June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Annulment of judgment; direct recourse to this remedy not allowed if other appropriate remedies are available.  Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court impose the conditions for the availment of the remedy of annulment of judgment, viz.:

Section 1. Coverage.- This Rule shall govern the annulment by the Court of Appeals of judgments or final orders and resolutions in civil actions of Regional Trial Courts for which the ordinary remedies of new trial, appeal, petition for relief or other appropriate remedies are no longer available through no fault of the petitioner.

Section 2. Groundsfor annulment. – The annulment may be based only on the grounds of extrinsic fraud and lack of jurisdiction.

Extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.

Section 1, Rule 47 provides that it does not allow a direct recourse to a petition for annulment of judgment if other appropriate remedies are available, such as a petition for new trial, appeal or a petition for relief.  If petitioner fails to avail of these remedies without sufficient justification, she cannot resort to the action for annulment of judgment under Rule 47, for otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence.

We found no reversible error committed by the CA in dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment.  The Spouses Arcenas were declared non-suited for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. 072-07-2002 on November 11, 2003, and respondent bank was allowed to present evidence on its counterclaim on January 8, 2004.  Such Order was received by the secretary of petitioner’s counsel on November 17, 2003.  Petitioner did not move to set aside the RTC’s order of non-suit. While petitioner’s  counsel claimed that he only learned of such Order of  non-suit on December 4, 2003,  yet no motion to lift the order of non-suit was filed.  Notably, from December 4, 2003 to the scheduled hearing on January 8, 2004, petitioner did not take any remedial action to lift the order of non-suit when she had the opportunity to do so. In fact, petitioner and her counsel did not also appear on the scheduled January 8, 2004 hearing wherein respondent bank presented evidence on its counterclaim and submitted the case for decision.  It was only on January 14, 2004 when petitioner and her husband filed a pleading captioned as Manifestation and Motion, wherein they prayed for the reconsideration of the Orders dated November 11, 2003 and January 8, 2004 and for further pre-trial conference. The RTC denied such Manifestation and Motion in its Order dated March 9, 2004, as the same was filed beyond the reglementary period, and such Order was received by petitioner on March 12, 2004.  Petitioner then filed with the CA a Petition for annulment of order of non-suit under Rule 47 of the Rules of Court on the ground of extrinsic fraud. The CA denied the petition as petitioner failed to avail of the appropriate remedies provided by the Rules to which we agree.

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Petitioner tries to justify her failure to avail of the appropriate remedies on a promise of settlement.  However, such promise was not an excuse for petitioner’s counsel not to lift the order of non-suit and to file a petition for relief.  Petitioner’s claim that she was present when respondent bank’s counsel moved for the issuance of the order of non-suit against her was not proven by any evidence.  There was indeed a failure to show, to our satisfaction, that petitioner could not have availed of the ordinary and appropriate remedies under the Rules.  Thus, she cannot resort to the remedy under Rule 47 of the Rules; otherwise, she would benefit from her inaction or negligence.  Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010.

Annulment of judgment; extrinsic fraud.  Petitioner argues that when respondent bank’s counsel moved for the issuance of the Order of non-suit against her and her husband  during the November 11, 2003 hearing, extrinsic fraud was committed on them since respondent bank’s counsel concealed from the RTC that there was a gentleman’s agreement for the settlement of the subject civil cases.  We are not persuaded.  It bears stressing that when petitioner’s counsel filed the Manifestation and Motion asking for reconsideration of the Order declaring the Spouses Arcenas non-suited, the reason stated was honest mistake or excusable negligence. To show such mistake, he explained that since there was a pending negotiation for settlement in Civil Case Nos. V-006-01-2002 and V-072-07-2002, which were both pending in the same court, and the parties had to come up with a settlement for the hearing of Civil Case No. V-006-01-2002 scheduled on December 4, 2004, petitioner’s counsel then asked for the postponement of the scheduled November 11, 2003 hearing set for the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002 one day before the said date, because of conflict of schedule and since he had in mind the December 4, 2003 deadline to submit the settlement. Notably, petitioner’s counsel admitted that the date set for the submission of settlement in Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002 was indeed November 11, 2003; and that his failure to attend the hearings and to file a motion for reconsideration of the declaration of petitioner as non-suited was because of his mistaken belief that respondent bank was earnestly seeking a settlement. There was nothing in the Manifestation and Motion which alluded the commission of extrinsic fraud to respondent bank’s counsel.  Moreover, since petitioner claimed that there was extrinsic fraud committed by respondent bank’s counsel, she could have filed a petition for relief under Rule 38 within the period provided for by the  Rules of Court, but she did not.  Section 2, Rule 47 clearly states that extrinsic fraud shall not be a valid ground for annulment of order if it was availed of, or could have been availed of, in a motion for new trial or petition for relief.  Thus, extrinsic fraud is effectively barred if it could have been raised as a ground in an available remedial measure.  Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010

Annulment of order of non-suit; no forum shopping where petitioner also files notice of appeal pertaining to decision on the merits.Finally, we find no merit in respondent bank’s claim that petitioner committed forum shopping. The issue brought before us is whether the CA correctly dismissed petitioner’s petition for annulment of the Order dated November 11, 2003  declaring her non-suited for failure to appear at the pre-trial conference of Civil Case No. V-072-07-2002.  On the other hand, petitioner’s Notice of Appeal in Civil Case Nos. V-006-01-2002 and V-072-07-2002 pertained to the decision of the RTC rendered on the merits. Spouses Oscar Arcenas and Dolores Arcenas vs. Queen City Development Bank and Court of Appeals (Nineteenth Division), G.R. No. 166819, June 16, 2010

Appeals; effect of failure to appeal.  In its Memorandum, SPI prays that petitioners be ordered to pay 3% interest monthly as stipulated in the Contract for Lease, plus attorney’s fees.  However, as SPI did not appeal the RTC Decision before the appellate court, we cannot act on the same.  It is well-settled that a party who has not appealed from a Decision cannot seek any relief other than what is provided in the judgment appealed from.  SPI did not appeal, thus it cannot obtain from the appellate court any affirmative relief other than those granted in the Decision of the court below.  It can only advance any argument that it may deem necessary to defeat petitioners’ claim or to uphold the Decision that is being disputed, and it can assign errors in its brief if such is required to strengthen the views expressed by the court a quo.  These assigned errors, in turn, may be considered by the appellate court solely to maintain the appealed decision on other grounds, but not for the purpose of reversing or modifying the judgment in SPI’s favor and giving it other reliefs.

We find on record that SPI’s counsel, with the concurrence of its Vice President, withdrew his appearance on November 24, 2000.  The RTC granted said withdrawal in its Order dated January 5, 2001.  Subsequently, the case was decided by the RTC and appealed by the petitioners to the CA.  In due time, the CA rendered judgment on the same and petitioners filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari.  SPI did not interpose an appeal from the RTC Decision nor from the CA Decision.  After more than six years, on September 13, 2007, a new law firm entered its appearance as counsel of SPI.  SPI now claims that it was not able to appeal the Decision of the RTC and subsequently of the CA which failed to impose 3% monthly interest as provided in the Contract of Lease because it never received said Decisions, considering that its counsel has migrated to another country and that petitioners misled the courts about SPI’s address.  We are not persuaded.  SPI failed to exercise due diligence in keeping itself updated on the developments of the case. That its erstwhile counsel has not communicated for a long period of time and has migrated abroad, should have cautioned it that something was amiss with the case.  By that time, SPI should have initiated moves to locate its counsel or to inquire from the court on the progress of the case.  It should have ensured that its address on record with the court is updated and current.  Thus, it has been equally stressed that litigants represented by counsel should not expect that all they need to do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of the case.  Instead, they should give the necessary assistance to their counsel and exercise due diligence to monitor the status of the case for what is at stake is ultimately their interest.  Selwyn F. Lao, et al. vs. Special Plans, Inc., G.R. No. 164791, June 29, 2010

Appeals; factual findings of trial court.  Jurisprudence dictates that factual findings of the trial court, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are accorded the highest degree of respect and are considered conclusive between the parties.  A review of such findings by this Court is not warranted except for highly meritorious circumstances when: (1) the findings of a trial court are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) a lower court’s inference from its factual findings is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts; (4) the findings of the appellate court go beyond the issues of the case, or fail to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify a different conclusion; (5) there is a misappreciation of facts; (6) 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 evidence on record.  None of the foregoing exceptions which would warrant a reversal of the assailed decision obtains in this instance.  St.  Joseph’s College, Sr., Josephini Ambatali, SFIC, and Rosalinda Tabugo vs.  Jayson Miranda, represented by his father, Rodolfo S. Miranda, G.R. No.  182353, June 29, 2010

Appeals; “Fresh period rule” in “Neypes v. Court of Appeals” not applicable to administrative appeal from DENR regional office to DENR SecretaryTheissuebeforetheCourtofAppeals was whether the “fresh period rule” laid down in Neypes applies to petitioner’s case, i.e., that he had a fresh period of 15 days to appeal RD Sampulna’s October 16, 2007 Order to the DENR Secretary, counted from her notice on September 12, 2007 of the RD’s Order of September 6, 2007 denying her motion for reconsideration of the decision.  The “fresh period rule” in Neypes declares:

To standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rulesand to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their cases, the Court deems it practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appealin the Regional Trial Court, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration.

Henceforth, this “fresh period rule” shallalsoapplytoRule40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts; Rule42 on petitions for review from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals; Rule43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals; and Rule45 governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court.  The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.

x x x. This pronouncement is not inconsistent with Rule41, Section3oftheRules which states that the appeal shall be taken within 15 days from notice of judgment or final order appealed from. The use of the disjunctive word “or” signifies disassociation and independence of one thing from another.  It should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies.  Hence, the use of “or” in the above provision supposes that the notice of appeal may be filed within 15 days from notice of judgment or within 15 days from notice of the “final order,” which we already determined to refer to the x x x order denying the motion for a new trial or reconsideration.

Neither does this new rule run counter to the spirit of Section39ofBP129 which shortened the appeal period from 30 days to 15 days to hasten the disposition of cases.  The original period of appeal  x x x remains and the requirement for strict compliance still applies.The fresh period of 15 days becomes significant only when a party opts to file a motion for reconsideration.  In this manner, the trial court which rendered the assailed decision is given another opportunity to review the case and, in the process, minimize and/or rectify any error of judgment.  While we aim to resolve cases with dispatch and to have judgments of courts become final at some definite time, we likewise aspire to deliver justice fairly.

In this case, the new period of 15 days eradicates the confusion as to when the 15-day appeal period should be counted–from receipt of notice of judgment x x x or from receipt of notice of “final order” appealed from x x x.

To recapitulate, a party litigant may either file his notice of appeal within 15 days from receipt of the Regional Trial Court’s decision or file it within 15 days from receipt of the order (the “final order”) denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration.  Obviously, the new 15-day period may be availed of only if either motion is filed; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of the original appeal period provided in Rule 41, Section 3. (emphasis and underscoring supplied; italics in the original)

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As reflected in the above-quoted portion of the decision in Neypes, the “fresh period rule” shall apply to Rule40 (appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts); Rule41 (appeals from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court); Rule42 (appeals from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals); Rule43 (appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals); and Rule45 (appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court).  Obviously, these Rules cover judicial proceedings under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

Petitioner’s present case is administrative in nature involving an appeal from the decision or order of the DENR regional office to the DENR Secretary. Such appeal is indeed governed by Section 1 of Administrative Order No. 87, Series of 1990.  As earlier quoted, Section 1 clearly provides that if the motion for reconsideration is denied, the movant shall perfect his appeal “during the remainder of the period of appeal, reckoned from receipt of the resolution of denial;” whereas if the decision is reversed, the adverse party has a fresh 15-day period to perfect his appeal.  Rule 41, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, as clarified in Neypes, being inconsistent with Section 1 of Administrative Order No. 87, Series of 1990, it may not apply to the case of petitioner whose motion for reconsideration was deniedJulieta Panolino vs. Josephine L. Tajala, G.R. No. 183616, June 29, 2010

Appeals; late filing excused in interest of substantial justice.  It is settled that an appeal must be perfected within the reglementary period provided by law; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory.  Before the Supreme Court, a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, must be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of the petitioner’s motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment.  Even then, review is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and may be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor.  In the case at bar, the Docket Division of the OSG received a copy of the CA decision on November 7, 2007.  It was not until February 1, 2008 or almost three (3) months however, that the OSG, for petitioner, filed a petition for review on certiorari with this Court.  The OSG pleads for understanding considering the scarcity of its lawyers and the inadvertence of the temporarily-designated OIC of Division XV in overlooking that the CA decision was adverse to PEZA.

