June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law, Legal/Judicial Ethics and Criminal Law

Here are selected June 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on  remedial law, legal/judicial ethics and criminal law.

Remedial Law

Actions;  quasi in rem. The petition for cancellation of entries annotated at the back of OCT No. 40287 ought to have been directed against specific persons: namely, the heirs of Juan Soriano as appearing in Entry No. 20102 and, indubitably, against their successors-in-interest who have acquired different portions of the property over the years because it is in the nature of an action quasi in rem. Accordingly, the Salazars should have impleaded as party defendants the heirs of Juan Soriano and/or Vicenta Macaraeg as well as those claiming ownership over the property under their names because they are indispensable parties. This was not done in this case. Since no indispensable party was  ever impleaded by the Salazars in their petition for cancellation of entry filed before Branch 63 of the RTC of Tarlac, herein petitioners are not bound by the dispositions of the said court. Consequently, the judgment or order of the said court never even acquired finality. Zenaida Acosta, et al. vs. Trinidad Salazar, et al., G.R. No. 161034.  June 30, 2009

Answer;  counterclaim.  There is no merit in petitioners’ contention that the Counter-Petition for Partition in their Answer was in the nature of a compulsory counterclaim which does not require the payment of docket fees.

A counterclaim is any claim which a defending party may have against an opposing party. It may either be permissive or compulsory.  It is permissive if it does not arise out of or is not necessarily connected with the subject matter of the opposing party’s claim. A permissive counterclaim is essentially an independent claim that may be filed separately in another case.

A counterclaim is compulsory when its object arises out of or is necessarily connected with the transaction or occurrence constituting the subject matter of the opposing party’s claim and does not require for its adjudication the presence of third parties of whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction. Unlike permissive counterclaims, compulsory counterclaims should be set up in the same action; otherwise, they would be barred forever.

Respondents’ action was for the annulment of the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement, title and partition of the property subject of the Deed.  On the other hand, in the Counter-Petition filed by petitioners in their Answer to respondents’ complaint, they were asking for the partition and accounting of the other 12 parcels of land of the deceased spouses Quiterio and Antonina, which are entirely different from the subject matter of the respondents’ action.   Petitioners’ claim does not arise out of or is necessarily connected with the action for the Annulment of the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of the property covered by TCT No. 458396.   Thus, payment of docket fees is necessary before the RTC could acquire jurisdiction over petitioners’ petition for partition. Cristina F. Reillo, et al. vs. Galicano E. San Jose etc., et al., G.R. No. 166393, June 18, 2009.

Appeal;  BSP.  Having established that the BSP Monetary Board is indeed a quasi-judicial body exercising quasi-judicial functions; then as such, it is one of those quasi-judicial agencies, though not specifically mentioned in Section 9(3) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, as amended, and Section 1, Rule 43 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, are deemed included therein.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over final judgments, orders, resolutions or awards of the BSP Monetary Board on administrative complaints against banks and quasi-banks, which the former acquires through the filing by the aggrieved party of a Petition for Review under Rule 43 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. United Coconut Planters Bank, et al. vs. E. Ganzon, Inc./E. Ganzon, Inc. vs. United Coconut Planters Bank, et al., G.R. No. 168859/G.R. No. 168897, June 30, 2009.

Appeal; CIAC. Appeals from judgment of the CIAC shall be taken to the Court of Appeals by filing a petition for review within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the notice of award, judgment, final order or resolution, or from the date of its last publication if publication is required by law for its effectivity, or of the denial of petitioner’s motion for new trial or reconsideration duly filed in accordance with the governing law of the court or agency a quo.

Admittedly, Uy received the CIAC decision on June 7, 2000; that instead of filing a verified petition for review with the CA, Uy filed a motion for correction of computation on June 16, 2000, pursuant to Section 9, Article XV of the Rules of Procedure Governing Construction Arbitration.  With the filing of the motion for correction, the running of the period to appeal was effectively interrupted.

CIAC was supposed to resolve the motion for correction of computation within 30 days from the time the comment or opposition thereto was submitted. In Uy’s case, no resolution was issued despite the lapse of the 30-day period, and Uy considered it as a denial of his motion. Accordingly, he elevated his case to the CA on July 24, 2000. But not long thereafter, or on August 1, 2000, the CIAC issued an Order denying the motion for correction of computation.  Obviously, when Uy filed his petition for review with the CA, the period to appeal had not yet lapsed; it was interrupted by the pendency of his motion for computation. There is no basis, therefore, to conclude that the petition was belatedly filed.  Elpidio S. Uy, etc. vs. Public Estates Authority and the Honorable Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 147925-26, June 8, 2009.

Appeal;  defect in notarial document.  The Supreme Court had, on numerous occasions, veered away from the general rule and relaxed the application of technical rules when, in its assessment, the appeal on its face appeared absolutely meritorious.  The Supreme Court had, in a number of instances, relaxed procedural rules in order to serve and achieve substantial justice.

However, in this case, the circumstances in this case do not warrant the relaxation of the rules. The Certification issued by the notary public will not save the day for petitioner. The same is merely a belated attempt to comply with the requirements under the NLRC Rules of Procedure and the Notarial Rules. Petitioner failed to explain how, if indeed the Unilab representatives and their legal counsel appeared before the Notary Public together with the bonding company representative, they failed to indicate their CTC numbers on the document knowing fully well – the legal counsel most especially – that the same is required by law. To allow such certification to “cure” the procedural lapse made by petitioner would undermine the integrity of notarized documents.  Pedriatica, Inc. vs. Joselito T. Rafaeles, G.R. No. 180755, June 19, 2009.

Appeal;  execution pending appeal.  Discretionary execution of judgments pending appeal under Sec. 2(a) of Rule 39 does not apply to eminent domain proceedings.  Spouses Ernesto F. Curata, et al. vs. Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Ports Authority vs. Remedios Rosales-Bondoc, et al., Philippine Ports Authority vs. Hon. Paterno Tac-an, et al., Rosalina Buenafe, et al. vs. Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Ports Authority vs. Caroline B. Acosta, et al., Philippine Ports Authority vs. Remedios Rosales-Bondoc, et al. G.R. Nos. 154211-12, G.R. No. 158252, G.R. No. 166200, G.R. No. 168272, G.R. No. 170683, G.R. No. 173392.  June 22, 2009

Appeal;  failure to file brief. The general rule is that a client is bound by the acts, even mistakes, of his counsel in the realm of procedural technique.  There are exceptions to this rule, such as when the reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law, or when the application of the general rule results in the outright deprivation of one’s property through a technicality.   However, in this case, we find no reason to exempt petitioner from the general rule. Nena A. Cariño vs. Estrella M. Espinosa, represented by her atty-in-fact Manuel P. Mejia, Jr., G.R. No. 166036, June 19, 2009.

Appeal;  failure to file brief. Petitioners insist that they relied on the supposed professionalism of their counsel. According to them, having received the notice from the Court of Appeals to file a brief, their counsel was supposed to know his duty, not only as their counsel but also as an officer of the court; and they conclude that they should not be blamed and penalized if the conduct of their counsel fell way short of what was expected of him. This reasoning of petitioners merits no consideration.

It is a well-settled rule that the client is bound by the counsel’s conduct, negligence, and mistakes in handling the case; and the client cannot be heard to complain that the result might have been different had his lawyer proceeded differently. Glen Pascual Y Malumbay, et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 162286,  June 5, 2009.

Appeal;  failure to file memorandum on appeal.  The right to appeal is neither a natural right nor a part of due process; it is merely a statutory privilege, and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law.  An appeal being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid down in the Rules of Court.  In other words, he who seeks to avail of the right to appeal must play by the rules.  This, the petitioner failed to do when he did not submit his memorandum on appeal.  Bonifacio M. Mejillano vs. Enrique Lucillo, et al., G.R. No. 154717, June 19, 2009.

Appeal;  Games and Amusement Board. The PBA should have appealed the ruling of respondent Gaite of the Office of the President to the Court of Appeals within 15 days from notice, and its failure to comply with the prescribed process is a ground for the dismissal of the petition. Rule 65 – the legal basis for the present petition – itself bars its use as a mode of review when an appeal or any other remedy at law is available. While jurisprudence has recognized exceptions to this rule, the exceptions – like any other exception – must be strictly, rather than liberally, applied. In other words, a petitioner wrongly filing a Rule 65 petition must show a clear entitlement to the jurisprudentially-recognized exceptions. These exceptions are: when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates; when the interests of substantial justice so require; and when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. Philippine Basketball Association Vs. Honorable Manuel B. Gaite, in his capacity as Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs of the Office of the President, et al.,G.R. No. 170312,  June 26, 2009.

Appeal;  non-payment of docket fees.  Among the grounds that pertinent jurisprudence has recognized as  justifying the loosening up of the stringent requirement on payment of  docket fees are:  (1) to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure; (2) good faith of the defaulting party by  paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default; (3)  the merits of the case; (4) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (5) a lack of any showing that the review sought is frivolous and dilatory; (6) no unjust prejudice to the other party; and (7) importance of the issues involved.  Concomitant to a liberal interpretation 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.  Spouses Ernesto F. Curata, et al. vs. Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Ports Authority vs. Remedios Rosales-Bondoc, et al., Philippine Ports Authority vs. Hon. Paterno Tac-an, et al., Rosalina Buenafe, et al. vs. Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Ports Authority vs. Caroline B. Acosta, et al., Philippine Ports Authority vs. Remedios Rosales-Bondoc, et al. G.R. Nos. 154211-12, G.R. No. 158252, G.R. No. 166200, G.R. No. 168272, G.R. No. 170683, G.R. No. 173392.  June 22, 2009.

Appeal;  non-payment of fees.   The appeal to the COMELEC of the trial court’s decision in election contests involving municipal and barangay officials is perfected upon the filing of the notice of appeal and the payment of theP1,000.00 appeal fee to the court that rendered the decision within the five-day reglementary period. The non-payment or the insufficient payment of the additional appeal fee of P3,200.00 to the COMELEC Cash Division, in accordance with Rule 40, Section 3 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, as amended, does not affect the perfection of the appeal and does not result in outright or ipso facto dismissal of the appeal. Following, Rule 22, Section 9(a) of the COMELEC Rules, the appeal may be dismissed. Pursuant to Rule 40, Section 18 of the same rules, if the fees are not paid, the COMELEC may refuse to take action thereon until they are paid and may dismiss the action or the proceeding. In such a situation, the COMELEC is merely given the discretion to dismiss the appeal or not.  Accordingly, in the instant case, the COMELEC First Division, may dismiss petitioner’s appeal, as it in fact did, for petitioner’s failure to pay the P3,200.00 appeal fee. Jerry B. Aguilar vs. The Commission on Elections and Romulo R. Insoy, G.R. No. 185140, June 30, 2009.

