People’s Air Cargo, et al. vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendiola, et al., G.R. No. 181068, May 4, 2010

Contempt; indirect contempt.  Even if this Court ignores the mentioned procedural lapses, still the petition fails on the merits. There was no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of public respondent in issuing the assailed order.  Public respondent had sufficient basis for not giving due attention to the Urgent Motion to Cite for Contempt.  Section 4, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court prescribes the procedure for the institution of proceedings for indirect contempt, viz:

“Sec. 4. How proceedings commenced. – Proceedings for indirect contempt may be initiated motu proprio by the court against which the contempt was committed by an order or any other formal charge requiring the respondent to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt.

In all other cases, charges for indirect contempt shall be commenced by a verified petition with supporting particulars and certified true copies of documents or papers involved therein, and upon full compliance with the requirements for filing initiatory pleadings for civil actions in the court concerned.  If the contempt charges arose out of or are related to a principal action pending in the court, the petition for contempt shall allege that fact but said petition shall be docketed, heard and decided separately, unless the court in its discretion orders the consolidation of the contempt charge and the principal action for joint hearing and decision.”

In this case, petitioner filed a mere motion in the same civil case. People’s Air Cargo, et al. vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendiola, et al., G.R. No. 181068, May 4, 2010

Grave abuse of discretion; facial objection test.  The respondents next argue that the petition’s cited grounds are mere errors of law and do not constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  This objection can be read as a facial objection to the petition or as a substantive one that goes into the merits of the petition.  We will discuss under the present topic the facial objection, as it is a threshold issue that determines whether we shall proceed to consider the case or simply dismiss the petition outright.  A facial objection is meritorious if, expressly and on the face of the petition, what is evident as cited grounds are erroneous applications of the law rather than grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. After due consideration, we conclude that the petition passes the facial objection test. In Madrigal Transport, Inc. v. Lapanday Holdings Corporation, the Court, through former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, gave a very succinct exposition of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in relation to errors of law.  The Court then said:

A writ of certiorari may be issued only for the correction of errors of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The writ cannot be used for any other purpose, as its function is limited to keeping the inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction.

x x x x

“Without jurisdiction” means that the court acted with absolute lack of authority. There is “excess of jurisdiction” when the court transcends its power or acts without any statutory authority. “Grave abuse of discretion” implies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as to be equivalent to lack or excess of jurisdiction; in other words, power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; and such exercise is so patent or so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal either to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.

Between an appeal and a petition for certiorari, there are substantial distinctions which shall be explained below.

As to the PurposeCertiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction, not errors of judgment. In Pure Foods Corporation v. NLRC, we explained the simple reason for the rule in this light:

“When a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. This cannot be allowed. The administration of justice would not survive such a rule. Consequently, an error of judgment that the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction is not correct[a]ble through the original civil action of certiorari.”

The supervisory jurisdiction of a court over the issuance of a writ of certiorari cannot be exercised for the purpose of reviewing the intrinsic correctness of a judgment of the lower court — on the basis either of the law or the facts of the case, or of the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision. Even if the findings of the court are incorrect, as long as it has jurisdiction over the case, such correction is normally beyond the province of certiorari. Where the error is not one of jurisdiction, but of an error of law or fact — a mistake of judgment — appeal is the remedy. [Emphasis supplied.]

The most obvious ground cited in the petition that, if properly established, would constitute grave abuse of discretion is the alleged unwarranted action of the en banc in acting on the registration of the NP-NPC when the COMELEC’s own Rules of Procedure provides that registration is under the jurisdiction of the Division at the first instance.  This alleged error is more than an error of law.  If this cited ground is correct, then the en banc acted without legal authority and thereby committed a jurisdictional transgression; its action, being ultra vires, would be a nullity.

Another allegation of an ultra vires act is that the COMELEC, by appropriate resolution, ordered that August 17, 2009 be the cut-off date for the registration of parties, and yet approved the registration of NP-NPC long after this cut-off date had passed without any valid justification or reason for suspending the rule.  For the en banc to so act was not a mere error of law.  The grant of registration was an act outside mandatory legal parameters and was therefore done when the COMELEC no longer had the authority to act on it.  In this sense, it is a proper allegation of grave abuse of discretion under Rule 64 of the Rules of Court.

In our view, these jurisdictional challenges to the en banc Resolution, if established, constitute ultra vires acts that would render the Resolution void. Liberal Party, vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010

Judgments; judicially approved compromise agreement constitutes res judicata upon the parties.  The present case turns on the pivot of the option to purchase provided in the Compromise Agreement which, having been judicially affirmed, constitutes res judicata upon the parties.

A compromise agreement intended to resolve a matter already under litigation is a judicial compromise. Having judicial mandate and entered as its determination of the controversy, such judicial compromise has the force and effect of a judgment. It transcends its identity as a mere contract between the parties, as it becomes a judgment that is subject to execution in accordance with the Rules of Court. Thus, a compromise agreement  that  has  been  made and duly approved by the court attains the effect and authority of res judicata, although no execution may be issued unless the agreement receives the approval of the court where the litigation is pending and compliance with the terms of the agreement is decreed.

To simply say that, by the earlier-quoted term of the Compromise Agreement respecting petitioner’s evaluation of the land subject of the option to purchase on the basis of its fair market value on the date of the exercise of the option, petitioner has the exclusive prerogative to determine the purchase price of the subject land is a very myopic interpretation.  The proper interpretation of the stipulation is that petitioner is given the right to determine the price of the subject land, provided it can substantiate that the same is its fair market value as of the date of the exercise of the option.  The term “fair market value” in the stipulation cannot be ignored without running afoul of the intent of the parties.  It not being disputed that respondents exercised the option to purchase on January 26, 1999, the valuation should thus be based on the fair market value of the property on the said date.  Public Estates Authority now Philippine Proclamation Authority vs. Estate of Jesus S. Yujuico, et al., G.R. No. 181847, May 5, 2010 .