While the Court realizes the OSG’s difficulty in having only three (3) lawyers working full time on its cases, the OSG could have easily asked for an extension of time within which to file the petition.  More importantly, as the government agency tasked to represent the government in litigations, the OSG should perform its duty with promptness and utmost diligence. However, upon careful consideration of the merits of this case, the Court is inclined to overlook this procedural lapse in the interest of substantial justice.  Although a party is bound by the acts of its counsel, including the latter’s mistakes and negligence, a departure from this rule is warranted where such mistake or neglect would result in serious injustice to the client.  Indeed, procedural rules may be relaxed for persuasive reasons to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure.  More so, when to allow the assailed decision to go unchecked would set a precedent that will sanction a violation of substantive law.  Such is the situation in this case.  Philippine Economic Zone Authority, represented herein by Dir. Gen. Lilia B. De Lima vs. Joseph Jude Carantes and all the other heirs of Maximino Carantes, G.R. No. 181274. June 23, 2010

Appeals; Rule 45 petition may raise only questions of law.  At the outset, we note that this recourse is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.  Under Section 1 of the Rule, such a petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly alleged in the appropriate pleading.  In a case involving a question of law, the resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides for a given set of facts drawn from the evidence presented.  Stated differently, there should be nothing in dispute as to the state of facts; the issue to be resolved is merely the correctness of the conclusion drawn from the said facts.  Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the probative value of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact.  If the query requires a reevaluation of the credibility of witnesses, or the existence or relevance of surrounding circumstances and their relation to each other, then the issue is necessarily factual.  A perusal of the assignment of errors and the discussion set forth by MSCI would readily show that the petition seeks a review of all the evidence presented before the RTC and reviewed by the CA; therefore, the issue is factual.  Accordingly, the petition should be dismissed outright, especially considering that the very same factual circumstances in this petition have already been ruled upon by the CA.  Makati Sports Club, Inc. vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010

Appeals; withdrawal of appeal.  Section 3, Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, provides:

Sec. 3.  Withdrawal of appeal. – An appeal may be withdrawn as of right at any time before the filing of appellee’s brief.  Thereafter, the withdrawal may be allowed in the discretion of the court.  (underscoring supplied)

At the time petitioner moved to withdraw her appeal, respondents had not yet filed their brief, hence, the grant thereof by the appellate court was in order. Nelly Bautista vs. Seraph Management Group, Inc., G.R. No. 174039, June 29, 2010

Certiorari; grave abuse of discretion.  A special civil action for certiorari, under Rule 65, is an independent action based on the specific grounds therein provided and will lie only if there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. A petition for certiorari will prosper only if grave abuse of discretion is alleged and proved to exist. “Grave abuse of discretion,” under Rule 65, has a specific meaning. It is the arbitrary or despotic exercise of power due to passion, prejudice or personal hostility; or the whimsical, arbitrary, or capricious exercise of power that amounts to an evasion or refusal to perform a positive duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law. For an act to be struck down as having been done with grave abuse of discretion, the abuse of discretion must be patent and gross.  Such is not the case here.  Rudolfo I. Beluso vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 180711. June 22, 2010

Certiorari; hierarchy of courts.  Primarily, although this Court, the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Courts have concurrent jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence does not give the petitioner unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum.  In Heirs of BertuldoHinog v. Melicor, citing People v. Cuaresma, this Court made the following pronouncements:

This Court’s original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari is not exclusive.  It is shared by this Court with Regional Trial Courts and with the Court of Appeals.  This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed.  There is after all a hierarchy of courts.  That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and also serves as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs.  A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level (“inferior”) courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals.  A direct invocation of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition.  This is [an] established policy.  It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket. (Emphasis supplied.)

The rationale for this rule is two-fold: (a) it would be an imposition upon the precious time of this Court; and (b) it would cause an inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of cases, which in some instances had to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues because this Court is not a trier of facts.  This Court thus reaffirms the judicial policy that it will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts, and exceptional and compelling circumstances, such as cases of national interest and of serious implications, justify the availment of the extraordinary remedy of writ of certiorari, calling for the exercise of its primary jurisdiction.  Exceptional and compelling circumstances were held present in the following cases: (a) Chavez v. Romulo, on citizens’ right to bear arms; (b) Government of [the] United States of America v. Hon. Purganan, on bail in extradition proceedings; (c) Commission on Elections v. Judge Quijano-Padilla, on government contract involving modernization and computerization of voters’ registration list; (d) Buklod ng Kawaning EIIB v. Hon. Sec. Zamora, on status and existence of a public office; and (e) Hon. Fortich v. Hon. Corona, on the so-called “Win-Win Resolution” of the Office of the President which modified the approval of the conversion to agro-industrial area.

In the case at bench, petitioner failed to specifically and sufficiently set forth special and important reasons to justify direct recourse to this Court and why this Court should give due course to this petitionin the first instance, hereby failing to fulfill the conditions set forth in Heirs of BertuldoHinog v. Melicor.  The present petition should have been initially filed in the Court of Appealsin strict observance of the doctrine on the hierarchy of courts.  Failure to do so is sufficient cause for the dismissal of this petition.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010

Certiorari; nature and requisites.  The special civil action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.  The essential requisites for a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 are: (1) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board, or an officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board, or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Excess of jurisdiction as distinguished from absence of jurisdiction means that an act, though within the general power of a tribunal, board or officer, is not authorized and invalid with respect to the particular proceeding, because the conditions which alone authorize the exercise of the general power in respect of it are wanting.  Without jurisdiction means lack or want of legal power, right or authority to hear and determine a cause or causes, considered either in general or with reference to a particular matter.  It means lack of power to exercise authority.  Grave abuse of discretionimplies such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary manner by reason of passion, prejudice, or personal hostility, and it must be so patent or gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010

Certiorari; not a substitute for lost appeal.  Prefatorily, the Court notes that petitioners filed a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. As a rule, the remedy from a judgment or final order of the CA is appeal via petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.  In Mercado v. Court of Appeals, this Court had again stressed the difference of the remedies provided for under Rule 45 and Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

x x x  [T]he proper remedy of the party aggrieved by a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review under Rule 45, which is not identical with a petition for review under Rule 65. Under Rule 45, decisions, final orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals in any case, i.e., regardless of the nature of the action or proceedings involved, may be appealed to us by filing a petition for review, which would be but a continuation of the appellate process over the original case. On the other hand, a special civil action under Rule 65 is an independent action based on the specific ground therein provided and, as a general rule, cannot be availed of as a substitute for the lost remedy of an ordinary appeal, including that to be taken under Rule 45.  x x x

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 therefore is grave abuse of discretion. Accordingly, when a party adopts an improper remedy, his petition may be dismissed outright.  Pertinent, therefore, to a resolution of the case at bar is a determination of whether or not an appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy was still available to petitioners, the absence of which would warrant petitioners’ decision to seek refuge under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.  A perusal of the records will show that petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration to the January 4, 2005 CA Decision, which was, however, denied by the CA via a Resolution dated March 18, 2005. As manifested by petitioners, they received a copy of the March 18, 2005 CA Resolution on March 28, 2005. Thus, from March 28, 2005, petitioners had 15 days, or until April 12, 2005, to appeal the CA Resolution under Rule 45. Clearly, petitioners had an available appeal under Rule 45 which, under the circumstances, was the plain, speedy and adequate remedy. However, petitioners instead chose to file a special civil action for certiorari, under Rule 65, on April 18, 2005, which was 6 days after the reglementary period under Rule 45 had expired.  The fact that the petitioners used the Rule 65 modality as a substitute for a lost appeal is made plainly manifest by: a) its filing the said petition 6 days after the expiration of the 15-day reglementary period for filing a Rule 45 appeal; and b) its petition which makes specious allegations of “grave abuse of discretion.”  But it asserts that the CA erred (1) when it declared that the petitioners failed in their undertakings to provide drainage in accordance with the requirements of the MOA; (2) when it declared that petitioners are solely culpable for the lack of an environmental compliance certificate, when it awarded temperate damages; and (3) when it ordered the automatic forfeiture of the performance bond.  These are mere errors of judgment which would have been the proper subjects of a petition for review under rule 45.  Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010

Certiorari; not available to correct errors of judgment.  While petitioners would insist that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion, this Court is of the opinion, however, that the assailed Decision and Resolution of the CA, granting the forfeiture of the performance bond among others, amount to nothing more than errors of judgment, correctible by appeal. When a court, tribunal, or officer has jurisdiction over the person and the subject matter of the dispute, the decision on all other questions arising in the case is an exercise of that jurisdiction. Consequently, all errors committed in the exercise of said jurisdiction are merely errors of judgment. Under prevailing procedural rules and jurisprudence, errors of judgment are not proper subjects of a special civil action for certiorari.  If every error committed by the trial court or quasi-judicial agency were to be the proper subject of a special civil action for certiorari, then trial would never end and the dockets of appellate courts would be clogged beyond measure. For this reason, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision, not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision, the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari.  Since petitioners filed the instant special civil action for certiorari, instead of appeal via a petition for review, the petition should be dismissed.  Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010

Certiorari; not available to correct errors of judgment.  Nothing in the records of this case supports petitioner’s bare assertion that the COMELEC rendered its assailed Resolutions with grave abuse of discretion. Beluso alleged grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in perpetually disqualifying him to serve in any canvassing board, yet failed to prove where the abuse existed.  Notably, the apparent thrust of Beluso’s petition is the alleged error on the part of the COMELEC in drawing its conclusions based on its findings and investigation. Thus, in reality, what Beluso was questioning is the COMELEC’s appreciation of evidence. At this point, however, it is not this Court’s function to re-evaluate the findings of fact of the COMELEC, given its limited scope of its review power, which is properly confined only to issues of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion.  Moreover, the arguments in the petition and the issues alleged are only possible errors of judgment, questioning the correctness of the COMELEC’s rulings. Where the real issue involves the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision – not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision – the same is beyond the province of a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. It is well settled that 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.  The supervisory jurisdiction of this Court to issue a certiorari writ cannot be exercised in order to review the judgment of the lower court as to its intrinsic correctness, either upon the law or the facts of the case.  Rudolfo I. Beluso vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 180711. June 22, 2010

Certiorari; period for filing counted from denial of first motion for reconsideration.  In San Juan, the Court was also confronted with the question of when the reglementary period for filing a petition for certiorari shall be reckoned.  Petitioner therein filed second and third motions for reconsideration from the interlocutory order and when he filed the petition for certiorari with the CA, he counted the 60-day reglementary period from the notice of denial of his third motion for reconsideration. He argued that, since there is no rule prohibiting the filing of a second or third motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order, the 60-day period should be counted from the notice of denial of the last motion for reconsideration.  Having declared that the filing of a second motion for reconsideration that merely reiterates the arguments in the first motion is subject to denial, the Court held that the 60-day period for filing a petition for certiorari shall be reckoned from the trial court’s denial of the first motion for reconsideration, otherwise, indefinite delays will ensue.  Applying the ruling in San Juan, the petition for certiorari was evidently filed out of time, as its filing was reckoned from the denial of the last motion. The subject Motion to Dismiss was filed in an attempt to resurrect the remedy of a petition for certiorari, which had been lost long before its filing.  Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010

Certiorari; requirement that tribunal, board or officer be acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity.  In the case before this Court, the petitioner fails to meet the above-mentioned requisites for the proper invocation of a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65.  The Secretary of Agrarian Reform in issuing the assailed DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, as well as Memorandum No. 88 did so in accordance with his mandate to implement the land use conversion provisions of Republic Act No. 6657.  In the process, he neither acted in any judicial or quasi-judicial capacity nor assumed unto himself any performance of judicial or quasi-judicial prerogative.  A Petition for Certiorari is a special civil action that may be invoked only against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial functions. Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure is explicit on this matter, viz.:

SECTION 1.  Petition for certiorari. – When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment must be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer.