Appeal;  relief from judgment.  While the reglementary periods fixed under the rules for relief from judgment are mandatory in character, procedural rules of the most mandatory character in terms of compliance may, in the interest of substantial justice, be relaxed. Since rules of procedure are mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, they are not to be applied with severity and rigidity when such application would clearly defeat the very rationale for their existence. In line with this postulate, the Court can and will relax or altogether suspend the application of the rules, or except a particular case from the rules’ operation when their rigid application tends to frustrate rather than promote the ends of justice.  The peculiarities of the instant case impel us to do so now. Foremost of these is the fact that the Republic had properly made out a prima facie case of double titling over the subject lot, meriting a ventilation of the factual and legal issues relative to that case.  Heirs of the late Jose Luzuriaga, etc., vs. Republic of the Philippines thru the Office of the Solicitor General/Heirs of the late Jose Luzuriaga, etc., vs. Republic of the Philippines thru the Office of the Solicitor General G.R. No. 168848/G.R. No. 169019, June 30, 2009

Certiorari;  abuse of discretion. Settled is the rule that a petition for certiorari is proper to correct only errors of jurisdiction committed by respondent court, tribunal or administrative agency. Public respondent acts without jurisdiction if it does not have the legal power to determine the case, or in excess of jurisdiction if it oversteps its authority as determined by law. Grave abuse of discretion is committed when respondent acts in a capricious, whimsical, arbitrary, or despotic manner in the exercise of its judgment as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. In a petition for certiorari, the jurisdiction of the court is narrow in scope as it is limited to resolving only cases of jurisdiction.
Here, petitioner argues that the CA gravely abused its discretion in affirming the denial of petitioner’s motion to lift or revoke levy without even passing upon the substantive issue on the propriety of levying her family home. She insists that the levied property in Catanduanes should have been exempt from execution pursuant to Article 155 of the Family Code in relation to Articles 152 to 154 thereof, which she maintains she could have proven had she been accorded the opportunity to present evidence to this effect.

The contention must fall. The appellate court, in its assailed resolution, amply explained the reason for the affirmance of the RTC’s decision. Filomena Soneja  vs. Honorable Court of Appeals and Ramon Saura, Jr., G.R. No. 161533, June 5, 2009.

Certiorari;  abuse of process.  The petitioner’s unusual approaches and use of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court do not appear to us to be the result of any error in reading Rule 65, given the way the petition was crafted.  Rather, it was a backdoor approach to achieve what the petitioner could not directly do in his individual capacity under Rule 65.  It was, at the very least, an attempted bypass of other available, albeit lengthier, modes of review that the Rules of Court provide.  While we stop short of concluding that the petitioner’s approaches constitute an abuse of process through a manipulative reading and application of the Rules of Court, we nevertheless resolve that the petition should be dismissed for its blatant violation of the Rules.  The transgressions alleged in a petition, however weighty they may sound, cannot be justifications for blatantly disregarding the rules of procedure, particularly when remedial measures were available under these same rules to achieve the petitioner’s objectives.  For our part, we cannot and should not – in the name of liberality and the “transcendental importance” doctrine – entertain these types of petitions.  As we held in the very recent case of Lozano, et al. vs. Nograles, albeit from a different perspective, our liberal approach has its limits and should not be abused.  Jose Concepcion, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 178624, June 30, 2009.

Certiorari; acquittal. Although the Supreme Court does not absolutely preclude the availment of the remedy of certiorari to correct an erroneous acquittal, the petitioner must clearly and convincingly demonstrate that the lower court blatantly abused its authority to a point so grave and so severe as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice.

A judgment of acquittal in a criminal case may be assailed in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, but only upon a clear showing by the petitioner that the lower court, in acquitting the accused, committed not merely reversible errors of judgment but also grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, or to a denial of due process, thus rendering the assailed judgment void. In which event, the accused cannot be considered at risk of double jeopardy — the revered constitutional safeguard against exposing the accused to the risk of answering twice for the same offense.  People of the Philippines vs. Joven De Grano, et al., G.R. No. 167710, June 5, 2009 .

Certiorari;  evaluation of evidence. The sole function of a writ of certiorari is to address issues of want of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion and it does not include a review of the tribunal’s evaluation of the evidence. The findings of fact made by the COMELEC, or by any other administrative agency exercising expertise in its particular field of competence, are binding on the Court. The Court is not a trier of facts; it is not equipped to receive evidence and determine the truth of factual allegations. The Court’s function, as mandated by Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, is merely to check whether or not the governmental branch or agency has gone beyond the constitutional limits of its jurisdiction, not that it erred or has a different view. In the absence of a showing of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, this Court will have no occasion to exercise its corrective power. It has no authority to inquire into what it thinks is apparent error.

Thus, in this case, the Court cannot grant the prayer of petitioner for registration as a sectoral party, because to do so will entail an evaluation of the evidence to determine whether indeed petitioner qualifies as a party-list organization and whether it has made untruthful statements in its application for registration. V C. Cadangen, et al. vs. The Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 177179, June 5, 2009 .

Evidence; admission.  Bascugin’s confession was freely, intelligently, and deliberately given.  Judicial confession constitutes evidence of a high order.   The presumption is that no sane person would deliberately confess to the commission of a crime unless prompted to do so by truth and conscience.  Admission of guilt constitutes evidence against the accused pursuant to the following provisions of the Rules of Court. People of the Philippines vs. Leodegario Bascuguin y Agquiz, G.R. No. 184704, June 30, 2009.

Evidence;  burden of proof.  Petitioner failed to discharge his burden of proof.  No satisfactory evidence was presented to prove by preponderance of evidence that respondents committed the acts imputed against them.  As such, there is no more need to discuss whether the assailed statements are defamatory. Francisco N. Villanueva vs. Virgilio P. Balaquer, et al., G.R. No. 180197, June 23, 2009.

Evidence; findings of trial court.  Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is the rule 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 upon a showing of highly meritorious circumstances, such as: (1) when the findings of a trial court are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when a lower court’s inference from its factual findings is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts; (4) when 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) when there is a misapprehension of facts; (6) when the findings of fact are conclusions without mention of the specific evidence on which they are based, are premised on the absence of evidence, or are contradicted by evidence on record. None of these exceptions necessitating a reversal of the assailed decision obtains in this instance.  Siain Enterprises, Inc. vs. Cupertino Realty Corp. and Edwin R. Catacutan, G.R. No. 170782, June 22, 2009.

Evidence;  notarial document.  It is a settled rule that a notarial document is evidence of the facts in the clear unequivocal manner therein expressed; and has in its favor the presumption of regularity.  Notarization converts a private document into a public document, thus making that document admissible in evidence without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is, by law, entitled to full faith and credit upon its face.  Courts, administrative agencies, and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment executed by a notary public and appended to a private instrument.  Indeed, a notarized deed of absolute sale, being a public document, has in its favor the presumption of regularity, which may only be rebutted by evidence so clear, strong, and convincing as to exclude all controversy as to the falsity of the certificate.  Thus, the burden of proof to overcome the presumption of due execution of a notarized document lies on the party contesting such execution.

In this case, it is the petitioner who has the onus of overcoming the presumed regularity of the Deed of Absolute Sale, dated March 11, 1975, in favor of respondent Arsenio.  Francisco G. Calma vs. Arsenio Santos, et al., G.R. No. 161027, June 22, 2009.

Execution;  pending appeal. Execution pending appeal does not bar the continuance of the appeal on the merits and respondents are not left without relief in the event of reversal of the judgment against it.  Section 5, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court specifically provides that where the executed judgment is reversed totally or partially, or annulled, on appeal or otherwise, the trial court may, on motion, issue such orders of restitution or reparation of damages as equity and justice may warrant under the circumstances.  Archinet International, Inc., et al. vs. Becco Philippines, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 183753, June 19, 2009.

Execution; prescription. It is settled that an original action for certiorari is an independent action and is neither a continuation nor a part of the trial resulting in the judgment complained of. It does not interrupt the course of the original action if there was no writ of injunction, even if in connection with a pending case in a lower court.

Clearly, the petition for certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 36500) assailing the February 22, 1994 resolution did not toll the running of the prescriptive period. The petition for review on certiorari (G.R. No. L-125418) had the same effect because it was merely a continuation of CA-G.R. SP No. 36500. Even if these actions sought a reversal of the February 22, 1994 resolution, they did not suspend the running of the prescriptive period for execution in favor of respondent. The very nature of a certiorari proceeding militates against considering it in favor of respondent. Besides, no writ of injunction was issued in favor of respondent which could have validly suspended the running of the prescriptive period.

However, the same rule cannot be applied to G.R. No. 138993. Despite being an original certiorari proceeding, G.R. No. 138993 tolled the running of the prescriptive period. An analysis of its peculiar nature justifies taking it out of the ambit of the rule that certiorari proceedings do not toll the running of the prescriptive period. Philippines Veterans Bank vs. Solid Homes, Inc. Philippine Veterans BankG.R. No. 170126.  June 9, 2009

Execution; real property.  t in implementing the involuntary transfer of title of real property levied and sold on execution, it is not enough for the executing party to file a motion with the court which rendered judgment.  The proper course of action is to file a petition in court, rather than merely move, for the issuance of new titles.  Archinet International, Inc., et al. vs. Becco Philippines, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 183753, June 19, 2009.

Forcible entry. For a forcible entry suit to prosper, the complainant must allege and prove that he was in prior physical possession of the property and that he was deprived of such possession by means of force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. A party who can prove prior possession can recover such possession even against the owner himself.  Whatever may be the character of his possession, if he has in his favor prior possession in time, he has the security that entitles him to remain in the property until a person with a better right lawfully ejects him.

A party having the burden of proof must establish his case by a preponderance of evidence.  In doing so, he must rely on the strength of his own evidence, not on the weakness of the defendant’s. To prove prior possession, respondent presented his tax declarations, tax receipt and a certification from the municipal assessor attesting that he has paid real property tax from previous years.  He, likewise, testified that he appointed the spouses Mojica as his caretakers, and allowed three other spouses to build their houses on the property.  Respondent’s counsels also explained that they were not able to secure the affidavits of the occupants of the property and the neighbors because they feared for their lives.

Respondent’s evidence fails to make out a prima facie case of forcible entry as it does not satisfactorily establish that respondent has been in physical possession of the subject property prior to petitioner’s occupation thereof.  Joven De Grano, etc., vs. Gregorio Lacaba, G.R. No. 158877, June 16, 2009.

