May 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law

Here are selected May 2009 decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court on remedial law.

Certiorari; judicial discretion. A wide breadth of discretion is granted a court of justice in certiorari proceedings. The Supreme Court has not too infrequently given due course to a petition for certiorari, even when the proper remedy would have been an appeal, where valid and compelling considerations would warrant such a recourse. Moreover, the Supreme Court allowed a Rule 65 petition, despite the availability of plain, speedy or adequate remedy, in view of the importance of the issues raised therein. The rules were also relaxed by the Supreme Court after considering the public interest involved in the case; when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates; when the broader interest of justice so requires; when the writs issued are null and void; or when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.  People’s Broadcasting vs. The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, et al., G.R. No. 179652, May 8, 2009.

Evidence; circumstantial evidence.  The circumstantial evidence available was enough to convict accused-appellant. Circumstantial evidence may be competent to establish guilt as long as it is sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused, and not someone else, was responsible for the killing. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction as long as there is (1) more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proved; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.  People of the Philippines vs. Bonifacio Badriago, G.R. No. 183566, May 8, 2009.

Evidence;  credibility of witness. As a rule, the findings of the trial court relative to the credibility of the rape victim are normally respected and not disturbed on appeal. More so, if they are affirmed by the appellate court. It is only in exceptional circumstances that this rule is brushed aside, such as when the court’s evaluation was reached arbitrarily, or when the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied certain facts or circumstances of weight and substance which could affect the result of the case.  The People of the Philippines vs. Lorenzo Layco, Sr., G.R. No. 182191, May 8, 2009.

Evidence;  Dangerous Drugs Act.  The failure of the prosecution to offer the testimony of key witnesses to establish a sufficiently complete chain of custody of a specimen of shabu, and the irregularity which characterized the handling of the evidence before the same was finally offered in court, fatally conflict with every proposition relative to the culpability of the accused. It is this same reason that now moves us to reverse the judgment of conviction in the present case.  Guido Catuiran y Necudemus vs. People of the PhilippinesG.R. No. 175467, May 8, 2009.

Extrajudicial foreclosure; notice. The Court of Appeals invalidated the extrajudicial foreclosure of the mortgage on the ground that petitioner had failed to furnish respondent personal notice of the sale contrary to the stipulation in the real estate mortgage. Petitioner, on the other hand, claims that under paragraph 12 of the real estate mortgage, personal notice of the foreclosure sale is not a requirement to the validity of the foreclosure sale. A perusal of the records of the case shows that a notice of sheriff’s sale was sent by registered mail to respondent and received in due course. Yet, respondent claimed that it did not receive the notice but only learned about it from petitioner. Paragraph 12 of the real estate mortgage requires petitioner merely to furnish respondent with the notice and does not oblige petitioner to ensure that respondent actually receives the notice. On this score, the Supreme Court helds that petitioner has performed its obligation under paragraph 12 of the real estate mortgage. Producers Bank of the Philippines vs. Excelsa Industries, Inc., G.R. No. 152071, May 8, 2009.

Extrajudicial foreclosure; writ of possession. It is ministerial upon the court to issue a writ of possession after the foreclosure sale and during the period of redemption. The governing law, Act No. 3135, as amended, in Section 7 thereof, explicitly authorizes the purchaser in a foreclosure sale to apply for a writ of possession during the redemption period by filing an ex parte motion under oath for that purpose in the corresponding registration or cadastral proceeding in the case of property with Torrens title. Upon the filing of such motion and the approval of the corresponding bond, the law also in express terms directs the court to issue the order for a writ of possession. The writ of possession issues as a matter of course even without the filing and approval of a bond after consolidation of ownership and the issuance of a new transfer certificate of title in the name of the purchaser

But the rule is not without exception. Under Section 35, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, which is made suppletory to the extrajudicial foreclosure of real estate mortgages by Section 6 of Act 3135, as amended, the possession of the mortgaged property may be awarded to a purchaser in the extrajudicial foreclosure unless a third party is actually holding the property adversely to the judgment debtor. Thus, in the cited case of Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that the obligation of a court to issue an ex parte writ of possession in favor of the purchaser in an extrajudicial foreclosure sale ceases to be ministerial once it appears that there is a third party in possession of the property who is claiming a right adverse to that of the debtor/mortgagor. This is substantiated by the Civil Code which protects the actual possessor of a property.  Development Bank of the Philippines vs. Prime Neighborhood Association, G.R. No. 175728 & G.R. No. 178914, May 8, 2009,

Forum shopping. The essence of forum shopping is 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. The elements of forum shopping are: (a) identity of parties, or at least such parties as represent the same interests in both action; (b) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts; and (c) the identity with respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases is such that any judgment rendered in the pending cases, regardless of which party is successful, amount to res judicata in the other case. GD Express Worldwide N.V., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 136978,  May 8, 2009.