A tribunal, board, or officer is said to be exercising judicial function where it has the power to determine what the law is and what the legal rights of the parties are, and then undertakes to determine these questions and adjudicate upon the rights of the parties.  Quasi-judicial function, on the other hand, is “a term which applies to the actions, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies x x x required to investigate facts or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature.”  Before a tribunal, board, or officer may exercise judicial or quasi-judicial acts, it is necessary that there be a law that gives rise to some specific rights of persons or property under which adverse claims to such rights are made, and the controversy ensuing therefrom is brought before a tribunal, board, or officer clothed with power and authority to determine the law and adjudicate the respective rights of the contending parties.  The Secretary of Agrarian Reform does not fall within the ambit of a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions.  The issuance and enforcement by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform of the questioned DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88 were done in the exercise of his quasi-legislative and administrative functions and not of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. In issuing the aforesaid administrative issuances, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform never made any adjudication of rights of the parties.  As such, it can never be said that the Secretary of Agrarian Reform had acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing and enforcing DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88 for he never exercised any judicial or quasi-judicial functions but merely his quasi-legislative and administrative functions.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010

Dismissals; effect of adjudication on the merits unless court declares otherwise.  In any case, we agree with the CA’s conclusion that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner’s Motion to Dismiss. However, we do not agree that the judgment of dismissal in the first case was not on the merits. A ruling on a motion to dismiss, issued without trial on the merits or formal presentation of evidence, can still be a judgment on the merits.  Section 3 of Rule 17 of the Rules of Court is explicit that a dismissal for failure to comply with an order of the court shall have the effect of an adjudication upon the merits. In other words, unless the court states that the dismissal is without prejudice, the dismissal should be understood as an adjudication on the merits and is with prejudice.  Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010

Execution of judgment; execution upon motion and effect of failure to redeem. Petitioner, in essence, argues that the October 11, 1977 Decision was not timely executed because of respondent’s failure to secure the final certificate of sale within 10 years from the entry of said judgment.  This is erroneous.  It is not disputed that shortly after the trial court rendered the aforesaid judgment, respondent moved for execution which was granted by the trial court.  On June 6, 1978, the subject property was sold on execution sale.  Respondent emerged as the highest bidder, thus, a certificate of sale was executed by the sheriff in her favor on the same day.  As correctly held by the trial court, the October 11, 1977 Decision was already enforced when the subject property was levied and sold on June 6, 1978 which is within the five-year period for the execution of a judgment by motion under Section 6, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.  It is, likewise, not disputed that petitioner failed to redeem the subject property within one year from the annotation of the certificate of sale on TCT No. 480537.  The expiration of the one-year redemption period foreclosed petitioner’s right to redeem the subject property and the sale thereby became absolute.  The issuance thereafter of a final certificate of sale is a mere formality and confirmation of the title that is already vested in respondent.  Thus, the trial court properly granted the motion for issuance of the final certificate of sale.  Jose dela Reyes vs. Josephine Anne B. Ramnani, G.R. No. 169135. June 18, 2010

Forum shopping; no forum shopping where petitions have different causes of action and seek different reliefs.  Forum shopping consists of the 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.  Thus, forum shopping may arise: (a)  whenever as a result of an adverse decision in one forum, a party seeks a favorable decision (other than by appeal or certiorari) in another; or (b) if, after having filed a petition in the Supreme Court, a party files another petition in the Court of Appeals, because he thereby deliberately splits appeals “in the hope that even as one case in which a particular remedy is sought is dismissed, another case (offering a similar remedy) would still be open”; or (c) where a party attempts to obtain a writ of preliminary injunction from a court after failing to obtain the writ from another court.  What is truly important to consider in determining whether forum shopping exists or not is the vexation caused to the courts and the litigants by a party who accesses different courts and administrative agencies to rule on the same or related causes or to grant the same or substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different fora upon the same issue.  The filing of identical petitions in different courts is prohibited, because such act constitutes forum shopping, a malpractice that is proscribed and condemned as trifling with the courts and as abusing their processes. Forum shopping is an improper conduct that degrades the administration of justice.  Nonetheless, the mere filing of several cases based on the same incident does not necessarily constitute forum shopping.  The test is whether the several actions filed involve the same transactions and the same essential facts and circumstances.  The actions must also raise identical causes of action, subject matter, and issues.  Elsewise stated, 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 other.

Lokin has filed the petition for mandamus to compel the COMELEC to proclaim him as the second nominee of CIBAC upon the issuance of NBC Resolution No. 07-72 (announcing CIBAC’s entitlement to an additional seat in the House of Representatives), and to strike down the provision in NBC Resolution No. 07-60 and NBC Resolution No. 07-72 holding in abeyance “all proclamation of the nominees of concerned parties, organizations and coalitions with pending disputes shall likewise be held in abeyance until final resolution of their respective cases.” He has insisted that the COMELEC had the ministerial duty to proclaim him due to his being CIBAC’s second nominee; and that the COMELEC had no authority to exercise discretion and to suspend or defer the proclamation of winning party-list organizations with pending disputes.  On the other hand, Lokin has resorted to the petition for certiorari to assail the September 14, 2007 resolution of the COMELEC (approving the withdrawal of the nomination of Lokin, Tugna and Galang and the substitution by Cruz-Gonzales as the second nominee and Borje as the third nominee); and to challenge the validity of Section 13 of Resolution No. 7804, the COMELEC’s basis for allowing CIBAC’s withdrawal of Lokin’s nomination.

Applying the test for forum shopping, the consecutive filing of the action for certiorari and the action for mandamus did not violate the rule against forum shopping even if the actions involved the same parties, because they were based on different causes of action and the reliefs they sought were different.  Luis K. Lokin, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis K. Lokin vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 179431-32/G.R. No. 180443. June 22, 2010

Injunction; no prohibition against injunction to restrain collection of local taxes.  A principle deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is that taxes being the lifeblood of the government should be collected promptly, without unnecessary hindrance or delay.  In line with this principle, the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (NIRC) expressly provides that no court shall have the authority to grant an injunction to restrain the collection of any national internal revenue tax, fee or charge imposed by the code.  An exception to this rule obtains only when in the opinion of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) the collection thereof may jeopardize the interest of the government and/or the taxpayer.

The situation, however, is different in the case of the collection of local taxes as there is no express provision in the LGC prohibiting courts from issuing an injunction to restrain local governments from collecting taxes.  Thus, in the case of Valley Trading Co., Inc. v. Court of First Instance of Isabela, Branch II, cited by the petitioner, we ruled that:

Unlike the National Internal Revenue Code, the Local Tax Code does not contain any specific provision prohibiting courts from enjoining the collection of local taxes. Such statutory lapse or intent, however it may be viewed, may have allowed preliminary injunction where local taxes are involved but cannot negate the procedural rules and requirements under Rule 58.

In light of the foregoing, petitioner’s reliance on the above-cited case to support its view that the collection of taxes cannot be enjoined is misplaced.  The lower court’s denial of the motion for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the collection of the local tax was upheld in that case, not because courts are prohibited from granting such injunction, but because the circumstances required for the issuance of writ of injunction were not present.  Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that although there is no express prohibition in the LGC, injunctions enjoining the collection of local taxes are frowned upon.  Courts therefore should exercise extreme caution in issuing such injunctions.   Angeles City vs. Angeles Electric Corporation, G.R. No. 166134, June 29, 2010

Injunction; requisites.  Injunction is a judicial writ, process or proceeding whereby a party is directed either to do a particular act, in which case it is called a mandatory injunction or to refrain from doing a particular act, in which case it is called a prohibitory injunction.  As a main action, injunction seeks to permanently enjoin the defendant through a final injunction issued by the court and contained in the judgment.  Section 9, Rule 58 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, provides,

SEC. 9. When final injunction granted. – If after the trial of the action it appears that the applicant is entitled to have the act or acts complained of permanently enjoined, the court shall grant a final injunction perpetually restraining the party or person enjoined from the commission or continuance of the act or acts or confirming the preliminary mandatory injunction.

Two (2) requisites must concur for injunction to issue: (1) there must be a right to be protected and (2) the acts against which the injunction is to be directed are violative of said right.  Particularly, in actions involving realty, preliminary injunction will lie only after the plaintiff has fully established his title or right thereto by a proper action for the purpose.  To authorize a temporary injunction, the complainant must make out at least a prima facie showing of a right to the final relief.  Preliminary injunction will not issue to protect a right not inesse.  These principles are equally relevant to actions seeking permanent injunction.  Philippine Economic Zone Authority, represented herein by Dir. Gen. Lilia B. De Lima vs. Joseph Jude Carantes and all the other heirs of Maximino Carantes, G.R. No. 181274. June 23, 2010

Injunction; requisites; discretion of trial court.  Section 3, Rule 58, of the Rules of Court lays down the requirements for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, viz:

(a)       That the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded, and the whole or part of such relief consists in restraining the commission or continuance of the acts complained of, or in the performance of an act or acts, either for a limited period or perpetually;

(b)       That the commission, continuance or non-performance of the act or acts complained of during the litigation would probably work injustice to the applicant; or

(c)       That a party, court, or agency or a person is doing, threatening, or attempting to do, or is procuring or suffering to be done, some act or acts probably in violation of the rights of the applicant respecting the subject of the action or proceeding, and tending to render the judgment ineffectual.

Two requisites must exist to warrant the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, namely: (1) the existence of a clear and unmistakable right that must be protected; and (2) an urgent and paramount necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage.

In issuing the injunction, the RTC ratiocinated that:

It is very evident on record that petitioner resorted and filed an urgent motion for issuance of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the scheduled auction sale only when a warrant of levy was issued and published in the newspaper setting the auction sale of petitioner’s property by the City Treasurer, merely few weeks after the petition for declaratory relief has been filed, because if the respondent will not be restrained, it will render this petition moot and academic.  To the mind of the Court, since there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to the petitioner in the ordinary course of law except this application for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction to stop the auction sale and/or to enjoin and/or restrain respondents from levying, annotating the levy, seizing, confiscating, garnishing, selling and disposing at public auction the properties of petitioner, or otherwise exercising other administrative remedies against the petitioner and its properties,  this alone justifies the move of the petitioner in seeking the injunctive reliefs sought for.

Petitioner in its petition is questioning the assessment or the ruling of the City Treasurer on the business tax and fees, and not the local ordinance concerned.  This being the case, the Court opines that notice is not required to the Solicitor General since what is involved is just a violation of a private right involving the right of ownership and possession of petitioner’s properties.  Petitioner,  therefore,  need not comply with Section 4, Rule 63 requiring such notice to the Office of the Solicitor General.

The Court is fully aware of the Supreme Court pronouncement that injunction is not proper to restrain the collection of taxes.  The issue here as of the moment is the restraining of the respondent from pursuing its auction sale of the petitioner’s properties.  The right of ownership and possession of the petitioner over the properties subject of the auction sale is at stake.

Respondents assert that not one of the witnesses presented by the petitioner have proven what kind of right has been violated by the respondent,  but merely mentioned of an injury which is only a scenario based on speculation because of petitioner’s claim that electric power may be disrupted.

Engr. Abordo’s testimony reveals and even his Affidavit Exhibit “S” showed that if the auction sale will push thru, petitioner will not only lose control and operation of its facility, but its employees will also be denied access to equipments vital to petitioner’s operations, and since only the petitioner has the capability to operate Petersville sub station, there will be a massive power failure or blackout which will adversely affect business and economy, if not lives and properties in Angeles City and surrounding communities.