Forcible entry. In ejectment cases, the only issue for resolution is who is entitled to the physical or material possession of the property involved, independent of any claim of ownership set forth by any of the party-litigants.  The one who can prove prior possession de facto may recover such possession even from the owner himself.  Possession de facto is the physical possession of real property.  Possession de facto and not possession de jure is the only issue in a forcible entry case. This rule holds true regardless of the character of a party’s possession, provided, that he has in his favor priority of time which entitles him to stay on the property until he is lawfully ejected by a person having a better right by either accion publiciana or accion reivindicatoria. Precy Bunyi and Mila Bunyi vs. Fe S. Factor, G.R. No. 172547, June 30, 2009.

Foreclosure; redemption. The debtor may redeem his property sold at an auction sale in an extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage within one year from the date of registration of the certificate of sale. Under Article 13 of the Civil Code, a year consists of 365 days. Since the certificate of sale was annotated on the certificate of title (TCT No. 11637) only on 7 February 2001, petitioner  could exercise her right to redeem the property until 7 February 2002.

Although petitioner filed a complaint for judicial redemption on 6 February 2002, the records are bereft of any indication that petitioner ever paid or consigned with the trial court the redemption price. Furthermore, in all her pleadings, petitioner never indicated that she has already  paid or consigned with the trial court the redemption price.

Considering the lack of  consignation of the redemption price since the petitioner’s filing of the action for judicial redemption on  6 February 2002, it would be unfair to deny respondent the possession of the property which it bought for P3,958,539.92 in a public auction on 24 September 1999. Between petitioner who has not paid or consigned with the trial court the redemption price, and respondent who bought the property as the highest bidder in the auction sale, the latter is more entitled to have possession of the property. Petitioner cannot be granted possession of the property by the mere expediency of filing an action for judicial redemption without ever paying or consigning  the redemption price with the trial court. Marylou B. Tolentino, M.D. vs. Shenton Realty Corp., G.R. No. 162103, June 19, 2009.

Information;  amended. The public prosecutors, in filing the Amended Informations, did not exceed the authority delegated by the COMELEC. Resolution No. 7457, which effectively revoked the deputation of the Office of the City Prosecutor of Parañaque, was issued on 4 April 2005, after the Amended Informations were filed on 28 October 2004.  The letter dated 11 October 2004, written by Director Alioden D. Dalaig of the COMELEC Law Department, did not revoke the continuing authority granted to the City Prosecutor of Parañaque.  Bienvenido Diño, et al. vs. Pablo Olivarez, G.R. No. 170447, June 23, 2009.

Inhibition. The inhibition must be for just and valid causes, and in this regard, we have noted that the mere imputation of bias or partiality is not enough ground for inhibition, especially when the charge is without basis. This Court has to be shown acts or conduct clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before it can brand them with the stigma of bias or partiality. Moreover, extrinsic evidence is required to establish bias, bad faith, malice or corrupt purpose, in addition to palpable error which may be inferred from the decision or order itself. The only exception to the rule is when the error is so gross and patent as to produce an ineluctable inference of bad faith or malice.  Philippine Commercial International Bank Vs. Sps. Wilson Dy Hong Pi and Lolita Dy and Sps Primo Chuyaco, Jr. and Chuyaco, G.R. No. 171137,  June 5, 2009.

Judgment;  amended. There is a difference between an amended judgment and a supplemental judgment. In an amended and clarified judgment, the lower court makes a thorough study of the original judgment and renders the amended and clarified judgment only after considering all the factual and legal issues. The amended and clarified decision is an entirely new decision which supersedes the original decision.  Following the Court’s differentiation of a supplemental pleading from an amending pleading, it can be said that a supplemental decision does not take the place or extinguish the existence of the original.  As its very name denotes, it only serves to bolster or adds something to the primary decision.  A supplement exists side by side with the original. It does not replace that which it supplements.  Eric L. Lee vs. Hon. Henry J. Trocino, et al., G.R. No. 164648, June 19, 2009.

Judgment;  compromise agreement. Under Article 1306 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms, and conditions, as they may deem convenient, provided that these are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.  A compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties make reciprocal concessions in order to resolve their differences, thereby putting an end to litigation.  Such means of dispute settlement is an accepted, even desirable and encouraged, practice in courts of law and administrative tribunals.  Spouses Eduardo Tankiang and Mayda Tankiang vs. Metropolitan and Trust Company, Inc., G.R. No. 181675, June 22, 2009.

Judgment;  compromise agreement.  Article 1306 of the Civil Code of the Philippines provides that contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms, and conditions, as they may deem convenient, provided that they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.  A compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties make reciprocal concessions, avoid litigation, or put an end to one already commenced.  It is an accepted, even desirable and encouraged, practice in courts of law and administrative tribunals.

A compromise agreement intended to resolve a matter already under litigation is a judicial compromise.  Having judicial mandate and entered as its determination of the controversy, it has the force and effect of a judgment.  It transcends its identity as a mere contract between the parties as it becomes a judgment that is subject to execution in accordance with the Rules of Court.  Thus, a compromise agreement that has been made and duly approved by the court attains the effect and authority of res judicata, although no execution may be issued unless the agreement receives the approval of the court where the litigation is pending and compliance with the terms of the agreement is decreed.  California Manufacturing Company, Inc. vs. The City of Las Piñas, et al., G.R. No. 178461, June 22, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. The CA erred in taking cognizance of the petition for review that was filed way beyond the reglementary period.  Rules of procedure may be relaxed in the interest of substantial justice and in order to give a litigant the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his complaint. However, concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to explain its failure to comply with the rules and prove the existence of exceptionally meritorious circumstances warranting such liberality.

Respondent proffered no explanation for the delay as, in fact, he did not acknowledge that he filed his petition for review with the CA beyond the prescriptive period.  In his motion for extension of time to file the petition for review with the CA, respondent alleged that it was the October 28, 2001 RTC Order that denied his motion for reconsideration. As a stratagem or out of plain ignorance, he counted the reglementary period from the date of his receipt of the said order.  But, as the CA was well aware, the reglementary period should have been counted from the receipt of the March 28, 2001 Order.

Respondent might have been confused with the rule that, when a judgment is amended, the date of the amendment should be considered the date of the decision in the computation of the period for perfecting the appeal.  For all intents and purposes, the lower court rendered a new judgment from which the time to appeal must be reckoned.  However, this rule presupposes that the amendment consists of a material alteration of such substance and proportion that would, in effect, give rise to an entirely new judgment.  But when the amendment merely consists of the correction of a clerical error, no new judgment arises.  In such case, the period for filing the appeal should, still be counted from the receipt of the original judgment.  Joven De Grano, etc., vs. Gregorio Lacaba, G.R. No. 158877.  June 16, 2009.

Judgment;  finality. As a general rule, the statutory requirement that when no motion for reconsideration is filed within the reglementary period, the decision attains finality and becomes executory in due course must be strictly enforced as they are considered indispensable interdictions against needless delays and for orderly discharge of judicial business.  The purposes for such statutory requirement are twofold: first, to avoid delay in the administration of justice and thus, procedurally, to make orderly the discharge of judicial business, and, second, to put an end to judicial controversies, at the risk of occasional errors, which are precisely why courts exist. Controversies cannot drag on indefinitely.  The rights and obligations of every litigant must not hang in suspense for an indefinite period of time.

However, in exceptional cases, substantial justice and equity considerations warrant the giving of due course to an appeal by suspending the enforcement of statutory and mandatory rules of procedure. Certain elements are considered for the appeal to be given due course, such as: (1) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (2) the merits of the case, (3) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (4) lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (5) the other party will not be unduly prejudiced thereby.  Mercedita T. Guasch vs. Arnaldo Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 176015, June 16, 2009.

Judgment on the pleadings. Where a motion for judgment on the pleadings is filed, the essential question is whether there are issues generated by the pleadings. In a proper case for judgment on the pleadings, there is no ostensible issue at all because of the failure of the defending party’s answer to raise an issue. The answer would fail to tender an issue, of course, if it does not deny the material allegations in the complaint or admits said material allegations of the adverse party’s pleadings by confessing the truthfulness thereof and/or omitting to deal with them at all.

In this case, respondents’ principal action was for the annulment of the Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate Among Heirs with Waiver of Rights executed by petitioners and annulment of title on the ground that petitioners stated in the said Deed that they are the legitimate descendants and sole heirs of the spouses Quiterio and Antonina.  Although petitioners denied in their Answer that the Deed was falsified, they, however, admitted respondents’ allegation that spouses Quiterio and Antonina had 5 children, thus, supporting respondents’ claim that petitioners are not the sole heirs of the deceased spouses. Petitioners’ denial/admission in his Answer to the complaint should be considered in its entirety and not truncated parts. Considering that petitioners already admitted that respondents Galicano, Victoria, Catalina and Maribeth are the children and grandchild, respectively, of the spouses Quiterio and Antonina, who were the original registered owners of the subject property, and thus excluding respondents from the deed of settlement of the subject property,  there is no more genuine issue between the parties generated by the pleadings, thus, the RTC committed no reversible error in rendering the judgment on the pleadings.  Cristina F. Reillo, et al. vs. Galicano E. San Jose etc., et al., G.R. No. 166393, June 18, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  acquisition. Jurisdiction over the defendant in a civil case is acquired either by the coercive power of legal processes exerted over his person, or his voluntary appearance in court. As a general proposition, one who seeks an affirmative relief is deemed to have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. It is by reason of this rule that we have had occasion to declare that the filing of motions to admit answer, for additional time to file answer, for reconsideration of a default judgment, and to lift order of default with motion for reconsideration, is considered voluntary submission to the court’s jurisdiction. This, however, is tempered by the concept of conditional appearance, such that a party who makes a special appearance to challenge, among others, the court’s jurisdiction over his person cannot be considered to have submitted to its authority.  Philippine Commercial International Bank Vs. Sps. Wilson Dy Hong Pi and Lolita Dy and Sps Primo Chuyaco, Jr. and Chuyaco, G.R. No. 171137, June 5, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  after judgment. It is well-settled that the jurisdiction of the court to execute its judgment continues even after the judgment had become final for the purpose of enforcement of judgment. The present case is no exception. Therefore, notwithstanding the final resolution on the validity of the expropriation made by this Court on June 19, 2003 in G.R. No. 154411, the RTC, Branch 19 can still rule on the motions for the issuance of an alias writ of execution and payment of interest. As the CA correctly stated: “…the duty of the court does not end with the tender of the decision. Equal is the duty of the court to enforce said decision to the fullest of its intent, tenor and mandate. To sustain a contrary view would not only trivialize the decision, but would also render it meaningless; the justice sought by the aggrieved party and supposedly conferred by the court turned inutile.” National Housing Authority vs. Heirs of Isidro Guivelorido, et al., G.R. No. 166518, June 16, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  cadastral court. We hardly can subscribe to the Republic’s argument that the publication of the amendment in petitioners’ application is a condition sine qua non for the RTC, acting as cadastral court, to acquire jurisdiction. Sec. 7 of Act No. 2259, otherwise known as the Cadastral Act, and Sec. 35 of PD 1529, otherwise known as the Land Registration Decree, provide for the publication of the application for registration and the schedule of the initial hearing.  This is so since judicial cadastral proceedings, like ordinary administrative registration, are in rem, and are governed by the usual rules of practice, procedure, and evidence. Due publication is required to give notice to all interested parties of the claim and identity of the property that will be surveyed.  And any additional territory or change in the area of the claim cannot be included by amendment of the plan or application without new publication, otherwise the cadastral court does not acquire jurisdiction over the additional or amended claim.  But where the identity and area of the claimed property are not the subjects of amendment but other collateral matters, a new publication is not needed.