Jurisdiction; hierarchy of courts. Secondly, the petition violates the principle of hierarchy of courts. The assailed Order is an order from the RTC of Pasay.  This petition should have been filed with the Court of Appeals, after the filing of a Motion for Reconsideration.  People’s Air Cargo, et al. vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendiola, et al., G.R. No. 181068, May 4, 2010

Jurisdiction; hierarchy of courts; exception.  On the contrary, the direct recourse to this Court as an exception to the rule on hierarchy of courts has been recognized because it was dictated by public welfare and the advancement of public policy, or demanded by the broader interest of justice, or the orders complained of were found to be patent nullities, or the appeal was considered as clearly an inappropriate remedy.  Considering the merits of the present case, the Court sees the need to relax the iron clad policy of strict observance of the judicial hierarchy of courts and, thus, takes cognizance over the case.  The trial court, in its Decisions dated December 1, 2004 and December 13, 2004 (per Presiding Judge Raul Bautista Villanueva), erred in motu proprio modifying the Separate Judgment dated July 22, 1997 (per Presiding Judge Florentino M. Alumbres) by reducing the entitlement of petitioner’s additional attorney’s fees from P20,000,000.00 to P1,000,000.00.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarror, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010

Jurisdiction; submission to jurisdiction by voluntary appearance and request for affirmative relief. We find no error committed by the trial court in overruling Robinson’s objection over the improper resort to summons by publication upon a foreign national like him and in an action in personam, notwithstanding that he raised it in a special appearance specifically raising the issue of lack of jurisdiction over his person.  Courts acquire jurisdiction over the plaintiffs upon the filing of the complaint, while jurisdiction over the defendants in a civil case is acquired either through the service of summons upon them in the manner required by law or through their voluntary appearance in court and their submission to its authority.  A party who makes a special appearance in court challenging the jurisdiction of said court based on the ground of invalid service of summons is not deemed to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court.  In this case, however, although the Motion to Dismiss filed by Robinson specifically stated as one (1) of the grounds the lack of “personal jurisdiction,” it must be noted that he had earlier filed a Motion for Time to file an appropriate responsive pleading even beyond the time provided in the summons by publication.  Such motion did not state that it was a conditional appearance entered to question the regularity of the service of summons, but an appearance submitting to the jurisdiction of the court by acknowledging the summons by publication issued by the court and praying for additional time to file a responsive pleading.  Consequently, Robinson having acknowledged the summons by publication and also having invoked the jurisdiction of the trial court to secure affirmative relief in his motion for additional time, he effectively submitted voluntarily to the trial court’s jurisdiction.  He is now estopped from asserting otherwise, even before this Court.  Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner” vs. Mortimer F. Cordero/Mortimer F. Cordero vs. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner”, et al., G.R. No. 164703/G.R. No. 164747, May 4, 2010

Litis pendentia; requisites.  Petitioner contends that the CA erred when it refused to apply the principle of litis pendentia notwithstanding the similarities in the circumstances of the plaintiffs, the identities of the defendants and the similarities in some of the antecedent issues in the Bacolod Case, the Hector Lacson Case and Ramon Monfort Case.  The requisites of litis pendentia are: (a) the identity of parties, or at least, such as representing the same interests in both actions; (b) the identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity of the two cases, such that judgment in one, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other.  The underlying principle of litis pendentia is the theory that a party is not allowed to vex another more than once regarding the same subject matter and for the same cause of action.  This theory is founded on the public policy that the same subject matter should not be the subject of controversy in courts more than once, in order that possible conflicting judgments may be avoided for the sake of the stability of the rights and status of persons.  The CA was correct when it opined that:

Our perusal of the record reveals that forum shopping cannot, indeed, be attributed to the appellants. While it may be readily conceded that the plaintiffs in the instant case are more or less similarly situated as the plaintiffs in the cases previously filed and that the defendants, or at least the interest they represent, are basically the same, the fact remains that there is no identity of causes of action and issues in the cases so far filed against the latter. The instant suit, as may be gleaned from the complaint, concerns the supposed undervaluation by the appellees of fifteen (15) sugar export sales of the appellants’ export sugar production for the crop years 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 (pp. 3-32, Orig. Rec.). In contrast, Civil Case No. 4301, entitled “Hector Lacson, et al. vs. National Sugar Trading Corporation, et al.” concerns the overcharging of trading costs for the plaintiffs’ export sugar production for the crop years 1981-1982 and 1982-1983, underpayment resulting from the defendants’ use of an erroneous peso-dollar exchange rate and reimbursement for amounts alleged to have been wrongfully withheld by the latter (pp. 163-171, ibid.) On the other hand, Civil Case No. 88-46368 entitled “Ramon Monfort, et al. vs. Philippine Sugar Commission, et al.” concerned the deficiency due the plaintiffs therein from sugar export sales for which a lower exchange rate was allegedly used by the defendants, the recovery, among others, of excessive trading costs charged, unauthorized deductions, damages, premiums and other sums supposedly still due from the defendants, as well as a detailed accounting of the sales of the export sugar produced by the plaintiffs therein. While the amended complaint filed in the case also sought to claim differentials for three (3) under-valued/under-declared NASUTRA export sales from the crop year 1980-1981 harvest, the same significantly pertained to different shipments and were coursed not through appellee Traders’ Royal Bank but through the Republic Planters Bank (pp. 246-271, ibid). The variance in the subject matters of the instant case and the aforesaid cases are even conceded in the brief filed by appellee Roberto Benedicto (pp. 153-155, Rollo).

The test to determine identity of causes of action is to ascertain whether the same evidence necessary to sustain the second cause of action is sufficient to authorize a recovery in the first, even if the forms or the nature of the two (2) actions are different from each other. If the same facts or evidence would sustain both, the two (2) actions are considered the same within the rule that the judgment in the former is a bar to the subsequent action; otherwise, it is not. This method has been considered the most accurate test as to whether a former judgment is a bar in subsequent proceedings between the same parties. It has even been designated as infallible.  While the plaintiffs in the Bacolod Case are more or less similarly situated as the plaintiffs in the Hector Lacson Case and Ramon Monfort Case, the CA was correct when it ruled that there was no identity of causes of action and issues as it cannot be said that exactly the same evidence are needed to prove the causes of action in all three cases.  Thus, in the Bacolod Case, the evidence needed to prove that petitioner undervalued fifteen sugar export sales of respondents’ export sugar production for the crop years 1979-1980 and 1980-1981 is not the same evidence needed in the Hector Lacson Case to prove the over-charging of trading costs for respondents’ export sugar production for the crop years 1981-1982 and 1982-1983, underpayment resulting from the petitioner’s use of an erroneous peso-dollar exchange rate and reimbursement for amounts alleged to have been wrongfully withheld by the latter. The same holds true for the Ramon Monfort Case where the same significantly pertained to different shipments and were coursed not thru the Traders Royal Bank, but thru the Republic Planters Bank.  The Court of Appeals, therefore, did not abuse its discretion in finding that no litis pendentia existed in the case at bar.  Roberto S. Benedicto, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 141508, May 5, 2010

Mandamus; any citizen can be real party-in-interest where petition anchored on people’s right to information on matters of public concern.  In order that a petition for mandamus may be given due course, it must be instituted by a party aggrieved by the alleged inaction of any tribunal, corporation, board, or person, which unlawfully excludes said party from the enjoyment of a legal right.  However, if the petition is anchored on the people’s right to information on matters of public concern, any citizen can be the real party in interest. The requirement of personal interest is satisfied by the mere fact that the petitioner is a citizen, and therefore, part of the general public which possesses the right.  There is no need to show any special interest in the result. It is sufficient that petitioners are citizens and, as such, are interested in the faithful execution of the laws.  The petitioners in this case are Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Bishop Leo A. Soriano, Jr., Quintin S. Doromal, Fe Maria Arriola, Isagani R. Serrano, and Engr. Rodolfo Lozada. All are Filipino citizens. They are thus clothed with personality to institute this special civil action for mandamus.  Teofisto Guingona, Jr. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 191846, May 6, 2010