Petitioner, thru its witnesses, in the hearing of the temporary restraining order, presented sufficient and convincing evidence proving irreparable damages and injury which were already elaborated in the temporary restraining order although the same may be realized only if the auction sale will proceed.  And unless prevented, restrained, and enjoined, grave and irreparable damage will be suffered not only by the petitioner but all its electric consumers in Angeles, Clark, Dau and Bacolor,  Pampanga.

The purpose of injunction is to prevent injury and damage from being incurred, otherwise, it will render any judgment in this case ineffectual.

“As an extraordinary remedy, injunction is calculated to preserve or maintain the status quo of things and is generally availed of to prevent actual or threatened acts, until the merits of the case can be heard” (Cagayan de Oro City Landless Res. Assn. Inc. vs. CA, 254 SCRA 220)

It appearing that the two essential requisites of an injunction have been satisfied,  as there exists a right on the part of the petitioner to be protected,  its right[s] of ownership and possession of the properties subject of the auction sale,  and that the acts (conducting an auction sale) against which the injunction is to be directed,  are violative of the said rights of the petitioner,  the Court has no other recourse but to grant the prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction considering that if the respondent will not be restrained from doing the acts complained of,  it will preempt the Court from properly adjudicating on the merits the various issues between the parties,  and will render moot and academic the proceedings before this court.

As a rule, the issuance of a preliminary injunction rests entirely within the discretion of the court taking cognizance of the case and will not be interfered with, except where there is grave abuse of discretion committed by the court.  For grave abuse of discretion to prosper as a ground for certiorari, it must be demonstrated that the lower court or tribunal has exercised its power in an arbitrary and despotic manner, by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be patent and gross as would amount to an evasion or to a unilateral refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law.  In other words, mere abuse of discretion is not enough.

Guided by the foregoing, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the RTC in issuing the writ of injunction. Petitioner, who has the burden to prove grave abuse of discretion, failed to show that the RTC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in granting the injunction. Neither was petitioner able to prove that the injunction was issued without any factual or legal justification.  In assailing the injunction, petitioner primarily relied on the prohibition on the issuance of a writ of injunction to restrain the collection of taxes. But as we have already said, there is no such prohibition in the case of local taxes.  Records also show that before issuing the injunction, the RTC conducted a hearing where both parties were given the opportunity to present their arguments.  During the hearing, AEC was able to show that it had a clear and unmistakable legal right over the properties to be levied and that it would sustain serious damage if these properties, which are vital to its operations, would be sold at public auction. As we see it then, the writ of injunction was properly issued.

A final note.  While we are mindful that the damage to a taxpayer’s property rights generally takes a back seat to the paramount need of the State for funds to sustain governmental functions, this rule finds no application in the instant case where the disputed tax assessment is not yet due and demandable.   Considering that AEC was able to appeal the denial of its protest within the period prescribed under Section 195 of the LGC, the collection of business taxes through levy at this time is, to our mind, hasty, if not premature.  The issues of tax exemption, double taxation, prescription and the alleged retroactive application of the RRCAC, raised in the protest of AEC now pending with the RTC, must first be resolved before the properties of AEC can be levied.  In the meantime, AEC’s rights of ownership and possession must be respected.  Angeles City vs. Angeles Electric Corporation, G.R. No. 166134, June 29, 2010

Jurisdiction; hierarchy of courts.  Moreover, it is settled that the normal rule is to strictly follow the hierarchy of courts, thus:

The Supreme Court is a court of last resort, and must so remain if it is to satisfactorily perform the functions assigned to it by the fundamental charter and immemorial tradition.  A direct invocation of this Court’s original jurisdiction to issue said writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition.  This is established policy—a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court’s docket.

PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010

Jurisdiction; Regional trial court has jurisdiction over complaint for injunction against PAGCOR.  On the threshold issue of jurisdiction, PAGCOR insists lack of jurisdiction of the trial court over the complaint of FDC and, hence, all the processes and writs issued by said court are null and void.  It posits that the proper legal remedy of FDC is not through an injunction complaint before the trial court, but a petition for review on purely questions of law before this Court or an appeal to the Office of the President.  It heavily relies on Sec. 9 of PD 1869, which states that PAGCOR “shall exercise all the powers, authority and responsibilities vested in the Securities and Exchange Commission,” and Sec. 6 of PD 902-A which provides for a petition for review to this Court from SEC’s decisions.  We are not convinced.

Jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of the action is a matter of law and is conferred only by the Constitution or by statute.  It is settled that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations of the complaint or the petition irrespective of whether plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims or reliefs asserted.  A perusal of FDC’s complaint in Civil Case No. 08-120338 easily reveals that it is an action for injunction based on an alleged violation of contract—the MOA between the parties—which granted FDC the right to operate a casino inside the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).  As such, the Manila RTC has jurisdiction over FDC’s complaint anchored on Sec. 19, Chapter II of BP 129, which grants the RTCs original exclusive jurisdiction over “all civil actions in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation.”  Evidently, a complaint for injunction or breach of contract is incapable of pecuniary estimation.  Moreover, the RTCs shall exercise original jurisdiction “in the issuance of writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction which may be enforced in any part of their respective regions” under Sec. 21 of BP 129.

PAGCOR’s claim of jurisdiction of this Court over the complaint in question heavily leans on Sec. 9 of PD 1869, PAGCOR’s Charter, which provides:

Section 9.  Regulatory Power.—The Corporation shall maintain a Registry of the affiliated entities and shall exercise all the powers, authority and responsibilities vested in the Securities and Exchange Commission over such affiliated entities x x x.

In view of the vestment to PAGCOR by PD 1869 of the powers, authority, and responsibilities of the SEC, PAGCOR concludes that any decision or ruling it renders has to be brought to this Court via a petition for review based on Sec. 6 of SEC’s Charter, PD 902-A, which reads:

The aggrieved party may appeal the order, decision or ruling of the Commission sitting en banc to the Supreme Court by petition for review in accordance with the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court.

This reasoning is flawed.  A scrutiny of PD 1869 demonstrates that it has no procedure for the appeal or review of PAGCOR’s decisions or orders.  Neither does it make any express reference to an exclusive remedy that can be brought before this Court.  Even a review of PD 1869’s predecessor laws—PD 1067-A, 1067-B, 1067-C, 1399, and 1632, as well as its amendatory law, RA 9487––do not confer original jurisdiction to this Court to review PAGCOR’s actions and decisions.  PAGCOR, however, insists that this Court has jurisdiction over an action contesting its exercise of licensing and regulatory powers, i.e., the revocation of FDC’s license to operate a casino in CSEZ and that FDC’s complaint is a case of first impression.  PAGCOR’s argument is bereft of merit.

A similar factual setting was presented by PAGCOR in PAGCOR v. Viola, which involves the controversy between PAGCOR and the Mimosa Regency Casino that operated inside the CSEZ.  Mimosa filed a case for injunction and prayed for the issuance of a TRO before the Pampanga RTC when PAGCOR decided to close down the casino.  In this case, PAGCOR likewise assailed the jurisdiction of the trial court by claiming that an original action before the CA is the proper remedy.  In PAGCOR v. Viola, we ruled that PAGCOR, in the exercise of its licensing and regulatory powers, has no quasi-judicial functions, as Secs. 8 and 9 of PD 1869 do not grant quasi-judicial powers to PAGCOR.  As such, direct resort to this Court is not allowed.  While we allowed said recourse in Del Mar v. PAGCOR and Jaworski v. PAGCOR, that is an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts on the grounds of expediency and the importance of the issues involved.  More importantly, we categorically ruled in PAGCOR v. Viola that cases involving revocation of a license falls within the original jurisdiction of the RTC, thus:

Having settled that PAGCOR’s revocation of MONDRAGON’s authority to operate a casino was not an exercise of quasi-judicial powers then it follows that the case was properly filed before the Regional Trial Court.  Hence, as the Regional Trial Court had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case, petitioner’s contention that the temporary restraining order and the preliminary injunction by the trial court are void must fail.  PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010

Jurisdiction; Supreme Court has no original jurisdiction over petition for declaratory relief.  Moreover,although the instant petition is styled as a Petition for Certiorari, in essence, it seeks the declaration by this Court of the unconstitutionality or illegality of the questioned DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, and Memorandum No. 88.  It, thus, partakes of the nature of a Petition for Declaratory Relief over which this Court has only appellate, not original, jurisdiction.  Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides:

Sec. 5.  The Supreme Court shall have the following powers:

(1)     Exercise original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.

(2)     Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final judgments and orders of lower courts in:

(a)     All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question.  (Emphasis supplied.)

With that, this Petition must necessarily fail because this Court does not have original jurisdiction over a Petition for Declaratory Relief even if only questions of law are involved.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010

Jurisdiction; Supreme Court may resolve complaint on the merits rather than remand to trial court, where justice and equity require it.  While it is the trial court that has original jurisdiction over FDC’s complaint, PAGCOR nevertheless prays that this Court “suspend the Rules and directly decide the entire controversy in this proceeding instead of remanding the same to the trial court.”

In the exercise of its broad discretionary power, we will resolve FDC’s complaint on the merits, instead of remanding it to the trial court for further proceedings.  Moreover, the dispute between the parties involves a purely question of law—whether the license or MOA was issued pursuant to PD 1869 or Sec. 5, EO 80, in relation to RA 7227, which does not necessitate a full blown trial.  Demands of substantial justice and equity require the relaxation of procedural rules.  In Lianga Bay v. Court of Appeals, the Court held:

Remand of case to the lower court for further reception of evidence is not necessary where the court is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before it.  On many occasions, the Court, in the public interest and the expeditious administration of justice, has resolved actions on the merits instead of remanding them to the trial court for further proceedings, such as where the ends of justice would not be subserved by the remand of the case or when public interest demands an early disposition of the case or where the trial court had already received all the evidence of the parties.  PAGCOR represented by Atty. Carlos R. Bautista, Jr. vs. Fontana Development Corporation, G.R. No. 187972, June 29, 2010

Motions; notice of hearing not required for non-litigious motions.  As to petitioner’s claim that the subject motion is defective for lack of a notice of hearing, the CA correctly ruled that the subject motion is a non-litigious motion.  While, as a general rule, all written motions should be set for hearing under Section 4, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, excepted from this rule are non-litigious motions or motions which may be acted upon by the court without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party.  As already discussed, respondent is entitled to the issuance of the final certificate of sale as a matter of right and petitioner is powerless to oppose the same.  Hence, the subject motion falls under the class of non-litigious motions.  At any rate, the trial court gave petitioner an opportunity to oppose the subject motion as in fact he filed a Comment/ Opposition on March 1, 2004 before the trial court.  Petitioner cannot, therefore, validly claim that he was denied his day in court.  Jose delaReyes vs. Josephine Anne B. Ramnani, G.R. No. 169135. June 18, 2010

Motions; Three-day notice rule.  Furthermore, the RTC likewise erred in dismissing petitioner’s Omnibus Motion for allegedly failing to comply with the three-day notice requirement. The RTC found that the notice of hearing of petitioner’s Omnibus Motion which was set to be heard on 12 November 2004 was received by respondent on 9 November 2004.  The RTC held that the service  of the notice of hearing was one day short of the prescribed minimum three days notice.  We disagree. Section 4 of Rule 15 provides that “[e]very written motion required to be heard and the notice of the hearing thereof shall be served in such a manner as to ensure its receipt by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of the hearing, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on shorter notice.” Thus, the date of the hearing should be at least three days after receipt of the notice of hearing by the other parties. In this case, the petitioner’s Omnibus Motion was set for hearing on 12 November 2004. Thus, to comply with the notice requirement, respondent should have received the notice of the hearing at least three days before 12 November 2004, which is 9 November 2004. Clearly, respondent’s receipt on 9 November 2004 (Tuesday) of the notice of hearing of the Omnibus Motion which was set to be heard on 12 November 2004 (Friday), was within the required minimum three-days’ notice.  As explained by Retired Justice Jose Y. Feria in his book, Civil Procedure Annotated, when the notice of hearing should be given:

The ordinary motion day is Friday. Hence, the notice should be served by Tuesday at the latest, in order that the requirement of the three days may be complied with.