In the case at bar, there is no dispute that due publication was made for Lot No. 1524, its identity and area.  The amendment in petitioners’ application in the relief portion neither altered the area and identity of the subject lot nor added any territory. Thus, no new publication is required.  Besides, the Republic, through Prosecutor Bayona, has been duly notified of such amendment.  Consequently, the Republic could not plausibly argue that it was deprived of its day in court.  Heirs of the late Jose Luzuriaga, etc., vs. Republic of the Philippines thru the Office of the Solicitor General/Heirs of the late Jose Luzuriaga, etc., vs. Republic of the Philippines thru the Office of the Solicitor General, G.R. No. 168848/G.R. No. 169019, June 30, 2009.

Jurisdiction; CIAC. E.O. 1008 expressly vests in the CIAC original and exclusive jurisdiction over disputes arising from or connected with construction contracts entered into by parties that have agreed to submit their dispute to voluntary arbitration. In this case, the CIAC validly acquired jurisdiction over the dispute. Petitioner submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal when it signed the TOR.

After recognizing the CIAC’s jurisdiction, petitioner cannot be permitted to now question that same authority it earlier accepted, only because it failed to obtain a favorable decision. This is especially true in the instant case since petitioner is challenging the tribunal’s jurisdiction for the first time before this Court.  Stronghold Insurance, Company, Inc. vs. Tokyu Construction Company, Ltd., G.R. No. 158820-21,  June 5, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  CTA.  To be very precise, Shell’s petition before the CTA principally questioned the validity of the cancellation of the TCCs – a decision that was made not by the respondent, but by the  One Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center.  As the CTA has no jurisdiction over decisions of the Center, Shell’s remedy against the cancellation should have been a certiorari petition before the regular courts, not a tax protest case before the CTA.  Records do not show that Shell ever availed of this remedy.  Alternatively, as we held in Shell v. Republic of the Philippines, the appropriate forum for Shell under the circumstances of this case should be at the collection cases before the RTC where Shell can put up the fact of its payment as a defense. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation vs. Commissioner of Customs, G.R. No. 176380, June 18, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  DARAB.  For the DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must be a tenancy relationship between the parties.  It is, therefore, essential to establish all the indispensable elements of a tenancy relationship, to wit: (1) that the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; (2) that the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; (3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) that the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.

Basic is the rule that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint. Respondents’ complaint did not contain any allegation that would, even in the slightest, imply that there was a tenancy relation between them and the petitioners.  Sps. Constante Agbulos and Zanaida Padilla Agbulos vs. Nicasio Gutierrez, Josefa Gutierrez and Elena G. Garcia, G.R. No. 176530, June 16, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  DARAB. Petitioners’ argument that the case involves an agrarian matter divesting the regular courts of jurisdiction therefore has no merit.  They are not farmer-beneficiaries but mere usurpers of the land. Zosimo Octavio and Jesus Albona (substituted by his wife, Violeta Albona) vs. Enrico R. Perovano, G.R. No. 172400, June 23, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  DOLE.  This petition clearly involves a labor standards case, and it is in keeping with the law that “the worker need not litigate to get what legally belongs to him, for the whole enforcement machinery of the DOLE exists to insure its expeditious delivery to him free of charge.”  We, therefore, sustain the jurisdiction of the DOLE Regional Director in this case. Nestor J. Balladares, etal., vs. Peak Ventures Corporation, et al., G.R. No. 161794, June 16, 2009.

Jurisdiction; HLURB. It is apparent that although the complaint was denominated as one for declaratory relief/annulment of contracts, the allegations therein reveal otherwise. It should be stressed that respondents neither asked for the interpretation of the questioned by-laws nor did they allege that the same is doubtful or ambiguous and require judicial construction.

In the instant case, the HLURB has the expertise to resolve the basic technical issue of whether the house built by the respondents violated the Deed of Restriction, specifically the prohibition against multi-dwelling. Maria Luisa Park Association, Inc., Vs. Samantha Marie T. Almendras and Pia Angela T. Almendras, G.R. No. 171763. June 5, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  HLURB. Tri-Corp’s chief quest is the cancellation of Entry No. 31976 from TCTs Nos. 205827 and 205828, and the cancellation of the CCT of the unit sold to it, and it alludes to Greystone’s use of different descriptions of the condominium project in order to circumvent existing laws, rules and regulations on registration of real estate projects in its petition.  Under these circumstances, Tri-Corp is alluding to steps allegedly taken by Greystone in consummating an alleged unsound real estate business practice.  The HLURB has the technical expertise to resolve this technical issue.  Jurisdiction therefore properly pertains to the HLURB.  Tri-Corp Land & Development, Inc. represented by Solita S. Jimenez-Paulino vs. Court of Appeals and Greystone Corporation, G.R. No. 165742, June 30, 2009.

Jurisdiction;  Monetary board. Crystal clear in Section 30 of the New Central Bank Act  is the provision that says the “appointment of a receiver under this section shall be vested exclusively with the Monetary Board.”  The term “exclusively” connotes that only the Monetary Board can resolve the issue of whether a bank is to be placed under receivership and, upon an affirmative finding, it also has authority to appoint a receiver.  This is further affirmed by the fact that the law allows the Monetary Board to take action “summarily and without need for prior hearing.”

And, as a clincher, the law explicitly provides that “actions of the Monetary Board taken under this section or under Section 29 of this Act shall be final and executory, and may not be restrained or set aside by the court except on a petition for certiorari on the ground that the action taken was in excess of jurisdiction or with such grave abuse of discretion as to amount to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

From the foregoing disquisition, there is no doubt that the RTC has no jurisdiction to hear and decide a suit that seeks to place Banco Filipino under receivership.  Teodoro O. Arcenas, Jr., et al. vs. Hon. Sixto Marella, Jr., Presiding Judge Branch 138, RTC, Makati City and Ana Maria Korug, G.R. No. 168332/G.R. No. 169053.  June 19, 2009

Mandamus.  The remedy of mandamus is available only to compel the performance of a ministerial duty.  The distinction between a ministerial and discretionary act is well delineated. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done.  If the law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is discretionary and not ministerial.  The duty is ministerial only when the discharge of the same requires neither the exercise of official discretion or judgment.

While it is true that it is the ministerial duty of the government to pay for the appointees’ salaries while the latter’s appeal of the disapproval of their appointments by CSC-FO and/or CSC-RO is still pending before the CSC Proper, however, this applies only when the said appointments have been disapproved on grounds which do not constitute a violation of civil service law.  Such is clearly not the case in the instant Petition.  The factual circumstances which would have made it the ministerial duty of the City Government of Dumaguete to pay petitioners’ salaries have not yet been established.  Until this Court resolves the Petition in G.R. No. 181559, reversing the disapproval of petitioners’ appointments or, at the very least, declaring that the disapproval of the same was not on grounds which constitute violation of civil service law, this Court cannot rule in the instant Petition that it is the ministerial duty of the City Government of Dumaguete to pay petitioners’ salaries during the pendency, before the CSC-RO, then the CSC Proper, of petitioners’ appeal of the disapproval of their appointments by CSC-FO Director Abucejo.  Thus, there is yet no ministerial duty compellable by a writ of mandamus.    Leah M. Nazareno, et al. vs. City of Dumaguete, represented by City Mayor Agustin Percides, et al., G.R. No. 177795, June 19, 2009.

Motions;  motion for extension of time. The general rule is that no motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration is allowed. This rule is consistent with the rule in the 2002 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals that unless an appeal or a motion for reconsideration or new trial is filed within the 15-day reglementary period, the CA’s decision becomes final. Thus, a motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration does not stop the running of the 15-day period for the computation of a decision’s finality. At the end of the period, a CA judgment becomes final, immutable and beyond our power to review.

This rule, however, is not absolute and admits of exceptions based on a liberal reading of the rule. In Barnes v. Padilla, (a case very similar to the present case and where the CA found the petitioner guilty of forum shopping), the Court opted for the exception. The petitioner in Barnes, instead of filing a motion for reconsideration of the CA’s decision, filed a motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration. The CA denied the motion because of the rule disallowing an extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration. This Court, however, looked into the merits of the forum shopping charge and opted to suspend the prohibition against a motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration, after it found the petitioner not liable for forum shopping. In opting for the liberal application of the rules in the interest of equity and justice, the Court held that we “cannot look with favor on a course of action which would place the administration of justice in a straight jacket for then the result would be a poor kind of justice if there would be justice at all.”  Alberto Imperial  vs. Hon. Court of Appeals and the Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 158093, June 5, 2009.

Motions;  motion for postponement. We take note of the fact that all motions for postponement by petitioner were made on the scheduled hearing dates themselves.  On the August 20, 2003 hearing, despite previous warning that no further postponement would be allowed, petitioner still failed to appear.  We agree with the Court of Appeals when it pointed out that petitioner obviously knew in advance that she could not make it to the August 20, 2003 hearing.  As of the last scheduled hearing of July 25, 2003, she was still out of the country.  The least that petitioner could have done was to instruct her counsel to make a timely representation with the trial court by filing an early motion-manifestation for the resetting of the hearing.  Between July 25, 2003 and August 20, 2003 she had sufficient time to file one.  Obviously, the warning by the court of the consequence of another non-appearance in the hearing fell on deaf ears.  After having been granted numerous motions for postponement, petitioner cannot now claim that she was denied due process. Ma. Lourdes C. De Castro vs. Crispino De Castro, Jr., Office of the City Prosecutor for Manila, and the Office of the Solicitor General, G.R. No. 172198, June 16, 2009.