Mandamus; available to compel disclosure of information on matters of public concern.  It is not enough, however, that the information petitioners seek in a writ of mandamus is a matter of public concern. For mandamus to lie in a given case, the information must not be among the species exempted by law from the operation of the constitutional guarantee.  In this case, respondent Comelec failed to cite any provision of law exempting the information sought by petitioners from the coverage of the government’s constitutional duty to disclose fully information of public concern.  Respondent’s claim that there is no proof a request has been made for the release of the public records mentioned in the petition is belied by its allegation in its own Comment that this matter has already been addressed in the recent case of Roque v. Comelec.  Quoting the Court’s ruling in that case on the issue of disclosure of the source code, respondent unwittingly admits a prior request for disclosure:

The fact that a source code review is not expressly included in the Comelec schedule of activities is not an indication, as petitioners suggest, that Comelec will not implement such review. Comelec, in its Comment on the Motion for Reconsideration, manifests its intention to make available and open the source code to all political and interested parties, but under a controlled environment to obviate replication and tampering of the source code.

Petitioners in Roque v. Comelec in fact pressed Comelec for a source code review. To this day, however, Comelec has yet to disclose the source code as mandated by law. In any case, considering the lack of material time, the Court in the exercise of its equity jurisdiction may even dispense with the requirement of proof of a prior demand in this case.  The Court may, and given the alarming developments of late in the run-up to the 10 May 2010 elections, should compel Comelec to disclose fully the complete details of its preparations.  In Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, the Court stressed that the constitutional duty to disclose information of public concern may be compelled by mandamus, to wit:

Thus, while the manner of examining public records may be subject to reasonable regulation by the government agency in custody thereof, the duty to disclose the information of public concernand to afford access to public records cannot be discretionary on the part of said agencies. Certainly, its performance cannot be made contingent upon the discretion of such agencies. Otherwise, the enjoyment of the constitutional right may be rendered nugatory by any whimsical exercise of agency discretion. The constitutional duty, not being discretionary, its performance may be compelled by a writ of mandamus in a proper case. (Emphasis supplied)

XXX                                          XXX                                          XXX                                          XXX

In sum, petitioners’ prayer to compel Comelec to explain fully its preparations for the coming 10 May 2010 elections finds overwhelming support in the Constitution, specifically under Section 7 of Article III and Section 28 of Article II on the people’s right to information and the State’s corresponding duty of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest; the jurisprudential doctrines laid down in Valmonte v. Belmonte, Jr.Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, and Akbayan Citizens Action Party v. Aquino; as well as Section 52(j) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 otherwise known as the Omnibus Election Code; Section 5(e) of Republic Act No. 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9184 otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act; Sections 1, 11, and 12 of Republic Act No. 9369 otherwise known as An Act Amending Republic Act No. 8436; and Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9525 otherwise known as An Act  Appropriating P11 Billion as Supplemental Appropriations for an Automated Election System.  Respondent Comelec cannot shirk its constitutional duty to disclose fully to the public complete details of all information relating to its preparations for the 10 May 2010 elections without violating the Constitution and relevant laws. No less than the Constitution mandates it to enforce and administer election laws. The Comelec chairman and the six commissioners are beholden and accountable to the people they have sworn to serve.   This Court, as the last bulwark of democracy in this country, will spare nothing in its constitutionally granted powers to ensure that the fundamental right of the people to information on matters of public concern, especially on matters that directly affect our democratic processes, is fully guaranteed, protected, and implemented. Teofisto Guingona, Jr. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 191846, May 6, 2010

Motion to dismiss; order of denial interlocutory. It is the position of petitioner that the CA erred when it chose not to dismiss the case based on the “other grounds” petitioner had earlier raised in its motion to dismiss. More specifically, petitioner claims that the grounds of lack of cause of action, res judicata, payment and prescription warrant the dismissal of the complaint.  The same deserves scant consideration.  It bears to stress that the RTC, in its June 5, 1996 Order, did not also consider the other grounds now raised by petitioner, to wit:

In view of the sufficiency of the grounds for dismissal discussed above, the other grounds invoked by the defendants in their Motion to Dismiss, which do not appear to be indubitable without additional evidence need not be considered.

While petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss was granted by the RTC in its June 5, 1996 Order, the same Order, however, effectively denied the other grounds raised by petitioner as the same did not appear to be indubitable without additional evidence.  It is a settled rule that an Order denying a motion to dismiss is merely interlocutory and, therefore, not appealable, nor can it be subject of a petition for review on certiorari. Such order may only be reviewed in the ordinary course of law by an appeal from the judgment after trial. The ordinary procedure to be followed in that event is to file an answer, go to trial, and if the decision is adverse, reiterate the issue on appeal from the final judgment.  While the rule refers to instances when a motion to dismiss is completely denied, this Court finds no reason not to apply the same in instances when some of the grounds raised in a motion to dismiss are denied by the lower court. The “other grounds” now raised by petitioner were not before the CA because the same were not put in issue by respondents when they chose to assail the RTC’s Order to dismiss the complaint. This is understandable especially since the “other grounds” were not made the basis of the RTC’s Order. Procedurally then, the proper remedy of petitioner, should he choose to reassert the “other grounds,” is to interpose the same as defenses in his answer and not to put them in issue in this appeal.  Roberto S. Benedicto, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 141508, May 5, 2010

Parties; real party-in-interest.  First, on the issue of whether the case had been filed by the real party-in-interest as required by Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, which defines such party as the one (1) to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit.  The purposes of this provision are: 1) to prevent the prosecution of actions by persons without any right, title or interest in the case; 2) to require that the actual party entitled to legal relief be the one to prosecute the action; 3) to avoid a multiplicity of suits; and 4) to discourage litigation and keep it within certain bounds, pursuant to sound public policy.  A case is dismissible for lack of personality to sue upon proof that the plaintiff is not the real party-in-interest, hence grounded on failure to state a cause of action.