If notice be given by ordinary mail, it should be actually received by Tuesday, or if not claimed from the post office, the date of the first notice of the postmaster should be at least five (5) days before Tuesday. (Emphasis supplied)

Fausto R. Preysler vs. Manila South Coast Development Corporation, G.R. No. 171872, June 28, 2010

Motions; Three-day notice rule; substantial compliance.  In upholding the RTC Order denying petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration, the Court of Appeals relied mainly on petitioner’s alleged violation of the notice requirements under Sections 4, 5, and 6, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court which read:

SECTION 4. Hearing of motion. – Except for motions which the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party, every written motion shall be set for hearing by the applicant.

Every written motion required to be heard and the notice of the hearing thereof shall be served in such a manner as to ensure its receipt by the other party at least three (3) days before the date of hearing, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on shorter notice.

SECTION 5. Notice of hearing. – The notice of hearing shall be addressed to all parties concerned, and shall specify the time and date of the hearing which must not be later than ten (10) days after the filing of the motion.

SECTION 6. Proof of service necessary. – No written motion set for hearing shall be acted upon by the court without proof of service thereof.

The three-day notice rule is not absolute. A liberal construction of the procedural rules is proper where the lapse in the literal observance of a rule of procedure has not prejudiced the adverse party and has not deprived the court of its authority.  Indeed, Section 6, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the Rules should be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding. Rules of procedure are tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, and courts must avoid their strict and rigid application which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice.  In Somera Vda. De Navarro v. Navarro, the Court held that there was substantial compliance of the rule on  notice of motions even if the first notice was irregular because  no prejudice was caused the adverse party since the motion was not considered and resolved until after several postponements of which the parties were duly notified.  Likewise, in Jehan Shipping Corporation v. National Food Authority, the Court held that despite the lack of notice of hearing in a Motion for Reconsideration, there was substantial compliance with the requirements of due process where the adverse party actually had the opportunity to be heard and had filed pleadings in opposition to the motion. The Court held:

This Court has indeed held time and again, that under Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, mandatory is the requirement in a motion, which is rendered defective by failure to comply with the requirement. As a rule, a motion without a notice of hearing is considered pro forma and does not affect the reglementary period for the appeal or the filing of the requisite pleading.

As an integral component of the procedural due process, the three-day notice required by the Rules is not intended for the benefit of the movant. Rather, the requirement is for the purpose of avoiding surprises that may be sprung upon the adverse party, who must be given time to study and meet the arguments in the motion before a resolution of the court. Principles of natural justice demand that the right of a party should not be affected without giving it an opportunity to be heard.

The test is the presence of opportunity to be heard, as well as to have time to study the motion and meaningfully oppose or controvert the grounds upon which it is based. x x x

A close perusal of the records reveal that the trial court gave petitioner ten days within which to comment on respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration. Petitioner filed its Opposition to the Motion on November 26, 2001. In its 14-page Opposition, it not only pointed out that the Motion was defective for not containing a notice of hearing and should then be dismissed outright by the court; it also ventilated its substantial arguments against the merits of the Motion and of the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration. Notably, its arguments were recited at length in the trial court’s January 8, 2002 Joint Resolution. Nevertheless, the court proceeded to deny the Motions on the sole ground that they did not contain any notice of hearing.

The requirement of notice of time and hearing in the pleading filed by a party is necessary only to apprise the other of the actions of the former. Under the circumstances of the present case, the purpose of a notice of hearing was served.  (Emphasis supplied)

In this case, the Court of Appeals ruled that petitioner failed to comply with the three-day notice rule. However, the Court of Appeals overlooked the fact that although respondent received petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration six days after the scheduled hearing on 26 February 2004, the said hearing was  reset three (3) times with due notice to the parties. Thus, it was only on 6 August 2004, or more than five months after respondent received a copy of petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration, that the motion was heard by the RTC. Clearly, respondent had more than sufficient time to oppose petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration. In fact, respondent did oppose the motion when it filed its  Motion to Dismiss dated 9 August 2004. In view of the circumstances of this case, we find that there was substantial compliance with procedural due process. Instead of dismissing petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration based merely on the alleged procedural lapses, the RTC should have resolved the motion based on the merits.  Fausto R. Preysler vs. Manila South Coast Development Corporation, G.R. No. 171872, June 28, 2010

Parties; indispensable party.  Moreover, an indispensable party is one whose interest in the controversy is such that a final decree would necessarily affect his/her right, so that the court cannot proceed without their presence.  In contrast, a necessary party is one whose presence in the proceedings is necessary to adjudicate the whole controversy but whose interest is separable such that a final decree can be made in their absence without affecting them.  In the instant case, the action for prohibition seeks to enjoin the city government of Parañaque from proceeding with its implementation of the road construction project. The State is neither a necessary nor an indispensable party to an action where no positive act shall be required from it or where no obligation shall be imposed upon it, such as in the case at bar. Neither would it be an indispensable party if none of its properties shall be divested nor any of its rights infringed.  Office of the City Mayor of Parañaque City, et al. vs. Mario D. Ebio and His Children/Heirs namely, Arturo V. Ebio, Eduardo, et al., G.R. No. 178411, June 23, 2010

Pleadings; repetitive filing of identical motions. The Court finds insufferable petitioner’s repeated filing of Motions to Dismiss raising the same ground.  In the three previous Motions to Dismiss and in an omnibus motion for reconsideration, petitioner argued that the present case was barred by prior judgment and that there was forum-shopping. Correspondingly, the issues had been repetitively passed upon and resolved by the court a quo.  The motions were apparently filed for no other reason than to gain time and gamble on a possible change of opinion of the court or the judge sitting on the case.  The Motions to Dismiss were filed in a span of five years, the first one having been filed on June 1, 2000 and the last ¾  the subject motion ¾ on February 15, 2005, three years after petitioner filed its answer.  In fact, since the first Motion to Dismiss, three judges had already sat on the case and resolved the motions.  By filing these motions, petitioner had disrupted the court’s deliberation on the merits of the case.  This strategy cannot be tolerated as it will entail inevitable delay in the disposition of the case.

Although the ground stated in the second Motion to Dismiss was forum-shopping and the subsequent motions included other grounds,   nonetheless, all of these motions raised a similar argument—that since the dismissal in the first case is already final and executory and there is no reservation made by the court in its judgment that the dismissal is without prejudice, the filing of the second case is barred. Therefore, the subsequent motions, being reiterations of the first motion, technically partook of the nature of a motion for reconsideration of the interlocutory order denying the first Motion to Dismiss.  This is not the first time that the Court disallowed the repetitive filing of identical motions against an interlocutory order.  In a parallel case, San Juan, Jr. v. Cruz, the Court acknowledged that there is actually no rule prohibiting the filing of a pro forma motion against an interlocutory order as the prohibition applies only to a final resolution or order of the court. The Court held, nonetheless, that a second motion can be denied on the ground that it is merely a rehash or a mere reiteration of the grounds and arguments already passed upon and resolved by the court.  Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010

Preliminary injunction; right in esse.  We also find that the character of possession and ownership by the respondents over the contested land entitles them to the avails of the action.  A right in esse means a clear and unmistakable right.  A party seeking to avail of an injunctive relief must prove that he or she possesses a right in esse or one that is actual or existing.  It should not be contingent, abstract, or future rights, or one which may never arise.

In the case at bar, respondents assert that their predecessor-in-interest, Pedro Vitalez, had occupied and possessed the subject lot as early as 1930. In 1964, respondent Mario Ebio secured a permit from the local government of Parañaque for the construction of their family dwelling on the said lot. In 1966, Pedro executed an affidavit of possession and occupancy allowing him to declare the property in his name for taxation purposes. Curiously, it was also in 1966 when Guaranteed Homes, Inc., the registered owner of Road Lot No. 8 (“RL 8″) which adjoins the land occupied by the respondents, donated RL 8 to the local government of Parañaque.  From these findings of fact by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, only one conclusion can be made: that for more than thirty (30) years, neither Guaranteed Homes, Inc. nor the local government of Parañaque in its corporate or private capacity sought to register the accreted portion. Undoubtedly, respondents are deemed to have acquired ownership over the subject property through prescription. Respondents can assert such right despite the fact that they have yet to register their title over the said lot. It must be remembered that the purpose of land registration is not the acquisition of lands, but only the registration of title which the applicant already possessed over the land. Registration was never intended as a means of acquiring ownership. A decree of registration merely confirms, but does not confer, ownership.  Office of the City Mayor of Parañaque City, et al. vs. Mario D. Ebio and His Children/Heirs namely, Arturo V. Ebio, Eduardo, et al., G.R. No. 178411, June 23, 2010

Procedural rules; liberal application not available in absence of explanation for non-observance of rules.  Petitioners ask for leniency from this Court, asking for a liberal application of the rules. However, it is quite apparent that petitioners offer no explanation as to why they did not appeal under Rule 45. Petitioners’ Petition, Reply and Memorandum are all silent on this point, probably hoping that the same would go unnoticed by respondents and by this Court. The attempt to skirt away from the fact that the 15-day period to file an appeal under Rule 45 had already lapsed is made even more apparent when even after the same was raised in issue by respondents in their Comment and memorandum, petitioners did not squarely address the same, nor offer any explanation for such omission.  In Jan-Dec Construction Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, this Court explained why a liberal application of the rules cannot be made to a petition which offers no explanation for the non-observance of the rules, to wit:

While there are instances where the extraordinary remedy of certiorari may be resorted to despite the availability of an appeal, the long line of decisions denying the special civil action for certiorari, either before appeal was availed of or in instances where the appeal period had lapsed, far outnumbers the instances where certiorari was given due course. The few significant exceptions are: (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictate; (b) when the broader interests of justice so require; (c) when the writs issued are null; and (d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.

In the present case, petitioner has not provided any cogent explanation that would absolve it of the consequences of its failure to abide by the Rules. Apropos on this point are the Court’s observations in Duremdes v. Duremdes:

Although it has been said time and again that litigation is not a game of technicalities, that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure so that issues may be properly presented and justly resolved, this does not mean that procedural rules may altogether be disregarded. Rules of procedure must be faithfully followed except only when, for persuasive reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure. Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to adequately explain his failure to abide by the rules.  (Emphasis supplied.)

Similarly, in Republic v. Court of Appeals, this Court did not apply a liberal construction of the rules for failure of petitioner to offer an explanation as to why the petition was filed beyond the reglementary period provided for under Rule 45, to wit:

Admittedly, this Court, in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of justice, has the discretion to treat a petition for certiorari as having been filed under Rule 45, especially if filed within the reglementary period for filing a petition for review.5 In this case, however, we find no reason to justify a liberal application of the rules. The petition was filed well beyond the reglementary period for filing a petition for review without any reason therefor.

While this Court has in the past allowed the relaxing of the rules on the reglementary periods of appeal, it must be stressed that there must be a showing of an extraordinary or exceptional circumstance to warrant such liberality. Bank of America, NT & SA v. Gerochi, Jr. so instructs:

True, in few highly exceptional instances, we have allowed the relaxing of the rules on the application of the reglementary periods of appeal. We cite a few typical examples: In Ramos vs. Bagasao, 96 SCRA 395, we excused the delay of four days in the filing of a notice of appeal because the questioned decision of the trial court was served upon appellant Ramos at a time when her counsel of record was already dead. Her new counsel could only file the appeal four days after the prescribed reglementary period was over. In Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 83 SCRA 453, we allowed the perfection of an appeal by the Republic despite the delay of six days to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice since the Republic stood to lose hundreds of hectares of land alreadytitled in its name and had since then been devoted for educational purposes. In Olacao v. National Labor Relations Commission, 177 SCRA 38, 41, we accepted a tardy appeal considering that the subject matter in issue had theretofore been judicially settled, with finality, in another case. The dismissal of the appeal would have had the effect of the appellant being ordered twice to make the same reparation to the appellee.