Motions; motion for new trial. One of the grounds for the granting of a new trial under Section 1 of Rule 37 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure is excusable negligence.  It is settled that the negligence of counsel binds the client.  This is based on the rule that any act performed by a counsel within the scope of his general or implied authority is regarded as an act of his client.  Consequently, the mistake or negligence of counsel may result in the rendition of an unfavorable judgment against the client. We have, however, carved out exceptions to this rule; as where the reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law; or where the application of the rule will result in outright deprivation of the client’s liberty or property; or where the interests of justice so requires and relief ought to be accorded to the client who suffered by reason of the lawyer’s gross or palpable mistake or negligence.  In order to apply the exceptions rather than the rule, the circumstances obtaining in each case must be looked into.  In cases where one of the exceptions is present, the courts must step in and accord relief to a client who suffered thereby.

Gross negligence has been defined as the want or absence of or failure to exercise slight care or diligence, or the entire absence of care.  It examines a thoughtless disregard of consequences without exerting any effort to avoid them.

In the case before us, we find the negligence of petitioner’s former counsel to be so gross that it was deprived of its day in court, thus denying it due process. Multi-Trans Agency Phils., Inc. vs. Oriental Assurance Corporation, G.R. No. 180817, June 23, 2009.

Motions;  motion for reconsideration. A motion for reconsideration, as a general rule, must have first been filed before the tribunal, board, or officer against whom the writ of certiorari is sought. This is intended to afford the latter an opportunity to correct any actual or fancied error attributed to it. However, there are several exceptions where the special civil action for certiorari will lie even without the filing of a motion for reconsideration, namely:

(1)      where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo has no jurisdiction;

(2)      where the questions raised in the certiorari proceeding have been duly raised and passed upon by the lower court, or are the same as those raised and passed upon in the lower court;

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

(4)      where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration would be useless;

(5)      where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief;

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

(7)      where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process;

(8)      where the proceedings were ex parte or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; and

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

Otherwise stated, a motion for reconsideration may be dispensed with only if there are concrete, compelling, and valid reasons for doing so. Philippine Commercial International Bank Vs. Sps. Wilson Dy Hong Pi and Lolita Dy and Sps Primo Chuyaco, Jr. and Chuyaco, G.R. No. 171137.  June 5, 2009

Motions;  motion for reconsideration. The 15-day reglementary period for filing a motion for reconsideration is non-extendible.  Provisions of the Rules of Court prescribing the time within which certain acts must be done or certain proceedings taken are considered absolutely indispensable to the prevention of needless delays and to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial businesses.  Strict compliance with such rules is mandatory and imperative.

Without a motion for reconsideration of the 5 September 2005 Decision having been timely filed with the Court of Appeals, Enriquita and Federico, who was later on substituted by his heirs, had also lost their right to appeal the said Decision to us.  For purposes of determining its timeliness, a motion for reconsideration may properly be treated as an appeal.  As a step to allow an inferior court to correct itself before review by a higher court, a motion for reconsideration must necessarily be filed within the period to appeal.  When filed beyond such period, the motion for reconsideration ipso facto forecloses the right to appeal.

Thus, the Motion for Reconsideration, being filed beyond the reglementary period, did not toll the Decision dated 5 December 2005 of the Court of Appeals from becoming final and executory.  As such, the Decision is past appellate review and constitutes res judicata as to every matter offered and received in the proceedings below as well as to any other matter admissible therein and which might have been offered for that purpose.

We are without jurisdiction to modify, much less reverse, a final and executory judgment. Enriquita Angat and the Legal Heirs of Federico Angat vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175788.  June 30, 2009

Motions; motion to consolidate. The rule allowing consolidation is designed to avoid multiplicity of suits, to guard against oppression or abuse, to prevent delays, to clear congested dockets, and to simplify the work of the trial court; in short, the attainment of justice with the least expense and vexation to the parties- litigants. But in the instant case, the consolidation of PNB’s petition for a writ of possession with GOTESCO’s complaint for annulment of foreclosure proceeding serves none of the purposes cited above. On the contrary, it defeated the very rationale of consolidation.  Philippine National Bank Vs. Gotesco Tyan Ming Development, Inc., G.R. No. 183211, June 5, 2009

Motions;  motion to dismiss. A cause of action is the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another. A complaint states a cause of action when it contains the three (3) elements of a cause of action—(1) the legal right of the plaintiff; (2) the correlative obligation of the defendant; and (3) the act or omission of the defendant in violation of the legal right. If any of these elements is absent, the complaint becomes vulnerable to a motion to dismiss on the ground of failure to state a cause of action.

When a motion to dismiss is premised on this ground, the ruling thereon should be based only on the facts alleged in the complaint. The court must resolve the issue on the strength of such allegations, assuming them to be true. The test of sufficiency of a cause of action rests on whether, hypothetically admitting the facts alleged in the complaint to be true, the court can render a valid judgment upon the same, in accordance with the prayer in the complaint. This is the general rule.

However, this rule is subject to well-recognized exceptions, such that there is no hypothetical admission of the veracity of the allegations if:

(1)      the falsity of the allegations is subject to judicial notice;

(2)      such allegations are legally impossible;

(3)      the allegations refer to facts which are inadmissible in evidence;

(4)      by the record or document in the pleading, the allegations appear unfounded; or

(5)      there is evidence which has been presented to the court by stipulation of the parties or in the course of the hearings related to the case.

In this case, it is clear from the petition filed before the trial court that, although petitioners are the legitimate heirs of Loreto, they were not named as beneficiaries in the insurance policies issued by Insular and Grepalife.    Heirs of Loreto C. Maramag, etc. vs. Eva Verna De Guzman Maramag, et al., G.R. No. 181132, June 5, 2009.

Motions;  motion to quash. Petitioners assail the validity of the informations against them on the ground that more than one (1) offense is charged. They point that Soriano was charged with violation of DOSRI Rules and with estafa thru falsification of commercial document for allegedly obtaining loans from RBSM.  Thus, they claim that the informations were duplicitous; hence, they should be quashed.

Indisputably, duplicity of offenses in a single information is a ground to quash the Information under Section 3(e), Rule 117 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Rules prohibit the filing of a duplicitous information to avoid confusing the accused in preparing his defense.

By duplicity of charges is meant a single complaint or information that charges more than one offense.

Otherwise stated, there is duplicity (or multiplicity) of charges when a single Information charges more than one offense.

In this case, however, Soriano was faced not with one information charging more than one offense, but with more than one information, each  charging a different offense – violation of DOSRI  rules in one, and estafa thru falsification of commercial documents in the others. Ilagan, on the other hand, was charged with estafa thru falsification of commercial documents in separate informations.  Thus, petitioners erroneously invoke duplicity of charges as a ground to quash the Informations. Hilario P. Soriano and Rosalinda Ilagan vs. People of the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation G.R. No. 159517-18,  June 30, 2009

Parties;  indispensable parties. Well-settled is the rule that joinder of indispensable parties is mandatory.  It is a condition sine qua non to the exercise of judicial power.  The absence of an indispensable party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent parties but even as to those present. Without the presence of indispensable parties to the suit, the judgment of the court cannot attain finality.  One who is not a party to a case is not bound by any decision of the court; otherwise, he will be deprived of his right to due process. That is why the case is generally remanded to the court of origin for further proceedings. Dionisia Monis Lagunilla, et al., vs. Andrea Monis Velasco, et al., G.R. No. 169276,  June 16, 2009.

Partition. There are two stages in every action for partition under Rule 69 of the Rules of Court.  The first stage is the determination of whether or not a co-ownership in fact exists and a partition is proper (i.e., not otherwise legally proscribed) and may be made by voluntary agreement of all the parties interested in the property.  The second stage commences when it appears that “the parties are unable to agree upon the partition” directed by the court. In that event, partition shall be done for the parties by the court with the assistance of not more than three (3) commissioners.

There are, thus, two ways in which a partition can take place under Rule 69: by agreement under Section 2, and through commissioners when such agreement cannot be reached under Sections 3 to 6. Felicidad Dadizon, et al. Vs. Socorro Bernadas, et al., G.R. No. 172367.  June 5, 2009

Petition for review;  questions of law. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court should cover only questions of law. Questions of fact are not reviewable. A question of law exists when the doubt centers on what the law is on a certain set of facts. A question of fact exists when the doubt centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.

There is a question of law if the issue raised is capable of being resolved without need of reviewing the probative value of the evidence. The issue to be resolved must be limited to determining what the law is on a certain set of facts. Once the issue invites a review of the evidence, the question posed is one of fact. Romualdo Pagsibigan Vs. People of the Philippines and Eleazar Cabasal, G.R. No. 163868, June 4, 2009.

Prejudicial question. A prejudicial question generally exists in a situation where a civil action and a criminal action are both pending, and there exists in the former an issue that must be preemptively resolved before the latter may proceed, because howsoever the issue raised in the civil action is resolved would be determinative juris et de jure of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal case. The rationale behind the principle of prejudicial question is to avoid two conflicting decisions. It has two essential elements: (i) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (ii) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.

If both civil and criminal cases have similar issues, or the issue in one is intimately related to the issues raised in the other, then a prejudicial question would likely exist, provided the other element or characteristic is satisfied. It must appear not only that the civil case involves the same facts upon which the criminal prosecution would be based, but also that the resolution of the issues raised in the civil action would be necessarily determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused. If the resolution of the issue in the civil action will not determine the criminal responsibility of the accused in the criminal action based on the same facts, or if there is no necessity that the civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal case, the civil case does not involve a prejudicial question. Neither is there a prejudicial question if the civil and the criminal action can, according to law, proceed independently of each other.

The issue in the criminal cases is whether the petitioner is guilty of violating B.P. Blg. 22, while in the civil case, it is whether the private respondents are entitled to collect from the petitioner the sum or the value of the checks that they have rediscounted from Evelyn.

The resolution of the issue raised in the civil action is not determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal cases against him, and there is no necessity that the civil case be determined first before taking up the criminal cases.

In the aforementioned civil actions, even if petitioner is declared not liable for the payment of the value of the checks and damages, he cannot be adjudged free from criminal liability for violation of B.P. Blg. 22. The mere issuance of worthless checks with knowledge of the insufficiency of funds to support the checks is in itself an offense. Jesse Y Yap Vs. Hon. Monico G. Cabales, et al., G.R. No. 159186.  June 5, 2009

Prejudicial question. Verily, even if the trial court in the civil case declares that the construction agreement between the parties is void for lack of consideration, this would not affect the prosecution of private respondent in the criminal case. The fact of the matter is that private respondent indeed issued checks which were subsequently dishonored for insufficient funds. It is this fact that is subject of prosecution under BP 22.

Therefore, it is clear that the second element required for the existence of a prejudicial question, that the resolution of the issue in the civil action would determine whether the criminal action may proceed, is absent in the instant case. Thus, no prejudicial question exists and the rules on it are inapplicable to the case before us.  Dreamwork Construction, Inc. vs. Cleofe S. Janiola and Hon. Arthur A. Famini, G.R. No. 184861, June 30, 2009.