Intervention; intestate proceedings. Section 1 of Rule 19 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure requires that an intervenor “has a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties, or an interest against both, or is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property in the custody of the court x x x” While the language of Section 1, Rule 19 does not literally preclude petitioners from intervening in the intestate proceedings, case law has consistently held that the legal interest required of an intervenor “must be actual and material, direct and immediate, and not simply contingent and expectant.”

Nonetheless, it is not immediately evident that intervention under the Rules of Civil Procedure necessarily comes into operation in special proceedings. The settlement of estates of deceased persons fall within the rules of special proceedings under the Rules of Court, not the Rules on Civil Procedure. Section 2, Rule 72 further provides that “[i]n the absence of special provisions, the rules provided for in ordinary actions shall be, as far as practicable, applicable to special proceedings.”

The Supreme Court concluded that notwithstanding Section 2 of Rule 72, intervention as set forth under Rule 19 does not extend to creditors of a decedent whose credit is based on a contingent claim. The definition of “intervention” under Rule 19 simply does not accommodate contingent claims. Alfredo Hilado, Lopez Sugar Corporation, First Farmers Holding Corporation vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals, et al.G.R. No. 164108,  May 8, 2009.

Judgment; motion to held in abeyance execution. Petitioner cannot perpetually file any petition or pleading to forestall the execution of a final judgment. Execution of a final judgment is the fruit and end of the suit. While a litigant’s right to initiate an action in court is fully respected, once his case has been adjudicated by a competent court in a valid final judgment, he should not be permitted to initiate similar suits in the hope of securing a favorable ruling. The 28 March 2001 Sandiganbayan Decision has attained finality. Such definitive judgment is no longer subject to change, revision, amendment or reversal. Upon finality of the judgment, the Court loses its jurisdiction to amend, modify or alter the same. Except for correction of clerical errors or the making of nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, or where the judgment is void, the judgment can neither be amended nor altered after it has become final and executory. This is the principle of immutability of final judgment. Panfilo D. Bongcac vs. Sandiganbayan, et al.G.R. Nos. 156687-88, May 21, 2009.

Judicial notice. The labor arbiter took judicial notice of the alleged prevailing business practices in the coconut industry that copra making activities are done quarterly; that the workers can contract with other farms; and that the workers are independent from the land owner on all work aspects. Petitioner wants this Court to take judicial notice of the current business practice in the coconut industry which allegedly treats copraceros as independent contractors. An invocation that the Supreme Court take judicial notice of certain facts should satisfy the requisites set forth by case law. A mere prayer for its application shall not suffice. Thus, in this case the Supreme Court cannot take judicial notice of the alleged business practices in the copra industry since none of the material requisites of matters of judicial notice is present in the instant petition. The record is bereft of any indication that the matter is of common knowledge to the public and that it has the characteristic of notoriety, except petitioners’ self-serving claim. South Davao Development Company, Inc., et al. vs. Sergio L. Gamo, et al., G.R. No. 171814, May 8, 2009.

Jurisdiction; CIAC. An examination of the allegations in Fong’s complaint reveals that his cause of action springs not from a violation of the provisions of the Trade Contract, but from the assignment of Maxco’s retention money to him and failure of petitioner to turn over the retention money. The allegations in Fong’s Complaint are clear and simple: (1) That Maxco had an outstanding obligation to respondent; (2) Maxco assigned to Fong its retention from petitioner in payment of the said obligation; (3) Petitioner as early as April 18, 2005 was notified of the assignment; (4) Despite due notice of such assignment, petitioner still refused to deliver the amount assigned to respondent, giving preference, instead, to the 2 other creditors of Maxco; (5) At the time petitioner was notified of the assignment, there were only one other notice of garnishment and there were sufficient residual amounts to satisfy Fong’s claim; and (6) uncertain over which one between Maxco and petitioner he may resort to for payment, respondent named them both as defendants in Civil Case No. 06-0200-CFM.