The case at bench, given its own settings, cannot come close to those extraordinary circumstances that have indeed justified a deviation from an otherwise stringent rule. Let it not be overlooked that the timeliness of an appeal is a jurisdictional caveat that not even this Court can trifle with.

Withal, this Court must stress that the bare invocation of “the interest of substantial justice” is not a magic wand that will automatically compel this Court to suspend procedural rules.  Indeed, in no uncertain terms, this Court has held that the said Rules may be relaxed only in ”exceptionally meritorious cases.”  Petitioners have failed to show that this case is one of the exceptions.  Artistica Ceramica, Inc., Ceralinda, Inc. Cyber Ceramics, Inc. and Millennium, Inc. vs. Ciudad Del Carmen Homeowner’s Association, Inc. and Bukluran Purok II Residents’ Association, G.R. No. 167583-84, June 16, 2010

Quo warranto; timeliness of petition.  On the first issue, the Court finds that public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in considering petitioner’s Petition for Quo Warranto filed out of time.  Its counting of the 10-day reglementary period provided in its Rules [i.e., Rule 17 of the 2004 Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal] from the issuance of NBC Resolution No. 07-60 on July 9, 2007 is erroneous.

To be sure, while NBC Resolution No. 07-60 partially proclaimed CIBAC as a winner in the May, 2007 elections, along with other party-list organizations, it was by no measure a proclamation of private respondent himself as required by Section 13 of RA No. 7941.

Section 13.How Party-List Representatives are Chosen. Party-list representatives shall be proclaimed by the COMELEC based on the list of names submitted by the respective parties, organizations, or coalitions to the COMELEC according to their ranking in said list.

AT ALL EVENTS, this Court set aside NBC Resolution No. 07-60 in Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency v.COMELEC after revisiting the formula for allocation of additional seats to party-list organizations.  Considering, however, that the records do not disclose the exact date of private respondent’s proclamation, the Court overlooks the technicality of timeliness and rules on the merits.  Alternatively, since petitioner’s challenge goes into private respondent’s qualifications, it may be filed at anytime during his term.

Qualifications for public office are continuing requirements and must be possessed not only at the time of appointment or election or assumption of office but during the officer’s entire tenure.  Once any of the required qualifications is lost, his title may be seasonably challenged.

Milagros E. Amores vs. House of  Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, G.R. No.  189600, June 29, 2010

Res judicata; conclusiveness of judgment.  The rule is that when material facts or questions, which were in issue in a former action and were admitted or judicially determined, are conclusively settled by a judgment rendered therein, such facts or questions become res judicata and may not again be litigated in a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies regardless of the form of the latter.  Jurisprudence provides that the concept of res judicata embraces two aspects.  The first, known as “bar by prior judgment,” or “estoppel by verdict,” is the effect of a judgment as a bar to the prosecution of a second action upon the same claim, demand or cause of action.  The second, known as “conclusiveness of judgment,” otherwise known as the rule of auter action pendent, ordains that issues actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot again be raised in any future case between the same parties involving a different cause of action.  The bar by prior judgment requires the following elements to be present for it to operate:

(1)      A former final judgment that was rendered on the merits;

(2)      The court in the former judgment had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; and,

(3)      Identity of parties, subject matter and cause of action between the first and second actions.

In contrast, the elements of conclusiveness of judgment are:

1.      Identity of parties; and

2.      Subject matter in the first and second cases.

Conclusiveness of judgment does not require identity of the causes of action for it to work.  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 will be final and conclusive in the second if that same point or question was in issue and adjudicated in the first suit; but the adjudication of an issue in the first case is not conclusive of an entirely different and distinct issue arising in the second.  Hence, facts and issues actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot again be raised in any future case between the same parties, even if the latter suit may involve a different claim or cause of action.

Conclusiveness of judgment proscribes the relitigation in a second case of a fact or question already settled in a previous case.  The second case, however, may still proceed provided that it will no longer touch on the same fact or question adjudged in the first case.  Conclusiveness of judgment requires only the identity of issues and parties, but not of causes of action. The instant petition is denied on the ground of res judicata under the concept of conclusiveness of judgment.  Ley Construction & Development Corporation, et al. vs. Philippine Commercial & International Bank, et al., G.R. No. 160841, June 23, 2010

Res judicata; res judicata disregarded if rigid application would involve sacrifice of justice to technicality.  Nonetheless, bearing in mind the circumstances obtaining in this case, we hold that res judicata should not be applied as it would not serve the interest of substantial justice. Proceedings on the case had already been delayed by petitioner, and it is only fair that the case be allowed to proceed and be resolved on the merits. Indeed, we have held that res judicata is to be disregarded if its rigid application would involve the sacrifice of justice to technicality, particularly in this case where there was actually no determination of the substantive issues in the first case and what is at stake is respondents’ home.  Philippine National Bank vs. The Intestate Estate of Francisco de Guzman, represented by His Heirs: Rosalia, Eleuterio, Joe, Ernesto, Harison, all surnamed De Guzman, and Gina De Guzman, G.R. No. 182507, June 16, 2010

Special Proceedings

Habeas corpus; nature, objective, and requirements of remedy.  Essentially, a writ of habeascorpus applies to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty.  Rule 102 of the 1997 Rules of Court sets forth the procedure to be followed in the issuance of the writ.  The Rule provides:

RULE 102

HABEAS CORPUS

SECTION 1.  To what habeas corpus extends. – Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the writ of habeas corpus shall extend to all cases of illegal confinement or detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty, orby which therightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.

SEC 2.  Who may grant the writ. – The writ of habeas corpus may be granted by the Supreme Court, or any member thereof, on any day and at any time, or by the Court of Appeals or any member thereof in the instances authorized by law, and if so granted it shall be enforceable anywhere in the Philippines, and may be made returnable before the court or any member thereof, or before a Court of First Instance, or any judge thereof for hearing and decision on the merits.  It may also be granted by a Court of First Instance, or a judge thereof, on any day and at any time, and returnable before himself, enforceable only within his judicial district.

x x x x

SEC. 4.  When writ not allowed or discharge authorized. – If it appears that the person alleged to be restrained of his liberty is in the custody of an officer under process issued by a court or judge or by virtue of a judgment or order of a court of record, and that the court or judge had jurisdiction to issue the process, render the judgment, or make the order, the writ shall not be allowed; or if the jurisdiction appears after the writ is allowed, the person shall not be discharged by reason of any informality or defect in the process, judgment, or order.  Nor shall anything in this rule be held to authorize the discharge of a person charged with or convicted of an offense in the Philippines, or of a person suffering imprisonment under lawful judgment.

The objective of the writ is to determine whether the confinement or detention is valid or lawful.  If it is, the writ cannot be issued.  What is to be inquired into is the legality of a person’s detention as of, at the earliest, the filing of the application for the writ of habeas corpus, for even if the detention is at its inception illegal, it may, by reason of some supervening events, such as the instances mentioned in Section 4 of Rule 102, be no longer illegal at the time of the filing of the application.

Plainly stated, the writ obtains immediate relief for those who have been illegally confined or imprisoned without sufficient cause. The writ, however, should not be issued when the custody over the person is by virtue of a judicial process or a valid judgment.

The most basic criterion for the issuance of the writ, therefore, is that the individual seeking such relief is illegally deprived of his freedom of movement or placed under some form of illegal restraint.  If an individual’s liberty is restrained via some legal process, the writ of habeas corpus is unavailing.  Fundamentally, in order to justify the grant of the writ ofhabeas corpus, the restraint of liberty must be in the nature of an illegal and involuntary deprivation of freedom of action.  In general, the purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to determine whether or not a particular person is legally held.  A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus, in fact, is an actual and effective, and not merely nominal or moral, illegal restraint of liberty.  The writ of habeas corpus was devised and exists as a speedy and effectual remedy to relieve persons from unlawful restraint, and as the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom.  A prime specification of an application for a writ of habeas corpus is restraint of liberty.  The essential object and purpose of the writ of habeas corpusis to inquire into all manner of involuntary restraint as distinguished from voluntary, and to relieve a person therefrom if such restraint is illegal.  Any restraint which will preclude freedom of action is sufficient.  In passing upon a petition for habeas corpus, a court or judge must first inquire into whether the petitioner is being restrained of his liberty.  If he is not, the writ will be refused.  Inquiry into the cause of detention will proceed only where such restraint exists.  If the alleged cause is thereafter found to be unlawful, then the writ should be granted and the petitioner discharged.  Needless to state, if otherwise, again the writ will be refused.  While habeas corpus is a writ of right, it will not issue as a matter of course or as a mere perfunctory operation on the filing of the petition. Judicial discretion is called for in its issuance and it must be clear to the judge to whom the petition is presented that, prima facie, the petitioner is entitled to the writ.  It is only if the court is satisfied that a person is being unlawfully restrained of his liberty will the petition for habeas corpus be granted.  If the respondents are not detaining or restraining the applicant or the person in whose behalf the petition is filed, the petition should be dismissed.  Nurhida Juhuri Ampatuan vs. Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig, RTC, Manila Br., et al., G.R. No. 182497, June 29, 2010

Habeas corpus; restrictive custody of policeman by PNP is not the detention or restraint contemplated by habeas corpus.  Petitioner contends that when PO1 Ampatuan was placed under the custody of respondents on 20 April 2008, there was yet no administrative case filed against him.  When the release order of Chief Inquest Prosecutor Nelson Salva was served upon respondents on 21 April 2008, there was still no administrative case filed against PO1 Ampatuan.  She also argues that the arrest on 14 April 2008 of PO1 Ampatuan in Shariff Kabunsuan was illegal because there was no warrant of arrest issued by any judicial authority against him.  On the other hand, respondents, in their Comment filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, argue that the trial court correctly denied the subject petition.  Respondents maintain that while the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila had recommended that PO1 Ampatuan be released from custody, said recommendation was made only insofar as the criminal action for murder that was filed with the prosecution office is concerned and is without prejudice to other legal grounds for which he may be held under custody.  In the instant case, PO1 Ampatuan is also facing administrative charges for Grave Misconduct.  They cited the case of Manalo v. Calderon, where this Court held that a petition for habeascorpus will be given due course only if it shows that petitioner is being detained or restrained of his liberty unlawfully, but a restrictive custody and monitoring of movements or whereabouts of police officers under investigation by their superiors is not a form of illegal detention or restraint of liberty.  The Solicitor General is correct.

In this case, PO1 Ampatuan has been placed under Restrictive Custody.  Republic Act No. 6975 (also known as the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990), as amended by Republic Act No. 8551 (also known as the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998), clearly provides that members of the police force are subject to the administrative disciplinary machinery of the PNP.  Section 41(b) of the said law enumerates the disciplinary actions, including restrictive custody that may be imposed by duly designated supervisors and equivalent officers of the PNP as a matter of internal discipline.  The pertinent provision of Republic Act No. 8551 reads:

Sec. 52 – x x x.

x x x x

4. The Chief of the PNP shall have the power to impose the disciplinary punishment of dismissal from the service; suspension or forfeiture of salary; or any combination thereof for a period not exceeding one hundred eighty (180) days.  Provided, further, That the Chief of the PNP shall have the authority to place police personnel under restrictive custody during the pendency of a grave administrative case filed against him or even after the filing of a criminal complaint, grave in nature, against such police personnel.  [Emphasis ours].

Given that PO1 Ampatuan has been placed under restrictive custody, such constitutes a valid argument for his continued detention.  This Court has held that a restrictive custody and monitoring of movements or whereabouts of police officers under investigation by their superiors is not a form of illegal detention or restraint of liberty.  Restrictive custody is, at best, nominal restraint which is beyond the ambit of habeascorpus.  It is neither actual nor effective restraint that would call for the grant of the remedy prayed for.  It is a permissible precautionary measure to assure the PNP authorities that the police officers concerned are always accounted for.  Since the basis of PO1 Ampatuan’s restrictive custody is the administrative case filed against him, his remedy is within such administrative process.  Nurhida Juhuri Ampatuan vs. Judge Virgilio V. Macaraig, RTC, Manila Br., et al., G.R. No. 182497, June 29, 2010

Settlement of estates; appointment of administrator; order of preference in the Rules is not absolute.  Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court lists the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator of an estate:

SEC. 6.When and to whom letters of administration granted. – If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:

(a)     To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;

(b)     If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve;

(c)     If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.