Probable cause. There are two kinds of determination of probable cause:  executive and judicial.  The executive determination of probable cause is one made during preliminary investigation.  It is a function that properly pertains to the public prosecutor who is given a broad discretion to determine whether probable cause exists and to charge those whom he believes to have committed the crime as defined by law and thus should be held for trial.  Otherwise stated, such official has the quasi-judicial authority to determine whether or not a criminal case must be filed in court.  Whether or not that function has been correctly discharged by the public prosecutor, i.e., whether or not he has made a correct ascertainment of the existence of probable cause in a case, is a matter that the trial court itself does not and may not be compelled to pass upon.

The judicial determination of probable cause, on the other hand, is one made by the judge to ascertain whether a warrant of arrest should be issued against the accused.  The judge must satisfy himself that based on the evidence submitted, there is necessity for placing the accused under custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice.  If the judge finds no probable cause, the judge cannot be forced to issue the arrest warrant.

Corollary to the principle that a judge cannot be compelled to issue a warrant of arrest if he or she deems that there is no probable cause for doing so, the judge in turn should not override the public prosecutor’s determination of probable cause to hold an accused for trial on the ground that the evidence presented to substantiate the issuance of an arrest warrant was insufficient.  It must be stressed that in our criminal justice system, the public prosecutor exercises a wide latitude of discretion in determining whether a criminal case should be filed in court, and that courts must respect the exercise of such discretion when the information filed against the person charged is valid on its face, and that no manifest error or grave abuse of discretion can be imputed to the public prosecutor.

Thus, absent a finding that an information is invalid on its face or that the prosecutor committed manifest error or grave abuse of discretion, a judge’s determination of probable cause is limited only to the judicial kind or for the purpose of deciding whether  the arrest warrants should be issued against the accused.  People of the Philippines vs. Jessie B. Castillo and Felicito R. Mejia, G.R. No. 171188, June 19, 2009.

Replevin. The process regarding the execution of the writ of replevin in Section 4 of Rule 60 is unambiguous: the sheriff, upon receipt of the writ of replevin and prior to the taking of the property, must serve a copy thereof to the adverse party (petitioner, in this case) together with the application, the affidavit of merit, and the replevin bond. The reasons are simple, i.e., to provide proper notice to the adverse party that his property is being seized in accordance with the court’s order upon application by the other party, and ultimately to allow the adverse party to take the proper remedy consequent thereto.

Service of the writ upon the adverse party is mandatory in line with the constitutional guaranty on procedural due process and as safeguard against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the writ was not served upon the adverse party but was instead merely handed to a person who is neither an agent of the adverse party nor a person authorized to receive court processes on his behalf, the service thereof is erroneous and is, therefore, invalid, running afoul of the statutory and constitutional requirements. The service is likewise invalid if the writ of replevin was served without the required documents. Under these circumstances, no right to seize and to detain the property shall pass, the act of the sheriff being both unlawful and unconstitutional.  Terlyngrace Rivera Vs. Florencio L. VargasG.R. No. 165895, June 5, 2009.

Rule 64. Section 7, Article IX-A of the Constitution provides that unless otherwise provided by the Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within 30 days from receipt of a copy thereof.  For this reason, the Rules of Court provide for a separate rule (Rule 64) specifically applicable only to decisions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit.  This Rule expressly refers to the application of Rule 65 in the filing of a petition for certiorari, subject to the exception clause – “except as hereinafter provided.”

Even a superficial reading of the motion for reconsideration shows that the petitioner has not challenged our conclusion that his petition was filed outside the period required by Section 3, Rule 64; he merely insists that the fresh period rule applicable to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 should likewise apply to petitions for certiorari of COMELEC rulings filed under Rule 64.

Rule 64, however, cannot simply be equated to Rule 65 even if it expressly refers to the latter rule.  They exist as separate rules for substantive reasons as discussed below.  Procedurally, the most patent difference between the two  – i.e., the exception that Section 2, Rule 64 refers to – is Section 3 which provides for a special period for the filing of petitions for certiorari from decisions or rulings of the COMELEC en banc. The period is 30 days from notice of the decision or ruling (instead of the 60 days that Rule 65 provides), with the intervening period used for the filing of any motion for reconsideration deductible from the originally-granted 30 days (instead of the fresh period of 60 days that Rule 65 provides).  Nilo T. Pates vs. Commission on Elections and Emelita B. Almirante, G.R. No. 184915.  June 30, 2009

Venue;  derivative suits. the Court of Appeals did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it found that respondents correctly filed the derivative suit before the Makati RTC where HTSI had its principal office.  Hi-Yield Realty, Incorporated vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 168863, June 23, 2009.

Warrant of arrest. The function of the judge to issue a warrant of arrest upon the determination of probable cause is exclusive; thus, the consequent implementation of a warrant of arrest cannot be deferred pending the resolution of a petition for review by the Secretary of Justice as to the finding of probable cause, a function that is executive in nature. To defer the implementation of the warrant of arrest would be an encroachment on the exclusive prerogative of the judge. It must be emphasized that petitioner filed with the trial court a motion to suspend proceedings and to suspend the implementation of the warrant of arrest in pursuance of a DOJ circular, and not a motion to quash the warrant of arrest questioning the issuance thereof. Thus, there is no contest as to the validity or regularity of the issuance of the warrant of arrest.

Petitioner merely wanted the trial court to defer the implementation of the warrant of arrest pending the resolution by the Secretary of Justice of the petition for review that he filed citing the following directive contained in Section 9 of DOJ Department Circular:  “The appellant and the trial prosecutor shall see to it that, pending resolution of the appeal, the proceedings in court are held in abeyance.

The above provision of the Department Circular is directed specifically at the appellant and the trial prosecutor, giving them latitude in choosing a remedy to ensure that the proceedings in court are held in abeyance. However, nowhere in the said provision does it state that the court must hold the proceedings in abeyance. Therefore, the discretion of the court whether or not to suspend the proceedings or the implementation of the warrant of arrest, upon the motion of the appellant or the trial prosecutor, remains unhindered. This is in consonance with the earlier ruling of this Court that once a complaint or information is filed in court, any disposition of the case as to its dismissal, or the conviction or acquittal of the accused, rests on the sound discretion of the said court, as it is the best and sole judge of what to do with the case before it. In the instant case, the judge of the trial court merely exercised his judicial discretion when he denied petitioner’s motion to suspend the implementation of the warrant of arrest. Consequently, the CA was correct when it found no whimsicality or oppressiveness in the exercise of the trial judge’s discretion in issuing the challenged orders.  Bonifacio M. Mejillano vs. Enrique Lucillo, et al., G.R. No. 154717, June 19, 2009.

Writ of execution.  The rule is that a writ of execution must conform substantially to every essential particular of the judgment promulgated. An execution which is not in harmony with the judgment is bereft of validity; it must conform particularly to that ordained in the dispositive portion of the decision.  In the case at bar, the sheriff himself discovered a deficiency in the execution of the judgment in the amount of P70,300.00. Therefore, upon report of the same by the sheriff, an alias writ of execution covering said deficiency is only proper to preserve the tenor of the judgment and to ensure the faithful execution thereof.  National Housing Authority vs. Heirs of Isidro Guivelorido, et al., G.R. No. 166518, June 16, 2009.

Writ of possession;  authorization. The corporate powers of a corporation, including the power to sue and be sued in its corporate name, are exercised by the board of directors. The physical acts of the corporation, like the signing of documents such as verification and certification of non-forum shopping, can only be performed by natural persons duly authorized for the purpose by corporate by-laws or by a specific act of the board of directors.

In this case,  although Virgilio Sintos, Jr. initially failed to show that he was authorized to sign the verification for the Ex-Parte Motion for Issuance of Writ of Possession, respondent submitted a Secretary’s Certificate to the Court confirming that Virgilio Sintos, Jr.  was indeed authorized by the board of directors. In the interest of justice, the Court may allow the relaxation of procedural rules where there is subsequent substantial compliance.  Marylou B. Tolentino, M.D. vs. Shenton Realty Corp., G.R. No. 162103, June 19, 2009.

Warrant of arrest. No abuse of discretion can be attributed to Judge Madrona when he issued the Orders, dated 9 March 2005 and 31 March 2005, for the arrest of the respondent due to his failure to be present for his arraignment and for the confiscation of his cash bond.  These Orders are consistent with criminal procedure.

The filing of an information in the trial court initiates a criminal action.  The trial court thereby acquires jurisdiction over the case.  After the filing of the complaint or the information, a warrant for the arrest of the accused is issued by the trial court.  When the accused voluntarily submits himself to the court or is duly arrested, the court then acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused.  In this case, the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the persons of the accused Carmelo Jaro, Remedios Malibaran, and the respondent, who posted bail bonds after the trial court issued a Warrant of Arrest on 4 October 2004.  While it is true that the fiscal has the quasi-judicial discretion to determine whether or not a criminal case should be filed in court, once the case has been brought to court, whatever disposition the fiscal may feel is proper in the case should be addressed to the consideration of the trial court.  Bienvenido Diño, et al. vs. Pablo Olivarez, G.R. No. 170447, June 23, 2009.

Legal/Judicial Ethics

Dishonesty. Respondent not only unapologetically falsified his DTRs but also attended to his private affairs during office hours.  Moreover, he was previously found to have been remiss in the performance of his duties as a process server.  Worse, he flagrantly and repeatedly violated our orders. His conduct certainly did not befit that of a responsible public officer.

Respondent is therefore found guilty of dishonesty and consequently dismissed from the service. However, because respondent had already been dropped from the rolls, the penalty of dismissal can no longer be imposed upon him. Nevertheless, the accessory or additional penalties carried by dismissal, namely, cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and disqualification from reemployment in the government service are hereby imposed on him.  Lyn L. Llamasares, etc. vs. Mario M. Pablico, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2434-A,  June 16, 2009.

Grave abuse of authority. Judge Francisco B. Ibay is guilty of grave abuse of authority for citing complainant Valeriano F. Nuñez for contempt without legal basis.  Valeriano F. Nuñes vs. Judge Francisco B. Ibay, etc., A.M. No. RTJ-06-1984,  June 30, 2009.

Grave misconduct. Grave misconduct is a malevolent transgression of some established and definite rule of action – more particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by the public officer or employee – which threatens the very existence of the system of administration of justice. It manifests itself in corruption, clear intent to violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rules. It is considered as a grave offense under the Civil Service Law with the corresponding penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in government service.

In the case at bar, respondent violated Section 2, Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel which states that “[c]ourt personnel shall not solicit or accept any gift, favor or benefit on any explicit or implicit understanding that such gift shall influence their official actions.” This is sufficiently established by the evidence on record. Office of the Court Administrator Vs. Sylvia Canque etc., A.M. No. P-04-1830, June 4, 2009.