On this issue, we agree with the CA in ruling that it was Cordero and not Pamana who is the exclusive distributor of AFFA in the Philippines as shown by the Certification dated June 1, 1997 issued by Tony Robinson.  Petitioner Go mentions the following documents also signed by respondent Robinson which state that “Pamana Marketing Corporation represented by Mr. Mortimer F. Cordero” was actually the exclusive distributor: (1) letter dated 1 June 1997; (2) certification dated 5 August 1997; and (3) letter dated 5 August 1997 addressed to petitioner Cordero concerning  “commissions to be paid to Pamana Marketing Corporation.”  Such apparent inconsistency in naming AFFA’s exclusive distributor in the Philippines is of no moment.  For all intents and purposes, Robinson and AFFA dealt only with Cordero who alone made decisions in the performance of the exclusive distributorship, as with other clients to whom he had similarly offered AFFA’s fast ferry vessels.  Moreover, the stipulated commissions from each progress payments made by Go were directly paid by Robinson to Cordero.   Respondents Landicho and Tecson were only too aware of Cordero’s authority as the person who was appointed and acted as exclusive distributor of AFFA, which can be gleaned from their act of immediately furnishing him with copies of bank transmittals everytime Go remits payment to Robinson, who in turn transfers a portion of funds received to the bank account of Cordero in the Philippines as his commission. Out of these partial payments of his commission, Cordero would still give Landicho and Tecson their respective “commission,” or “cuts” from his own commission.   Respondents Landicho and Tecson failed to refute the evidence submitted by Cordero consisting of receipts signed by them.  Said amounts were apart from the earlier expenses shouldered by Cordero for Landicho’s airline tickets, transportation, food and hotel accommodations for the trip to Australia.  Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner” vs. Mortimer F. Cordero/Mortimer F. Cordero vs. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner”, et al., G.R. No. 164703/G.R. No. 164747, May 4, 2010

Parties; real parties-in-interest. We do not likewise find the failure to formally implead the NP-NPC a sufficient reason to dismiss the petition outright. Without any finally confirmed registration in the coalition’s favor, NP-NPC does not legally exist as a coalition with a personality separate and distinct from the component NP and NPC parties.  We find it sufficient that the NP and the NPC have separately been impleaded; as of the moment, they are the real parties-in-interest as they are the parties truly interested in legally establishing the existence of their coalition.  Again, we find no resulting harm or prejudice in the omission to implead NP-NPC, as the component parties have voiced out the concerns the coalition would have raised had it been impleaded as a separate and properly existing personality.  Liberal Party vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010

Petitions; prematurity. Is the present petition premature, since its object is to foreclose a ruling on the unsettled NP-NPC accreditation issue? This is another threshold issue, raised this time by the OSG, and we rule that the OSG’s objection has no merit.

The root of the present petition is the NP-NPC petition before the COMELEC for registration as a coalition and accreditation as the dominant minority party.  While the en banc claimed that it had jurisdiction over the registration of coalitions and in fact decreed the NP-NPC’s registration, it strangely did not rule on the accreditation aspect of the petition.

The registration of a coalition and the accreditation of a dominant minority party are two separate matters that are substantively distinct from each other.  Registration is the act that bestows juridical personality for purposes of our election lawsaccreditation, on the other hand, relates to the privileged participation that our election laws grant to qualified registered parties.  Section 2(5), Article IX-C of the Constitution and Rule 32 of the COMELEC Rules regulate the registration of political parties, organizations or coalitions of political parties.  Accreditation as a dominant party is governed by COMELEC Resolution No. 8752, Section 1 of which states that the petition for accreditation shall be filed with the Clerk of the Commission who shall docket it as an SPP (DM) case, in the manner that the NP-NPC petition before the COMELEC was docketed.  While the registration of political parties is a special proceeding clearly assigned to a Division for handling under the COMELEC Rules, no similar clear-cut rule is available for a petition for accreditation as a dominant party.  We thus make no statement on this point, as it is not a matter in issue.  Under the circumstances of the present case where the registration was handled at the en banc, action at the COMELEC ended upon the en banc’s issuance of the assailed Resolution; under Rule 13, Section 1(d) of the COMELEC Rules, a motion for reconsideration of an en banc ruling is a prohibited pleading, except in election offense cases.  Any request for accreditation that may be filed is conceptually a separate matter for the COMELEC to handle. Thus, after the en banc issued the assailed Resolution resolving the NP-NPC’s application for registration as a coalition, the COMELEC’s part in the registration process was brought to a close, rendering the Resolution ripe for review by this Court.  The present petition has openly stated its objective of forestalling the accreditation of the respondent NP-NPC; the petition expressly and frontally sought the issuance of a writ of prohibition and restraining order to prevent the COMELEC from accrediting a coalition that is not registered as a party. The combination of a petition for certiorari and for prohibition under the circumstances of the present case is fully justified, as the registration and the accreditation that the petition covers are linked with and in fact sequentially follow one another. Accreditation can only be granted to a registered political party, organization or coalition; stated otherwise, a registration must first take place before a request for accreditation can be made.  Once registration has been carried out, accreditation is the next natural step to follow.  Where the registration is flawed for having been attended by grave abuse of discretion, as alleged in the petition, the filing of a petition for prohibition with a prayer for a preliminary injunction can only be expected as a logical remedial move; otherwise, accreditation, unless restrained, will follow. Thus, from the point of view of prohibition, there is absolutely no prematurity as its avowed intent is in fact to forestall an event – the accreditation – that according to the assailed Resolution shall soon take place.  From the point of view of the petition for certiorari questioning the registration made, no prematurity issue is involved as the nullification of a past and accomplished act is prayed for.  From these perspectives, the OSG objection based on prematurity is shown to be completely groundless.  Liberal Party vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010

Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping.  Petitioner contends that respondents are guilty of forum shopping because they failed to disclose, at the time of the filing of the Bacolod Case, the fact that some of the respondents had earlier commenced a similar action in Pasig. Petitioner claims that respondents should have informed the RTC of Bacolod of the commencement and subsequent withdrawal of the Pasig Case in the certificate of non-forum shopping. Petitioner insists that even if the Pasig Case was subsequently withdrawn, the same still constituted a “commenced action,” which is required to be disclosed under the rules of forum shopping.  Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that:

SEC. 5. Certification against forum shopping. – The plaintiff or principal party shall certify under oath in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith: (a) that 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 (5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.

Failure to comply with the foregoing requirements shall not be curable by mere amendment of the complaint or other initiatory pleading but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice, unless otherwise provided, upon motion and after hearing. The submission of a false certification or non-compliance with any of the undertakings therein shall constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to the corresponding administrative and criminal actions. If the acts of the party or his counsel clearly constitute willful and deliberate forum shopping, the same shall be ground for summary dismissal with prejudice and shall constitute direct contempt as well as a cause for administrative sanctions.

A perusal of the records shows that, with the exception of additional party-plaintiffs, the Pasig Case actually has a strong resemblance to the Bacolod Case.  The Pasig Case, however, was dismissed upon the instance of the plaintiffs even before the Bacolod Case was filed. The RTC Order allowing the dismissal of the complaint in the Pasig Case is hereunder reproduced, to wit:

x x x x

On November 14, 1995, A Notice of Dismissal was filed by plaintiffs thru counsel, Attys. Ricardo G. Nepomuceno, Jr. and Epifanio Sedigo, Jr., pursuant to Section 1, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court.