However, the order of preference is not absolute for it depends on the attendant facts and circumstances of each case.  Jurisprudence has long held that the selection of an administrator lies in the sound discretion of the trial court.  In the main, the attendant facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both respondent and Emilio III of their grandmother’s, Cristina’s, estate.  In the case of Uy v. Court of Appeals, we upheld the appointment by the trial court of a co-administration between the decedent’s son and the decedent’s brother, who was likewise a creditor of the decedent’s estate. In the same vein, we declared in Delgado Vda. de De la Rosa v. Heirs of Marciana Rustia Vda. de Damian that:

[i]n the appointment of an administrator, the principal consideration is the interest in the estate of the one to be appointed. The order of preference does not rule out the appointment of co-administrators, specially in cases where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estates, a situation which obtains here.

Similarly, the subject estate in this case calls to the succession other putative heirs, including another illegitimate grandchild of Cristina and Federico, Nenita Tañedo, but who was likewise adopted by Federico, and the two (2) siblings of respondent Isabel, Margarita and Emilio II. In all, considering the conflicting claims of the putative heirs, and the unliquidated conjugal partnership of Cristina and Federico which forms part of their respective estates, we are impelled to move in only one direction, i.e., joint administration of the subject estate.  In the matter of the Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntayl Emilio A.M. Suntay III vs.  Isabel Cojuanco-Suntay, G.R. No. 183053, June 16, 2010

Settlement of estates; distribution of shares in estate; where premature.  Indeed, the factual antecedents of this case accurately reflect the basis of intestate succession, i.e., love first descends, for the decedent, Cristina, did not distinguish between her legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren. Neither did her husband, Federico, who, in fact, legally raised the status of Emilio III from an illegitimate grandchild to that of a legitimate child. The peculiar circumstances of this case, painstakingly pointed out by counsel for petitioner, overthrow the legal presumption in Article 992 of the Civil Code that there exist animosity and antagonism between legitimate and illegitimate descendants of a deceased.

Nonetheless, it must be pointed out that judicial restraint impels us to refrain from making a final declaration of heirship and distributing the presumptive shares of the parties in the estates of Cristina and Federico, considering that the question on who will administer the properties of the long deceased couple has yet to be settled.  Our holding in Capistrano v. Nadurata on the same issue remains good law:

[T]he declaration of heirs made by the lower court is premature, although the evidence sufficiently shows who are entitled to succeed the deceased. The estate had hardly been judicially opened, and the proceeding has not as yet reached the stage of distribution of the estate which must come after the inheritance is liquidated.

Section 1, Rule 90 of the Rules of Court does not depart from the foregoing admonition:

Sec. 1.When order for distribution of residue is made. – x x x. If there is a controversy before the court as to who are the lawful heirs of the deceased person or as to the distributive shares to which each person is entitled under the law, the controversy shall be heard and decided as in ordinary cases.

No distribution shall be allowed until the payment of the obligations above mentioned has been made or provided for, unless the distributees, or any of them, give a bond, in a sum to be fixed by the court, conditioned for the payment of said obligations within such time as the court directs.

In the matter of the Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntayl Emilio A.M. Suntay III vs.  Isabel Cojuanco-Suntay, G.R. No. 183053, June 16, 2010

Other Proceedings

Appeals; period to appeal order in election case is mandatory and jurisdictional.  Section 8 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC provides that:

Section 8. Appeal. – An aggrieved party may appeal the decision  to the Commission on Elections within five days after promulgation by filing a notice of appeal with the court that rendered the decision with copy served on the adverse counsel or party if not represented by counsel

Although Castillo had received the November 21, 2008 order of the RTC on December 15, 2008, she filed her notice of appeal only on December 23, 2008, or eight days after her receipt of the decision. Her appeal was properly dismissed for being too late under the aforequoted rule of the COMELEC. Castillo now insists that her appeal should not be dismissed, because she claims that the five-day reglementary period was a mere technicality, implying that such period was but a trivial guideline to be ignored or brushed aside at will.

Castillo’s insistence is unacceptable. The period of appeal and the perfection of appeal are not mere technicalities to be so lightly regarded, for they are  essential  to  the  finality  of  judgments,  a  notion  underlying  the stability of our judicial system. A greater reason to adhere to this notion exists herein, for the short period of five days as the period to appeal recognizes the essentiality of time in election protests, in order that the will of the electorate is ascertained as soon as possible so that the winning candidate is not deprived of the right to assume office, and so that any doubt that can cloud the incumbency of the truly deserving winning candidate is quickly removed.  Contrary to Castillo’s posture, we cannot also presume the timeliness of her appeal from the fact that the RTC gave due course to her appeal by its elevating the protest to the COMELEC. The presumption of timeliness would not arise if her appeal was actually tardy.  It is not trite to observe, finally, that Castillo’s tardy appeal resulted in the finality of the RTC’s dismissal even before January 30, 2002. This result provides an additional reason to warrant the assailed actions of the COMELEC in dismissing her appeal. Accordingly, the Court finds that the COMELEC’s assailed actions were appropriate and lawful, not tainted by either arbitrariness or whimsicality.  Minerva Gomez-Castillo vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 187231, June 22, 2010

Certiorari and mandamus; available in Supreme Court for review of COMELEC resolutions in party-list case.  The COMELEC posits that once the proclamation of the winning party-list organization has been done and its nominee has assumed office, any question relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the candidates to the House of Representatives falls under the jurisdiction of the HRET pursuant to Section 17, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.  Thus, Lokin should raise the question he poses herein either in an election protest or in a special civil action for quo warranto in the HRET,not in a special civil action for certiorari in this Court.  We do not agree.  An election protest proposes to oust the winning candidate from office. It is strictly a contest between the defeated and the winning candidates, based on the grounds of electoral frauds and irregularities, to determine who between them has actually obtained the majority of the legal votes cast and is entitled to hold the office.  It can only be filed by a candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and has been voted for in the preceding elections.  A special civil action for quo warranto refers to questions of disloyalty to the State, or of ineligibility of the winning candidate. The objective of the action is to unseat the ineligible person from the office, but not to install the petitioner in his place.  Any voter may initiate the action, which is, strictly speaking, not a contest where the parties strive for supremacy because the petitioner will not be seated even if the respondent may be unseated.

The controversy involving Lokin is neither an election protest nor an action for quo warranto, for it concerns a very peculiar situation in which Lokin is seeking to be seated as the second nominee of CIBAC. Although an election protest may properly be available to one party-list organization seeking to unseat another party-list organization to determine which between the defeated and the winning party-list organizations actually obtained the majority of the legal votes, Lokin’s case is not one in which a nominee of a particular party-list organization thereby wants to unseat another nominee of the same party-list organization. Neither does an action for quo warranto lie, considering that the case does not involve the ineligibility and disloyalty of Cruz-Gonzales to the Republic of the Philippines, or some other cause of disqualification for her.  Lokin has correctly brought this special civil action for certiorari against the COMELEC to seek the review of the September 14, 2007 resolution of the COMELEC in accordance with Section 7 of Article IX-A of the 1987 Constitution, notwithstanding the oath and assumption of office by Cruz-Gonzales.  The constitutional mandate is now implemented by Rule 64 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for the review of the judgments, final orders or resolutions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit. As Rule 64 states, the mode of review is by a petition for certiorari in accordance with Rule 65 to be filed in the Supreme Court within a limited period of 30 days.  Undoubtedly, the Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over Lokin’s petitions for certiorari and for mandamus against the COMELEC.  Luis K. Lokin, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis K. Lokin vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. Nos. 179431-32/G.R. No. 180443. June 22, 2010.

Jurisdiction; Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) has no certiorari jurisdiction over orders of Provincial Adjudicator.  Jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by the Constitution or the law, and rules of procedure yield to substantive law. Otherwise stated, jurisdiction must exist as a matter of law.  Only a statute can confer jurisdiction on courts and administrative agencies; rules of procedure cannot.

The DARAB assumed jurisdiction over the petition for certiorari by virtue of Section 3, Rule VIII of the DARAB New Rules of Procedure, which allows the filing of such petition to assail an interlocutory order of the Provincial Adjudicator. However, a month after the DARAB rendered its decision, the Court, in DARAB v. Lubrica, declared that such apparent grant of authority to issue a writ of certiorariis not founded on any law. It declared that neither the DARAB’s quasi-judicial authority nor its rule-making power justifies the self-conferment of authority.  Thus, the Court concluded that the DARAB has no certiorari jurisdiction:

In general, the quantum of judicial or quasi-judicial powers which an administrative agency may exercise is defined in the enabling act of such agency. In other words, the extent to which an administrative entity may exercise such powers depends largely, if not wholly, on the provisions of the statute creating or empowering such agency. The grant of original jurisdiction on a quasi-judicial agency is not implied. There is no question that the legislative grant of adjudicatory powers upon the DAR, as in all other quasi-judicial agencies, bodies and tribunals, is in the nature of a limited and special jurisdiction, that is, the authority to hear and determine a class of cases within the DAR’s competence and field of expertise. In conferring adjudicatory powers and functions on the DAR, the legislature could not have intended to create a regular court of justice out of the DARAB, equipped with all the vast powers inherent in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The DARAB is only a quasi-judicial body, whose limited jurisdiction does not include authority over petitions for certiorari, in the absence of an express grant in R.A. No. 6657, E.O. No. 229 and E.O. No. 129-A.

As intimated in Lubrica, petitioner should have filed the petition for certiorari with the regular courts, and not with the DARAB.  In the absence of a specific statutory grant of jurisdiction, the DARAB, as a quasi-judicial body with limited jurisdiction, cannot exercise jurisdiction over the petition for certiorariJulian  Fernandez vs. Rufino D. Fulgueras, G.R. No. 178575, June 29, 2010

Jurisdiction; Regional Trial Court, acting as Special Agrarian Court, has original and exclusive jurisdiction over petitions for determination of just compensation.  Fortune Savings, on the other hand, claims in its Comment that, even if Land Bank filed the case on time, the fact remains that the RTC dismissed the same for Land Bank’s failure to serve summons.  Fortune Savings’ filing of another case—Agrarian Case 2000-0155—cannot operate as a continuance of Agrarian Case 99-0214 because it was an entirely different case altogether.  Agrarian Case 2000-0155 did not operate to revive Agrarian Case 99-0214 nor did it give to Land Bank the benefit of having filed on time the action that the DARAB Rules contemplated.

Although the DAR is vested with primary jurisdiction under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 or CARL to determine in a preliminary manner the reasonable compensation for lands taken under the CARP, such determination is subject to challenge in the courts.  The CARL vests in the RTCs, sitting as Special Agrarian Courts, original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation.  This means that the RTCs do not exercise mere appellate jurisdiction over just compensation disputes.  The RTC’s jurisdiction is not any less “original and exclusive” because the question is first passed upon by the DAR.  The proceedings before the RTC are not a continuation of the administrative determination. Indeed, although the law may provide that the decision of the DAR is final and unappealable, still a resort to the courts cannot be foreclosed on the theory that courts are the guarantors of the legality of administrative action.  The taking of property under the CARL is a government exercise of the power of eminent domain.  Since the determination of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings is a judicial function, such determination cannot be made to depend on the existence of administrative proceedings of a similar nature.  Thus, even while the DARAB summary administrative hearing for determination of just compensation is pending, the interested party may file a petition for judicial determination of the same.  In another case, the Court allowed the filing with the trial court of a petition to fix just compensation despite failure of the landowner to seek reconsideration of the DAR’s valuation.

Consequently, Land Bank’s filing of Agrarian Case 2000-0155 after the dismissal without prejudice of Agrarian Case 99-0214 cannot be regarded as barred by the filing of the latter case beyond the 15-day period prescribed under Rule XIII, Section 11 of the DARAB Rules.  The procedural soundness of Agrarian Case 2000-0155 could not be made dependent on the DARAB case, for these two proceedings are separate and independent.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Fortune Savings and Loan Association, Inc., represented by Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, G.R. No. 177511, June 29, 2010 .