Grave misconduct. A sheriff who allegedly conducted a public auction when he did not have authority to do so, never actually conducted the auction but issued a certificate of sale, is guilty of grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and falsification of public documents.  Aurora B. Go vs. Margarito A. Costela, Jr., etc., A.M. No. P-08-2450.  June 10, 2009

Grave misconduct. By soliciting money from complainant, she committed an act of serious impropriety which tarnished the honor and dignity of the judiciary and deeply affected the people’s confidence in it. She committed the ultimate betrayal of the duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the judiciary by peddling influence to litigants, creating the impression that decisions can be bought and sold.  Odaline B. Narag  vs. Maritess R. Manio, Court Interpreter III, RTC of Tuguegarao City, Branch 4, A.M. No. P-08-2579, June 22, 2009.

Grave misconduct. The Court cannot comprehend how Salinas would rather commit a dishonest act by stealing from Judge Maniego, than endure the embarrassment from borrowing money up-front from Judge Maniego or other court employees.

Given Salinas’ own admission, taken together with the evidence submitted by Judge Maniego in support of her Complaint, the Court finds substantial evidence to support the administrative charge of grave misconduct and dishonesty against Salinas. Judge Isidra A. Arganosa-Maniego  vs. Rogelio T. Salinas etc., A.M. No. P-07-2400, June 23, 2009.

Grave misconduct. Respondent was appointed as Voluntary Arbitrator for the parties in the illegal dismissal case.  He took on the duty to act as a disinterested person to hear the parties’ contentions and give judgment between them. However, instead of exhibiting neutrality and impartiality expected of an arbitrator, respondent indorsed a criminal complaint to the Office of the City Prosecutor of Zamboanga City for possible criminal prosecution against herein complainant, and signed the said Indorsement as counsel for complainants in the illegal dismissal case.  Robert Bernhard Buehs vs. Atty. Inocencio T. Bacatan, A.C. No. 6674, June 30, 2009.

Gross ignorance of the law. As early as the 1947 case Krivenko v. Register of Deeds, to mean that “under the Constitution, aliens may not acquire private or agricultural lands, including residential lands.” The provision is a declaration of imperative constitutional policy.

Respondent, in giving advice that directly contradicted a fundamental constitutional policy, showed disrespect for the Constitution and gross ignorance of basic law. Worse, he prepared spurious documents that he knew were void and illegal. KeldStemmerik,represented by Attys. Herminio. Liwanag and Winston P.L. Esguerra vs. Atty. Leonuel N. MasA.C. No. 8010.  June 16, 2009

Gross ignorance of the law. Ignorance of the law is the mainspring of injustice.  Judges are called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules. Basic rules should be at the palm of their hands.  Their inexcusable failure to observe basic laws and rules will render them administratively liable.  Where the law involved is simple and elementary, lack of conversance with it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.  “Verily, for transgressing the elementary jurisdictional limits of his court, respondent. should be administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law.   Republic of the Philippines vs. Judge Ramon S. Caguioa, etc./Commissioner of Customs vs. Judge Ramon S. Caguioa/Charles T. Burns, Sr. vs. Judge Ramon S. Caguioa, Presiding Judge of the RTC of Olongapo City, Br. 74, et al.,  A.M. No. RTJ-07-2063/A.M. No. RTJ-07-2064/A.M. No. RTJ-07-2066, June 26, 2009.

Gross inefficiency.   Judges have the sworn duty to administer justice and decide cases promptly and expeditiously because justice delayed is justice denied. No less than our Constitution requires that a trial court judge shall resolve or decide cases within three (3) months after they have been submitted for decision. In addition, the Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that judges shall dispose of the court’s business promptly and decide cases within the required period.

Here, Judge Asaali failed to decide 12 civil cases within the 90-day reglementary period. Six of these cases pertained to the unresolved cases included in the Memorandum dated 28 May 2004 and the remaining cases formed part of an earlier Resolution dated 21 January 2002 issued by this Court to Judge Asaali pertaining to another administrative case.  Office of the Court Administrator Vs. Hon. Tibing A. Asaali, A.M. No. RTJ-06-1991, June 5, 2009.

Gross neglect of duty. The OCA’s Report revealed that the accused Rosalina Mercado was not arrested. The proper procedure, according to the above-cited rules, would have been to file her bail bond with the RTC Branch 41, San Fernando, Pampanga where her case was pending. Had complainant Judge been absent or was unavailable at that time, the accused could file for bail with another branch of the RTC in Pampanga or in San Fernando City. However, the accused filed her surety bond with the MTC of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, where it was approved by respondent Judge.

Not only did respondent Judge erroneously order the release of the accused, but he also failed to require submission of the supporting documents needed in the application for a bond. There was no Certificate of Detention or Warrant of Arrest attached to the bond transmitted by the MTC to the complainant Judge. Moreover, the other supporting documents were belatedly filed. Records show that respondent Judge approved the bail bond on August 21, 2003, but the Undertaking was dated November 22, 2003, the Certification from the OCA was dated October 29, 2003, and the Certification from Summit Guaranty and Insurance Co., Inc. was dated November 22, 2003. Judge Divina Luz P. Aquino-Simbulan vs. Presiding Judge Nicasio Bartolome, et al., A.M. No. MTJ-05-1588, June 5, 2009.

Practice of profession. Under Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713, the Deputy Register of Deeds cannot engage in notarial practice without the written authority from the Secretary of the Department of Justice. Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, engaging in the private practice of profession, when unauthorized, is classified as a light offense punishable by reprimand.  Felipe E. Abella Vs. Atty. Asteria E. Cruzabra, A.C. No. 5688. June 4, 2009.

Revocation of notarial license. The act of notarizing documents outside one’s area of commission is not to be taken lightly.  Aside from being a violation of Sec. 11 of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, it also partakes of malpractice of law and falsification. Notarizing documents with an expired commission is a violation of the lawyer’s oath to obey the laws, more specifically, the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.  Since the public is deceived into believing that he has been duly commissioned, it also amounts to indulging in deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer’s oath proscribes.  Notarizing documents without the presence of the signatory to the document is a violation of Sec. 2(b)(1), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the lawyer’s oath which unconditionally requires lawyers not to do or declare any falsehood.  Finally, Atty. Quintana is personally accountable for the documents that he admitted were signed by his wife.  He cannot relieve himself of liability by passing the blame to his wife.  He is, thus, guilty of violating Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which requires lawyers not to directly or indirectly assist in the unauthorized practice of law.  Judge Lily Lydia A. Laquindanum vs. Atty. Nestor Q. Quintana, A.C. No. 7036.  June 29, 2009

Criminal law

Carnapping. In the present case, the Information charging the petitioners with violation of R.A. No. 6539, as amended, did not allege that the carnapping was committed by means of violence against, or intimidation of, any person, or force upon things. While these circumstances were proven at the trial, they cannot be appreciated because they were not alleged in the Information. Thus, the lower courts erred when they took these circumstances into account in imposing the penalty which they pegged at seventeen (17) years and four (4) months to thirty (30) years imprisonment. In the absence of these circumstances, the charge against the petitioners is confined to simple carnapping whose imposable penalty should have been imprisonment for not less than fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, and not more than seventeen (17) years and four (4) months.

Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as applied to an offense punishable by a special law, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence expressed at a range whose maximum term shall not exceed the maximum fixed by the special law, and the minimum term not be less than the minimum prescribed.  Antonio and Rodolfo Duran vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 185860.  June 5, 2009

Child abuse. Under Subsection (b), Section 3 of R.A. No. 7610, child abuse refers to the maltreatment of a child, whether habitual or not, which includes any of the following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being;

(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or

(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

Appellant contends that, after proof, the act should not be considered as child abuse but merely as slight physical injuries defined and punishable under Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code. Appellant conveniently forgets that when the incident happened, VVV was a child entitled to the protection extended by R.A. No. 7610, as mandated by the Constitution. As defined in the law, child abuse includes physical abuse of the child, whether the same is habitual or not. The act of appellant falls squarely within this definition. We, therefore, cannot accept appellant’s contention.  Leonilo Sanchez Alias Nilo vs. People of the Philippines and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 179090, June 5, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  buy bust. In cases involving the sale of illegal drugs, the prosecution must prove (1) the identity of the seller, the object and the consideration and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment thereof. Here, SPO2 Sevilla testified that appellant handed him a sachet containing metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu in exchange for P100 during a buy bust operation.

Testimonies of police officers who conduct buy-bust operations are generally accorded full faith and credit as they are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner. This presumption can be overturned only if the accused is able to prove that the officers acted with improper motives.

Inasmuch as appellant failed to show that SPO2 Sevilla and his companions had improper motives to charge her, we uphold the legality of the buy-bust operation. It is well-settled that a buy-bust operation (which is a form of entrapment) is a valid means of arresting violators of RA 9165. People of the Philippines vs. Yvonne Sevilla y Caballero,G.R. No. 174862, June 16, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  buy bust.   In this jurisdiction, the conduct of a buy-bust operation is a common and accepted mode of apprehending those involved in illegal sale of prohibited or regulated drugs.  It has been proven to be an effective way of unveiling the identities of drug dealers and of luring them out of obscurity.  Unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the members of the buy-bust team were inspired by any improper motive or were not properly performing their duty, their testimonies on the operation deserve full faith and credit.  People of the Philippines vs. Gwyn Quinicot y Curativo, G.R. No. 179700.  June 22, 2009

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal possession. Petitioner was likewise charged under Section 16 of Republic Act No. 6425 with possession of two sachets (2.1832 grams and 2.6355 grams) of shabu with a total weight of 4.8187 grams. In illegal possession of dangerous drugs, the elements are: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object that is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and (3) the accused freely and consciously possesses the said drug.  All these elements have been established. People of the Philippines vs. Gwyn Quinicot y Curativo, G.R. No. 179700, June 22, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal possession. To be liable for the crime, the following elements must concur: (a) the accused is found in possession of a regulated drug; (b) the person is not authorized by law or by duly constituted authorities; and (c) the accused has knowledge that the said drug is a regulated drug.  All these were found present in the instant case. People of the Philippines vs. Raul Nuñes y Revilleza, G.R. No. 177148, June 30, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act; illegal sale. In dealing with prosecutions for the illegal sale of drugs, what is material is proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or regulated drug as evidence. Jurisprudence has firmly entrenched the following as elements in the crime of illegal sale of prohibited drugs: (1) the accused sold and delivered a prohibited drug to another, and (2) he knew that what he had sold and delivered was a dangerous drug.