According to the said Rule, plaintiff may, at any time before service of answer, dismiss an action by filing a notice of dismissal.

Records show that no answer has yet been filed by defendants.

Being in conformity to the Rules, the same is hereby granted.

WHEREFORE, herein complaint is hereby DISMISSED and without prejudice to the re-filing thereof.

Notify parties and counsel of this Order.

SO ORDERED.

The essence of forum shopping is the filing by a party against whom an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, seeking another and possibly favorable opinion in another suit other than by appeal or special civil action for certiorari; the act of filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment.  Forum shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in the action under consideration.

There is no dispute that the dismissal of the complaint in the Pasig case, upon notice of the plaintiffs therein, was sanctioned by Section 1, Rule 17 of the Revised Rules of Court.  Quite clearly, the Order declared that the dismissal of the complaint was without prejudice to the re-filing thereof. Moreover, even if the same were tested under the rules on litis pendentia and res judicata, the danger of conflicting decisions cannot be  present, since the Pasig case was dismissed even before a responsive pleading was filed by petitioner. Since a party resorts to forum shopping in order to increase his chances of obtaining a favorable decision or action, it has been held that a party cannot be said to have sought to improve his chances of obtaining a favorable decision or action where no unfavorable decision has even been rendered against him in any of the cases he has brought before the courts.  Roberto S. Benedicto, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 141508, May 5, 2010

Pleadings; certification of non-forum shopping.  While the RTC may have been of the opinion that the Pasig Case was nevertheless “commenced” and, therefore, the same should have been stated by respondents in their certification of non-forum shopping in the Bacolod case, this Court does not share the same view.

In Roxas v. Court of Appeals, this Court had on occasion ruled that when a complaint is dismissed without prejudice at the instance of the plaintiff, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 17 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, there is no need to state in the certificate of non-forum shopping in a subsequent re-filed complaint the fact of the prior filing and dismissal of the former complaint, thus:

Considering that the complaint in Civil Case No. 97-0523 was dismissed without prejudice by virtue of the plaintiff’s (herein petitioner’s) Notice of Dismissal dated November 20, 1997 filed pursuant to Section 1, Rule 17 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, there is no need to state in the certificate of non-forum shopping in Civil Case No. 97-0608 about the prior filing and dismissal of Civil Case No. 97-0523. In Gabionza v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that it is scarcely necessary to add that Circular No. 28-91 (now Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure) must be so interpreted and applied as to achieve the purposes projected by the Supreme Court when it promulgated that Circular. Circular No. 28-91 was designed to serve as an instrument to promote and facilitate the orderly administration of justice and should not be interpreted with such absolute literalness as to subvert its own ultimate and legitimate objective or the goal of all rules or procedure – which is to achieve substantial justice as expeditiously as possible. The fact that the Circular requires that it be strictly complied with merely underscores its mandatory nature in that it cannot be dispensed with or its requirements altogether disregarded, but it does not thereby interdict substantial compliance with its provisions under justifiable circumstances.

Thus, an omission in the certificate of non-forum shopping about any event that would not constitute res judicata and litis pendencia as in the case at bar, is not fatal as to merit the dismissal and nullification of the entire proceedings considering that the evils sought to be prevented by the said certificate are not present. It is in this light that we ruled in Maricalum Mining Corp. v. National Labor Relations Commission that a liberal interpretation of Supreme Court Circular No. 04-94 on non-forum shopping would be more in keeping with the objectives of procedural rules which is to “secure a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.”

Roberto S. Benedicto, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 141508, May 5, 2010

Procedural rules; liberal application.  Verily, in numerous occasions, this Court has relaxed the rigid application of the rules to afford the parties the opportunity to fully ventilate their cases on the merits. This is in line with the time-honored principle that cases should be decided only after giving all parties the chance to argue their causes and defenses. Technicality and procedural imperfection should thus not serve as basis of decisions. Technicalities should never be used to defeat the substantive rights of the other party.  Every party-litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.  In that way, the ends of justice would be better served. For, indeed, the general objective of procedure is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties, bearing always in mind that procedure is not to hinder but to promote the administration of justice.  In the case at bar, considering that the same involves the various claims of 371 respondents, this Court finds that justice and equity are best served by allowing respondents to prove their case on the merits rather than denying them their day in court on a strict application of the rules.  Roberto S. Benedicto, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 141508, May 5, 2010

Procedural rules; liberal application; importance of questions raised.  We have indicated many times in the past that a primary factor in considering technical and procedural objections is the nature of the issues involved.  We have been strict when the issues are solely confined to the parties’ private interests and carry no massive ripple effects directly affecting the public, but have viewed with liberality the technical and procedural threshold issues raised when grave public interests are involved.  Our liberality has even gone beyond the purely technical and procedural where Court intervention has become imperative.  Thus, we have recognized exceptions to the threshold issues of ripeness and mootness of the petitions before us, as well as questions on locus standi. We have also brushed aside procedural technicalities where the issues raised, because of the paramount public interest involved and their gravity, novelty or weight as precedents deserve the Court’s attention and active intervention.  We see every reason to be liberal in the present case in view of interests involved which are indisputably important to the coming electoral exercise now fast approaching.  The registration of political parties, their accreditation as dominant parties, and the benefits these recognitions provide – particularly, the on-line real time electronic transmission of election results from the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) through the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines; the immediate access to official election results; the per diems from the government that watchers of accredited parties enjoy; and the representation at the printing, storage and distribution of ballots that the dominant-party status brings – constitute distinct advantages to any party and its candidates, if only in terms of the ready information enabling them to react faster to developing situations.  The value of these advantages exponentially rises in an election under an automated system whose effectiveness and reliability, even at this late stage, are question marks to some. To the public, the proper registration and the accreditation of dominant parties are evidence of equitable party representation at the scene of electoral action, and translate in no small measure to transparency and to the election’s credibility.  Thus, our focus is on the core issues that confront us and the parties, by-passing the technical and procedural questions raised that do not anyway affect the integrity of the petition before us or prejudice the parties involved, and concentrating as well on the issues that would resolve the case soonest so that the parties involved and the COMELEC can move on to their assigned time-sensitive roles and tasks in the coming elections.  We note that while the respondents placed in issue defects in the attachments to the petition, their objection is a formal one as they do not deny the existence and basic correctness of these attachments.  We see no resulting harm or prejudice therefore if we overrule the objection raised, given the weight of the counterbalancing factors we considered above. Liberal Party vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010