Summary Procedure; Prohibition against filing of petition for certiorari.  Rule 70 of the Rules of Court, on forcible entry and unlawful detainer cases, provides:

Sec. 13. Prohibited pleadings and motions.-The following petitions, motions, or pleadings shall not be allowed:

1.         Motion to dismiss the complaint except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or failure to comply with section 12;

2.         Motion for a bill of particulars;

3.         Motion for a new trial, or for reconsideration of a judgment, or for reopening of trial;

4.         Petition for relief from judgment;

5.         Motion for extension of time to file pleadings, affidavits or any other paper;

6.         Memoranda;

7.         Petition for certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition against any interlocutory order issued by the court;

8.         Motion to declare the defendant in default;

9.         Dilatory motions for postponement;

10.       Reply;

11.       Third-party complaints;

12.       Interventions.  (Emphasis supplied)

Although it is alleged that there may be a technical error in connection with the service of summons, there is no showing of any substantiveinjustice that would be caused to IPI so as to call for the disregard of the clear and categorical prohibition of filing petitions for certiorari.  It must be pointed out that the Rule on Summary Procedure, by way of exception, permits only a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter but it does not mention the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the person.  It is a settled rule of statutory construction that the express mention of one thing implies the exclusion of all others.  Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.  From this it can be gleaned that allegations on the matter of lack of jurisdiction over the person by reason of improper service of summons, by itself, without a convincing showing of any resulting substantive injustice, cannot be used to hinder or stop the proceedings before the MCTC in the ejectment suit.  With more reason, such ground should not be used to justify the violation of an express prohibition in the rules prohibiting the petition for certiorari. IPI’s arguments attempting to show how the Rule on Summary Procedure or lack of rules on certain matters would lead to injustice are hypothetical and need not be addressed in the present case.  Of primary importance here is that IPI, the real defendant in the ejectment case, filed its Answer and participated in the proceedings before the MCTC.

The purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure is to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases without regard to technical rules.  In the present case, weighing the consequences of continuing with the proceedings in the MCTC as against the consequences of allowing a petition for certiorari, it is more in accord with justice, the purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure, the policy of speedy and inexpensive determination of cases, and the proper administration of justice, to obey the provisions in the Rule on Summary Procedure prohibiting petitions for certiorari.

The present situation, where IPI had filed the prohibited petition for certiorari; the CA’s taking cognizance thereof; and the subsequent issuance of the writ of injunction enjoining the ejectment suit from taking its normal course in an expeditious and summary manner, and the ensuing delay is the antithesis of and is precisely the very circumstance which the Rule on Summary Procedure seeks to prevent.  The petition for certiorari questioning the MCTC’s interlocutory order is not needed here.  The rules provide respondent IPI with adequate relief.  At the proper time, IPI has the right to appeal to the RTC, and in the meantime no injustice will be caused to it by waiting for the MCTC to completely finish resolving the ejectment suit.  The proceedings before the MCTC being summary in nature, the time and expense involved therein are minimal.  IPI has already raised the matter of improper service of summons in its Answer.  The MCTC’s error/s, if any, on any of the matters raised by respondent IPI can be threshed out during appeal after the MCTC has finally resolved the ejectment case under summary procedure.

As accurately pointed out by petitioner, Go v. Court of Appeals does not support the case of respondent IPI.  The factual milieu and circumstances of the said case do not fit with the present case.  They are in fact the exact opposite of those in the present case before the court hearing the original ejectment case.  Not only was there an absence of any “indefinite suspension” of the ejectment suit before the MCTC but likewise there was no “procedural void” that would otherwise cause delay in the summary and expeditious resolution thereof that transpired to warrant applicability of Go v. Court of Appeals.  It is worth pointing out that in Go v. Court of Appeals the Supreme Court categorically upheld that “the purpose of the Rule on Summary Procedure is to achieve an expeditious and inexpensive determination of cases without regard to technical rules.  Pursuant to this objective, the Rule prohibits petitions for certiorari, like a number of other pleadings, in order to prevent unnecessary delays and to expedite the disposition of cases.”  Considering that the petition for certiorari filed before the CA is categorically prohibited, the CA should not have entertained the same but should have dismissed it outright.  Victorias Milling Company, Inc. vs. CA and International Pharmaceuticals, Inc., G.R. No. 168062, June 29, 2010

Venue; filing of election protest in improper venue not jurisdictional.  It is well-settled that jurisdiction is conferred by law. As such, jurisdiction cannot be fixed by the will of the parties; nor be acquired through waiver nor enlarged by the omission of the parties; nor conferred by any acquiescence of the court. The allocation of jurisdiction is vested in Congress, and cannot be delegated to another office or agency of the Government.

The Rules of Court does not define jurisdictional boundaries of the courts. In promulgating the Rules of Court, the Supreme Court is circumscribed by the zone properly denominated as the promulgation of rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts; consequently, the Rules of Court can only determine the means, ways or manner in which said jurisdiction, as fixed by the Constitution and acts of Congress, shall be exercised. The Rules of Court yields to the substantive law in determining jurisdiction. The jurisdiction over election contests involving elective municipal officials has been vested in the RTC by Section 251, Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 (Omnibus Election Code).  On the other hand, A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC, by specifying the proper venue where such cases may be filed and heard, only spelled out the manner by which an RTC with jurisdiction exercises such jurisdiction. Like other rules on venue, A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC was designed to ensure a just and orderly administration of justice, and is permissive, because it was enacted to ensure the exclusive and speedy disposition of election protests and petitions for quo warranto involving elective municipal officials.

Castillo’s filing her protest in the RTC in Bacoor, Cavite amounted only to a wrong choice of venue. Hence, the dismissal of the protest by Branch 19 constituted plain error, considering that her wrong choice did not affect the jurisdiction of the RTC. What Branch 19 should have done under the circumstances was to transfer the protest to Branch 22 of the RTC in Imus, Cavite, which was the proper venue. Such transfer was proper, whether she as the protestant sought it or not, given that the determination of the will of the electorate of Bacoor, Cavite according to the process set forth by law was of the highest concern of our institutions, particularly of the courts.  Minerva Gomez-Castillo vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 187231, June 22, 2010

Writ of Amparo; requirement of extraordinary diligence.  Considering the findings of the CA and our review of the records of the present case, we conclude that the PNP and the AFP have so far failed to conduct an exhaustive and meaningful investigation into the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, and to exercise the extraordinary diligence (in the performance of their duties) that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires. Because of these investigative shortcomings, we cannot rule on the case until a more meaningful investigation, using extraordinary diligence, is undertaken.

From the records, we note that there are very significant lapses in the handling of the investigation – among them the PNP-CIDG’s failure to identify the cartographic sketches of two (one male and one female) of the five abductors of Jonas based on their interview of eyewitnesses to the abduction.  This lapse is based on the information provided to the petitioner by no less than State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco of the DOJ who identified the persons who were possibly involved in the abduction, namely: T/Sgt. Jason Roxas (Philippine Army), Cpl. Maria Joana Francisco (Philippine Air Force), M/Sgt. Aron Arroyo (Philippine Air Force), and an alias T.L., all reportedly assigned with Military Intelligence Group 15 of Intelligence Service of the AFP.  No search and certification were ever made on whether these persons were AFP personnel or in other branches of the service, such as the Philippine Air Force.  As testified to by the petitioner, no significant follow through was also made by the PNP-CIDG in ascertaining the identities of the cartographic sketches of two of the abductors despite the evidentiary leads provided by State Prosecutor Velasco of the DOJ. Notably, the PNP-CIDG, as the lead investigating agency in the present case, did not appear to have lifted a finger to pursue these aspects of the case.  We note, too, that no independent investigation appeared to have been made by the PNP-CIDG to inquire into the veracity of Lipio’s and Manuel’s claims that Jonas was abducted by a certain @KA DANTE and a certain @KA ENSO of the CPP/NPA guerilla unit RYG.  The records do not indicate whether the PNP-CIDG conducted a follow-up investigation to determine the identities and whereabouts of @KA Dante and @KA ENSO.  These omissions were aggravated by the CA finding that the PNP has yet to refer any case for preliminary investigation to the DOJ despite its representation before the CA that it had forwarded all pertinent and relevant documents to the DOJ for the filing of appropriate charges against @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO.

Based on these considerations, we conclude that further investigation and monitoring should be undertaken.While significant leads have been provided to investigators, the investigations by the PNP-CIDG, the AFP Provost Marshal, and even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have been less than complete.  The PNP-CIDG’s investigation particularly leaves much to be desired in terms of the extraordinary diligence that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires.  For this reason, we resolve to refer the present case to the CHR as the Court’s directly commissioned agency tasked with the continuation of the investigation of the Burgos abduction and the gathering of evidence, with the obligation to report its factual findings and recommendations to this Court. We take into consideration in this regard that the CHR is a specialized and independent agency created and empowered by the Constitution to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights and to provide appropriate legal measures for the protection of human rights of all persons within the Philippines.

Under this mandate, the CHR is tasked to conduct appropriate investigative proceedings, including field investigations – acting as the Court’s directly commissioned agency for purposes of the Rule on the Writ of Amparo – with the tasks of:  (a) ascertaining the identities of the persons appearing in the cartographic sketches of the two alleged abductors as well as their whereabouts; (b) determining based on records, past and present, the identities and locations of the persons identified by State Prosecutor Velasco alleged to be involved in the abduction of Jonas, namely: T/Sgt. Jason Roxas (Philippine Army); Cpl. Maria Joana Francisco (Philippine Air Force), M/Sgt. Aron Arroyo (Philippine Air Force), and an alias T.L., all reportedly assigned with Military Intelligence Group 15 of Intelligence Service of the AFP; further proceedings and investigations, as may be necessary, should be made to pursue the lead allegedly provided by State Prosecutor Velasco on the identities of the possible abductors; (c) inquiring into the veracity of Lipio’s and Manuel’s claims that Jonas was abducted by a certain @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO of the CPP/NPA guerilla unit RYG; (d) determining based on records, past and present, as well as further investigation, the identities and whereabouts of @KA DANTE and @KA ENSO; and (e) undertaking all measures, in the investigation of the Burgos abduction that may be necessary to live up to the extraordinary measures we require in addressing an enforced disappearance under the Rule on the Writ of AmparoEdita T. Burgos vs. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al./Edita T. Burgos vs. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al./Edita T. burgos vs. Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., et al., G.R. Nos. 183711/183812/183713, June 22, 2010

Evidence

Burden of proof; party alleging fraud has burden of proof.Fraud is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts, omissions, and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence justly reposed, resulting in the damage to another or by which an undue and unconscionable advantage is taken of another.It is a question of fact that must be alleged and proved.  It cannot be presumed and must be established by clear and convincing evidence, not by mere preponderance of evidence.  The party alleging the existence of fraud has the burden of proof.  On the basis of the above disquisitions, this Court finds that petitioner has failed to discharge this burden.  No matter how strong the suspicion is on the part of petitioner, such suspicion does not translate into tangible evidence sufficient to nullify the assailed transactions involving the subject MSCI Class “A” share of stock.  Makati Sports Club, Inc. vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010

Existence of fraud is question of fact.  Fraud is deemed to comprise anything calculated to deceive, including all acts, omissions, and concealment involving a breach of legal or equitable duty, trust or confidence justly reposed, resulting in the damage to another or by which an undue and unconscionable advantage is taken of another.It is a question of fact that must be alleged and proved.  It cannot be presumed and must be established by clear and convincing evidence, not by mere preponderance of evidence.  The party alleging the existence of fraud has the burden of proof.  On the basis of the above disquisitions, this Court finds that petitioner has failed to discharge this burden.  No matter how strong the suspicion is on the part of petitioner, such suspicion does not translate into tangible evidence sufficient to nullify the assailed transactions involving the subject MSCI Class “A” share of stock.  Makati Sports Club, Inc. vs. Cecile H. Cheng, et al., G.R. No. 178523, June 16, 2010

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