In the instant case, the Court finds that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses adequately establish these elements. People of the Philippines  vs. Jason Sy, G.R. No. 185284,  June 22, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  illegal sale of shabu.  To secure a conviction for illegal sale of shabu, the following essential elements must be established:  (1) the identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale and the consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment thereof.  In prosecutions for illegal sale of shabu, what is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the corpus delicti as evidence.  In the case at bar, the prosecution was able to establish through testimonial, documentary and object evidence the said elements.  People of the Philippines vs. Rashamia Hernandez y Santos and Grace Katipunan y Cruz, G.R. No. 184804, June 18, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act.; illegal sale of shabu. Petitioner was charged with violations of Sections 15 and 16 of Republic Act No. 6425.  He was charged with violation of Section 15 for selling 0.119 gram of shabu.  The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs are: (1) the identities of the buyer and the seller, the object, and consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.  What is material to the prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs is the proof that the transaction took place, coupled with the presentation in court of evidence of corpus delicti. People of the Philippines  vs. Gwyn Quinicot y Curativo, G.R. No. 179700, June 22, 2009.

Dangerous Drugs Act;  safeguards. In this case, the arresting officers failed to strictly comply with the procedures for the custody and disposition of confiscated dangerous drugs as prescribed by Rep. Act No. 9165.  The arresting officers did not mark the shabu immediately after they arrested Frondozo.  Further, while there was testimony regarding the marking of the shabu after it was turned over to the police investigator, no evidence was presented to prove that the marking thereof was done in the presence of Frondozo.

Also, fatal in the prosecution’s case is the failure of the arresting officers to take a photograph and make an inventory of the confiscated materials in the presence of Frondozo.  Likewise, there was no mention that any representative from the media, DOJ or any elected public official had been present during the inventory or that any of these persons had been required to sign the copies of the inventory.

Clearly, none of the statutory safeguards mandated by Rep. Act No. 9165 was observed.  Hence, the failure of the buy-bust team to comply with the procedure in the custody of the seized drugs raises doubt as to its origins.  People of the Philippines vs. Ramon Frondozo y Dalida, G.R. No. 177164.  June 30, 2009

Dangerous Drugs Act;  safeguards. Jurisprudence teems with pronouncements that non-compliance with Section 21 will not render an accused’s arrest illegal or the items seized or confiscated from him inadmissible.  What is of utmost importance is the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused.  In this case, it has been shown that the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items had been preserved.  Thus, appellant’s claim must fail.  People of the Philippines vs. Frederick Richie Teodoro y Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 185164, June 22, 2009.

Estafa;  elements. The elements of estafa under Article 315, par. 1 (b) of the Revised Penal Code are the following: (a) that money, goods or other personal property is received by the offender in trust or on commission, or for administration, or under any other obligation involving the duty to make delivery of or to return the same; (b) that there be misappropriation or conversion of such money or property by the offender, or denial on his part of such receipt; (c) that such misappropriation or conversion or denial is to the prejudice of another; and (d) there is demand by the offended party to the offender.

The essence of estafa under Article 315, par. 1(b) is the appropriation or conversion of money or property received to the prejudice of the owner. The words “convert” and “misappropriate” connote an act of using or disposing of another’s property as if it were one’s own, or of devoting it to a purpose or use different from that agreed upon.   To misappropriate for one’s own use includes not only conversion to one’s personal advantage, but also every attempt to dispose of the property of another without right. Wilma Tabaniag vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165411, June 18, 2009.

Estafa;  elements. Both elements of the crime were established in this case, namely, (a) petitioner Ritualo defrauded complainant by abuse of confidence or by means of deceit; and (b) complainant Biacora suffered damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation as a result.  Biacora parted with his money upon the prodding and enticement of petitioner Ritualo on the false pretense that she had the capacity to deploy him for employment in Australia.  In the end, Biacora was neither able to leave for work overseas nor did he get his money back, thus causing him damage and prejudice.  Hence, the conviction of petitioner Ritualo of the crime of estafa should be upheld.  Carmen R. Ritualo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 178337, June 25, 2009.

Illegal recruitment.  The totality of the evidence in the case at bar, when scrutinized and taken together, leads to no other conclusion than that petitioner Ritualo engaged in recruiting and promising overseas employment to Felix Biacora under the above-quoted Sec. 6 of Republic Act No. 8042 vis-à-vis Article 13(b) of the Labor Code.  Carmen R. Ritualo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 178337, June 25, 2009.

Malversation of public funds. The elements of malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the RPC are:

(1)      that the offender is a public officer;

(2)     that he had the custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office;

(3)    that those funds or property were public funds or property for which he was accountable; and

(4)    that he appropriated, took, misappropriated or consented or, through abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take them.  Raul S. Tello vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165781.  June 5, 2009

Murder;  frustrated. The essential elements of a frustrated felony are as follows:

(1)      The offender performs all the acts of execution;

(2)      All the acts performed would produce the felony as a consequence;

(3)      But the felony is not produced; and

(4)      By reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.

A crime is frustrated when the offender has performed all the acts of execution which should result in the consummation of the crime. The offender has passed the subjective phase in the commission of the crime. Subjectively, the crime is complete.   Nothing interrupted the offender while passing through the subjective phase. He did all that is necessary to consummate the crime.   However, the crime is not consummated by reason of the intervention of causes independent of the will of the offender.  In homicide cases, the offender is said to have performed all the acts of execution if the wound inflicted on the victim is mortal and could cause the death of the victim barring medical intervention or attendance.

In the case at bar, petitioner commenced the performance of his unlawful act by stabbing Venancia at the back.  After she was stabbed and fell on the ground, petitioner’s intent to consummate the crime was shown by the fact that he continued stabbing Venancia even while she was on the ground. Edgar Esqueda vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 170222, June 18, 2009.

Robbery with homicide. The testimonies of the witnesses, and pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution, the crime of robbery with homicide was indeed committed.  There was no mistaking from the actions of all the accused that their main intention was to rob the gasoline station and that on occasion of such robbery, a homicide was committed. People of the Philippines vs. Marlon Albert De Leon y Homo, G.R. No. 179943, June 26, 2009.

Theft. To show that robbery was committed, the government needs to prove the following elements: (1) the taking of personal property be committed with violence or intimidation against persons; (2) the property taken belongs to another; and (3) the taking be done with animo lucrandi. On the other hand, the elements constituting the crime of theft are: (1) that there be taking of personal property; (2) that said property belongs to another; (3) that the taking be done with intent to gain; (4) that the taking be done without the consent of the owner; and (5) that the taking be accomplished without the use of violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon things. Thus, the distinguishing element between the crimes of robbery and theft is the use of violence or intimidation as a means of taking the property belonging to another; the element is present in the crime of robbery and absent in the crime of theft.

We have no doubt that the elements of taking of personal property which belongs to another person without his consent have been established in the case, while the intent to gain is presumed from unlawful taking and can only be negated by special circumstances showing a different intent on the part of the perpetrator. We previously held that intent to gain is a mental state whose existence is demonstrated by a person’s overt acts. Briones’ overt acts in this case were in grabbing S/G Molina’s firearm and running away with it. We stress that these pieces of evidence, showing his unlawful taking of the firearm and running away with it immediately after, were not refuted by the defense’s evidence before the RTC. There is also evidence, as testified to by S/G Gual, that the firearm was not found nor retrieved after this unlawful taking. Further, these pieces of evidence defeat Briones’ belated contention that he threw away the firearm immediately after he got hold of it.

Under the circumstance, we are left to consider the nature of the crime committed, as proven by the evidence on record. We agree with the RTC that only the crime of theft was committed in the case as S/G Gual’s testimony does not show that violence or intimidation attended the taking of the firearm; S/G Gual only testified that Briones merely grabbed the firearm and ran away with it. Thus, we can only convict Briones for the crime of theft for taking S/G Molina’s firearm without his consent. Theft is produced the moment there is deprivation of personal property due to its taking with intent to gain. Rommel C. Briones vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 156009, June 5, 2009.

Rape.  Sec. 5(a) of RA 7610 refers to engaging in or promoting, facilitating, or inducing child prostitution. Sec. 5(b), on the other hand, relates to offenders who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse. The informations charged accused-appellant with having sexual congress with AAA through force, threats, and intimidation. These allegations more properly fall under a charge under Sec. 5(b). The appellate court was, thus, correct in modifying the RTC’s disposition of the case with regard to the violation under RA 7610.  People of the Philippines vs. Adelado Anguac y Ragadao, G.R. No. 176744, June 5, 2009.

Rape. The factual findings of the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, indubitably prove that appellant consummated his dastardly objective even if there was no full penetration of the female genital organ. In People v. Boromeo, we explained that proof of hymenal laceration is not an element of rape so long as there is enough proof of entry of the male organ into the labia of the pudendum of the female organ. Penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even without laceration or rupture of the hymen, and even with the briefest contact, consummates the crime of rape.  People of the Philippines Vs. Joven Jumawid, G.R. No. 184756, June 5, 2009.

Rape;  accomplice. It is settled jurisprudence that the previous acts of cooperation by the accomplice should not be indispensable to the commission of the crime; otherwise, she would be liable as a principal by indispensable cooperation. The evidence shows that the acts of cooperation by Ida are not indispensable to the commission of rape by Tampus. First, because it was both Ida and Tampus who forced ABC to drink beer, and second because Tampus already had the intention to have sexual intercourse with ABC and he could have consummated the act even without Ida’s consent.

The acts of Ida are closely related to the eventual commission of rape by Tampus. They both forced ABC to drink beer; when ABC was already drunk, Tampus asked Ida if he could have sexual intercourse with ABC and Ida gave her consent; and lastly, Ida left ABC alone with Tampus so that he proceed with his plan to rape ABC.  People of the Philippines vs. Bartolome Tampus and Ida Monresclaros, G.R. No. 181084, June 16, 2009.

Rape. Under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 8353, qualified rape is committed when, among others, “the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim.”  In the instant case, the minority of the victim was alleged in the information and was duly proven during trial. Likewise, Rogelio admitted his relationship to the victim. However, with the effectivity of Republic Act No. 9346 entitled, “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines” on June 24, 2006, the imposition of the penalty of death has been prohibited.  Thus, the proper penalty to be imposed on appellant as provided in Section 2, paragraph (a) of said law, is reclusion perpetua. People of the Philippines vs. Rogelio Marcos, G.R. No. 185380, June 18, 2009.

Rape.   In view, however, of the passage of R.A. No. 9346, otherwise known as the Anti-Death Penalty Law, which prohibits the imposition of death penalty, the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole should instead be imposed.  Accordingly, accused-appellant shall be sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole in lieu of the penalty of death.  The People of the Philippines vs. Jessie Mariano y Isla, G.R. No. 168693, June 19, 2009.

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