Other proceedings

Extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage; writ of possession.  It is settled that questions regarding the validity of a mortgage or its foreclosure as well as the sale of the property covered by the mortgage cannot be raised as ground to deny the issuance of a writ of possession. Any such questions must be determined in a subsequent proceeding as in fact, herein respondents commenced an action for Annulment of Certificate of Sale, Promissory Note and Deed of Mortgage.  Parenthetically, the court a quo denied the issuance of the writ as it credited respondents’ opposition to petitioner’s petition for the issuance of a writ of possession, which opposition it synthesized as follows:

On the other hand, the mortgagors[-respondents herein] contend that the extrajudicial foreclosure proceedings conducted by the Notary Public over the mortgaged properties of the mortgagors suffered jurisdictional infirmities; that the jurisdictional infirmities consisted of the fact that the requirement of posting the notices of the sale for not less that twenty (20) days in at least three (3) public places in the city where the property is situated was not complied with; that the notice of auction sale did not mention with preciseness and particularity the kind of improvement on the mortgaged property, which consist of a three-storey building; that the bank (petitioner herein) and the Notary Public colluded to deprive the prospective bidders interested in the properties from participating in the public auction sale since they were deprived of knowing the real status of the subject properties; that the mortgaged properties were auctioned for a price grossly disproportionate and morally shocking as compared to the real value of the same properties; that the petitioner also violated the provisions of Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 3, governing the procedure of extrajudicial foreclosure, x x x.  (underscoring supplied)

By crediting respondents’ opposition, Branch 77 of the court a quo pre-empted its co-equal branch, Branch 221, to which jurisdiction over respondents’ annulment petition was laid, from determining the merits of respondents’ claim-basis of said petition.

Section 33 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 33. Deed and possession to be given at expiration of redemption period; by whom executed or given. – If no redemption be made within one (1) year from the date of the registration of the certificate of sale, the purchaser is entitled to a conveyance and possession of the property;      x x x

Upon the expiration of the right of redemption, the purchaser or redemptioner shall be substituted to and acquire all the rights, title, interest and claim of the judgment obligor to the property as of the time of the levy.    (underscoring supplied)

Since respondents failed to redeem the mortgage within the reglementary period, entitlement to the writ of possession becomes a matter of right and the issuance thereof is merely a ministerial function.  The judge to whom an application for a writ of possession is filed need not look into the validity of the mortgage or the manner of its foreclosure. Until the foreclosure sale is annulled, the issuance of the writ of possession is ministerial.  In fact, even during the period of redemption, the purchaser is entitled as of right to a writ of possession provided a bond is posted to indemnify the debtor in case the foreclosure sale is shown to have been conducted without complying with the requirements of the law.  More so when, as in the present case,  the redemption period has expired and ownership is vested in the purchaser.  The defaulting mortgagor is not without any expedient remedy, however.  For under Section 8 of Act 3135, as amended by Act 4118, it can file with the court which issues the writ of possession a petition for cancellation of the writ within 30 days after the purchaser-mortgagee was given possession.   So Section 8 of Rule 39 provides:

SECTION 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 cancelled, 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.  (underscoring supplied)

Planters Development Bank vs. James and Anthony Ng, G.R. No. 187556, May 5, 2010

HLURB; authority to issue cease and desist order (CDO).  Respecting GSIS’s argument that PD No. 385 prohibits the issuance of a [Cease and Desist Order], the pertinent provisions of the decree read:

Section 1. It shall be mandatory for government financial institutions, after the lapse of sixty (60) days from the issuance of this Decree, to foreclose the collaterals and/or securities for any loan, credit, accommodation, and/or guarantees granted by them whenever the arrearages on such account, including accrued interest and other charges, amount to at least twenty percent (20%) of the total outstanding obligations, including interest and other charges, as appearing in the books of account and/or related records of the financial institution concerned. This shall be without prejudice to the exercise by the government financial institutions of such rights and/or remedies available to them under their respective contracts with their debtors, including the right to foreclose on loans, credits, accommodations and/or guarantees on which the arrearages are less than twenty percent (20%).

Section 2. No restraining order, temporary or permanent injunction shall be issued by the court against any government financial institution in any action taken by such institution in compliance with the mandatory foreclosure provided in Section 1 hereof, whether such restraining order, temporary or permanent injunction is sought by the borrower(s) or any third party or parties, except after due hearing in which it is established by the borrower and admitted by the government financial institution concerned that twenty percent (20%) of the outstanding arrearages has been paid after the filing of foreclosure proceedings.

In case a restraining order or injunction is issued, the borrower shall nevertheless be legally obligated to liquidate the remaining balance of the arrearages outstanding as of the time of foreclosure, plus interest and other charges, on every succeeding thirtieth (30th) day after the issuance of such restraining order or injunction until the entire arrearages have been liquidated. These shall be in addition to the payment of amortization currently maturing. The restraining order or injunction shall automatically be dissolved should the borrower fail to make any of the above-mentioned payments on due dates, and no restraining order or injunction shall be issued thereafter. This shall be without prejudice to the exercise by the government financial institutions of such rights and/or remedies available to them under their respective charters and their respective contracts with their debtors, nor should this provision be construed as restricting the government financial institutions concerned from approving, solely at its own discretion, any restructuring, recapitalization, or any other arrangement that would place the entire account on a current basis, provided, however, that at least twenty percent (20%) of the arrearages outstanding at the time of the foreclosure is paid.

All restraining orders and injunctions existing as of the date of this Decree on foreclosure proceedings filed by said government financial institutions shall be considered lifted unless finally resolved by the court within sixty (60) days from date hereof. (underscoring supplied)

The act subject of the CDO was the intended consolidation by the GSIS of ownership of the condominium unit, not the mandatory foreclosure of the mortgage.  At any rate, the second paragraph of the above-quoted Section 2 of PD No. 385 in fact recognizes the eventuality that an injunction may be issued against a government financial institution, hence, it obliges the borrower to liquidate the arrearages due in order to safeguard the interests of the government financial institution-lender.

Undoubtedly, the jurisdiction of the HLURB to regulate the real estate business is broad enough to include jurisdiction over a complaint for annulment of foreclosure sale and mortgage and the grant of incidental reliefs such as a CDO.  Even Presidential Decree No. 957, “The Subdivision and Condominium Buyers Protective Decree,” authorizes the HLURB as successor of the National Housing Authority to issue CDOs in relevant cases, viz:

SECTION 16.               Cease and Desist Order. — Whenever it shall appear to the Authority that any person is engaged or about to engage in any act or practice which constitutes or will constitute a violation of the provisions of this Decree, or of any rule or regulation thereunder, it may, upon due notice and hearing as provided in Section 13 hereof, issue a cease and desist order to enjoin such act or practices.