Although the jurisdiction of the CIAC is not limited to the instances enumerated in Section 4 of E. O. No. 1008, Fong’s claim is not even construction-related at all. This court has held that: “Construction is defined as referring to all on-site works on buildings or altering structures, from land clearance through completion including excavation, erection and assembly and installation of components and equipment.” Thus, petitioner’s insistence on the application of the arbitration clause of the Trade Contract to Fong is clearly anchored on an erroneous premise that the latter is seeking to enforce a right under the trade contract. This premise cannot stand since the right to the retention money of Maxco under the Trade Contract is not being impugned herein. It bears mentioning that petitioner readily conceded the existence of the retention money. Fong’s demand that the portion of retention money should have been paid to him before the other creditors of Maxco clearly, does not require the CIAC’s expertise and technical knowledge of construction. Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation vs. Hon. Edwin D. Sorongon, et al.G.R. No. 176709, May 8, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  HLURB.  The HLURB has no jurisdiction to declare petitioners as absolute owners of the subdivision lots as against the Heirs of Laudiza who filed an action for reconveyance against respondent Casal, which is still pending before the RTC.  However, nothing prevents the HLURB from adjudicating on the issue of whether the alleged subsequent sale of the subdivision lots to respondents Ang and Cuason constituted a double sale because the issue is intimately related to petitioners’ complaint to compel respondents CRS Realty, Casal and Salvador to perform their obligation under the contracts to sell. Considering that the alleged subsequent sale to respondents Ang and Cuason apparently would constitute a breach of respondents’ obligation to issue the certificate of title to petitioners, if not an unsound business practice punishable under Section 1 of P.D. No. 1344,[50] the HLURB cannot shirk from its mandate to enforce the laws for the protection of subdivision buyers.   The HLURB may determine if the alleged subsequent sale to respondents Ang and Cuason of those lots initially sold to petitioners constituted a double sale and was tainted with fraud as opposed to the respondents’ claim that only the unsold portions of the subdivision property were sold to them. Vicenta Cantemprate vs. CRS Realty Development Corp.,  G.R. No. 171399, May 8, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  Intra-corporate controversy. There is no question that the prayers for the appointment of a management receiver, the nullification and amendment of certain provisions of PEAC’s articles of incorporation and by-laws, the recognition of the election of respondent Filchart’s directors, as well as the inspection of the corporate books, are intra-corporate in nature as they pertain to the regulation of corporate affairs.

Even the issue of respondent Filchart’s status as stockholder in PEAC and, concomitantly, its capacity to file SEC Case No. 08-97-5746 must be threshed out in the intra-corporate proceedings. Petitioner GD Express’ allegation that respondent Filchart has not fully paid its subscription to the shares in PEAC and, thus, cannot claim to be a stockholder in PEAC does not oust the SCC of its jurisdiction over the case. For the purpose of determining whether SEC Case No. 08-97-5746 should be heard as an intra-corporate proceeding, the allegation in respondent Filchart’s petition that it is a stockholder in PEAC is deemed hypothetically admitted. It is only after a full-blown hearing that the SCC may determine whether respondent Filchart’s may be considered a bona fide stockholder of PEAC and is entitled to the reliefs prayed for in its petition.

However, in view of the transfer of jurisdiction over intra-corporate disputes from the SEC to the SCCs, which are the same RTCs exercising general jurisdiction, the question of jurisdiction is no longer decisive to the resolution of the instant case.   GD Express Worldwide N.V., et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al.G.R. No. 136978,  May 8, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  panel of arbitrators.  The regular courts, not the panel of arbitrators, has jurisdiction over disputes between aprties to an operating agreement. Olympic Mines and Development Corp., vs. Platinum Group of Metals Corp./Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. vs. Hon. Judge Beienvenido C. Blancaflor, et al./Platinum Group of Metals vs. Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. etc./Platinum Group of Metals Corporation vs. Court of Appeals and Polly C. Dy, G.R. No. 178188, G.R. No. 180674, G.R. No. 181141 and G.R. No. 183527, May 8, 2009.

Reconveyance. An action for reconveyance respects the decree of registration as incontrovertible but seeks the transfer of property, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in other persons’ names, to its rightful and legal owners, or to those who claim to have a better right.  Angel M. Pagaduan vs. Spouses Estanislao & Fe Posadas Ocuma, G.R. No. 176308, May 8, 2009.

Unlawful detainer. In unlawful detainer, one unlawfully withholds possession thereof after the expiration or termination of his right to hold possession under any contract, express or implied. In such case, the possession was originally lawful but became unlawful by the expiration or termination of the right to possess; hence, the issue of rightful possession is decisive for, in such action, the defendant is in actual possession and the plaintiff’s cause of action is the termination of the defendant’s right to continue in possession.

It can readily be inferred that petitioner is primarily asserting his ownership over the subject property. It should be reiterated, at the point of being repetitive, that in an unlawful detainer case, the only issue to be resolved is who between the parties is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property in dispute. The trial court and the appellate court were one in saying that respondent had overwhelmingly established its right of possession by virtue of the dacion en pago and the torrens title.

At this juncture, it may not be amiss to note that in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, only questions of law may be raised for the simple reason that the Court is not a trier of facts. It is not duty-bound to analyze and weigh again the evidence considered in the proceedings below. The factual findings of the trial court, especially when adopted and affirmed by the Court of Appeals as in the present case, are final and conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal.

In the case at bar, both the trial court and the appellate court lent more credence to the validity of the dacion en pago and respondent’s title. This determination, however, is regarded merely as provisional. It is a settled doctrine that courts in ejectment cases may determine questions of ownership whenever necessary to decide the question of possession. In any case, we sustain the finding that the respondents have the better right to possess the subject property.

Well-established is the rule that if possession is by tolerance as has been alleged in the complaint such possession becomes illegal upon demand to vacate, with the possessor refusing to comply with such demand. Samuel Malabanan vs. Rural Bank of Cabuyao, Inc.G.R. No. 163495, May 8, 2009.