Government Service Insurance System vs. Board of Commissioners (2nd Division), et al., G.R. No. 180062, May 5, 2010

HLURB; jurisdiction of Division of HLURB Board of Commissioners to entertain motion for reconsideration or appeal. GSIS’s motion for reconsideration having been denied by the appellate court by Resolution of October 10, 2007, the present petition for review was filed.  GSIS argues in the main that the HLURB Revised Rules of Procedure did not vest authority in the Board’s Second Division to entertain appeals.  The Court is not persuaded.  Section 5 of E.O. No. 648 specifically mandates the HLURB Board of Commissioners to adopt rules of procedure for the conduct of its business and perform such functions necessary for the effective discharge thereof.  Such grant of power necessary to carry out its functions has been held to be an adequate source of authority to delegate a particular function, unless, by express provision of the Act or by implication, it has been withheld.  The present composition of the Board of Commissioners, wherein five out of its nine members sit in ex-officio capacity while the remaining four serve as full time commissioners, practicality necessitates the establishment of a procedure whereby a case on appeal may be decided by members of a division.  Since the 2004 HLURB Rules of Procedure provides that a motion for reconsideration shall be assigned to the Division from which the decision, order or ruling originated, the questioned cognizance by the HLURB Second Division of GSIS’s motion for reconsideration is in order.  Government Service Insurance System vs. Board of Commissioners (2nd Division), et al., G.R. No. 180062, May 5, 2010

Evidence

Burden of proof; agricultural lessor has burden to show existence of lawful cause to eject agricultural lessee.  We reiterate that the petitioner, as  agricultural  lessor,  has  the burden of proof to show the existence of a lawful cause for the ejectment of an agricultural lessee.  In support of her allegations, Felisa presented the Investigation Report of MARO Legal Officer Estimada and an affidavit of a resident of the barangay where both the original leaseholder Isabelo and the alleged sublessee, Soledad, reside.  The full text of the Investigation Report with respect to his factual findings on the case against Soledad is as follows:

In the dispute against Soledad Agustin, the lawful tenant was Isabelo Ramirez and not Soledad Agustin.  In the conference/mediation that was conducted it was discovered that the cultivator and possessor of the land is actually Isabelo Ramirez.  This is also being covered by an Agricultural leasehold Contract.

The findings of fact as expressed above are not relevant and material to the question of sublease which the petitioner alleges.

On the other hand, the affidavit of Gano reads as follows:

x x x x

That I know for a fact that the above-described parcel of land was being cultivated formerly by the late, Isabelo Ramirez, a resident of Brgy. Amistad, Tayug, Pangasinan, Philippines;

That I also have the knowledge that prior to the death of said Isabelo Ramirez, the same mortgaged his tenancy rights and possession to Soledad Agustin and in fact, said Soledad Agustin is at present cultivating and in possession of the above-described landholding;

That to the best of my knowledge, the transfer of tenancy rights and possession from Isabelo Ramirez to Soledad Agustin by way of mortgage was made without the knowledge and consent of the owners thereof;

That I know of the above facts because being a resident of the same barangay with the former tenant and the present tenant of the said landholding, it is of common knowledge in our community that Soledad Agustin is presently cultivating the same landholding and that she acquired such tenancy rights from its former tenant by way of mortgage;

x x x x

In contrast to the Carganillo case above, the evidence presented by Felisa with respect to Soledad is uncorroborated and unsubstantial.  Hence, we rule that Felisa has not discharged her burden of establishing her claim of sublease.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al.,  G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

Extrajudicial admissions.  Petitioners’ assertion of partition of Lot No. 9 is further belied by their predecessor-in-interest’s previous assertion of co-ownership over the same lot in the legal redemption case filed 10 years before. The allegations therein, sworn to as truth by Mario and Veñaranda, described Lot No. 9 as a parcel of land that is co-owned by the Pacres siblings pro indiviso.  It was further alleged that Ygoña bought the undivided shares of Rodrigo, Francisco, Margarita, and Simplicia.  The statements in the legal redemption case are extrajudicial admissions, [Extrajudicial admissions are those made out of court, or in a judicial proceeding other than the one under consideration. Francisco, Evidence, 2nd Ed. (1994), p. 33.] which were not disputed by petitioners.  These admissions may be given in evidence against them.  At the very least, the polarity of their previous admissions and their present theory makes the latter highly suspect.  Heirs of Pacres vs. Heirs of Ygoña, G.R. No. 174719, May 5, 2010

Fact of subleasing proven by clear and convincing evidence in agrarian reform case.  We disagree with the findings of fact of the CA and the agencies below.  The confluence of evidence shows that Felisa has clearly and convincingly established her allegation that Domingo subleased his landholding to Sergio, to wit:

a)  The investigation conducted by MARO Legal Officer Estimada shows that Domingo admitted that the cultivation and possession of the subject landholding was subleased to Sergio as he was then applying for work abroad.

b)  In her complaint, Felisa stressed that in one of her visits to the subject landholding prior to the filing of the said complaint, she discovered that Sergio, the sublessee, was in actual possession and cultivation of the landholding in question. Petitioner further contended that Domingo subleased the said agricultural leasehold to Sergio for the amount of P15,000.00.

c)  The Katulagan or Agreement establishes that indeed Domingo was indebted to Sergio in the amount of P15,000.00.

d) The affidavit of Clarion, a resident of the municipality where the subject landholding lies, further corroborates the said facts when she narrated the series of events leading up to Sergio’s possession of said agricultural land:

x x x x

That I know for a fact that the above-described parcel of land was under cultivation by one RICARDO PADILLO of Brgy. Amistad, Tayug, Pangasinan, formerly, but when the same went abroad, he transferred his tenancy right to DOMINGO CARGANILLO, who in the year 1995 mortgaged his tenancy rights to SERGIO CARGANILLO, his own brother;

That at present, the said parcel of land is under the cultivation of said SERGIO CARGANILLO;

x x x x

Domingo did not even affirm or deny in his answer that Estimada conducted an investigation and during such investigation, he admitted that he subleased subject landholding.  It is totally against our human nature to just remain reticent and say nothing in the face of false accusations.  The natural instinct of man impels him to resist an unfounded imputation.  Hence, silence in such cases is almost always construed as implied admission of the truth thereof.  Likewise, the attestations of BARC Chairman Costales and Barangay Kagawad Frago that Domingo never violated his agreement with Felisa or any provision of the Land Reform Code, are conclusions of law bereft of any factual basis.  Time and again, we have held that general statements, which are mere conclusions of law and not factual proof, are unavailing and do not suffice.   Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

New evidence; cannot be submitted with supplemental motion for reconsideration in agrarian reform case.  On March 24, 2004, Felisa filed a Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration with Manifestation with the DARAB, allegedly as an expanded discussion on what she averred in her Motion for Reconsideration.  We note though that aside from amplifying her arguments, petitioner likewise attached and referred to new pieces of evidence in the form of: (1) affidavit of Rudy O. Tubiera dated September 14, 2001; (2) affidavit of Liberato Cabigas; (3) affidavit of Alberto A. Millan dated July 26, 2002 and (4) survey plan.

Section 12, Rule VIII of the 1994 DARAB New Rules of Procedures provide that “only one motion for reconsideration shall be allowed a party which shall be based on the ground that: (a) the findings of facts in the said decision, order or resolution are not supported by substantial evidence, or (b) the conclusions stated therein are against the law and jurisprudence”.  As expressed by the Rule, the office of the Motion for Reconsideration is not for the reception of new evidence.  Hence, when Felisa submitted new pieces of evidence in her Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration, she went beyond the stated purpose of the Motion for Reconsideration.  In which case, we rule that the new evidence presented by Felisa in the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration with Manifestation to the DARAB cannot be admitted.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010

Parol Evidence Rule.  In the first place, under Article 1311 of the Civil Code, contracts take effect only between the parties, their assigns and heirs (subject to exceptions not applicable here).  Thus, only a party to the contract can maintain an action to enforce the obligations arising under said contract.  Consequently, petitioners, not being parties to the contracts of sale between Ygoña and the petitioners’ siblings, cannot sue for the enforcement of the supposed obligations arising from said contracts.  It is true that third parties may seek enforcement of a contract under the second paragraph of Article 1311, which provides that “if a contract should contain some stipulation in favor of a third person, he may demand its fulfillment.”  This refers to stipulations pour autrui, or stipulations for the benefit of third parties.  However, the written contracts of sale in this case contain no such stipulation in favor of the petitioners.  While petitioners claim that there was an oral stipulation, it cannot be proven under the Parol Evidence Rule.  Under this Rule, “[w]hen the terms of an agreement have been reduced to writing, it is considered as containing all the terms agreed upon and there can be, between the parties and their successors in interest, no evidence of such terms other than the contents of the written agreement.”  While the Rule admits of exception, no such exception was pleaded, much less proved, by petitioners.

The Parol Evidence Rule applies to “the parties and their successors in interest.”  Conversely, it has no application to a stranger to a contract.  For purposes of the Parol Evidence Rule, a person who claims to be the beneficiary of an alleged stipulation pour autrui in a contract (such as petitioners) may be considered a party to that contract.  It has been held that a third party who avails himself of a stipulation pour autrui under a contract becomes a party to that contract.  This is why under Article 1311, a beneficiary of a stipulation pour autrui is required to communicate his acceptance to the obligor before its revocation.  Moreover, to preclude the application of Parol Evidence Rule, it must be shown that “at least one of the parties to the suit is not party or a privy of a party to the written instrument in question and does not base a claim on the instrument or assert a right originating in the instrument or the relation established thereby.”  A beneficiary of a stipulation pour autrui obviously bases his claim on the contract.  He therefore cannot claim to be a stranger to the contract and resist the application of the Parol Evidence Rule.

Thus, even assuming that the alleged oral undertakings invoked by petitioners may be deemed stipulations pour autrui, still petitioners’ claim cannot prosper, because they are barred from proving them by oral evidence under the Parol Evidence Rule. Heirs of Pacres vs. Heirs of Ygoña, G.R. No. 174719, May 5, 2010

Question of law; definition.  Also, even if this Court treats this petition as a Petition under Rule 45, it is not convinced that this case involves a pure question of law.  A question of law exists when there is doubt or controversy as to what the law is on a certain state of facts.  This is not so in the case at bar.  It bears stressing too that the basis of the petitioner for its Urgent Motion to Cite for Contempt is yet to be determined in a full-blown trial by the public respondent.  All told, there was no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of public respondent in issuing the assailed July 16, 2008 Order.  People’s Air Cargo, et al. vs. Hon. Francisco G. Mendiola, et al., G.R. No. 181068, May 4, 2010

Technical rules of evidence not applicable in agrarian reform case.  The DARAB held that the Katulagan is inadmissible in evidence because it was not formally offered before the PARAD, citing our ruling in People v. Mongado. On appeal, however, the CA considered the Katulagan, but found the same to be a mere promissory note tending to prove indebtedness and not as an evidence of mortgage.  We cannot subscribe with the reasoning of the DARAB. The Rules of Court, particularly the Revised Rules on Evidence, are specifically applicable to judicial proceedings, to wit:

Section 1.  Evidence defined. – Evidence is the means, sanctioned by these rules, of ascertaining in a judicial proceeding the truth respecting a matter of fact.

Sec. 2.  Scope. – The rules of evidence shall be the same in all courts and in all trials and hearings except as otherwise provided by law or these rules.  (Emphasis supplied)

In quasi judicial proceedings, the said rules shall not apply except “by analogy or in a suppletory character and whenever practicable and convenient”.  In the instant case, the then prevailing DARAB Rules of Procedures provide that:

Section 2.  Construction.  These Rules shall be liberally construed to carry out the objectives of agrarian reform and to promote just, expeditious and inexpensive adjudication and settlement of agrarian cases, disputes or controversies.

x x x x

Section 3.  Technical Rules Not Applicable.  The Board and its Regional and Provincial Adjudicators shall not be bound by technical rules of procedure and evidence as prescribed in the Rules of Court, but shall proceed to hear and decide all agrarian cases, disputes or controversies in a most expeditious manner, employing all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of every case in accordance with justice and equity.

a) If and when a case comes up for adjudication wherein there is no applicable provision under these rules, the procedural law and jurisprudence generally applicable to agrarian disputes shall be applied;

b) The Adjudication Board (Board), and its Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicators (RARADs) and Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicators (PARADs) hereinafter referred to as Adjudicators, shall have the authority to adopt any appropriate measure or procedure in any given situation or matter not covered by these Rules.  All such special measures or procedures and the situations to which they have been applied must be reported to the Board; and

c) The provisions of the Rules of Court shall not apply even in a suppletory character unless adopted herein or by resolution of the Board.  However, due process of the law shall be observed and followed in all instances. (Emphasis supplied)

The DARAB Rules of Procedures explicitly provides that the Agrarian Reform Adjudicators are not bound by technical rules of procedure and evidence in the Rules of Court nor shall the latter apply even in a suppletory manner.  Thus, we find that the DARAB erred in holding the Katulagan as inadmissible since it was not formally offered and admitted.  Moreover, reliance on our ruling in People v. Mongadoi.e., that “[t]he court shall consider no evidence which has not been formally offered,” is misplaced.  We simply cannot find any legal basis for the DARAB to cite our ruling in a criminal case; the fundamental rule found in Rule 132 of the Rules of Court does not find any application in this agrarian case.  Felisa Ferrer vs. Domingo Carganillo, et al., G.R. No. 170956, May 12, 2010


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